It is the middle of the fifth week of the quarter, not quite fully mid-term, and yet I already feel that the summer has slipped away into the misty recesses of the past. And as with so many elements of our lives, I'm not sure that I fully appreciated how good I had it while it lasted.
The school year seems to have come on full force. Don't get me wrong; it's turning out to be (or at least starting out as) a good year. My schedule is fine, my students are great, and my institutional service responsibilities are pretty cool. There's nothing wrong with any of it; I love it all. There's just so much to love.
My first class wasn't until 3:30 pm, but I still got to campus today at 9:30 am. I spent the whole day sequestered in my office, making up lesson plans and grading papers; after teaching, I came home, had some ramen for dinner, and spent another few hours finishing off some more grading.
But this is not a woe-is-me-I'm-so-busy complaint about my job; as I say, I love what I am doing and feel lucky to be where I am. Rather, this is a reflection on what choices I have been making lately in response to the busy-ness.
Back in the summer, I had plenty of time for reflection, for reading books, and for trying to follow the zen practice of just doing one thing at a time. I should have realized how privileged I was - a whole thirteen weeks without work responsibilities, three months to focus on myself. It's really a bit embarrassing to consider how little progress I made in that time; it was almost as good as actually being in a monastery, after all. Now, it seems that I am all about the action rather than the reflection; it's do-do-do, whether for work or for play/chores/stuff when I am not working. I am not making time for stillness. It's been almost a month since my last post in this category; not much monking to share when I've only been monkeying around.
My morning runs help out a little; crunching my way through the dark is comforting and restorative, but as I have expressed before, not totally adequate. And running the path is not quite Walking the Path, at least not yet.
Part of the problem, I think, lies in the very nature of community college teaching itself. It is a very outward practice; a class is a high-energy enterprise, with all my attention focused on my students' needs and very little on my own, and a significant performance element. In that environment, it is easy to lose sight of one's center, to become concerned with the shell and not the core, to let the monkey-brain chatter on and on.
In the end, though, all this is by way of explanation rather than excuse. If finding a new level of self-awareness is important to me, I will find a way to make the time for it in my day and the space for it in my life. I will fish out and finish Natalie Goldberg, request Epicurus from the library and re-read it, and turn off the computer, put aside the stack of stuff to just sit, just be. Those blinds in my office go down as well as up; in six hours of desk time, there must be room for a little meditation, don't you think?