Confusion to Control

I have always considered myself a pretty straightforward person in relation to my academics. I do not think I have ever been in a classroom where I am forced to get out of my comfort zone and try to understand or even use my body in different ways. At first, I think I used the movement time as a period to relax and let my mind wander. Towards the third week, I began to notice how constrained by body actually is during the day. My body can move in many interesting ways, but I have found that I rarely use my body to its full potential. When I got into a new position, I realized that it was not actually a new position at all but instead something that I have been taught or done before. I felt like I no longer had any control over my body. With this realization, I recognized that my mind is the same way. Everyday I sit in a classroom and retain lecture information while furiously scribbling down notes. I have not taken a moment to stop and think about the structure of the class. Is it actually beneficial to have a professor talk at me for an hour or would I get more from a conversation about the subject? I do not know if I have an answer to that question, but after the movement workshops I have allowed myself to question the typical schedules that I am finding myself trapped in.

Prompt 2

Through our movement exercises, where the main focus is to mentally be connected and attuned to our bodies, I have become much more aware of my biases and assumptions. Not only is this awareness mental, but physical. Being in a room with multiple other people, who are also trying to seek their centers, creates an environment of equality. For those few silent minutes, we are no longer separated by biases, opinions, and arbitrary differences; we share the unique ability to experience our bodies in similar ways.

Prompt 2

Never before had I truly thought about how my physical body interacted in my immediate environment. It was more common to connect my ‘being’ or my character to a situation, as opposed to understanding the implication that my physical presence had in that moment. By integrating movement into my education and the topics we cover in class, I have become more aware of the consequences of my body in my everyday life.

Recruit and Host

My room is a forced double and an extremely tight squeeze for my roommate and I plus all of our stuff, which is why I never imagined I would be chosen to host a recruit for my team.  There is simply no room for another person, however, despite this fact, I had the pleasure (and I mean this now that it is over) of hosting a prospective diver considering applying to Middlebury ED.  At first, I was unsure of how to handle this responsibility as I am a freshman and still figuring out how to handle my schedule and balance my activities.  I thought about all the things my recruit trip host did well and tried to emulate her actions; I took her on tours of buildings she wanted to see, asked her questions that weren’t about what other schools she was looking at, tried to explain the team I am a part of even though the season has not yet started, and listed my favorite things about Midd.  Although I was busy and had many obligations to fulfill this weekend, I’m really glad that I was given the opportunity to possibly influence someone’s decision to apply to the school I now consider home.  Even though she slept in a crack between my roommate and I’s bed, she woke up smiling and thanked me for my hospitality.  I am honored to feel like I have made an impact on someones initial experience of this welcoming campus.  Even if she doesn’t apply here, I feel that everyone deserves to see a school that they are interested in the best light possible.

Recruit and Host Dynamic

My room is a forced double and an extremely tight squeeze for my roommate and I plus all of our stuff, which is why I never imagined I would be chosen to host a recruit for my team.  There is simply no room for another person, however, despite this fact, I had the pleasure (and I mean this now that it is over) of hosting a prospective diver considering applying to Middlebury ED.  At first, I was unsure of how to handle this responsibility as I am a freshman and still figuring out how to handle my schedule and balance my activities.  I thought about all the things my recruit trip host did well and tried to emulate her actions; I took her on tours of buildings she wanted to see, asked her questions that weren’t about what other schools she was looking at, tried to explain the team I am a part of even though the season has not yet started, and listed my favorite things about Midd.  Although I was busy and had many obligations to fulfill this weekend, I’m really glad that I was given the opportunity to possibly influence someone’s decision to apply to the school I now consider home.  Even though she slept in a crack between my roommate and I’s bed, she woke up smiling and thanked me for my hospitality.  I am honored to feel like I have made an impact on someones initial experience of this welcoming campus.  Even if she doesn’t apply here, I feel that everyone deserves to see a school that they are interested in the best light possible.

Prompt One

By exploring the readings through movement, I was forced to readjust my thought processes for the themes of the readings. Abstract thoughts needed to become tangible so that I could represent the idea through my body. My ability to accomplish this task provided me with new insight on my privileged education. Someone spent time making sure that I was able to not only understand but also apply meaning to readings.

