In this episode of The Conscious Classroom, Amy Edelstein shares from the heart about the impact of the eruption of war between Israel and Gaza, and that pain that is bringing to so many in the region and beyond. How do we provide steadiness and guidance within our classrooms? How do we rise authentically and demonstrate care that goes beyond divisions? Included is a long guided meditation (not to be practiced while driving), starting with open awareness to access the goodness of the human heart, and moving into insight practice, from that space observing all that is arising in a way that is compassionate, helpful, and calming.
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It's been a difficult day and week in conscious classrooms all around the world as we try to navigate yet another war. In the town where I work, Philadelphia, when I walked into school after the beginning of the war. In the Middle East, I scanned my students, all trying to be teenagers, all trying to be normal.
And yet the ones in the hijabs, the ones with beautiful blue eyes and Semitic faces who look like my brothers or sisters or cousins or little nieces and nephews. I saw retreat, withdrawal, fear, and blankness. As I struggled to read the news. about what they were finding in the Jewish settlements, the kibbutzim, mostly founded by peace activists, two state solution advocates, were atrocities and inhumanities that are unspeakable.
As I frantically whatsapped my friends, checking on them and their families and their children, as I pictured those areas from having lived in Israel and having been able to peer across to the Gaza Strip, it all felt so close to home and so hard to function. So the question is, how do we help our children cope.
One of my teachers, my host classroom teacher, said, We have no protocols. We'll just let the children speak to each other. Because the adults aren't in a position to guide and lead. There's too much nationalism and too much anger that they're not able to hold the space for children to grapple with a world of inhumanity, degradation.
And using people as pawns for some kind of political power. It is so difficult. So difficult. Because the only way towards nonviolence is nonviolence. Of course, barbarism, atrocity, cruelty has to be met with force. But it must be targeted. Not against the people who have nothing who are caught in the middle.
I know so many people who are struggling with this moment in time. Just as there are good people in the Ukraine and in Russia struggling. So as we think about creating conscious classrooms, Let's affirm the power of the heart, let's affirm the capacity for human beings to rise above inhumanity and to be ennobled.
Let's affirm the real possibility. of compassion, of us as adults, holding the heartbreak and choosing a higher ground in the midst of the rubble and the smoke and the ashes. Let's hold the care for children, for the elderly, for the simple people, for the people who want to be doctors and accountants and technologists and teachers.
and parents. For normal people who want clean and safe surroundings. For visionary people who create communities that represent care for the land, care for each other, care for the future. Let us hold them all and hold those who are truly responsible for inciting barbarism, violence, brutality, and cruelty.
Let us hold those individuals responsible and those who fund them. And use them as pawns for a larger game and let us tend to each other. Let us tend to our fellow global citizens with equal care, with equal compassion, with equal love in these very difficult times. Let us allow our hearts to open wide and center ourselves.
In compassion and care, allowing ourselves to draw from the depths of contemplative practice. So we find that equanimity and we find that steadiness. And we find from that steadiness and equanimity that place of choice. That place of recognition of the choice of others and that choice of our own. To respond from the higher ground, to take the spaciousness that comes from contemplative practice and fill ourselves with room to hold the unholdable, to stretch our hearts, to be examples of that which we aspire.
for the world to represent. Let's hold ourselves to that higher ground. And let's wrap our arms around our students. in our classrooms, not forcing discussion, not forcing resolution, not forcing a sense of a need to do anything around the situation, just holding each other in a space of care, in a space of comfort, in a space of healing, in a space that can allow understanding and complexity to emerge.
Let us allow our children to find comfort in who we are and how we are and trustworthiness in our steadiness and in our ability to not divide us and them in our ability to condemn within the strongest possible way actions of brutality and to hold without separation, those who are just like us, who are not involved, and yet who will suffer the consequences.
And in our classrooms, let's bring that sense of sanctity of life, and that sense of dignity, and that sense of hope and possibility. that arises when we bear witness to the depths that humanity can sink to. And when we bear witness to our own choice, the power and possibility of human choice to rise up above that, and above vengeance, above hatred, and above condemnation.
Root yourself in the present. Root yourself in love. Allow your children to be rooted in connection, in friendship, and with each other. Hold space, bear witness, let go of force, let go of pushing for solution, and yet exemplify
that rage against moral wrong, and that care for the, all those who suffer, all those who are frightened. All those who have lost, all those who are hurting, all those who have witnessed unspeakable atrocity,
let us show what the human spirit is capable of and rise to that nobility. That's what the conscious classroom is founded on. And in times like these, let us be those islands of sanctuary.
Here's a mindfulness practice that you can do for yourself in order to center yourself and be available for your students.
You can practice two ways. One of letting go of thought and feeling and allowing the experience of awareness that is vast and unbounded to take hold of your curiosity and attention. Letting yourself experience wholeness, seamlessness, and goodness,
or you can allow yourself to observe all of the thoughts and feelings that arise without moving towards them and without moving away from them, simply expanding. Your focus, your lens of perception, and staying steady, rooted, still, like a mountain that sees storms come and go, days turn into nights turn into days, and remain steady and watchful and open.
So we'll start with letting everything be and allowing our awareness to open up
and then we'll shift to being still, mindful,
and gaining perspective. So you have the experience of both ways to practice during this time and then can choose. For yourself, which is most supportive and which allows you to center and be available. Bring your attention into yourself, allowing yourself to settle. Take a deeper breath in and a longer exhalation.
And allow your sense of awareness.
That feeling of aliveness, of knowingness,
not knowing something, but presence, aliveness, awareness, to come into the foreground of your experience,
and without tension. And simply observe and allow yourself to become fascinated.
Now allow your attention to rise to your more conscious thought patterns, maintaining that openness, softness, and spaciousness,
and simply notice the arising and passing away of the different thoughts.
Without getting too close, without sticking to them, allow them to be like clouds passing across the sky. You see them. You can almost feel their fluffiness and yet you can't quite touch them because they're too far in the distance.
Notice the content of your Mind and heart, as those feelings pass across the screen of your awareness.
Letting your awareness be as big as the sky. Able to hold and contain everything.
Grief and sorrow.
Pressure and stress. Accomplishment and success. Peace. Kindness and ability,
allow the good qualities of yourself to be part of the thoughts that you observe,
your own steadiness, your own generosity of spirit, your own thoughtfulness, your own patience,
your own care, your own passion. Your own purpose.
And allow yourself simply to observe.
Without moving towards or away.
And allow your attention to be open and vast. Caring. And accepting.
Thoughts come and thoughts go. Some. Some random. Some potent,
letting yourself be as it is. Letting everything be as it is
through that steady as a mountain
nesting in your own center
from where goodness incubates and grows in strength.
Wisdom incubates and grows in strength. Right action and nobility of life and purpose grow in strength.
As we bring our conscious classroom practice to a close, let's dedicate the fruits of our efforts to the benefit of all beings,
to wisdom and illumination.
And to peace, care, and profound compassion.