Need-to-Know Basis: All the News That’s Fit to “Push” and Process

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(Image from Shutterstock)

Since I’ve been back from India, I’ve been reflecting on my relationship to the news, what I read, what I watch, what I listen to, and how it affects me.  I had originally started writing this entry last week and had hoped to conclude it yesterday afternoon.  Then the news of the bombings at the Boston Marathon broke, and suddenly I needed to rethink what I had planned to say in light of this developing news story.

Yesterday afternoon, I  found my phone and tablet popping with “push alerts,” bulletins that media outlets deem important enough to send right away, so that they show immediately, as would a text message, phone call, or voice mail message.

As the story unfolded, I learned, with increasing horror, of the first estimates of injuries and the death toll.

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This morning,  both my phone and tablet alerted me that the FBI was investigating the bombings as a possible act of terrorism.

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Last week, when Margaret Thatcher died, no less than five news outlets sent a “push” alert. Three of these alerts came from national news sources, while the last two were provided by local news stations. Later that day, I received three news alerts that mouseketeer Annette Funicello had died. Other breaking news alerts later in the week included UConn victories, Louisville defeating Michigan to win the NCAA Men’s Basketball title, and reports of multiple stabbings at Lone Star College, major accidents in the far corner of the state, and a traffic tie-up less than half an hour away.  Of course, these were added to the Facebook, Scrabble, and Words with Friends alerts that pop up on my phone to inform me that someone has taken a turn or shared something with me.

By contrast, for the nearly two months I was In India, I learned five pieces of news that I can recall. Two I learned from my partner via one of the precious 200 international text messages we had on our plan:

  1. A blizzard had dumped 36 inches of snow at home in New Haven.
  2. After nearly 19 years in office, the mayor of New Haven had decided not to seek re-election.

As other people came to stay at the campus in Khajuraho, I learned of two other major stories:

  • “Fiscal Cliff: The Sequel”: Congress was apparently deadlocked, and we were in danger of tumbling off the fiscal cliff. Again? And then we did tumble off that cliff. Again?
  • The pope had resigned for reasons that were largely unclear. I initially didn’t believe this story at all. In fact, for a time, I was convinced that somebody had mistaken an Onion story for a real article.

Finally, and I imagine somewhat reluctantly, our teacher, Panditji, told us of a stampede at the Kumbha Mela, where we had been in weeks prior, near where another group traveling under the auspices of the Himalayan Institute was currently staying. According to news reports, like this one in the New York Times, over 30 people were killed. Staff was worried that we might get messages, as I did, from home with family worried about our whereabouts or the safety of others currently in the area.

And, strangely enough, and this may sound like heresy coming from someone who has worked as a reporter and now teaches journalism courses and advises a student newpaper, I didn’t miss knowing more, not one bit. Granted, my travel, study, and practice as well as the cognitive load of adjusting to an unfamiliar culture were likely offering me more than enough to keep my mind busy.  However, even when we would go into town, and right there on the screens of the computers at Shiva Internet was a Yahoo News page, I didn’t give more than a passing glance. I remember seeing a large picture of President Obama and a headline that talked about Republicans fighting one of his proposals. “Well, that’s different,” I joked. “I can see that not much has changed since we’ve been gone.”

Of course, my situation is more than a bit unusual. A large part of the reason that many of us made the pilgrimage to India was to have time away from our everyday lives and their attendant demands on our attention, to fully immerse ourselves in the culture and to take more time for study and practice.

Yet even now, having had the chance to disconnect from the constant stream of news and information, I find myself really noticing how these relatively frequent bulletins intrude on my attention and amp up my anxiety level. I find myself wondering just how much I need to know, when, and at what cost.

Of the alerts I got last week, for example, few were actually information that I needed to have at the moment they were received. While I’m sorry for Margaret Thatcher’s family, I wasn’t exactly a fan of her policies or a subscriber to her political philosophies, and, even I were, it’s unlikely that learning so quickly of her death would have conferred any additional benefit. It’s sad to lose an American icon like Annette Funicello, but, again, this was not something that required my immediate attention. I’m happy for UConn, but likely would have been watching the game if I was heavily invested in the outcome. The major accidents were, for the most part, not information I could use, although learning of the jam-up on I-95 would have been of great use to me on my commute. While the Lone Star shootings were clearly breaking news, I was in no imminent danger that necessitated me knowing about the situtation as it unfolded.

The Boston bombings, however, were of such a nature, scope, and seriousness that I could understand why these were “pushed” to the phone and tablet right away.   I wanted to know what was happening, how many people in my region had been injured or killed, and as much as I could about the motive for the attacks.

At the same time, with this and the Lone Star story, too, especially on the heels of the Newtown shootings just a few months ago, I also felt the now familiar and potent mixture of dread and fear and curiousity. Not another one. What’s happened now?

As Gavin DeBecker, author of The Gift of Fear, told PBS back in the late 1990s: “In normal, human experience, we would experience the calamities in our own lives. In the abnormal, bizarre experience that you and I are having today…we experience the calamities in everyone’s life. I see a local news story about a bunch of people hanging out of a building in a fire, and ladders and emergency, and it looks terribly alarming, and I turn on the sound and it’s in Caracas, Venezuela. Well, I’m here happily to tell your viewers that the fire in Caracas, Venezuela cannot burn you. And the hostage-taking scene with the gunman at the supermarket that’s 40 miles away, since bullets only go one mile, cannot shoot you. And the kinds of things we see that are designed to make us watch, by using fear, those headlines that say, you know, ‘Cellular phones can kill you. News at eleven. Earthquake dust choking your children. News at eleven. Contaminated Thanksgiving turkey kills family of three. Could your family be next?’ Those are all real. Well, in LA that contaminated Thanksgiving turkey was one turkey in a community of 11 million people. So I’m here to say that turkey could not kill your family next unless we all had very small servings. That was one turkey. It’s designed to get around our reasoning ability and go right to the emotional fear response.”

