A theme from my many school visits this last fall was that both students and teachers realize we should take or make more time for reflection. We know that authentic reflection starts with being focused on the moment, taking in what lessons we can when we can, be it in a classroom, on the ball field, on a hike, or just a quiet solo interlude. I decided to put that into practice more this year on my Philippines trip than we have in the past, and after just one day it is reaping rewards.
It is a long overnight flight from L.A. to Manila, arriving just after dawn for a 6-hour layover before our short flight south to Dumaguete. We took advantage of the time in the airport to discuss safety, health and cultural issues with the students, but then I asked the group to sit and focus on the moment and start to let go of those things from our real world that will distract us from learning in this new world. The setting will vary each time we stop and focus, but the mantra will be the same.
We felt the hard tile floor underneath us and the cool air conditioning. We listened to the buzz of the departures hall, smelled the food court, and felt our full stomachs. We let our minds wander back to driving fast on the freeway to get to LAX just a day before and to saying goodbye to our families, and then we let those thoughts of yesterday and elsewhere fall away. They are not gone; they are just not mastering our thoughts. A few students shared what flowed in in those short moments: one said that “when we arrived this morning it felt like a weight had been lifted and the lights seemed brighter somehow.”
Last night after we had settled into dinner at a long table under thatch roof with the sound of small waves lapping the seawall just off the edge of the darkness, one of the students on her own started “high-low”, telling her high and low moments of the day, and then passing it off to another student to do the same. I didn’t hear most of the reflections, which doesn’t matter much.
Today as we head up into the mountains just a few miles from town, we will stop and focus again, this time with rich volcanic soil under our feet, the sound of small farms or children running up the road, and hopefully as we practice this a few times a day over the next two weeks we will all become better at centering in the moment and these marvelous reflections will stick with us the better for it.