The Spirit of Higher Education Should be Equality

Equality (1)

Once a month I speak with a spiritual director. Today he was rather insistent that I am where I am supposed to be and am her for a reason. This came after a discussion of a need to see the mission as greater than any one individual and the need for a spirit of unity within any organization.

I am opposed to class systems that separate people. The separation in our culture is largely based on wealth, occupation, social network, and education status. While wealth in the United States is either earned or inherited and social networks are frequently associated with birth into a community, education should be available to all.  If one is so fortunate to be born with the necessary intelligence to pursue a university education, the person should not be treated unequally in any educational institution. We know that private schools sometimes offer preferential treatment for those who have parents that are alumni or sufficient wealth to influence the admissions process. This should never be the case in public institutions. It is the role of a public institution to eliminate even the perception of bias. Once enrolled it is the responsibility of the professors and leadership – legal, ethical, and moral – to ensure that system is equitable.

Allowing inequality in education, and establishing a system that rewards the privileged increases the likelihood that class bias is carried into our general society and perpetuated by graduates who had it reinforced in school.

Universities should be doing all possible to educate the whole person. Let us endeavor to educate students in a manner that demonstrates that God-given gifts do no justify preferential treatment.  By our actions, we should model our espoused values and implement policies and practices that make us stronger as a whole by respecting the individual and honoring equality.

Perhaps we lost our way when we forgot that the heart of leadership lies in the hearts of leaders. We fooled ourselves, thinking that sheer bravado or sophisticated analytic techniques could respond to our deepest concerns. We lost touch with our most precious gift-our spirit. To recapture spirit, we need to relearn how to lead with soul. How to breathe new zest and buoyancy into life. How to reinvigorate the family as a sanctuary where people can grow, develop, and find love. How to reinfuse the workplace with vigor and elan. Leading with soul returns us to ancient spiritual basics reclaiming the enduring human capacity that gives our lives passion and purpose [Bolman and Deal, 1995, p. 21 in Arthur W. Chickering;Jon C. Dalton;Liesa Stamm. Encouraging Authenticity and Spirituality in Higher Education (pp. 35-36). Kindle Edition].

Dharma Body and Body of Christ

As a Catholic, I’m always striving to understand the concept of the Trinity. Three and yet one God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is to me explainable and incomprehensible. In Buddhism, there are three bodies – Dharma body, enjoyment body, and the physical body. I can try to discover each and yet each is already in me.

I will wake in the morning to Ash Wednesday and will have all tree bodies and acknowledge three in one God. By accepting the ashes, I accept my impermanence. During Lent, I hope to spend time discovering my dharma body, my body of bliss, and my body of transformation. In Buddhism, this is done by practicing and letting go of misperceptions, cravings, and attachments. In Catholicism, I prepare myself the resurrection of Jesus through 40 days prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Can I discover my dharma body and at the same time strengthen my commitment to the Body of Christ?IMG_0124

Catholicism

  • Prayer
  • Rasting
  • Almsgiving

Buddhism

  • Meditation
  • Letting go of cravings
  • Letting go of attachments

Ash Wednesday a Time for Contemplation

Ash Wednesday is one of my favorite days of the liturgical year. It is the beginning of Lent when I can reflect on the year and make a sincere effort to examine my conscience and practice the acts that help me to grow as a spiritual being. The ashes remind of the impermanence of existence and the need to join mind and body each day in meditation. It is a time to notice what is around me – sight, sounds, and my environment and all sentient beings that occupy that environment. It is often too easy not to notice the person that is homeless, the veteran that suffered injuries, or to take for granted clean air and water.

IMG_0124I hope to begin Lent by choosing a church home for the next year. I’ve visited all the churches listed in the table and some for extended periods of time. I am always hoping to find a parish that is as peaceful and mindful as the Zen Center and is as concerned about not just humanity, but all life and the environment that makes life possible.

As I visited parishes I considered my first impressions and wondered why I felt so much more comfortable and welcomed at the Missouri Zen Center. I think it is the same reason I found Sts. Claire and Francis, which is an Ecumenical Catholic Church, welcoming. In both places everyone introduced themselves at each gathering and there is no judgment and no doubt that we take refuge in the community and in our shared practice. Yet, my heart calls me to a Roman Catholic Church where all are welcome. How would you decide?

