Monday, January 16, 2017

Blue Monday...or not

So according to at least a couple of newspaper articles. posts and a few DJs on the radio, today was "Blue Monday," or the saddest day of the year. According to a British researcher, who titled the day over 10 years ago, the time elapsed after the holidays, the bills which have come since, the next vacation being far away, all in the depth of winter's frigid cold, is enough to make this Monday in January the saddest day of the year. The day was getting even more press this year, with Brexit and the upcoming inauguration of President Trump, and so I started the day on the topic.

None of my students had heard of the day, which was not surprising to me, but that didn't stop them from getting involved in some interesting discussion, and in the end most seemed to agree we wouldn't let the calendar determine how we feel. At the same time, they could relate to how someone might feel more sad than usual this time of year. I reminded them that the most important thing today, as every day, is to notice how they feel and make sure they are taking care of themselves.

Then we got ready to meditate and I mentioned I was thinking that we should do a METTA meditation for the day, and I was completely taken aback when many indicated their agreement with a loud, "Yes." I asked for a show of hands and it didn't take more to convince me today. I set the music and reminded them that in the METTA meditation the tracks would continue, and that they didn't need to worry about how long it would be, or when it would be over, I would tell them and they could just relax.

Which is exactly what they did. Student A was in extra gym, and everyone else settled quickly, including Student B, who is back to sitting by his buddy, the boy who always gets hurt, at least for now, and for today they did okay. Though a little restless, they were quiet for the duration, their heads down for most of the time.

I moved through the prompts, the breath count and then into the stages of the METTA meditation, sharing our caring and compassion with ourselves first- May I be happy, may I be healthy, may I be safe, noticing that taking care of ourselves is important and not selfish, and the first thing we must do. Then extending our caring and compassion out in the world, first to a loved one, then to that familiar stranger, and finally into the world. to those who were having a hard time on this "Blue Monday," whether they be in our classrooms, our schools, our city, our province or beyond, wishing for them the same things we wished for ourselves- May you be happy, May you be healthy, May you be safe.

As we moved into a moment of gratitude, I reminded them that if they were feeling good, then they already had much for which to feel grateful, and if they were feeling down to notice their feelings, and begin to feel grateful that they do, as that will help them feel a little better.

I also took the opportunity to emphasize the importance of noticing how we feel and taking care of our feelings, reminding them it is normal to feel sad from time to time, but if it seems too much, or lasts too long, to be sure to talk to any one of the people I named at our school, including me and Mr. Y.

We moved into the silence, and though it had been a longer meditation, nobody moved. The room was still and silent for the minute and a half of gratitude. Student B and his tablemate were a little restless for a moment, but stopped quickly and didn't bother anyone.

Close to 15 minutes after we began, I slowly closed the meditation,  bringing awareness back to their breath, their bodies, and the room, encouraging them to take their time and move slowly, which they did. They stayed pretty quiet as we transitioned into the rest of our class, and I was happy that they had wanted to take the time to extend their caring and compassion to others, even if it was just so they get to rest longer too.

By the time my switch class got to my room during period 6 in the afternoon, the quiet of the morning had been left behind. We had only one period together, just enough time for a short meditation. The class settled somewhat, but Student A was on the computer in my room, and so we didn't achieve the stillness or the quiet of the morning.

Student A knew a condition of being in the room was that he shut off the monitor to meditate, and he complied without any reminders as we started, but he didn't reach the quiet he enjoys in his usual spot, and I don't believe it was for lack of trying. He just couldn't contain himself.

He kept putting his head down and then lifting it again, sometime to poke another student, and at other times to make random comments. He was occasionally funny, but mostly annoying, and eventually settled as I stood beside him and we moved into a minute of silence.

It wasn't the perfect meditation, but it was a quiet enough six minutes for a Monday, and while it was a little crazy, it certainly wasn't blue.

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