February 19, 2018
One of the things that I enjoy about co-leading the Awareness Class with Tenzin is the opportunity to join the class in experimenting with and working on a practice and working on my own awareness. It’s also exciting to read the journals and read the observations of others as we - for a semester - walk a path together.
One of the difficulties that I always have with teaching a class where the point is to have a beginner’s mind and where we are asking everyone, including the teachers, to have no answers, is resisting the conditioning and the expectation of teachers to have answers. How do we support, nudge and guide people along a path without providing too much structure but enough direction so that they can explore and find their way? Each class has been different and we have tried to adapt our process each year as well. Karthik and Andre have been very helpful in providing reflections on the class.
The other class that I am teaching this semester is the Ethics and Governance in AI class with Jonathan Zittrain. Interestingly, this class gets very philosophical very quickly even though we begin with engineering and law. One of the questions we end up on as we try to “make the world better” and try to assure that AI is “fair” is, “Better for who?” “Fair for who”? As one asks these questions and ponders what “we” should do, the next question is “Who are we?” And “Who am I?” Then, “What should I do?” Once one realizes that there no universal “fair” or “good” and that the time scale and perspective will change the answer to those questions, it becomes a struggle not to fall into a trap of complete relativistic philosophy.
Since the birth of Kio, who is now 9 months old, I’ve started to go to bed early - around 9PM. I am also waking up early - around 4AM. Obviously there is some fluctuation but on “normal” days, this has become a routine. At 4AM, I make coffee, go to my sitting room, light incense and sit for 20 min or more. Focusing on breaths I still my mind and hear and feel my environment and try to connect with the expansiveness of reality and the nature around me. After settling in, I try to make out bits of ego, conditionings and beliefs. I try to see them and go meta and question and witness them away lovingly. After I feel I’ve reach the appropriate level of meta, I try to tap into an energy source. The obvious place to start has been kindness and compassion, but I’ve tried to experiment with others like the less human-like expansive energy of the universe.
Reading the previous paragraph reminds me of all of the books by yogi and gurus that I’ve read where I yearned to find “the way” and I now question whether I should publish this for fear of causing the same reaction in some students. It’s not nearly as substantial or enlightened as it may sound. It’s clearly grounding and helps me push on my conditioning, but it’s subtle and I am not hearing symphonies or having a kundalini release. 😀 Trying to journal accurately, but also being aware of how it might be interpreted is an instance of the balance between intrinsic focus and extrinsic.
One slightly odd place that I’ve ended up is to start questioning my Raison D'Ete and how I live it. Many people are looking to me for answers. (Many aren’t. 😀 ) As I continue to question, it becomes harder and harder for me to have answers. I have guideposts and ideas that might be helpful for people to find their path. I’m happy to have people join me on my path, especially in a way where our journeys connect in generative and elegant ways… but my role is to be a leader of an institution which sets up a structure and a power dynamic that often confounds the more humble approach I prefer.
I hope to explore a kind of meta-leadership which allows me to fulfill my responsibilities but to protect me from the self-worth inflation that I see in so many of my peers and leaders everywhere. And on this, I meditate.