For Gandhi, Anais Nin and Maria Montessori

Key Terms: Catharsis & Shamanism

You know you are at a special place when life feels like a precipice and you cry at the drop of a dime. Everything is real and sensitive to the touch, memories of those who have crossed my path are inside my skin as if they live there, both in good and bad, but mostly goodness in their spirits, each one is filling me, hugging me, holding me and rocking me a lullaby to safety.
I am not alone and I know who I am! 
In celebration, I offer my readers a public prayer.

 “I am a Shaman and I am not.
Just human.
I need you to stand with me as I face the decisions that will no doubt impact my life
I call to you, my Spirit Guides to console me while I let go of pain and disappointment
My house, that is no longer, I’ve wept you too long.
I’m letting go of loss and the fight.
I stand before you, but my knees are still healing—
I’ve recognized and accept my shadow side and have interrogated my refusal to believe
My imperfection is perfect.
Thank you for giving me the greatest gift of my children.
Thank you for forgiveness and compassion.
Thank you for protecting me.
My prayer to you this morning is filled with gratitude and dare I say hope?
I am filling with the nectar of resilience!
I know now that I am Shaman.
So guide me and trust me, for it is time.
Teach me but let me lead.”

The Spirit of Agency Part 2

At the molecular level…

Unpacking a lot of negative energy, opening doors and discovering the power of channeling energy in and out of my life. I watch to see if my moves impact others and I’m amazed that it is truth. The more we liberate energy within ourselves, people around respond to this energy. It’s like making holes in the wall of your being. Imagine taking a hole puncher and poking holes all around your energy field so that light goes in and out like tiny sun rays.  Yes, it’s a bit sci-fi but do it with me in your mind and see what happens. You will want more of it, watch. I want more of it so I’m poking away and on the outside, I get rid of all the clutter around me, purging, boxing, letting go. I think if I keep poking holes in me, I will eventually have nothing separating me from the air and the light and everything else around me. I would just disappear wouldn’t I?

I have a confession to make. My whole life I’ve said, I love school. I love the smell of pencils and books and learning something new makes me very happy, excited even. I made my life school. After I graduated, I became a teacher and went back to school and kept going back and ever since in one form or another, my entire life has been about this thing, this framework we call school. I go to it, I work in it, I talk about it, I want to change it, mold it, I read about it, I dream about it.  School is has always been an essential part of my identity. That makes me a lifer, like being a teacher and school are the archetypes for my life. 
That said, I have a confession to make.
I’m so tired of the oldness of it.
I want us to fly away and out and over –instead.
I want to act up and be silly, and so…
I want to throw text books in the garbage.
I want to talk to my partner and talk back at you for telling me the ‘rules.’
I want to roam the halls–instead 
     eavesdrop on conversations that seem more real to me than anything.  

I want to peer in between the cracks.
I want to be F  R  E  E  E EEEEEEEEE!
Do you want to be free with me?
Is it possible for me to be FREE and be a teacher at the same time?  I mean, can I really do it?
Here’s a story.
Me and a collegue gather information about a teacher, huddled together in the back of a room, him in a suit and me, well likewise but for a woman. (you know what I mean). His papers are so neat and tidy and there are check marks going up and down the column as he reviews the protocol and the rubric and all I want to do is giggle and laugh and grab his lapel and ask him where he lives and if he’s making enough money and if he has kids and how did he get into the business of schools? Instead I compliment his professionalism and admire how well he keeps every conversation perfectly in order and he smiles at me and says, if I don’t structure myself, I become way too weird…no one would understand me.  I throw my head back and laugh because I know exactly what he means. Me too, I tell him and all I could think about was–who is this man really and why is there no place for his ‘real’ self in schools?
Does freedom imply that you don’t do rules, don’t believe in structure, don’t care about consequence?  
Does freedom mean you don’t want to keep your bottom stuck to a seat? Does freedom mean movement, creativity, out of the box thinking?
Is it possible for teachers to teach freedom in school or is school by nature the very opposite of everything it means to be free?
Can we expect, demand our students to stay, to sit, to listen, to do this or that– when deep down inside we’re suffering, hating every minute of it, or hating them, ‘those’ kids who make our life difficult, make our jobs feel more like a prison rather than a school?
Then, I think this. Shhhh. Don’t tell anybody. 
What would that classroom of recalcitrant boys and girls look like without order, control, rules?  My rules.  Why, they’d probably
Kill themselves to death (those savages)
Or break something
Talk shit
They might hurt somebody
Or plan to hurt somebody after school
Join a gang or start a new one
Sell drugs or take some
What else?
They definitely would not CHOOSE to learn something.
Wait, maybe if one or two or a handful of them did, what would they choose to learn? Not the curriculum of course, that would be boring
And if they did, choose that, then, wait—
What would that mean?
Most, might vegetate on the computers in the back of the room.
Others on cell phones, iPads and the like, if they have it.
Headphones would be on, you think?  They’d choose to listen to music.
Some might put their head down.
Do you think they’d get tired of sleeping?  I’m asking you, really.  Do you think the kids in your class would choose to sleep all day?
Here’s a quote:

