Perfect amidst imperfection.

Perfect amidst imperfection.

Written August 9, 2017

 

Sometimes the absence of something is the trigger to realize it is essential to our way of life.

Writing is like that for me.

Academic writing, free writing, journal writing, blog writing, sketching, or some other form of creative expression through dance, yoga, music, art.

From this realization, I come to an (almost) quiet place, and prioritize my craft of writing. I prioritize this practice over cleaning, organizing, painting, planning, as those will come with time.

 

In our new home, living with the car-full of items that we drove with us across state lines, I see perfection amidst imperfection.

A mess that would otherwise drive me into a frenzy to clean it up seems just where it is meant to be. How else would that pile of clothes be? There is no dresser to store them.

How else would that smattering of toys be? I am thankful to have them (for a house without toys for two little boys is quite empty, indeed).

Where else would I be writing than leaning against the wall on the floor? There is no desk, office chair, nor office to otherwise be.

This is perfection amidst imperfection.

 

This is what is, and so I let it be.

 

And so, I write. I dance. I practice yoga—one move at a time, one transition at a time. I revel in every minute. I create. I plan. I play.

Above all, I am reminded of the importance to practice being.

This moment. This breath.

 

Amidst all of it, it can feel quite chaotic.

What comes next? What comes first?

I’ve been using the game of “Tower of Hanoi” as a powerful metaphor.

To move the piece on the bottom (e.g., a future dream project—laundry on the second floor), we must move these top, smaller pieces (e.g., a realistic next step or two that costs —laundry on the main floor, fix the floor, fix the wall, buy the washer/dryer, install them). The moves of these smaller pieces must happen first, and in succession, to prepare the way for moving the larger piece.

This again is imperfection amidst perfection.

The lessons here are of patience, and seeing the beauty that lies amidst the chaos.

The perfection amidst imperfection.

I see, I feel.

I see, I feel.

I see the shifting seasons before my eyes. As the leaves fall from branches willing to let go. I feel it in my bones. As the breeze calms through the open sills.

 

My progress today helps me plan for tomorrow.
I give myself time to be in it. To get messy. To problem solve. To meditate.
I then give myself time to rest. To breathe. To stretch. To practice patience.

 

I take time to read. To think. To ponder. To let it sink in.
I hear the voice that tells me to stop. To do an easier task.
I hear that voice, and invite it in. I let it go.
This is the practice.

 

To write. To create. To advance ideas.
To innovate. To inspire change. For the well-being of students.
This is my work.

 

My schedule fills up.
Yet I make time for my priorities.
I sing. I dance.
I open the windows to feel the breeze on my skin.
I step outside to allow the light in.
I stay inside and radiate light.

 

I write. I yoga. I cook.
I love. I give.
I am. That I am.

Meet yourself where you are.

Meet yourself where you are.

This is the practice.

Are you showing up for yourself?

Are you meeting yourself where you are?

Take a moment. Breathe in. Breathe out.

Ground your feet into the Earth.

Feel the air on your skin.

Feel the kiss of your breath at the tip of your nose.

Feel the warmth of the sun radiate and warm your skin.

Feel your ribs expand and retract.

Loosen your stomach. That’s right, let it hang out.

No one is watching. And even if they are, let go of any perceived judgement. It’s not about them, it’s about you. Meet yourself where you are.

 

I have been practicing yoga, meditation, and mindfulness for 10 years. The principle of meeting yourself where you are is one of the hardest for me. I work daily, moment by moment, hour by hour, at setting aside expectation.

Let the expectation be there. Acknowledge it. Say “Thank you.”

Then let it go. I say to myself, I am letting you go. For I don’t need you anymore.

Then recognize the separation between yourself and that expectation.

That expectation is not a part of me. It doesn’t define who I am. It may have shaped my experiences. My perception of self. My lens on the world. But it is not the core of my being.

 

In some moments, it is easier than others to drop into yourself. By this I mean come into your being. Your breath. This breath. In, and out. Like an ocean wave, continually cresting and lapping gently onto the soft, wet sand.

Feel the tension release from your body. Notice where new tension may have come in.

Now meet yourself where you are. Good, bad, and ugly. With a nonjudgmental stance. I am here. I am ok.

When you are in the place in you, and I am in the place in me, we are one. Namaste.

Finding light in love.

Do you ever find yourself caught in a storm of thoughts, ideas, and possibilities? Have you tried writing them all down?

Writing • Reading • Dreaming • Loving • Cleaning • Being • Creating • Singing • Dancing • Cooking • Believing • Surprising • Sleeping • Smiling • Noticing • Breathing• Laughing

This is where I find my light.
The light within. The light from outside.
These are the practices that keep me grounded.

