Tag Archives: Teaching

Clarity on the Mission of this Seedling

29 Mar

Oh learning,

may it never end;

how could it?

There is a sudden clarity this morning,

that I was made to confuse the most literal

beauties that god created.

It is very very good

to give creative writing assignments

with vague directions

to STEM students.

My clarifying emails

only confuse them further

because with good reason

they try to check the temperature

of the water

before jumping in the deep end,

unlike me, who flings myself

into confusing mystery

before the instructions are done.

We have so much to offer each other!

Love me in my frustration

when I have to start over

after leaping too soon.

Also love us

who shiver at the threshold

of just give it a go, rolling our eyes.

Together we fill the color wheel

meeting where somehow

purple bleeds into red.

The Sweetness of Invisible Comfort

17 Feb

hit me

26 Sep

I have to do my grading online.  I have to read the essays, correct and give feedback, all online, on this lovely little laptop that I am happily typing on right now.  I often do this task at home, and I am learning so much about myself and addiction through the difficulty that I often have in this task.

The inbuilt tools with grading online, with its shortcuts and wonderful ready loaded lessons, would appear to earlier versions of myself as miraculous.  However, (and I know you know where I am going next) I find the self-discipline needed to complete the task  (of say, grading forty essays) can be hard to find and my work is prolonged by many factors, all of which relate to addiction.

The task is challenging, grading.  Even with full attention on the task, I don’t seem to get much faster at it. After years of it, I have hardly ever found it top of my list for activities I wish to do.   What is so instructive now is watching myself (some part of myself) cry out for distraction, below the level of surface awareness.  This dreaded task is gifting me the view of the characters in me who cry out to the dealer – HIT ME.  HIT ME.  HIT ME again.  There are fractured selves that come up for observation.  One of them uses food for entertainment. One of them could nap her life away. One looks for hits in communication. One looks for beauty and art and inspiration in the endless pools of sights and sounds this world offers, now more than ever, through the searching on the web.  One likes to be surprised by strangeness. One likes to uncover lies. One plans. One ponders her image, and tries to fix perceived smudges in the mirror of the world. One likes to clean when it isn’t time to clean. One could walk for miles when there are some pressing deadlines. One dives into moments past and rearranges years. Endless.  I’ve just named those milling about my living room this very moment.

I’m writing this blogpost while my last 19 essays remain to be graded. How perfect the task, how perfect the distraction, how perfect the one who watches it all without any judgement. The flow of this life somehow always works out, the tasks get done, the life gets lived, well or not well– irrelevant through some views. Improvement does not come from disgust. I am simply learning who is asking for the reigns, so I can choose who drives.  Sometimes the car goes in the ditch in the process, but that is all part of the fun.

Reporting from the side of the road, waving to you, reader, as you fly by.  Who chooses to do what you do when you do it? Who is crying for a hit? Who chooses to allow the hit or to get to work?  Who is calling the mental health hotline and giving them my address right now?   The United States of M.  🙂



15 Nov

I’m in the middle of my first semester teaching a class classified as remedial.

I can relate to this term remedial.

Each student is dear, this is clear, but i am at a loss to teach the basics that teachers have been repeating for years to these on whom it didn’t stick.  Why didn’t the basics stick?  There is a separate and complex answer for every single one.  Each seat filled with a story, eyes conveying a barrier for the process.  I have never looked into so many eyes who want to be elsewhere.

I leave the class exhausted and depleted, feeling that I could use some remedial help in helping the remedial.

As souls, we meet in a room and I am touched by the loveliness here.  But the frustration for everyone is also palpable.  When frustrated, what is the normal human reaction?  Push back.  I bend in sway in this breeze.  I brainstorm how to teach this class better, each night, yet lessons fall flat, in part because I have slipped out of ease and into trying.  I appreciate that I can see this shift as it occurs, or soon after.    I make the familiar leaps in my brain, and slow these steps down, but they are not the logical steps for my audience.

