Tag Archives: Teaching

Finding the Heart

21 Jan

The greatest wisdom is in simplicity. Love, respect, tolerance, sharing, gratitude, forgiveness. It’s not complex or elaborate. The real knowledge is free. It’s encoded in your DNA. All you need is within you. Great teachers have said that from the beginning. Find your heart, and you will find your way. ― Carlos Barrios, Mayan elder and Ajq’ij of the Eagle Clan

There’s nothing like making a commitment to a year of smoother sailing because that’s just the sort of dare the Universe needs to send in a few more swells. The first three weeks of 2015 have served up a volley of big breakers, mostly of the financial sort. However, my experiencing of them has changed a great deal. Perhaps it’s the nature of the challenges or simply that I know a little more about surfing, but in three short weeks I’m definitely not handling issues in the same old way: head down, braced, wide- eyed and tight jawed.

Two surprise IRS notices within the first week rolled into a Sunday afternoon broken bottom molar which now demands an expensive crown by the end of February. Then, Clarence’s eye needed costly veterinary attention on top of his previous visits in December for a sprained back. It seemed financial waves of a respectful magnitude were rippling out in swell upon swell and as soon as I took a deep breath, another wave covered my head. But underwater, came a different view. I saw much more clearly inside the swell. In the midst of these new waves, somehow it just felt right to simply let go.

I began to float in the terrifying but beautiful grace of what IS.

I stopped swimming. I didn’t care about what would come next. Strangely enough, the motion of events began to bear my weight, carrying me wherever it wanted. Something within wound down into a simplicity that’s hard to define. This feeling was absent of the usual guilt or pressure of “doing” before time runs out or “fixing” so that future sailing will be smooth.  I began to see and embrace a pretty big truth . . . believing that I am the conductor of my life’s concerto does not serve me. For truly, I am at the mercy and grace of whatever IS.

All that I hope for…
All that I need…
All that I am …

Not mine. . . to direct or to control.

“Okay,” I said to the sky.  “You take care of it. What would you have me do?”

The response was an intense sense of peace and a conviction that I am not a failure for my present inability to resolve the issues in my life which cause me the most emotional stress. Once I acknowledged that I didn’t know what to do and furthermore stopped caring about “doing” anything. ..events began to occur which showed precisely where to go. A knowing that I could trust what IS to take me exactly where I need to be settled in. And then, synchronicity after synchronicity erupted out of the surrender.

Post holidays, I’ve been teaching personal writing, trying to relay to students the value in connecting with others’ experiences. To not only tell their own stories, but truly hear and appreciate other people’s. They’ve been engaging deeply, way beyond my expectations. As I sifted through a pile of student generated sticky notes, one question emerged from the others, a metaphor resonating clearly against my own present. There are no accidents.

In sitting with this question for days, I realized the need to pare down the rind of my professional ego and allow the love I have for my craft and for my students to reemerge. For they have shown me that the heart is the source of surrender. And the changes in my professional life over which I have no control, I need to open to and allow. Before this journey, the erroneous idea I had that to give 100% to my job and the endless pursuit of professional perfection would ensure the security of sameness, had to be let go of like the tail of a constantly vigilant cobra poised at rapturous attention. And the cynicism which came like poison after the serpent’s departing bite now needs the healing light of love.

Random synchronous messages of care and support from previous students over the last week have shown me that I’ve been working within my purpose all along, even in the last three years where I have felt like I didn’t give anything to my profession except a fight to escape my calling. But surprisingly, the journey might just be about fitting Beloved into the picture… to fully balance all of my gifts and desires… writing, art, dance… spirituality and wisdom seeking. What better Teacher could I be than to live life fully and well? That’s a walking testament to the gift of presence and to the enormous power of following one’s bliss. Finding the bliss in teaching again may not be completely possible, but I think it’s my path for now.

These weeks have reminded me that love is simple, something I “learned” on the island in 2012, but tend to forget when I become tangled in the desire for a personal companion. Now, though, in the light of all this I’m beginning to love what IS. Because I need yoga to balance the load of a fully integrated life, I arranged to have practice once weekly in our campus library. My need was answered in such a way that others could also benefit. To me, that is how the Universe truly works.  One of my previous students is our instructor. After our first class, she turned to me with an enormous smile.

“I never thought I’d come back to this place doing what I most love and for those who had such influence on me. The energy of this whole situation makes me so happy.” She hugged me tightly in joyful exuberance.

“Everyone seemed to really enjoy today.” I said, “There will be more next week. You know, I need this type of energy in the building.”

