Monday, September 25, 2006

23 Sept. 2006

In the Saturday class with Tony McArthur he asked us to take five minutes and create a mind map exploring the reasons why we teach. It was a good opportunity to spontaneously “free associate” with myself about my reasons for teaching and to consider what my “spin” is, that is, to identify what is important to me and what I want to pass on.

So what does all this mean? I like the term “making connections in terms of relationships”. The word “connection” (Latin: necto; to bind), is one of the buzz words in the Byron Shire and it’s a good one. People here don’t “ring”each other or “meet up”, they connect. Regardless of this New Age speak, it’s rings true of individuals and communities trying to consciously interact with each other. This, I think is a response to the myriad of pressures upon us all in “post-modern life” and how these stresses can creep up on us and sometime overwhelm us and all of a sudden we ( I ) find that I’ve created emotional walls that start to separate me from other people. I get too self absorbed to connect. I am trying to build into my daily meditation a simple chant that stays in my heart all day. It goes like this,” Don’t forget to smell the roses” Nothing deep or profound, not even original, just an intermittent reality check.
I’ve been reading a paper by Margaret J Wheatley (1999) and she is a strong advocate of connections and networks. I find her writings refreshing, stimulating and in some instances, revolutionary. Here is someone speaking from the heart. Whilst I enjoy her approach and honesty there are a few issues that she raises that I feel I need to reply to in relation to me and my outlook as a teacher and individual trying to “make connections in terms of relationships”.
In Wheatley’s paper, “Bringing Schools Back to Life: Schools as Living Systems” (1999) she uses certain words/concepts that elevate her ideas to a universal level that bypasses the head (rational/intellect) and goes straight to the heart (irrational/feeling) She uses words and phrases such as “learning to partner with confusion and chaos as opportunities for real change…. participating in the mystery (of life)…. Surrender….to factor in instability, chaos, change and surprise”.
Wheatley quotes and gives anecdotal examples from Masters such as Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of the martial art of Aikido. The idea of using the wisdom of accomplished “Masters” in their field is nothing new to the West, especially in education and the arts but where Wheatley offers a” revolutionary edge “ is to include the wisdom of Eastern mystical masters and applying their insights into the Western education system.
I feel that whilst Wheatley offers a viable challenge on a profound and fundamental level to teachers and individuals to begin a journey that embraces change, her article doesn’t offer (nor does she acknowledge) what strategies to adopt when things go wrong and how to deal with this on a personal level. She insists that we all need to let go of the reigns of control and trust in the “dance of life”. I understand this and have experimented and experienced this “letting go” and have tasted the fruits of surrender. It’s a big call to expect individuals to heed the call” and take a leap of faith into he unknown” either personally or professionally.
I read a book recently by a Buddhist nun Pema Chodron (Shambala Publications 2000) called ‘When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice For Difficult Times”. This book concentrates on the Buddhist perspective of bringing order into disordered lives. This book offers insights and practical advice on how to use what you have handy in these difficult situations namely, your despair, painful emotions and negativity as tools to begin to begin to cultivate wisdom, courage and compassion.
It is signposts like this along the way that I draw a true sense of direction. They offer fundamental building blocks for psychological health and as a guide for navigating through what Wheatley calls the “instability, chaos, change and surprise” in our lives. I have found that the Buddhist perspective of life and death doesn’t shy away from looking for and confronting and integrating the dark side of the individual and collective experience and offers easy to follow guidelines for cultivating personal consciousness and awareness of our whole selves. As the eminent Swiss psychologist Carl C Yung states that the “shadow is ninety nine percent pure gold”. Here Yung is emphasising that the seeds of true personal growth are nurtured in our fears and insecurities and by facing these fears the seed germinates and grows to it’s full potential when we develop our courage to love and turn the darkness into light.
Some quotable quotes (and potential mantras)

A new world is just a new state of mind. John Lennon.

Be the change you want to see in the world. Mohandas P. Gandhi

And a prayer to finish on

Lord grant me the courage to change the things I can,
The humility to accept the things I can’t and
The wisdom to know the difference.


Wheatley,M.J. Bringing Schools Back To Life: Schools as Living Systems
In Creating Successful School Systems: Voices from the university, the field and the community. Christopher-Gordon Publishers, September 1999.

Yung, C.J. Memories, Dreams, Reflections. Harper Collins London 1983

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