Zen and adjuncting

A day without immigrants: this article wouldn’t be here, because my grandparents wouldn’t have had my father, and I wouldn’t exist.

A day without women: this article wouldn’t be here.

My concerns these days are days without humanity. Are we wearing out our welcome on this planet?

There was a moment – a long-lasting moment of months – about a year or two ago, when I had this hopeful feeling that humanity was experiencing an awakening, that we were growing as a species, learning from our histories and maturing toward our full potential. I think there’s hope in spirituality, and religion, for all the harm it’s done, offers a spiritual path.

I think that’s a beautiful thought, though now I feel a bit disconnected from it today.

A while ago, I got into zen meditation, but it never quite stuck. I really appreciate what it does for me, what it does for my sense of being alive and in the moment. More recently, I’ve been practicing guided meditation, and I find that works for me. I remember when I was a child, my mother had given me several tapes with guided meditations for children. I absolutely loved (absolutely loved – a phrase I see a lot, the presence of an adverb, the odd question it begs about the nature of love and absolutes) — I loved them. One I remember most fondly had me visualize a rabbit, and the rabbit could be any color I wanted. There was such joy in seeing a purple rabbit, a pink one on another day, a multi-colored rabbit.

I know I am not complaining about adjuncting here today. I’m still an adjunct, and I’m still looking for a job to move me into a more positive work environment. I’m also following a lot of my own advice, low-contact adjuncting (with boundaries that work for me), and it really does help. This is not to say that I don’t have my days where I’m so frustrated with work. My fiancé still comes home sometimes t see me grumpy and listen to me vent. I even called him at work about a week ago to complain about something happening at work. Every day I remember that my labor, my mind, my self is being exploited. I know this, and it has changed me, and that comes out in my teaching.

I’m fortunate to be working with young people right now. I am honest about the nature of my employment. I even post a link to an article on adjuncting and what it means to the students, if they ever care to read it. They know I don’t have health insurance (ACA got too expensive in my state), that I don’t make a lot of money… they know this.

They also know that their education is valuable, and they know why. They have a bit of a clue about why their education is under attack by our country’s leadership, and so they have a bit of a clue about why I, and their other teachers, are underpaid and undervalued. It’s not about me. Somehow that frees me of some of the pain of my situation. It’s not just about me. It’s about all of us. While I’m here I’m fighting for my students’ education, and I’m inviting them to fight for themselves, as well. Because I don’t intend to stay in this fight forever. But while I’m here, I will fight.

I want to talk about zen, meditation, and the adjunct situation. About two years ago, my stomach was in knots every day I drove to campus to teach a class. I was internalizing the fact that my labor is being exploited, and it made me sick. It made me dread my job.

Being happy in every other aspect of my life has helped, but not every year has been easy, either. I remember that my life coach said to me that I need to be true to myself. I’ll repeat this, in case anyone’s reading: Be true to yourself.

I’ve involved myself in several other projects, chiefly among them is getting back to writing fiction. That’s really what I do and who I am. And this is the point I want to return to, but I will digress one more time because, while I’m going on about myself, I am also writing this in case my personal experience helps someone else who is where I am. Because we’re not alone, and we need to know we’re not alone.

Other projects I’ve started: my own business, a few personal-life projects, a possible second business, and volunteer work. I’m also planning to get involved with Toastmasters to improve my speech-delivering abilities, and I’m doing what I can to improve the adjunct condition, even if it’s small things like writing this blog.

Back to the writing – that’s my thing. That’s what’s in my soul. If teaching is the thing that’s in your soul, which it may be because that is, after all, what we’re all doing for a “living.” If teaching’s the thing, is there a volunteer path for teaching, outreach, making videos, tutoring, something you can do for free or for a little extra money, and do it in a way that fulfills your soul?

I recommend doing your thing, whatever it is, and engaging in it as though it’s a priority. Then meditate. I am only just beginning to tap into the power of meditation, and I’ll probably be back to talk about it some more. There’s something about it that helps you live a better, fuller life. Whether it’s zen meditation, guided, or some other form – I recommend it. If you are following your true purpose, being true to yourself, you’ll find that the meditation inspires you to continue down that path. It’s a good feeling, especially after years of feeling that you traveled your path to what you expected would be a rewarding and fulfilling career, only to find yourself an adjunct.

I’ll make a confession about this article: I wrote it because I want to start writing here more regularly. Every time I come to this blog, I come with that intention. I hesitated – is this going to be any good? I decided to stop second-guessing myself and just write. Maybe it will matter to someone, the way the blogs I read in my early days of adjuncting, when it hit me that I had landed in a terrible place, helped me feel so not alone, and helped me understand the reason I felt the way I felt. Now I’m at a place where I’m moving on, trying to let go of the negativity and change my life for the better, even if only in small ways over time.

If anyone knows about any research on guided meditations, how they work, their key elements, etc., I’d be grateful if you would share them in comments below or through email. I’m eager to learn more and possibly write my own.

 

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