An Overwhelming Disconnect

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I believe that modern American society has alienated individuals. By creating endless options to everyday life, we are creating a totally personalized separate experience from the rest. Advertisements sell the idea that the product was made special for you – Each time one buys into a product, a company, a social trend, they are also buying into the beliefs that are backed by those things. For instance L’OREAL reminds us, “Because your worth it” but it doesn’t give us any real understanding of what that means.

We use products as comfort mechanisms, their branding views and beliefs slowly becoming our ideas. And those ideals are backed by so many justifications. This overwhelming rational of the modern person requires a customized life. The truth is that the products and their beliefs we accept into our custom lives, are acting as comfort mechanisms, cheat tools and crutches. Customized decision making allows us to believe we are moving into new spaces – Each time the individual makes a choice of what they want to do different from the rest, they make a cut into what is possible, entertaining only the ideal and not the reality of what could be.

There is an overwhelming disconnect hidden by the promotion of the American ideal. Stitched together, for maximum personalization, we believe that combining particular pieces of our social culture will insure custom-fitting individuation. The truth is we are limiting ourselves more now than ever, and our perceptions are choices that obscure the reality of our limitations. By consistently focusing on how our consumer driven choices can be bonded together to create a happy ideal we are missing out on the opportunity to really develop a sense of true self.

I dislike this phenomenon of separation. After all, America was founded on a democratic core belief that the people could work together to make something more than the individual by his/herself was capable of creating. Yes, the individual is responsible for creating the change they wish to see. However real, meaningful change will only come when individuals begin to work together honestly and openly to create a society really worth living in. Instead of focusing so much of our attention on how we can put up walls to separate from each other in our perceived “uniqueness”, we should be focusing on how much we have in common and how we might break down the walls between us to come back together.

 

Chelsea Depner | College for Creative Studies

 

Note from the Professor:

Chelsea’s blog discusses the personal impact of living in a consumer culture. While this topic has inspired significant discussions in academic circles, we very rarely read an honest assessment of what it “what it feels like” to be raised in this kind of culture. I suppose a parallel discussion would be chatting about water with a fish.

How do we develop an expansive enough perspective to objectively understand the influence of consumerism on our everyday life experience? Just like our imaginary fish is soaked in water, we are soaked in a culture hijacked by the demands of consumerism. Our identity is tied to purchasing decision in very real ways. (If you are objecting to my statements because you do not own a TV, listen to the BBC for your news and never shop the mall – think again — your rejection of consumerism may just represent the flip side of the same coin. More on that later!).

For those of you who are interested, I am posting two reader friendly references on this very complicated and heady subject. Hopefully, this will jump start further conversation.

Read the chapter entitled “The Magic System” in Problems in Materialism and Culture by Raymond Williams (London, Verso, 1980).

Read the chapter entitled “Running It Up a Flagpole to See if Anyone Salutes” in Ads, Fads and Consumer Culture: Advertising’s Impact on American Character and Society by Arthur Asa Berger (New York, Rowman & Littlefield, 2000).

Molly Beauregard

 

Happiness Is Not Lost

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Truth

Often in the current American culture, we are on a set pursuit of happiness — always looking to find happiness like it’s a lost dog or something.  We’re searching so hard that we don’t realize happiness is not an object that will suddenly drop into our lap one day.  It is something we decide all day, every day.

I believe one reason why we are on the constant pursuit of happiness instead of making a conscious choice to be happy everyday is due to our cultural obsession with convenience. The Internet, fast food, cell phones and especially a general lack of patience are some examples of how Americans are obsessed with convenience. The world  moves fast and so should we. Convenience means now and that goes for happiness too. We want everyone and everything to be as convenient as possible so we can experience instant gratification — which, ultimately, we mistake for happiness. When there is no instantaneous gratification then we believe ourselves to be unhappy. Happiness may not be decided in one second flat but it should last longer than our espionage toward instant gratification. The feeling of immediate gratification represents just one moment on the path to true sustainable happiness.

Waiting for things to happen is nonsense.  It is from within that one decides over and over again how to grow a settled feeling of happiness and create a perspective capable of sustaining it.

Michaela Allen | College for Creative Studies

No One’s Watching But ME

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People are strange. I’m even weirder.

I used to constantly question myself. I’d ask myself if this was ok to wear . . . . . .if this was okay to say . . . . . if this was acceptable to society. It wasn’t until recently that I finally woke up one day and thought to myself, “who gives a shit”. No one is really watching but ME.

Adjusting to college is hard and strange and totally out of your comfort zone. All my life I’ve begged for freedom and now that I have it I don’t even know how to use it. There is just this enormous space to fill everyday with a million and one choices. It’s crazy and it can feel pretty overwhelming.

