Monthly Archives: January 2011

More Better than Money

I often read about the spiritual experiences of others. I find these stories to be a source of inspiration, a way to stay connected with my own desire to nurture that non-physical part of myself, especially when I feel tugged down by the every day blues. I especially like stories about death, near-death, psychics, aliens, gurus, fairies, angels, saints, masters of every sort, Atlantis, Egypt, dreams, out-of-body experiences, and shamans. Ordinary stories about just noticing shit really turn me on too. I love to talk about the sunshine, the moon, the lake, the trees, prayer, beauty, meditation, art, music, lyrics, poetry and flowery language of every sort.

Eloquence is an important part of indigenous culture. Words have the power to bring things to life. Speaking beautifully is one of the sacred things we’ve sacrificed for the sake of crappy technology. Some would argue that language has merely changed because of technology. That it is always evolving. I think we should worry a little more about sustaining things instead of evolving. We abuse that word so. Evolve. Maybe we are devolving. I’m sorry but OMG does not feed the soul. It does not acknowledge the soul because OMG doesn’t have a soul–

“Are you done?” asks Mr. Octopus.

“What? I was just saying–”

“I believe you are rrranting. Do you have a point?”

“Oh, yeah, there was something I wanted to say. Something’s got me all worked up!”

“Let’s pause for a second.”

“Good idea.”

[PAUSE PAUSE PAUSE PAUSE PAUSE]

“Betterrr?”

“Yeah. I think it worked.”

In the spring, the students I teach at the public arts high school here in Boston have a concert. At the end of this show, we have a tradition where the students call all of the five teachers from the dance department onto the stage and present us with flowers. It is very touching.

Last year, as I was presented with a bouquet, one of my students thanked me for helping them to get in touch with their spiritual side. In that moment, I realized they got me! They heard me! It was a very affirming moment.

By “following my bliss,” as Joseph Campbell says, towards all things spiritual, a little of that magic, that wisdom, found its way to my students. Hurray!  I want to make it clear that I do not see myself as a font of spiritual wisdom and authority of any sort. A lover of spirit, yes, and a fool. But spirit can sometimes usurp even a fool’s tongue. My student’s comment was a little victory for the Luke Skywalker inside us all.

The more I work in education, however, the more I see how it is increasingly driven by a business model rather than a spiritual one. (Well, most of our spiritual models have become bankrupted, which is perhaps the subject of another entry). This rotten, business, soul-sucking way of living through getting more, more, more has seeped its poison into education.

Of course, this unexamined business model showing up in education is not the conscious intention of dedicated educators and parents. Many have fought and are fighting against it. But this seepage is happening while most are all too caught up in the hardship of daily survival to notice. It is slinking into our classrooms under such glossy titles as No Child Left Behind.

In school, as in business, we have become obsessed about showing growth through data. Influenced by business, we made the erroneous leap in logic that assumes that an increase in test scores is somehow a measure of the growth of a human being. Well, I’m sorry, but just because a teacher has managed to shove some information down a student’s throat, through cleverness, intimidation, manipulation and force (usually because the teachers themselves are being forced) does not mean that that student, that person, has somehow grown.

And what do we want them to grow into? Better human beings? Naaah. We are teaching them to become people who will fit in unquestioningly to this modern system ruled by greed, power and fear. We send them to college where most become initiated to a life of debt. The rich just want to make sure they keep getting richer and they need our young people, body and soul, to do that.

We teach them to line up and play the game. Bliss? Shmiss! Get a job! We are so good at teaching them to get a job, that is, when there are jobs to be gotten, that the majority of people who graduate from college end up with a job that had nothing to do with their major. Now that’s success! Furthermore, we teach them the importance of “good communication skills” when it comes to getting that all-important job, but we don’t teach them how to connect deeply with whom or what they are communicating.

OMG.

We boast that we are teaching them how to be of “service,” but what we are really teaching them is how to go out and get what they want under the guise of serving a good cause in order to satisfy a selfish agenda. It’s based on business, based on colonialism. Everyone looks good on the surface, masking a hollowness, an inauthenticity. In a recent school meeting, I heard some teachers speak proudly of how they had taught students to make cold-calls. Really? This is how we do things now? We take. We take. We take. And since we’ve convinced ourselves that we are taking for a good cause, that makes it alright.

It is not alright. Respect and authenticity matter. True service, giving one’s gifts to those who have expressed a need, matters. These things actually make life better. More better than money. What good is a bunch of money if we are spiritually poor? Rich people who are spiritually poor have proven themselves to be disastrous to all life. If we start focusing on teaching our kids how to live, instead of how to pass a test, how to get over, then maybe we can restore some beauty to this world.

