Mind Body Spirit: Teaching in the Jesuit tradition

by Stephen Belt, Assistant Professor, Aviation Science

I started riding my bicycle to work again. Finally. A week before classes began I made the (quiet) commitment to ride to work 80% of the time- 4 out of 5 days. Two weeks in and I’m at 75%. For you overachievers, I consider that a victory. I’ll make up the ½ day somewhere along the line. I’ll get an extra ride in this week if I’m lucky. Strike that, if I’m diligent. Two weeks in and I’m just beginning to feel…normal—as if the 35-minute ride to work isn’t a total chore: deep breath and back on the bike. Two weeks in and I’m beginning to remember how nice it is to feel the wind on my face. Two weeks in and I’m beginning to see the world around me at half the speed of car. Add the physical and mental health benefits, and this is indeed a victory for me. Two weeks in and my eating habits are changing. I’m starting to crave food in a different way, one that the nutritionists amongst us will nod and be able to say far more than I can. But I seem to be hungrier for the fuel that might better meet the needs of my body in its new regime. I don’t crave comfort food all of the time.

Two weeks in and I’m writing this blog. I hate to tell you how long it has been since I really sat down to write…anything. But, just as my body seemed to be stuck in couch potato mode, so did my mind. Netflix binge. Wow, who knew you could watch an entire season of S.H.I.E.L.D in a few days? Mind numbing. Two weeks in and I’m not watching so much TV. It was a good rest, a good escape, but life seems to have taken over and here I am, back at the practice of getting into my head so as to get out of my head and connect with you.

Two weeks in and I’m beginning to sit still with that first cup of coffee. With the dog walked and everything else on hold, I find myself settling into a place of contemplation, if only for a few minutes. Before, I used to take my coffee to the computer and try to get a head start on the day. Now, it seems to be okay to let the email and the reminders wait a few more minutes. It is here I find myself letting things just be. It is here I find myself bumping into the notion of Ignatian Pedagogy and the practice of reflection. It occurs to me that to truly engage the idea of education in the Jesuit tradition, I must consider how I might teach in the tradition. To be authentic, I must practice the art.

A friend of mine is considering embarking upon the Bridges Program, an eight-month version of the Spiritual Exercises for busy people. She is struggling with the daily time commitment. Will she have enough time? Can she even imagine so much still time? Well, no, of course not. Not yet. But you have to start some place. The point is this: reflection is an exercise, just as riding or writing. It is deliberate. It takes practice. And it takes patience.

Mind-body-spirit. Two weeks in. For me it started with the body. I got back on the bike, exercised through the malaise and established a routine. Now, I have time to ride to and from work. Now, the couch and Netflix don’t seem so appealing so much of the time. Now, it is okay to sit still for a few minutes and just reflect.

To teach in the Jesuit tradition begins with preparation in the Jesuit tradition. So, decide. Take a deep breath, exercise through the malaise, and establish a routine.

belt-335 Stephen Belt, Ph.D., joined the Aviation Science department at Parks College in 1998 and has served as Flight Training Director, senior check airman, pilot and instructor. His teaching and research interests include collegiate aviation education, administration and assessment; flight instructor development, and learner-centered pedagogy, including Ignatian pedagogy.

Photo and bio courtesy of http://parks.slu.edu/faculty-staff/parks-faculty/stephen-belt/

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