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“…have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves…Live the questions…live  your way into the answer.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke

~~*~~

Last year Parker Palmer shined my teacher’s heart when it when was tarnished.  His book The Courage to Teach got me through a teacher’s heart crisis and showed me how to teach (and live) with greater integrity.

Though untarnished this year at semester’s end I figured the teacher’s heart was due for routine maintenance, so I picked up a copy of The Heart of Higher Education: A Call to RenewalPhysicist Arthur Zajonc joins Palmer to bring educators back to the big questions underlying what we do.  In this work lives the question: “How do we promote educational efforts that address the whole human being (mind, heart, and spirit) in ways that contribute best to our future on this fragile planet?”

This and other questions posed in their work remind us that education is transformation. It is not merely “the conveyance of information concerning objects, but a leading…through the manifold layers of experience and reason to occasions of epiphany…to the exalted experience of genuine insight.”

They remind us that community and conversation are often the driving force behind this transformative experience. They remind us what conversation can bring about when done well, “The point is not to convert, but to cultivate the possible by collaboring with people who hope to bring it into being.”

Twice this week I’ve come across the Bantu word ubuntu once in this book and then later in Boyd Varty’s wonderful tribute to Nelson Mandela (see video below). Varty’s story gets at the essence of the word’s meaning: I am because of you.

I am; because of you. If you want a real education, try living that one.

And yet for transformation to truly take hold, we must strike a balance between community and solitude.  Our institutions and culture have a growing tendency to encourage living at a frenetic-pace. When left to our own devices (and I do mean devices) we are increasingly engaged in a world that keeps us pathologically distracted and distanced from our own minds.  Abha Dawesar makes this point by distinguishing between two nows: the present now and the one that technology provides us, which she calls the “digital now.”

Parker and Zajonc remind us that we need ample time for “quietude that allows for real reflection on what we have seen and heard, felt and thought.”  They promote a contemplative pedagogy that creates time and space for silence with practices that develop concentration and deepen understanding because:

“Education is a vital, demanding, and precious undertaking….if true to the human being education must reflect our nature in all its subtlety and complexity.  Every human faculty must be taken seriously, including the intellect, emotions, and our capacity for relational, contemplative, and bodily knowing.”

And if you managed to read this far, thank you. 🙂 Ubuntu. Please share what’s on your mind.

December is half over and I have had too little farmy fun to show for it.

My work life this semester was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.  For starters there were over 800 preschoolers involved.  I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m not. I stopped counting at the beginning of November when we were at 786. Add to that my little afternoon friends who I visit, the usual weekly yoga classes, and a new teaching gig: a university course called “Piyo.” When I was asked to apply for the job I had no idea what “Piyo” was or how univeristy physical education courses worked as I had never taken any as a student. Piyo turned out to be a blend of Pilates and yoga, and I invented the curriculum as I went. After chaotic mornings with preschoolers, Piyo was my saving grace. The course turned out to be the most fun and authentic teaching experience I’ve ever had.  I got to completely nerd-out on anatomy and delve deeply into somatic learning. And while I have taught several college courses, I have never before taught one barefoot.  After teaching the course barefoot all semester, I’ve come to the conclusion that shoes change everything about the teaching experience.  Shoes make your feet all claustrophobic and rob you of sensation and connection to the environment. They make you teach like “I’m somebody wearing shoes”…which is to say all formal and like you have somewhere else to go or like you’re going to step on something disgusting or dangerous.  Who knew?  Anyway, it was just awesome to not have desks, to kick off shoes, to cut the lights and learn cool stuff. The students, freshmen and juniors, were the youngest college students I’ve ever taught and they were unexpectedly fabulous.  They were an interesting, smart, fun, diverse, and engaged group that gave me much hope for the future.  It was such great experience.

Today I finished grading, posted grades, and completed an article review. Tomorrow I meet the last of the preschoolers for 2013, write recommendation letters, and then I’m free from university obligations for this year and I intend to get back to farmy fun and hopefully experience some goaty goodness.

Title: Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

Author: Sheryl Sandberg

Synopsis:  Facebook’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, gives women career advice. She also discusses the problems women face in getting leadership roles and how to overcome them.

Why I Read It: Someone at a convention raved about the book during a talk.

Full Disclosure: My opinions may be biased by my dislike of her employer. I don’t do Facebook; the whole phenomenon seems at best a waste of mental resources, and at worst a dismaying invasion of privacy.  All that said, I read the book because Sandberg is an accomplished woman writing on a topic, women in leadership, which is interesting and relevant being that I’m a woman and all.

