Monday, March 5, 2012

A fascinating encounter

At a conference I attended recently, I had the opportunity to hear a speaker who I thought was completely fascinating. To begin with, she was a colorful personality – big smiles and gestures, strong adjectives, somebody I’d call “with heart”. As she began her talk, she warned us she would have trouble staying on topic, and boy, did she. She took off on every possible tangent, though each of those excursions was valuable and entertaining. As she spoke, it became evident that she had a deep and intimate knowledge of the subject. She explained how, as an intern in college, she had come into contact with a gifted child, and had instantly decided to devote herself to the education of gifted children. She went on to earn her PhD in the field, and then in addition to teaching in college, also started a private practice working with that population and their families. What set her apart from many PhDs I know is that she wasn’t talking from theoretical or very stiff, conventional expertise. Her work was informed by the long hours she had spent with real subjects and the intimate knowledge she had of their issues. I left her talk deeply touched – both by her insights on the topic (how to connect with gifted children), as well as her rare combination of expertise and compassion.

The thing that sealed the deal for me was what she said towards the end of her talk. Midway through a long list of recommendations for parents, she stopped and said something along the lines of “specifics trump knowledge”. That is, you may have accumulated much knowledge about a topic, but when confronted with a real live human being, toss that knowledge out the window and go with what makes sense in that moment for that person. You don’t see too many so-called ‘experts’ do that, much less say that.

One more thing about this speaker that earned my respect was the pride of place she gave to awareness and knowledge of self, in a topic which all too often reduces to a laundry list of techniques to employ with children. In the arena of relationships, parenting and even education, most of the material I come across focuses primarily on the ‘other’ person (spouse / partner / child). If it covers communication techniques, the ‘between’, it’s already rare. But rarer still is the material that emphasizes knowing oneself. She ended her talk with an exhortation to listen within, using the following prompts:

1. When am I the most alive?

2. What brings me the greatest joy?

3. What makes my heart sing?

4. What do I really care about?

5. What do I truly believe is essential?

6. What does this world really need?

7. Who needs me ?

8. How may I be of service?

I have often been inspired in the moment only to procrastinate on doing my homework, but I did spend some time on this assignment.

1. When am I the most alive? When I’m helping my kids see something they hadn’t seen before; when I’m getting new insights into life

2. What brings me the greatest joy? Music, experiencing the beauty of life

3. What makes my heart sing? My family

4. What do I really care about? That there be more love and happiness in the world,

5. What do I truly believe is essential? Greater awareness, of self and others, and how things really work.

6. What does this world really need? More examples of love conquers all, especially in the most banal or unlikeliest of circumstances.

7. Who needs me? My kids.

8. How may I be of service? By just being an example of 'sattvic' living (focused on greater awareness & evolution)

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