Awake in a time of slumber

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Walking through a mall the other day I was amazed at some of the expressions that I was witnessing. While there were couples and groups that portrayed an image of happiness, the most common condition was a zoned out state. Watching someone with a lifeless gaze following a trajectory through a crowd seemingly taking nothing in nor connecting with anyone en route is both a sad condition and also rife. Why is it something I see in the west and yet while travelling and living in developing countries it did not appear to be an available condition? Living in Nepal I saw people with nothing embracing every minute. Cooking dinner, tending the livestock, washing clothes by hand, tilling fields people appeared present. More often than not they were in the company of others and talking. Without a cell phone or digital connection they were not pulled in a multitude of directions. They were “there” listening to their friend. When I talk to people I often wonder if they are fully with me or in a place with their thoughts. I will be honest, I wonder this because I am guilty of it.

Was I always like this? Did I always tend to my own thoughts rather than being available to those of the person I am with? I like to think that this was not a chronic condition in my youth. I want to believe that I grew to be this way and that I can return to a way of being that allows me to be fully immersed in what I am doing rather than thinking of what I am about to do or what I have just done. What I recognize is that in a world full of distractions and “stuff” then it is going to be a work of resolve to return to my previous behaviors. Being present is a discipline.

Maybe it is time to go off on a long backpacking trip as a kick start. Walking was always the best meditation I knew. What are you going to do to be present?

Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. And today? Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present.” Kung Fu Panda or perhaps Babatunde Olatunji.

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Finding Your Brave

Cai and I went climbing last Friday. What interests me is that he did not really want to go; I had to work hard to encourage him. This sometimes happens, the thing is that once we find ourselves outside he loves it. Watching him move over the rock on a beautiful, sunny fall day in one of my favorite places in Colorado was pure bliss. The smile that covered his face was one of a person fully engaged in the moment and loving it. Watching my boy enjoying doing things that are special to me in places that are special to me ranks as one of the best feelings I know. Learning the tools to make them happen is therefore important.

The first thing I have to come to terms with as I learn my ways of motivating Cai is that he is often a mirror of my actions. I am known to sabotage my enjoyment because I think something else is more important. How can I expect my son to be any different from the example that he sees? So yet again it seems that teaching starts with empathy and compassion and then requires a healthy dose of making the changes I want to see in my students in myself first. I also fall foul of not allowing myself to see the pleasure that is available in the situation at hand, I almost imprison myself in a preconceived mindset. That day as I watched Cai embrace the rock and sunshine, as he allowed himself to ignore the emotions he predicted he was going to experience I realized it was he who was doing the teaching.

So I now have a big note to self. I am going to make sure that we get outside more often. The more we allow ourselves to find the fun and beauty in a moment, the more we are going to find that same fun and beauty in every situation and this is a lesson I want both of us to live.

That evening following an afternoon of climbing and watching trout swim in the shadows of the creek I had a familiar feeling; one I do not allow myself to feel enough these days. It is a warmth and satisfaction that comes from having an optimal experience; the same concept as Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls Flow. It comes from being brave enough to surrender completely to the moment. It is most easily found when doing something one is passionate about and yet it can be found in the most mundane occasions if we allow ourselves to be truly present. The topping on Cai’s and my cake was that we both slept the sleep of warriors, content and spent. Finding our brave may be one of the most beneficial things we can do. How do you find yours?

 

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Overcoming Fear

Yesterday I went climbing with Cai; it was a wonderful time of movement, sunshine and bonding. It was particularly great to watch him work things out; be it figuring how to move over the rock or tie knots and create a simple anchor. I also gained a huge buzz from his desire to lead, especially as he is smart enough to know when it is safe and when he prefers me to give him a rope from above. It was interesting in that he actually was a little scared a couple of times and had to overcome this. As he ages this seems to be a more frequent occurence.

Now something I consider when I am teaching is that I believe it to be only fair that if I expect something of my students, I need to give the same of myself. It is one of the reasons I particularly enjoy teaching in areas that are new to me; it stretches me and keeps me on my toes – something I want the people in my care to experience as well.

Yesterday, for a second I pondered what I was doing to overcome fear that might match Cai’s, then it slapped me in the face like a sledgehammer. As I moved over easy rock 50 feet above him; something I do regularly when instructing I was hit with an overwhelming desire not to fall. My need to protect my son took me to a place emotionally that I never visit with students. Climbing easy ground is something I am so practiced at that it does not give me cause to think and yet yesterday, with the stakes being so big (in my own mind); I had to talk myself through what I was doing.

The great thing about this is that when I asked Cai about the fears he felt and what it felt like after he had accomplished a climb and dealt with these feelings, then I came from a place of empathy. Last night we both slept the sleep of warriors – in fact Kim said she was woken at 5.00 am by Cai giggling in his sleep. Sharing something so vital with Cai helps me to feel alive. What fears do you find worth dealing with? How does it make you feel.

 

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All I really need to know I learned outside

Hi my name is Wil Rickards and this is the first blog in a series which I hope will be filled with ideas and activities that you will find useful on the journey of reaching your true potential and maybe finding a job.

Today I am going to introduce myself by explaining where most of my real learning has come from. Author Robert Fulghum wrote a popular book called, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten; all I can say is that I must have been a late bloomer because I did not figure life out quite so early. Yet, if I examine my own experiences, I believe what I found out for myself, often the hard way has stood me in the greatest stead.

