When you come from a small town in San Diego and have never been East of the Grand Canyon, the idea of flying across the nation to present at an education conference in New Jersey is absolutely terrifying. 

But that’s exactly what I did.  

And at least for me, it was life-changing.
The conference was called EdScape 2015, and several months ago they had kindly accepted my proposal to do the VERY FIRST Zen Teacher workshop based on my recently released book. 
The day started with a wonderfully inspiring keynote address from noted educator Pernille Ripp, whose blog I am constantly learning from and which shows up in my email inbox whenever she posts. What a treat it was to see her share her philosophies in person.  Then, after a series of other workshops, all of which were lead by impassioned, skilled, and knowledgeable educators, it was my turn.
My fear was that I would set up my Google Slides presentation and turn to face an empty room, hearing only the chirping of those few crickets who hadn’t made their way to the cafeteria for an early afternoon snack.
As it turns out, there were over 25 people in the room, and it only took a few moments for me to see the look in their eyes that changed my life.  It was as if they were saying, “I can’t believe he’s saying this stuff out loud. No one is talking about this.  No one is talking about taking care of us or of us taking care of ourselves.”  It soon became clear to me that teachers are HUNGRY for this message.  And it was both humbling and overwhelming.
So I talked about Beginner’s Mind and how it’s okay to say, “I don’t know” and “I have more to learn.”
And I talked about developing your own Zen Practice—both inside and outside of the classroom.
And I talked about non-judgment, detachment, acceptance, compassion, and gratitude.
And I talked about the 4 S’s:  Silence, stillness, space, and serenity (And the 5th S, which is why it’s important to Slow Down.)
And I opened by saying that I was pretty sure that I was the only workshop at the conference that wouldn’t once be mentioning Google Drive.  And I didn’t.
When it was all over, those of us in the room had had an experience together that I will never forget.  In short, this weekend gave me a new mission, a new calling, and it gave what’s left of my career a new purpose.
Here are only some of the takeaways I left with:

  • Showing teachers how to take care of themselves and each other is my new calling.
  • Spreading the Zen message of self-compassion and self-care is a critical 21st century skill for educators.
  • Teachers are desperate for ways to find peace and serenity in a profession that overworks and overburdens them.
  • I don’t suck at presenting.

And if that wasn’t enough, I pushed myself even further out of my comfort zone and hopped on the train in Rahway, New Jersey, and on both Friday AND Saturday night traipsed around New York City.  I only had about 5 or 6 hours there total, but as a former actor and drama major, it was stunning to walk by the marquees of the theaters that were on Broadway and to hang around the neon lights of Times Square.

I saw Macy’s and the Empire State Building and the giant neon signs from whence the New Year’s Eve ball drops and many other iconic landmarks that I’d only ever seen in the movies or on television. 

And it only took me fifty-two years.
Talk about being in the moment.
This past weekend I seem to have opened a window in the universe, created an educational and spiritual fissure, one that I hope remains open in a way that lets me continue to help teachers find their peace.
I want to thank the EdScape people for having me.
I want to thank my workshop audience who were so amazingly receptive and kind.
And I want to let everyone know that I may have flown to New Jersey on Friday, but I flew back to San Diego on Sunday a changed man. TZT