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Lie Down

Nancy Paddock wrote this wonderful poem about letting go and just being in the world and not separate from it. I loved her imagery created in getting me down to ground level where we can live differently.

When I am at ground level, I am in the world and not outside and over it. I spend time in sabbatical wandering uncharted territory. This theme is emerging in my dissertation where I compare teaching to a hermeneutic exploration of the classroom, it participants, and living topics like a rich, textured landscape we navigate relationally. At ground level, teachers encounter, interpret, and understand a particular world that is their teaching and no one else’s teaching.

Parker Palmer has a quote about teachers using technique until the real teacher shows up. It takes time and patience; togetherness and solitude to bring this about. As I write and read, I think about what that meant and means to me as a particular teacher who is still coming to be in new ways particular to me.

Lie down with your belly to the ground,
like an old dog in the sun. Smell
the greenness of the cloverleaf, feel the damp
earth through your clothes, let an ant
wander the uncharted territory
of your skin. Lie down
with your belly to the ground. Melt into
the earth’s contours like a harmless snake.
All else is mere bravado.
Let your mind resolve itself
in a tangle of grass.
Lie down with your belly
to the ground, flat out, on ground level.
Prostrate yourself before the soil
you will someday enter.
Stop doing.
Stop judging, fearing, trying.
This is not dying, but the way to live
in a world of change and gravity.
Let go. Let your burdens drop.
Let your grief-charge bleed off
into the ground.
Lie down with your belly to the ground
and then rise up
with the earth still in you.

Inviting Silence

Until yesterday, I had not heard of Gunilla Norris and her poetry. Parker Palmer sent a Facebook message with this beautiful poem embedded. It is a long poem, but is worth whiling and lingering over. Parker Palmer writes about the need for silence in life. This allows us turn inward and listen as our soul speaks to us.

As I move forward in the dissertation process, several things stood out in this poem. Sharing silence as a political act reminded me of how the polis consists of persons where exchanging anything suggests we act politically. In the early writing stages, I argue that teaching is a series of ongoing political actions as we choose the way we teach and what we teach.

Thich Nhat Hanh suggested we find the extraordinary in the ordinary. It is in the lives of each person that the extraordinary potentially emerges. It is in a thoughtful pedagogy that this can emerge in our self, our children, and their children. It is Sabbath’s silence we find space.

Within each of us there is a silence

–a silence as vast as a universe.

We are afraid of it…and we long for it.

When we experience that silence, we remember

who we are: creatures of the stars, created

from the cooling of this plant, created

from dust and gas, created

from the elements, created

from time and space…created

from silence.

The experience of silence is now so rare

that we must cultivate it and treasure it.

That is especially true for shared silence.

Sharing silence is, in fact, a political act.

When we can stand aside from the usual and

perceive the fundamental, change begins to happen.

Our lives align with deeper values

and the lives of others are touched and influenced.

Silence brings us to back to basics, to our senses,

to our selves. It locates us. Without that return

we can go so far away from our true natures

that we end up, quite literally, beside ourselves.

We live blindly and act thoughtlessly.

We endanger the delicate balance which sustains

our lives, our communities, and our planet.

Each of can make a difference.

Politicians and visionaries will not return us

to the sacredness of life.

That will be done by ordinary men and women

who together or alone can say,

“Remember to breathe, remember to feel,

remember to care,

let us do this for our children and ourselves

and our children’s children.

Let us practice for life’s sake.”

A Noiseless, Patient Spider

When I looked for a poem to post, I found this Walt Whitman verse. It reminded me of the writing of Mary Oliver, Parker Palmer, Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh, and others who write about the quietness needed for the soul to emerge. It is like to a wild animal, perhaps a spider, which is timid and reluctant to emerge as we crash around. As we sit quietly and listen, it emerges for us to see and listen more closely.

A noiseless, patient spider,
I mark’d, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;
Mark’d how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,
It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;
Ever unreeling them—ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,
Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,—seeking the spheres, to connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form’d—till the ductile anchor hold;
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.

The Need to Win

Yesterday, I was writing and getting ready for class this morning. I pulled The Promise of Paradox by Parker Palmer off the shelf and looked for a reference. When I opened the book, it was to the page with this poem on it. When I focus on the need to win, as Chuang Tzu suggested, I am drained of power and divided against myself. The way to victory is to let go of the chase for victory and the avoidance of defeat.

We talked about the binary world we live in. Winning and losing are part of this binary. They sit at extremes and point in opposite directions. When I let go of and let myself enter the between space, I find my way better.

Take care and enjoy Sabbath.

When an archer is shooting for nothing

He has all the skill.

If he shoots for a brass buckle

He is already nervous.

If he shoots for a prize of gold

He goes blind

Or sees two targets—

He is out of his mind!

His skill has not changed. But the prize

Divides him. He cares.

He thinks more of winning

Than of shooting—

And the need to win

Drains him of power.

Vocation

I re-read Parker Palmer‘s Let Your Life Speak. It is the one time of the day I don’t take notes I just read. Last night, I began Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s Life Together.

