The chapter “The Yearning for Meaning” in Jorge Waxemberg’s book Living Consciously has always been a personal favorite of mine. As I read it, I am brought back to the deep sense of yearning that I felt years ago when I was searching for a spiritual path that was right for me. Among all of the other chapters in Living Consciously, this is the one that I most readily share with friends who are searching for something fulfilling beyond the ordinary preoccupations of our hectic day–to–day life.
Therefore when, as a teacher of young adults learning English as a Second Language at an urban community college, I had the opportunity to put together a reader on spiritual and contemplative themes, “The Yearning for Meaning” was the first selection that came to mind. Happily, this proved to be an excellent choice. In the way my classes were set up, I would assign a reading and the students would answer some comprehension questions and then write a reading response journal for the selection that they read. Their responses could be opinions, questions, connections to their personal life and questions about the selection. The technique for working with reading response journals is that the teacher does not do any “correcting,” but rather only responds to what the student writes.
Reading and responding to my students’ journals on “The Yearning for Meaning” were an incredible eye–opener for me. A few of my students had already grappled with the question of meaning in their life. However, the majority wrote that they had never thought about the meaning of life before because no one asked them or the question never came up in their family or among friends. For some of them, this short essay was taken as their invitation to begin thinking deeply about the question of what life was all about. In their journals, and in subsequent ones, they began to ask the questions, “What am I living for?” ”What is most important in my life?” “Who am I?” and “What is the purpose of life?” I believe that this short reading, written in simple sentences and easy–to–read prose, helped many of my students to begin their own spiritual journey to a new and expanded way of seeing their world and the world around them.
And what could be more rewarding for a teacher than that?