The Yamas and Choosing Not to Work

Most people don’t get the concept of turning down work.  It has taken me six months of practicing to get it down.   I think it should have a yoga pose name:  I-have-better-things-to-do-than-grade-for-half-pay-asana.   I won’t even try the Sanskrit name.

On Monday the new school year begins for most schools in LAUSD.  (Thanks to furloughs, it is a late start.)  The school where I worked full-time up until January, when I took my leave of absence and started working as a substitute part-time, is transitioning from a year around school to a traditional calendar school.  So, unlike any other year, everyone had the summer off.    Sadly, this also triggered a round of displacements — teachers losing their position at a particular school, though they still have a job with the district — in addition to the pink slips given to many new, not fully credentialed teachers earlier in the year.   Yet, despite the extra time and a pool of displaced teachers somehow there are heaps of English teacher positions unfilled (and other subjects, I imagine, but I have only been offered English jobs).    Meanwhile, the LA Times is intent on proving how the teachers we do have are mostly unqualified and the cause of the failure of the education system.   I wonder, if we got rid of all these supposedly horrible teachers, who would teach all these students?  However, this question is a digression.

Needless to say, my week has been filled with emails and calls asking me to come back full-time before my leave is up in December.   Is the universe is testing my resolve or waiting for me reveal a hole in my plan?   I no longer hesitate in saying no.  Yet, they do not really hear my no; instead, they then ask if I would take the positions as a long-term sub ( essentially offering me the chance to do all the planning and grading for half the pay — so now that asana name makes sense).  What a deal.  I am grateful for the offers.  Afterall, in their panic to fill these positions, I am sure they do not realize how illogical this offer is.  Part of yoga includes 5 observances, or yamas.  The third is asteya which literally means non-stealing.  However, the essence of it is faith in abundance.  If nothing else, this year has been a year to practice asteya. 

Still, even between starting this entry, going to yoga, and coming back to proofread, I had to explain this once again that I do not want to work full-time.   Each time I turn down work to choose time to create I am forced to affirm my choice for how I want to live my life.  What an an affirming week as they think if they offer me the position  in different ways I will cave or if they get me in for one day I will feel obligated to stay on until a full-time teacher is found (which likely would be January when I am back from leave because why bother look for a new teacher if a sub will do the work for less pay).  If so, they overestimate my sense of obligation to LAUSD.  The first yama is ahimsa, or non-violence, which includes kindness towards the self.   Sticking to my resolve is kindness towards myself.

Moreover, all of this reminds me why this year has been difficult.  You might think (as I did) that not working in order to focus on finishing my manuscript would be relaxing and easy.  Instead, I’ve had a year riddled with sinus infections, bronchitis, and anxiety attacks.   Moving from what has always been expected or learned to be the wise and practical route — to always choose work — is no small journey.  It is not a vacation in Avila Beach, though only through persisting down that unmaintained road was I able to bask the easiness of an Avila Beach vacation and three-day work weeks.


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