Education as a Life Theme (or, Why I love driving time)

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I have been driving a lot this weekend, from my new apartment in Ithaca, NY to my sister’s in Ellicottville, NY, to Cleveland for my aunt’s 90th birthday, and back. I love driving, alone or with my dog Sophie, because it frees my mind to reflect.

Education is our Life Theme topic for September. This is one of the most ubiquitous or common Life Themes that most life mappers identify, whether as a set of influential “shaping event” experiences early on in life or running throughout.  As my professional role has been as a Teacher (and Student) for most of my life and still, Education has certainly been a dominant Theme in my own Life Story. Whereas other Themes such as Romance have had a variable or even a Roller Coaster sort of patterning, Education has always been, at least on the surface, an increasingly uplifting experience, patterning as upward tending, step-like plateaus of learning and adventure. For many a life mapper, Education events are consistently +5 (extremely positive impact) experiences which maintain an uplifting theme of stability and growth.

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Sometimes—I am learning recently—I need to ask my inner Teacher to step back a bit, to listen more closely to what others are sharing during a time of transition and adaptation after my Big Move. Still, Life Lessons abound, which are a part of my own Education theme.  After all, Life Itself is the greatest Teacher of all, n’est-ce pas?

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Education opens our minds and hopefully our Hearts as well, to new ideas and fresh experience. It is so important to remain open as such; even though we might have learned a great deal from a certain belief system, for example, it is imperative not to close our minds to ideas from outside that system if we are to continue to grow and develop.  Here is a relevant passage I have recently been gifted with from David Steindl-Rast (from Belonging to the Universe, IN: God in All Worlds, Lucinda Vardey , ed., Vintage: 1995, pg 22):

We search for meaning, we search for belonging, and that means that we are all exploring God-territory. But that territory is so vast that you can go on forever and ever exploring one part of it and never meet other groups that explore other parts. There are certain crossroads where you chose to go in a certain direction. After that, you are not likely to reach the territory others are exploring who took a different turn.

Drive On!

I welcome YOUR Story and Comments.

Life Lessons from Your Work

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In today’s world most of us engage not just one job throughout our adult lives but several, from early jobs as a youth gaining some experience or training to later career work that might be better attuned to our interests and sense of purpose.

As a self-discovery exploration I invite you to make a list of your workaday jobs.  Note your age when you started and (if) finished each job, and write a brief job description. Then consider for each job:

What LIFE LESSON(s) did I take away from this activity?

To pilot this Tool, allow me to briefly engage with this myself to see where it may lead:

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  • Horse drawings (around 6-7 YO): I loved to draw horses (always wanted my own horse and never had one, though I did get to help with horses at local stables in Pennsylvania with my sisters and friends). After feeling I had mastered a basic horse drawing design, one day I went around the neighborhood door-to-door, offering my artwork for a dime per drawing. Neighbors were supportive and I felt a sense of accomplishment. LIFE LESSON:  It is okay to share with others your creative products.
  • Ice picking at the community Peach Festival in Lewiston, NY (15 YO): First paid job, and I didn’t stay with it long enough to be paid.  Terrible work without any safety gear. I still have scars on my hands from inexpertly hacking away at a block of ice for some stall owner who did not care.  LIFE LESSON: Use proper discrimination before accepting a responsibility; be sure you will be capable and safe.talkeetna-1624101__480
  • Crab and salmon cannery, Yakutat Alaska (19 YO summer) LIFE LESSON: Life is a Great Adventure!fruit-3215625__480
  • Grape vineyard and peach orchard, solo farm hand (20 and 21 YO, summer work to help pay for college spending): This was my first real job, a job of choice. I knew I needed to work but did not want a “normal” job such as waitressing or secretarial labor. This was outdoors and I worked mainly alone in the fields or driving a tractor. The farmer gave me many responsibilities, which I loved! (…Until the day he became inappropriate with me; I left shortly after that, not to return.) LIFE LESSON: Follow the beat of your own Heart; Enjoy responsibility and work hard to excel.   I learned how I dearly love to work hard and produce positive results.
  • Ushering and parking booth attendant at a new performing arts center (22 – 24 YO) : I enjoyed every aspect of this and was promoted to Head Usher. LIFE LESSON: Exciting opportunities abound (I almost accepted a job in NYC becoming a nanny for a world class symphony conductor’s family; loved the variety of shows and the elan of performance.)architecture-3111558__480
  • Tutoring English at my undergraduate college (21-22 YO): Fell in love with teaching. LIFE LESSON: I can be of positive service through sharing knowledge by helping facilitate learning in others.
  • Research Associate and Teaching Assistant, and Faculty adjunct at community colleges, while in  graduate school (14 yrs in grad school). LIFE LESSONS: Many. professor-1993129__480
  • University teaching (pre-tenured and then tenured faculty, and Chair two terms), 25 years. LIFE LESSONS: The importance of following my own inner guidance and developing detachment from academic politics or personality clashes; enjoyment of working with wonderful students; also the value of maintaining my spiritual focus and creative activities separately from the academic setting.fantasy-3313964__480images are from pixabay.com
  • Spiritual services roles (44 yrs, many different roles and opportunities). LIFE LESSONS: How to be a spiritual co-worker with others in voluntary roles; and how to stand back to help facilitate spiritual seeking and growth in others.
  • Writing for publication (many years): LIFE LESSONS: Persistence, commitment, dedication, willingness to work and rework; editing; then eventually morphing the project to team-based efforts and ultimately being able to release and share the work with as broad a readership as the book may reach. (Joy and the desire to produce more in service to Life!)

