“Use all the unwanted things in your life as the means for awakening compassion for yourself and others” (Pema Chődrőn)
When I first read this at the cover of the book “start where you are” by Pema chodern, I had not the least idea how these words would make an impact in my thinking process. I finished reading the book as prescribed; a guide on how pain could be used as a tool for awakening a compassionate heart.
The words at the cover page in fact created the turmoil even after keeping the book down. I started revisiting every corner of my life, looking for unwanted things. The search itself was self internalization. Every trash seemed to have some kind of utility. It was amusing, a frantic hunt for any unwanted things, in desperate need for transformation. Transformation did occur indeed, but not overnight. It took me through the process of having faith, gradual observation, developing patience, endurance, believing in the miracles of nature, and finally reaffirming my faith. The wisdom I gained by this experience has truly been enlightening.
Many books I have read which left an impact on my heart. So many more are forgotten. This in particular gave me the chance to experiment what I read before I made my conclusions. The practical wisdom of utility derived from this book left the everlasting impression of believing in self.
In the beginning of the year, the area around the school campus was distributed among the classes. It was at the consent of concern class teachers to develop the area. It was informed by the school nature club that at the end of every month, the committee would assess and rank the class.
The social work area for my class had very less to develop, or at least that was what I thought so. There were swings, slides, even a small wooden bridge, see-saw and a tailor-made lawn in the middle. I started by planting hibiscus stems to go around the park. Next some small flower beds were created in and around the empty space.
Having thought, all was done, I waited for the results. Alas! 2nd at the bottom among 11 sections! Little disappointed, I began to speculate, how my class lost the marks. Staying behind after the evening prayers, we worked further, cutting grasses, cleaning the area, fencing the flower beds, hoping to descend in the list. The second results were no different. I took to changing the flowers; anticipating quick bloom would fetch higher scores. After being in the bottom list for third time, I voiced my frustrations in the staff meeting, stating that the park area was too big. My disappointment and frustrations were boiling for I lacked any creativity to think for something different. In the beginning it seemed like a blessing to get such a well developed area but my class rank was never improving. After talking to the judges, I came to know that 3 old disposal pits fell in my area and the unclear mess in the area pulled the marks down. Well! Well! There seemed to have some misunderstanding. All the while my focus was on beautiful part of the park, the judges considered the worst part of area for marking.
I had to do something about it. The pits were overflowing with plastics, broken bottles, Stones, mud, torn clothes. For 2 days I instructed my students to fills them with soil. The plastics still kept popping their heads out. The pits were like ugly marks on the beautiful face of the park. If the marks could not be removed, they have to be concealed, but how? Such big pits! And to add to the trouble, students continued emptying class dustbins above the old pits, old habits die hard.
The fourth round of evaluation was soon approaching. Even after identifying the problem, solution was still not worked. These 3 disposal pits in my class area kept disturbing me. That was time, when those words from the book struck me, struck me hard to immediately see its direct affect in my life. Next day on the transformation project of converting the unwanted things into something brilliance began. My students worked hard. We converted the old, messy, disturbing disposable pits into stunning garden of love and compassion. This simple project has been very enriching experience, a spiritual journeyed together with my students from class VI A (2013). I have learnt that instead of crying about the mess in life, how it can be reinvented to something beautiful.