Stress and Concentration

Over the past several weeks, I have noticed that when I need to focus most, I start bouncing one of my legs every so slightly. I am sure everyone has felt this, or at least been sitting at a table when one person’s bouncing leg beneath the table shakes the whole thing.  I am not typically a fidgety person, but I have noticed that I start this type of fidgeting in certain situations: when it’s late and I need to finish a paper, when I’m reading something that I need to read slowly in order to understand, when I am trying to do something quickly, and when I am getting tired.  I think my body almost uses this somewhat involuntary motion as a way to keep me awake and to keep my blood flowing.  Upon noticing that my body has this physical reaction, I have recently tried to use this to my advantage, like when I need to focus and get work done efficiently or keep up my energy when I am getting tired.  It works. Perhaps it’s all in my head that shaking my leg helps me focus, but isn’t what happens in our head related to our physical body’s function?

Prompt 1

Our exploration of the readings through movement offer an alternative way of understanding the material, a method that is not utilized in more traditional classrooms. I think that this movement is just as valuable in understanding the reading as a class discussion on the topic would be, forcing us to extract what we individually found to be a central theme, and then combining the movements in a way that reflects a wholesome conclusion on the topic at hand.

From Embarrassment to Empowerment

There’s a special kind of self-consciousness that accompanies the realization that all attention is focused on your body. Once I overcame my embarrassment though, the movement workshops left me empowered. As nervous giggles and adverted glances were replaced with insightful reflections, I realized my classmates were undergoing similar transformations. This shared experience fostered meaningful connections that we were able to carry with us back into the traditional classroom setting.

Exploration of Movement

For a long time, my interpretation of school was that students had to compose themselves to a desk and remain there unless told otherwise; your body turned off and your mind turned on. Through movements, Blakeslee and Blakeslee’s concept of “your body and your brain exist for each other” shines through. To fully grasp and embrace an educational experience, the body and mind must be thought of as one.

Reunion Weekend

This past homecoming weekend my friend and I hosted several alums from the class of 1994. We decided to take them around some parties to show them what the current social scene is like at Midd. It was so interesting to observe their reactions as they walked around the parties- mostly filled with confusion and disbelief. It reminded me of my first few weeks at Middlebury, where I’m sure I had the same reactions. It made me reflect on how these experiences are now considered the “norm” and how I’ve become numb to them.

The Last of the Garden

The first frost, the last of the garden. I was lucky enough to go home this weekend and savor the last kale leaves from the few remaining stalks in my family’s vegetable garden. I love the first “real” frost, the one where the ground really does freeze for the first time since last April. That cold, nippy feeling early in the morning, the frozen condensation crystals frozen on my window–all signs that winter is on its way. But as I welcome in my favorite season I already miss the sweetness of summer. As I sat down to what I’m sure will be my last kale salad from the garden until next summer, I found myself appreciating the hardiness of this vegetable and it’s ability to span the transition of seasons, the lone survivor in the garden.

seasons

Coming from California, I have never actually seen snow fall. However, today was the first day I witnessed snow falling from the sky. My roommate and I sprinted outside in our flip flops and stood out there watching the snow fall to the ground. Even though it wasn’t “pretty” snow, it was an awesome moment for me. The beautiful leaves, the different temperatures, and the snow all make me appreciate Vermont’s true beauty.

No Longer One-Dimensional

I have always been a one-dimensional learner and never quite understood how individuals could express themselves through dance. In the body integration exercises, I saw how translating my knowledge of the readings into movements gave me a greater understanding of the connotations that certain body movements carry with them. As I moved with the readings, I was able to truly experience rather than simply read the texts

My learning experience (Prompt #1)

One concept that revolutionized the way I view engagement in classrooms is learning through movement. I connected this idea with the hands-on experience that often engineers have to acquire in order to further understand concepts they learn in a book. Similarly, learners like me who often benefit from this technique, absorb concepts that remind us that it’s not all about the mind, but rather, the body-mind that enables us to further enrich our educational experience.

 

 

 

As one student moves, the other follows, fingers stretching and uncurling, arm dropping slowly, every action exaggerated. Both are fully aware of themselves and, in a way, of each other on both conscious and unconscious levels. The movement exercise brought home the idea of peri-personal space that is mentioned by Blakeslee and Blakeslee that extends consciousness of the body beyond the physical self.

