28 January 2013: The Nature of my Knowledge

The other day, I was driving to campus for the beginning of the semester. My first days back are all faculty meetings and syllabus writing. These are not the days of exciting energy when students are refreshed and opened to learning new concepts and creating new ideas. These are the days when my colleagues and I secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) wish we could be home reading books that deepen our own knowledge. We wish we could slowly contemplate the perfect class, plucking ideas down as we were inspired by them. The first days back for faculty have often, in the past, given me the worst Monday blues of my life. I would even say they made me incredibly cranky.

However, as I was driving in for this semester’s beginning, I was listening to David Newman’s 2010 album ­Love, Peace, Chant. On it, he sings some of my favorite Kirtan tunes, and as the wheels were turning, I couldn’t help but chant along with him. I began to notice the sensation of joy rising in my chest, and instead of thinking about all of the enrollment statistics and new policy debates that might take place on this day, I thought instead about all of the wonderful people I work with.

I became in awe of all of the smart and generous people whom I get to call my colleagues. I was excited to hear their ideas and share my own even if we hadn’t had time to methodically sculpt those ideas into the perfect classes just yet. I felt so confident in that sensation of joy, that I began to feel trust in the process. As I sit at my desk, I can do little more than theorize. I can work through an idea and find its most perfect language, but that doesn’t mean I’ve found its most perfect expression, I need my colleagues and especially my students to verify the class is a good one.

My teacher Michelle Pietrzak-Wegner has been known to say, “If I waited to be a guru before I began to teach, I still would not be teaching.” I agree with her whole-heartedly, and I’ll add that if we waited, there may be something lacking in what we bring to our students. As we wade through the minutia of the ideas, we sometime miss the process that helps us arrive at our final understanding of a lesson.

Today, I am thankful that there is no such thing as absolute knowledge. We are in the inquiry of our thoughts. We can be confident and present enough to claim how exciting it is to be always on the precipice of finding, and we can take this journey with one another.

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2 January 2013: The Loop of Utter Implosion

Today, I am thankful for the spiritual education that has taught me to observe the thoughts that enter into my mind. I caught myself feeling utterly afraid of having booked only eleven credits of class for the spring semester. (Normally, I teach fourteen or fifteen.) I became afraid of what that might mean for me financially. I became afraid that it might mean I’m not as secure in my job as I have been in the past or that I’ll have to find a new field of work. Every discrepancy I’ve had with a student in this last semester (though they’ve been few) came rushing into my brain, and I began to question my education, my abilities and even the path I’ve taken in this life.

I immediately sprang to my computer to come up with a plan B. I searched as many Web sites as I could, looking for editorial and writing jobs. I wasn’t being picky in my search: free-lance, part-time, even full-time job placements. I love teaching writing. I feel called to do this work, but my fear of not being able to pay my cell phone bill became so great in that moment, it overtook my love for my work. This, I think, is one of the most profound moments anyone can experience. The moment where fear interrupts and overtakes the ways we ground ourselves in the benefits of love.

Though I love my job so much, I was ready to give it up after just fifteen minutes of anxiety…until it occurred to me that I have just spent the last eight months of my life getting my certification to teach yoga. My plan B has already been put into place. It’s a plan B that still includes working with adult students and incorporates my second deep passion: synthesis of movements in the body. I had even forgotten that I created this plan B so that I could sustain my energy to teach writing more effectively. I have meant for the duality of these teaching modes to complement each other. However, since I’ve been so stuck in my head grading finals, I haven’t actually had a lot of time to practice yoga in the last couple of weeks, let alone look for yoga teaching jobs.

And here is where I am thankful: that the whole time I was spinning out of control, I was watching it happen. My hands were typing keywords into the various search engines, but my mind was listening without moving (or judging). My mind waited for the hiccup in the loop to stop and say “hello, are you paying attention to what you are doing?” And as soon as it did, those fifteen minutes got to be a great scene in my life’s comic theater. Because my spiritual education has led me to meditate, it has provided me with a tool to prevent my brain from utterly imploding (which it is wont to do from time to time).

Instead of finishing up my day by dusting off my editor’s resume, I had the opportunity to write a new resume, one for the yoga teacher I am becoming. Instead of fear and anxiety moving me backward, love and excitement (and the ability to see the punch-line) allowed me to step forward.

So “yay” for all the lessons. “Yay” for committing some of them to memory. “Yay” for the teachers of my past and the teachers of my future (including my students) who have and who will lead me deeper on this path. How lucky to be able to self-observe.