Book #26: Namaste



The Perfection of Yoga 
by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Pradhupada

**************

My bucket list is short. 

Three things. 

Two are so precious I hardly whisper them to myself or even in half asleep prayer out of fear they come true too soon and ruin me with tidal wave of happiness forever.

The third is less secret and the lowest hanging ripest fruit on my wish tree.

 I think about it, I try to live it but I don’t talk about it, which I believe is a big part of practicing it.

So imagine my shock and surprise when THIS student gave me THIS book. 

First thing you should know is that this book comes from the class that originally only gave me one book for the first deadline and is the reason I said I'd extend the deadline, determined to shake books out of these students.

Second thing you should know is that when the student whipped the book out of his backpack and tossed it to me (yes, tossed it, yes I can catch, most of the time) I held it up for the class and they snickered.

 I couldn’t help it, I laughed too.

 This book is more like an envelope than a book, its more like a brochure or a pamphlet than a monograph, but OK, I’m open to whatever the universe sends.

That’s part of the game, right? 

As he settles into his seat I ask across the room and over the murmurs, “Did you read it?”

He shook his head, “no, but you said you’d read whatever we brought and this is the only book I had to give you…”

“You gave me your ONLY book?”

He smiles.
“Did you buy it?”

He shakes his head, “It was free…”

The class giggles again.

“So the universe wanted me to have this book so badly it threw this book at you, deprived you of all other books, then compelled you to give it to me? This is fantastic. I’m going to read every word.”

I thank him and the class giggles at our exchange. 

We are only in the second week of lectures and still getting to know each other.

This book isn’t for everyone.

If you didn’t already understand the topic, the context, the bigger picture and the basic texts being referenced, this book would be a crazy mish mash of quotes, pictures and a catalog to order more free catalogs from this (….group? Cult? Religious movement? Corporate publishing house?) that aren’t free if you actually order them.

To summarize this book, if it is possible to summarize a summary, I’d say this book was written in the 1970s to tell people that yoga is more than poses, that it is a path to…. Well, you’ll see. I’d hate to ruin nirvana for you.

 Since I already know that yoga is so much more than poses, so so so much more, this book taught me very little I didn’t know.

The writing is pedantic and choppy and targeted at people who already know a lot but then don’t seem to know the RIGHT things and if you didn’t already like this topic you’d find this brochure-sized book more tedious to complete than the entire Harry Potter or Left Behind series.

The best part of this book is the illustrations representing the emotional connections with the universal supreme that we can all have, all the time.

 I'm thankful. 

Namaste.


100 Books: Green Light


I try not to judge and label but when I look back at the last two weeks I wouldn’t say that I’ve had a “good” relationship with my computer in general and I’m not pointing fingers but specifically with email. 

Nothing seemed wrong. I answered email like normal – mostly quick but sometimes chatty responses. I’m sure you do the same. Yes, no, it’s on Blackboard, yes I am in my office, can I talk to you about something, sure I’ll get those numbers and what do you think about….?

By the weekend I noticed no one was responding. Spring Fever is a real thing here on the Florida-Georgia border when every now and then the sun shines strongly and people stand still enchanted by her warmth.

So I checked my sent file.

Nothing.
Nothing?
I couldn’t handle that, so I read another book. And another. 

Just in case my blogs got lost in internet space just like my sad emails, I wrote up book reviews and bits and pieces of stories with a blue pen in the legal pad that lives in the buttery soft Coach leather folio that my Mom gave me for Christmas whether she meant to or not. *Thank you Mom ;-)

For a week I went back and forth with the college Helpdesk.

Try this, how about that, is it working now. Actually, it was working fine. But I didn’t trust it, and weird things happen when you stop trusting your laptop.

All this time I kept thinking I had to email this one person and let her know about my 100 book project. She’s a book person, she will love this, and I just really want her blessing, her guidance, her synergy, like if the two of us worked on this it would triple in size.