So, what might your history of Life Lessons from Working reveal? I see in mine a widening arc of responsibilities and a growing love of creative expression and Service. I love the feeling of independence that comes with varying responsibilities along with the expansion of knowledge and the capacity to grow from working with others as well as alone. I can hardly separate work from life as a whole, as the lessons have abounded holistically.

As I now prepare for a fast approaching retirement from my main academic position, this exercise has helped me to understand that this process will never dissipate but will only continue to expand!

So, what is YOUR story? I invite you to engage your own reflections about your Life Lessons from Work!

Pass It On!

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Here is a quick activity: Think of one mentor who has taught you a valuable lesson. What was that lesson?

Second, how have you sought to impart that lesson to others? What has been the result?

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My quick response:  “Patience is a virtue.” (from Diane) I aim to teach this to my students, especially advanced students working on research projects or thesis papers. I have seen many of these students take some great strides. For myself, I use this principle daily, now in yet another book editing romp.

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images are from pixabay.com

I am amazed daily at the miraculous interweaving and orchestration of Life.

“Love is all, and do as thou wilt.”

(Stranger By the River, by Paul Twitchell)

…and gladly teche

 

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I have been fortunate throughout my life to have encountered and learned from many excellent, inspirational Teachers, not only in school environments but in life! In my next post I will share about several of their key influences as mentors and I will invite you to celebrate your mentors too, but today I want to focus on just one of them: Mr. Oliver. It is the memory of his distinct inspiration (and a few others from early grade school on) that led me confidently in the direction of serving as a Teacher myself for now over 38 years.

Mr. Oliver was on the English Department faculty at my undergraduate college where I majored in English, in Buffalo, New York.  He did not have a doctorate as most of the faculty there did; he had started teaching in a one room schoolhouse when he was 16 or 18 years old and taught from his growing experience from then on. Mr. Oliver specialized in Chaucer’s The Canturbury Tales, and I met him as a student in a class on that subject.  Middle English rolled off Mr. Oliver’s tongue as a native language to him, and I marveled and delighted in his fluency with what remained essentially a beautiful but foreign language to me throughout the semester.

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The story I am to tell (like the pilgrims of the Canturbury adventures) about Mr. Oliver relates to the time of his death. Yes, really!  When I took my Chaucer class with Mr. Oliver, he was 69 years old. At that time (1973 or so), the university required faculty to retire at 70. As he had been teaching for over 50 years, all of his students felt badly for him that he would have to retire, at all. He was the consummate teacher who was ardent about his topic and centered his life around his teaching. 

In the Spring of 1974, about two days before the end of what would have been Mr. Oliver’s final class, he died. Honestly, when we students talked about his passing we were happy for him! He did not have to leave his teaching life before retiring unto the Beyond! But this story relates to another one that he had shared with us during the Chaucer class.  Once when he was in a hospital and needed an appendicitis operation, the anesthetic drugs wore off before the operation was finished. Mr. Oliver told us that for the remainder of his time on the operating table, which was at least another hour or more, he simply recounted the entire Prologue to the Canturbury Tales, in its entirety!

