by Daniel Kerr, Intermediate School Principal
Academia Cotopaxi American International School, Quito, Ecuador
So about a month ago during our two week holiday break, I found myself floating down a river on a tube with nothing around me but the sights and sounds of the Amazon jungle, and the peacefulness and beauty of it all hit me like a fist to the jaw. I spent about an hour or so just listening to the sounds of the world around me, and looking closely at the colours that were exploding out from the river banks. I guess it was around half way through my ride when I was struck by how long it had been since I had actually slowed down enough to tune out, and to just be quiet. No whatsapp pings, no emails to check, no social media sites luring me to update or comment on, no meetings or conversations to be had, and no decisions to make…my mind just kind of went blank and I sat there, drifting along the river, letting the beauty of the moment wash over me.
Thinking back and reflecting on that experience has made me realize how important it is to take some time each week, or each day for that matter, to just be quiet. Our lives are so busy, and they speed us by so quickly that it’s easy to get caught up in it all and never come up for air…all of a sudden the days are over and the weeks are gone and life becomes all about getting stuff done, and preparing for what’s coming next, and if we’re not careful life can get so…automatic.
It’s easy to equate the idea of “being busy” with success, and to trick ourselves into thinking that slowing down and switching off for awhile is just being lazy. I don’t know how or when it happened but I sometimes find myself feeling guilty if I sit down for an hour and take a break…it sounds crazy I know but being busy or feeling rushed can easily become the norm and the routine, and if we don’t make a conscious effort to be still once in awhile, we never get a chance to reflect and to recharge and to dream and to just…be.
This distracted and fast paced approach to life can easily bleed into how we interact with each other as well, and our interactions can become these quick, drive-by encounters that never go blow the surface. Think about the conversations that you have with your colleagues, or your friends, or your family…are you really listening to what’s being said? I don’t know how many times I see people in the middle of a conversation texting, or checking their email or updating Facebook or scrolling through their twitter feed. We’re so used to being “connected” that we can easily become disconnected to what’s really important…our relationships with each other. I found myself the other day sending an email to a colleague who was less than a 30 second walk from where I was standing, and that’s just not good enough.
I have made a commitment to myself recently to find some time throughout the day to slow down and to be quiet, and I want to challenge you to do the same. I am also going to make a better effort to use face to face conversation as my first priority when communicating with someone, instead of the easier and faster way that has started to drive my days like texting or emailing or using WhatsApp…finally, and most importantly I would suggest, I am going to focus on really engaging in my conversations with people and truly listening to what is being said. I will listen with the intent to understand, not with the intent to reply!
I loved that slow, meandering ride down the river and that experience snapped something back into place for me. I’m off now to sit down outside in the sun and to do nothing for awhile…and that’s okay. I’ll listen to the sound of the world buzzing around me, and I’ll soak up all the joy while watching my kids playing in the backyard. Life is a beautiful thing if we slow down enough to enjoy it. Have a wonderful week everyone and remember to be great for our students and good to each other.
Quote of the Week…
Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply – Stephen R. Covey
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