In taking time to notice, I found myself caught in a whirlwind of ideas.
What should I do first? What should I do next?
I noticed this, and came to a realization.

The most important thing to do is the now.

Be here now.
Now my fingers are typing on the backlight keys of my laptop.
The whir of the fan provides a subtle background noise to calm the air.
The sun from the sky shines brightly all around – every pane of glass is lit up inside and out.
My body is at ease, except for the tension at my neck and shoulders.
Soften. Release. Breathe. Drink water.

Lately when caught in a thought cloud, racing mind, and otherwise unsettled state, I light a candle, and use essential oils.

I find great comfort in subtle scent, bringing me quite literally back to my senses. The oil is soft on my palm. The smell of peppermint brings me to the present moment. The sensation of the oil tingling on the back of my neck lingers.
The light of a single candle burns bright at the center of the table. The flickering light and soft scent is an object of focus.

All else around me could seem chaotic to a casual observer –

Mounds of clothes strewn about…
Stacks of dishes on every available flat, elevated surface…
A tornado of toys thrown in every direction…
Piles of paperwork in disarray…

Life is messy, sure. But life is also simple.

If you accept the premise that our purpose in this life is to love,
Then the practices of loving, being, breathing, and noticing, are elevated,
As we create time for the most important practices.
For now, this breath, this time and space. Is all that we have, and all that we need.

 

Authentic self.

I’m learning to live more true to myself. This means letting go of judgement, of fear, of resentment, of criticism to the point of stagnation.

In an ongoing healing journey, I am coming home to myself in the sense of living from a place of truth. My intention is to live, to fully live, without fear of rejection, fear of isolation, fear of worthlessness. I have been hiding from myself. I have been protecting myself from really living. Somehow I have convinced myself that I am not worthy. That the work I do is unimportant. This narrative is self-constructed. This narrative is rooted in a lens of lies.

The push and pull struggle of authenticity is bound in waves of lightness and darkness. Of beauty and strength. Of fighting against myself in perpetual self criticism.

Instead I work to create a lens of truth, of light. In my work in creating lenses – in seeing myself, caring for myself, this means seeing the beauty that lies within me. The beauty that is at my very core. At my core is a cave that is teaming with gems. The most precious, the most beautiful gems – so hidden deep within the caverns of my soul that the world has not seen anything like them before.

In waves I shed layers of doubt, of fear, of anxiety, of worthlessness. I shed layers to see more clearly the beauty that lies deep in my core. I do this through breath work. Through meditation. Through mindfulness. Through attention. More importantly, perhaps, I do this through love.

My teachers continually remind me – and somehow I do not listen. To truly live is to truly love myself. To be my own best friend. To love and care for myself in the utmost way possible. From this space I can then come into my true, authentic self.

It would be impossible to express only in words what or who this self is. What I can tell you, is that I am love. I am light. I am both powerful and soft. My sensitivity is my superpower. Sensitive to shifts and changes in the season. Sensitive to moods and so keen on my own and your energy that no mood ring is needed to tell the power. I am a story teller.


I am an educator. I am also unconventional. In my perceived failures of not publishing enough, or in the most prestigious journals, I need to remind myself of the other ways that I educate. Through my writings, my videos, my presentations, my comics, my conversations with others. And also on my yoga mat. 

I have learned to cultivate lenses to see the world through the eyes of a child. I have learned to question the surface level investigations of how representations are used to convey meaning. Meaning to whom? Meaning by whom? I have learned to question the purely cognitive lens on education, toward the deeper and more cross cutting cultural aspects of learning. How are the social systems set up to exacerbate the inequities of our system of education? How can we work together in community to cut across the artificial boundaries of research and practice? To position our work as educators as not just working in isolation to advance knowledge to be used by some hypothetical user, but instead, to work together in collaboration to achieve our goals and vision for mathematics education.


This aspect of my professional work takes up a lot of my intellectual capacity. Yet I need to be reminded that this does not define who I am. I need to take breaks. I need to be immersed in my community, to position myself as an expert, as a thinker and doer, as a communicator, as a creator, as a leader. I need to position myself as someone whom I care so deeply about that there is no question but to love and protect myself from myself. Yes, feel pain. Experience despair. But also rest in the law of impermanence. Such unsettling sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts, they are not eternal. For nothing but love is eternal. (And no, this is not a hokey love song, but instead, this is what I understand as the purpose of life – to love.) Then the question becomes how is my life work contributing to the continuation of love?


It is through my work as a teacher. I choose to be a teacher, a teacher who teaches others to connect, to grow, to partner, and to care about each other, about our communities, and about children. In this whole endeavor – this enterprise of education – I will continue to fight for public education – because these are the spaces in which we have opportunities to shape the lives of young people to come into their own authentic selves. While they are not the only spaces, they are the “required” spaces – by law, children attend school. Thus it is here where we must meet them, with caring and open arms. To show them and to help them experience a pedagogy of caring.