Movement Workshops Reveal My Own Biases

I initially felt very uncomfortable and out of place during the movement workshops, and struggled to understand how they helped me synthesize or better understand the course readings and curriculum. I’ve also felt that I learn best from the traditional manner of reading and then discussing what I have read. The workshops made me realize that just as I felt awkward and confused during the choreography, some students feel that way during school. I too frequently assume that how I learn, or how I do anything, is the best way for everyone, when in reality it varies on an individual basis.

Moving in the Classroom (prompt 2)

I had a lot of trouble with the movement exercises at first. I couldn’t really see how jumping around would help me understand institutional racism. Plus, while moving, I had trouble maintaining a focus on intellectual concepts.

Then I recognized that part of the power of movement within a classroom environment is that it addresses an entirely different method of understanding, one that you cant quite articulate verbally.

This practice has opened my awareness to a broader range of understandings in the classroom. I mainly see its effects in how I conduct myself in small group discussions – I’m much more intentional about trying to understand different viewpoints and making sure everyone has a chance to contribute their unique perspective.

Driving Just to Drive

Last week my poetry professor raised a question from a line in a Lao-Tzu poem we were reading (“A good traveler has no fixed plans / and is not intent upon arriving”), and he asked the class, does anyone travel without a destination anymore? Although I agree that our current culture is incredibly goal-oriented, moving too fast to stop and notice the details, I was proud to respond that in fact I’d gone out on a drive with a friend the previous evening just to watch the sunset and take in the spectacular Vermont foliage. We accomplished nothing tangible, but the experience created by just driving and enjoying the beauty of the present moment and the subsequent discussion of the topic in class the next day made me realize that awareness doesn’t have to have a purpose–but it is absolutely necessary to feel complete.

Standing My Grounds

Confrontations daunt me. Disagreeing with the more knowledgeable in the vertically hierarchical environment I grew up in was punished. The Aikido moves we learnt in class has caused me to reflect on my discussion style. Despite my tendency to consider the perspectives of my attackers, I am yet to develop the level-headedness to stand my grounds, causing them to succumb, instead of resigning in the face of their aggression.

Acting I Monologues

This semester I am taking Acting I. The primary reason I signed up for the class was to fulfill my art credit; I did not really expect very much from it. The biggest surprise of the semester is that I am finding it to be a very impactful experience. This week, each person in the class had to prepare a one-minute monologue based on the prompt, “what do you want to say to someone who you have strong emotions for, but can’t.” This idea of voicing some of my most intimate and honest emotions and thoughts in front of a group of people that I barely know caused me quite a bit of anxiety. However, watching every one of my classmates share a small, honest, intimate, and often profound part of themselves was incredibly inspiring, and allowed me to do the same. This experience made me think a lot about the things that people choose to share and to not share. Not every monologue was happy, in fact, some showcased very negative emotions (including my own); it seems to me that these are the emotions and “issues” that usually get bottled up. I could relate to, and empathize with, each classmate, even if I had not personally experienced what they were talking about; furthermore, I deeply appreciated their abilities to share so honestly and openly. This experience has made me think a lot about how to utilize and enhance the skills of empathy, honesty, and thoughtfulness that made this in-class exercise so meaningful in my day-to-day life.

surrounding support

This past weekend, the volleyball team played Amherst and Williams at home. Even though it was pouring rain on Friday night, a significant amount of people still made their way across campus to the gym to support the team’s most important conference match. It was really special to see all the people that cared to support their fellow classmates and friends. This act of support truly allowed me to realize how important and special Middlebury’s community is because those who attended the game ultimately made those on the team feel large amounts of support. In my opinion, the crowd heavily influenced our win over Amherst!

 

Roommate empathy

Living in a two room double has taught me a lot about incorporating someone else’s schedule into your own life, and about being a respectful person. My roommate Anna (she is in this class and also is a bee!) and I have a great dynamic. It is wonderful to come back to Painter and unfailingly have a friend to chat about your day with. We had our first sort-of-fight-but-not-really-fight last night; I had a couple friends over that ended up staying and talking pretty late, and it turns out the wall between our rooms is much thinner than we had thought. Despite the fact that I kept her up until an ungodly hour, Anna and I were able to have a conversation and laugh about it. There are little ways in your day here to show empathy, and one of them is being understanding when your roommate has very chatty people who will not leave her room until a very late hour. What a pal.

