Friday, September 4, 2009

The First Step – Where I Stood

I stayed up the other night with the intention of fully preparing for the September 1st kick off of Jammies School. For weeks – even months, maybe a year – I had had increasingly specific ideas in my head about what our curriculum, daily rhythm and environment might look like. I had even begun, in fits and starts, working on it all. But, all too often, I got overwhelmed. Thus, after getting the kids to sleep the other night, I stayed awake with three main intentions:

(1) Put down in words a streamlined plan for the start of Jammies School, deciding which main “subjects” and focus areas I could honestly keep up with on a daily basis.
(2) Make a basket of learning activities for the kids – especially Luke – to work with me on during a dedicated morning preschool time.
(3) Transition our office/classroom into a “new” room by better “preparing the environment” through clearing away all the clutter that has collected in parts of the room, changing out some of the activities and games on the shelves and, generally making it more “Montessori”.

By doing these three things, I hoped to take a solid first step into a more official home-preschooling journey. But, before my figurative foot even hit the path, I felt overwhelmed, and, then, distracted... Instead of taking the step, in practice, I began thinking about it in theory. The olds adage, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with one step” kept repeating itself in my mind. Who said that anyway? I thought to myself.

A quick google search later, I knew Lao-tzu was the quote’s original source. I also discovered something interesting on the Michael Moncur was credited as saying:

Although (a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step) is the popular form of the quotation, a more correct translation from the original Chinese would be “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet” Rather than emphasizing the first step, Lau Tzu regarded action as something that arises naturally from stillness. Another potential phrasing would be "Even the longest journey must begin where you stand."

This struck me. Through the words of an ancient Taoist philosopher, the Holy Spirit seemed to converse with me about the step I needed to make that night. He guided me to change the course of the first day of Jammies School. Our conversation went something like this:

What is beneath your feet? What grounds you?
-Faith in God.

Where can you find stillness?
-Certainly not in scurrying about all night preparing activities nor in staying up too many more hours lost in some vortex of thought, planning and overwhelming intentions. Rather, I can find it in prayer as I go to sleep and in standing firm against my habit of busyness when I awake. Instead of continually trying to take and maintain control, I can let go a bit more. I can seek moments of stillness – of peace and joy – where I usually find them: in nature, in creative reflection, in being present with my children for play and for impromptu discoveries and, of course, in prayer.

Where do you stand?
-In need of letting go and letting God, of quieting my mind and listening to my heart, of letting less be more.

And, so the discussion sunk in. I heard and chose to listen. I decided to finally turn off my computer, walk away from my self-directed to-do list and quiet my mind before sleep. I realized there would be no “Grand Opening” of Jammies School. Rather, there would be quiet prayer until I fell asleep that night and a simple focus on faith the following day. I would find stillness through offering to God more dedicated “simple” time with my children as Jammies School opened. I would stand on the firm ground, knowing that if I abided by the tranquility of the day, the action of learning would naturally arise. In stillness, not in a final push of preparation, I rested knowing the journey was already underway.

The result? More peacefulness. Some learning (on the kids’ part and on my own.) Lots of creativity. A balanced flow. And, a grateful heart as I go to sleep this evening.

Our journey is underway and will continue – with God’s good grace – from where we stand.


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