What if procrastinating was positive for you?
Marga left the house, slamming the door. She thought of all she still had to do and how little she had done that morning.
She had gotten up late, made breakfast, put all the clean dishes in their place and started to fold and put away the laundry that was piled up on the couch …
“Another day of procrastinating when I should be writing my book.” Why am I behaving like this?”
“You’ll never finish. Who are you trying to kid? You’re a writer? You don’t have the habit or the discipline!” That was Marga’s internal dialogue day in and day out.
That morning she had to visit a friend who lived in the mountains. They would work together for a few hours from their wonderful office overlooking the forest. Then they would take a walk to clear their heads and cook something nice for lunch.
Perhaps this change of scenery would suit their creativity … or was it just another excuse not to sit down and work on the book?
… At this rate it was never going to end.
The fog fell quickly on the road Marga was driving on. More than an hour ago the car’s navigation system had indicated the detour to her friend’s house, but the road led her deeper and deeper into the forest … She admitted that she had gotten lost in that white sea of trees and silence.
Then something unexpected appeared in front of the car: an old man with a shiny bald head, wrapped in an orange robe. He was picking up dry branches from the ground.
Marga approached him …
– Good morning! Do you know how I can get to the main road?
He old man smiled.
– Hello. From here it’s a little difficult to get your bearings. Even more so in this dense fog. If you’re not in a hurry, I can go with you this afternoon after lunch and show you the way. Now I have to get back to the monastery for my lessons, why don’t you come with me and get some rest? You look as if you need a cup of tea.
Marga hesitated for a moment. She had heard from her friend that there was a monastery hidden in the mountains of the area. It was clear that her well-planned day had already gone to waste, so she decided to accept that cup of tea … and also needed to go to the bathroom!
“Another day lost without work, writer from three to four” – she mercilessly spat out her inner Jiminy Cricket.
A few minutes later, Marga and the monk arrived at the monastery. A few children ran out to meet the monk and help him with the wood he had gathered in the forest.
While he was having tea, his new friend invited him to attend one of the classes.
There were three girls in the classroom that day. They looked identical, wrapped in their golden robes and with shaven hair. Each one occupied a wooden desk. Their little faces reflected curiosity and joy.
The old man with the shiny bald head, whose name was Rangjung, began the class with a riddle of logic. The girls wrote down all the facts and read the statement again to solve it silently.
One of them started scribbling on the paper …
Another of the girls got up, went to the window and stood there for a long time, looking into the distance.
The third one got up and started piling up the cushions on the floor of the classroom. Then she lit a stick of incense. Soon after, she began to sweep the leaves from the trees that covered the courtyard of the monastery.
Rangjung didn’t say a word. He remained immersed in his book while patiently waiting for the girls’ exercises.
The little girl who was sweeping up returned to class and asked Marga if she wanted another tea. She said yes. Marga went with her to the kitchen and asked, “Have you solved the class problem yet?”
“I’m solving it now,” she said. “If I don’t make room in my head first, the answer can’t come in“, added the little girl.
After serving the tea, the little girl went out into the yard and ran after an orange cat. Marga was stunned as she looked at it.
The writer went back to class. The first girl handed the exercise to the monk. And the second left the window and began to write. After a while, the third girl returned to the classroom, occupied her desk, wrote down the solution and handed it to the teacher.
After the class Marga and Rangjung gathered in the dining room with the other monks and the other pupils.
Gradually, the fog lifted.
“If you like, I’ll go with you in the car to the main road“, Rangjung suggested to Marga. “I’ll go back on foot so I can collect more wood. Days of frost are coming in the mountains.”
Before leaving, Marga asked Rangjung about what had happened in class: “Don’t girls learn discipline in this school? I was very surprised that they could go and play or get up from their desks before finishing their homework”.
Ranjung said to Marga, “Come with me.
They went to the library and the monk took an old map book out of the crowded wooden furniture. He opened it and showed her a page on which there were many winding lines of different colours crossing and interposing themselves. There were thicker and thinner lines. Some were divided into several sections and came together again later. Others went around more. Some formed very tight curves and others tended more towards a straight line.
– Look, Marga. This is the Mississippi River. All of it. In 1944 cartographer Harold Fisk traced on this “meandering map” all the courses the river had taken during the last century. Native Americans often moved their camps according to floods or changes in the river’s course. In the mid-20th century, the American army erected a large artificial strip of land to force the Mississippi to stay on that walled road. Do you think that stopped the changing and cyclical nature of the river? Not at all.
Rangjung added, closing the book:
“The less we accept our changing nature and its needs, the less effective discipline becomes. Our students learn to accept. To listen with loving curiosity to the resistance we all feel when facing new challenges”.
“When they “engage in other tasks” such as running or looking out the window, they are giving space and recognition to that resistance. Through this they also gain self-knowledge and confidence. Everyone learns and works at their natural pace here.
Back home, Marga meditated on everything that had happened on that unexpected day.
The next day she woke up early. She made her bed and ate breakfast. She looked at her desk and turned on the computer. As soon as she opened the document from the book she was working on she felt a crazy need to make herself a coffee. Unlike other times, she recognized in herself that resistance to sit down to write and looked at it curiously.
– Here you are … -You’re just scared.
She made herself a cup of coffee and started typing. When she had been sitting for five minutes, she remembered she had to change the sheets. Instead of nagging as usual and forcing herself to type, she got up and changed the sheets, leaving the bed bare.
“What unknown course am I taking today?” she said to herself.
As she was tucking her pillow into a clean cover, a phrase came to her mind. There was an idea to throw away …
She sat down at the computer and wrote the sentence. And from there came others that formed a torrent of words. After two hours Marga had managed to finish the first three chapters of her book.
From then on, when she found herself lost in an unimportant task instead of “doing what she was supposed to do”, Marga knew that her creativity was looking for the course to follow. And she was confident.
Instead of opposing it, she made space with loving curiosity and solutions, sooner rather than later, began to emerge.
From beginning to end, life is a constant learning process. And all children, all without exception, are capable of learning. At their own pace. Let’s trust in their inner wisdom by encouraging their curiosity, and giving them the tools they need on that journey of discovery.
Here you can see this short Arimunani video “if we let them, they learn”.
And you? Do you give space to your resistance with loving curiosity? and to your children? Do you think they are capable of learning at their own pace?