Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Principle of Perfection

Last week I had my four year olds do some problem-solving exercises. It’s a fun game wherein I give them a challenge (make a square with your bodies!) and close my eyes until they have completed the task. Most they can get on their own but a particular pattern became quite complicated. I asked them to make a pattern of boy boy boy girl and line up in that order. I must admit hearing them work it out amongst themselves (with my eyes closed!) was quite funny and I had to stifle more than a few giggles. It wasn’t working, though, and I had to open my eyes and help them out. Eventually we got it solved and moved on to a different problem: make a backwards circle.

The children told me to open my eyes relatively quickly and I saw that they had made a sort-of circle with some children sitting with their backs facing inwards and some children sitting sideways and others a bit outside. I congratulated them on their achievement but one boy seemed displeased.

“This side isn’t right and this person should move in and this isn’t good,” he said. He was right, of course, but what he was suggesting and asking was beyond the skill level of the group. In other words, it was never going to happen.

“You know Jonathan,” I told him, “it’s just not going to be perfect and we’re going to have to accept that.” He looked at me, a little baffled, then looked around the circle and nodded. And then he did something very, very cool. He stood up and asked “what now?”

Imagine if we could let perfection go this easily, if we could be reminded, with one simple word, that everything does not have to exact to be meaningful and simply move forward. What could we do, how far could we reach, if we weren’t always so hung up on getting it right?

I find the biggest lessons and greatest achievements come not when I am working towards matching a specific goal but when I am open to the experience of the moment and all it has to offer. We may not create a perfect backwards circle but we will build something even more meaningful: a memorable afternoon and the confidence and openness to keep trying.

With love,


Monday, January 25, 2010

V Formation

I have always loved birds. Maybe it has something to do with their ability to fly, to soar above the clouds and roam free in the skies. Birds seem so uninhibited, so unattached, so willing to take that leap of faith on a moment’s notice. Which is why when I learned about V formation many years ago I was surprised, and then delighted.
We all know what V formation is. It is the shape in which birds fly when they are headed somewhere distant. It is their mode of transport, so to speak, and they never deviate. They always fly together. Independent? I think not.

I looked into V formation a bit more and found out that there are certain wind channels that are created/ disturbed by this particular phenomenon which means that by flying next to each other birds actually help one another. They can fly much greater distances in V formation than all on their own. Another thing that is interesting about V formation is that the birds switch off on being the leader, so everyone pulls the weight of the group at some point. Furthermore, the V is arranged so that every bird can see every single friend that they are flying with. No one is out of sight…ever!

Do I even need to say it? I love this. I absolutely love this. I love how symbolic it is for life: we all have a chance to lead, all have a chance to follow, each one is equally important. How appropriate it is to this concept of community!

I wrote a little the other week about community and about how all of us are connected and the ways in which our words and actions tear others down or raise them up. I find my classroom is a great example of this. I am the instructor, yes, but we all play a part in making sure we fly forward. My children help support me in being the best leader I can be when it is my turn and when it is their turn they teach me about observation, about acceptance and letting go.

Sometimes, during a particularly good moment, I will say that I am in V formation. It means that I am flying forward, certainly, but flying united. Who are the members of your V formation and how do they support you in your flight?

With love,


Friday, January 15, 2010

The Energy of Existence

One of my life mentors is a woman named Dr. Debbie Crews. Dr. Crews is a major sport psychologist who has done work all over but is based predominantly at ASU, the top women’s golf facility in the nation. She studies attention in sport, or, to continue my blog from earlier this week, energy…specifically what kind of energy is being transferred at any given moment during the game of golf. She has worked with golfers and studied their brain waves to reveal that a balanced brain and positive, disciplined thoughts can lead to drastic improvements in the sport world. She has put golfers on horses to help them better understand energy transfer and the way that an athlete must dialogue with the components of their game (be they horses or a golf club). Everything responds to energy, even inanimate objects.

I was at a seminar with Dr. Crews last year and she gave an example of a woman golfer who was struggling with putting. The woman could not seem to improve this specific skill and her spirits were down. Without complicated techniques or new equipment, Dr. Crews gave her an assignment: change one thought.

When this woman went to putt she was now instructed to say: I am a good putter. Every time we went to putt, same thing: I am a good putter.

Her skill improved drastically simply because she changed her thoughts. If there is one thing I have learned from working with children it’s this: if we change our thoughts we change our reality. Energy is everywhere and how you choose to exert it, interact with it, mold it and communicate with it means the difference between failure and success. How you handle yourself emotionally has a direct correlation to how your life physically unfolds.

I love my time with children, all of it, but perhaps my favorite moment of my day comes right at the end, before we say goodbye. We always end with these two words, repeated three times: I can, I can, I can. The children are left with this mantra, this thought of overcoming, of empowerment. I can. I am. I will.

This is the energy of life, of vibrancy, of dreams beyond our wildest wishes. Change your thoughts, your words, and you will change your reality. Anything you desire is within your reach, all you have to do is believe.