When I was young, I had epilepsy. Fortunately, through a combination of meditation, sleep and support I recovered. I have been seizure free for years. Despite having moved past the diagnosis, the scars of my old fears seem to stay with me. I want to “let it go” but I am plagued by this curiosity of ‘maybe I would have been smarter if I never had those seizures’. Lately, I am beginning to see that life tosses you just what you need to edge up to in order to learn and grow. I am beginning to realize that intelligence only gets you so far. Strength is what will carry you through life. Hopefully, in my case, I have just enough of both to support my every move, open my heart and make a difference in this big, wide, beautiful world.

Cami Beauregard | Albion College

“Strength shows not only in the ability to persist but the ability to start over. ” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

Specialization vs Meaning — What is Education Really About?

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“Meaninglessness inhibits fullness of life and is therefore equivalent to illness. Meaning makes a great many things endurable – perhaps everything.” Carl Jung

There has been much written on the impact of specialization in academia. Certainly, it is well documented that modern culture requires specialization. We see this in all disciplines and we recognize the difficulty of connecting all of the abstracted dots. My own field, sociology, with its emphasis on the social construction of reality and deconstruction of thought has certainly led the pack when it comes to denying a unified perspective capable of offering meaning to the masses. And, of course, when education becomes an instrument for individual careerism, it no longer inspires students in broad sweeping terms.

In my mind, education should be about ideas and connection. Certainly, students value the “skill” based focus of many classes, but they yearn for inspiration. I believe that the secret hunger that gnaws at most students’ souls is the desire to discover the meaning of life. It is not so much that any of us actually believe that we can “figure-it- all-out”, it is just that we crave some understanding of our purpose here on earth.

I teach a class at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) that integrates transcendental meditation in to the core curriculum. All of my students have the opportunity to learn TM as an experiential tool to dive within and feel the potency of their own full potential.

Getting this class accepted into the liberal arts department was a fascinating, eye opening and personally challenging experience. I have heard it said that creating new curriculum is akin to moving a graveyard down the street. Ironically, innovation and academia are not the friendliest of bed fellows.

Perhaps, the most interesting aspect of the entire process of getting my class on the books was learning to speak the institutional language. In other words, figuring out what everyone wanted to hear and producing some evidence that my class could meet the extraordinarily varied needs of an institution. For example, the counseling department at CCS really liked the research on TM as related to stress reduction, the film department really liked the research on TM related to enhanced creativity, the administration liked the research on TM linked to retention rates, etc. Many in my own department expressed concern that my proposed class would not be rigorous enough. I had to produce a long reading list, a research paper assignment, detailed learning outcomes and assure my chair that the TM component was simply an experiential tool. Even the David Lynch Foundation, who generously offered a grant to support TM training costs, wanted to make sure my students met “at risk” status requirements.

Piecing together the fragmented expectations of my varied stakeholders became a full-time preoccupation. It also represented a pretty interesting view of the contemporary educational landscape. A truly integrative educational model is one that does not merely stack discipline on top of discipline but one that literally enlivens the learning process by teaching students to touch their most transcendent nature – reminding them who they really are and how much they really know. A truly holistic curriculum also relies on mystery as much as fact and sees students as whole people rather than abstracted aspects of their full potential.

This semester when I asked my students what brought them to my class, I was delighted to hear many of them say they had heard through the grape vine that “it offered a BIG picture assessment of culture” and pieced together “many varied ideas while giving students a tool to illuminate their own journey.” One student actually had the guts to say he signed up to become “enlightened” – a tall order to be sure but one that I gladly embrace. My students and I are on a journey together. We are determined to create a classroom experience that feeds our collective soul and reminds us of the profound joy of connecting ideas and creating meaning through our combined intellectual and contemplative practices.

Fortunately, my class met all of the abstracted needs of the institution and students. In doing so it tied the varied threads of expectation together to create a harmonious template for the exploration of ideas, connections and meaning with an experiential component of transcendence. In the end, that is what an ideal education is supposed to be about.

To read a short except from an interview with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on what he believed brought people to meditation click here: http://www.tm.org/blog/news/nbc-interview-with-maharishi/

Molly Beauregard

To see the entire “Notes from the Professor” series click here!

 

The Salty Dog

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CCS student Henry Crissman rebuilds a salt firing ceramic kiln, originally destined to be thrown away, in the heart of Detroit. In this video by DanDiRito, Henry discusses bringing together the community and the arts through sustainable creativity and passion for clay.

