Monthly Archives: May 2010

Math Is Not Linear

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Okay, I know this doesn’t have much to do with the main subjects of this blog, but in addition to everything else I tutor middle school kids in math. Not very complicated math—I excel at introducing algebraic concepts to 5th and 6th graders, while helping them understand fractions and decimals. I am not a math pro by any means (I wilt at the sight of logarithms) but I love helping kids figure out how to approach and solve problems.

One of the first things I tell my students and their parents is that every single kind of math was invented to help solve a problem. Math is not just a blunt weapon designed to hasten children’s introduction to nihilism. It actually has a point, and that is to help people look at a problem, figure out what they need to know in order to solve it, and then go about finding a solution, step by step. Mathematical thinking—logic, pattern recognition, decoding—is really creative thinking.

The presentation below is made with a super cool new technology that will make PowerPoint obsolete one of these days. If you’ve never seen it before, head over to Prezi.com and see how it works. It takes a while to load, but when it does just use the right arrow button to forward the presentation. To see a full screen version, click on “More” and then choose full screen. Thanks to Alison Blank, the creator, for beautifully illustrating/animating one of my favorite education rants!

The Ones We Leave Behind

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One of the most telling stories of the mystic journey comes from the Talmud. As told by Rabbi David Cooper in his book God Is a Verb,

The Talmud contains a famous story of four scholars who “entered the Pardes” (garden/orchard). The Pardes in this context was not an ordinary garden, but a realm of expanded consciousness, some say Paradise. The experience these four sages had was so overwhelming, one died, one became demented, one gave up his faith, and only one, Rabbi Akiva, survived unharmed.

That seems right to me: about one in four survive. Many should have been dissuaded from the journey to begin with. Then there are those who did not really survive the journey but remain among us, cautionary tales of how giftedness and good intentions can go awry.

Jewish mysticism has a dictum that states, “The work of the chariot may not be taught to anyone, unless this person is a sage,” but as this story illustrates, even sages get wiped out by waves larger than they can handle. And what happens to those fragile sages, teachers themselves, when the wave breaks and they become search and rescue stories?

I had the unsettling experience last week of meeting one of the fragile ones, a former teacher of mine whose psyche was not quite stable enough for the wisdom that could come streaming through it. I’d learned a lot there for several years, and a few years ago when things started to feel “off,” I found a way to bow out gracefully without burning bridges.

Our chance meeting brought that past connection flooding back, and I fell into a deep sadness. It was not fun to see someone I cared about so unmoored in space and time, and I saw how concern and right action on anyone’s part could easily feel like betrayal from the other end.

One of the first things we learn from our teachers is discernment: the ability to tell truth from fiction, to know when we have lost our center and how to find it again. Discernment is also one of the last things we learn, when our paths diverge and we must separate from our mentors in order to stay true to ourselves.

There is little comfort right now in knowing that I made the right choice. I do not enjoy seeing people suffer, nor do I take pleasure in watching my concerns come to pass. My sadness is not just about this particular person, though. It is also a reminder of the limits of my own ability to fix things.

The Talmud doesn’t mention whether Rabbi Akiva had survivor guilt, or what he might have said to the followers of those other three rabbis. I imagine that then, as now, everyone had their own story about what happened and what healing was possible.

For me, with a lifetime habit of too much caretaking, it is very important to see exactly what is, and acknowledge that I can’t change it. Equally important is the ability to talk about it openly, with compassion. There is a huge stigma around mental illness, and a strong culture of denial, in the realm of spiritual teachers. And yet…one in four. It is so important to know which one that is.

The Call of the Dream Tribe

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Do you listen to your dreams but have no one to talk with about them? Are you looking for a circle of fellow dreamers to help you explore dream messages? The perfect solution may be at hand.

Introducing The Dream Tribe, a members-only online community where you can get instant feedback on your dreams, connect with experts in many different kinds of dreamwork, and find your place in the worldwide clan of dreamers.

The brainchild of interfaith minister Amy Brucker, The Dream Tribe launched just days ago. At the center of the effort are what Amy calls the “Dream Team”—professionals who are experts in different aspects of dream research and interpretation. (Full disclosure: I am part of the Dream Team.)

Each of us make ourselves available to site members by participating in the online forums, offering discounts on classes and private sessions, and distributing exclusive content through the Dream Tribe site. As a members-only site, the only people reading and responding to your posts about dreams are those who are truly interested in the healing potential of dreams.

It is a great value for people who want to learn more about their dreams but don’t have access to a local dream group. Registration is open for a few more days, so I encourage you to check it out, and take advantage of Amy’s no-risk membership offer.

I will blog more about my experience as part of the Dream Team—this is an experiment for all of us, remember—but for now I want to welcome the worldwide network/clan/tribe/consortium/consulate of dreamers to our virtual tribe!