The students in my regular college-level classes in contrast are looking like geniuses.  I lean into them like colleagues in the bar after work.  We share a common purpose, to make some progress in 7 weeks.  The remedial students have a different flow.

It is good of me to stretch, to fail, to try again.  It is good of me to get depleted to show where my imagined boundaries are.  It is good to not be able to rely on any old dog tricks of charm and tap-dancing for entertainment.  I am dying over and over – surprised to wake up again and again in this body and in this life – every morning a new introduction to myself in the mirror.  This person, the I,  goes to work, tries, again with this trying, succeeds in ways she will never even know and fails in ways she is equally blind to…

—- the grief can come in waves for the one who thought she knew something true to teach, for the one who thought her ideas were smart, for the one who laughed at her own jokes.  There is nothing that can go that should be held on to.  How ready I am to stop with everything false, clinging even as it tastes like metal in my mouth? A million mirrors are closing in on all sides of the me now.  If I compare me to yesterday, I have given up almost everything that once brought me pleasure in exchange for smelling every smell as it arrives, sweet and foul no longer relevant.  Broken can become – only this:   there is seemingly a nose and seemingly a breeze – and a schedule arranged by god.  There is nowhere I have to be that has not been preordained.  I am on some edge that looks like giving up freewill and intelligence.  I am giving over my voice and my eyes – I am emptying out of opinion.  Who will fill the air now?    We will see, now won’t we?

giant babies in the sky

20 Sep

Giant Baby


There seems to be spontaneous, helpful guidance that comes from goodness knows where to show us again and again that there is a way to view this world and the things that happen in it as nothing but  spiritual encounters.

Sometimes, when I am checking out from a store, I look around and instead of shoppers, all I see are beings –  all the souls who agreed to meet me here.  When I fly on an airplane, I can feel like I am measuring the volume of soul weight all around my seat.  Even if I am home alone, I feel like I have a preordained date to meet some other part of me.

Early to class one day, I was starting the computer, going over the lesson, getting ready; I was in a get up, drive to school, get to work mode;  I was not in a spiritual mindset.  I was just going to teach a lesson to people in seats.  I stopped getting ready with all the stuff of 3D life and looked around.

As I focused on each empty desk, I could see the student in his or her usual appearance who usually sat there, and I nodded to him or her in my mind, one by one, recognizing the agreement we had, to meet here in this classroom, to learn a particular subject, yes, but more than that, I could see that we had a larger interaction.

A vision came where I saw myself growing outside my  boundaries with each student, one at a time.  We expanded out; we were so large  that our heads were meeting above the atmosphere of earth.  There we were, large Sumo babies, beyond words, exchanging our agreement together in the mystery of space.

This strange exercise took me out of the planning mind and into an awareness of my spiritual agreement to each student.  As I  can see that we meet here person to person in the classroom, I am also helped to  recognize each student’s  larger being which helps me to see innate value in each one.  We have agreed together to do work  that may resemble an English course, but in reality, we are doing  spiritual work together.

This ongoing vision or space travel helps me also to see our equality.  We are students and a teacher playing roles, but I can see that we are, each one of us, student and teacher both, on equal footing, overall,  tourists together on this planet, signing on for experiences.

Now, when I get lost in the minutia of lessons or caught in the frustration of inattention, I try to jump to the vision of who we really are; sometimes  I can shift my perspective to the stratosphere and return again with a new, spiritual lens prescription.  

Yes, you have a comma splice here, but wow, just look what a powerful being you are; look at what potential lies within you; try using a semicolon and breathing in some space dust.

soul dollar economy

17 Jul


How rare and powerful is the gift of allowing another to glimpse into our darkest, scariest truths or our beautiful longing for understanding.  By showing up as a teacher, I am gifted more often than I can believe – each time the mask is pushed away and truth is sent my way, energy rushes through me and bells go off inside.

Tommy,  2nd desk in the middle row, hair green, then blue, then red, you spoke to me in frustrated tone at the very beginning of the semester and helped me to still myself to not react, but see the pain inside.   I knew then you were my teacher, too.

