By LYNN FRANCIS, MA, MS
I never know where I will find inspiration to write this column. This one comes from Inner Peas. No, I did not misspell this. Jan Forstrom, our EL Civics coordinator, brought me a package of Inner Peas one day that she had bought at Trader Joe’s. We had fun with it and it got me thinking about a topic that many of us contemplate but don’t explicitly express to each other in ESL—inner peace. I believe that the practice of inner peace is beneficial to all of those around us in education.
Longtime ESL teacher, life coach, and marriage family therapist Lynn Francis is interested in the inner life of the teacher. She writes, “Because the tools of our trade—methods, techniques, theories, activities—are so well covered at workshops, in-services, and conferences, I felt there was a need to address other aspects of the teacher that are not covered.”
Inner peace, by definition, is an inner process. From very young ages, however, we looked outside of ourselves to learn how to be in the world. Developmentally we had to rely on our caretakers, our teachers, and our culture to mirror to us who we were and how we were expected to be. Our inner processes often were less valued and less examined. Many of us did not get from early childhood the mirroring of our own inner states. It then becomes difficult to trust our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, which seem as if they are really outside of us rather than inside. We project onto others what is unresolved in ourselves.
Being an educator, working with students, colleagues, and within a system, provides plenty of opportunity for growth toward self-reflection and inner peace. If I am impatient or angry, what is that saying about me? If I am overwhelmed, what is that saying about me? (This isn’t as narcissistic as it might sound.) If I am needing a lot of validation, acknowledgment, praise, what is that saying about me? (We all need some.) The point of reference becomes more internal and less external and then from a deeper place we can create change. It’s like peeling an onion or (to keep in alignment with our metaphor of inner peas, shelling the peas) to find that inner home, that inner stability. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Paying attention is the practice. Ultimately, there are 24 hours in a day for all of us. To a certain extent we choose what we will pay attention to and what we will let go of throughout the day. If I am not centered, off balance, unhappy, moody, the only place to look is inside. I try to remember to keep in the forefront those practices that serve my well-being and inner peace along with acceptance and compassion for my shadow side. And, as always, I am in process …
Enjoy the peas and the peace. …
Lynn Francis is a part-time instructor for San Diego Community College Continuing Education. She has been a teacher trainer for more than 30 years. She also has a private practice as a life coach and licensed marriage family therapist. She especially enjoys working with teachers and welcomes readers’ questions or ideas for topics for Inner News. Readers can reach her at lcfranci@sdccdedu.
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