I have just had an altercation with a 10-year-old. I have stepped away to a local coffee shop to take some breaths and write a blog post that I now feel is about to write itself. I am a student in the school of life. And this 10-year-old girl — this small but mighty force to be reckoned with — she is my teacher.

There are many faculties in the school of life. And many teachers.

Take the Faculty of Family, for example. Through marriage, parenthood, and step-parenthood, I have lost my cool many, many times. As I reflect on my angry outbursts, I am aware that the accompanying thoughts typically take the form of judgments disguised as questions:

Why do you have to be so mean?

How could you do this to me?

What the heck is wrong with you?

However, with age, yoga, mindfulness, and a little spiritual guidance from Lodro Rinzler among others, I am learning how to replace anger and blame with something far more productive: compassion. I am also learning that compassion takes practice.

As I sit here reflecting on a 10-year-old girl who so desperately wants to prove to me (and perhaps even believes) that she is the boss of her own universe, it is not lost on me that she, as much as Lodro Rinzler, is my teacher in the school of life. Today, she taught me to practice compassion.

– Sara Schairer explains how to practice compassion, even when it seems impossible

School of life image 1

Last weekend, I was taught a different lesson in the school of life.

I attended a three-day yoga retreat. I set off buzzing with excitement over the 12.5 hours of yoga on our weekend schedule but things didn’t quite go to plan. Two and a half hours in, I pulled a muscle in my back. I tried to breathe through it but my body had other ideas.

Oh, I retreated all right. I retreated to my bed in pain. That afternoon, as my fellow yogis were making their way to class, my heart wanted to join them but my mind knew better. I sat it out. My body was my teacher. The lesson: practice patience.

– This Tiny Buddha article explains why life is your greatest teacher

A few days ago, I was taught the value of instinct.

I went to walk my dog on the beach as I do almost every morning. When I arrived, I saw a man who seemed not normal. I watched him walk barefoot across the street, every step slow and deliberate as if he were practicing tai chi.

I saw him open the gate to a front yard and enter at a snail’s pace. I noticed a car carelessly parked on an angle, windows open, key in the ignition, lights on. I wondered if I should approach him; ask him if was ok. My instinct told me something wasn’t right. I didn’t listen to it. I went about my business.

School of life image 2

As I strolled, my concern remained with me. I questioned why I hadn’t approached him and decided I would rectify my error when I returned to my starting point. My back up plan (should nerves get the better of me) would be to call the police and suggest they do the same.

did see him again. I also saw two police officers. After confirming that they had come to investigate this stranger, who was now heading off along the boardwalk, I made my way home. Later that day, I heard a lifeless man had been found floating close to shore. The following morning, I learned that this man was him — the stranger my instinct had told me to approach. He was found dead half an hour after I last saw him.

Here’s a poem I wrote about instinct >

Life takes practice.

The wise and enlightened teach us to practice kindness, practice compassion, practice non-judgment.

In a perfect world, we would do all of the above in the same manner a doctor practices medicine, a lawyer practices law, a professor practices teaching. These professionals have honed their skills (or so we hope), and we count on them to perform their skills with proficiency as and when needed.

However, it is not a perfect world. When it comes to kindness, compassion, non-judgment, patience, love, and so on, we are not professionals. We are perpetual students and so practice takes on greater meaning.

School of life quote

To practice is not only to perform.

To practice is to persevere, pursue and persist. And every day, with every interaction we have with others, with every endeavour we undertake, the school of life gives us opportunities to do practice, learn and grow. In order to embrace these opportunities, however, we must first accept that we are students. Students in the school of life.

Viv for today xo


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