Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘teaching’

The Return Trip

imagesFrom a talk to sisters during the sunny season. 210 B.C. A deserving excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

Let’s speak of karma and cause and effect. This is an important concept that is often misunderstood or diluted with theory and make‑believe.

Karma is simply a word we use to try to describe the reality of one thing affecting another – action and reaction. What you put in one end comes out the other. Nothing exists in a vacuum, unless you’re a piece of dust, which has been sucked up from the carpet. In that case, your entire existence is in a vacuum.

Everything we do, say, think, or feel goes out into the universe. Sometimes the universe spits it right back at us, and at others it goes through a long wash cycle until it is clean and folded. There are millions of karmic vibrations intermingling, bouncing off one another, and influencing the direction we are going.

That is why it is vital that we stay awake and conscious of what is occurring (unless we are sleeping of course). When we are aware, we can then make choices, and not just react out of ignorance, drowsiness or a craving for a latte. Whether these conscious choices make any difference is dependent on your reactions to this teaching, and whether you are dust in a vacuum or just another cog in the karmic dream machine.

More karmic influences at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

A Drop of Water

A teaching from Mistress Tarantino, as transmitted to Master Winnie of the Poo Chang around 44 A.D. Excerpt from Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

images-1Space, the final frontier . . . it is outside ourselves and within. We are a drop of water within a mighty ocean and that ocean is a drop of water within a larger ocean. The drop of dew we see upon the grass contains an entire universe and each entity within that drop is a universe unto itself.

It’s all macro and micro, though some may mistakenly call it retro. If you think, for even a miniscule second, that you are the center of the world or that your ego exists unto itself and outside the rest of life, you are deep within the illusory world of Mara or as some like to call her Mirror.

It is quite complex and simple. We are separate, yet not. We are part of the whole, yet we are individuals. How can this be? What makes this so? Why does it work this way?

Scientists of the future will describe this phenomenon, of our co‑existence mixed with a sense of separation, as quantum theory or the Tao of physics or some such science. This reality is the yin and yang of the one, the whole, the spokes of the wheel.

Some may find it useful to ponder such a universe or try to make some sense of it all. Just accept it as our shared reality or mutually agreed upon perception and ride the waves.

More scientifically challenged stories at: Zen Master Tova Tarantino Toshiba: The Illustrious and Delusional Abbess of Satire.

One Snapshot at a Time

Capturing their lives, one snapshot at a time
ROP Stories
Posted by Sean on September 16, 2013

Our boys love playing with cameras. Lend them a camera and they will run around the Center taking photos of anything and everything, filling up your memory card in no more than 20 minutes. To them photography was more about playing with a camera than it was about being creative and exploring the world through a lens. That all began to change when Amber Lucero contacted the Rwandan Orphans Project and offered to teach photography workshops to any boys who were interested, regardless of age or experience.

Amber has a background in photography and the visual arts, and is a staff member at San Diego’s Museum of Photographic Arts, or MOPA. She not only brought great enthusiasm for teaching our boys but also a wealth of creativity and a friendliness that led to our usually shy boys to bond with her almost immediately.

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Amber’s lessons started by teaching the boys the basics of composition; framing, lighting, and knowing what your subject is before you just start snapping away. Her lessons, while geared towards photography, were designed in a way that taught them shapes, colors, patterns and other basic academic principles without them even realizing it. Those early lessons were meant to lay the groundwork for the exploration of the boys’ creativity that would come later. And although they started off slowly, after a few weeks we began seeing them becoming more strategic with their shots.

Before long, even when Amber was not at the ROP, the boys would have cameras out, prospecting around our Center and its surroundings searching for interesting subjects to photograph and trying to take creative shots of themselves and their friends that were unlike the usual hip hop poses they used to always mimic from music videos they saw on TV.

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It’s been several months now since Amber’s first lesson, and it’s been truly remarkable what she has been able to teach our boys, as well as what they’ve been able to do with that knowledge. It’s also been a great way for us staff to see their lives in the Center from their perspectives. Now many of their photos are hanging up in our office. Soon others will be displayed at an exhibition here in Kigali and yet others will actually be displayed in an exhibition at MOPA in San Diego from October 19th to February 2nd. If you’re in the San Diego area during that time please visit MOPA and see their work for yourself!

Read complete story and see many more photos at ROP Stories

Changing Lives In Rwanda

News from the Rwandan Orphans Project

Great Leaps Forward

It was April 2010 when the ROP Center moved from a dark and dingy warehouse to the beautiful site we occupy now. That move was a giant step forward for the organization, one that we’re still very proud of today. In the last two years a lot of ideas, work and money have been put into what was once just an abandoned school on the outskirts of Kigali, reshaping it into the wonderful orphanage and school it is today.