Then on Thursday of the week with very bad email I was on my way to a meeting about this 100 book project when I almost collided into her.  She was coming out of a meeting right next door from the office I was entering.  

If this were one of my books I think the best authors would put a graph here, showing how two points intersect, brought together by forces seen and unseen. The universe is understandable and mysterious like that.





Aware that she was hurrying off there and I was racing in here I talked as fast as I could. I’m reading all these books, I’m learning so much about my students, about the world, about books. And I see what books they aren’t assigning and it’s awesome. 

We plan to make plans, smiling at how easily fun things come when you just make room for them when they appear.

The meeting I was headed to went well. We are both wearing Fitbits so I suggested we stand and march while talking. 

(I did not yet know, but now I know and wish I didn’t, that my fitbit tracks scratching my back with a fork as taking many many steps. It also counts pumping my arms as though I'm running as running, even though I'm in the Dunkin Donuts drivethrough -- Clearly I am smarter than this thing...)

She shows me forms, I say yes, OK. I understand, I have to write something and there’s a deadline. 

We toss this idea, catch it, spin it and toss it back again.

Minutes later BAM a great idea comes out of it, a student-building, community-engagement project bigger than either of us and better than the story of a professor who read 100 books her students assigned her. Yayyy.

Instead of writing up the project right away I read another book. And another.

So finally on the Friday before Spring Break I had time to spend with my Mac and the tech guy, asking questions about this and that. Before he could even sit down I pointed at something he’d left in my office two weeks ago.

 I don’t need that charger, it’s for some netherworld with crazy inside-out outlets.

He laughed and showed me how it disassembled and connected into the part of the charger I was already using, extending the cord several feet. 

I would never have figured that out in a hundred years, thanks.

Then as he sat into my chair I pointed out one thing. Ignore the patch over my camera. I got skeeved out by this show where they turned on people’s camera’s remotely.

I dare them to do that to ME he answered and said he’d make them PAY. We laughed.

You wouldn’t KNOW the camera is on, that’s the point, I tell him.

It’s a Mac. The green light comes on, he counters.

The green light comes on, I repeat, knowing this, KNOWING THiS and wondering why I forgot it.

We take a moment of silence and move on to the Mac.

Apparently I have the oldest macbook pro ever made, and the fact its going strong is testimony to how awesome macbook pros are.

 But I can’t update it to the most recent operating system, which makes me feel locked out of a theme park.

 It’s better to concentrate on what IS than what ISN’T so while he downloads this and that and all sorts of cool new icons pop up, students come in and out of my office to discuss the Enchanted Window Project.

One student asks for clarifications and admits she hadn’t started yet but now she knew what to “do.” 

 Another student  - a student soldier who will be missing precious weeks of class to go do his training that pays for his classes -- comes in with his project mostly done. 

He asks if it was OK to make it look like a real military report.  Before I can answer he shows me what he’s done.


It’s beautiful, with a US Army seal across the top.

 It exceeds my highest expectations by about 100% and I want to declare him the winner of this game right now, but only rookies blurt things like that out, so I find what’s missing. 

Make sure to write about your sources, its crucial that other people doing research know where you found this info so they can get it too and build on it.

Off he goes, and I go back to watching download after download on my Mac. We make small talk about the 1990s, about people needing to clear their history, and about whether Kia’s are really a good idea in general.

Then another student comes in. 

He’s not from this semester and he didn’t give me a book, but he’s a reader, a thinker, someone who quickly puts things together and pulls them apart and finds meaning.  He asks if I made up the Enchanted Window, perhaps raising one of his eyebrows as if to say its time to discuss whether you’ve gone crazy.

We stand up and I show him what’s been in front of us all along. There, the landing strip. Free French. Tuskeegee Airmen. Chinese officers from the government that loses the revolution. German POW’s.

He gets it. And he doesn’t say it but I think he thinks he’s glad to not be in my class this semester because some of them are going to be writing a LOT, and writing is not for the feeble hearted.