Today, in an environment of always-on Internet and smart phones, we have countless new opportunities to have that “emotional fear response” triggered in us.   And with social media and reasonably high-quality camera and video capabilities available to us on our mobile devices, tweets and Facebook “news feeds” become yet another way in which to increase both our knowledge and our anxiety levels.    In fact, at one point yesterday afternoon,, watching an amateur video of the first explosion and then a slide show of the scene at my computer, I found myself slipping into a near trance until I snapped myself out of it. It’s not that the bombings are not profoundly tragic and sad and frightening, of course, but how many images do I need to see, how many eyewitness accounts do I need to read, to grasp the full import of a crisis or disaster?   And how graphic do these images and accounts need to be?  In fact, WNPR host and Hartford Courant reporter Colin McEnroe warned Facebook friends and followers yesterday to exercise caution when reviewing tweets about the marathon:  “Be very careful about clicking on images posted on Twitter. Some of them are upsetting and graphic. I’ve seen at least two I wish I hadn’t seen…and I get paid for this.”

We know, too, that the fear response that DeBecker speaks of has an impact on our overall health and well-being. A number of studies suggest what many of us have already experienced, that repeated exposure to disturbing images and reports of violence and disaster can bring about changes in mood and increase anxiety, sadness, and depression, especially in those already prone to these conditions.

That’s why wellness gurus like Dr. Andrew Weill suggest periodic “news fasts,” taking a few days or even a week away from news as a sort of mental cleansing.

But Weill and others seem to presenting a sort of all-or-nothing proposition, at least at first. The only way to bring our media consumption into line, then, is to completely detach from it. For a recovering news junkie like me, that is not the most realistic option. Whatever its faults, the mainstream media remains our best way to obtain the kind of information we need to make informed decisions as citizens.   One of the easiest choices,  of course, would be to simply shut off all notifications on the tablet and phone.   Yet, like many other Americans, I have a desire to know and a desire to know as soon as possible, a desire only exacerbated by the 24-hour news cycle popularized by cable news networks. In shutting off less relevant news, I would have missed news that might have been particularly helpful or important to me.  

I’ve learned, however, to be more aware of how and when I consume news.  After finally making the connection that a late-night diet of murder, mayhem, and disaster was disturbing my sleep, for example, I no longer watch television news before I go to bed.   Instead of beginning my days with a breakfast of carnage and conflict, I start with my practice and some inspirational or pleasure reading or a long walk before checking in on the rest of the world.   Since returning from India, I am more aware that, once I have the basic facts, what I’m really looking for is a deeper understanding, a larger context, something that is unlikely to be available in the form of a bulletin or news alert.    I find myself searching, too, for stories that, in the midst of all the darkness and despair, uplift, that explore all of the acts of love and everyday heroism, like the one The New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof  shared via Facebook yesterday:  “Most inspiring glimpse here of the Boston marathon: runners who reportedly finished the 26 miles and then ran over to Mass General Hospital to donate blood.”

Yet, as  much as I’d like to say that I plan to shut off all news alerts, I haven’t done so yet.   Why?  For me, it seems that knowing what’s going on immediately, particularly when those events are of particular relevance to me, is of greater importance than the benefit of completely avoiding the shock or disruption of these alerts.  At some point, perhaps, that will change.  In the meantime, though, I do generally have sounds shut off, so that I need to be looking at the screen in order to receive these alerts, and I make more of an effort now to shut off the devices when I won’t be using them or when I need to pay sustained attention to what I’m doing, such as when I’m writing.   I have also noticed, as was the case both yesterday and with the Margaret Thatcher and Annette Funicello stories, that the same basic information seems to be pushed out from a range of sources within minutes of each other.  Perhaps another way to cut down on the impact of these alerts on the central nervous system, then, is to cut back on the sheer volume of them.

Finally, in times like today, too, when information, updates, and speculation about a particular news story are hurtling toward us at a rapid pace, when we may be struggling with sadness, anger, or other strong reactions,  I’m reminded of the power of one of the fundamental principles of yoga. This principle, pratyahara, withdrawal of the senses, is the fifth limb in the eight-limbed path of yoga.  Free of my normal daily duties, I had a chance to enjoy pratyahara for longer periods than I usually can when I was in India, and the impact on my state of mind was profound.  I felt more focused, present, and creative than I had in some time.  It is one of the reasons why this principle, always an element of every yoga class I teach, will be the primary focus of the class I teach tonight.

When we practice pratyahara, whether in meditation or in savasana, our final relaxation pose in yoga class, we go within, closing the eyes to help us to block out visual stimuli, the way that we tend to take in most of our impressions of the world.   The breath naturally begins to slow, and we find ourselves disconnecting from the normal, waking world.  We may hear sounds or smell smells around us, we can feel the support of the earth or cushion under us, but we don’t feel a need to respond to this sensory input in any way.

In this way, we have a chance to practice widening the gap between stimulus and response that Viktor Frankl so famously wrote about in Man’s Search for Meaning,   After all,  he writes, In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”   As we become more aware of and expand that space,  then, when we return to our everyday lives, we have a chance not only to choose how we respond to the stimuli we can’t keep from coming at us, but also to make some clearer and more careful choices about the stimuli we allow in, more willing to weigh the benefits against the costs.

Categories: Reentry | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In Praise of Stumbling

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Soon after I posted my last blog entry, I realized that two of my entries had “stumbling” in the title. The previous entry, “Stumbling My Way Home,” took the first stabs at exploring some of my discomfort at re-entering my everyday life, while an earlier entry, “Stumbling into Another Khajuraho,” delved into the accidental discovery of a neighborhood far from the rough and tumble of the shops and stalls and shouted invitations and exhortations closest to the temples, Khajuraho’s main tourist attraction.

For a few minutes, I actually contemplated going back and changing the title. Of course, this is one drawback of Writing 2.0, the ability to revise after publication. Feel free to insert a long sigh and a world-weary tone here: “Back when I first start writing, kids, I walked two miles in the snow to get to my typewriter and in order to change anything, I had to get white out all over my fingers or re-type the entire page or even the entire piece…” Still, even after we all quickly transitioned to the wonderful world of cut and paste and endlessly available revision, once something was submitted for publication, it was largely out of your hands, and you found yourself either accepting whatever mistakes you had made, or, if it seemed especially crucial, throwing yourself on the mercy of an editor or, worse yet perhaps, a professor.

Yet I quickly changed my mind about another title, both because I wanted to preserve the immediacy of the writing and my initial impressions because, in both cases, the title seemed to convey something important about the experience. As luck or fate or synchronicity would have it, at the same time, while looking for something else, I found a favorite quotation by Sri Aurobindo: “By your stumbling, the world is perfected.” And so I kept the title, and then added this entry, now making a total of three entries that contain the word “stumbling” in the title, in case you were counting.

