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photo CC-attrib. Isabelle Grosjean

photo CC-attrib. Isabelle Grosjean

“You’re my favourite class of students!”

I have said this in class before, on numerous occasions, to different groups. I teach adult learners, and while I likely wouldn’t make such grand sweeping statements to elementary students, I usually get a good-natured reaction from my students – often they jokingly say, “you probably say that to all your students!”

And I readily admit that I do.

If I were to give no further explanation, I’m sure it would sound like I’m being disingenuous. And I do have to be careful not say it unless I have the opportunity to explain myself. Because the thought process behind it is sound, in my opinion, and every time I say it I mean it sincerely.

But before I try to explain how multiple classes of students can all be my favourite class, I’ll use another example. This was a lesson taught to me by my friend Danny. We would be eating a delicious dinner prepared by his wife, and he would say, “This is the best Tourtière I’ve ever had in my entire life.” To which she would ask, “You’ve lived a pretty long life, and eaten a lot of Tourtière, how can you definitely say this is the best one?”

And he would answer, “Because I’m eating this one right now.”

We tend to put a lot of weight on stuff we have experienced in the past. Favourite memories are naturally enjoyable to think about. But often, we can reduce our enjoyment of the present moment, in favour of our memories of the past. A steak I ate last week can not possibly be better than one that I am eating in the present moment. The memory of it might be better, but even then, memories are complex. Who did you eat it with? Where were you? Were you already having a good day? These thoughts frame our memories, and in fact, give us the impression of importance to certain events. Think of a memory of your wedding, or an epic trip you went on, and you are experiencing a whole kaleidoscope of emotions that came from that particular moment in time.

But as they say, “that was then, this is now.” And in the context of Zen and Taoist philosophy, the present moment is where it’s at! My friend Danny had it absolutely right. Sitting at a dinner table with good friends, some wine, laughter, eating a meat pie, or a salad, or whatever it happens to be, is infinitely enjoyable. Without comparison to the past, we are able to enjoy the moment. Right then. The future hasn’t arrived, and the past is done. We only have the ‘eternal now’. Thich Nhat Hanh describes drinking tea in this way, “As we drink the tea, we become well aware that we are drinking the tea. Drinking tea becomes the most important thing in life at that moment” (2007, p. 79).

So, when I am leading a class, and I’m stoked about the day’s lesson, and the students are ‘tuned in’ to what I’m saying, and they’re asking questions, and we are building learning together, I often think, “Right now, this moment, is where it’s at. Of all my experiences as a teacher, this is where I am right now, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it.

Because: it’s happening right now.

Thich Nhat Hanh. (2007). Present moment wonderful moment: Mindfulness verses for daily living (1st ed.). Parallax Press.