SMF: What is “mindful intent” for teaching writing?
Hanna: “Mindful intent” in teaching writing, or in teaching anything really, begins with an awareness of and an appreciation for the innate integrity of every person. If teachers regard their students as partners in negotiated meaning, rather than as vessels for rote learning, i.e., if they actualize student-centric pedagogy, then students can leave learning experiences empowered. My answer, rather than being specific to the teaching of writing, bridges disciplines.
SMF: What role does gratitude play in relationships?
Hanna: Not only am I an imperfect and inappropriate judge of myself, but it follows that I am an imperfect and inappropriate judge of others. I am inappropriate because only the Almighty ought to judge. I am imperfect because I still manifest the behavior of judging and because I have no omnipotent abilities that would reveal truth.
So, having accepted the above limitations — that I judge and that I do a poor job of it — it behooves me to try to balance that behavior with a lev tov, a good heart, the most important aspect of which is judging favorably. Expressions of gratitude, no matter how arcane or otherwise lame, help bring me to a place of regarding other people
SMF: You have stated that “playful beats rueful when navigating.” What is the role of play in relationships?
Hanna: The role of play in life means we’re not taking ourselves too seriously, i.e., not locking ourselves into the destructive belief that we run the show. Play allows our energy to flow and allows us to create good, rather than to get stymied or elsewise evoke bad.
SMF: You are a proponent for working through — rather than avoiding — difficulties. How can people face and embrace their challenges?
Hanna: Lots of support! I recently frayed my ACL (knee ligament). I have had to accept that I can’t do much housework or ambulate normally. I need physical therapy and am hoping to avoid surgery. When I am frightened or otherwise troubled by my situation, I reach out and talk to friends who have a record of making sense.
The above is a small example. Feelings are more complex than are joint ligaments. I advocate asking for lots and lots of help. There’s an expression/affirmation, which I adore: “You can be strong AND ask for help.”
SMF: You have indicated that you are a “believer in the excellence of the current moment” and that your “epistemology embraces the necessity of joy in the moment, moment by moment.” Many people focus on the future or get stuck in the events of the past. What does a person need to do in order to “stand in the present”?
Hanna: Sigh. A person needs imperfect faith that G-d has not carried him or her this far only to drop him or her. Just last night, I was validating a friend’s objectively very difficult situation. I also gently told that friend that even though she had a legitimate mountainside-worth of problems before her, she could not tackle them more than a teaspoon at time. The greatest work most of us have to do is to release our anxieties about how and when we will meet our goals.
Common anxieties often take the form of “if I don’t do x (push past my limit, manipulate other people, etc.), then I won’t have enough y (love, money, success, etc.).” We can’t controlled outcomes, only efforts. Humility is knowing that after we do everything we can, we have to release the results.
Consequently, the present is the only place of truth. Hashem continuously recreates the world. I don’t and can’t know what the next five minutes, days, or weeks will bring, though I have to act on the best insights I have during
any span. In balance, when I am applying my teaspoon to my mountain of “growth opportunities,” sometimes I feel so drained that I need to break down my efforts into days or hours or minutes.