There is Life After the Thesis

After chronicling my thoughts, feelings, ideas, and experiences throughout the thesis process on this blog (formerly entitled Rites of a Thesis), it seemed odd to me to simply let the blog go just because I had turned in my thesis and graduated. I don't want to merely "shelve" my thesis nor do I want all that I got from my time at Naropa to lie dormant. I want my thesis to continue to live and breathe and become, and I would like all the teachings and experiences I had during my time at Naropa to do the same. So I am keeping the blog (changing the title), and am commiting to myself to (w)rite on as I journey forward.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Analysis and Charting and Organizing - Oh, My!

Data, that is. Here is my work from this weekend, thus far. My Thesis Advisor helped me devise a plan of breaking down my data for my "Findings" chapter. Charting the data and putting it up on my wall so I could see it all - really get a good visual about the information I collected. I ended up charting my data in somewhat similar, but different ways - depending on what seemed like the best way to go. For example, the data I charted about "Other Teacher Practices" - for their in-class practices, I cut and pasted my already-typed up information. Then I made a column for the commonalities I found. When charting my students' responses, I used general themes that were expressed about each ritual practice. At any rate - I got something done. Something I can work with to begin writing up my data/analysis.

Above: Other teacher data (top: classroom practices; below: personal practices)

Above: Top - In-class rituals charted by how often they are used as well as which "Need" they feed. Bottom - Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" pyramid and key.

Above: Top - In-class rituals (in my classroom), with overall/major responses by students to each ritual practice, as well as their imnplications *(referenced also are Maslow's "Needs" and what categories each ritual fulfills: community, connection, and/or compassion). Below - My personal ritual practices outside of the classroom: how often I practice them, the Maslow and "Three C's" connections, and the benefits/impact on teaching these rituals provide.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Space and Abstract

Having given myself alomost a week off from posting on this here blog, I am reaping the benefits of a little bit more room to explore and write my thesis. While the past week was extraordinarily busy, I managed to get my thesis abstract written, made some headway organizing my data, and had a terrific meeting with my Thesis Advisor this evening, who helped me create a structure for my "Findings" chapter.

I feel a bit more centered with the direction my thesis is moving in. There is definitely more clarity. I tweaked the title a bit - and that helped, and I'm putting more empasis on the connection between Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs than I had before. It is helping everything else fall into place.

Below is a copy of my Thesis Abstract:

Ritual Practices: Pathways to Cultivating Community, Connection, and Compassion (in and out of the classroom)

This thesis explores ritual practices as they are used by the author outside of her classroom and with her students in the classroom. Studies have shown that a sense of safety, well-being, and belonging are essential for learning. To learn deeply, one must take risks, develop a sense of wonder and curiosity, plunge inward and practice self-examination. This paper will examine how ritual practices can serve as pathways to cultivating community, connection, and compassion within teachers and students, fulfilling the basic essential needs of every human being, and subsequently leading to deeper learning and connections between self, others, the environment, and the greater world at large.

It feels good to post tonight. I have to admit I've been jones-ing a bit to write, but I committed to staying focused on the Big Kahuna (a.k.a. the Thesis itself), and that is where my energy belongs.

Whomever reads this: thank you. Thank you for helping me stay accountable to writing. There is a lot on this blog that doesn't have to do with my thesis. However, there is a lot that does, and some of those pieces are part of my data. I am so grateful that I chose this type of journal format. It has been a blessing throughout this process.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Making Room for Buddha

My thesis advisor told me tonight that she dreamed about me in my green car this past week.

I don't think I've mentioned the green car yet. The color green is representative of Karma energy - wind energy. Karma is action. It is moving, doing. I drive a green car. A green Prius, to be exact. Oh, no - not in the relative world...I drive my little green Prius in my very-full, subjective mind.

