Our first week of course has been an art in holding space and sharing light. We have provided one another license to think about intention and self. We have riffed off of one another’s thoughts and that has taken us down roads and up valleys of conversation relating to travel, development, adulthood, family structures, and our spirit animals.
Light has been an important thread we have followed. We began our time together settled around candlelight, where we expressed our fears: of not being as present as we could be, of not expressing adequate gratitude to those we care about, of not trusting our inner voices, of being too controlling of outcomes, of not being enough. Our voices filled up the darkness and shed light on the commonalities of our apprehensions. It was a powerful way to introduce ourselves to one another; by exposing our vulnerabilities and sharing our questions, we found connection beyond the superficial level of basic facts.
During Orientation there are certain topics we are required to cover and activities we generally engage in so as to set the stage for a safe and healthy experience. In between these blocks of information giving, we, as instructors, have planned out other opportunities for students to collect, reflect, and connect. With our students this week, however, this extra planning was unnecessary. Instead of rest time, they sought out conversations about the meaning of forgiveness, about how intention informs action, about how memorializing those who have committed egregious acts in life is challenging. One morning over breakfast there was a philosophical debate about what came first: the chicken or the egg. It was very serious.
In developing group norms, Dragons courses tend to create some type of group contract. Dubbed “Ye Ole Dream Team Consitution,” our contract/mission statement began with a stating of five values we will uphold this semester:
respect – open mindedness – compassion – reflection – positivity
Multiple points on this consitution followed, ending with:
We weren’t even finished with the presentation of the mission before it was already pointed out that our positive course culture constitution did not contain any information about risk taking. “Don’t be discouraged by discomfort and danger” was quickly added followed by “push your comfort zones (intelligently).” After adding this point we sat in silence for a while.
A voice then spoke up: “Let us remember to always question rules. To deconstruct systems that are in place without purpose and which serve to separate. We are not here to be passive. We can be safe while also pushing against prejudice. And once we have done that, let us reconstruct. There is time.”
As the stars shone over our last night together in Bhaktapur, we stood around a tall fire. Holding powdered incense in our hands, we thought of the insecurities and challenges that were carried with us into this place; the light we had cultivated during the past week; the new beginnings we were about to share. We threw the powder into the flame and watched sparks travel into the solidly darkened evening.