Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Cup of Judgment and One of Discernment

I walked into the fourth grade classroom with two identical cups of water.  Placing them in the middle of our circle, I asked the children one by one to approach the cups - and - without touching them, tell me which cup was scalding hot and which was ice cold.

One by one, the students approached the cups and made their choice.  Very few students claimed they couldn't make such a decision (two actually).

When they were finished I asked for one student to volunteer to place their hands in both cups to discover which one was scalding.  There was a pause.  I kind of silence like, "is she serious"?  One brave student raised his hand and went for it, timidly toucing the outside of the cup (not the water itself).  A smile quickly formed on his face.  "Miss Spaziano, neither of the cups are hot - they are room temperature!".  A gasp and then giggles took over the class.  A few "nah ugh!"s and definitely more and more students started to test this discovery.  All going deeper, submerging their hands further, until the cups spilled over and the conversation began.

"What happened here folks?" I asked with a grin.

The students quickly clamored to respond.  They all agreed that they judged that the cups were hot.  And that wasn't true.

"Have you ever been judged by someone based on what you look like or what you were wearing?"

So many hands went up.  Many told stories of struggle.  Many of the girls started to talk about sports and not being able to do things that boys could do, or at least that's what others think.  Prejudices of all kinds, laid on top of these bright faces, poured off their skin and thickened the air.  Those faces turned a little sad when i asked: "Have you ever judged someone else based on what they look like?"  Most hands went up, albeit tentatively, more slowly this time.

The conversation turned the corner when I wrote two words on the board.  Judgment and if you read my previous blog post you probably you guessed the second word, discernment.

"So boys and girls, what happened when we experienced the cup and made a decision whether or not it was hot or cold based on that experience?"  That was the ah ha moment for most of the kids.  We talked about the fear we had of placing our hand in the cup.  How it's easier to slip into judgment.  But then we also had to recognize what judgment does.  It blurs our experience.  It makes it  impossible to know the truth.  And when this happens between people, it can have devastating effects for those involved.

All from two cups of water.

If you have ideas on how to communicate yogic philosophy and mindfulness practice to younger people, please share!  Check out Resilient Kids, a program dedicated to the integration of yoga and mindfulness in our schools.

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