When I teach breathing practices to my Grade 5 class, we talk about our inner world. This includes our feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. I encourage them to bring awareness to this space inside, which can often go unnoticed. When we practice together, we close our eyes as a way to pause the external world and focus our attention internally.
I like to imagine my inner world as a lake. The wind moves and shifts the surface, causing ripples and waves. The space just below the surface may fluctuate moderately, or even more significantly if the waves are strong. Yet the bottom of the lake remains quiet and still, uninterrupted by the motion above. This metaphor helps me to remember that although the world around me can be filled with chaos or movement, the deepest part of my inner world can remain at peace.
Finding peace around two dozen elementary students can be challenging. My students experience highs and lows throughout the day: they can argue, get frustrated, refuse to listen, and interrupt. They can also support one another, challenge themselves, be thoughtful, and show kindness. Highs and lows. Before I learned to cultivate peace, these changes could derail me. Now I focus on maintaining my inner peace without overreacting to the environment around me. I can respond to my students’ needs without letting my emotions overcome me. Like the water of the surface above, my students may create ripples, or even waves. Harnessing my peace means bringing my awareness to the deep stillness that is always within me.
Each year I teach my class about the circles of control. We begin with two circles. We label each: ‘What I can control’ and ‘What I cannot control’. I usually offer up some options and have the class help me decide which circle they belong in. My choices? I can control. Feelings of others? I can’t control. Even though this lesson is designed for my 5th grade students, it also serves as a useful reminder for my own life. While I can’t control the emotions of my students, I can control how I react to them. I can’t control the choices my students make but I can control how I respond and guide them in their next steps.
I think you would agree that we live in uncertain and challenging times. Helping our students to develop techniques and find their inner reservoir of peace will give them greater resilience and ability to manage stress.
I believe the choices we make moment by moment through the day can either foster or distract us from our inner peace. Emotions will come and go, fluctuating throughout the day. However, we can protect our peace from our own emotions, and those of others around us. We can create space between our outer world and our inner peace.
I invite you to consider your own life. What is it that you seek? And what techniques are helpful for you?