Insistence (by Hridaya)

(Karolyn is posting this entry on behalf of the author Hridaya, keeponbreathing)

So Monday I went back in to the class where I’d attempted to teach using the strategy of insistence last week and called myself out in front of my students. I reflected aloud about the very thing I wrote about above and then said what I felt I really wanted to share, which was how I got so insistent in the first place. I shared a bit of my personal journey and some of the residents I worked with during my AmeriCorps time who died because  of poor health care and inadequate resources.  And a funny thing happened… they started to share their stories of cultural difference and inequity in a spontaneous and beautiful way where one built off of the next and the very student who said she felt marginalized last class was active and vocal and it was so touching. The energy completely shifted.  I couldn’t have scripted a better experience.  Students stopped me after class to thank me for being real and one wrote me the following “Thank you for sharing your story and experiences in our most recent class. It is a very powerful experience to hear a professor share his or her own stories outside of the more typical and rigid academic format. I was particularly affected by your ability to say ‘and that wasn’t what I wanted to say. What I really wanted to say was…’ Thanks.”   I’m feeling like my courage invited their courage and my genuineness invited their genuineness.  Wow. What a journey!

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Resurrection: New life in old data (by Hridaya)

(Karolyn is posting this entry on behalf of the author Hridaya, keeponbreathing)

I usually feel sort of prideful about my ability to take a concept and explore it from multiple angles and consider possibilities and critique the merits of something. I’ve noticed though, that this very ability I value seems to lead me to stagnation in approaching research/contemplative inquiry.  It goes something like this…  ideas and energy rise from the depths but before getting to fully form they attempt to pass through  my critical processes. There they find themselves blocked by this internally imagined gathering of critical peers ready to dismiss my work as full of holes, too new-agey or otherwise meaningless.

Today, I attended a lot of sessions and presented my own poster that combined some dissertation data with some newer theoretical comparisons. I noticed how I was able to appreciate others’ work for what it was, even with its limitations. I also had the experience of seeing and hearing a new audience interact with my displayed work. I noticed myself talking about it and the energy that I had squashed for some time coming alive again in dialogue with engaging peers. I noticed a new gentleness with myself about its imperfections. I heard others comment on it being a “good idea” and felt an internal smile and agreement- “this is a good idea.”

So maybe dialogue is an important ingredient for me to feed my inquiry. Maybe a healthy dose of meditation sprinkled in my day can help me to live my questions and give them voice. Maybe the breathing room provided by a couple of days focused on something I’m passionate about allowed some things to surface.  Maybe I need that “good job!” feedback more than I’d like to admit.

What do you find supports your engagement in inquiry?

(author: Hridaya) Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education Conference

(Karolyn is posting this entry on behalf of the author Hridaya, keeponbreathing)

I arrived in Amherst, MA late this afternoon to take part in the ACMHE Conference entitled “Contemplative Approaches in the Diverse Academic Community: Inquiry, Connection, Creativity, and Insight”. As I sat down on the steps outside Converse Hall the first person I introduced myself to, and to whom I mentioned I was from Plymouth State asked “Do you know Karolyn?” :). Small contemplative world. I’ve been having a virtual conversation with all of you in my head as the energy and wonderings of the evening unfolded so I wanted to take a few moments to share my thoughts with you.
Our opening speaker was Rhonda Magee, a Professor of Law from the University of San Francisco speaking on the topic of Contemplating Race, Law and Justice. I checked out at the beginning and noticed I felt judgmental wondering how a conference on this topic could start with her behind the podium focusing on deliverables. Then I noticed something that I read as nervousness in the shuffle of her feet and in her facial expression as she took in colleagues that sat completely above and surrounding her in this little amphitheater. I imagined myself there, wanting my colleagues to respect me and clutching my notes and to know I had something of value to share. And then it all became alive as she talked about her students, her class and her pride and how creating a contemplative space supported them in going to powerful and intimate and sometimes tearful places in their discussions about race and injustice and the law. It became spontaneous and alive and more full of “I don’t knows”. I felt connected to her and her words and noticed my mind swirling to my students, and my stories and to ideas about the type of classroom I’d like to continue to explore.
In no particular order here are some little snippets of things that struck me tonight. I welcome your reactions, reflections…
Instead of opening a class with “introduce your neighbor”, opening with “What brings you to this place?”
The idea of “relational resilience” as a term for being able to be present and stay with another in spite of discomfort, or of being able to hold compassion for them and invite more closeness and understanding rather than fleeing from conflict. And the concept of becoming a safe space for each other’s imperfectness. Is this what worked about my Summer Skills course?
Rhonda used the word “re-perceiving” to remark on the transformational quality she saw when genuine relationships and personal narratives shifted the way they viewed race and justice. Can contemplative approaches support people in shaking up what they knew to be true and re-perceiving things?
Reflecting on how my profession values the therapeutic distance and wondering if it is overvalued. Awareness that the deeper my personal practice becomes the more this concept of therapeutic neutrality as the goal is confusing to me and the more often I find myself touched or in tears listening to stories and grateful I’m trusted with them.
A question from the audience “How does the classroom environment privilege the quick thinker?”
And finally, I thought about teaching multicultural counseling this week in my class and the ineffectiveness of my insisting and urging my predominately white middle class students to let go of dismissing the need for cultural awareness with assertions that “people are people.” I insisted they recognize privilege where it exists and bias where it exists and look at their own assumptions and biases and  received feedback that my insistence made some uncomfortable. I am glad for the discomfort but also question the effectiveness of my insistence as a teaching strategy. I wonder if this was my version of clutching my notes too much or asking them to trust me without giving them a reason… trust that I know this about the world rather than explore what they’ve learned about the world and be willing to trust that what they’d share would enliven the dialogue even if it started with “people are people”.   And tonight I contemplate my insistence and where it comes from and wonder why I haven’t shared with them a single story about a client I worked with who died because they couldn’t access simple health care.

So, all of these thoughts just from the keynote. I’m excited for the weekend ahead and look forward to hearing your thoughts.