But this month that reminds us of our past has also brought with it some great news about the future of the ROP. Engineers Without Borders, a large international organization, has chosen to partner with the ROP to build a new school and education center on the land we acquired late last year. This comes as great news because it will be the first facility constructed on what will be the future home of the entire ROP Center, and it will feature classrooms and learning facilities custom built to address the needs and challenges of teaching and learning in Rwanda. Everyone from the children to the teachers to the administration is very excited to see the project get started in June when the first team of EWB engineers is scheduled to visit the site and begin planning the design and construction.

This is just another remarkable milestone in the short history of the ROP. In just a few short years we have gone from an overcrowded warehouse with a leaky roof and no electricity to our current home that, while great, we are having to rent for a large fee each month. Now we are on the verge of building on our very own land, and we couldn’t be more excited about the future of the ROP.

The new ROP school will be just one facility of many we hope will someday occupy our sprawling land in the Kibaya valley. Of course we also hope to build new living spaces and other necessary needs for the orphans and vulnerable children who live with us. But we also want to expand the ROP to be more than an orphanage and school. One day we would like it to be an all encompassing community center where local impoverished families can seek help educating and caring for their own children through our academic and vocational training programs, where they can seek the advice and assistance of our social workers, and benefit from other programs.

While the ROP is still a small grassroots organization, our dreams and ambitions are large. We feel that, with the ongoing support and enthusiasm of our donors (people like you) we can reach them and even surpass them. So stay tuned. More good news to come!

The Zen of Teaching

The Buddha in the Classroom: Zen Wisdom To Inspire Teachers by Donna Quesada (Skyhorse Publishing, 2011). Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Shared in three insightful and instructive sections (The Burned-out Professor; The Classroom; and Philosophizing Burnout) The Buddha In The Classroom provides situations, discussions and examples of how easy it is for teachers to become “the other” and see their students as “problems, situations, annoyances, complaining, disruptive and disrespectful”, especially when the instructor is caught in their own routines, ego and need to “control” or “teach them a lesson”.

Every instance of conflict, frustration or anger that is presented, is followed by a section called “Dharma: The Lesson for Teachers”. Dharma simply means teaching or “the teaching”. This is where the author brings in her experiences and conversations she’s had as a practitioner of Zen-Buddhism and yoga and how they can be applied to the classroom. For example, after a section on discipline and a student that has acted out, she says, “As any mother knows, even in the context of one small family, each child has her own character with her own unique needs.” It is no different in the classroom. Nothing can be set in stone for every individual. Connection, understanding and paying attention to our perceptions can change night into day.

Some may ask, how is Zen-Buddhism or meditation in the classroom, any different from other aspects of life. It’s not. The same principles and practices Ms. Quesada advocates for teachers can be applied in any situation and at any time. She states, “I used to tell my students: if I had to sum up Buddhism in just one statement, I would call it the discipline of letting go. Letting go of what? The ego. The self. The idea of self, and the cloak of separateness the ego-self wears.” The practice of letting go of one’s perceptions of self and others is never more apparent or magnified than it is in the classroom. That is what makes this book different than other titles, which proclaim, “Zen in Art; Zen and Writing, The Zen of Running, etc.” The author speaks from experience and shows how she applies mindfulness and consistency to the way she deals with grades, tardiness, disruptions, tests and other familiar issues that teachers confront daily. It isn’t fairy-airy ideology or philosophy that is proposed, but down-to-earth mindfulness and consistent work on our selves.

Ironically or perhaps not, the author teaches philosophy at a community college in Santa Monica California. Teachers and other readers will find however, that the Zen lesson plan presented contextually as a work of non-fiction, is equally valuable for teachers and students at all grade levels. She has found that the most effective learning and connections take place when we realize that, “There has never been anything else but the present moment, yet we continue to reside in the fictional world of the past and the whimsical fantasies of the future. We never give the same lecture twice. We are not the same teachers we were last year or even yesterday.” She says that bringing the practice of mindfulness or awareness to the moment and letting go of our ego helps us get clear and enables us to turn our attention wholeheartedly to the students. When we do this “there is a magical shift that occurs with this simple shift of attention.”

Not only is The Buddha In The Classroom something that can be utilized in its entirety, by sections or a few pages at a time, it is also easy on the eyes and deftly designed by LeAnna Weller Smith. It is a cross between a hardcover/paperback and in some ways resembles a small Christian Bible. It doesn’t matter whether you are religious, spiritual or meditate; if you are a teacher of 20 years or just starting out, you will surely find some pertinent gems of wisdom in this small collection, with which you can resonate and put into practice (in and out of the classroom).