Like the goals of liberal education in institutions of higher education, through the sciences, arts, humanities – we learn to live and to love and to open ourselves up to the experiences of a lifetime. To find our passion, to pursue our interests. It is in these spaces that we aim to live from. When we learn of grave inequities in the social and political structures of our nation, of our world, do we remain silent? Or do we fight on behalf of the oppressed? How are we acting as the oppressor if we are not working on behalf of the salvation of the oppressed? I am talking about humanity. And in talking about humanity, in seeing ourselves in the faces of others, in solidarity with the fights, the droughts, and struggle, the optimism, the love, the joy, the human experience.

In my work I am in tune with approaches that seek to understand students’ meaningful experiences with mathematics. One of the lenses I employ is that of representational fluency. In that work I seek to make sense of how students create and interpret representations to make sense of and reason about mathematical ideas in ways that are productive for their own understanding and sense-making. Yes, there are established disciplinary representations and ways of making sense of mathematical ideas (e.g., this is a graph, this is a Cartesian grid, y=x). But for me, what is compelling are the way in which students are using this external inscriptions that are shared in a space to convey their ideas – it is the thinking of the child that compels me to want to learn more. I would hope that this can be taken as a starting point for potential collaborations with others who share in this interest. How do children learn mathematics in meaningful ways? How can our lenses on the ways in which children create and interpret multiple representations shed light on their thinking and understanding? What are the spaces in which children are expressing this understanding? How can we aim to cultivate spaces in which children see themselves as mathematical thinkers and doers – to advance the work of creative and critical thought in the service of advancing science?


I return to the original thread of this idea. What is my truth? What does it mean to live my authentic self? It means to come into a space where I trust that the way I spend my time is what I am meant to be doing. It means the collaborations I have formed are worthwhile. It means the pockets of activity I take time to cultivate will be harvested over time into ripe fruit from which I can point to and say – yes – that is how I have made a difference in this world.

I make a difference in the world by being in it – perhaps you take that as a starting point. I seek to have my difference in this world to be nuanced with respect to establishing greater connections.


I seek to establish greater connections between research and practice through communication, collaboration, and community. I also seek to establish greater connections in students’ learning of mathematics – through the interpretation and creation of multiple representations.


 

I seek to establish greater connections with myself. To really know myself, I must hold my self up as a beautiful creative spiritual being. I am so rich with potential, with greatness, with light, it cannot be contained, it becomes contagious. In being together, you can feel my calming energy, you can feel my sense of self, my spirit.

I have a habit of not listening to myself. So I add this as a reminder, and part of my practice of trust: Listen to yourself, Nicky. Do not glance over these words. You are beautiful. Take them as meaningful. You are creative. Listen to yourself. I love you. Show up for yourself. You do great work. Do the important work. Your work is important. Do not give up on yourself. You can do it!

Meaningful connection in this world does not come through external validation on paper, and quantifications of blue thumbs up and hearts. Meaningful connection comes through shared energy, through shared space, through shared values. It is how we come together that binds us in the human experience.

This is your life. Show up for it. Don’t just glide along on the surface. Dive in with open arms. Be willing to be hurt along the way. For remember – the law of impermanence. Whatever lightness and darkness is experienced along the way is merely temporary. To truly live in this life dive in heart first and be ok with whatever transpires.

I create and choose the lens to see my life through. How do you choose to see yours?

Gratitude first. 

I have a habit of recounting all the “have nots” and “should haves” and “if onlys.”  These leave me in a place of trapped emotion and regret. Instead, I seek to cultivate gratitude.

Let’s take an example from writing. As I reflected upon the day I started to tell myself a story – “I did not finished the revisions to this manuscript” and “I should have all of the revisions done by now” and “if only I would have been writing instead of resting I could have been further along, and on to the next writing project.”

These kinds of thought patterns are destructive and completely unhelpful in advancing my goals. (Also notice the “not” and “should” and “would” language!)

A thought pattern is like a groove in a road of an over traveled highway, so deep the rivets become valleys, collecting pools of water when it rains. These patterns can be retrained. Remade to establish new ones that collect joy instead of fear. 

With gratitude I notice the opportunities and choices that I made today. I chose to listen more than seek to be heard. “I am grateful to have colleagues to interact with.” I chose to rest my aching tired body instead of push myself to the extreme. “I am grateful for having a warm bed and quiet space to rest.”

My writing projects are plentiful. I am working on one at a time. “I am grateful to have constructive comments from reviewers to push the work forward and improve my communication of ideas. I am glad to have the encouragement to revise and resubmit this work.” (Notice in the gratitude statements the “glad” and “have” language!)

