Teacher feature – Jenni Pfeiffer

Greetings from Charm City – the lovely, artful, inspiring Baltimore! Why am I mesmerized by these gritty streets?  As I sat down to dinner with some GW graduates a few days ago I was still contemplating this question.  I decided to bring it up as a topic for discussion.  My guests were two bright, young souls, braving their second year as Teach-for-America teachers in Baltimore City Schools.  Maybe their years of experience here could help me manifest a solid answer.  “I miss DC, certainly, but Baltimore makes me feel alive – maybe it’s because of the public art,” one said.  “Yes,” I thought to myself – this city is alive and it makes me feel alive.  It could be the public art, the all-night diners, the funky publications (I highly recommend Urbanite), the dilapidated buildings, the potholes, whatever; the “why” of it doesn’t matter; it is what it is.

As yogis, we strive to be fully present in every moment, and I guess the word “alive” can serve as a surrogate for that concept.  I studied religion in college and I remember reading the following quote by the theologian, Howard Thurman: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that.  Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  It certainly took me a long time to learn that the world wasn’t going to serve me in the way that I wanted it to.  Yoga was a catalyst, allowing me to focus my intentions internally.  We are lured, however, to live externally-focused lives.  There is a beginning and an end, but somewhere in between those two points we will reach our full potential.  We strive to arrive at that point in the future when we have successfully balanced it all – our careers, possibly a family, a sophisticated social life, a yoga practice.  But what if being alive weren’t so complicated and wasn’t associated with achievement and acquisition?  It’s very hard to resist that view, right?  I have to admit, I consistently muse over ways I can make my home more functional and aesthetically pleasing.  My most recent purchase is a hamper that has three divisions.  Darks, delicate, and whites – I have a simplified a home ritual!  I am so proud; I can’t wait to get home and separate my laundry!  I can literally see myself stepping back to admire my work.  I’m sure we all have these moments when we think we really have it all together.  The career or love life coalesces and we say to ourselves, “yes, I’m here.”

But where is “here” really? (I apologize for the cliche but it just works here). 

A few days ago, as I was leaving a high school I heard a consistent  tap above me (I work in undergraduate admissions at GW and visiting high schools is part of the recruitment process).  I looked up only to see a woodpecker flying into the window.  It would fly straight up off the tree, which was a few feet away from the window, and then fly straight into the window.  “Amazing,” I thought to myself!  Really, it was an unbelievable sight.  With precise timing the woodpecker repeated this sequence – fly off the branch, fly into the window, land back on the branch; rinse and repeat (yes, I know, I’m belaboring the laundry theme).  I didn’t realize it until someone walked up behind me, but had I stood there for a solid ten minutes watching this phenomenon.  I discussed the sight in awe with the school official and then abruptly realized that I was going to be late for my next school visit.  I remember saying to myself over the morning’s coffee, “You don’t have much time between these two visits so hustle it up!”  And there I was, late.

Despite my new found laundry prowess, I still had not mastered the art of time management.  Honestly, I wasn’t as frustrated with myself as I am making it seem.  The eager students at the next school were waiting
patiently for me when I arrived (only five minutes late).  All was well and I had grabbed for myself a little bit of of life.

Your fellow yogi, alive in Baltimore,
Jenni

2 thoughts on “Teacher feature – Jenni Pfeiffer

  1. Carmen Calatayud, LCPC

    October 1, 2010 at 4:45pm

    Jenni, you remind me to turn inward and simplify, and that what is really important is the moment of connection with other people, with nature, and and with ourselves. I miss you and your Sunday class! Namaste dear one, Carmen

  2. Jenni

    October 3, 2010 at 5:56pm

    Thank you, Carmen. I miss you!

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