When Michelle and I co-taught Grade 9 English, we assigned The 10 Day Challenge during a writing workshop.
Each student – and teacher – set an intention to disconnect from ___________ (video games, facebook, t.v., youtube, junk food, or something else we felt was wasting our time and energy) and, instead, spend that time reconnecting with ___________ (nature, a long-lost hobby or friend, a family member, or themselves through an activity: exercise, writing, art, or maybe meditation). Some of the students wanted to dedicate more time to homework. We told them that was great… but that it didn’t count and sent them back to the drawing board. We also told them to try again if their intention had anything to do with calories.
Every day, for 10 days, we journaled (at least a page) about our experiences, observations, doubts and realizations. After the 10 days, each of us shared our high- and lowlights with the rest of the class.
It was challenging. Some did not make it through the 10 days without cheating. We reminded them that it didn’t really matter what day we were on; at any point, they could make the choice. Everything they did was actually a choice, even if it didn’t always feel like it. Some chose not to participate at all. Others continued, days became weeks; new habits and lifestyles were formed.
I can’t remember how we decided to grade the assignment or if we did at all. A for effort? And I don’t remember what I chose for the assignment; I’m sure it had something to do with facebook (which I have stopped and started many times since). I do remember being blown away by the students’ realizations and by their bravery, standing up in front of their peers and telling them how they discovered a quiet space within their homes, within themselves or about how empowering it was to just power-off and take their dog for a walk.
Overall, we considered the assignment a success, though I no longer accept challenges or set goals with numbers attached to them. Sometimes, I even resist setting intentions, as flexible as they are allowed to be. I couldn’t even find my way out of my darkest shadows through semantics, no matter how many times I changed the meaning of words – from should to need to want, from goals to intentions to an exploration of…
Essentially, I no longer believe change comes through effort. I’m not even sure I believe in change, in changing myself or trying to change others in order to change the world. I do know that I find freedom in acceptance. Accepting what, who and where I am, here and now, gives me the clarity and energy to decide how I want to spend my time, moment to moment. It is here that I am overcome with love and gratitude and am able to share that with those around me. It is here that I remember that I am both free and connected to all that is.
If you often feel disengaged and the urge to disconnect from the real world around you, what choices are you not making? What do you need to accept about yourself in order to remain present and engaged? When and how do you feel most connected? to what? to whom?