Good morning to you! Wherever you are in the world! It is a quiet Tuesday morning at Gyeonggi English Village and the second day of my “weekend”. While I regularly teach the young readers of Book Club on Saturdays, on Sundays I now seem to be a “free agent” of sorts for weekend programming. I never know what I might end up teaching!
This past Sunday was launched with a three and a half hour class teaching cooking to a room of about 30 Korean elementary school students. And while, for the most part, they were a good bunch… I couldn’t help but think that this situation would be suitable for Jedi training. You know, learning to keep one’s cool and center in the midst of a great deal of activity, distraction and sometimes… chaos. It was nothing out of hand… the expected repertoire of elementary classroom behavior. There was some hair pulling, a little physical fighting, crying… and we can’t forget the ceaseless cries out for “Teacher, teacher, teacher, teacher…” Yes, that would be me. And luckily, also the name of my competent co-teacher for the day.
We made cinnamon rolls. First, we organized the students into tables and gave each student a number. When their number was called they came up front to get their designated ingredients. In the spirit of practicing English, each student has to ask for the ingredient in English before we hand it over. For some students, this is a walk in the park. For these young students, sweet as many of them were, the basics of English were still very new to them. As I was handing out ingredients, I had to laugh at my reverent nature and bend towards the serious… with the echo of my Catholic upbringing and twelve years of Catholic school. When I met each student solemnly one by one, I felt like I was giving out communion.
This past week continues to be a defrosting of sorts as winter, while still a bit of a nag, is starting to back off. I can’t help but notice the sweet return of the birds consoling us that, yes, it is still cold out but it is almost over… we hope! With the thaw out comes the personal desire to lighten up and shed some metaphorical skin! And so I have been doing a bit of reading.
The book at hand is The Forgiveness Habit. It is written by a friend of mine from the Landmark Education community, Jo Anne Rotermund, and has been on my radar for years. It was only recently, at the suggestion of the friend, that I made the extra effort to download the book and began to take a read. Now two-thirds into it, I am impressed by its fresh, simple and practical approach to the much traveled topic of forgiveness.
The book begins with a survey of the forgiveness landscape. What is it that keeps us locked in anger and makes it so darn difficult to simply forgive? She offers a smart analysis of the paradigms of external and internal power. When we swim in the paradigm of external power, she says, we are locked in the pattern that someone outside of ourselves controls our happiness. She invites us to take note of sneaky little habits like “blaming” and “being right” and to simply notice them. I couldn’t help but see how these habits perpetuate the dynamic of external power which leaves me feeling… powerless. When we are blaming or being right, we are operating in the paradigm of external power which denies ourselves access to our true strength – internal power. In truth, after years of spiritual reading and exploration, it was the first time I really “got” how these habits perpetuated feeling like a victim. It is only once we begin to dance in the construct of internal power that God’s grace can take a hand!
As the journey continues, she introduces lovely new habits including gratitude and reverence. Anyone who has explored their own healing and spiritual journey has likely knocked on the door of gratitude before. It was a true pleasure to find it again here… in the context of forgiveness. It was a good reminder to restore an old habit for the benefit of cultivating forgiveness. Additionally, she introduced the habit of reverence, which she suggests is most easily accessible through quiet daily time with nature and the outdoors. This was a welcome invitation to come out of my winter hibernation and begin to reconnect with nature again if even for a few minutes a day. These two simple tools feel like stepping-stones that can lead one through any challenge, burden or bitter past.
Jo Anne offered so many rich explanations of the cultural context of forgiveness. It was truly liberating to read and filled me with a whole mess of “aha!” moments. This book is just one element of the World Forgiveness Initiative supported in part by Reverend Desmond Tutu. Worth checking out!
As my weekend has already leaked into Tuesday, I look forward to a quiet day of tending to things at home and around Paju before returning to work tomorrow. Good-bye for now! Wishing you a warm and wonderful day!
Featured image, the frozen waters and quiet pathways on the grounds of Gyeonggi English Village.