I’m so fed up with the business machine and its insidious nature of taking the most while giving the least, or giving nothing at all. Shamelessly it corrupts even our most sacred traditions and institutions. I am against the lie that money makes the world go ’round. It does not. It never has.

When I was dancing, I didn’t make a lot of money, but I felt rich. Nothing I could buy could give me the good vibes I got after a great, hot, sweaty class. Writing this blog and the people who read it make me feel rich. Nature makes me feel rich. Being in ritual makes me feel rich. Spirit makes me feel rich. My boyfriend makes me feel rich, rich, rich. My family and friends make me feel rich. My students make me feel rich (sometimes).

“What am I? Chopped liverrr?” asks Mr. Octopus.

“Oh, sorry! And Mr. Octopus makes me feel rich!”

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Candidate A

“Anything you do that is guided by fear will bring the thing you fear to you.”

–Makarta

Like most people, I have a problem with getting in my own way. It’s hard to step out on faith. Hard to accept what appears, graciously. Hard to give up the feeling of being right when the world insists on being what it is instead of what you want it to be.

We love love love to be right about something. We love to prove our knowledge above and beyond others. We sacrifice relationships and start wars all for the privilege of being right, so we can hold our heads high amidst the slaughter and say, I told you so.

I recently had an inspiring lesson around all this: I was honored to be on a panel with many distinguished persons whose job it was to fill a high-level position. (Sorry to be vague, but it has to be kept confidential at this point. I actually received a portfolio of materials marked “CONFIDENTIAL” that made me feel very important).

Anyway, after many meetings and hours of discussion, we narrowed our selection down to the top two candidates. Low and behold, the need to be right reared its ugly caboose. A volley of words, respectful though they were, flew back-and-forth across the table. Suddenly, it occurred to me that it’s not our job to be right. Not our job at all. It’s our job to follow our hearts.

You see, I think that the energy of following one’s heart is the energy that releases grace and allows it to flow. Then, what follows will be right, whether or not we recognize it as such.

Let me explain. Let’s say that there are two candidates: candidate A, who is our heart’s choice, the one we find most inspiring, the one we are inexplicably drawn to even though they lack certain qualifications, and candidate B, the logical choice, the one who has all the goods, but is less inspiring.

Now, if we choose candidate A who is our heart’s choice, but for some reason, candidate A decides that he does not want the job and we have to go with candidate B after all, then candidate B will be the “right” choice. In other words, if candidate B gets the job this way, it will be the way of spirit, the way of faith because it is the result of reaching for the highest good, and candidate B will be planted in good soil.

However, if we choose candidate B initially, though it is not our heart’s choice, that is to say, we choose candidate B out of fear, then, even though the outcome appears to be the same, it will actually be “wrong” because the choice was made out of fear and left no room to allow the spiritual energy to do its job. Candidate B will be planted in rotten soil.

The energy with which something is brought into being is very important. The energy of the heart builds a good foundation whereas the energy of fear gets things off to a shaky start. Of course, we are always free to change our energy, to choose again, but this is difficult once the ball gets rolling.

The energy of fear, that is, the energy of being right stems from the ego’s need to look good. Some of the panel members were worried that if we went with our hearts and chose candidate A and candidate A failed, that we, the panelists, would be discredited. But I thought, if we fail because we went with our hearts, well, I could live with that. But if we failed because we went with our minds, or, you could say, made the decision out of fear, well, I couldn’t live with that.

“So what happened?” asks Mr. Octopus.

“Oh. Hello. Happy New Year. I really missed you.”

“And I you. In a way.”

“Thanks. I think…”

“So, who’d you choose.”

“Heart.”

“Congratulations. Tea?”

“Herbal, please.”

“Oh, for God’s sake. Frrruity tea! What’s next?”

“I’m cleansing.”

“Why? I happen to like you full of shit.”

“Thanks. I think…”

“What if you are wrong about this heart vs. fear business. What then?”

“Well, I’m not trying to be right. I’m trying to follow my heart. And that’s the best I can do.”

“Not bad, grasshopper, not bad. Remember what Markarrrta said.”

“What’s that? She says a lot of stuff.”

“She said that knowing is blindness.”

“So, what is not knowing?”

“The way, I guess.”

“But either way, you don’t know.”

“Yes, but in the first way, you don’t know but you think you do. In the second way, dahrrrling,” says Mr. Octopus, curling his moustachios with a pointed tentacle. “In the second way,  you dance.”

“Dancing is hard.”

“You oughta know.”

“Yeah. I know?”


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