It was easy to acknowledge to her that the core of what I do: guide, shape, explain, serve . . .requires at least an hour a day of self-care. It requires me to love myself, first. And what the system does not provide for me, I must demand for myself.

Someone sent me flowers three days ago anonymously. It has been a long time since I’ve received flowers. And even though they aren’t of romantic intent, they made me so happy because someone loved me..and I let them. And in turn it replenishes what I have to give to others.


I’ve never written much about my intimate life, mainly because personal boundaries are necessary in a public medium. But having spent the majority of the last few years without an intimate partner, I see the purpose of the time spent essentially with no one else to learn about and love other than myself. It may not have been my choice, but it was my path. I had to know how being treated well physically, emotionally, spiritually felt quite deeply. And no other but the self can teach that. I had to learn, heal and grow into my own emotional intimate space…to learn what gives me joy, as well as what connects me to that which is beyond me. I had to learn how to find intended paths and also the lessons of unintended ones.

Now what I seem to be learning are the nuances of my own heart and the power it has to direct my life and being. I’m going to be honest here…it’s hard. It’s hard to see couples walk hand in hand down the street or to see fluffy white wedding photos in my social media feed or the inevitable yearly arrival of the shiny red heart season.

It’s hard to go to events not appropriate for singles with a friend of the same gender. It’s hard to have friends of the opposite gender that don’t fit into more than the platonic role.

It’s hard on a sunny January afternoon to see a pair of small sparrows in the bush bedside me begin their nest.

I’m grateful… But it’s really hard.

So I had a talk with the Universe driving home yesterday from a typical wayfarinlass afternoon: picnic, music, writing, dog, table for one.


I voiced to the air this difficulty. And the message returned was pretty startling.

“How will you ever trust a significant other, if you don’t first trust that you will and always have received what you need at the right time? No accidents?”

So I’m working on trusting that sense of surrender…of letting go. To let go of the pinching thought that life’s sweetness within me now, a heart which emotes so much joy and love at a simple moment, that all of that might pass away unshared.

“But I’m at my best right now.” I say in justification.

“You are at your best in every moment of conscious living” …is the answer I received. “What you need to learn is the power of your own heart.”


New journey.

New way of seeing the road.


First Class

2 Nov


Life is a succesion of lessons which must be lived to be understood.

— Helen Keller


“Do something for me..”

he heard again her whisper,

a sunrise request

resting on the inward curl

of his ear,

her breath a memory

of a pulsing pearl

upon his temple.


First morning

pours through

a September window.

He pauses there

to sip from a warm cup.

Its humid cloud echoing

her half dreaming murmur

toward an ear now

prickling with

the effervescence

of young laughter

and the crisp

flip of papers.


“When they are quiet”,

she sighed,

“fly to me”.

His eyes half closed,

palm cradling the phone,

as if leaning left

could bring

the remnant ghost

of her mouth back

under the dark hollow

of his ear.


Row upon row,

he surveys cultivated lines

of earnest eyes

all lowered to look,

at tasks like parti colored

plastic flags

marking toward the race’s end.


Out through crossed panes,

the eastern edge of grass

along the brick walk

turns a mist shadowed corner


two hundred miles

of tar top,

over mountain

to a tiny courtyard


a window lies open,

a frame for

another house

of bent heads over books,

nodding in morning birdsong.


She pauses,

like a grey clad cardinal,

her hand grazing

the rough casement

freckled stone,

sun warmed

and sure

as the curve

of a five fingered wing

nesting inside

his own pocket.


“First Class” was written  August 26, 2014

Reflections. . . Almost Home

1 Aug

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To write is to reconcile the outer world with the inner reality. Shaping intends a design which not only pleases but informs, both the past and future self. I haven’t written since Ocracoke nearly eight weeks ago and a vision of something in the distance neither bright nor dark signals that this particular writing path might close. This body of words, this part of my life’s journey. A feeling of both trepidation and relief is rising…I’m nearing home.

The significance of my experiences this summer did not come into clarity until 5:30 this morning August 1. But I saw the whole platter of them and their purpose at once in that waking moment. Beloved spoke to me for the first time in over a year. She said,

A mirror… It has all been a reflection of you, who you are and who you have been. Each event each person. Look at yourself.

The events of this summer were reflections of past and of present; their purpose was to sharply focus my recognition of how far I’ve come and perhaps the space of how far I really need to go to reach home.

The overwhelming feeling of not having done much, but yet being drug through one conflict or difficulty to the next is the perfect description of Summer 2014. My wings felt clipped in one struggle after the other, one difficult knot to untie at a time. Every morning and at every email and phone call, I winced.