Up I91

Driving back from Wesleyan to Middlebury this afternoon after our soccer match, I was aware of the difference that even a tiny change in latitude can make on the scenery rushing by our bus windows. Fall foliage has come late this year, and in Connecticut the changing colors were barely noticeable amidst commercialization. As we passed through Massachusetts, the leaves grew increasingly orange and red, but it wasn’t until Vermont that the picture-perfect scenery of fall that New England is so famous for began to rush past us in full display. I liked knowing that each mile we headed north, we were coming closer to Middlebury, my current home, and one of the most beautiful places to enjoy the fall season.

Calling Your Mom

Sometimes I realize that in the moment, I can easily make things far more dramatic than they seem.  In a school like Middlebury, often we balance 2,3,4, even 5 activities at once, trying to put 100% effort into all of them because we are young and motivated.  This week has been a whirlwind and I’ve realized that after running from practice to class to practice to the library, I haven’t even taken a second to process anything I have felt or done.  Today I did just this by sitting outside, drinking tea and calling my mom, recalling all the tough workouts and long nights in the library.  By taking a step back, I realized how much I have done in the past 5 days, but how little I have stopped to enjoy my success and share my news with someone I care about.  From now on, I think I am going to make calling home a Saturday tradition.

Be Yourself

One of the most common advice I get when interviewing is “Just be yourself”. It seems simple, right? I had an interview this past week and it was so interesting to be hyper aware of my actions and how I felt knowing people across the table were forming impressions of me, etc. No amount of “deep breaths” before really calms my butterflies before an interview, but one thing I did notice from this past interview is I end up mimicking their attitudes (they seemed super relaxed, so I became more casual and relaxed in my conversation as well as my tone/language). At the end of the day, these interviewers really want you to do well, and they were in your shoes before.

Midterm Tunnel Vision

We all know that feeling you get the week you have a midterm… or two… or three. Your shoulders tighten, daily routines seem strenuous, small inconveniences feel like colossal disturbances, and every ounce of extra time must be devoted to studying. During this time of cramming information, you seem to brainwash yourself, and you fail to the recognize your environment. It’s interesting how external pressures have such an impact on internal awareness.

This tunnel vision is one that I found myself subconsciously caught up in this past week. It’s shocking how in the span of just busy five days I was able to numb myself to every outside distraction except for my studies. Even though this “hell week” is now over, I’m surprised that I am currently unable to snap out of this tunnel vision trance.

Alone in Proctor

I am often struck by how activities that are entirely normal and standard in the broader context of life, can be unusual or uncomfortable here on campus. The example of this that I run into most often is eating meals alone. This is something that people, including myself, do all the time and don’t even think twice about in “normal” life. However, for some reason, walking into Proctor alone often provokes a lot of anxiety. Sitting down for a solo dining hall meal usually provokes the same thought process every time. First, I tell myself that this is a totally normal thing, no need to worry! Then, the pressure to pull out my phone or computer begins to build. Eventually, I cave, and stare at a screen for no real purpose while I eat. Why does this happen? Is it because I am uncomfortable with people seeing me alone? If this is the case, then why does pulling out the technology help soothe anxiety? Perhaps the root of it is that, in this place of high achievement and stress, I am most afraid of people thinking I am not being “busy” or “productive?”

Late night lib

I always find the middle three weeks of the semester to be the toughest. We’re beyond the initial weeks of intro and finally into the hardest topics of each class – the topics that require the most time. But were not quite in the last third of the semester where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and professors seem to be more understanding of work loads. Somehow, without fail, it seems as if all my assignments are due on the same day every semester. So when I’m spending another late night in the lib, dreading the 5:40 alarm I see on my phone, I contemplate giving up on the whole homework thing. I can see the people around me, visible stress on their faces. There’s a certain solidarity between people at 2 am, a mutual understanding. Its at these times I tend to focus on my breathing more. I swear deep breaths are the only thing that help me finish that last paper after officially being awake for 20 hours.

mirror neurons

I learned about these neurons that everyone has- called mirror neurons- that are supposedly the source of empathy in the brain. Here is how they work: if someone else smiles, the neurons in my brain that normally would cause me to smile start firing. In this way, you experience empathy by having the same processes go on in your brain that are going on in the other person’s brain. This is a really interesting concept to me because it means that you cannot truly understand how another person is feeling without experiencing it yourself (literally). This operates even on the most basic level (such as a smile as I mentioned before).

