The Teacher in Me

My friend Linda over at Litebeing Chronicles posted a Divine Mission-Possible challenge this month. Here are her instructions:

1 – Write about your spiritual mission here on Gaia. Are you a lightworker, Starseed, forerunner, Indigo, or none of the above? What have you incarnated to do or to be? Describe your mission and your journey to achieve it. Are you delighted to be here? There is no correct answer, by the way. Make it your own.

It is my hope that this blog will inspire each of my readers to consider their own life purpose. Surely it is no accident that we have all come together in this time and space, right here, right now. Rachel, I am inviting you to rise to the Challenge. Your life is such an inspiration to me and I believe an explanation of what you see as your role in this life would spur many others on as well. ❤ 

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As a child, I remember having a toy classroom: several little desks glued to the top of a sturdy piece of wood with a larger desk at one end facing the others. The teacher and students were bears, with the teacher being the largest. I am not sure if there ever was a little bear for every seat, but I recall spending hours with a friend of mine, taking turns at teacher and student. I definitely enjoyed playing teacher best.

Image result for teddy bear classroom toy

It was not long before I actually started teaching. One summer in high school, my job was to visit the various parks around town to offer free tennis instruction to the kids. In college I led the first of many Bible studies with Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship. Unsure of my ability to ‘make it big’ as a soloist, I earned my BS in Music Education, and although six months of student teaching would be the only time I set foot in an actual classroom, I spent the rest of my life teaching others in some capacity. As a church choir director/band leader, I found many opportunities to teach music theory or vocal skills. I spent 15 years home schooling my three children. Now I blog, answer questions on Quora and write books.

In the late 90’s I ran into an interesting set of education material called “Lifetime of Learning.” The author intended to convince any reader of the evils of public school and the benefits of something she called ‘delight directed learning.’ Her theory was that the modern idea of classroom-bound education (imparting endless facts that have little to do with a student’s real life experience) was sure to drive the inborn desire to learn from anyone. I do not completely agree with her premise, but I do believe she was spot on when it came to what ought to be the impetus for any means of education: the desire for knowledge. To be a good teacher, one must first be an excellent student, and nothing delights me more than discovering new information in an area of interest to me (thus my current YouTube addiction).

The truth is, I can’t not teach. In fact, I’ve lost some potential friends over it. Perhaps another trick to teaching is knowing your audience. I have come to understand the phrase “words don’t teach, life experience teaches,” yet here I am, using a bunch of too many words specifically for the purpose of teaching! Maybe words don’t teach, but when a person has been through enough life experience, certain words will resonate. They will begin to make sense and carry the power of influence. Isn’t that the true mission of a teacher – to influence others in some way?

Today I would call myself a recovering Evangelical. I spent over 30 years tied to a religion whose beliefs I now consider silly at best, harmful at worst. During that time, like any dutiful disciple, I taught others that this religion was THE Truth and contained the answer to every question. I believed in it (or most of it) with my whole heart, only to later reject almost everything about it. Looking back, I could feel bad about how many people I potentially offended or even harmed in my dogmatic approach to the subject matter, except that I know a few things now about life that I did not understand then.

Like that evolution is a thing.

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Photo source: https://edu.glogster.com/glog/evolution-of-dolphins/1jpbvjm0fan

No, not Evolution like fish turning into people (which might be a thing – don’t know and don’t care), but the evolution of thought through the course of life experience. I understand now that this life is a journey, and that along that journey people change – everything from how much money is in their bank account to what they believe. I also get now that we can only give out of the well-spring we are dipping from. Christianity was all that I knew – until I blew the walls down and looked around. In that process I learned what I consider the most important lesson for any teacher: it is okay – no, imperative to be okay with – not knowing. Not knowing everything, that is. I can still feel the freedom of finally being able to say, “I don’t know.” Take it from me, having to know the answer to everything is exhausting.

There is a piece of wood paneling running between the ceiling and the top of the closet in my new bedroom. My first inclination when I saw it was to paint the phrase “Temet Nosce” (Know Thyself) across the panel. I know myself to be a lightworker – one who has come to shine in the dark places, be it a person’s soul or the world at large. One of my favorite cards in the Tarot is the Hermit. This figure portrays a solitary researcher seeking knowledge (often from within), as indicated by the lantern he carries. But the light is not only there to illuminate his own path, it is for others as well. Anywhere that his light travels, the darkness of ignorance is dispelled. That is my goal, to bring the light of knowledge to everyone I come into contact with, be they a student of pickleball or metaphysics. Will my endeavors always be successful? It depends on the audience. But as long as I keep learning, my mission will always be possible.

In answer to Linda’s final question, “Are you delighted to be here?” Yes! There is nothing I love more than learning and then spreading the word to others. And since there is SO much that I don’t yet know, I will give you some advice I once heard: “Eat the meat and spit out the bones.” In other words, take what resonates and discard the rest. Maybe ‘the rest’ was wrong or maybe it was given to you outside of the context of your experience so it just won’t resonate. Remember, no one has the answer to everything, and in the end, life is the best teacher. So live it, and learn from it.

