Though written quite a while ago, this is one of the best books I have encountered. It is full of life hacks for greater happiness, and it so good that it is worth coming back to again and again to understand what it takes to be in a state of flow more often in your life. The author researched the state of FLOW, defined as the optimal state between boredom and anxiety.
According to Mihaly’s research of over 50 years, people report the following EIGHT characteristics consistently when they are in a state of FLOW:
1. Goals are clear. 2. Feedback on how they are doing is clear. 3. Their ability to do a task matches the demands of the task. 4. They are able to apply concentration and focus. 5. Everyday worries and cares disappear. 6. They feel in control of their destiny, or experience self-determination. 7. They are not worried about how they appear to others, no worry of judgement. 8. They feel they are contributing toward the common symphony of life and as such sense a timelessness, or transcendence of time.
Then, the author provides gentle, attainable suggestions for each area of life, reminding the reader about all of the possibilities that exist in our lives to achieve greater flow.
The author strongly suggests avoiding passive consumption of media and television because of the apathy and boredom it can engender. One way to do this, he cites, is to become an active critic. Actively reflecting on your media consumption by posting reviews, or becoming involved in the public dialogue over the content will help to change this experience from one of passivity to one of activity.
Here is an animated summary of FLOW:
If you want to hear from the author himself, there are many TED Talks available as well, but I highly recommend the book and then looking for ways to give yourself consistent feedback and greater happiness.
If you are a teacher, and you get a chance, pick up and read James Hillman’s On Soul, Character and Calling. In it he explains his “Acorn theory.”
In one interview Hillman commented, “It’s important to ask yourself, ‘How am I useful to others? What do people want from me?’ That may very well reveal what you are here for.”
For teachers, Hillman gives a reminder for why we may have gotten into the profession in the first place, namely, to place ourselves in the path of young people to help them develop their potential. It is a reminder to get down to what is real and have more humility. “We need to get back to trusting our emotional rapport with children, to seeing a child’s beauty and singling that child out. That’s how the mentor system works — you’re caught up in the fantasy of another person. Your imagination and theirs come together.” The image is of lighting fires.
Hillman in an interview: I think the first step is the realization that each of us has such a thing. (a calling) And then we must look back over our lives and look at some of the accidents and curiosities and oddities and troubles and sicknesses and begin to see more in those things than we saw before. It raises questions, so that when peculiar little accidents happen, you ask whether there is something else at work in your life. It doesn’t necessarily have to involve an out-of-body experience during surgery, or the sort of high-level magic that the new age hopes to press on us. It’s more a sensitivity, such as a person living in a tribal culture would have: the concept that there are other forces at work. A more reverential way of living.
That life of reverence is so closely tied to the work of teaching. I could not describe that better than Hillman and it makes me feel at peace about being a teacher who is studies the destiny question, or what Hillman calls the acorn theory. Teaching really is all about paying attention to the other human being, and developing a deep respect, love and curiosity for the mystery of another human being and the potential of their calling, helping them uncover that despite anything else, including: what your own picture of them might be as their teacher, or what you would wish to mold them into, or even what you might have them believe.
I would like to see our educational system become more reverential of the mystery of each person, and less rigid, prescriptive and injurious to the outliers who don’t fit the mold. Perhaps this can’t be implemented in a structural way, perhaps it is just something which must be shared from person to person. Either way – we should try to do it more in whatever ways we can.
It all leads to many more questions, like how do we teach in a way that is respectful to another person’s divine blueprint? We can’t cast or stamp out each person from the same mold, in a one-size-fits-all approach. We need to leave a certain part in freedom. This is where when it comes to standardized testing or standardized anything I have bones to pick. Our society is in its infancy in terms of our ability to develop human potential respectfully. This is where and why I wonder whether and how astrology and education intersect in fruitful ways.
It’s been four long months on various levels, with many personal life changes, a move to a new house, changing schools. With the onset of the new school year, I’ve also changed teaching positions within my school, only six months after beginning my employment there. My summer was also busy with moving. All the packing and unpacking, and the countless decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of, which objects fit in my new home and what doesn’t. This was followed by lots of teacher training in a new curriculum I am unfamiliar with. It’s been like being a rookie teacher again, starting over on many levels. Starting over though, is my specialty, so I might be too much in my comfort zone.
