Thursday, May 31, 2007

"You Think You Know Her"

-Cause and Effect track from my teen years - a bit of a "one-hit wonder" that's been haunting me since it popped up on a mix on Laine's ipod a few days ago...

My classes are absolutely full. This is the first time this has happened since I started teaching, and a week ago, I wouldn't have told you it was going to happen. All four writing classes, two weeks before the first class even begins. They have *mostly* been full before, but the perpetually partially-empty 7:30 Thursday class is even one student from being full. And *really* full, not just students who may or may not show up. Welcome, waiting lists! We haven't even put up fliers yet!

Miksang is still out there a bit - not full yet, and fliers will be needed to pull students in. But that seems always the case. Funny how the more developed teachings are taking a longer time to launch in my home teaching areas - Madison and Milwaukee. I just finished teaching Milwaukee's class last night, and I go on a retreat the next two days to develop it, and contemplative writing, into full-fledged honors courses for Marquette University. So there are markers saying everything is going to be fine, and other conflicts lately have lead me back to my teacher, who has reminded me Miksang is so much bigger than any of us, and time and space can only help it to grow. And so I take a deep breath and do whatever is needed next. Birdfarm is helping me to clean up the forums (thank you, Birdfarm!) on Flickr, which is much-needed and will help a *lot* since this is the main -in some cases, only - way that the communities keep in touch with teachers...

And where am I in all of this? This morning, doing tonglen for a friend who feels very lost in his life and doesn't know what to do next in terms of work, I reflected on how I am not exempt from that fear, though it has a different flavor. I am very sure of what I am doing, though Laine will testify that I do have my moments when that isn't clear to me or anyone else, and my path is relatively clear - no major obstructions, tons of support, and early success. And yet, that underlying fear, that fear I thought would be alleviated by success or clarity, is still there. Funny how it never goes anywhere. One of my students this week spoke of "a layer of nervousness" and I imagined, realized, an image of nervousness always being there, of my life consumed in various strata of the bedrock of human existence - sometimes I subsist on the nervous layer solely for weeks on end, sometimes in the confident layer. Although I spend less time in the nervous layer nowadays, some of the stability (relatively) of work and home life (living with Laine is a godsend, and yes, two heads *are* better than one!) has actually allowed me to notice that that layer, for instance, and layers of fear, sadness, all the layers are, so far as I can see, always there. I can be up in confidence doing whatever, down in sadness and seemingly lost, and in the meantime, all these other possibilities are always there. I am not saying anything hundreds of great teachers haven't already said, but to really viscerally experience that for myself (it felt almost like a visualization, the way my students' words triggered this experience in me, which was momentary and I've been unpacking all week) had a profound effect on me.

Laine has been speaking a lot lately of nostalgia, almost to a degree where he has concern about it in his life - buying old albums, listening to old mixes, looking up old videos online, etc. I have had many periods of this and his nostalgia doesn't worry me in the slightest, and in fact, I have found I am having a new, weird version of this. I am nostalgic, but very interested in incorporating those things into my life right now. It's almost as if I am harvesting my past for nuggets of wisdom I chucked when I moved forward (which definitely was my former attitude toward past happenings - even successful ones - one of shame, of needing to "be better than the past"). This is also really making me reconsider some serious choices I've made in the last couple of years, as if seeing all these strata at the same time is also helping me to see more time periods at once, too - I feel like I can hold last year and this year at the same time, more frequently, than I could before, for instance.

I wonder at some of the choices I have made, and although I regret nothing, I see some things I want to change, or, at least, consider again whether I want to renew my commitment to these decisions. None of these things are really even discussable yet - as Laine and I found out the other night over wine on the back porch as the sun set - but more therapy material. But what I am interested in in this post is the quality of how I am not regretting anything, or worried about "having made mistakes", which would have been my foremost concern in the past. I am curious more than anything else - about what I thought I knew about myself, or what I *did* know about myself, or what information I was working with at the time. The difference between clarity now and clarity on the same situation a year from now is amazing to me. The same student who brought up "layer of nervousness" also mentioned that memoir is typically cited as a form which must be composed years after the fact, just to be able to write it - in some circles it's actually considered "impossible" to write memoir as it happens (which makes me immediately recoil as a rule, as it denotes how seriously denied journalling is taken as a "serious form" of any sort). I do think there is a nugget of something in there - not of truth, persay, as the truth is pretty shaky when it is all subjective, anyway, but of perspective. Honoring how I see things now as being a worthwhile thing, regardless of how I see it a year from now, is new for me, in other words.

Enough on this. Time to pack up and go stand up as the sole non-professor at a Marquette retreat and discuss contemplative education. I am very excited by what I have seen going on so far in this initiative, and it seems a far bigger thing than I had ever thought I would find in a University setting. More on it after the retreat...


  1. Thank you for this ... reading your writing put into perspective some of the readings I was doing a few weeks ago (Pema Chodron) and seeing it described in your writing gave me another vantage point to understand it a bit.

    And as for the layer of nervousness, that line has been with me, as well, this week, and found its way into the small amounts of writing I've been doing.

    I hope the retreat goes well!

  2. Thank you for the comments. It's nice to know someone is reading, though I know you all are out there!
    ; )

    The retreat went well - read away latest entry.