With dedication to this practice, change is possible. I noticed destructive thought patterns. I let them be. I made a choice to be grateful. To feel full instead of empty. 

With time, repetition, and clear intentions, gratitude first will be the new rivet in the road. Collecting joy, restoring thought patterns toward productive ones, leaving the destructive ones behind. 

Seeing the unseen. 

In seeking to see the unseen we seek hidden truths. Treasure that remains dormant until harvested and unearthed. It is through the practice of seeking to see the unseen that we come to a greater sense of awareness.

Some truths can only be sensed or felt. Perhaps you enjoy the embrace of friend, or a young child. Meet eye to eye, and chest to chest. The treasure here is connection. Love is felt at the heart center. Perhaps you experience the radiant, calming energy of a peaceful warrior. Meet in presence, without judgement nor expectation. And here the treasure is peace.

Other hidden truths are knowable only by ourselves through introspection and self study. These truths originate at the core of our being. Meet yourself by letting go. (Let go of expectation, for example.) The treasure here is self love, and perhaps wisdom. For when we are one with ourselves we  can then live our best self.

“Just do you” the wise one says. For no other life is to be led than your own.

We practice to cultivate the treasures – all intertwined as threads of the fabric of our lives. With each breath we weave another thread of our life tapestry.  It is through presence that we come to know and see these truths unseen.  Relish in the journey, for this is its own reward.  Yet, along the way unearth the hidden treasures, for these are meant to be shared.

Fullness.

With a greater sense of awareness, I am learning to feel full. Fullness to me means completeness, happiness, and success. Success in this case is not measured by worldly accomplishments, gold stars, or publications, but rather by doing what I love.

Doing what I love has taken great time, attention, and awareness to cultivate. It takes dedication, patience, and compassion. I know for sure that when I practice yoga and when I practice writing I am full.

I prioritize carving out the time to do what I love. This requires letting go of inhibitions. A friend of my offered a helpful visualization:

Let the problems, expectations, and judgements, float away as leaves down a stream. Watch them land effortlessly and silently on the surface of the water. As immediate as they land, they are carried away. More leaves will fall, but just the same, let them go.

Letting go frees up space to do what I love as a wholehearted being. I came to a feeling of fullness yesterday during my practice of writing, and was able to put a name on it today during my practice of yoga. As I understand it, it is through these events that I cam to feel full:

I nursed my infant son, I got my 4-year old son to school and picked up on time, I wrote with a colleague and friend while enjoying my second cup of coffee for the morning, I nursed my infant son, prepared food for our family to nourish our bodies, revisited an in progress manuscript, edited a manuscript for colleagues, nursed my infant son, allowed my husband to nap and reset, collaborated with colleagues on a conference proposal, nursed my infant son, walked to yoga, relished in the aroma of “clarity”, nursed my infant son, prepared more food, laughed with my husband while gazing at stars in the evening sky, nursed and comforted my infant son, and slept a restful sleep.

I recount these experiences to remember how I chose to live my day. I chose to live with fullness. I chose to not let the expectations of others (or myself) get in the way of living a full and wholehearted life. I chose to prioritize the health and well being of my family. I prioritized my practice of writing and my practice of yoga. This is success.

 

I am compelled to add, my measure of success is shared from a place of love. It is not a sentiment to be judged and approved, but rather acknowledged. I wish for you to find fullness in your life. May the goodness and light shine bright from your center. When you are in that place in you, and I am in the place in me, we are one. Namaste.

 

Notice, in silence. 

I sit in silence to notice the conversations. Who is swimming. Who is at the beach. How well they are doing. How much improvement and growth is evident. 

I stand in silence to notice sensations and actions. My body is aching for movement and stretch. I lunge and twist and arch my back. My hands are tearing fresh spinach into small bits. I enjoy the crunch the soft leaves make when broken. I hear the “mmmmm” of company smelling the garlic that is roasting. I smile and check the oven. 

I notice how words may be twisted and used to self depreciate. Without judgement I notice how I am shifting my own inner dialogue to be more self appreciating. I am beautiful. I am bountiful. I am blissful. 

I notice how I feel on the soft yet tacky surface of a new yoga mat. I lunge and twist and exhault my heart without a desire to perform. I notice how a yoga mat is a tool to remember routines and feel safe and grounded just by being on it. 

The power to notice is a gift. I invite you to turn inward and harness the treasure that lies within. This is the practice.  Namaste. 

Stay open. 

The world is your playground. Let your adventure begin. Stay open to any experience that should arise. There is beauty all around.

To stay open means to allow for the present moment to unfold just as it is. Not as expected, not as hoped, not as feared. And without judgement.

Live from a place of love. Intend to live in peace. Keep your heart open. Allow for clarity in thought. Clarity in speech. Live right action.

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