Sunday, September 24, 2006

Work

Wow... I knew that posting was going to slow down once the school year began, but I had no idea twelve days had gone by since my most recent post. On the other hand, I've been very busy indeed at my classroom website and blogs. The teaching is starting to feel more manageable this year, and the tweaks and adjustments I've made to the weekly assignments seem, so far, to be keeping the grading load down to a manageable one.

I suppose that isn't a very "spiritual" line of thought, in some ways. On the other hand, the biggest challenge I've faced, since becoming a teacher, is managing the business of daily life and still having time for friends, family, solitude, and exercise. For the last two years, it was time in Pagan ritual and in Meeting that got cut, a luxury I don't think I have this year, having agreed to serve on Ministry and Worship. This is the part that scares me most about having said yes--everything else can be learned, but keeping up with planning and grading for my classes just takes an awful lot of time if I'm to do it well.

I am always fretted by Quaker testimonies against excessive busy-ness, that challenge me to live simply enough to be able to come unhurried to my spiritual practices. I get that making spiritual life a prioritiy matters. But I also believe that some kinds of work are inherently busy--but, when you're led to them, they're also what you're supposed to be doing with your spirituality. I mean, a spiritual life isn't about what you do at Beltain and Samhain, or on First Day in worship--it's where you take those experiences the rest of the week, month, and year. Surely people who, say, are trying to make a difference in war zones or on the scene at great humanitarian disasters are sometimes behind in racking up hours of meditation. You can't always build that time in (though I know many people do find ways to build in a surprising amount of time to Be with spirit).

I think my discomfort means that I feel the tension between spiritual needs and spiritual actions. I've accumulated a net "debt" to myself in a number of areas of life in the last few years, as I became a teacher. I'm seriously behind on getting regular exercise, staying connected to friends whom I love, and finding time for spiritual practices. (The Pagan practices have suffered most, as Pagan ritual tends to need more setup, when done with others, than does Quaker worship... and is easier to procrastinate on when done alone.) But just as a runner can build up an oxygen debt in the course of a long race, and must then rely on glycogen to carry him onward, so, surely, a man or woman trying to build something out of spiritual leadings will sometimes find themselves drawing on their reserves for a time. That _can't_ be doing it "wrong."

But I do feel uneasy. Not because it's a mistake to have become a teacher, or because I think I'm out of line with the amount of passion and energy I devote to my work. That feels right. But I think it's that I'm aware of how little safety margin there is built into this new life of mine. I think I could easily lose touch with either my spiritual hungers or forget how to feed them. It's as if I'm a distance swimmer, and I'm aware that I'm an awfully long way from land. I know I could drown here. I don't like the feeling.

If the politicians ever do carry through with the noises they make about extending the school day or the school year, I'm out. I can't give more; I'll sell shoes or something, but I'll have to leave teaching.

At the same time, I feel like this year there is a kind of synergy, for the first time, between my spiritual life and my life in the classroom. Worship this summer and thus far this fall has been deep and sweet for me, and I'm finding reservoirs of peacefulness inside myself I never thought I would. I'm feeling myself opening in forgiveness to people I had long ago closed the door on (though we'll see how that works itself out in day to day life). And in the classroom, where I have been astonished, since becoming a teacher, at how angry a room full of fifteen year olds can make me, I'm feeling much less bothered.

Partly, that may be the good fortune of having some wonderful students, very few practiced trouble-makers in the mix, and smaller class sizes. Not being hurried and taking the time to listen is all very well, but I challenge anyone to manage it in real time with a fractious room of 30 kids, many of whom have learning or behavioral challenges. Gandhi himself would find himself shouting on occasion!

This year, my total number of students is down by almost a third. And for the first time, I've got two, not one, classes of "advanced" students--students who come in the door ready to sit down and learn; I don't need to begin by competing for their attention before I can begin to teach them. So that is inherently more peaceful.

But I think there's more to it than that. I'm a better teacher; I stocked up on centeredness over the summer, and I'm working hard to build it in during the year; and I think I'm learning to be more open spiritually in all situations, including the classroom. Which is definately the prize in the spiritual Crackerjack, after all.

OK. Gotta decide now--right now--if I'm going to make it to meeting this morning, or stay home and nurse my cold. There are, as always, arguments on both sides. Let's see what my inner quiet says about it this morning.

LATER
Inner quiet says, "Get real. Stay home. Take zinc. Get well." Not to mention the fact that I would walk over fiery coals before willingly exposing any of Mt. Toby's frailer elders to any uneccessary microbes. (It is amazing how easy it is to love some people--how dear they can become in only a few short years...)

Last thought for this post: I've discovered a webcam, not for Schoodic, the lake I get to visit every summer, but for the next best thing, Sebec Lake, only ten miles away. As I grade papers and do my this-and-that, I've been refreshing the image every hour or so.

It's wonderfully tranquil to look at...

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Worship or Cakes?

It seems like cheating to have a big part of my blog entry be about another person's blog entry, but Liz Opp has posted two in a row that really speak to me. Her post on Quaker Blog Ettiquette resonates with me a lot, though I must admit that I don't entirely live up to some of her ideas as fully as I might--especially when it comes to seasoning my remarks, both here and in comments on other blogs. I think that's because though some of my entries come from a spirit-centered place (and, like Liz, I think those are the blogs that speak to me the most, as well as the entries of my own I'm happiest with) other entries are more like a wave hello to friends (and fFriends) who may be stopping by. I guess it's as if some of my entries are like a worship-sharing, and others are chatting over coffee during fellowship.

I know that, in Wiccan circles, I often felt that there was a way in which the most important thing we did was share that warm connectedness over cakes and ale after the active ritual working of the night. Not that I'd want to skip the working--because I don't think you can get that depth of communion and friendship except through active spiritual work in a group. But the glow of the candles and the relaxed, loving companionship of a good full moon circle just before bringing it down... I think the Goddess is probably even more present then than in a ritual invocation or even a drawing down. She's shining out through everybody's eyes.

I am aware, since experiencing the depth of worship at NEYM, of how much more real gladness I feel during fellowship after worship at Mt. Toby. There are so many people I'm happy to see and catch up with. Of course the words we exchange aren't as powerful as what we experience in meeting... but they have been much harder for me to ripen into. Seasoned and spirit-filled are two good things for a blog entry to be. But I know my own blog is going to include a certain share of tea and cookies (or cakes and ale, for the Pagans in the studio audience today ;> ) maybe just because I'm at a place where a lot of my current spiritual work is remembering to stay connected to people on ordinary, everyday levels of just enjoying each other...

I think this was a pretty light entry, for instance. But I really do recommend reading Liz's post--and her previous one, Got Toilet Paper?, a terrific post about answering the call of the ordinary. After all... it's all sacred.

(Happy smile.)

I'll write again whenever I get to come up for air next. Everybody, be well.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Life is Sweet

I totally forgot how utterly exhausting teaching school can be. It's 8:30 on a Friday night... and I'm going to crawl into bed now.

I can't believe how tired I am already...

Still. A great two days. The third year of teaching is much, much, much easier than the first two... Not only that, but: my class sizes are small, almost private-school-sized small (two sections of 17 students each and one of 24); I have, temporarily at least, a work-study aide who has graded my first two sections of pretests; the kids are actually _listening_ to me (huzzah!); and, best of all, at the end of the day, one of our master-teachers came by my room to pass on a comment she heard from one of my new kids, who says I'm cool and they're glad they are in my class.

It does _not_ get much better than this. (Though the stamina to have a personal life wouldn't be terrible...)

Good night, blogosphere!

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