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Staff Leadership and Management / Storytellers

When We Awaken

sunglasses awaken

For some reason lately I’ve been thinking about those moments that awaken us in some way—moments that either subtly or profoundly affect the way we interact with the world.

Some of those moments are earth-shattering, like the first time Loss comes up and punches you squarely in the face. (For me, that came in the form of a 7 am phone call when I was 17 years old alerting me to the death of one of my most beloveds).

Some of those moments are seemingly trivial, like the first time you find your own unique style. (I still remember trying to explain to my mom just how important Grunge music was as a college student in the early 90s).

Sometimes those moments change the very face of the world.

Like the first time you encounter a national or global crisis. (Nothing will soften the memory of standing on a rooftop in Manhattan with some of my co-workers, some blocks north of the World Trade Center, marveling at the gaping holes in the sides of the buildings, when the sudden distant rumble of some kind of thunder preceded the slow and shocking collapse of the first tower).

Sometimes those moments make you aware that you’ve never actually understood the full function of your heart until then. (While I thought my elementary-age heart fully opened up when I first saw “Stand By Me” and was introduced to the glory of River Phoenix, it was actually the first time I held my first baby that I knew the world would forever be so much more terrifying, heartbreaking, beautiful, wide open and exquisite… and that I could never hide my heart from any of it again).

Sometimes those moments show us just how important our voice actually is.

(I spent the first year and a half at The Leadership Program waiting for an invitation to be included, to be “liked,” to be considered worthy. And then I got tired of waiting and just declared myself included… and I’ve spent the past thirteen and half years declaring rather than waiting).

And some of those moments aren’t actual moments at all but rather the accumulation of pieces of moments that you suddenly become aware of on a random Tuesday. (My husband and I have been married for 14 ½ years, and clinking coffee mugs across the table at each other this morning I was hit with the profound weight of the remarkable life we’ve created together, side by side, interwoven in ways that are not explainable and that extend so far past the pictures on the wall of two young people on their wedding day, practical strangers to me now).

Whether small (How did I ever live in a world without minivans?) or big (This wide-open heart thing that my children have created in me is sometimes unbearable)… these are the moments that offer an opportunity for us to awaken. It’s as if one of the many layers that color how we view the world gets peeled away, and as such the color shifts just a bit and the world looks different, forever. It’s kind of stunning when you take a moment to think about it, when you awaken to these awakenings.

Are you noticing the moments when you awaken?

When your students awaken? Whether it’s your own moment or a moment experienced by one of the youth with whom you work, it’s important to acknowledge just how the awakening has shifted the way the world looks. Daily rituals can support this process—do you start your program with a circle and time for students to check in and tell you how they’re feeling?

Do you end your program with a chance to come back together and reflect on the day? Are there opportunities for students to journal or draw? All of these activities open up space for those awakening moments to be captured and acknowledged.

What moments have awakened you?

For breakfast this morning I had a cup of peppermint tea and a toasted mini-bagel with peanut butter. So civilized!

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