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*The women that cook meals at Immacolata are welcoming and kind, but it didn’t make up for the man that insisted I move to another seat.

Key to smiley faces:

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Tomorrow I Will See What Is Beautiful

This morning the sky was a beautiful rippled pink. I smiled. When I sat in my office, the squirrels were playing outside, and I wondered why I don’t stop and just enjoy watching them for a few minutes. Nature provides us so many things to make us slow down and smile and yet too often I don’t slow down and sometimes barely even notice.

The beauty quickly passed into daily frustrations. Most of what is ugly in the world is related to uncontrolled desires. We let those desires drive us to take what we want rather than what we need. We ask others to sacrifice while we claim our privilege and too often are silent. Letting frustration in closes the door on what is holy, to inspiration, and to sound guidance. Soon the pink sky was gone, and the squirrels disappeared. The day had gone from inspired to a task and not one I was facing by giving it my undivided attention.

Version 2Happy voices in the hall stirred me and in the conference room were three beautiful rosaries. I didn’t expect to find rosaries in a public university. A physician had given them to the Dean and asked that we get them to patients who may want them and along with the rosaries left a donation.

Frustration is far from being mindful. It blocks faith and trust and yet it can’t keep God out. A Muslim physician brought three rosaries to a public university and in so doing quietly reminded us to strive for what is just and to do good for those that suffer.

Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus

IMG_0027Brothers and sisters: As a body is one though it has many parts, and all the parts of the body, though many, are one body, so also Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, slaves or free persons, and we were all given to drink of one Spirit. Now the body is not a single part, but many. You are Christ’s body, and individually parts of it. – LK 4:18

As I entered Mary Queen of Peace parish carved into the marble above the altar was Sanctus Sanctus Sanctus. The signs flanking the altar were reminders to come to God and come together as a community. Is it through the community with God that we are Holy or is it a community that provides the refuge we need to approach holiness?

I seek community, as a place to cultivate a joyful mind open to experience the way the world should be. If only for an hour, a week, or short period each day it reminds me to practice mindfulness, holiness, and tolerance of the way each person approaches the holy.

As I left I wondered how those who heard and saw the same things as I interpreted them. We are all different and yet we are all part of the same search.

The brain is wider than the sky,
For, put them side by side,
The one the other will include
With ease, and you beside.

The brain is deeper than the sea,
For, hold them, Blue to Blue,
The one the other will absorb,
As sponges, buckets do.

The brain is just the weight of God,
For, heft them, pound for pound,
And they will differ, if they do,
As syllable from sound – Emily Dickinson

SanctusSanctusSanctus

 

Snow

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I love snow. Shoveling snow relaxes me. The lines are straight. There is a beginning and an end. The finished effort is clean, white, and with outlined paths that allow me to see where I want to walk.

Unlike so much of my life I can see what is accomplished and getting there silences my thoughts. Focusing only on the task and keeping the lines straight is like a walking meditation. The physical effort results in naturally deep breaths filling my lungs with the clean smell of snow.

For a time the world is clean and beautiful. I am the snow and the snow is all.

I Vow Not To Kill

I seek peace from my faith and my meditation. I am always hoping that one day there will be a moment when all is clear to me, and I listen to my inner voice. Too often I worry about what troubles the world. Today, as with many days, I see our trouble as caused by fear and mistrust of our neighbors. In our efforts to relieve our fears, we forget that we have a responsibility to save all beings.

In my practice in Zen Buddhism, saving all beings extends broadly. I have a responsibility to the unborn and the elderly, but also to the animals of the earth, the fish of the sea, and the birds in the air. I am a holistic protector of like. In Catholicism, there is also a responsibility to protect life, but the loudest voices tend to focus on the unborn and certainly there isn’t the same holistic focus. What I take from both is the responsibility to seek peace and avoid violence. I, therefore, decline the right to bear arms. When Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13) he did not say anything about killing another to save a life. I prefer to strive for compassion that is free of judgment and without limit.

all the beautiful things (1)

I ask people to consider declining the right to bear arms. It is a right granted to us by the Constitution, but not one that must be exercised. Instead, seek freedom from fear and model the peace we seek in prayer and meditation. Let’s make violence rare and compassion the norm.