So, when Mr. Oliver passed, among us students we shared a passage that we had learned from him from that Prologue. To us it signified everything he meant and imparted to us:

And gladly wolde he lerne,

and gladly teche.

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images are gratefully from pixabay.com

I welcome YOUR comments and Stories!

“Let’s Meet on the Inner”: An Internal Dialogue Practice

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For this month of the archetypal Communicator, I offer you a method for working with a challenging relationship conflict in a positive, constructive way.

For a difficult situation involving communication challenges, you can “go Within” to engage with the person(s) involved, or alternately, you can meet with an Inner Guide and have a conversation with him or her about a snaggly situation. This is a form of what Carl Jung would call Active Imagination.

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If you are having troubles communicating with someone because of a personality conflict or in relation to a sticky situation, you can set some quiet, private time aside. Go into a light contemplative/ meditative ‘zone’ (eyes closed in a semi-darkened space or in a natural setting) and imagine that the person or persons you’ve been having trouble with are present in a conference room (or create your own internal environment that is appropriate for your visit).

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Start a conversation. It can be very simple and does not have to be directly about the challenging situation you are facing. What is important is that this is a positive exchange. Allow the internal conversation with your ‘alter’ to proceed naturally, as if you and this person or persons are meeting Soul-to-Soul with a shared intention to move beyond your snaggles and to arrive at a positive, win-win solution.

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As an example to demonstrate the approach, around 15 years ago I faced a difficult situation with a workplace colleague. Coming from polarized theoretical approaches for teaching, the impasse between us reached the point—very uncomfortable for me—that we would avoid contact with each other altogether.

Then one morning I woke from a lucid dream encounter with this person (let’s call him Carl). In this dream encounter, I simply met Carl in passing. I beamed a positive smile, made Soul-to-Soul eye contact, and said, “Hello Carl!”. That was it. But it had the most amazing effect! That very morning at work, I was in the mail room when Carl walked in. Seeing we were ‘stuck’ alone in the mail room together, we made eye contact for the first time in several months.

               “Hello Carl!” I beamed, smiling.

               “Hi Linda,” Carl replied also with a smile.

That was our entire conversation, just as in the morning’s lucid dream. Somehow, it set into motion an immediate, significant thawing of our relationship. We no longer avoided one another, and in fact shortly after this encounter, Carl applied for and received an out-of-state position that would allow him to advance in his career. (I had put the job notification in his mailbox!) Within 3-4 months, Carl left, with the two of us in a much improved relation, as I even organized, as department Chair, a farewell party for Carl.

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free images are from pixabay.com

I invite you to try this technique for yourself. Imagine an internal conversation with someone you seek to have a better relationship with. You are not trying to change this person, but you are simply allowing a Soul-to-Soul encounter that may be difficult to engage in “out Here.”

I welcome your Comments and Stories.

(P.S. I will be on a road trip for the next month, so blog posts may be on a less than regular schedule.)

Lessons to Glean from your Inner Teacher

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As an educator for nearly forty years, and always a student as well, I have had many opportunities to learn from my inner TEACHER Archetype Ally, also from my ‘outer’ teachers, and from both inner and outer Spiritual Guides I have discovered and welcome within my ever developing consciousness. Teaching is a way of life dedicated to serving All Life and to stimulating progressive unfoldment toward manifesting personal ideals and values, or indeed, ‘better endings.’

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Some of my own lessons gleaned from the PRACTICE of Teaching include:

Flexibility: This is the greatest tool I feel that a Teacher will demonstrate often.  Whatever the lesson plan might be, you must meet the student aspirants where they are at. Every student and every class has their own character and begins at their own level based on their prior experience and goals. What worked once before with teaching a lesson or a topic might not fit the needs of the current student or class, so you must respond with a new approach, tailored to the interests and needs of the individual as well as the group. Generationally these needs change and develop over time, so as you continue to teach, you must become ever more flexible too.

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Listening: Empathy is a strong Teacher trait that develops from the skill of listening closely to the questions—and attending to responses or actions—of your individual student. Why does a student choose their specific research topic; what is it they are hoping therefrom to learn or to discover? Why does a student resist a given lesson? Is their personal background experience leading them to assert a certain approach? How can you ALLOW that which the student is there to learn of their own character? You are in this sense but a willing servant the student has chosen tohelp them take their next steps in understanding, inspiration, or self-discipline. Reveal to them the tools they can use to take their own next step forward.

