I still remember how I felt when I first found out that school is “out” for summer break for TEN full weeks in the USA. I was incredulous. Ten weeks? What I wouldn’t have given for ten weeks out of school for summer in my native India? For starters, it would have meant an additional four weeks with my parents and siblings. A lot more traveling the far reaches of the northern and north-eastern states of India. A lot more curvy windy roads in the mountains, crossing ten-thousand feet passes, visiting far-flung monasteries, and playing in rivers like the Indus, Jhelum and Brahmaputra. I could go on for a while here…
As much I enjoyed taking a break from school during the scorching heat of Delhi, I truly did enjoy going “back to school”. Other than the last week or so before school began, when there was a mad dash to try and complete the myriad homework assignments and science projects that were due in our first week back, “back to school” brought great anticipation. The “catching up” with friends on the first day of return-to-school was perhaps the most looked-forward-to event. In an age before cell-phones, summer apart from friends was spent in a virtual vaccuum of information about their wherabouts and wheredoings. The first few days back were filled with an exchange of stories over the what seemed to be oh-so-short thirty minute lunch breaks.
Once the euphoria would wear out, reality would strike. The teachers were not afraid to bring our focus quickly back to their view of the “purpose” of school – education through examination. The quarterly exams would loom a mere two or three weeks away from when school started. You see, we were supposed to be ‘studying’ over the summer. What “blasphemy”, “torture” and borderline “cruelty”… abuse of the student’s mental faculty, don’t you think so?! I say that (almost) tongue-in-cheek, for I know now, that as a parent, I (almost) wish that they would hand-out some summer home-work to occupy their oh-so-long, languid, “I don’t want to go to another summer camp”, ten weeks of summer.
So, what is your favorite part about “return to school”, I asked her the other day. “My friends and teachers,” she said. I guess some things are inter-generational. As much as I looked forward to a return to my friends, “returning” to (some of) my teachers was a close second. It was almost as if they also came back renewed, revitalized and re-energized with an energy to create an environment for learning. A few of my high-school teachers innately understood that the frequency of “tests” and “exams” actually interfered with the process of learning. They were the ones from whom I perhaps learnt most about life and living.
For in the ‘real world’, there is really no ‘return to school’. We may take vacations or retreats, but unless they are of the “lost-to-this-world” variety, we remain ‘in school’. Or so it seems. It is when we choose to explore beyond the walls of our physical world, that we perhaps (re)create the “summer breaks” of our childhood. It is in that ‘eternal summer’ that we can teach our hearts to explore the inner mountains and brooks. It is in that ‘heart school’ that we can feel the warm depth of the river beds, and watch the ripples as the thought pebbles skip on the surface.
The heart is this ‘daily school’ of the learning experience of joy, warmth, silence, stillness, awareness. We may not want to take a ‘summer break’ from it even for a day, let alone for ten weeks. No return may be necessary, for we never did leave.
P.S. I invite you to ‘return to school’ with us in the #spiritchat community on twitter – Sunday, Aug 19 at 9amET / 630pm India. And yes, you can leave your homework at home… just bring your ‘summer’ adventures to share. Namaste.
After a Summer of Exploration, a “Return to School”