My green car transports me and all that I do: all my inner methods that are supposed to help me, like meditating, blogging, Morning Pages, Enso practice, Awareness Walks. Last week, my thesis advisor, Mary, encouraged me to welcome more Buddha energy into my world and into my thesis process. Buddha energy: white. Space.

Tonight Mary asked me if I could drop some of these inner methods off for awhile. She said they could go somehwere fun, like Disneyland. She said if I dropped some of these guys off, I would have room for Buddha in my car. And then my green car would be less green and become a bit more white. She said I didn't have to completely drop these methods...just let 'em go play somewhere else for awhile. She said, I needed to make more I could write my thesis.


Who am I without these methods? I've already cut back on my Enso practice and my Morning Pages. If I cut back more, am I doing enough? Will I be lazy? Will my thesis still be "good enough?"

But then I visualized Buddha energy in my car. I could see it. I could feel it. And it made sense. I am overwhelmed between my thesis work and the work I do for my teaching job. I overwhelm myself more by cramming up my little green car with inner methods. What if the inner methods are taking away from the process rather than benefitting it at this point? And what if I let them go - let them out of the car and dropped them off (somewhere safe) - for awhile?


Okay. Okay...yeah...yes...I can do that. I think. I can let go of some of my inner methods. I've basically let go of Enso and Morning writing already, so, yeah: I can give those up. For now. Awareness Walks? Well, I have to walk my dog anyway...but sometimes I could walk Love in the mornings without being hyper-vigilant about being "aware." Okay. Sometimes I'll take Awareness Walks and sometimes I won't. Meditation? Well - no. I can't give that up. It's uber-grounding and helps me in so many ways - and it's part of my program. So shamatha stays in the car. But what about the blog? Must I blog every day? Right now? In the last six-seven weeks of my thesis, when I will be writing and writing and writing? Oh - oh...o..k..aa...y. I can give up blogging...every day...but I will still blog once or twice a week! Phew!

So, where will all these inner methods go - for awhile? Hmmm...Somewhere fun, Mary encouraged. And you can pick them up in the not-too-distant future, she promised. Well, then...Oh, I know: the Hotel Sofitel in downtown Chicago! 800 thread-count Egyptian sheets, with fluffy white comforters and pillows. My inner methods can jump on the bed, snuggle under the covers, order room service, sleep, watch cable, sleep some more, read any books they want, sleep some more.

Okay. This is starting to feel do-able.

As I hunker down (with a rough draft of Chapters four and five of my thesis due Thursday, April 22, and a full rough draft due May 1), it makes sense to let go a bit, drop off some of those inner methods at the Sofitel, and open up some space in that little green car o'mine.

So I won't be posting tomorrow. That seems odd. Mary said it's like when you're going through a break up. It's really uncomfortable in the beginning. Well, I've been uncomfortable before. Many times. I've lived through it. And, ultimately, the discomfort always changed...always turned into a new kind of comfort. So, here I go...

Space, space, space, space, space...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Quest

To be on a quest is nothing more or less than to become an asker of questions.
- Sam Keen

Even if I walk away from my thesis for a whole day, it stays with me. It is always in the back of mind from morniong 'til night. Even during the school day, when I am focused on my students and what we are doing in the moment, my thesis is always looming, asking the questions throughout the day, in that tiney, quiet thesis voice in the back of my mind.

This morning during drama rehearsal, the girls and I choreographed movements for a song in the play called Jackmaker (sung to the tune of Matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof). I gave them direction, and then they came up with a few better moves. It was a collaborative process, and it was a really nice interchange of give and take.

As we were going back to our classroom (we rehearse outside where we have more space), some of the students were singing the Jackmaker song and a few of the kids were singing another song from the show. It wasn't anything monumental - it was just really nice to see/hear the students enjoying the song and the comraderie that comes with working on a production.

In Language Arts, our discussion turned to peer pressure and conformity - as the theme of individuality v. conformity runs through the book we are currently reading, A Wrinkle in Time. I asked questions, the students asked questions and we had a really thoughtful discussion.