Highlights: It was a quick, easy, well-organized read. Every chapter is concentrated into its one sentence essence (so tidy!!), which made the content memorable. There were a couple of these that stood out:

  •  Don’t Leave before You Leave, in which she discusses the problem of being focused on some future event rather than on your present job, and
  •  It’s a Jungle Gym Not a Ladder, in which she discusses the trajectory of a career and how it’s ok to move laterally and all around instead of constantly climbing up, up, up.  I appreciate the playfulness of this metaphor.

Lowlights: I had a hard time relating to Sandberg. First off, I am drawn to work that is academic and not corporate. My fields are already dominated by women. I’ve been mentored by women, promoted by women.  Likewise, I teach women and promote them.  As a result, sometimes the issues she wrote about seemed remote.  Secondly, her writing style was safe and overly-processed….a little too polished.

Recommended to: 1.) Men – every last one of you should read it.  2.) Working women with children. 3.) Ambitious women just beginning their careers.


If You Liked This Book You Might Also Like: Leadership by Rudy Giuliani, which I reviewed (very briefly) here, and which I found equally as helpful and more compelling.

Best Quote:

“It’s not about biology, but about consciousness”

–Gloria Steinem

If you want to learn more here’s a Ted Talk she gave on the topic.

This past week I fell out of a chair and into a bucket.

There was nothing extraordinary going on at the time – like I wasn’t making an attempt to test the limits of physics or anything. I simply reached back to grab a piece of paper on a table. Next thing I know I’m half-sitting in a bucket with my back and head against the wall. There were onlookers present, of course: a preschooler and the graduate student I was “supervising” (Har!). Both stopped what they were doing to gawk at me. I continued to sit in the bucket while they continued to stare at me well past the time that was comfortable for any of us.

The preschooler was the first to point out matter-of-factly, “You fell out of that chair.”

“Yes, I did.” I said with a little half-giggle.

“Are you ok?” The graduate student asked.

“Yes.” I lied, while continuing to sit in the bucket.

Truth be told, it hurt and I wasn’t ready to move yet. Plus having them stare at me was awkward, so I grabbed the piece of paper I had been reaching for and pretended to read it from my bucket perch.

When it became clear that I wouldn’t be following the bucket trick with a spectacular encore, or any further commentary, my audience went back to what they had been doing.

Eventually I got up.

I’m mostly ok, though my back has felt a bit bojangled ever since the incident.  But I’m really proud of the bruise that is spreading in sunset-hued splendor across my outter thigh.  No joke, it’s fantastic–everyday a different color. Yesterday it was mostly black with a splattering of angry red. Today it’s a splotch of midnight purple fading to a bluish-yellow haze around the periphery.

When I roll on my left side at night, the bruise wakes me with a blare of pain, shocking me in the wee hours of the morning into a sensibility that I’m injured, that something significant happened, and that it is happening still as my body forces me to be more conscious, so it can heal itself.

It’s the sort of pain that’s almost pleasant.

 

 

 

When we tolerate cruelty to animals we are tolerating cruelty itself, and cruelty has a harmful effect on human society.

–FOCA

Auschwitz begins whenever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.

–Theodore W. Adorno

This Thursday night yoga will be a give-what-you-can class. 

Pause for Paws1 

 

The shelter accepts donations of used items in good condition — collars, leashes, dog beds, bowls, bedding, towels, etc.  They especially need kitten and puppy food, non-clumping cat litter, and indestructable dog and cat toys. They also accept cleaning supplies like Bleach or Pine Sol and office supplies of all types.

 

 

I made the mistake of reading the alumni publication from my alma mater this week. Does anyone else read these things? Well, if you’re in recovery from a type A personality, like me, then you probably shouldn’t.  It featured all these fabulous people making important and amazing contributions to the world.  Artists, writers, researchers, engineers – they were all beautiful with their hair and their families, smiling.  They were all busy doing stuff.

The whole thing sent me reeling into an existential crisis.

“What am I busy doing?”  I wondered.

Then I remembered…

chasing butterflies

chasing butterflies

 

 

playing peekaboo with clouds

playing peekaboo with clouds

 

8-6-13 044

stopping in the street to take pictures of goats in a rainstorm

Pioneers final

Elizabeth Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, & Lucretia Motts

Would you be willing to trade part of your anatomy for the priviledge of going to school?

For Kakenya Ntaiya, this was not a hypothetical question. It was her reality. She tells her astounding story in the Ted talk below.

 

Just the expressions written on the faces of those children, before and after, tell the story. I replayed that footage again and again. 

It made me deeply grateful for the myriad of choices available to me, for the brave women who laid the groundwork for such freedom, and for the presence of strong women in my life — my family, my friends, my professional mentors.