Of course, all of this pondering got me thinking anew about my time traveling to and around India. In fact, so many of my most memorable and sweetest experiences came about through stumbling. We stumbled into that other Khajuraho, to be sure, but we also stumbled, both here and Allahabad, across homes and lean-tos, entire villages, fields of mustard and wheat, countless temples and shrines, palace ruins, across water buffalo, nilgai (very large bluish antelope that can weigh over 600 pounds). We stumbled across monkeys, sadhus, groups of children, farmers and goat herders (like the friendly gentleman above), markets and shops, and into a range of conversations on topics ranging from spirituality to intimacy to democracy to the caste system in India to the best ways to cook rice or learn Spanish. Nearly every day, Faith and I would walk out of the front gate, look off into the mountains, and choose another peak to investigate. We never failed to stumble across something new, even when we thought we were covering familiar ground. Every day in India brought some sort of happy accident.

Indeed, every great story of a road trip or travelogue that I can think of includes the unexpected detour or the misstep that resulted in a great adventure. However, we all stumble in so many other ways, as well, into job opportunities, new careers, friendships, relationships (even marriages), and all sorts of experiences in ways that are sometimes wonderful and sometimes less-than-so. Sometimes I worry that some of my college students are so wedded to their phones and computer screens and friends and family at a physical remove that they are missing chances to make those unexpected new connections with classmates. Though hardly a substitute for these face-to-face interactions, even if you never leave your computer, though, you can still happen upon endless opportunities for a dizzying range of ideas and perspectives. In fact, a whole site, aptly named “Stumble Upon,” promises “Tell us what you like, and we’ll introduce you to amazing web pages, videos, photos and more that you wouldn’t have found on your own.”

Now that I’m home, beginning to work through the sometimes daunting volume of journal entries, jottings, and photographs I’ve amassed during my time in India has reminded me that the creative process also requires a surrender to stumbling, a willingness to follow your thoughts wherever they want to take you. As E.L. Doctorow said, and I am fond of quoting to my students, “Writing is like driving at night. You can only see as far as the headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” At times, the drive will unexpectedly take you somewhere serendipitous, nearly magical. At others, you’ll take a wrong turn (or three) and find yourself dead-ended in a dark alley. However, just as Robert Frost famously said, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.” Even those days where my original plan hasn’t even come close to panning out have yielded something else, at times something equally or more interesting or even delightful.

This has been, perhaps, one of the greatest gifts of my sabbatical, the freedom to surprise myself, not only through travel, exploration, practice, and research, but through long spans of uninterrupted time for writing, reading, and learning, time to tease out the various themes and threads I’m finding in this raw material, what Natalie Goldberg calls, in Writing Down the Bones, “composting.” “Our senses by themselves are dumb,” she writes. “ They take in experience, but they need the richness of sifting for a while through our consciousness and through our whole bodies.” In fact, she reminds us, “We aren’t running everything, not even the writing we do. At the same time, we must keep practicing. We must continue to work the compost pile, enriching it and making it fertile so that something beautiful may bloom.” This has meant giving myself permission to explore on my own before I begin sharing more through the blog or other means. I know that this continuing attention to and acceptance of the “composting process” will only make me a better teacher when I return to the college.

My yoga and meditation practice have also benefited, both here and in India, from a willingness to stumble. After all, Sally Kempton, perhaps one of the best meditation teachers and writers I know of, reminds us, in the wonderful Meditation for the Love of It, which I devoured while in India, that meditation is a relationship: “like any other intimate relationship: it requires patience, commitment, and deep tolerance. Just as our encounters with others can be wondrous but also baffling, scary, and even irritating, our encounters with the self have their own moods and flavors. Like any other relationship, this one changes over time. And it is best undertaken with love.” My practice on a given day, then, might be deeply nourishing and peaceful or frustrating and difficult. In order to continue practicing, no matter what the circumstances, no matter what tumult I bring to it, I have to be willing, as Kempton counsels, to experiment, to explore, to be creative. Maybe there is a new way to approach a particular pose, a new focus to bring to my seated practice, a new practice to try, or a new teacher who might have something unexpected to show me. The only way I’ll know, though, is if I am willing to take the chance on trying something new that just might not work right away—or at all. As both a yoga teacher and a college professor, too, some of the best moments come from deviating from my original script, from making a last-minute switch based on observing my classes and what my students seem to need the most, not from stubbornly clinging to my plan, even when it’s clearly not working.

As I continue to allow my travel, practice, and study in India to inform my work, practice, relationships, and play here at home, then, it’s not that I’ll just be staggering around aimlessly (although—fair warning—there is likely to be some of that). Instead I’ll continue to look for opportunities to take a different route home, wander down an unfamiliar trail, plan a little less, leave more empty space in my calendar, and to be more patient when things don’t turn out quite the way I expected, working to remember that something better than I’d planned might be the result. In so doing, I hope to enjoy the “peace of mind” Larry Eisenberg promises when he asks us to “resign as general manager of the universe.” Just in case no one tells you in the exit interview, none of us was very good at the job anyway.

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Stumbling My Way Home

Sadhu along the road to the Kumbha Mela in Allahabad.

It’s hard to believe that it’s already been nearly a week since I returned home from India. Aside from a few quick visits with friends and family, a few calls, returning some of the more pressing e-mail, text, and phone messages, and one somewhat overwhelming (but entertaining) sojourn to New Haven’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, I’ve been lying uncharacteristically low. It isn’t that I haven’t missed everyone. It’s just taking me longer than expected to really arrive. (In bad relationship parlance, then, “It’s not you. It’s me.”)

Part of my desire for quiet, to be sure, is an unexpectedly intense case of jet lag. I’m used to returning from overseas trips and powering through–within the space of a few days–by sheer force of will. I admit that I only half-believed Sandy, who has years of experience traveling to and from India, when she warned me that I would be “functional” within three days but wouldn’t start feeling fully like myself until about ten days in. Here at Day 6, I’m pretty certain she was right. By noon each day, it is already late at night in Northern India, and I am working very hard not to succumb to a long nap.

And repeat. And repeat. And….

Yet there is something else at work here, too, something deeper. These days of punch drunken time shifting have also been a time of gathering, sifting, and reflection. At the same time, I am working through the inevitable re-entry process, beginning to integrate what I’ve learned into my day-to-day life. (Some would call this my “real” life, but, at this point, it’s hard to say what seems more dream-like, my time in India or my return here.)