My most effective classrooms were the mountains, rivers and seas of my teens and early twenties, here every action and reaction was relevant and feedback was usually instant.

  • If I forgot my rain gear or spare layers I was left cold or wet
  • If I could not be bothered to prepare for lunch I went hungry
  • The less I had the more resourceful I became and the easier it was to move
  • Hard work was often rewarded; I am left with lots of mental images of stunning views
  • The people I shared most trust with are the ones I am still good friends with decades on down the road
  • I learned trust by putting myself in situations where I had to trust and I gained a great deal from doing it
  • The hardest objectives needed to be prepared and trained for the most and are the ones I still remember
  • The more committing and dangerous an adventure the more carefully I chose a partner
  • Enjoyment stemmed not only from the activity but in a large part from the company I kept and yet doing something alone was often more emotionally challenging and provided a different benefit
  • Being part of a tribe gave me cultural identity, role models, mentors (both savant and otherwise) and quelled some of my impetuosity while still being a nursery for my confident aspirations
  • I dreamed most peacefully when, I slept the sleep of the warrior, my arms still aching from the travail and my mind spent from the exertions of maintaining optimism and focus in the face of fear and adversity
  • My performance improved most significantly when I set concrete, positive goals and shared the journey with a partner who wanted the same thing and was happy to help me push when life became difficult
  • Being self aware and training my weaknesses while playing to my strengths paid the most dividends
  • The meditation of being thoroughly in the moment brought the most development. This was most easily obtained when I had to focus and the consequences were real
  • Mimicking natural processes was often the most efficient path to follow
  • There was no point in getting upset with a situation, it just needed to be dealt with and it was especially rare that I could blame someone else while maintaining integrity; even if I wanted to

Surrounding myself in nature has provided me with these examples and the added benefit of grounding. Standing on top of a precipitous mountain, feeling the surge of a river dropping over a rapid or sitting amidst a vast ocean in a small boat has helped me to know how significant I really am. It has also filled me with joy and allowed me to recognize the value of my choices and the control I have over them.

So that is a little about me. Have you recognized I like transferable learning? Here are a few questions for you. How do you know what you know? Are you like me and need gentle reminders of your own truth? Does taking time out to think about the lessons you have learned in your past give you insight into how to deal with your today? Please do comment, I love reading people’s thoughts and ideas and next time I will share a gem for staying upbeat when life is wearing you down.

Originally posted in http://denver.jobing.com/Community_Blog.asp

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Some Thoughts on Sustainability

I have been thinking about the word “sustainability” a great deal recently and more importantly about the meaning it adopts due to the cultural context that surrounds it. I also find that I am concerned with a parallel thread that seems completely inter-relatedt; health and wellness.

Let us start by looking at a historical perspective of health and wellness. Until recently health was considered as an absence of disease, during the 1980’s it took on a larger mantel. This new vision of wellness incorporates achieving and balancing physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, social and environmental health. By changing the way we look at health and wellness we make it easier to achieve because we understand it more. The very definition also allows us to move towards something attractive rather than away from something that we do not want which ties in with contemporary thought on goal setting.

What has this got to do with sustainability? Well for starters, to be sustainable a body or organization has to be healthy. I think this is something that has yet to be given sufficient significance within the discussion on sustainability. I also believe that the definition of sustainable needs to be expanded beyond Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (Brundtland report 1983) Ultimately, sustainability could be about creating healthy people, organizations, environments, learners etc. which go on to (pro)create more healthy…

Another aspect that can be incorporated from the wellness movement is how to incite motivation that changes behavior. When a person is obese they need to see that they are overweight, there is no need to judge oneself, there is though the need to make a change. It is about being honest with oneself and making small changes that over a period of time create big results. It is about seeing something for what it really is rather than either being a conspiracy or for someone else.

The similarities go further still. Both are holistic concepts; a situation will never be truly healthy / sustainable until all the components are taken care of and nurtured. Therefore all the components need to be identified.

For a university to be sustainable there is a need to have healthy students who are able to achieve their optimal state of learning in the same way that there is a need for a small carbon footprint. Encouraging exercise and good and local nutrition is as important as recycling. Aiding students to feel a necessary part of a thriving society is as relevant as energy efficient buildings.

My thoughts then turn to what should a University Sustainability Club do. Obviously all the mentioned areas need to be incorporated and there is a lot more examples of Universities that have been focusing on environmental sustainability who provide an extremely good model. I believe though that where possible we can focus on initiatives that marry as many concepts together as possible. For instance:

·         Encouraging self powered commuting  – which might involve cheap / free rental of equipment (bikes from bike club, skis from student union), organizing leaders / guides (from clubs such as PE majors club), encouraging facilities to groom trails on campus rather than scrape them, prizes for people who are involved, more safe & covered storage and showering facilities on campus

·         Socials that involve exercise, education, networking and fun

·         Lobbying the food providers on campus to really consider the food that they are supplying and ensuring that there is information on all the food sold and that it is also measured for how healthy and local it is. All while working under a tight budget to reduce the costs. Perhaps, this would be more easily done if UAA provided the food on campus rather than contract it out.

I know that this is not really original thinking and yet I am inspired by a man I was lucky enough to spend some time with. Bill Mollison; the originator of permaculture, once said to me, “by myself I can do nothing, with one friend I can change the world.” Bill does not have many new ideas he has though taken lots of well proven ones and strung them together in a package that has been making a real difference in the world. I suggest that we do the same.

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