What next? I would think.

I didn’t want to know.

Missed chances and wrong turns and all too brief moments of happiness scrambled into the pressing thought that on August 11, my life will change in a big way. Back in April at the end of my pilgrimage, I was told that my teaching assignment in the fall would be entirely different. Most of my classes will now be high school freshmen. After teaching seniors and college freshmen for 20 years, this type of change is difficult, and the struggle to understand why it happened, what it is supposed to show me, and how to muster strength to frame it in a positive light is ever present. But now, I think understanding has arrived. And it’s about having come full circle. Surely, I need time to mourn the passing of my first life of teaching, but then courage needs to come for the next.

Without cataloging the travel and experiences of Summer 2014, I will say that generally, the mirror has been held up in every connection. Because that is what this summer provided me. . . connections to a lot of people. And they set me on the rough road of learning more about who I really am in all my own imperfection.

And I’ve learned both wonderful and not so wonderful things about Cyndi.

I learned I am loved … greatly …by others, especially my previous students. People admire my strength, confidence, talents and honor my greatest gift: educating. Bringing forth knowing within others in relation to their inner selves is a gift I have but don’t own. As a storyteller, I help people grow in knowing themselves by example.

I learned that my dog, Clarence, who went through surgery to remove a scary cancerous tumor in his face three weeks ago, is the key to my highest self. He mirrors the real me. He mirrors the gift of evoking unconditional love… a gift I have put aside for far too long. The thought of losing him pushed me to the very edge. And my friends helped me to hold on. How many dogs  have over 100 people praying for them and hoping for their wellness?

Because in all the traveling I did this summer, to Ocracoke, to South Carolina, to Norfolk, to Grandfather Mountain, to Hollins University, where I took my first studio art class in Children’s Illustration, to workout, to plays and into a whole gamut of house repair situations . . .all of it showed me that summoning sufficient courage to face and navigate unexpected events is the only skill with which I really need more practice. And just saying that scares me, sends me into denial because I don’t want to be brave anymore. I don’t want to stick my head down and plow through another challenge. I need and want peace. And I’m not going to find it in the outer world… I will only find it within.

So this morning at Common Grounds Coffee House, a mission attached to Lynchburg Church of the Covenant, I sit with my pancakes and coffee. Ms. Swannie, whom I met in June, takes loving care of me. She fell in love with Clarence the first time we came for “pat and chat”. But honestly,  she saw something in me that needed her kindness and love. And I’m willing to admit it; I do.

Her calm presence and smile, balances the voice of Hamlet in my thoughts,

The readiness is all…

In clinging to life as is, to people, to the world as I prefer it in the hopes that it will remain the same, I exhibit qualities others have shown in their interactions with me this summer. I saw myself too clearly many times. Control, anger, neediness, emotional reaction, ego, anxiety, defensiveness, self abandonment, avoidance, narcissism, distancing, and lack of compassion. But also I saw patience, love, hope, deep spiritual understanding,  sense of humor, vision, emotional maturity, vulnerability, courage and strength. In a way,  in the turning toward home, I am learning the balance of both worlds. The teacher and the artist. The human woman and the spiritual mystic. After all, the hero must return to the ordinary world and share the treasures of the journey. Even if I don’t want to…I must come home.

The blessing of always finding something to learn, to explore has been my bliss.And then sharing it with others and encouraging them to undertake the same process in their own lives is the thing I just can’t “not” do. It makes me a Teacher. And the challenge is to grow in wisdom and in peacefulness, for the greatest teachers were teachers of being and loving. I don’t have aspirations to be the type of teacher who leads a movement, nor counsels the sick and downtrodden on a grand scale. I don’t want to be a saint or a statue someday in a garden or a cemetery. I want to inspire people, in the truest sense of the term. A memory upon which someone places loving energy, and that energy will remain positive in the Universe. And if enough people do that, then the memory of me will be expansive and affirming. It will love people beyond my short journey here.

I need luck and strength this fall. But I am positive it will come. Both tears and laughter will happen and ten months from now, I have no idea what my life will be. But Clarence will be there to remind me that bringing forth love in balance is the goal, no matter what I do.  Teaching is a path… Not a subject or a profession.

It’s time I stepped evenly into Being . . . the hero of two worlds.

