Thursday, December 01, 2005

First in Flight

(The picture is from Erika's opening reception at Barriques. It isn't of her work - this is the selection of empty wine glasses at the end of the night. Right after I took it, a friend said he was glad I took it, since he didn't have his camera and had been staring at it for awhile, appreciating the light and wishing he had brought his camera. It was, fittingly, the last photo. Closing time!)

Last night a friend and I began an 8 week course with local Professor Richard Davis on Racial Healing. The man is chock full of boundless, loving energy, and is definitely another teacher I was asking for without even knowing it consciously. We started the course, which is mindfully based in meditation and listening silently and respectfully to each others' understandings of and experiences with racism, with a video called Color of Fear. Veterans of the course - or rather, I should say - die-hard come again fans, call the experience "story hour with Richard Davis". I have been craving more and more places where people come to listen to one another. I certainly strive to create it in my classes, and I think I succeed well. I always love to see it manifested again in other ways, especially around something as explicitly important to address as racism.

Mindfulness. Someone recently described to me that trying to understand animals is like trying to understand God, which I took in the most general sense - trying to describe mindfulness is similar. The irony of using language for it can feel nearly sacreligious. Yet, it is done, again and again, mostly through stories. The group Blackalicious has a song - First in Flight - in which they describe everyone's knowledge as being just that - the first time ever, beginner's mind. First ever, every time. I have known for years I was coming back to this, to the beginning, to the emptiness I have run from, struggled to get away from, for so long. I can sit with it now, sometimes, or look at it from across the room. The big, pink, empty elephant. Each time is the first time, it feels like.

Tonight a new friend who attended my writing class asked how I deal with pedagogy versus experience in class. I told him about one experience, from tonight, after class, in which a woman had described an experience of hers for which I knew the exact Buddhist description. But it wasn't the right moment to share that. I just felt that. Ironically, the decision to let experience speak for someone, or to someone, is intuitive, and itself based in experience. This is for sure the beginning of a long journey for me, and I am so far loving it. There's nothing like that thrill in the beginning, when you first take off, your face empty and open, wings spread, launching up and out and over.

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