After all, in our time at the Institute, meals were taken care of, and we had little to think of except our practice, study, occasional lectures and yoga classes, and satsangs (literally, “true company,” informal gatherings of teacher and students to discuss philosophy and practice). Our limited decision-making focused on such crucial issues as which peak we wanted to try to conquer on our morning hike, when to do laundry in the bucket, what snack to have with our afternoon chai, and when we would feel ready to make another jaunt into town for Internet (and omelets.) We had a rare opportunity to spend long periods of time with like-minded people, and I had some wonderful conversations with all sorts of new friends. (For more on the structure of my last month in Khajuraho, click here.)

It certainly wasn’t all serious practice, stoic silence, and contemplation, however.

Nope. I’m not quite sure I can explain this picture either.

By contrast, on our way home from the airport, I found myself standing in a Starbucks in Westport staring up at the board and trying to comprehend where I was and remember how to ask for a medium coffee. (I can’t be certain that my mouth wasn’t literally agape at that point.) Back at home, the next day, I forgot how to access our voice mail. The day after, I walked through my neighborhood not quite feeling as though I was really here. Later, I staggered around the grocery store wincing under the fluorescent lights, which seemed much brighter than I remembered, and at the assault of bad pop music, baffled by the dizzying range of choices.

So much of my travel in India and navigating through cities and towns was a riot of color, sight, smell, and sound, yet somehow, in a way I’m not sure I can yet put clearly into words, there was also a sense of a fundamental order and connection underneath all of it, something I don’t feel here in the States. In some small way, I’m reminded every day of the words of Nelson Mandela: “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

Just as in the those last weeks at the ashram in Khajuraho, I find myself lately wanting to talk less and let the experiences (both internal and external) of the last seven weeks settle. I certainly understand that I’ll never be able to fully communicate what my time in India has meant to me, but I also know I have pages and pages of writing and literally thousands of photographs to sort through, reading, interviewing, and research I want to do for my sabbatical project, and I’m ready to take those first steps to beginning to make sense of all the raw material I’ve gathered.

In the meantime, periodic text messages and emails with fellow travelers have helped make the transition a little bit more smooth, as has maintaining my daily practice (and listening to the “Indian Vibes” station on Pandora.) I am trying to keep in mind something of which I so often remind my yoga students, that ahimsa (alternatively translated as “compassion,” “non-harming,” or “non-animosity”) is often referred to as the “supreme” yama (restraint) of yoga, and ahimsa always begins at home, with ourselves. Thus, I’m giving myself the time and space I need. Feeling a little tender, a little tentative, perhaps a little overly protective of the clarity, calm, and tranquility we all worked so hard to cultivate, I am reemerging. If you suddenly find me staring off into the middle distance or furrowing my brow, however, please be patient. It may take me a few minutes to remember the difference between a “grande” and a “venti,” to parse a long menu, or to decide which of the 72 brands of dishwashing detergent I want. I’m confident that some day very soon, I will be back completely and ready to share more of what I’ve learned and am learning.

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Of Mice, Monkeys, and “Mind-Stuff”

Many years ago, studying Zen meditation, I learned the term “monkey mind,” which some teachers use to describe our conscious mind and the way it darts from one thought to the next. Meditation, then, is designed to help us to get beyond “monkey mind” to what Zen Buddhist and writing teacher Natalie Goldberg calls “wild mind,” a more expansive state beyond distraction and ego. This state, she argues, can be found both in meditation and in the creative process: “When I think of wild mind, I think, Big sky. Usually we put a black dot in the sky and pay attention to just that dot….With wild mind, you live with the whole sky.” In fact, moving beyond our conscious mind is essential to living a fuller life and being more successful creatively.

My less structured time here in India has allowed me to dive into and reflect on two translations of The Yoga Sutras. In the Sutras, readers are introduced to vrittis, a Sanskrit term that literally means to revolve or whirl about. In this context, vrittis are thought patterns or cognitive acts. Sutra 1.2 tells us that “Yoga is the stilling of the changing states of the mind.” As anyone who has ever meditated or tried to will themselves to stop thinking will tell you, however, the “stilling of these changing states” is not accomplished once and for all in meditation, but is an ongoing process in every session. In fact, vrittis are often likened to waves that we must each learn to ride or surf, what one translation calls “mind-stuff.”

Here at the Khajuraho campus, far from home and family and work, many of the ordinary details that would distract us from stilling our minds are gone. Meals are prepared and provided at pre-determined intervals, along with morning and afternoon chai. The Internet access that has become such a ubiquitous part of our lives back in the States is unavailable here without a trip into town, so gone are the siren calls of immediate Googling of any question that comes up in conversation, e-mails, Words with Friends, or Facebook notifications. For most of us, our primary goals and “to dos,” aside from Panditji’s assignments for our meditation practice, are self-created and quite loose. Cell phones rarely ring here, and, when they do, most conversations are necessarily brief, as spotty cellular signal and international rates tend to discourage lengthy discussions.

Rather than car horns or neighbors, we hear the goat herders whooping to discourage predators and move their herds along, hyenas’ eerie laughs, jackals howling, parrots chattering, other birds singing, and the monkeys, who sometimes veritably pour down the mountains and will spring into motion at the slightest noise or rustle from us. They lope along the ground with their long tails unfurling behind them, or swing from tree to tree. I have seen many of them on my hikes near campus, but to do so takes patience, persistence, and a willingness to remain very quiet. They don’t stay long.

The other day, we watched from behind the solar-powered electric fence as one particularly cheeky monkey feasted on what appeared to be a crop of legumes.

The whole compound is designed to encourage peace of mind and quiet, and being surrounded by like-minded people and wise teachers has had a profound impact on my practice. Without consciously trying to do so, I have at least tripled the time I spend in meditation with relatively little discomfort.

Yet “monkey mind” is still hard at work, musing about what snacks might be at afternoon chai, what so and so meant by that cryptic comment at breakfast, who thinks it’s a good idea to zip and unzip their coat in the meditation room, who’s breathing like that, why that person doesn’t go outside to cough. Insipid lyrics from songs we’d hoped we forgotten may pop up, or, more seriously, some thorny problem or long-standing issue will re-present itself in glaring high definition for our consideration just as the waves slow down and we begin to settle into stillness. That old saw that nature abhors a vacuum is very much in evidence in a retreat environment. Without the usual “mind- stuff” of our everyday life to distract it, our mind quickly gets to work at manufacturing new material to occupy itself.