100 Books: Here, Take This (Subtitle:The One with the Book List*)

Yes, yes, I will write up the list of books for you.  Writing and reading use different parts of my brain and its hard to switch from receiving and absorbing book-stories to writing them.  

About a week ago a student who'd never been to my office before showed up to talk about her grade.

I knew her name, her grade, and why she wasn't doing well before she could even ask a question.

 I wonder if this is how doctors sometimes feel when they see a patient, maybe thinking Oh you, yes, I'm glad you came before this got worse, now here, take this. 

She doesn't sit in either of the two empty chairs but instead paces in circles in my room, admiring this and that, swatting at shiny and spinny things that hang from my ceiling, setting off tiny wind chimes and miniature flying dolphins.

You missed the first day so you don't understand the rules or how to play and that's made a huge difference in how you even understand how this class runs.

She agreed, pausing mid-swat at a dangling frog.

 Be early, don't miss class, write down EVERYTHING and make a friend to get notes from.

Again she agreed. This is too easy. There's going to be a catch. I leave room for her to talk.

I have a friend. She's in my English class.

Did you get notes from her?

Yep.

I know all the students in two of my classes. I know most of the students in my huge class, but not by their actual names. For example, there's this pair of students who both always have cute tumblers on their desks and make serious faces at their papers when they write. I don't know their names, but I would notice if they were gone.  So I ask...

What's her name?

The  student flinches like I just asked her something incredibly private.

I don't push it, but I push it. 

I call the student by her actual NAME.

Her eyebrows shoot up.

HOW DID YOU KNOW MY NAME?

Because I care.

I don't ask her my name, I know that would be pushing this way too far. But a wall has come down between us. 

Since I have her attention, I have to ask, I just have to know.

Did you read the book you gave me?

More silence. The wind chimes stopped ringing but the peach lamp continued to spin. 

You know I read it right? And wrote about it? But why did you give me THAT book? All the other books people gave me were books they personally treasured and the one you gave me -- well, I'd read it, I had to because its in a field I research and I just had to research - but I didn't love it the first time OR the second time,  and I have never passed my copy on to anyone who asked for a GOOD book. 

She smiles and quickly admits she gave me the first book she found in her closet.

It was in your CLOSET? You must have hated it! Why didn't you give me a book that you keep out and read a lot?

Her face brightened. Yes, she has a book for me.

What's it about?

Self love. 

I cringe and may/may not have said "eeeeeeeeek," making her laugh. She explains that the book helps a person connect with themselves so that they can connect to other people.

That's a valuable book, I tell her

Very, she nods and pokes the wind chimes one last time before our meeting is cut short at 12:45 when my 12:00 appointment arrived.

Here is a list of the books my students assigned me this semester that I've read as of the night of the first day of Spring Break.

1) Copper Sun
2) Hero
3) The Fault in Our Stars
4) Darkly Dreaming Dexter
5)I'd rather not say.
6) Their Eyes Were Watching God
7) Hunger Games 
8) The Shack
9) Running With Scissors
10) Hector's Rules for Happiness
11) The Butterfly and the Diving Bell
12) Ghosts of Edo
13) Ms Perigrine's Home for Peculiar Children
14) Shift
15) A Walk to Remember
16) The Humming-bird Tree
17) The Racketeer
18) The Perks of Being a Wallflower
19) 13 Reasons Why
20)Can You Keep a Secret?
21) All Quiet on the Western Front
22) The Book Thief
23) Mr. Penumbra's 24 Hour Book Store
24) Secrets of a Shoe Addict
25) 5th Horseman
26) The Perfection of Yoga
27) Who Moved My Cheese
28) The Power of Half
29) the curious incident of the dog in the night-time






The Enchanted Office Window $100 Game WW2 Project



I love my office, I love the way the sunlight streams through the window hitting a crystal and shooting rainbows across my walls.

