At times, my teenage students sometimes seem entirely too full of distress and anguish, and it’s then that I should ask them to simply watch their thoughts for a few minutes. Like most of us, the kids in my classes usually take their thoughts way too seriously, as if their thoughts are their rulers instead of just short-lived bubbles in the vast stream of their lives. I can sometimes see in their faces that thoughts are totally holding sway over them. In a sense, the students, like so many of us, bow in obeisance to thoughts like “I’m not smart”, or “This assignment is too hard”, or “Maybe I have a serious illness”, instead of simply observing the thoughts as they pass through their minds. It’s strange, how something as ephemeral and fleeting as a thought can throw our lives into absolute disarray. It happens to me as often as to the students, a thought suddenly soaring over me like some god that’s been given the power to rule. Here comes a thought like “maybe this headache is a sign of something serious” and there goes my ability to dispassionately appreciate the moment-to-moment miracles of life. This coming year, I think I will occasionally ask the students to join me in simply observing our thoughts instead of throwing ourselves at their feet. When I’ve succeeded in doing this myself, a strange feeling of peacefulness has almost always come to me, as if I were sitting on the bank of a stream silently watching the currents and bubbles pass by. Even one minute of this peaceful observation of our thoughts by my students and me might make for a noiseless center of stillness in our stressed and anxious lives.
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