What about you? There are still a couple of weeks left in Linda’s blog challenge. Would you be game to write something about your Divine Mission? Reach out to Linda using the link above. You can post a comment there indicating your willingness to participate.

As always, thanks so much for reading!

Namaste,

~C

Magnificence

Coming (back) into my own.

This is a response to Litebeing’s Magnificent Challenge posted by Ra.

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I have written sparsely over the years about my family of origin. My favorite piece was part of a fictional tale crafted from the story retold every Christmas of how my grandfather came to America. The vast majority of the rest of my family posts relate in some way to my sister, who passed in December, 2013. During the year and a half following her death, writing was my way of grieving that loss. I have not, however, devoted any time to writing about myself as I stand within my family of origin.

How appropriate that I should run across this writing challenge. My family is where I learned of my own magnificence, and it is what brought me home to it at last.

My father is the youngest of eight siblings, and I am the youngest of four – by eight years (I do have a cousin a mere four years my senior). Being the last offspring of a large Lebanese-American family makes a person a lot of things: privileged and spoiled for sure, but also very much loved. Being my Fambly’s version of Lebanese makes a person an entirely different list of things: bold, hard working, loud, extravagant, and fiercely loyal. No, we are not all extroverts, but growing up, it certainly sounded like it – thanks for all the memories Uncle Saiad and Uncle George (by far, the loudest of the lot).

My family excelled at many things: tennis and hearts, laughter, good food, affection (Aunt Evelyn always kissed you three times, be you friend or total stranger), playacting (costumes and props included!), great food (did I mention food already?), telling the story, criticizing outsiders, teaching the importance of having a close-knit family, and gathering together around amazing food. My daughter and I often joke that with my Fambly, it really is all about the food, but the truth is, food was just a very large part of the love; and if this Fambly did anything truly well, it was love.

As is typical of immigrants of every race, my family looked within to find its identity. Sure, my father and uncles served in the military and all of them worked hard at their jobs and hobbies, their wives had friends and sometimes jobs, but when it came to who we were, our core values and beliefs, it was the Fambly that defined us. It was there that we turned for guidance toward our goals and the support we needed to reach them, but, above all, we discovered who we were in a deep well of unconditional love. I was far too young to have been a part of my siblings’ and nearby cousins’ lives, and now see myself as the last and arguably least of my clan. Yet, somehow, I always felt magnificent.

One brother holds me firmly, while the elder basks in my presence. (bottom left) Look how I magnetize all of my mother's attention! (upper right)
One brother holds me firmly, while the elder basks in my presence. (bottom left) Look how I, the smallest in the group, manage to capture all of my mother’s attention! (upper right) Even Uncle Saiad (top left) looks to be enjoying the exchange between mother and child.

I am not sure what to make of my own feeling of magnificence or why it was given me. It was simply an unspoken truth that I was special (the cousins still joke about it today at family reunions, so this year I reminded them to never forget it!). Perhaps it can be attributed to the years of space preceding my arrival (I was a ‘surprise’ after all), or that I was the baby of the baby, or maybe my parents just told me of my own magnificence in enough ways that it became true for me. No matter the cause, the fact remains that I grew up believing that I shone brightest.

I was the most magnificent of all.

On paper that line reads as egotistical, but I am speaking with the voice of a child the emotions of a child. A child filled with wonder and at times quite overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of a Fambly able to loom so high above her. I wonder sometimes if I did not make myself magnificent just to be heard over the booming voices of my Uncles when they were arguing over the cards, the clattering noise of my Aunts as they busily prepared enough food for armies, and the uninhibited din of my cousin’s reunited horseplay. Other than age and my much-indulged precociousness, I cannot remember any clear distinction between myself and my same-generation family members. If anything, they outshone me in a hundred myriad ways (actors and artists, doctors and lawyers, musicians and teachers…the list goes on). Yet, astoundingly, while everyone in the Fambly knew I believed myself to be the brightest star, for some reason they encouraged that belief – or I simply convinced myself that they did!

After years of hearing about my own magnificence, other voices entered my life. Many disparaged and criticized my origins, or mocked the qualities that made me ‘me’. Some even urged me to put out the light that used to shine so brightly. Under the constant drone, I forgot my place. For a time, I could not remember who I was, where I came from, and how truly bright I once was allowed to shine. But the Fambly that indulged my youthful aspiration to be most magnificent of all reminded me that I am magnificent because I belong to each and every one of them, and they to me. We make one another magnificent.

Unconditional love taught me that I do not have to shine the brightest, but I do have to know my own magnificence if I want to bask in the love of such a Fambly. This kind of love will not settle for less in the beloved.

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Slowly I remember. I begin to see glimpses of the star-child of my youth in the reflected gaze of my Fambly – and, even occasionally, the mirror. May I never forget my roots again. They are strong supports and the stuff from which I am made, and remind me that no matter what I do or where I go, I am a part of them and they of me.

My roots remind me that I am magnificent.

I hope you will take the time to visit Litebeing’s site and read what some others have written about their own magnificence. If you are so inclined, join the challenge and put a link to your post in the comments below.