 I love the books, I love my desk, and most of all, I love looking out my window and watching life unfold.

 If I look down, I see an informal car drop off and car pick up, angry people and sad people and happy people and kissy people parading under my window unaware they are observed sliding into and out of all sorts of vans and mopeds and minivans.

I love that my office is situated just right and angled perfectly so I can see the airspace above the airport, and yes, sometimes I stop what I’m doing (grading, reading, eating cheese grits -  if it’s a good day all three) and watch the plane cross my window and disappearing into the rest of it’s journey from here to there.

But all is not perfect in my office. Ask Dr. V, the professor whose office is next to mine, sharing a small hallway.

 He will tell you I have a problem with my window, a problem I’ve had for years, one that has gotten me in trouble, repeatedly.

No one is allowed to open their windows in our building.  Opening a window causes a whole domino falling chain of chaos that leads to someone knocking on my door and telling me to close the window.  Once I opened a window and a hard window blew and it stuck open – then the rain came and I had to call for help.  A nice tool-belt wearing patient man was dispatched (…in the rain) to go get on a ladder to fix this thing  (did I mention it’s raining both outside and inside my office?) that shouldn’t have happened if I had only followed the very few rules they give me.

Since then, I’ve tried to keep my window closed but Dr V will tell you he’s found me leaning out the window more than once, breathing in stolen air of freedom.

Dr V has snuck up and surprised me more than once, shouting BAM while pounding his fist on my door and making me shriek. Once I jumped so hard I pushed one of my plants out the window and then had to make a run down to the bushes below to rescue the poor plant, knowing full well that on the other side of the dark glass a whole class of students was looking at some crazy lady rescuing a jumping plant.

Every day I remind myself to not open my office window but when I see a a WW2 plane land right outside my window, I can’t help it. 

Some of these landings are crazy, like the pilot really might kill himself and all of us watching. Some are smooth.

  Each of them is beautiful.

I thought I was imagining these planes (ok, I am, you know that, right?) until I found out that right outside my office window is a WW2 landing strip that was part of Dale Mabry airfield.

While I’m busy reading 100 books this semester, I’m also obsessed with  learning more about this airfield, about the planes, the people, the impact WW2 had on this area in general and on individuals. 
I’m willing to pay you to help me with this project. Please make sure you understand the rules before beginning.

Part 1: Due March 7, 11:59pm through Safeassign on Blackboard. 

Use a variety of sources to research and learn about Dale Mabry airfield  (ex: look at photos, maps, read stories, ask people, go to the library and ask for help there…) then write up a 400-500 word overview conveying to me what you learned.

 I expect the submission to be well written and carefully proofread and 100% in your own words (ex: no long quotes or sentences stolen from wikipedia). You may discuss your sources in your essay or list them at the end.


GAME RULES
Phase 1 Assignment - Deadline: 3/7 11:59pm on Blackboard

Phase 2 Assignment Deadline: 3/28 11:59pm on Blackboard

Phase 3 Assignment Deadline: 4/11 11:59pm on Blackboard

Phase 4 Assignment Deadline : 4/25 11:59pm on Blackboard

Because this is a game, you will not know what your 2nd assignment is until the first 1 is completed and you are cleared to move on to the next stage.

Students who complete each of the 4 stages will earn $100 total and may use that money towards class assignments etc OR they may elect to ask to buy a letter grade improvement in the course. 
Students who have $100 but do not qualify to complete this project will not be allowed to use $100 to buy a letter grade.

I encourage all of you to think about attempting this and taking it seriously.

 If you play, play to win. 

There are two ways to get kicked out of the game.

Disqualification #1: Failure to submit any part of the project at the time it's due  and in the format requested results in an automatic disqualification.  In this case, students must repay all money earned from the project.

Disqualification #2: The bottom 3 submissions from each class will be disqualified from moving forward to the next phase.  These students can keep whatever money was earned up to the point of disqualification.