Here is a bit of Tommy’s Credo, labeled in a folder named “Word limits Suck”  🙂

Every night, I write down the things I need to accomplish and do for the next day. However, I tend to try and keep it flexible because my girlfriend is somewhat spontaneous and tends to come over whenever she feels like it. I almost always accomplish the things I write down. Unfortunately, a dramatic event took place to cause me to rethink my approach to living life.

In November of 2013, I got in my car and got onto the Interstate. I made sure to keep my seatbelt off. I got my car up to ninety-five miles per hour, and then jerked the wheel all the way to the right. When I woke up, which I wasn’t expecting to happen, I was in the grass holding one of my headlights. Apparently, my car flipped three times and hit a treewhile I got ejected out the window. I spent a week in the Psychiatric Ward of MUSC with a broken foot and hip.

At the Hospital, the staff and I went over methods of setting goals. Ever since my stay at MUSC, I have written down my goals and gotten very industrious by doing so.

You had the courage to allow seeds of new possibilities to be planted within you while your body brokenness was healing.

I ask everyone to turn in a brief personal credo as  prewriting practice for a longer essay; I tell you all that if you can explore real stories that have led you to your wisdom up till now, your  writing will be more powerful.  Very few have been broken open enough to share in the way you have.

Tommy, I know direct attention will make you shy away, so I write to you here, in a place you that will not see, but I know that you will feel. Thank you for trusting me with your story.  Spiral out:  Keep going.

And here is  Cameron’s Credo, quiet, back-row surprise of a very young mystic and philosopher, well on his way, riding on a spiral:

I believe the Universe exists as an unfathomably massive organism; that consciousness perpetuates the Universe’s mind-bending ability to experience itself.

I believe knowledge drives the power of understanding; that understanding drives consciousness to the edge of the Universe in pursuit of mystifying answers.

I believe time is an intricate illusion maintained by the ageless balance of mass and energy within our field of view and may be interpreted individually.

I believe that everything we perceive surrounding us has originated in the scorching heart of resplendent stars.

I believe religion is the base of ignorance; any religion fabricating arbitrary answers in place of wonder and critical-thinking hinders progress of the species. Incidentally, most politics pave the way for religion to dominate the mind, detrimental to the progress of science.

I believe all life in the Universe is cherished, even extraterrestrials that could exist, waiting to be discovered.

I believe the four fundamental forces of the Universe can be unified to conceptualize the beginning of the Universe; however, I believe humans have a long journey ahead of them to accomplish such a feat.

I don’t believe that an all-knowing Deity exist.

I don’t believe in waging war in an effort to gain depleting resources that exist abundantly in the Universe, because I don’t believe Earth is the only haven in the heavens capable of hosting life.

I wish I could believe in an omnipotent Deity, but I used to believe in an all-powerful being to place the unknowns upon and the belief smothered my hunger for insight, for wisdom.

I wish I could believe humans could exist peacefully amongst ourselves, similarly to how I wish I could believe religion could blissfully coexist with definitive science; because I was naive, I used to believe science was a unified humanistic goal.

The most astonishing idea of all, I believe in the existence of infinite levels of order in the Universe, consequently, absent of chaos throughout.

He used to “believe in an all-powerful being to place the unknowns upon and the belief smothered [his] hunger for insight.”  And so he now, at 18, has stepped away from what smothered his hunger, and he carries around a flashlight to illuminate the unknowns in the form of books.

I am coming to see a currency in play in my life that stretches in an unseen realm – that more than sustains, it lavishes buckets of soul dollars upon my head.  Daily I  receive energetic exchanges that shine in contrast to 3D currency.  I see abundance in the soul realm that translates, if I let it, into my daily flow.  Supply and demand of a soul dollar economy – it is real!





24 May

Most people I meet and interact with are lovely.  My clarity keeps leading me to clearer interactions.  My days are  full of openness and the seeing of the goodness in myself and in others.

