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The Immediate Availability of Awakening

August 17, 2015


The most important understanding for a lay Buddhist is the immediate availability of awakening.
Awakening need not arrive after a long, protracted practice history unless we believe that this is necessary…
We practice until we are tired preparing for what has always existed here and now, then we become quiet and surrender.
–Rodney Smith Stepping Out of Self-Deception: The Buddha’s Liberating Teaching of No-Self


Today is the first day of the fall semester at Ventura County Community College District, and since I teach Mondays and Wednesdays, today’s the first day of school for my students and me.

I love thinking about new classes — and how to make learning  about writing “new” — “exciting” — “fresh.” What can I do as a teacher to facilitate and experience that will be rewarding and fun? How can I integrate field trips and experiential activities into college composition? What is the “theme”? How can we make a difference in the world?

The bottom line is that it is not up to ME to make a great class — it is up to US, all of us, as individuals who form a class. And that’s true not just about school. It’s true about our college, our community, our state, our country, our world.

While this quote relates to my point above about the availability of this awakening, this quote also reminds me of the writing process, specifically the stage that some call “writer’s block.” Do you see why?

This semester we are going to consider “drought.” In spring 2015, my friend Tracy Hudak started a performance project, “Drought: what are we thirsty for?” A performance was held during ArtWalk at the WAV. This semester we are going to ask “what we are thirsty for” and conduct research and take action to slake our thirst.

What are we thirsty for when it comes to learning? What are we thirsty for in our community? Within ourselves?

lens19112751_1338373593aaaaFor Wednesday, we’ll start with reading “Holy Water” by Joan Didion (here). And we’ll begin reading “Stop Stealing Dreams” by Seth Godin (here).  Read as far as you can (at least the first 40-50 sections–don’t worry it reads quickly and most sections are only a few paragraphs long!) Take notes about what you’d like to discuss on Wednesday. Write about one or both in a reading response for extra credit –incorporate some of your favorite quotes (be sure to cite the paragraph or section it came from).  Here’s one of mine that is first in a list here; which one do you like and why? 

“Large scale education was not developed to motivate kids or to create scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system.”

While you are reading “Stop Stealing Dreams,” keep in mind the advice that Seth Godin gave to me: get your students blogging! We will learn how to blog using the FREE WordPress platform (like this one) during class time in the lab, but for now, think about what you want your blog to be about (although keep in ind it will have some school content).

Artwork and quote curated by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo, one of the only westerners trained in the rare Buddhist art of silk applique thangkas. His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave his blessings to Leslie’s work and encouraged her to make images that speak to the spiritual aspirations of people across religions and cultures.

PS While today is the first day of school for me, tomorrow is the first day of school for my son–he’s going into 7th grade! Which means he’s hanging around this morning and distracting me making it hard to write! But he also made me a cappuccino. And I am grateful he still is excited to share ideas and stuff from his life. Read how we spent our last day of summer vacation together here.

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