Parker Palmer wrote about the shared etymological roots of vocation and voice. William Stafford expressed a similar message. We find our way through life as we make meaning out of life. It comes with the good and the not so good which sometimes, when we look back in the rear view mirror, we realize the reverse is true.

I am reading on my dissertation topic: curriculum and technology use. I chose a couple of books which say the same thing about schooling and it would be a radical departure. Education is about conversations, integrates roles of teacher, student, and subject. We find our stories, our voices, and our calling in life in and through circles of conversation. Here we let the silence speak as well. It is a mindful way to live and requires our full attention.

This dream the world is having about itself
includes a trace on the plains of the Oregon trail,
a groove in the grass my father showed us all
one day while meadowlarks were trying to tell
something better about to happen.

I dreamed the trace to the mountains, over the hills,
and there a girl who belonged wherever she was.
But then my mother called us back to the car:
she was afraid; she always blamed the place,
the time, anything my father planned.

Now both of my parents, the long line through the plain,
the meadowlarks, the sky, the world’s whole dream
remain, and I hear him say while I stand between the two,
helpless, both of them part of me:
“Your job is to find what the world is trying to be.”

Harrowing

Parker Palmer wrote this poem with double-meaning in the title. I can live life as a process which ravages, furrows, and scars m face. Living in the past does this. Life is harrowing that way. Or, I leave the travails of yesterday as humis or humility as a foundation for a new crop. I can turn soil, make it richer, and create a greener world.

The poem reminded me of Gadamer‘s concept of fused horizons which is emerging as a central concept in my journey. We can build on the past by using it, good and bad, as a way of making the future a better place. Today’s view; this moment is the place we find our way from.

The plow has savaged this sweet field

Misshapen clods of earth kicked up

Rocks and twisted roots exposed to view

Last year’s growth demolished by the blade.

I have plowed my life this way

Turned over a whole history

Looking for the roots of what went wrong

Until my face is ravaged, furrowed, scarred.

Enough. This job is done.

Whatever’s been uprooted, let it be.

Seedbed for the growing that’s to come.

I plowed to unearth last year’s reasons—

The farmer plows to plant a greening season.

Cutting Loose

Only four students attended today. These students struggle with school for various reasons. I think it is because they are cast aside by adults. They want adults in their lives to set boundaries and be real. I asked a student what he had learned after we completed a Math question together. He responded you are always right, meaning me. I made a mistake in my calculations. We laughed. I told another student I did not like Math when I went to school either. When adults lighten up and are genuine they make an impact on children who need help.

William Stafford reminded us to be genuinely human, cut loose, and have fun. Parker Palmer suggested: “Teachers live on the most vulnerable intersection of public and private life.” Yes, we are vulnerable , but children and adolescents smell the disingenuous when we are not authentic.

Sometimes from sorrow, for no reason,
you sing. For no reason, you accept
the way of being lost, cutting loose
from all else and electing a world
where you go where you want to.

Arbitrary, a sound comes, a reminder
that a steady center is holding
all else. If you listen, that sound
will tell you where it is and you
can slide your way past trouble.

Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path — but that’s when
you get going best, glad to be lost,
learning how real it is
here on earth, again and again.

Of Mere Being

Wallace Stevens wrote this beautiful reminder that we each have work to do. I recall something Jon Kabat-Zinn said: “Find a Job with a capital J. Stop doing someone else’s work. Find work that makes you complete.” I paraphrase here. It is easier to be fully present as fulfilled persons.

Thomas Merton and Parker Palmer wrote about the common roots of voice and vocation. I find meaning and completion in the work I do. Somehow, I make the world a better place. As I find my voice, my being made whole and any holes in that being filled. I understand the meaning  of my life’s song  with perhaps no clear meaning to anyone else.

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance.

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird’s fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

Human Hearts and Spirits

I had another great day at Teacher’s Convention. Made another contact for my dissertation process. It is quite interesting the willingness of people to help.

Harry Russ who provides the blog wrote this beautiful poem. I finished reading Margaret Wheatley‘s book, So Far From Home. She referred several times to human hearts and their capacity for love and kindness. Parker Palmer, in his book Healing the Heart of Democracy, referred to the heart being able to hold so much. Harry’s Russ’ poem reminded me of their writing and I think he is on to something: the heart and the spirit combined have incredible capacity.

“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the human heart can hold.” Zelda Fitzgerald

…But if I might be so bold
While I don’t know the exact amount
From what I have found
I believe
The human spirit
Can store
Even more

For the Children

I began reading Meg Wheatley’s book So Far From Home. Similar to Parker Palmer, she uses poetry to bring her message to life. She quoted Gary Snyder at one point and I recognized it from a retreat I attended. Her point is we live in a world of relationships and not just science. When I look at the sadness of our world, the constant conflict in it, and the violence, I can only wonder if it is a result of loneliness and separation we experience? I will ponder that during my Sabbath.

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

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