However, I do sometimes have reminders that not everyone has the same flowing goodness from which they are operating; some have their truth buried deep within beneath layers of deception.  Some people are acting out of perverse self-interest; they will lie, cheat, sugar-coat, and self-delude to meet imaginary, short-term aims.  Self-preservation can be desperate preservation of the false self, the mask, at all costs.

My internal radar for these sort of pitiful, but at times dangerous, souls has gotten more and more accurate.

My responses are becoming more organically in-tune with what these interactions require from me.

I’ve been learning about narcissism and about what patterns within me  made me vulnerable to this dynamic in the past, to help me gain clarity when dealing with one driven mainly by self-interest and deception.  I have made growth.  I now trust my ability to stay open to the inner urgings for setting clear boundaries, decisively.

I was a fly in the web of  a spider, once – not able to see the well-constructed web, listening to the charming words, allowing myself to be the sacrificial meal, but I cut the threads;  I got away from the web.  Instead of flying away, I  perched nearby – observing and learning.

Kimberly Harding has written much on the dynamics of dealing with a narcissist in one’s life.  Her explorations into this topic helped me to recognize that I had been in this pattern for years, placating, catering to, blind to the motivations of my husband.    He showered me with compliments constantly, but left me holding the bag most all of the time.  He was good at turning the tables and I was  good at taking on more than my responsibility.  It took extreme circumstance for me to wake to the magic show shuffling going on, but once I woke to it – I could not be fooled so easily again.

This week, Hannah has reappeared from the Spring semester to protest her grade.    Her smoke screen creations in lieu of truth failed to confuse me.   My inner-guidance told me the truth of the situation and provided me with clear communication.  My gut instincts were validated by my department head, who knew of her past patterns.  He had my back.

She used technology as an excuse for lost emails that supposedly contained missing essays – and then tapped danced around for sympathy and time.  She  brought her grandmother to the department head to vouch for her last semester.  Her sob story could work only once.  This semester – her number was up.

Hannah has drawn to herself an enormous comeuppance.  She will not graduate from high school on time.  She will be forced to retake this class until she has passed in order to receive her diploma.

She gave me the gift of clarity needed for listening to my inner guidance without remorse.

She is learning, I hope, by such high stakes in her immediate life.

In the zoomed out view, no biggie.  High school!  What evs.




(Not much into this genre of music, but this song is a mirror today!)


skylights in my mind

27 Mar


Art by Steve Arnold


There are one-story intellects, two-story intellects, and three-story intellects with skylights. All fact collectors with no aim beyond their facts are one-story men. Two-story men compare reason and generalize, using labors of the fact collectors as well as their own. Three-story men idealize, imagine, and predict. Their best illuminations come from above through the skylight.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
US author & physician (1809 – 1894)

I use this quote in class to describe good essays, but actually I can relate plenty to one and two story thinking.  I can be a good fact collector, but in many ways, I’m learning to step outside of what I see.  The facts around me are not where it’s at.  These days,  it is all about the skylights.

The word intellect seems so academic, so mind driven, status oriented,  but what OWH is seeing, I imagine,  is the powerful force of the human being – our ability to generate change by allowing the light from above to illuminate.

When I allow the light in, when I take the illumination from above,  everything is bathed in an organic light that shows what was can now be something new.

We can choose to remain in the dark, artificially lit rooms on the ground floor or we can walk up the stairs, no matter what, and choose to flood our world with the power of the sun and the energy from above, which always far exceeds what is.  The light from the skylights actually helps materialize something new.  And then, what is comes to be what we saw before it was. (oooh,  my phrasing is crazy!)

Am I the last one on this train?

The caboose is still a good ride. 🙂


“Less conventional thoughts, breaking into more creative mind, expanding into vast new realms, leading into a whole new struggle-less melting and architecturing -leaving behind doctrines ever so absolute in all forms of expression – soaring up and into unexplored kingdoms.”




the conditionality of trust

25 Nov


I have had some questions about my attitude toward a particular student in one of  my literature classes.  My frustration and impatience with this student has turned my idea of myself as a patient, kind, and supportive teacher on its head – marvelous!  She came just at the right time.