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Goal-setting: Education is a progressive process of setting out to experience ever-new vistas and horizons. Whatever we learn fertilizes the grounds for further learning in a never-ending adventure. The Teacher helps the aspirant to establish their own aspirations and to attain realizations of their goals, of any form. Whether the Goal is one of DOing, KNOWing, or BEing, the Teacher serves as a positive example of one who shows there is always a Way to manifest worthy goals.

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 Creativity: Whatever the topic of study or art, the Teacher fosters creativity, not simply sterile methods or rote repetition of facts or ideas. Ultimately the Teacher must stand back to facilitate the student’s own inner Teacher potentials. For when the class is over and the student has graduated, the student must have gained their own capacity to proceed forth to successfully encounter new challenges and opportunities on their own.  In fostering creative abilities in the student, the Teacher also shows their own willingness to learn; to encourage the student to become the Teacher, and so Life itself continues to unfold and adapt.

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What have YOU learned from developing your own archetypal Teacher traits? How do you share this with others in your life? The outer Teacher—while genuinely someone who has developed the knowledge and skills you aim to comprehend and use—is also in a sense but a projection of your own inner Teacher potentials, so that learning is as standing before a Mirror to perceive and unfold your own inherent, latent qualities, especially when you seek to learn from a well advanced instructor or Guide.  

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images from pixabay.com

Authentic teaching/learning is self-tailored; the Teacher becomes a transparency through which you find your own Way. While this may seem to characterize especially those spiritual forms of Teacher you might aim to emulate, every Teacher is THE Teacher, the Teacher in YOU, too.  And so the true TEACHER demonstrates detachment and humility, knowing in the end it is YOUR process you seek to advance, YOUR lessons that the Teacher is charged to help you to teach yourself in such manner as you can unfold the knowledge and  the capacity to proceed forward on your own and share with others.

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I welcome YOUR reflections and stories!

 

Practice What You Teach

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Here is an oldie but golden adage: “Practice what you Teach!” This month we are exploring how the Teacher Archetype Ally, which is our  ‘unconscious’ Teacher part of Self, can help us attain to what we may construe as ‘better endings’ in our life choices and pursuits, so this saying is entirely relevant!

Here’s a self-discovery technique I invite you to practice:

First, make a list of what you teach (or, focus on ONE precept you often aim to help others to understand); then second, journal, contemplate or share with a loved one about how practicing that precept has or could help you to improve upon some aspect of your life currently or in a foreseeable future scenario.

As usual, I’ll start the reflection process by way of example, then I welcome you to practice this self-discovery on your own

One PRECEPT I often share with others which I have learned from the spiritual teachings of Eckankar is:

“IS IT TRUE, IS IT NECESSARY, IS IT KIND?” (Answer these three questions before you think, say, or do any action.)

  1. How have I practiced this that has lead to some better endings?

“Is it true, is it necessary, is it kind” (in THAT order) has often helped me to formulate a statement or frame an action in response to potentially stressful situations. When some interaction (e.g. some email exchanges in the past) have gone “very wrong,” in retrospect I did NOT apply this practice. In one of these exchanges in particular, after contemplating how I should use this approach, I was able to do a very helpful mid-course correction, resulting in a much more heartful and positive interaction. In fact because of this principle, I asked that this email exchange would shift to a person to person, face to face chat, and that indeed “made all the difference.”

2.  How might I practice this precept with respect to some foreseeable future scenario?

As a department Chair at work I need always to practice this precept. I can place this on a placard and place it on my office wall:

     IS IT TRUE? IS IT NECESSARY? IS IT KIND?

This placard, visible to myself and to those with whom I interact at my office, can help everyone to be more aware and Mindful. This can only have a better endings effect for  all concerned!

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images from pixabay.com

Now it’s your turn. What teaching do you often impart that is also beneficial for you to practice mindfully?

I welcome YOUR comments and stories!

THE TEACHER ARCHETYPE

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TEACHER is such an obviously universal Archetype. The role of Teacher exists in all cultures throughout history in relation to the sub-archetype image of the Learner (or, Student). This relationship and the roles expressed may take different forms, though.  Some Teachers instruct quietly by their very example; others may be more didactic and direct.