Later in the day, during Social Studies, my students had the option sof working individually, in pairs or small groups to read a packet on ancient Rome and answer specific questions (on paper). I walked around (some were outside, some were in the classroom) and spent some time chatting and asking questions regarding the reading with some of the students. At the end of the period, we all met back in classroom and had an all-class discussion to wind up the reading. The students all had thoughts and feelings to share about the reading, and we also began (we ran out of time) to make comparisons to the book we ae currently reading as our read-aloud book, The Giver.

Throughout the day, my students and I engaged in play, in study, and in discussion. We shared ideas, thoughts, and experiences. We connected in different ways, on different levels.

As I said: this isn't monumental. It is just part of our day to day. And yet I wonder if we are able to have the conversations/discussions we do because of who we are, or because of the atmosphere we have created. Through ritual. And I wonder, if what I am seeing/feeling is seen/felt by my students - which, I think it is, from what they've told me.

Tonight, I typed up answers to questions from the "non-contemplative" questionnaires I received back from some of my fellow colleagues. I also cut/pasted answers from an online survey I conducted with three Naropa graduates. This will be part of my "Findings" chapter in my thesis. I thought about (and asked questions) about the answers I received, how I conducted the surveys, the questions I asked,,,Did I ask enough? Did I use enough teachers? What does this data offer me? What are its implications - if any?

In the musical, Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote tells Aldonza, "Whether I win or lose does not matter." She then asks, "What does?" Don Quixote replies, "Only that I follow the quest."

So every day, I do my best to remain open and aware. I continue to "notice what I notice" (per Lee Worley), and I continue to ask quest. I just can't seem to not do that.

Don Quixote sings:

And I know, if I'll only be true
To this glorious Quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest.

And I will be peaceful - I hope - when I am done with my thesis.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Data Collection: The Latest Technology

I'm thinking about all the information I need to write up in my computer. Some of it is on paper, awaiting to be transferred into my computer. But much is in my head.

When are the Microsoft, IBM, or Apple people gonna invent a port-in-the-head? At this point, shouldn't there be some kind of port in our head so that one could simply stick a flash drive in, gather and transfer the data, and then just stick the flash drive into the computer, and, voila - the data is all on the computer, ready to be copied and pasted into a document?!

I think that this would be an invaluable invention.

And while "they're" at it, don't you think at this point plastic surgery should be advanced enough that no surgery would be required? For example: couldn't "they" just simply invent a contraption that could push belly fat into the butt area (or vice-versa)?! It would be non-invasive, more people would be want to invest in the procedure, and I - well - I would be very happy.

Fat removed. Check.
Thesis done. Check.

Ahh...if it could all be just that simple!

Monday, April 5, 2010

PLAYing Around

It's late. I can't think of a thing to post this evening that is thesis-oriented nor really awareness-oriented, or even political...except: Grrr...well, don't get me started.

Legislation was approved regarding a bill in Arizona that would require eighth graders to MEMORIZE questions from the U.S. citizenship exam, in order to pass eighth grade. The information wouldn't be taught in class. The questions and answers would be posted on school's websites so that students could MEMORIZE them. Hmmm...Lots of learning and understanding happening there. Here's the website, should you care to see how much farther downhill Arizona can go in terms of education:

Anyway - I am about to go to bed and I don't want to go there angry and have icky dreams.

I spent the past few hours working on revising two plays that my students are currently working on in drama. I wrote both plays quite awhile back for my fourth grade students when I taught in a private school just North of Chicago. Currently, I am revising them and adding eight more characters to one of the plays and ten more to the other, so that my students can rehearse them and perform them them as their Drama final in May.