This morning, for example, at just a bit past 1, a mouse began scurrying around our hut, waking my roommate and eventually me. At one point, he apparently had climbed up the wall and began doing laps around the ceiling. Because of a neighbor’s recent unexpected visitor, we’ve removed any kind of food from our room. A fitful sleep followed, as both of us remained on high alert, scanning the room with flashlights like police on a man hunt.

A bit of context: These are not your average New England field mice. If they were, it would be less of an issue. In fact, we all initially thought that the one that the staff trapped a couple of weeks ago was a rat because it was so large. And rats are one of the few creepy crawly things that I just can’t abide.

So there I was in meditation at about 4:30 this morning, operating on very little sleep. In the shrine, a beautiful space designated for just this and only this purpose and with plenty of practice, I rather quickly settled in and began to find that stillness, until there it was–the mouse, not the mouse from last night, which I hadn’t actually seen, but a very large, very vivid version of the one I had seen in the trap outside my neighbor’s hut.

Not content to rest with that image, my monkey mind quickly jumped to recollecting the story that the mouse we’d trapped had run across our neighbor’s head, which led me to wonder if it had run across my head, if it might be in my sleeping bag right now, or making its way there. That led me to wonder if it was actually in my duffel bag, which I had left partially open, even though I’d already checked, which led me to remember that there were wrapped Kashi bars in two Ziploc bags and wonder if those were still in there and if mice could smell through all that wrapping and plastic, and then….Well, you get the idea.

As I’m always telling my students, though, just because you have a train of thought doesn’t mean you need to get on, and you can get off at any station. The more we practice stilling the mind, the more quickly we realize when we’ve been derailed and we can get back on track, whether that track is the focus of our meditation, a creative project we’re working on, or giving our full attention to a person with whom we’re talking.

Last night’s yoga class with Shari offered another reminder, a dramatic external one, of this important concept. Panditji has added a new element to the unstructured time for those of us who are extending our stays here, with a daily hatha yoga class that ends with pranayama (breath control) practice and extended relaxtion. Shari’s classes have been yet another gift, a wonderful reminder of what I am always telling my yoga students about asana (the physical postures of yoga) as meditation in motion, a way of moving energy (prana) in the body and helping to still the mind. Classes are taught on the roof of the shrine, with an open view of the sky and surrounding mountains. Each class ends with a breaktaking view of the sun beginning to set over the hills. Yesterday, at one point in the class, someone suddenly laughed and drew our attention to the monkeys scrambling down the hill, scrabbling along the rocks, and staring up at us as they moved here and there.

At the end of class, we slowly made our way down the stairs in a typically blissed out state. Suddenly someone gestured out over the railing. A crowd of about 20-25 monkeys had gathered and sat just behind the fence, completely still and focused on looking at us. For a number of minutes, we stood there in silence watching them watch us.

There at the railing, watching the very animals who inspired the concept of “monkey mind” stop and drink in the benefits of our stillness, I was freshly reminded of my own experiences of settling more and more deeply into quiet and clarity since I’ve been here, freshly motivated to continue working with the mice, monkeys, and mind-stuff that are sure to pop up in the big sky of my practice.

On a hike the other day, I caught one of our simian friends just outside our campus in a deeply peaceful state.
Categories: Khajuraho, Yoga and Meditation | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Stumbling into Another Khajuraho

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Can you see why we’re so reluctant to leave this place to go into town?

This morning, Faith and I again hired a cab to meet us at 7:30 a.m. and take us into Khajuraho, a 7-mile journey that takes anywhere from 15-20 minutes if we leave early enough (30 minutes or more if we leave a little later.) We have decided to book a flight back to Delhi in March and leave a day later, rather than taking the longer bus journey and stopping off in Agra, site of the Taj Mahal. Success! For just about $80, we will trade a total of about 19 hours on a bus for a flight that is just over an hour and perhaps even have a chance for a quick afternoon tour of Delhi.

Khajuraho is such a striking contrast from the peacefulness and tranquility of the Himalayan Institute that what we sometimes jokingly call it “The Dark City” or “Mordor” (Thanks, Kristin!) In another entry, I described K-Town (our other quasi-affectionate nickname) as a “tourist town without enough tourists.” While there are some great places and wonderful favorites already (Raj Cafe, the temples, some small shops, Shiva Internet), it is a place where you have to be on high alert and run a gauntlet of street vendors peddling tall, skinny brass Ghandis and Kama Sutra playing cards. (I so want to talk to them about varying their merchandise, so that they’re not all trying to hawk the same wares to the same band of tourists.)

Every day that we’re in town, the same barber shouts at me to come over to one of the street corner boxes for a haircut, a shave, or even, the other day, hair color. (There seems to be a fashion trend here for Indian men that involves dying their very dark hair with a sort of rust-colored highlights that bring to mind that 80s beach staple, the spray bottle of Sun-In, which we all thought made us look a little sun-kissed, but now we realize just made it look that we’d used Sun-In.)

From nearly every shop, someone shouts, “You come to my shop! Very nice!” or “Remember me?” or “Hey! You! From Ashram! You have not seen my shop!” Adults and children greet you with a “Good Morning” or “Namaste!” and then pepper you with questions about where you’re from, where you’re going, and where you’re staying as a prelude to offering an unsolicited tour or service at best or a major con at worst. If you say no, most will inevitably say, “Okay, you come back later…” This has gone on so frequently that Faith recently shot back, “No, we return never.”

As a result, we usually plan a visit of just a few hours to check in with home, check e-mails, have an omelet at the Raj and perhaps run a few quick errands. Yet mornings are a little lower key here, so we decided to take advantage of the opportunity to preview some other places to which we might like to return. In search of sights and stores we hadn’t already seen, we wandered down a side street and out of the tourist sector and into a neighborhood.

Suddenly the “Good mornings” and “Namastes” carried no hidden agendas. People stopped or slowed their morning tasks to stare openly, smile, and greet with wide smiles that acknowledged a couple of unfamiliar faces clearly out of place.

We were invited to visit a Hanuman temple as an elderly man was making a puja (offering) and approached by a couple of young men (probably around 10 or 11) who wanted to make conversation, practice their English, and show us their school behind two bright blue double doors. It turned out to be no more than the size of a small American guest bedroom. Children sat cross legged on the floor doing some sort of writing exercises. “Good morning,” they sang out to us at their teacher’s urging, laughing and giggling and nudging each other. Their teacher, in halting English, told us they did not enough pencils, pens, or books, so we offered what we felt we could spare.