“Do not train a child to learn by force or harshness; but direct them to it by what amuses their minds, so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy the peculiar bent of genius of each.” Plato
Who does this quote refer to?  All kids, or just some kids?  Your kids? Poor kids? Smart kids, stupid kids?
The Spirit of Agency is believing at the molecular, spiritual level that you can make a difference in the world not by changing others, people and things—but by opening your spirit enough so that the light of others can shine through you.
It is not about them.
It is about you.
If you are not free to be you, to live in your truth—then you cannot teach someone else to be free.
I cannot teach anybody to be free because I’m scared of what absolute freedom means. That is why I’m engaged in the process of poking holes.  My goal is to engage in the process of freedom, one step at a time, one hole at a time, one day at a time.

I’m asking you to consider the same.   What are you an agent of in your classroom and is your spirit aligned with this mission at the molecular level or do you need to poke a few holes in your armor?

Spirit of Agency: Part I

Maslow, Partido X and Us

I’ve been thinking a lot about Maslow’s needs pyramid. I want to know if we’re missing something, like maybe our common beliefs around human needs & development and the path to self-actualization are limiting us. With all the advancements in technology and the wealth of knowledge and intellectual material at our disposal, I wonder how we keep repeating the same dynamic in education? There must be a ‘disconnect’between how we teach, how we design schools with what children & society actually need to evolve. Otherwise, we have to consider the alternative—that we do the opposite on purpose and mainly for some.
Let us say there is a direct correlation between belief and reality, like the great books say. Then it’s important to take the time now to re-examine some of our fundamental beliefs.  Think about human development, specifically, since this is the critical component of agency which I argue is regulated by our perceptions of access. 
Presume we are missing a vital truth about the nature of human experience and the road to transcendence (self-actualization). Consider, also, that we might be suppressing the teachings of truth in public schools. I would like to suggest here that human beings have evolved at the energetic spiritual level. Self-actualization and/or transcendence can no longer be perceived to be at the top of a hierarchical pyramid but rather at the base, from which all other needs are met and flow. 
It is this very error in positionality that we as a global society experience widespread crisis and conflict.
I’d like us to consider the possibility that the masses (yes, that’s the majority) aided in great part by the influx of energy coming from Generation X—are already residing within the field of self-actualization & transcendence, that this is the natural beginning of all things following.   
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs teaches the perception of two things. One: human beings can’t access self-actualization without having the preceding needs met, those being physical needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), safety (freedom from fear), social needs (love & belonging) and self-esteem (achievement & respect). The second is that the higher you go on the pyramid, the smaller the space is— that is fewer people attain it. Whether or not the use of a pyramid to explain Maslow’s theory was intended, it cannot be argued that it certainly teaches the illusion of hierarchy and quantity. The bottom of a pyramid indicates low level needs and a large number of people and the top of the pyramid indicates high level of needs and a small number of people.
Yet, with this perception, several questions come to mind:
·         Can poor people struggling for their basic needs achieve transcendence?
·         Can those individuals who are being bombed or live in perpetual states of war experience love & belonging?
·         Can a person who is struggling to pay rent be respected & recognized by society?
·         Is it possible for a person to be playful & experience joy if they have never experienced achievement in society?
·         Do we adjust our understanding of morality for those individuals who have never experienced security?
·         Can a person who is unemployed be self-sufficient?
In Spain, there is a great development being born out of the Indignados. Greater than Occupy Wall Street because it’s evolving into something we can hold on to, something we can develop. The principles of OWS were seeds but we realize that we must find a way to come out of the margins and merge with strategic elements of the system in order to produce voice, galvanize action and materialize the vision. In Spain, we can watch this happening. It is called Partido X. I am grateful for Richard Wolff, this weekend on WBAI for bringing my attention to it. He is, by the way, a straightforward, clear and precise speaker, slow and patient with his words and audience. I like him.  He points out that this new political party (Partido X) does not have a leader, even though many of the periodicals cite a spokesperson by the name of… well, let me stop here. I will support the idea that the name of one leader is unnecessary. Ahem, difficult to do– which is the point. We must break out of the box. Alejandro Navas from the University of Navarrawho has studied the Indignados says, “change will only come from the ground up, from small parties and organizations.” I suppose he’s referring to the wide base of Spanish population, the majority, many of whom are unemployed, fighting poverty or struggling for their basic needs to survive.  Can this group be self-sufficient? Can we do something like this here? My guess is that our climate is very different…
While I hammer nails into a hypothetical wooden frame I call my new practice for wellness, healing and authentic learning for educators in NYC, my mind is racing and searching for the elements that make sense of my life and save me from overall apathy and resignation. I am, for one, very interested in this notion of the spirit of agency. It has been my call for forty years and something tells me it’s so I can use my own experience to bring light and respite to others. We are warriors and we deserve a rest.
More on the Spirit of Agency next week.