The article above regarding the new education legislation has me angry. I don't want my students - any students - to simply memorize facts, or even lines for a play, simply to memorize them and then forget them. Learning by rote is just fine, if one is using that as a tool to get to the heart of something. For example: it's often quite good to learn your lines by rote, so that when you are in rehearsals, you aren't intoning the line with false emotion. It is so important to make character discoveries and relationship discoveries in the moment, during rehearsals (and, in live theatre - even during performance, albeit in much more subtle ways).

I am not against learning certain facts by rote either. But after the initial memorization, one must go deeper to understand exactly what one learned. What is the significance/meaning of what was memorized. How doe s this information connect with other information? Where does it fall into a bigger picture? If information is simply memorized with no real content behind it, as soon as the information is "spit" back out, it doesn't typically remain in the brain, in the psyche, or in the body. Poof - it goes away.

Though my students are asked to memorize their lines a week after they receive a section (I am giving my students the plays in piecemeal), they are encouraged to get their heads out of their scripts and relate to one another. They need to know what they are actually saying, not simply saying lines because they're there on the page. They need to know what their character's objective is (what the character wants) and stay focused on that. They need to be aware of their bodies on stage.

While I've been "play"ing around this evening, I don't find this new Bill to be anything near funny, and I think it has some very serious implications for Arizona's children and their education.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Awareness Times Two

My father took a road trip to New Mexico this weekend. On his way, he stopped in Tempe and left me to babysit his dog over the weekend.

Bandit is also a Border Collie. Male. He and Love have spent a great deal of time together both at my home, and mostly at my dad's. Upon their first meeting, it was a bit tentative, especially because Love is so gosh-darn territorial and jealous. Their relationship is a little bit edgy, here and there, but they get along fairly well now. They kiss when they greet each other and, at times, they play together as well.

Walking them is always an interesting excursion - particularly so when only one person is walking them together.

First of all, they are both black and white. Though they have completely different body types, and completely different types of fur and markings, the fact that they share the same color scheme, makes them a very cute match. Second, they have completely different ways of "being" in their worlds: the way they move, how they sniff out certain areas, and even how they take their poos and pees (Bandit, leg up over a bush or tree to pee; Love, squatting daintily...Bandit runs back and forth and back and forth over and over, covering a small track of land in order to ready himself for a poo; Love simply squats as if she is giving birth to a watermelon).

Despite their differences, there are times when they sync up and walk side by side, at a similar pace, and times when they go nose-to-nose to sniff a specific scent. They also seem quite respectful of one another when one wants to stop and sniff out a particular area, and the other seems to care less. One will always wait for the other to finish his or her time with a specific smell, or a scratch against a bush, or piece of lawn, or when each of them does their "business."

Both dogs get super-sonic-excited when they know they are going to go for a walk. Love hops, bounds, and bounces all over the place and Bandit bays and whines - as if they are both going to Doggy Disneyland with handfuls of "E" tickets for the best doggy-rides EVER! I am not kidding. To be a dog: to get that excited about going for a walk, every single time, no matter how many times they've gone out in one day. That's the way to live!

Walking the two at the same time has its complications. They twist up, their leashes get tangled, they walk on opposite sides of poles and pillars. In order to stay vertical, I have to be completely present and aware of my surroundings and what both dogs are doing. It becomes a dance of sorts, and the three of us perform a very intricate pas de trois that can be quite humorous - especially when I take my eyes off of one or the other or the both of them.

Even when my dad and I are together with them, we have to make sure we are giving both dogs equal attention, as they vie for both of ours. Alone, I have to be at the top of my game, making sure that they both get equal treats, equal affection, and equal play time. Just like my students: there is no room for favorites when I am acting "mommy" to both dogs. It's a good lesson on awareness, mindfulness, and being as loving and fair as possible.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

When the Student is Ready the Teacher Appears...

...often in the form of a student. Actually, VERY often in the form of a student - in big ways and small ways, and in reminding ways.

