Post-election Practice

Feeling grateful for my practice these past couple of weeks. Or, rather, feeling grateful that I have a practice to turn to and deepen as I navigate some raw emotional terrain.[1]

Still in a spell of grieving, the profundity of which continues to surprise me, I read and teach of despair and hell and hope, winging through the early books of “Paradise Lost.” Of misogyny, racism, internalized self-loathing and roots of selfish evil through the late acts of “Othello.”

I don’t want to act while I’m still reactive—while the emotion, thick in my throat, makes swift action seem urgent, necessary, the only thing to do. I read of Sidney’s “feeling skill,” of freezing fires, and an epic poem of paradox and pun, and I sit with, sit with, sit with.

I notice sadness and grief turning to blame. I feel my finger pointing—what are YOU doing? What are YOU going to do? What should WE do? Why aren’t WE doing anything? What am I doing? What can I do? Why aren’t I doing enough?

Post- election, I’ve, like others, felt as though someone had died. I’ve also felt heartbreak.

In the past, when grieving for lost life or lost love, I have blamed and hated God, or fate, or myself. I’ve also thirsted for revenge, despaired, and withdrawn.

But in recent memory my practice has—mirabilis!— brought perspective. Death… resilience. Heartbreak…resilience.

Now…?

I’m still sitting with.

I’m reading, teaching, visiting with friends and family, crying, speaking, laughing, cooking, hiking, … yes.

But still sitting with. Sitting with. Sitting with.

Thank you, my sweet community of poets, contemplatives, scientists, students, creators, destroyers, yogis, lovers, and friends for all the chances you’ve given me to sit with, sit with, sit with; for co-creating with me a buoy of experience to practice, practice, practice.

 

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[1] Noticing my strong desire to, as I write, note that my suffering is minimal compared to that of others. Noticing my desire to acknowledge that I really have no right to feel so sad, etc. But, I guess, my subject here is not how rational or justified my fear and sadness are, but rather how palpable.

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Let’s Talk Pedagogy

This evening, like many evenings, I am curious about pedagogy. As our university reorganizes from departments into Clusters, I am curious to see where and how our pedagogies—the philosophies that drive our teaching practices—evolve.

We are highlighting the importance of “kindness.” We are identifying as “connected.” We are encouraging “interdisciplinarity.” As we develop practices to encourage kindness, to be connected, and to do interdisciplinarity, we must also articulate the philosophical foundations that drive these practices. (See initial musings on “interdisciplinarity” by Plymouth colleagues here, about ¼ down the page).

Commitees, task forces, working groups and Faculty Meetings need to stay on-task, vote, and produce. Where do we have conversations that help identify and refine our pedagogies? (As we seek a new director for the emerging Center for Transformation through Teaching, Leadership, and Lifelong Learning, I hope we will have a home for meaningful investigations of pedagogy. And I hope that we all step up to investigate together!)

Our campus Contemplative Education group works explicitly with pedagogy and practice. We read, write, teach, experiment, and refine our pedagogy together. I find that the more I explore the foundations of what I hold to be true and valuable (or, some might say, the more I explore my ontologies and epistemologies,) the more integrity and intentionality my teaching has.

I know there are a few other people on campus pairing the contemplative (reflective) and the active (teaching) in community with one another. (I see you at Chase Street Market, Reflective Practice peeps!). But I’m wondering if there are more, and how we can find each other.

Lastly, I’ll just put out here that there’s a lot of overlap in philosophy—maybe not yet in practice– between Open Education and Contemplative Pedagogy. They both rest on an ontology of connectedness. They both care deeply about access and inclusion. They both are rigorously self-critical and self-aware.  They both value process and require alternatives to traditional, empirical assessments or evaluations.

And so, I’m adding to my ongoing projects (on teaching medieval literature, on Yoga as a NRM in the West, on mysticism & consciousness studies, etc.) an exploration of the connections between Open and Contemplative. If any ACMHE people want to join me, reach out! If any Plymouth peeps want to invite me to pedagogy-centered events or conversations you’re having in clusters, departments, or offices, reach out! Let’s connect.