Guide the Experience
So I'm standing in your generic overpriced supermarket after missing two meals. I have that weird foamy decision-making disorder that I believe is known as being "hangry". Everything both entices and discourages me. Falafel? Kale? Coconut chips? Salad? They are both insufficient and too expensive. I remain in this catatonic state for an appallingly long time until I finally get hummus and pita bread. The pita bread is in what looks to be Kevlar packaging that I have to use my teeth and two of my keys to open. I am aware that I have the appearance of an animal in a leg hold trap, and I'm frightening the children.
If somebody had just come up to me, put a hand on my shoulder, and said, "here, eat this apple" the whole situation would’ve defused.
Some students come to class unhappy. I don't know the specifics; I've been there, I've known these students, I've BEEN this student, lost in the wilderness, sad, angry without even necessarily knowing why. I've been in physical pain. I've witnessed the baffling interior state that contains so many aspects and options that it's prison-like and feels like I'm standing in the supermarket with a world of choices and still being hungry.
So when I teach, I guide students to pay attention to their experience, I give them something tangible to pay attention to, and tell them what to do. I give them an apple. I guide them through the wild forest of experience.
I get that it can be beneficial to pay bare attention to feeling and experience, as in the Buddhist practice of Vipassana meditation. However, I choose to guide the experience so the student isn't caught in a closed circuit where they are deeply involved with their suffering and can't commit to remedying the situation. I guide the students to pay attention to their breathing, give them some markers to notice (temperature, pace, volume). When I want students to pay attention to a physical body part, I give them some direction to help alleviate discomfort or suffering. The students do not always respond to me, but at least I'm not standing in the supermarket aisles with them saying "I don't know, what do YOU want to do?"