Yesterday was Labor Day. It was a day to reflect on the work we do in this world and the impact it has on others. It was an opportunity to consider how we are supported and sustained by the labor of others.

Today I am thankful to get back to the work.

9-3-13 004

Picture3

————————————————————————–

This post was my submissions for Kozo Hattori’s Monthly Peace Challenge for September: “Let’s inundate the internet with a peace collage of powerful words and images.”

b4peace

commute

Old Commute

What a difference a year makes.

Last year I began taking steps to turn my work life into my life’s work. This was a subtle, but powerful and life-changing shift in perspective that was inspired by a number of awesome books I’d been reading and by a yoga teacher training course that totally rocked my world.

 While I enjoyed my work – professoring – my work life itself had become a major ordeal. Just getting to work seemed an epic struggle fraught with peril.

commute2

Old Commute Detours

commute5

Old Commute Floods

Old Commute Snow

Old Commute Snow

No doubt that peril was made greater by the crazy woman behind the wheel weilding a camera.

Really not my brightest moments on display there, folks. 😀

On a good day it took 2.5 hours just to get to work.  As you can see, there were many not-so-good days.  That commute was quite a drain on the resources (time, money, fossil fuels, etc.).  When I look back at those pictures I wonder: What was I thinking??

I think my logic was something like, If I’m working hard and struggling, I must be doing something worthwhile, right?

Hm…not necessarily so, sayeth my gurus.

One tells me repeatedly: “Keep the pose. Relax the grip. Take the struggle out of it. Good, now go apply that off the mat.”

It all gets easier when you learn how to relax.

My commute to work looks a lot different these days….

july9 2013 013

New Commute Detours

It’s about a one minute walk.

New commute flooding

New Commute Floods

New Commute Snow

New Commute Snow

I can make the commute stretch to about 15 or 20 minutes on a good day.

I’m in teaching mode. I have been all month and will be until August. Teaching mode means my perspective of the outside world is shrinking by the day as I laser hone my thinking around one topic.  Teaching mode involves books, notebooks, folders, and papers scattered and spilling over all available surfaces in the vicinity.  Butcher paper is rolled out across the floor of the greatroom and scented markers are strewn about as I map out the curriculum.  Dishes and laundry go unwashed. Sadly, Yip has to remind me to feed her with repeated attempts to trip me in the direction of her food bowl.   Blogs go unread, comments go unacknowledged, and my own posts get spacey (in a multitude of ways).

This is an example of what the preliminary stages of teaching mode looked like:

june 6 012

This is how it smelled: to do lists in cherry, case studies in blueberry,  and activities in sour apple. (A-whop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-lop-bop-bop — Tutti Fruitti!) 

Teaching mode is a little consuming. Every week I read like a maniac, convinced I know nothing about this topic I’ve been studying for over a decade.  Every week I spend hours making these elaborate plans and putting together PowerPoint presentations and lectures to dazzle my students. Every week so far I have intensely disliked my entire plan and so I have wound up throwing it all out at the last minute and winging my way through class discussions.

I despised class discussions when I was a student.  I was painfully shy and horrified by the very idea of having to talk to anyone. Just tell me what I need to know and I will sit here quietly absorbing it!

On the teaching end of things, class discussions are possibly even more terrifying. It’s hard to blend in to the crowd when you’re front and center. When I stepped into the classroom on that first day without a clear plan of action I had an instant panic attack.  I broke out into a sweat, my heart rate skyrocketed, and I had an urgent need to go to the bathroom.  Why did I toss out that plan?! What is going to happen here?  What am I going to say?  What if no one says anything back?! Fortunately there was no one else in the classroom when I had my little crisis.

When everything in me was screaming, “RUN!!” I did what the last two years of yoga training taught me to do:  I sat down, closed my eyes, and breathed. I opened myself to the possibilities. I let go of my attachment to results. I was completely disarmed with this knowledge: I am pursuing that which makes my heart beat.  Then I opened my eyes, got up, and stepped into the present with a smile.

~~~~@~~~~

I would say this is a completely unrelated note, but it’s all related and intertwined and linked to the topic of transformation.  Perhaps this is just another reflection of teaching mode.

little frog

This little guy was among the hundreds of tadpoles I fished out of the frog pond a couple weeks ago when I changed out their water. He’s at that awkward in-between stage of frog development. He’s still a little tadpole-blobby and his tail can be seen in the picture on the right, but he has all four legs.
That’s all. He just needed to be shared.

We are very busy at work this morning doing urgent, important things!

What are you up to today?

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