This confining role of goodness I have created for myself needed some examination.  In walks B, 1/2 hour late to every class, her hand up to stop the class mid-flow at her late arrival with personal matters, no book, not prepared, staying after every class trying to manipulate the conversation into praise for herself…what?  Are you kidding?  Sounds cruel to me but what I see is low functioning with arrogance.  To move out of low functioning, she will need to understand the tough work ahead of her.  I am unable to stay in my shallow role of helper with her. I am having to learn to express my genuine frustration as a mirror of truth, while also operating with compassion in the moment.  Whew.

Do I trust myself to do the right thing?  When I err on the side of helpfulness without reflecting back to her the consequences of her own behavior, I am not honoring myself or her.  When I err on the side of harsh judgement, I am lost to the possibility of change.   Has she earned my unconditional acceptance?   No!  How do I need to reflect her failure back to her?  How do I give her my honest feedback with integrity – for her benefit, for my own?  How do I help her and myself establish healthy boundaries?  How do I keep hope and promise for the potential for change?

Trust  is not a given with everybody, unconditionally, yet the idea of trust is so golden.  It feels like one can extend the olive branch of love to all, yet trust is actually conditional.  We do not blindly trust until there is agreement.  And agreement can be broken at any time.  We enter into conditional agreement with others.  As we fulfill our agreements, trust grows.

You can build lots of trust over time, only to lose it by a single instance of broken agreement.  Trust has to then be re-built.

The most important trust relationship in my life is with myself.   Once TRUST is established with myself, the rest clicks into place, it feels to me.  When I trust my own self, I can read the truth of my frustration within as a mirror to help reflect back to the student where she may need to reflect on her own behavior.  I can trust myself to stay open in the moment, to feel what I feel, to accept and express all of my feelings, even those that feel unacceptable.  Perhaps I am in the kindergarten class, and all of what I am writing here is like spelling out the A,B C’s.  That is okay.  I may be a bit behind by my false idea of unconditional trust.  I am learning what I need to learn by the experience life hands me.  I am grateful for this student who finds my hidden buttons and pushes them often to help me to see where to examine.

I am learning!  I reflect back to my student B my boundaries, my expectations, my detached judgements that my job requires of me.   I honor my own impatience instead of sweeping it under the rug in some fake dance of compassion.  I have compassion for my own limitations and thus reflect honestly back a truer trust, for real.  When I give myself an outlet for this truth, my compassion and patience grow!

going it alone (with others)

26 Aug

budapest metro


Without enough alone,

my tongue forms senseless words,

my body moves without purpose.

Going deep is a solitary thing.

Aloneness is  guarded at my gate –

Hours of no thing

I sew into my pocket by hand.

I would gulp you silence in a chalice –

I would lick you from the floor.

Beyond the richter swings of my own voice

I know how to read an empty chart.


i bless this semester’s eyeballs that window soul to me

I smile at elbows that protract upon desks –

propping up sleepy heads.

This is my promise to myself and you – I

sit alone so that we can gather

and do the work

and the work beneath the work.

I will still so I can move

I will quiet so I can make noise.

I will open my eyes so I can listen –

and in between our meetings

I will drink my fill of emptiness

so I can be full for you.



“Until you learn to inhabit your aloneness, the lonely distraction and noise of society will seduce you into false belonging, with which you will only become empty and weary. When you face your aloneness, something begins to happen. Gradually, the sense of bleakness changes into a sense of true belonging. This is a slow and open-ended transition but it is utterly vital in order to come into rhythm with your own individuality. In a sense this is the endless task of finding your true home within your life. It is not narcissistic, for as soon as you rest in the house of your own heart, doors and windows begin to open outwards to the world. No longer on the run from your aloneness, your connections with others become real and creative. You no longer need to covertly scrape affirmation from others or from projects outside yourself. This is slow work; it takes years to bring your mind home.”
~ John O’Donohue


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