Man made gardens need man made care. Dream spaces need not live solely in our imaginations.
I sit in my living room with the sounds of George Winstron’s piano, the Winter album, surrounding me. I write to you considering all that my life has recently presented to me. Continuing education in self awareness, teaching young children in our public schools, our interesting political environment, my family and the relationship dynamics we all take part in and then there is how I fit into it all. I have learned so many things these past few years and wonder how can I convert my new understandings into language that others will be able to interpret for themselves developing their own interpretation making their life, their world better.
I recently worked as a substitute teacher in an intermediate school ages 7 to 11. They assigned me the physical education position for the day. The program taking place was the movement and strength training associated with the Presidential Physical fitness Test they give to the students each year. I don’t find it important to tell you all the different stations the kids where rotating through but one station interested me more than the other. One of the stations was the pull up bar. With a diversity of body types and different levels of fitness and strength students where to do 10 pull ups or hang from the bar for at least 10 seconds. Now you would think that with all we have learned after decades of research we would be giving our future generation every opportunity to understand self care and the lifetime impact of being active while consuming healthy foods.
Unfortunately, like in a garden center, there are many choices with little or no opportunity for understanding. Ok I got distracted for a moment. Pull up bar. If you have ever tried this exercise you know that for most of us this is a challenging movement. Pulling your body weight up and then your chin over this bar suspending at least 7 feet off the ground is not easy. The muscles that go into convulsions trying to make a single successful pull-up can be painful. The trauma that occurs to our bodies in the process demonstrates long reaching effects. Muscles exploding, joints being challenged, ligaments and tendons being stretched and then finally our mind battling the stain and possible pain. This last piece mentioned, our mind, is where I want to focus on today.
The mind as the greatest muscle. If we were to imagine ourselves on the side of a mountain and to survive we needed to hold on otherwise fall to our certain death. Here our mind has the ability to make or break us. If this last statement is true then it is our mind that always has the last say in our success or failure. So if all this is true about the mind why do we not train and strengthen it along with our biceps, back, shoulders, wrist and hand strength? A young mind is similar to a new garden area. There are smaller plants with lost of room to develop and fill the surrounding spaces. This is the parallel I wish you all to consider today. We can not fail in our mission to strengthen our children’s minds so they always have the constitution to hold on always reaching for the top of the mountain.
We know the mind fails before the body and now that we know we have the responsibility to train the mind as if it is a muscle being tested in the Presidential fitness Exam. How often do we ourselves give up knowing we have more? How often do we see others giving up knowing they chose the easy path, the path of least resistance, the minimal requirements to complete the task? This is the education we have received. There are those that break through these minimal requirement walls but they are few and far between. We have a diversity of learners with a diversity of environments they are imprinted by and then there are the diversity of body types and personalities. How do we reach them all and help them all reach and stretch beyond their own imaginations. Here is where I challenge everyone to think and consider how much, as a community, society, race, we could accomplish if the hurdles we set in front of young learners where designed for their minds to conquer them even before their bodies had to.
As each small group of students, ages 7-11, approached the pull-up bar I stopped them and asked them, what will fail first on this activity? The first time through they all responded that their body would fail first. I told them that was not true. I told them it was their mind that would choose to give up before their body and that they should imagine if they did not hold on long enough the consequences would be … This is where we need to challenge young learners to consider the re-action to their action. The second time they passed through the pull up station I asked them again, what will fail first here your mind or your body. Here now they are beginning to think based on their previous experience and now, some with hesitation, respond with their mind will fail first. I ask them what does that mean, your mind will fail first? This is where the lesson truly begins. They have some previous experience and now can begin thinking about what the words mean and what choices they are now faced with.
How far, how long can our mind control what our body does? Now we begin training the mind for success in every area. Every area consists of math, science, english, social studies, music and art. The great word I like using here is discipline training. If you can strengthen the mind and teach it discipline then all areas of learning are strengthened. When I look at an entire landscape I consider the movement from one area to the next and then think about texture, form, long term width and height of the plants and trees to be installed. I have been maintaining and managing gardens for over 16 years and I believe most designers and garden managers consider only the first few miles in the gardening marathon and miss the opportunity to create gardens and spaces for a lifetime. Plants overgrowing and things being moved or ripped out and thrown away. When this occurs someone throughout the process failed the client, the goal, the environment and ultimately the generations to follow.
Discipline for me is not something that is isolated existing alone. Caring for the discipline and the goal that discipline is being put in place for is extremely important. Once we can see through the superficial and understand that there are unseen connections that make all the difference in the overall process we begin to accept and recognize the potential in the simplest of movements and ultimately choices. What will you now choose to do? How will you choose to think? Where will you begin? Who is to benefit from your discipline, your care, your commitment? I hope you all have a sense that each of us is a part of the whole and can make a difference. Peace right here, right now and always.