January 28, 2022 | NEWS | By Sabrina Brewer

Myra Jackson, CC’s Mindfulness Resident, discusses an upcoming retreat to Baca, kite flying, and radical optimism. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Part of the reason why I’m at CC is because I’ve spent over 30 years of my life going into the Baca in retreat in the mountains, about every 18 months or so. Doing about six weeks in solo retreat. I never knew any of the people other than the grocer or the little place I would stop to get a few supplies because these were silent solo retreats.

I just finished Innate Mindfulness for Half Block. I couldn’t go as far as I would have liked because getting outdoors is really the most wonderful way. So I’m looking forward to being able to do that in the Baca where I am doing a short retreat. I’m so looking forward to being able to open it up to play. Even mindfulness we learn more about when we’re in states of play.

I like kite flying. Really. I mean I’m a wonderful kite flyer. But you have to be mindful if you’re trying to get a kite up in the air and keep it up in the air, you’ve got to really be paying attention. I love that tension between the kite and me, and me watching it and loving it taking flight. I love that feeling. Really love it.

Born in California in San Diego, I loved taking it on the beach. When I came to the DC area, there were people that would come from all over the world flying kites. They made these amazing kites. It’s a whole community of people who are enthusiasts. And they come onto the Washington Mall where there’s apparently a lot of good wind at times, and they would fly their kites. They know where all the windy spots are in the world.

I find teaching to CC students the same excitement and challenge that I have teaching top drawer, Nobel Laureate track scientists. There’s a lot of processing before speaking. Real considered thoughtfulness. For the most part, you may think there’s nothing going on. But there is. In the sciences, and I find at CC, there’s more introversion than I would normally find in your age group in other institutions. The introversion is about the need for depth, the emphasis on ideas, and in being real thinkers and feeling much more comfortable sharing in intimate settings, where people are thinking deeply along with you.

I sought in the Half Block course to leave everyone with a sense of optimism. A sense of real optimism. Being able to spend time showing some of the case studies where regeneration, rejuvenation, restoration of the planet is underway was a really important task. Because it’s happening.

I just see so much overwhelm and so much concern that we can’t do enough, even if we decide to. That it won’t be enough to address the existential crisis we’re facing of degradation of our environment. I see every day the evidence of the aberrated system that we’re in. We’re in structural collapse, so there’s a reason to be alarmed. But if we go to alarm, we will lose a sense of purpose and meaning. And if we lose a certain sense of purpose and meaning, often what we find is forms of violence and discord.

Photo courtesy of Myra Jackson

I am radically optimistic. I think the opportunities right now are immense for us. And to know that for yourself can create a real breakthrough and an approach for being able to move forward and really bring something into the world that energizes you and that you care about.

We are in that place now where everything that we have is hitting a wall in terms of its relevance and usefulness. We have to be open eared in the space of what is emergent.

I do not subscribe to the idea that it’s all going to be solved by the generation coming into power. I think everyone needs to be a part of the transition, the change, the transformation. I’ve been involved in conversations with those who are elders like myself to say, look, stop this aging business and start eldering. Stay in because we need absolute lifestyle change. Stop being so afraid and just protecting assets and sticking with the same old, same old that’s hurting the planet. Let’s be bold.

I live to find out when I’m going to have a next revelation, the next new insight, the next edge into what’s possible. And the younger down I go, the more open the questions are, the more imagination there may still be. I get concerned when I see us going through the education process, because education can interrupt the kind of learning that happens from being in wonder. Education often tries to give us answers. And we look for people to give us answers. As students, where we really need to stay is in the questions.

The real bachelor’s program in my view shows that you can go through a process of learning education in a particular lane and complete the process. The real learning is what you did actually learn that you can apply. You hopefully come out of that process with a more open mind rather than a closed mind. And that’s a challenge because sometimes we can take on the approach of a discipline and it can actually close us down to wider learning. There’s so much learning. It’s happening in play, for example, through our being able to sense and feel our emotions. But in academic studies, often that’s outside the room, not inside the room.

When we really get back on a path of doing something meaningful, we need to be able to have access to everything that makes us human. And that’s what mindfulness asks of us, to make a place for everything that’s arising in us. So I love catching young people at this moment, so they don’t totally close down.

Time is very specific to being on earth in this dimension. There is a thing called timelessness, but we’re on Earth, we’re dealing with time. Utilize time as a friend for bringing into the world what you wish to bring into the world. And that’s by treating time with incredible respect. I always try to keep my appointment with time, that’s my own inner time. Because that’s when I feel like I’m having a conversation with intelligence so much bigger than myself that are allies in my life.

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