Noticings: Blood Moon

blood moon

This past Sunday (September 27th), two friends and I ventured out to the Middlebury Organic Garden around 10:30 PM to view the “Blood Moon”. A Blood Moon refers to the reddish glow to the Moon during a Total Lunar Eclipse when the Earth casts its shadow on a Full Moon and eclipses it. We walked over to the Organic Garden in the pitch black as my friend used a flashlight to navigate us. I remember looking down at the tiny stream of light in front of me and turning around to see Bihall, which was completely lit up and beautiful- it was striking to see such a prominent man-made formation among the rolling hills and grass. Once we reached the garden, we all laid down in the grass and looked up into the sky towards the moon. I was in awe of all the stars I saw, and it made me reflect on how lucky we are to go to school in Middlebury, Vermont where we are removed from “city life” and how we can experience nature without distractions or light pollution. I spent some time closing my eyes and slowly began to notice the ample amount of noise generated by our surrounding, even though my friends and I were completely silent: a brisk breeze running through the bushes, the leaves crinkling, slow “coos” from two birds. I encourage you all to observe and take in nature’s beauty, as our environment is also full of life and energy.

Eye Contact

Walking around campus I often notice how many people are looking down – either at their phones or even just at the ground. Whatever it is, its constantly avoiding eye contact with people you don’t know. Occasionally people look up to say hi to a friend or nod to an acquaintance, but we would never dare make eye contact with someone we don’t know. Even in the dining halls its the same. Nobody would sit down with people you don’t know, were constantly looking for the comfort of our own friends. Even if someone is sitting alone, they pull out a laptop or a reading to make it seem like they’re busy at work despite the fact that they may not be. It’s interesting to think about why we are so afraid of meeting someone new, or even just looking at them and offering a smile.

the little things

Sometimes we fail to take a step back and appreciate the simple things that others do for us. For instance, as I was walking back to my dorm carrying multiple packages through the pouring rain, someone saw me crossing the street and offered to help carry some of what I was holding. I’m not sure if he was headed in the same direction as I was, but he helped me carry the boxes all the way back to my building. He surely did not need to stop and help me, but without his help, I probably would have struggled to get everything back to my room intact. Sometimes I forget to stop and appreciate others’ help, specifically the simple things someone does for us. These simple things can end up meaning a whole lot more than what they seem.

Meditation

In one of my courses (not GH), we do a three-minute meditation at the beginning of each class. Meditation is something I’ve practiced only minimally, but it is something I enjoy doing. This three-minute meditation, however, is a recording that the professor plays from his phone, and the woman on the audio file says the same thing every time. In the beginning, I felt it was easy to follow the woman’s directions and put myself into a more relaxed state of awareness. Now we’ve met for a few weeks worth of classes, and I find myself wishing that the woman wasn’t speaking at all, because it would be easier for me to embrace the three minutes of silence and meditate in a way that’s best for me. What I’m trying to say is that meditation is about exploring the unknown inside your mind, and the predictability of the way we practice meditation in my class seems prohibitive.

Also, I’ll just post a song I’m into for fun each week. Here’s “Oceans” by John Butler.

 

Daily Connection

I always find it interesting to notice when it is and isn’t appropriate to say “hello” or wave to someone you recently met as you walk past. Middlebury College is a small school so I find myself passing these “awkward acquaintances” quite frequently. Some people seem very good at making connections with people they have only just met, whereas I often find it takes me a few introductions to make a connection with someone. I wonder what the root of this is? Does it depend on the person’s social skills or extraversion, the setting, the context in which they first met, or something else entirely?

Sites DOT MiddleburyThe Middlebury site network.