Flight from the Shadow by Chuang Tzu

There was a man who was so disturbed by the sight of his own shadow and so displeased with his own footsteps that he determined to get rid of both. The method he hit upon was to run away from them.

So he got up and ran. But every time he put his foot down there was another step, while his shadow kept up with him without the slightest difficulty.

He attributed his failure to the fact that he was not running fast enough. So he ran faster and faster, without stopping, until he finally dropped dead.

He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade, his shadow would vanish, and if he sat down and stayed still, there would be no more footsteps.

An Educator’s Reflection 

As a superintendent, I consider my to-do list to be my constant companion. It helps keep me focused. It prioritizes my daily activities. It gives me a sense of achievement when I cross off completed tasks. The one thing it doesn’t accomplish is to just let me be . . . after all, it’s a to-do list, not a to-be list!

We all seem to be addicted to the demands placed on us by ourselves and others. Finding ways to escape the busyness in our lives requires thoughtful consideration.

I make every effort to get away from my work environment for short periods of time. I may take a solitary lunch or a drive around a country block. Doing so changes my perspective and gives me the valuable “alone time” I need to reframe my thinking and keep myself in touch with my inner voice.

I’ve extended this belief in designing the agendas for our monthly Leadership Team meetings. We incorporate an element of self-reflection into each meeting, which helps bring us to that space and serves to strengthen the personal relationships that are vital to our success.

“Flight from the Shadow” is the perfect antidote to the frantic pace of everyday life. It reminds me and other district leaders that we must step into the shade, sit down, and stay still.

Being still, even for brief periods of time, gives us the chance to listen to our inner voice, gain broader perspectives, and thus better serve ourselves as well as our students and staff.

— Mark Bielang
Superintendent, Paw Paw Public Schools, Paw Paw, Michigan
and Courage & Renewal Board Member


teachingwithheartcoverToday’s newsletter is an excerpt from our new book, Teaching With Heart: Poetry That Speaks to the Courage to Teach, which comes out on May 19th.

Is it time to step into the shade?

P.S. This blog is a mirror of our monthly Words of EnCOURAGEment newsletter. Subscribe here.

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