Re-Connecting to the Creative Source
We have disconnected from the Source. Our ancient, ancestral, creative intelligence is not stored in the intellect but in our hearts and spirits. The intellect is a tool used to process and language direct experience, but the road to inspiration is paved in awe – and awe is not thought in the mind, but rather felt in the spirit and the heart. Until the education system embraces this truth and nurtures the full human experience as essential to the student’s development, the system will remain incomplete. Higher education need not be confined to facts and figures: it can be sacred. In all disciplines, a re-connect to the self, Source, and Earth can be encouraged for the sake of inspiration, innovation, and blissful well-being. A formal declaration of my teaching philosophy can be found further down this page, but at its core, my teaching style seeks to inspire students to access the Source of creative intelligence within themselves.
After completing my undergraduate degree in multidisciplinary studies - film, literature, anthropology, eastern philosophy - my life became a series of adventures, odd jobs, nomadic wandering, and lots of thinking (so basically, the life of a writer.) For the next five years, I traveled and lived abroad in Europe, South America, & Morocco. One summer night at an auberge in Boumalne du Dades, while eating fresh figs and lounging on a pile of pillows underneath the starry sky, two lovely Moroccan men serenaded me with live music and promises to build a kasbah on the moon for me. It was then I realized my life was a fairy-tale, far surpassing any fiction of my creation. Even so, I was ever-driven to devote myself more seriously to my craft, and after an incredible spiritual awakening (first disguised as a dark night of the soul), I buckled down and decided it was time to apply to MFA programs.
Back in the States, while waiting to hear from graduate schools, I momentarily panicked & searched for a more traditional career path. My efforts and interviews were not entirely futile; on the very day UNLV offered me a full fellowship to their Fiction Writing Program, the CEO of a well-known travel company called to offer me a public-speaking gig (perks included a $200,000 salary + apartment in Paris.) I called an old friend and asked, "What do I do!?" He stated frankly, "This is a 'for love or money' moment. I'm the kind of person who would take the money. You're not. You know what you're going to do."
So I landed in Las Vegas, face to face with 'the underbelly of humanity' - as my roommate called it. It wasn't easy at first, this city. But that's another story.
Part of my fellowship involved teaching undergrads two courses a semester. It was the first time I'd taught, and I realized: I wasn't awful at it. One thing led to another, and after I graduated, a colleague in the Honors College informed me there would be a new Honors Dean next semester, & if my CV could be planted on her would-be desk now, when she came into office in the fall, she'd think I was meant to be interviewed. I was in full support of this plan. (Note: I think my colleague felt he owed me something ever since I'd talked down a suicidal student under his care.)
The plan was a success. The new Dean allowed me to teach one class, a seminar I'd created: Poetry, World & Spiritual Thought. When the semester was complete, I asked if there was any way I could continue teaching for her. She apologized and said, 'no.' A week later, I opened e-mails from both she & the Assistant Dean. "We just received your student reviews," they wrote. "We've never seen anything like this." Shortly after that, I was hired as an Assistant Professor in the UNLV Honors College.
some pictures from my nomadic years...
My Teaching Philosophy
Nietzsche acknowledged the will to superficiality – an embrace of the trivial and an avoidance of anything troubling, profound, or anomalous – as a healthy impulse & natural tendency in the human psyche. The instinct toward the false & flighty protects against the chance that one might "get a hold of the truth too soon, before they have become strong enough, tough enough, artist enough to handle it." He further wrote: "It might be a basic characteristic of existence that those who know [the truth] completely would perish, in which case the strength of a spirit should be measured according to how much of the 'truth' one could still barely endure – or to put it more clearly, to what degree one would require it to be thinned down, shrouded, sweetened, blunted, falsified."
My teaching philosophy is largely inspired by these musings, as well as by the belief that college students are ready & eager for a peek beyond the veils. I do my best to create a classroom environment in which students feel safe & excited to explore inner-terrains, voice questions & uncertainties, and shape new awareness. As writer Tom Cheetham brought to my attention years ago, it’s been a long time since many of us have really experienced the world. Instead, we experience a constriction of it, a selection of it, a lack of breadth & depth. We step out cautiously checking ourselves against ‘what is allowed’ and ‘what is known’. We throw a world out ahead of ourselves and move safely into it; we have found our way into a closed world and mistaken it for infinity. How can students create innovate, engaged, contemplative work when they are moving through a closed world? They cannot.
Intelligence is far greater than the ability to regurgitate information; it is the power to question & modify perception itself. In my multi-disciplinary seminars,
I necessitate content mastery along with philosophical & creative rigor. Through experiential activities, lectures, readings, & discussions, students are encouraged to gently assess their own perceptions and to dissolve beliefs that no longer serve their deepest, most truth-filled development. I love helping students make breakthroughs to understand themselves & the world around them more deeply. Click the leaf-art below to learn more about the classes I teach, or contact me to obtain a syllabus for any of the courses listed, or to view required readings, research assignments, creative projects, or learn about the Mindfulness in the Mountains meditation program.
A Place of Transformation: The Desert in Literature
The Fabulist, Surreal, & Innovative
Ways to Think, Ways to See