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One of my favorite Teachers served as a role model for my own apprenticeship to teaching while in college. Antoinette Mann Paterson (now long departed from this pale plane) was a Philosophy professor at the college I first attended in Buffalo, New York.  She would teach in front of a large Introduction to Philosophy class with her eyes closed! It was like she was channeling the information to be transmitted to the young, fertile minds in the classroom. Then suddenly she would open her eyes, turn and face a specific student with a direct question.  There was something amazing to me about the passion she displayed.

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One day Dr. Paterson had been invited to visit a class in Creative Studies which I was taking.  I arrived about twenty minutes early to the open studio area we held our class in; she was already there, sitting unidentified with a couple other students around a table. Suddenly she turned to a young man who had brought a paper mache piece of art he had created for another class. “How in *** did you DO that!”, she asked him. “I could not do that; how did you transform paper, nothing really, into that magnificent FORM?” The student was dumbfounded. I don’t remember how he might have tried to answer Toni.  But this is how she began introducing us to a “Philosophy of Creativity”.

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Another time at the beginning of a semester I went to Toni Paterson’s office to ask if she would conduct an Independent Study for me.

“About what subject?,” she asked.

I said the first thing that came into my mind: “ Silence,” I answered; “A philosophy of Silence.”

In the course of our following discussion, Dr. P. asked me what I thought about the meaning of Life. I had been in a depressed state at that time because of something that had affected me emotionally the prior summer. So, I answered her: “Life…Really? So, what?”

“Take out a pen and a piece of paper,” Dr. Paterson directed. “Now then, I want you to write down a question with two words in it: ‘SO …WHAT?’ Bring me the answer in ten pages or more by next Thursday!”

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When I came back to Dr. Paterson for my conference the next week, I had scoured a wide range of literature about the meaning of life. But Toni Paterson took this further. She sat me down at a table with a pencil and a large sheet from a sketching pad. She asked me to arrange “WH-question words” around the corners of the blank page: WHO? WHAT? WHERE? WHEN? WHY? Then as we talked she drew a diagram linking all these to a central, newly constructed word: WHAN! That was the answer to “So, What”, she suggested:

“The answer to ‘So, What?’ is “WHAN!”

She was so right! Whan, that elusive common denominator principle has from that moment on been a torch of Light in the Darkness for me.  There doesn’t need to be an answer to everything; the ESSENCE is WHAN! See? This enigmatic Lesson lifted me from my depression. Life didn’t have to have a meaning or to “add up to” anything; It IS what it IS; it JUST IS! This freed me to start thinking “outside the Box” (or as a later friend has taught me: “There is no box!”)

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So, how did Dr. Paterson TEACH me such a life affirming lesson? First, she set me to task, rather than trying to answer my facetious question, “So, what?” for me. Second, she took that question of mine quite seriously, as a matter I was deeply concerned about. Third, she helped guide me to a satisfactory resolution of the anxiety I brought to my question, by encouraging me to read about what others had thought about in relation to my subject (showing me I was not alone in my angst). Then she helped me to comprehend a deeper underlying principle that gave rise to the question in the first place!

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Toni Paterson was THE TEACHER incarnate! I have never forgotten HOW she approached teaching, and this has helped me to cultivate my own TEACHER strengths.

But what do I mean by calling THE TEACHER an Archetype?  What do you think? Have you ever “let out” your TEACHER part of Self? Sure, you have, right?  I still after 35 years of university teaching often feel THE TEACHER coming forth through me in a classroom. When I first began teaching, I knew I could rely on “stepping into” the ROLE of TEACHER in order to overcome my naturally introspective personality and to shine forth expressively to share about what the students were there to learn.

Maybe you have experienced your own Inner TEACHER in your role as a parent or as a scout leader; or, when you have felt a strong impulse to share a point of view that you feel instinctively someone else could benefit from hearing. We all have a bit of THE TEACHER within us, as well as the counterpart character of the LEARNER. In fact, a Teacher cannot but be the Learner first!

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I am deeply indebted to and grateful for all of the wonderful MENTORS I have experienced as Teachers in my life. These were not always formal classroom Teachers; they were friends, family, even my pets who have taught me the true meaning of Life! Which is WHAN?   Yes, that’s right; it is the WHAN of unconditional or divine Love, the essence of Life Itself. For, what else ever really matters?

I welcome your Insights, Comments and Stories!