To Be. . .Past, Present, and Future

9 Aug

Classes start Monday. The halls will fill with pubescent chatter and social posturing. The bells will order life for ten more months. This year I moved to a new classroom, actually an old classroom, the first one I occupied ten years ago. When my assistant principal came to tell me last year that I had to keep my door shut and locked all day due to new security measures, I lost it.  With no windows, no air exit vent, no window in the door, no cell service in a concrete block bunker of a classroom across from the auto shop, I had to have a new room. There was no natural light available to me for ten years. Many days I would arrive in morning darkness and leave in evening twilight, my movements and bathroom habits carefully controlled by the ordering of the bells. It messed with my mind.  It isolated me. Aside from the kids, I was alone. I lived in a fluorescent adolescent Inferno.

Today, when I finalized my plans for next week, I gazed at my new work space. It looks much the same as it did ten years ago with the new addition of pictures and wisdoms from my traveling, from this journey of mine. Previous students who are now colleagues have been stopping by all week.

I remember this, they said. Wow…I remember this.

And the smiles and the knowing nods I recognized. I too remember this place, this way of being. In many ways I have now come back home to a way of being that would have been if I had never met my former husband. Yes, I was married. Yes, he left me suddenly. Yes, that’s what sent me on this journey …no, I never thought I’d be back where I am today.

My computer screen blinked at me, the beginning of notes for AP literature. Archetypes and the journey. I add in my notes from How to Read Literature Like a Professor, their summer reading assignment. It hits me then, that all the writing I have been doing has been part of a Quest. I set out to find something, to write about the road and thought, “This will make me a writer again, not so much a teacher.” I wanted to be someone different when I returned from Ocracoke and I was. I was a writer and blogger, a traveling lass on a mission to find a new life. But as the author says of the Quest pattern, the mission fades. It yields to the true object of the quest. To find oneself. The search for the grail yields in favor of self knowledge. That is the ultimate boon.

I’ve been feeling incredible guilty these days for not keeping up. Two posts a week about my wanderings on the road was the routine for months. But today, I realized that writing about travel isn’t what all of this has been about. It’s been about finding an authentic self. I naively printed business cards, advertised this space as a solo woman’s review of the road. That’s not what this turned out to be. It turned out to be about finding me. Many of my previous students have remarked that recently, maybe the last three to four months, they have seen the old me that they remember, someone who used to exist over a decade ago. A deep look at that assessment shows me they’re right. I am now becoming more fully what I would have been if he had never appeared. But then again, if he hadn’t, would I have gone on this incredible journey?

So I’ve decided that I need to change this blog into what it really is. A place for me to write and to publicly share my journey. There will be times I’ll want to write of the road. That’s okay, maybe you’ll want to read about that. Then, there are times where I need to write of my inner life, my emotions and maybe you’ll want to read about that. And maybe a poem will erupt like a flame, and maybe, just maybe I’ll want to share a letter, or part of my new novel that is slowly steeping like tea in a warm pot on the back burner and you’ll want to read about that. I’m making no promises here, except this. I’m not the same and now this space needs to change.

I laugh more easily now and cry more easily, too. One of my students who graduated many years ago stopped by yesterday

“You’re still here?” she said.

And then she hugged me and began to cry. I knew why. I am a reminder of who she used to be. She introduced me to her 14 year old son, the one I have a baby picture of tucked into a box in my school closet.

“This is Miss Kelley”, she said. “She was my favorite teacher. Maybe you’ll have her when you are a senior”.

He nodded, silent and smiling, her emotion prompting a protective but yet tentative attention.

“You know, I have something of yours”, I said. “Hold on”.

I went to the closet and pulled out a poem and a coat of arms she had created nearly fifteen years ago. She smiled, her face twisting into bittersweetness, a biography poem in Courier font, typed long ago. She began to read her former self. Her voice choked with emotion.

“You keep that”, she said as she looked at me with teary blue eyes and a smile. And I nodded. “That’s old”, she said putting her arm around her son “That’s old”.

But I knew this moment was priceless. When someone places a forgotten stone in your palm, one worn smooth by your own thumb, you understand. . .there I was.

Here I am now.

Yes. The journey has been worth it.

She hugged me hard and turned to go.

I have wondered what my purpose is. I’ve been searching for so long trying to find what I’m supposed to do and what I think I’ve realized is that I should be thinking about just how to be. It isn’t about doing. I think I know my be-ing now . It’s just not one thing, it’s a lot of things. But one thing I do know, I am meant to share this “being”, how I see the world, how I see myself and hopefully this will help others to grow and learn about themselves. The more they know themselves, the better the world will be. That’s the type of teacher I was. That’s the type of teacher I am. That’s the type of writer I want to be.

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