 

Henry took Molly’s class, Consciousness, Creativity and Identity in 2011. Dan is currently enrolled in the class.

Henry’s Artist website: http://henrycrissman.com/
Kiln Blog: http://www.detroitnoborigama.com/
Video by: DanDiRito http://dandiritophotography.com/
Music by: Jeff Commissaris http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSZcu9-HLwU&feature=related


Henry and Molly recently switched places in an inspiring story about teacher and student – take a look!

His Cup Overfloweth — Role Reversal | Notes from the Professor

 

 

You Who Has Not Yet Been Imagined

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Reflections from a Meditating Student

 

You who has not yet been imagined
will we go to God together?
Or if I can be so ready
would You keep me here?
But if You leave
am I to look
or wait?
For you…
no, something new.
no, something more.
We go to God alone
but your archaic draw
and engaging rebound is
the magnetism of the soul
to the soul that is the beautifully
cohesive brilliance of existence
yet defined by science.
But what is so untouched
by our drive to know?
Through Unity
we find Love
and that is God.

Still, I must go
farther to find You.
Abandon all logic
and release myself
to whatever I could
imagine you to be.
Fearlessly
daring and boldly
into the unknown
Where would we be
if we all left this cave?
Insatiably curious
Beckoned by dreams
I will find You
who has been yet imagined

 

Kyle Dornan | Joliet Junior College

 

Falling off the Wagon, Watching Yourself and Taking Care of the Dog

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Every once in a while, and sometimes more often than not, I fall off the meditation wagon. I do not claim to have never missed a meditation since I learned my technique, like many do. In all honesty, I probably have meditated only half the time of what I am “supposed to”.

After a few years of wincing for only meditating in the morning and not again till the next morning, and going week on week off, I realized I don’t benefit from judging myself for not practicing regularly. I was getting wrapped up in how I was “supposed to do it”. Eventually, I allowed the act of sitting down to meditate frustrate me because of it’s apparent desire to disrupt my ‘flow’. The undercurrent – ‘push’ to meditate was telling me what I needed…but I forgot to listen. (more…)

Cultural Rehab

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A healthy man needs to see a doctor after spending time around a group of contagious sick people because he too becomes infected. A clean individual who spends time around a dirty drug scene will eventually start participating and use the drug. If that behavior continues and as a result their quality of life goes down, the best thing they could do is seek help. Individuals in this situation need to learn how to be alright without the addicting drug. There is a type of institution for that. Its called rehab.

The purpose of rehab is to remind you of who you were before you started using. Sometimes I wonder if it is difficult for people to admit addiction because they started down the path so innocently. Initially, they may have even believed that drugs were going to be a good part of their life. Let’s face it; everyone likes likes to experiment and live on the edge from time to time. (more…)

Tetris Game Hijack

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I came into the “Consciousness, Creativity and Bliss” class after a long and stressful previous semester. The promise of meditation lured me in as the stacks of boxes full of responsibilities kept getting higher and higher in my mind. Now don’t get me wrong, the boxes don’t just disappear when I meditate. Going to school and working is necessary, at least until I graduate. The problem arises when these boxes aren’t neatly stacked one on top of the other but rather dropped at random like a really cruel game of Tetris. Things inadvertently become misaligned.

Every one of my classes has a box of its own. Every family member, with their unique and crazy respective problems, has a box just for themselves. Every hour I log at work is another, much smaller box, but still a very real box nonetheless. Every freelance project, every friend, every car on the road as I drive — all these boxes are messily stacked inside of my mind. At the very bottom there is a really weathered and beaten box. This frail box contains what is left of me at the end of each day. It holds more than it should and, at the same time, not a lot. (more…)

Recycling Classic Style

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I am currently a sophomore in college majoring in Media and Communications and minoring in Business. I go to a unique school in Fairfield, Iowa focusing on integrating the practice of Transcendental Meditation into our daily routine. For the past few years I have lived here, I have modeled for a friend who owned an eBay vintage clothing store. A few months after I started my freshman year of college, she announced she was selling the business and would teach the ropes to whoever bought it. My friend Chamolie and I were immediately inspired by the potential of this project and ended up buying the company in October of 2010.

Owning a start up business in college is a thrilling yet ambitious project to take on. Chamolie and I go vintage shopping and thrifting all over Iowa to gather clothes for our store. We do regular photo shoots where I model and Chamolie photographs, and together we style the vintage pieces with modern items to keep the look in accord with current fashion trends. We both handle customer service, financing, social media, and shipping. All of these tasks can be very fun but also time consuming with student life. This is where meditation, yoga and a healthy diet come in to play and help me stay grounded and rested. (more…)

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