Class Relax

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When it’s team v.s. team

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This post concerns Meeting 5 of Safat HaKeshev: my thoughts before having to deal with a very pronounced dysfunctionality within our group, and how things transpired.

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The group had been witness to a phenomenon of factions: team versus team. This was apparent from the first day when 3 girls stayed after the lesson to protest the lack of seriousness in the other participants.

“They come only for the soft bean bag chairs. They stay  for the exercises, but they only want a cup of tea.”

“ They leave when they’re bored. “

“They aren’t serious!”

“We can’t concentrate while they’re behaving this way”.

I took this to heart, but hoped that there’d be a change in attitude the next time.

During the following session, there was a definite upgrade in participation.

The week after that I noted ups and downs in the level of ‘seriousness’ amongst those other girls. That same lesson, a homeroom teacher knocked on the door and asked permission to borrow a few girls for one lesson in order to accomplish some work. Only later, I discovered that the ‘work’ was washing the floor of their classroom. When I spoke to her, she justified her action, saying it was the only time available. Strangely enough she had been one of the teachers requesting that I come into her Good Morning sessions to facilitate meditation. I had thought she valued it, but I digress.

Discipline

The usual school disciplinary system involves sending students out to the Principal if they cannot conform to the rules. This does not work well with mindfulness. Firstly, participation often waxes and wanes – with nothing specifically against the school rules. Also, any behaviour in our sessions, as long as it isn’t violent, is fodder for the laboratory. In Safat HaKeshev, our work is to notice what is going on in the mind, in the body, especially at those times when we feel discomfort.  The point is self-observation without judgement and our practice is based on coming back to ‘noticing’ after being swept away. This task  goes against our habitual behaviour  and  serves to build up that all-too-neglected brain “muscle” located in the pre-frontal cortex. 

A student who cannot sit still has something to practice with  just as the student who is bothered by that restless someone can observe her own responses.

What’s a Meditation teacher to do?

After consulting with my Safat haKeshev colleagues, a plan was devised. I’d begin the week’s session with a one-to-one mindfulness practice. Each girl, individually, would be led in noticing her breath.

After that, I’d bring the group together and address them, asking for volunteers to share their thoughts. At that point there would be a better chance of reaching a rational decision as to how to proceed with our sessions. It might be that several would leave the group. It might be that some would be interested in staying.

That was the plan.

However, the plan was not to be. Only the 3 serious girls showed up at the lesson. Ready, willing and delighted to have 90 minutes to practice and to discuss. I’d have to track down the others at some other time.

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