I treat each new school year like the New Year by setting resolutions and goals for myself. While many of them are professional, there are always a few personal ones as well. This fall I have tried to schedule some regular time for exercise. On Saturday morning, I was on my yoga mat at the beginning of a class, having not attended for years, wondering how it was all going to go.
The instructor started class by asking us to focus on santosha, one of the ten principles, or positive qualities, of practice. This principle focuses on contentment and being satisfied with what one has. He explained that while santosha can refer to material possessions, he asked us to consider being content with how we do in class, and not to worry about the people around us. It was a helpful reminder for me, an admittedly competitive person with high expectations.
After class, I thought about the tension between contentment and high expectations, and reflected on the various nuggets of wisdom our Head Girl, Arts Captain and House Captain have delivered to our community over the last two weeks. The girls have pointed out the tendency of people to worry about what others think, the pressure to follow a particular path because it appears appreciated more than another, or the ease of shying away from challenges that risk failure. Each of these messages articulated the existence of pressures on us to conform to perceived expectations, whether these are felt from parents, teachers, peers or society generally.
I am grateful to our wise young women for urging our community not to conform, but rather to stay true to who they are and what they enjoy, and to aspire to be their best selves. They were able to articulate the power of being content with themselves while still aspiring to being the best person they could be. These young women still have much learning ahead of them and yet their words to their peers and younger Clementines were sage.
Parker Palmer, a favourite author, writes in his book Let Your Life Speak, “If we are to live our lives fully and well, we must learn to embrace the opposites, to live in a creative tension between our limits and our possibilities…We must take the no of the way that closes and find the guidance it has to offer- and take the yes of the way that opens and respond with the yes of our lives.”
This is an important reminder for all of us and I was appreciative of a moment to reflect and ‘connect the thoughts.’