I’ve written several blogs about how to deal with issues as they arise. I’ve spoken more as a guide than as a practitioner. I believe that may be misrepresenting myself. I am not a great master or teacher. I am a humble practitioner on a journey and I should represent myself as such.
In that vein I have a story to share. This is not a life altering story and to some of my readers it may seem quite minuscule in the grand scope of life. But, it is a story of the challenges of leading a life out in the world and trying to reconcile the disappointments of that life with the practice of my Buddhist ideals.
This school year has been more difficult than usual for me. As I’ve said before I work in a lower income school and I have had struggles with some very challenging students this year. As such, I have complained once too often to my bosses at my school. Because of these complaints I had one of the courses I teach given to another teacher so that next year I will teach only history. When I first learned of this change my ego immediately took over and I was devastated. I was convinced they were telling me that I was an incompetent teacher and that I was being punished for my complete inability to teach (have I ever mentioned that I have a tendency toward over-dramatics?). I waited four days to discuss my feelings with the powers-that-be to make sure I did not bring my over dramatics with me into the meeting. It took a great deal of thought, meditation, and positive affirmations to get myself prepared for this meeting. My principal allowed me to be honest and graciously listened to my concerns, no matter how far fetched they were. She assured me that in no way was I being punished and she advised me to put a positive spin on the issue and look at it is a reward. I would no longer have to deal with the most challenging of students on a large scale. After four days of meditation this was the conclusion I had come to on my own, but it was nice to have the professional validation of my thoughts. I was able to walk away from this issue feeling rather pleased with myself and at peace, no matter how tenuous.
Then came the last day of school. These feelings of inadequacy and punishment reemerged when it was announced I would lose my classroom. A little background here, I have the second largest classroom on campus. It was the old home economics room. It has two refrigerators, two stoves, a microwave, a washer and dryer, a dish washer and is twice the size of other classrooms. I had quite the set up here. I purchased an iced tea maker, made my own ice, cut up lemons, went grocery shopping for snacks and lunches etc. I was living large in this room. My room is truly the reason I didn’t want to give up the program I was teaching. It is a room envied by many. And, it was another blow to my already fragile ego. Disappointment came again to the forefront of my emotions which of course then led to anger. I was mad at my boss, mad at myself, and extremely mad at the teacher taking my job. These emotions are still at the surface, they are not going away as easily as I had hoped. I have meditated quite often on my knowledge of desire and yearning and ownership. I do not own the program I was teaching. I do not own the classroom I was teaching in. What I do own in the desire to have my classroom back. That is where my problems arise. By longing for that one thing I have allowed my feelings of inadequacy and disappointment to take over and at times overwhelm me. If I let go of the desire for my room I will let go of the anger as well. But, as anyone who has been a practitioner for any length of time will tell you, this is far easier said than done.
I will admit it has gotten easier for me to recognize where my emotions are coming from and why I am turning those emotions into negative feelings. The challenges arise when I can’t get my ego aligned with my practice. This is why I felt the need to share this story. As I said at the beginning, this will seem shallow and childish to many who read this. But, this shallow behavior is how I recognize that I have a lesson to be learned here. It is not, in the end, about the classroom or the program I’ve lost. It is about the lesson that karma/life/the universe/the almighty/the goddess is teaching me. I have to let go of these feelings. I will not be less of a teacher because my classroom is different. I also have quite the nerve to be “proud” of the fact that people envy my room. My ego believes I was envied. Envied for what? The luck of getting a large room? In the end the classroom is just a shell. What breathes life into that classroom is the interaction that comes from my students and me.
The great thinker Eckhart Tolle said, “Not all thinking and all emotion are of the ego. They turn into ego only when you identify with them and they take you over completely, that is to say, when they become ‘I.'” I have allowed these feelings of desire for my classroom, disappointment over what I’ve “lost”, and inadequacy that I’ve invented to take me over completely. I have made all of this about me. Could I be any more arrogant? The first step here has been realizing my arrogance. Now I must take this lesson and glean knowledge and insight from it. I must kill off my ego. That is my task and I shall not slink away from it.