I am on the cusp of my second semester of Kent State University’s Master of Library and Information Science program. I did not blog much during my first semester, in part because I still had work to do on this site and in part due to an uncertainty of whether I would be adding “journal-like” entries here.
Well, just this past week I finalized some important aspects of this blog theme (support for comments and some design fixes) and I have also decided that informal posts here might benefit me better understand my experience — so here I go.
Last semester consisted of two courses: The Information Landscape and Information Organization.
The Information Landscape was essentially a survey course of information organizations. It was a good chance to learn more details about pathways in this field. There were plenty of moments where it felt like it bordered on busy work, but it really came down to getting out of it what you put in. Above all, the course was a great chance to meet other students and network a little. There were two separate group projects running at the same time, which necessitated a lot of group meetings and communication beyond Blackboard and email.
Information Organization was an outstanding course. Starting off there was a heavy focus on information organization theory. About midway through we began to learn about various metadata schemas and knowledge organization systems. This course really opened my eyes to how amazing metadata science can be, so much so that I have considered taking more metadata courses when the opportunity arises.
This coming semester I will take Research and Assessment in Library Information Science and People in the Information Ecology. Looking forward to getting back at it and one step closer to the MLIS! My plan is to blog a little more regularly now that the site is mostly wrapped up.
After some consideration, I decided to share my application essay for Kent State University’s Master of Library and Information Science program. Their prompts were thought provoking, and the end product serves well to capture how important libraries have become in my life.
My life journey is intricately woven into the library world. As a young-adult patron, my local public library was a regular haunt of mine. Later, thanks to a glimpse behind-the-scenes at a part-time job, this appreciation became a passion for librarianship. This application to the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program at Kent State University is the culmination of this passion. The impact libraries have on critical issues in their communities is dear to me, I aspire to develop an understanding of library work beyond first-hand experiences, and my time spent in online learning environments and broad work experience could bring an engaging perspective to the classroom. I know deep down this the right path for me.(more…)
Part of my passion for librarianship is in the core principle of freely available information for all, indiscriminately and without censorship. I cannot put it in better words than the analogy found in the following quote:
“…when properly diffused (manure) enriches and fertilizes; but, if suffered to lie in idle heaps, it breeds stink and vermin. It is the same with […] knowledge.”Poor Man’s Guardian, 1834
An educated society is a resilient society. With the power of information, communities can become better critical thinkers and therefore better to one another, better to their environment, and live fuller lives.
Since shikantaza is a central part of my zen practice, I like to spend time exploring different postures for my seated meditation.
I am a runner, and variants of the lotus position are all hard on my knees (especially the morning after a long run). From what I understand, some people are well suited for it, others are not. I am fully in the latter camp of folks. Notice I said “variants of” there. Full lotus? Not a chance!
When I began noticing knee pain from sitting half lotus, I decided to make a couple meditation benches. These provide a comfortable way sit seiza that isn’t hard on the knees. I do not consider myself very experienced with woodworking and was still able to knock each bench out over the span of a weekend. If you are interested, checkout this excellent tutorial over at Instructables. I modified mine a bit to better fit my 6′ 2″ frame, but other than that I followed the plans very closely on the first one pictured below, sans cushion.
After making the first meditation bench I made a single, center-leg version with left over lumber. I use it for camping trips and other outdoor meditation opportunities since it is lighter and easier to carry around.
Both benches serve me well, and I still use them from time to time. However, I wasn’t quite done exploring different ways for me to sit for zazen. I felt the need to keep experimenting to determine if sitting with only a zafu would ever be sustainable for me. Enter Burmese-style posture.
The Burmese posture is sometimes referred to as the “easy posture”. Below is one of my favorite videos describing how to sit in this posture.
Interestingly, Burmese-style posture is something I had tried very early on that didn’t quite feel right. It could simply be a change in my body from sitting regularly, or perhaps early on I just wasn’t quite getting the right elevation. Either way, I am glad I tried again and encourage others to as well, especially if you have trouble doing full lotus. With this posture, I do not feel like I am damaging my knees, or over straining sore legs after a run, and my back is completely comfortable for longer sits. If anything, it feels good! Like a nice, extended stretch.
All of this said, I personally feel it is also important to not have an over attachment to sitting posture. Questions of “am I doing it right?” can get in the way of practice. That is our, as they say, executive “I” passing judgement and can quickly get in the way of good practice if one obsesses over it. The main point is to find a comfortable position so that we can focus on the practice. Jundo Cohen, the Zen priest of Treeleaf Sangha, has actually held zazenkais in which everyone reclines for zazen. Their sangha has some members who have major health issues and must recline for zazen. Having everyone do so is a way of showing support and a establishing a good atmosphere for everyone. The point is not to injure ourselves, the point is to practice.
Although it is an excellent mediation posture, full/half/quarter/whatever lotus is a bust for me. If you find yourself struggling with sitting in lotus positions, I highly recommend giving the Burmese style a go. Failing that, see if you can find someone with a meditation bench that you can try out. Even if you are not the crafty type, you can find benches for a reasonable price online.
In my view, what it all boils down to is that finding what posture works best is a very personal and important part of zen practice. Otherwise, thinking not thinking can turn into dwelling on discomfort.
Born, then a whole season gifted
Shades of green
Frigid starless nights
Now brings the color of rest
A full season’s gift
Pirouetting for a passerby
Or a gassho, perhaps?
No yearning for the ground
No yearning for things as they are, were, or someday might be
Just one with the anchor
…and one with the breeze, who will soon set free
Gifted a whole season
At the pivot of nothingness
One with all, all that is and all that will be