To teach well today a fascination with the esoteric is necessary because higher education should be a space in which students can disrobe the “known” to bare the unknown, to flirt with phobia and, of course, to touch the untouchable.  As a humanistic instructor, I take this as my first obligation: to be able to provide a safe space which is big enough to accommodate the esoteric things that my students (and I) want to explore.  By prompting students to connect learning to their personal histories I strive to show them how everything interesting is intimately allied to intellectual pursuit.  A primary interest of mine is to encourage students to be present bodies in their educational journeys.  Historically one of the most abstruse sites of query – not less because students have been encouraged to separate their minds from their bodies in academia, and particularly in the virtual classroom – the human body is the most esoteric subject for many students; as a result, it has proven an extremely effective educational platform for exploration in a variety of topics that I’ve taught, including: standardized testing in grade school, the role of sound in urban settings, the politics of growing up, photography’s influence on utopian philosophy, nineteenth-century “zombies” in post-colonial discourse, the role of doppelgangers in world fiction, and academic essay writing (to only name a few). Prompting students to reconsider themselves – as bodies with unique experiences and interests – in their favorite intellectual pursuits allows me to teach in the way that comes most naturally to me.  As a “humanistic” instructor I share my appetite for the thinking body by being in my body and inviting students to occupy their own. We each bring useful ways of reading and understanding texts to the table that foster critical thinking and creative approaches to writing in the academic genre. Valuing ourselves as academics puts people at the center of academia and continues to challenge the boundaries of education, the potential of the individual, and the possibilities for our future.  Although not every student embraces my ethos or my approach, I can say with certainty that most students leave my courses feeling as if they understand much more clearly how to merge their unique passions with their academic interests. Together, we create intellectual pleasure in the classroom. For me, pleasure has been the most esoteric thing about academia.  In my first years as a student, and then as an instructor, I struggled to find a way to “please” myself as an academic.  Pleasing the ego, pleasing my advisors, and pleasing the status quo were techniques which I was taught and learned well.  But I have always been an adventurous pupil and continued to crave the shrill sensation, the numbing private excitement, the loud throb of uncertainty that I always embraced. At first, there seemed to be a very small space for these feelings in academia. Today I understand that, for me, pleasure is the driving force of wisdom – and that academia has the capacity to hold and foster such desire.  I want my students to feel like university is a positive experience for their exploration: of self, of subject and, especially, of the esoteric that brings the two together.

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Week 2, Day 2

Yesterday was to be Day 2 of the second week of my wellness program, but I was hit with a rare retinal migraine, which I have not experienced for over a year now. There was a time for a span of almost 20 years, during which I experienced these debilitating migraine attacks frequently. They always begin with aura in my right eye and then I lose my sight in the right eye. Then I experience aphasia (which can last for hours), then numbness in my limbs, then vomitting, and then — when the experience is really bad — I lose control of my bowels. These early phases can last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. After the first phase, then the migraine begins to set in. It is only on my left side and usually renders me completely unable to move or do anything for the rest of the day. There was a time when this would happen a couple times a week.

During the last four years I have made enormous strides in learning tools for helping me “stop” the attack at the aura stage so that it does not progress at all through the other symptoms. I do, however, still have to go through the migraine that results. This was the case yesterday.

I have come to learn through the years that my triggers for these attacks involve some emotional and physical components. Usually they happen when I have done strenuous exercise. Usually, it will happen before my period or right at the beginning of my cycle. And, usually there is some stress-related emotional charge happening at the time, which I have been working through.

The day was to be my first formal day at Irish Step Dance class, so I was really bummed when my husband had to notify the instructor that I was not able to attend. My focus for the day was just to get through the day to the best of my ability. There was a lot of drama to deal with — more than usual, unfortunately — and I had to slur my way through some speaking as I had to attend to some issues. I went to bed early and got 10 hours of rest.

This morning I felt a lot better but I continue to feel the “aftermath” of the attack. My brain is foggy, my eyes are slumped down, my head is sore, and feel very exhausted even though I got plenty of sleep. I know that I have to take it easy although I want to workout and push the limits. I have learned to take these cues from my body when it tells me that is enough is enough. I suspect that I know exactly what the problem is, emotionally, right now, and I plan on slowing down and dealing with these stressful issues right now even though they are difficult.

Today’s Workout

I eased into this recovery day with some mindful yoga and meditation, taking my time to enjoy each delicious movement. I focused on gentle, intentional breath for healing. For the meditation, I found my inner light and worked that through my chakras, paying particular attention to the heart and throat, which are the areas that I need attention the most through this emotionally-charged moment in time.

Also, I reached out to a friend and we are meeting today just so I can have a little extra care today, mentally.

I had a great walk in the beautiful forest this afternoon. I love this time of year!

Today’s Nutrition

Lately I have been staying within my calorie range but eating a lot of chocolate — one day I even just had 600 calories of chocolate for dinner. My goal has not really yet been health-focused as much as it has been range-focused since I do generally eat very healthy (unless I am grappling with emotional turmoil, as I have been lately, then I tend to binge eat). My focus remains on staying within a healthy range of calories right now, but the next step is to deal more directly with my binge-eating moments.

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