No, the conductor stops and pauses. There is a silence in the audience and in the whole space of the opera house or the intimate salon or the theatre. Anticipation then mounts in the minds and hearts of the listeners. Awareness and attention arises in each member of the orchestra, or each member of the chorus. Notice how their faces turn upwards towards the conductor, notice how they stop, breathe, anticipate the opening of this glorious work of music with joy. Then the conductor lifts her hands, raises the baton and on one beat, moves everything forward. And in that moment, everyone is there, everyone is present, pulsing, muscles in arms and shoulders, muscles in throat and lungs moving in the present moment to create the beauty of the piece, to lift up the hearts of all listeners.
It is possible for a teacher to pause at the beginning or in the midst of her teaching in a similar way. He can walk into the classroom and stop. He can pause to put down his books, briefcase or papers. He can stop and just breathe for a moment. He can be silent for just a moment. He can look out at the students before him like the conductor looks at each member of the chorus or orchestra. Then he, the teacher can draw them in, bring them into his sphere, touch them with a sense of presence.
Some teachers I know also ask their students to come into a moment of silence before the class begins. This is nothing special but it is extraordinary. Everyone in the rooms simply sits in silence for one or two minutes. How many minutes of the day are taken in silence? There is a chance for everyone to stop and breathe, to take a sacred pause out from life in the fast lane, to get off of the treadmill, to drop into the moment and in so doing connect with the timeless.
This pausing is worth its weight in gold, a golden moment as it were, something that says to all those present, “What we are about to do is important. What we are about to do matters. What we are about to do is going to be done with care and joy.” So much is communicated by the tiniest of gestures. I once saw a ballet dancer command an audience of thousands by the pointing of one finger. I once saw the Dalai Lama speak to eighty thousand people in a sports stadium and commanded everyone’s attention by taking a moment to stop and simply look out into the crowd with a beaming smile on his face as if he were meeting a small group of friends in his living room. I once saw a teacher walk into her classroom, then just stop and stand there facing the her students for just a moment. With this simple gesture, the students also stopped and began again from a place of clarity and purpose.
Practice pausing several times each day, at the beginning or in the midst of your teaching. One of my teachers says, “Being mindful is not difficult to do, it is difficult to remember to do.” Take the time to leave the ordinary and take a journey into the extra-ordinary. Take the time to leave the rush, interrupt it, by simply stopping right in the middle of some fast-paced, moving-forward moment in the hectic swirl of your teaching life. Take just a moment to pause to reconnect with mindfulness of breath, or sounds or body.
And when you have paused, then take that moment to breathe. Know that as you have taken that one breath, so have your students. See any one person in front of you and know that he or she too is a fragile being just like you whose life depends on just one breath. Know that when there is no more breath, there is no more life. Feel the life in you right now surging and rolling in and out like the waves of the ocean. Feel the space of all of life and then begin again to connect with all that is ordinary in your teaching life but in a fresh and mindful way.
Claire M. Stanley, Ph.D.
Center for Mindful Inquiry
167 Main Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301