As we looped around back to the lake to make our way back downtown, we met a young mother and her daughter (around 2 years old or so) making offerings at the small shrines there. She greeted us and tried to gently encourage her daughter to practice her English, “Say hello. Say how are you?” She then smiled and gave another Namaste before returning to her morning ritual of circumambulating each shrine, chanting softly and making offerings.

Our little detour had us returning to the travel agency to change our departure time, but it was well worth it for the chance to see a brighter side of The Dark City. Our driver was quite accommodating about the change, although he couldn’t resist giving me a gentle ribbing. When I assured him that we would certainly understand if he couldn’t wait, he said, “No, no, I am at your service. You are my customers. This is my job. I will wait one hour late.”

He paused, shrugging and smiling, “And it is not the first time.”

While I would hate to keep him waiting again, in some ways, I hope it won’t be the last.

Categories: Khajuraho | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

“You’re Soaking In It!” The Shape of My Days

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When I was growing up, a Palmolive commercial ran on heavy rotation nearly every day. In it, Madge the Manicurist enthuses about the moisturizing qualities of the dishwashing liquid she’s touting, how it softens hands while you do your dishes. When her client seems skeptical, she proudly crows, “You’re soaking in it!” (Strangely enough, the client never balks, storms out, or demands a refund.)

As is typical of fellow Gen X’ers, childhood memories of a range of television-related references can pop up unbidden at the most inopportune times. Ellen DeGeneres, in fact, has a great bit about this: “I was in yoga the other day. I was in full lotus position. My chakras were all aligned. My mind is cleared of all clatter and I’m looking out of my third eye and everything that I’m supposed to be doing. It’s amazing what comes up, when you sit in that silence. ‘Mama keeps whites bright like the sunlight, Mama’s got the magic of Clorox 2.’”

So it is, then, that the other day, as I reflected on my time here since our group left on Tuesday, this commercial, which I haven’t thought about in years, suddenly leapt to mind. I am, in fact, “soaking in it.”

This has been a wonderful opportunity for me to deepen my meditation practice and study, which has also been inspiring me to write and take photographs as well. Every day, I seem to slow down a little more, and my mind quiets still further.

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As predicted, the days have taken on a different shape now.
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We’re up early, either for practice or to make our way to the dining hall for morning chai. Below is sunrise over the shrine.

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Chai is served at 5:30 a.m. and, when I’m ready to settle in, it also offers me a chance to set up my office and sit down and write. I fill my thermos and get right to work.

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I’m often joined by Jean, who sets up her own writing space nearby. Either just before or just after, but before breakfast at 8:30, I meditate. If there’s time, I may climb up to the roof of the shrine to do some asana (physical postures) before or after. After breakfast, there’s time for reading or study or more practice or more writing, or hiking in the hills or a visit to the nearby village, a trip we took the other day, until we ended up on a dirt road, surrounded by fields or wheat and mustard on all sides.

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Two young guys on a motorcycle pulled up, cut the engine, and, despite the fact that they spoke no English and we speak no Hindi, worked hard (and repeatedly) to persuade us to accept a ride back to the Institute. We’d smile and shake our heads and politely say no. They’d shrug and laugh and pull away, only to meet us a number of feet ahead and perform the same pantomime.

Later on, they asked us (we think) to make our way down a path to where their friends were taking fruit off a large tree in the distance, miming eating fruit. Later on, Faith and I talked about how strange it is to other cultures that we choose to walk places when we have other options. After all, their days are so long and full of physical exertion that they hardly need any additional exercise.

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Lunch is at 12:30, and the afternoon brings time for more practice, reading, writing or a hike.

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Faith calls this photo “santosha” (contentment.)

As you might imagine, chai time at 4 p.m. is a big highlight of the day, particularly for generally overcaffeinated American folks like us. There’s always some sort of treat offered, whether puffed rice and peanuts, or samosas, or something sweet, and it’s a great time to catch up with the others. Panditji often stops by to chat or share some news.

At 6:30, we have yet another meal, and, afterward, some of us will often take a stroll around campus before a final practice before bed. At 9:30, evening prayers are played, and most nights, I’m asleep immediately afterward. 10 p.m. has become a late night for us.

Faith and I decided to have a little “Sunday brunch” this morning in town. The omelets are delicious, reminding me of the kind of thin mixture my mom and grandmother used to make when we were kids. We’re also celebrating Faith’s Level 1 Para Yoga certification (Go, Faith!) As a result, I have a chance to make this post from my other “office.”

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Not only is the Internet connection excellent, the other day we got advice about the best place to change money at the most reasonable rate, and a little dose of personal philosophy. “If you approach others with an open heart, with love,” quoth the guy who was working there that afternoon. “You will receive love back.”

Today I had my first chance for a long FaceTime conversation with Jim and to see the firsthand the staggering amount of snow they’ve all gotten back home. (I’d already imagined it must be pretty impressive, as the college’s system has texted me five times to tell me classes are cancelled. Quit it, already. That counts against my international plan. Ouch!)

This afternoon, when we return to campus, we’ll be moving again, to our permanent quarters, another Eco Cottage, as a new group is expected in Tuesday night. Our routine will shift yet again, as our less structured days will be altered by the influx of people (about 150) who will be operating, as we were, on a very full schedule. It will be interesting to see what changes that will bring to the shape of our days ahead.

Categories: Khajuraho, Yoga and Meditation | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Another Tirta: Crossing Over

In one of his lectures in Allahabad, one of my teachers, Rolf Sovik, shared the idea, from Diana L. Eck’s excellent India: A Sacred Geography, of India as a land of tirtas, places of crossing over. While in Allahabad, we took a boat to the Sangam, a site on the Ganges where three rivers meet, believed to be a place of great auspiciousness. Hindus and those of other faiths, come from all over the world to bathe at this site, believed to be a vortex of great power. Later on, as we walked to the Kumbha Mela on another day, we came to another site where people who don’t have the means to hire a boat, bathe from the shore.

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The tirta, or crossing over place, as it were, for us as yogis, he argued, is India itself. What is it like, he asked, to live in a place that supports our yoga and meditation practice and is its origin? What is like for a person who was born into a faith that we are crossing over into as yogis? After all, we became yogis, but most of us weren’t raised by them. We are watching people practice their spirituality right in front of us without embarrassment, Rolf added, and we are working to find an unembarrassed practice ourselves.