As the dust settles a bit now, I’ve had a chance to go back to studying the stars with new perspectives and I’m impressed with how exploring my interest in astrology restores me to myself. Through just reading and asking questions, I regain my balance and certainty about many things, but most especially my personal philosophy gets re-grounded, my sense of wonder re-expands, and my faith in the unseen world is often re-stored. Right or wrong, it’s enough for me. I don’t ask or need anyone’s approval or permission, thankfully.
My most recent interests have led me to a fascinating book by Ted Andrews entitled, Sacred Sounds: Magic and Healing Through Words & Music. Andrews was a teacher and an author. He wrote many esoteric books, but his most famous book was about the relationship of humans and animals, Animals Speak. He died in 2009. In this book about music, and ancient bardic traditions, poetry and the power of words, much of what I learned through studying the lectures of Steiner and my Waldorf Teacher training was validated and reaffirmed, though re-framed in more modern language and with new possibilities and potentials expounded.
The most useful and interesting idea which Andrews relates in his book is the assignment of tones to each sign of the zodiac, an idea brought forward by Keppler, though it goes back to very ancient roots. This idea was also promoted by Max Heindel, and Rudolf Steiner, based upon the tonal fifths. This is still very strong in the Anthroposophical teachings of today.
Andrews states, “it is possible to transpose the astrological chart of an individual into a musical composition.” When we do that, we can hear what is harmonious and what isn’t.” Aspects become chords. When a discordant combination of tones is present, we can play various musical tones that blend well with that aspect, bringing harmony to disharmony. Here is a practical application of astrological knowledge, if it truly works and can be studied. In considering this, two of my favorite worlds come together: Music and Astrology. It’s hard for me not to get excited, my astrology-geekness exposed.
While these questions percolate, I continue to look at my students and try to find practical ways to meet them as individuals and as a group through relating to them, guiding them, and designing and pacing the work we do together. I continue to explore how astrology can serve on a practical level to meet these human needs and questions in education, or if it’s little more than grabbing at straws.
My major area of interest is simple to explain. A class of students born in the same year would all have very similar Jupiter and Saturn placements, so it would seem some generalizations can be made about a cohort of students. I’ve also been very interested to study the Moon and Mercury placements of individual students, as much work was done on the study of how people process information, or “mental chemistry” by Marc Edmund Jones, a famous astrologer which would seem applicable to teachers. So, for me, all these ties together: Music, Astrology, Education. More is there of course, like the moon phase at the time of birth which also brings out some helpful group qualities and individual characterizations and I am sure there is much more than these few things which astrology could bring to education, but these are the big elephants in room in my mind. I’ve found one published teacher/astrologer online, though I have yet to read her publications.
I’ve thought about writing about these things and publishing them as e-books, or posting them to the popular TpT, Teacher Pay Teacher website for sale, though these are mere curiosities at this point. I am still at the place of exploring this vast terrain, experimenting, and rudimentary application in my own classroom laboratory. In my view, if something isn’t immediately applicable to a classroom or an immediate need, teachers are just not that patient or interested. They have a total of nine seconds to have their lesson planned and prepped for the next day. They are very pressed for time. On top of that, teachers are famous bandwagon jumpers. So, in the end, I usually leave behind my temptation to turn this interest into a business and I go back to astrology and music as just a serious interest of mine, with potential to serve or help others. There is also stubborn prejudice against anything which smacks of occultism, especially in Texas. I have a long way to go to offer anything that feels safe on a professional level, or useful to other teachers, or seriously tangible. I don’t want to be part of some teaching fad and I truly loathe self-promotion, so I get quickly turned off thinking about things in terms of “business plans,” it all starts to feel cheap and gimmicky. What really interests me is furthering common good and increasing knowledge, improving practices, helping students with cosmic knowledge that is applicable in the real world. This is the type of goal often can’t serve two masters.