Gentle Joyful Lessons

The other day during my morning walk, I snapped the photo above of the black bird perched on a rock with its wings outstretched. It didn’t occur to me how appropriate this photo was to accompany the A Course in Miracles quote about “gentle lessons” until after I created the meme. The bird is an anhinga, and I will never forget its name or unusual behavior.

Whenever I see one of these birds, it takes me back to the 3 months I worked in the Education Department at Sea World in 1992. ( Obviously, I was only ten years old at the time.) In addition to answering questions at the animal exhibits, I also gave backstage tours. To be approved as a tour guide, I had to take a Department Supervisor on a mock tour and answer questions. I was grateful to learn I was giving Candace a tour for my final exam. During training, she seemed easy-going and fun. It felt like the tour was going well. Toward the end, Candace pointed to a bird with its wings extended (like the one in the photo) and asked, “Why is that bird doing that? Is it injured?”

I answered, “Possibly,” and immediately went into a monologue about Sea World’s extensive Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation Program. I explained how a trained team from Sea World responds to calls from people who discover injured animals. The team brings injured animals to Sea World, where they nurse them back to health and release them into the wild whenever possible. She nodded and listened intently to my description of the program and then we continued the tour.

When we returned to the office for my review, Candace told me I did a great job with the animal information but with one exception. The bird she pointed to is called an anhinga, and it was not injured. Unlike other water birds that swim or fish above the surface, the anhinga completely submerges itself and swims with only its neck and head above water. Once it emerges, it has to dry its wings before it can fly again. That’s why the bird she pointed to (and the bird in the photo) extended its wings.

Candace did not berate me for not knowing that about the anhinga. She smiled and said, “If someone asks you a question you don’t know, tell them you’ll find out the answer, and don’t make stuff up!” It was a good lesson for life as well as that job. Because I learned it with joy, I have not forgotten it.

This is not to minimize the value of lessons learned from challenging times like the ones we’ve experienced over the last few years. We can and do learn through painful situations, but we also learn and learn well from gentle lessons acquired joyously. It’s about time we pull the plug on the popular saying “no pain no gain.” It’s simply not true!

Think back to the school teachers of your youth. My guess is you remember the teachers you loved more quickly than the ones you did not like. I would also wager that you learned more from the teachers that made learning fun than the ones that made it seem like drudgery. I could not solve a calculus equation now if my life depended on it. Thankfully, I don’t think it does!  

However, Miss Wilke, my third-grade reading and vocabulary teacher comes to mind immediately when I recall teachers who made learning fun. To entice us to practice our vocabulary and spelling, Miss Wilke created a weekly game show with prizes for the teams who scored the most points. She had candy and stickers and a joke for every occasion. I could not wait for competition days!

Miss Wilke is also a big part of why I love to write these weekly emails. After an initial assignment to write a short story, I continued writing stories about the sad little character I created who slowly turned his life around by taking chances and making new friends. It thrilled me to get the stories back and see Miss Wilke’s encouraging comments and signature smiley faces in red ink. I must have written at least a half dozen stories for extra credit. Thank you, Miss Wilke, for teaching me that putting words together to inspire and entertain can be fun!

As we wrap up the current year and set intentions for the next one, let’s imagine our teachers to be more like Miss Wilke and less like the coronavirus. You can start next Saturday, January 8, with a joyful online experience as we “Release the Old & Welcome the New with Family Constellations.” Each participant will have the opportunity to reflect on the lessons of 2021 and create a powerful container for blessings in 2022. Space is limited to 15 participants, so click this link now to purchase your ticket. Visit my website for more information on this workshop or to schedule a private session.

Many thanks to all of you who read these weekly stories, attend my Family Constellations Workshops, allow me to assist you through Spiritual Coaching Sessions, and share miracles in my weekly online A Course in Miracles Study Groups. May our teachers and lessons be gentle and joyful in the New Year. 

There is no need to learn through pain. And gentle lessons are acquired joyously, and are remembered gladly. What gives you happiness you want to learn and not forget.

A Course in Miracles ~ T-21.I.3:1-3

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