All of us, he said, come here wanting to acquire something and wanting to leave something behind. I find in this concept and Rolf’s account of it some useful food for thought for one of the central questions I’ve been exploring: What does a pilgrimage to and through India mean to us as Westerners? After all, as Rod Stryker, another one of our teachers, reminded us that “India is not a vacation. It is a pilgrimage.” Finally having found reliable Internet at Shiva Internet (!) here in Khajuraho town, I came across a great quotation from Mark Nepo that Andrea had posted to my Facebook page: “”To journey without being changed is to be a nomad. To change without journeying is to be a chameleon. To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.”

And every time I get on another bus (and I have been on many on this trip), I am reminded of the idea of this journey as a pilgrimage. I have quickly adjusted to traffic careening in all directions, including but not limited to: children, chickens, wild dogs, large cows, Tuk Tuks (three-wheeled taxis), old men with canes, sadhus (holy men), large delivery trucks, other buses, water buffalo, boars, and herds of goats.

In fact, my travels thus far have led me through some amazing places and experiences. While impossible to summarize here in one entry, and something I will want share much more about later, this morning, in relative quiet, I have had the chance to let some of the memories spontaneously spring to mind. Among other things, I’ve had the chance to wander the Taj Mahal.

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(That was Kathryn’s idea, by the way, to have me do chair pose in front of the Taj Mahal, except that she forgot to photograph the lower part of my body.)

I’ve visited a variety of sacred sites and holy places, monoliths, and tourist sites. I’ve played cricket with the boys in Chatnag, the village down from our Allahabad campus, met their “aunties,” and helped them to practice their English.

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I’ve wandered the carnival that is the Kumbha Mela, which Panditji describes as a sort of “spiritual trade show” and, under the auspices of the Himalayan Institute, enjoyed with our group a special audience and reception with an important swami.

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(I actually met the swami himself, not just his life-sized cardboard likeness.)

I’ve been invited, with just two other friends, to enjoy a very intimate puja (offering) ceremony in Chatnag, where an intiate was clearly being trained. It was truly one of the most deeply spiritual experiences of my life, as was the chance to practice at the Shiva temple just outside the temples on the Western side of Khajuraho, the only active temple there, a vibrant, funky, music- and joy-filled celebration around a giant Shiva lingam.

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(That’s Sue, Faith, and I outside the Shiva temple near the Khajuraho temples.)

I’ve learned that Khajuraho is, in many ways, a tourist town without enough tourists, so the shopkeepers and street peddlers are aggressive at a level I don’t think I’ve ever experienced. I’ve had the opportunity (many times) to feel like a rock star, including outside the Hanuman temple at the Khumba Mela, where Westerners are obviously quite rare, and I was asked time and time again to take pictures with a wide range of family and friend configurations. I’ve been welcomed with greetings and kindnesses that rival the warmest and most sincere that I can remember ever experiencing in my entire life and regarded as a easy mark because of the color of my skin.

I’ve visited another shrine outside of Chakari, hidden way back along a winding dirt road and up a long set of stone steps that fairly hummed with bhakti (devotion) and shakti (energy).

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This was after Mr. Rajput (spelling unknown at this point), a two-time member of Parliament, treated us all to a completely unexpected ceremony that began with what seemed an entire town surrounding us buses, showering us with marigold petals, and treat us to an elaborate show of folk dances, a tour of a 300-year-old palace he is renovating, songs and performances from children from a number of local schools, and a marching band.

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I’ve begun to experience some of the chaos and contradictions, the endlessly multiple layers of activity and meaning, that make up the India I am coming to know. I’ve learned that seven miles in India, particularly rural India, is a much further distance to travel than seven miles in the US. (And I’ve learned that when an Indian driver tells you that the trip will take about an hour, this can mean anywhere from an hour to four.) The roads are narrow and not well kept up, so deciding to go into town, which we did for the first time in a smaller group of five today, is itself a pilgrimage.

I’ve had the chance, in the midst of all of this activity, to deepen connections with some of my friends in my sangha (community), one that extends from Connecticut to Colorado and beyond, to make new friends, and to deepen my practice. After all, how could one’s yoga and meditation practice not be improved on the banks of the Ganga, the most sacred river in all of India. Many mornings I would open my eyes after morning practice to see the sun just beginning to glisten over the river.

I have learned how to take a refreshing bucket bath, to enjoy washing laundry by hand in another bucket, and how to sleep comfortably and weather unseasonable thunderstorms in our unheated “Eco Cottages,” fashioned of bamboo and sea grass. I have found myself inspired to take many, many photos, to write many pages, and to continue learning. It has been, so far, a fulfilling and inspiring start to my sabbatical, feeding me in all of the deepest ways. I am missing family and friends, but I know I will be bringing so much back to share with them and with my students and colleagues.

Here outside Khajuraho, a smaller group of us (10-12 or so) are now experiencing another tirta. The group of 200 (!) we traveled with left Tuesday morning, bound for a return trip to Agra and a farewell dinner and shopping in Delhi. We have four more weeks here in India, and the next group doesn’t arrive for a week. While I’m sure that adventures remain, our highly scheduled activity and travel is over. This is my time to begin to digest, to practice, to write and reflect. We’re surrounded by little local temples and goat paths that lead through the mountains and fields.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to meet with my teacher, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, who checked in with all of us individually and gave each one of us some specific and individualized advice about continuing our practice, setting up a special area for us to do so in the mediation room. Mornings or afternoons offer a chance to practice asana (postures) on the roof of shrine. On a number of mornings now, I have had the chance to literally salute the sun as it comes up ver the mountain during morning sun salutations.

As I had imagined so long that I would, I sat underneath a Neem tree reading the scholarly translation of and commentary upon the Yoga Sutras that I’ve been saving for this very trip.

It is deeply peaceful and nurturing on campus, and a pleasure and joy to be surrounded by like-minded people.

Today, we set out seeking omelets (I hadn’t predicted how much I would miss eggs!) and Internet and to do a little shopping in what one of my friends jokingly called Mordor, The Dark City, the other day. We steeled ourselves to fend off hard sells and cons, knowing we’ll return to campus and chai and quiet and discovered a very kind and helpful Internet cafe called Shiva Internet.