A Picture of Success

An excerpt from the book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call. Interview with Sybil Anderson-Adams.

Her life was the picture of success. Her husband was an attorney, they were drawing up plans for their dream house and she recently quit her teaching job to spend more time with their three young, healthy, happy children. Suddenly, the rug was pulled out from under her feet and before she knew what hit her, her life was turned upside down. What started out as a headache in court, turned out to be a leaking aneurysm. In spite of the doctors’ assurances to the contrary, within three weeks Sybil Anderson-Adams husband, father of her children, was dead. Without comprehension or time to have said good-bye, she struggled to survive and make sense of the incomprehensible.

As a result of her desperation and need to find answers, she reached out to her friends, neighbors, doctor and church and formed a support group for young adults who’s partners had died. The first meeting brought together twenty-five people who’d previously thought they were alone. With her need and ability to communicate her process and grief to others, she continues to open the door of life for those who thought it had been slammed in their face and locked shut forever.

SYBIL ANDERSON-ADAMS: When I arrived at the hospital the doctor said, “I have some bad news to give you. Your husband stopped breathing.’ I’ll never forget those words. ‘He stopped breathing.’ He finally said, ‘I’m sorry . . . he’s passed away.’ It was then that it hit me . . . like a wosh. (she hits her chest with the palms of both hands). I doubled over . . . just like you see in the movies.

After the shock had subsided I realized I didn’t know who I was anymore. It was the loss of identity. I was the type of person who always had my entire life planned out. Before Neal died, I’d never really had a traumatic event. I had things all figured and scheduled . . . which, as you know, gives you a sense of control. But I had no control over this one and that was my undoing. I had to decide where I was going; who I was. There was an urgency. I remember going to a counselor and saying, ‘When will I not feel this way? When, when, when?!’ The reality was so strong that I wanted it to be over. I didn’t want to cry anymore.

Then one day I remember making a decision. it was something one of my kids said. You know, ‘Out of the mouths of babes!’ One of my sons says, ‘If you hadn’t stopped and talked to Dad that one day long ago, you might never had known him or gotten married.’ I said, ‘You know, you’re right.’ And I had this vision where I decided that whatever came up I’d say, ‘Yes!’ That I would do things no matter how hard it was. When my kids had stuff they needed to do . . . cub scouts, swimming . . . I made a decision that no matter what, I wasn’t going to hide at home anymore, I was going to go. And what I found was that doing that made me stronger, even though a lot of the events I attended were absolute disasters! Taking some kind of action made me feel brave. it gave me confidence.

I remember sitting with another friend who was at that same juncture. She said, ‘I hate this. I want to be out of here.’ I felt the same at the time and replied, ‘Yeah, just get me out.’ And that’s one of the reasons I started a support group and keep it going to this day. I needed those people so bad. They were my reality. If somebody else could make it, so could I.

For awhile I could only live for the day. The future was nonexistent. I’ve met many people throughout the years that say the same thing. hey said, ‘Good-bye” in the morning and their spouse was dead by the afternoon. It changed my whole concept of how I look at things. I laugh more often now. We’ve got three teenagers and one in early adolescence. They can make you laugh or cry. If I wasn’t able to laugh once in a while our life would be one miserable hell.

I think all survivors make that decision at some point. You have to decide to live. My kids forced me into it. I’d be in bed with the covers pulled over my head, not wanting to get out and one of them would come in and say, ‘What’s for breakfast?’ What are you going to do; I couldn’t stay in bed? I had to get up. I was the only one they had left.

We had a saying in our house, ‘Life sucks.’ It was kind of our motto for awhile. The kids would say, ‘Life sucks!’ and I’d look at them and say, ‘Yeah, then what?’ They’d answer, ‘Then you die.” I’d continue, “So, then what are you going to do about it?’ They’d look at me, roll their eyes and say, ‘Come on Mom.’ It’s made them real. They see a different reality then most kids.

Life has become a really interesting place. Neal’s death and where my life has gone since, has added another dimension. God knows I wish it hadn’t happened, but without it I could have lived until I was eighty-five and never discovered this! Life is such a gift, though I’m not thrilled with the way I had to really find this out. I love being in this state of mind. I’m doing things that I never knew I could or would do. There was a point two years after he died when I realized, ‘My God, I can do anything!’ I survived something that at first glance seemed like an endless hole of despair. I didn’t think I’d ever climb out . . . but I did.

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