||Volume 19, Number 6, April 2007 |
On being well: Wellness is letting go
by Julia Johnson
In the book by Elizabeth Brenner; Winning by Letting Go, Brenner tells a story of how people in India catch monkeys.
They cut a small hole in a box. Then they put a tasty nut in the box. The hole is just large enough for the monkey to put its hand through, but it is too small for the monkey to withdraw its hand once it has clutched the nut inside.
Brenner then explains that the monkey has two choices. It can let go of the nut and go free, or it can hold on to the nut and stay trapped. According to Brenner, monkeys usually hold on to the nut. This story embodies the wellness story. Each day we have the opportunity to go free or stay trapped by the choices we make.
In the March issue of Teacher, Anne Jardine wondered if full-time teaching was hazardous to teachers’ lives because of the increased workloads that have become more complex. She points out that teachers are now giving some thought to the amount of time they want to spend on teaching and how they intend to alter their teaching craft given that "new demands are added, yet none of the traditional teaching duties are subtracted." There seems to be a perception amongst the masses that if one reduces the time spent devoted to teaching so more time can be spent with family or achieving personal health, or if one makes changes to how the job of teaching is performed then such sacrifices make teachers less professional, less skilled, less effective, less caring, and schools become less effective at educating students. It is my belief that such a perception instils personal guilt and creates an atmosphere of judgment, which in turn impacts the health of the workplace and the health of the individual.
Matthew Fox, in his book, The Reinvention of Work, suggests that in this post-industrial era we need to rethink, "the way we define work, the way we compensate work, the ways we create work, and the way we let go of work and learn to infuse it with play and ritual," because this new era of rapid technological change and our global economies are creating a system that is not working, a system that threatens our health and the health of the planet.
Letting go of work or the way we do our work is not an easy thing to do. As creatures of habit we are not always open and receptive to the demands brought on by change. The expectations we have for ourselves and others becomes a yoke around our necks and like the monkey that is unable to let go of his nut, we hang on to teaching practices that are no longer workable in the complex teaching environments in which we work.
Fox suggests that if we ask the question, "What are the work needs of our time; we can actually launch new ways of doing work, of being workers, of making jobs, of compensating work." When we are left to consider, "What might this new work be?" Fox tells us, "that it is work on the human being itself." Like E. F. Schumacher, in Small is Beautiful, says "We can each of us work to put our own inner house in order," Fox believes that putting "our own inner house in order" will prove to be the key to reinventing work for the human species. Fox states that to do as Schumacher suggests requires a deep letting go of the old ways of living and working, if we and planet Earth are to survive. By transforming our work with choices that are freeing, we in turn transform our souls, our being, our health, and the way we live our lives.
Julia Johnson, a retired learning resource teacher in Quesnel, is a BCTF PD wellness associate and a member of the Teacher Newsmagazine Advisory Board. firstname.lastname@example.org (250-747-3650).