When we’re ready for another smaller pilgrimage to town, I’ll check in again. Thanks, everyone, for your well wishes and quick messages. I’m not sure when we’ll make the journey back to town again, but I look forward to sharing much, much more in the future.

Categories: On the Road | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

The Best Exotic Slumdog Marigold Hotel for Millionaires to Eat, Pray, Love

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“Is This, Like, An Eat, Pray, Love Thing or Something?”

This question came from an unlikely source a couple of weeks ago in class, a twenty-something male student who is clearly not the target audience for either the book or the Julia Roberts film. Much of the class, mostly also traditionally aged college students, nodded knowingly and laughed. After all, here was this 6 foot 4, male professor in his forties in front of them. It couldn’t possibly be that, could it? I imagined that they had conjured up an India full of softly lit ashrams with bearded guys in long flowing robes dispensing Yoda-like nuggets of wisdom and toothy Hollywood yoginis with flowing hair seeking solace and finding romance. They couldn’t figure out where I fit in the frame.

In fact, it’s been very interesting to see the range of reactions when people learn about my trip, reactions that reveal how so many of us see India.

Some sort of blankly stare into the middle distance and say, “Hmmmm….” or “Wow” or “How interesting” (as if it isn’t remotely or as if they are completely puzzled and aren’t sure how to politely say so.)

Others ask if I’ve seen “Slumdog Millionaire” or “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” or “Eat, Pray, Love,” as if those were not Hollywood depictions designed to further a narrative but detailed travel guides. (For the record, I’ve seen “Slumdog” and “The Best” and enjoyed them. “Eat, Pray, Love” still sits in my Netflix cue. I enjoyed the book and feel I should see the movie, but it looks pretty awful.)

Last week my dental check-up and physical provided yet two more examples of the kind of contrasting reactions I’ve gotten so far. After learning about the trip, my dentist shared that he had just returned from a 10-day trip there (he didn’t say where, and I couldn’t ask, as his fingers were in my mouth.) He had loved it.

“It is an incredible place,” he enthused. “You can’t begin to imagine the sights and sounds. It’s complete overstimulation, but I loved it.” Aside from a caution about being careful about using untreated water to brush my teeth, he had little negative to say.

His response was quite similar to my neighbor, who is Indian, and expressed immediate delight when he learned about my trip. For years now, his daughter has brought American friends to stay with her and family in India. “You are going to have a wonderful experience,” he said, before giving me some useful advice and a few frank warnings about travel and health.

In fact, many co-workers, friends, and co-workers are immediately enthusiastic: “That’s amazing!” “How cool!” “What a great opportunity!”

Two days later, however, my doctor reacted completely differently. As he quizzed me about my itinerary and I systematically revealed my appalling ignorance of world geography, he scrolled through information on his ancient computer (which appears to be running some colorful version of MS-DOS, but that’s another story.) He kept shaking his head and sighing. “I mean, I don’t know….” he’d begin before noting some other disease or condition I might want to consider. At one point he said, “I mean, I don’t know why you’d want to do this exactly.” After all, he said, “India is a cesspool of disease.” After a series of shots and recommendations for other vaccines I might want to consider getting from Passport Health, his last words were not “Bon Voyage” or “Enjoy your trip!” but “Good luck.” Gee, thanks.

Some variation on this response (although far less pointed) is one I hear quite often. “I have absolutely no interest in ever going there,” another one of my neighbors declared. Conversations then center on the abject poverty found there, the dirtiness or overcrowding, or a series of questions or statements about toilets. (“Don’t they….” or “Isn’t there…” or “Aren’t you worried about…”?)

As I continue preparing for the my trip and my sabbatical and learning more, I find myself reflecting on all of the studies that have convincingly established how ignorant we Americans are about the rest of the world. Yet so many of us seem to think we know what we need to about India, the East, and, in fact, the world. How, exactly, beyond these sorts of films, did we become so certain?

Categories: Packing and Preparing | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Slowly Shifting Focus

Yesterday afternoon we had our final faculty meeting of the semester, which will be my last until I return in Fall 2013. (I admit that I just had to restrain myself from typing a most undignified “Woo Hoo!” immediately following that sentence. Of course, having admitted that, I might as well have gone for it.) While there is much to be done before I wrap up the semester–grading, portfolios, presentations–this felt like a major milestone. In fact, it may be the last time I see some of my co-workers until I return.

The Academic Dean made the formal announcement about the two colleagues who will be taking care of two of my major responsibilities while I’m on sabbatical. Karyn will advise the student newspaper and teach the workshop classes, while Scott will coordinate faculty professional development through our Center for Teaching. It’s great to know that everything will be in more than capable hands in my absence.

Yet, as I sat there taking my usual copious notes and dutifully jotting down deadlines for various initiatives, I suddenly realized that much of what I was hearing about will be over (or at least well underway) by the time I return. For the first time in nearly 23 years (yikes!), I won’t have classes to prepare, students to advise, papers to grade, reports to write, or committee meetings. For the first time in many years, I won’t be running interference between my student reporters, the editors, our graphic design team, the printer, and our readers. I won’t be bemoaning the latest bug in Blackboard Learn (or shaking my fist at the screen.) I won’t be planning workshops, leading discussions, or having those great hallway conversations with some of my favorite colleagues about teaching and learning.

Of course, I’m not complaining. It’s just a bit difficult right now to fully wrap my mind around this idea. Earlier this week, I found myself making my usual notes about plans for next semester and then remembered I won’t be here to execute them.

As much as I kvetch (especially around this very busy time of year), I do love so much of what I do (okay, maybe not most of the committee meetings). I will miss my students and the hard and gratifying work of helping them to discover and best express what they most to say. I will miss working with some of my favorite colleagues and friends, celebrating our successes and wrestling together with our challenges.

I’m confident, though, that this time away will be a time of renewal, a chance for me to focus on my own learning, research, and writing, and I’m looking forward to the adventure with great gratitude and anticipation.

Categories: Packing and Preparing | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Nothing Much to See Here…Yet

Welcome to my blog about my seven-week journey to and around India and my sabbatical project.   Thanks for stopping by.

I’m just setting up right now, so there isn’t much to see, but I hope to have content up relatively soon (if I can just get through finals and stop visiting REI and EMS every time I discover some other item I need for the trip.)  You can learn more about this blog and my project by visiting the “About” page.  

Categories: Packing and Preparing | 4 Comments

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