With love,


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Avatar Adventures

Last week I was sitting at home and I started ruminating about what I was going to do with the children in the coming months. It’s winter, it’s cold, and I needed a little invigorating. I started thinking about the winter games we could play…make igloos, go sledding and skiing, pretend we are snowflakes, warm ourselves in front of roaring fires, OK. I was excited about the new season; I had a game plan.

Then I saw Avatar. I am probably preaching to the choir by now because it truly does seem like the country has been overtaken by this movie (with good reason) but I loved it and when I came into my classroom Monday morning it became clear to me that we would not be building igloos, we would be playing Avatar.

I asked my children if they knew what an Avatar was. They are young so most of them had not seen the movie but they still knew what I was referring to…there are posters all over this city! I was met with excited chatter. OK. I told them that Avatars have tribes, just like the one here at St. Thomas More Playgroup, and that being a part of a tribe means we are all connected.

I then asked them to close their eyes. I described Pandora, a beautiful world full of incredible, bright colors. I had them imagine towering trees with leaves that were as green as the forest, bright, colorful birds and sweeping blue skies. Then I told them there was a boy in Pandora who sees an incredibly beautiful flower. The flower is the most beautiful thing the boy has even seen and he is curious about it. “Do you know what curious means?” I asked the children. They nodded and shouted out a few examples. “Good! Well, the boy is curious, so curious he wants to touch the flower but when he does it turns in on itself and falls to the ground.” The children’s eyes got big with wonder. “Let’s all be flowers and I am going to be the little boy and when the music stops I am going to come around and touch you. What will you do when I come around and touch you if I am the little boy and you are the flower?”

“Curl up and fall to the ground!”

The game was a success and lots of giggles ensued.

Next I explained to them that the Avatars let foreigners into their world but only if they could be trusted. I told them that there were glowing, jelly-like things that could tell if a person who entered Pandora was good or not. If the glowing jelly landed on you then all of the Avatars would know immediately that you were a good person. “I am going to be the glowing jelly,” I explained to them, “and when I land on you I want you to tell me why you are a good person, because I know each and every one of you is.”

I went around and landed atop each child’s head. Their answers varied from, “I am good because I help my mommy,” to, “I am good because I helped Julianne with her lunch,” but what I noticed is that most of what they said focused on community, on sharing. Yes! “That definitely makes you a wonderful person,” I told the children, encouraging their introspection.

I then told them that on Pandora things worked because of energy and the relationships of energy between the tribe. I asked them to think about how they feel when they get ready to come down here for a Kate Day. “Happy!” they said.
“You feel excited, right?” I asked them. “Well, what if when you came down here I was grumpy, what kind of energy would that be?”

“Sad energy,” one boy said.

“That’s right, that would not be good energy and you know what? It might make you feel bad, too. See we affect people with our energy and bad energy can make good energy feel not so good.” They nodded in agreement. “So when you come down to see me I am excited to see you and our good energy works off each other and we have a great time together.”

I then told them about the birds of Pandora and how they were very mean. But when they came towards the Avatars the Avatars stood strong. I told each child to make their brave stance. Because the Avatars stood strong, the bird’s negative energy could not affect the Avatar’s good energy and instead the Avatar’s good energy transformed the bird’s negative, and they became friends.

Because we are a tribe, we affect one another. We affect each other with the words we use and the actions we take. All of us. If we give nice words we will get nice words back and if we perform nice actions we will get nice actions back. Isn’t this a lesson we can all learn from?

If we are having a bad day it is not just us that is brought down by our negative energy, the people around us are, too. So if the mean birds of life come, stand strong, make your brave stance, and allow the good energy all around you to come in. And when it does, go out and share it. We can make the world a Pandora simply by being positive.

Smile and Be Strong,


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Moving Forward

As I look back on this year I see that it was an incredible one. So many things came to light in allowing me to further my teaching journey. The thing I take the most from last year and the thing I want to bring into this new one, though, is empowerment. That is my major theme. Empowerment of children, empowerment to overcome, to persevere and to let be. I am so excited to be beginning this New Year understanding that there is a time and place for action and that time is right now!

I have put together an incredible winter/spring schedule and I will be adding the Greenwich House to my teaching list… a fantastic downtown base. One of my main goals for this year is to bring my program to more children, to keep expanding, reaching far, and touching as many young minds and hearts as I can. I am thrilled that my new schedule will allow me to begin to do that!

I have also been reflecting a bit on golf and on how my program pushes the boundaries of the sport. I know that what the children and I experience together goes far beyond golf. Golf is what gets them in the door but it is their spark for learning and their willingness to grow and expand that keeps them there. As I do the “what if?” exercises with them and the “I can!” I empower them to think beyond the moment, beyond golf, and what ends up happening is that they become empowered in every aspect of their life. In fact, my children inspire me. Through empowering them they empower me. Their every success mirrors back to me that positivity and intention really are the golden tickets and that their belief in their ability, and my faith in that ability, allows them to do incredible things.

2010! How blessed we all are to be given a new year, a new leaf. I hope this one brings all of my students and readers many joys and blessings. And, of course, the ability to empower, to be empowered, and to serve.

Have a wonderful week!