From the Principal's Desk:
I've become more aware of my thought life in the past six months or so. It's not necessarily that I'm thinking more or less but that I'm finding myself thinking differently. By nature, I've always been a reasonably optimistic person with a propensity toward finding the good in people and motives. These days my thoughts are more easily veering in pessimistic directions and I find I have to catch myself from falling into despondency more frequently. I'm certain it all has to do with COVID fatigue, wildfires, and election season malady. My thoughts seem to be controlling me more often than I am in control of them. And I don't like it.
It struck me in particular this past Thursday morning. We have a 'Meditation Club' here at Cresthill every Thursday morning from 7:00 to 7:20 am that I like to pop into when I can. I tease with staff that I thought I was signing up for Medication Club but must have misread the announcement A small group of students and several members of the staff spread out on a floor in a darkened classroom and focus on our breathing with gentle music playing on somebody's iPhone. The goal, as with all forms of meditation, is to try to quiet and slow the mind a bit, harness my wild monkey-brain, and generally become more present and non-judgemental. I'm terrible at it. My thoughts flop and flail around like the Broncos' offense in the Red Zone.
When my boys were pre-teens/tweeners, I remember talking to them a lot about a piece of folk-wisdom that probably all of us have encountered in some version or another. As a dad, I'd find opportunities to 'think out loud' (that's different than lecturing, right?) with my two sons, Jordan and Weston, about the profound idea that what we allow to set up camp in our minds has great power over all other areas of our lives... and our future. Here is the version (unknown origin) that I had hanging in my classroom for many years when I was a teacher:
Watch your thoughts, for they become your attitudes
Watch your attitudes, for they become your words
Watch your words, for they become your actions
Watch your actions, for they become your habits
Watch your habits, for they become your character
And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
So... watch your thoughts
As parents, we probably don't spend enough time 'teaching' our kids how to have more power over their thought lives. We tend to assume they have more control over their thinking than they actually do. Every aspect of our lives, at home or school or in the community, can be significantly improved if we discipline ourselves - even just a little - to catch our thinking before it becomes toxic. Toxic and distorted thinking spirals quickly into feelings of powerlessness, shame, fear, hopelessness, and 'victimitis'. It can also lead to just plain bitterness, contempt, and depression. And these things manifest themselves in unhealthy and unhelpful behaviors.
I wish nothing for our Cresthill kids as much as I wish for them to become sturdier stewards of their own thought lives. To be in control of their thoughts and not be controlled by them so much. Isn't this at the very foundation of what it means to be a sturdy human? The ability to notice what I'm thinking, when I'm thinking it, and the power to reframe whatever it is in such a way as to make conscious choices about my thoughts, attitudes, words, actions, and habits.
With our Journey Learning philosophy here at CMS, we have a term for this belief in harnessing positivism in our thought life: Disruptive Abundance. We model this for our students when we show them how we as adults disrupt toxic thinking-distortions and vicious cycles of negativism by 'watching our thoughts' - interrogating these negative ideas and feelings and replacing them with more hope, optimism, and possibility. We can choose deficit thinking or we can pivot to abundance thinking. As the wise adage puts it: pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. And it all seems to begin with what we allow to inhabit our thoughts.
Maybe this is a solid goal for Quarter 2 for all of us. As we slide toward the darker days of winter (let me reframe that!) - as the hours of daylight decrease each day - I'm going to make a conscious effort to pause and reflect several times throughout the day on what is going well, what is giving me joy, and what is 'bright' about my world. I'm going to practice disruptive abundance and try to keep perspective even in a world that is relentlessly trying to sell me fear and distress. If you can find ANY way of entering into this conversation with your kiddo I strongly encourage it, even if it is just to tell him or her about your own journey.
Peace, Love, and Partnership,