Saturday, January 31, 2009

Chopping Wood, Carrying Water

Doing hand washing slowly and carefully,
washing each finger, drying each finger.

Montessori education and Zen Buddhism have many parallels. One that I find particularly beautiful is the idea of caring for the present moment by doing ONE THING AT A TIME.

As adults, so many of our activities are carried out simply as a means to an end. When we cook, we are already tasting the food, we can't wait to put it on the table so that we can gobble it up. When we wash the dishes after dinner, we want to finish as fast as possible so that we can go back to the hot tea waiting on the table. With this attitude, we are constantly trying to get to the future as fast as possible without really absorbing the importance of the present moment. It is like we are almost not alive when we are rushing through our activity to reach something that is always a little out of our reach. Life becomes like a conveyor belt of moments all rushing past.

I watch the children in the classroom... A child of three years who is washing a table is not rushing through the process because he can't wait to get to the snack table, or because he can't wait to get the table clean and dry. Immersed in the present moment, the child is building himself in the process of carrying out the simplest activity. Concentration, attention to detail, sensory richness, motor awareness, patterns and sequences, these are all virtues that he discovers only in the present moment when he is carrying out his work doing one thing at a time.

In Buddhist retreats they ask the adult students to go back to that state. To give attention to every action, to give value to every activity through remaining present. In this way, the adult discovers the hidden qualities that lay under the surface of the mundane. It is very difficult for an adult. But the children in the classroom, they are masters of this. This is another example of how "the child is the father of the man"...

I am striving to simplify my actions. To take care of each moment in and out of the classroom. When I stop being concerned with an idea of productivity, I focus on the quality of the present moment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is what I love about Montessori! We are teaching our children to live in the present moment! This is a great characteristic to have in the future, in the adult world. Too many times, we get so caught up with the hustle and bustle of life, that we forget to appreciate and value what we have right NOW in this present moment! I love this post!!!!