On a posting from January 24, I wrote about the Muse Marge, and channeling my "inner brat." I was feeling like I needed a push, and really didn't want to do my thesis work. Tonight, I have been trying to get through grading papers and prepping some vocabulary for Monday. I have much to do tomorrow on my thesis and have two plays I must work on for my students' drama classes on Monday, as well.


However, I received an email this evening from one of my students who told me she's stressed out and tiredand did I have any suggestions about how she could deal with these feelings in terms of her Rome project (which is due on Thursday, that she has had a month to do). I explained to this student that I could completely relate, and that the only suggestion I could give her at this point was to summon her "inner brat" and say, "So what - I'm gonna do it anyway."

We can pout all we want. We can procrastinate. Dig our heels in, and say "no, no, no!" But the fact is, when it comes down to it: the work has to get done. And it's a "me" job - only I can do my own work, and so I better get bratty and get out there.

And here's the thing: sometimes the only thing you can do is simply do it. And here's the other thing: the only way I can expect my students to get this stuff, is if I get this stuff. So I'm getting it.

Darn it.

And, so what!

Friday, April 2, 2010

It's Good that it's Friday

And it's really good that I am off work.

Good Friday, the day that Jesus died on the cross, is acknowledged all around the globe by Christians, and for some - mostly Catholics - celebrated in ritual church services, and by abstaining from eating meat. Other sects of Christianity observe in other ways.

Whenever Good Friday rolls around, I can't help but think about the Judas character in the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar belting out:

Did you mean to die like that? Was that a mistake, or
Did you know your messy death would be a record breaker?

I am always intrigued that Jesus' life and death changed the world. I am always amazed that - at least as far as I know - the teachings of Jesus taught love, respect, and care for one's fellow man. That he was the guy who said, "live and let live," and "love your neighbor as yourself," and yet so many people who claim to be "Christians" don't choose to follow those teachings. I am amazed in the same way that I am astounded that there are bigoted Jews, and Jews who treat their neighbors with disrespect and condemnation.

Not that I have a clue of what to do with all that I wrote above. Just thinking "out ;oud" here. Between Today and Passover it's been quite a week of contemplation for me. At any rate, it has been really nice to have a day off from the regular rigamoral, to have an opportunity to think and not just do. It's been good. This Friday.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Taking attendance can feel like drudgery, or it can provide a structure that prompts direct recognition between your students and you. This means you acknowledge each other - as you are in that moment – by making a visible and verbal connection. As a result, taking roll leads to two related positive outcomes: you’ll know which students are physically present in your class, and also know who is “really there” – in body and in mind (Schoeberlein, 2009, p. 54).

Being that today is April Fool's Day, and also being that today was the day prior to a three-day weekend, my students were quite giddy and mirthful the whole day through.

At our school, we are required to take attendance twice a day: once, first thing in the morning, and again directly after lunch. Today, I was a couple of minutes late returning from lunch. When I arrived in my classroom, all of my students were standing, quietly, at their desks, ready to take attendance, as is customary...But, wait! - Not one student was standing at his or her correct desk. At first I thought that maybe Tania (Mrs. Hipple) - their math teacher - has rearranged their seats. But then I realized, they had all switched their spots as an April Fool's prank.

"Good one," I quipped. "Now you can all take attendance as if you were the person whose desk you are standing at" (I said this with a laugh and a twinkle - not as a reprimand).

I think I've explained this before - but if you missed it: my students all take attendance with one another. I don't call out all their names, I just call out the first student's name on the list, and he calls off the next, and so on. In this way, everyone is accountable for everyone else. Because this ritual practice is done as a community, taking attendance in this way invokes community and connection.

Because all the students here all the names called out in order two times every day, everyone knows the order "by heart." I wasn't surprised that they were able to run down the attendance list so easily today - however, I was surprised that they were so confident reciting the roll, as the "role" they were playing. Attendance sounded just like it always sounds - but with some "odd" sounding voices in place of the regular ones.

A dash of fun and play was just the kind of thing our ritual called for today.

Here, here!