Rebecca Marshall is a graduate student in the MEd in Counselor Education, Mental Health Counseling program. The graduate assistant for the counselor education and school psychology department, she is also a professional yoga teacher. She invites you to join her for free yoga classes in the HUB Fitness Center which will resume in the fall.
I recently shared a moment with a fellow graduate student in which we both acknowledged our sizable need for personal time and our commitment to honoring that need. It felt almost like a dirty little secret. About a week later, I was casually labeled as “self-serving” by a co-worker for being excited about the next day’s sun-filled weather forecast; a day on which I planned to go hiking. A Wednesday. I question whether or not I would have been considered “self-serving” if it was a Saturday or Sunday instead.
Not a week goes by without some such anecdote about work and life imbalance, a product of our work-obsessed culture. It is a culture of doing-doing-doing and go-go-going. A culture where taking a day off here and there to nurture your body and soul is disdained, but running yourself into the ground and missing a week of work due to illness is a matter of course. Perhaps no one feels this dilemma as keenly as the adult student; balancing classes and homework, family and other significant relationships, work, and, if at all possible, self-care.
My personal and professional paths have grown together into a path of service for the soul. I am delighted to have discovered my calling to the field of mental health counseling, and continue to reap immense personal rewards from my practice and teaching of yoga and meditation. These Eastern disciplines have deeply validated my need to find my own internal rhythm in whatever external roles I engage in, and I want to share this insight with those whose lives I touch. As such, I feel I have an opportunity in writing this article to be a voice of moderation and comfort when I say that graduate school need not be taken as some bitter pill or an arduous chore. It is truly possible to enjoy the graduate school experience – a fantastic privilege and rich learning environment many of us may never have such an opportunity to participate in again. But it may well require a shift in priorities. Getting off of the treadmill our minds have programmed for us, letting go of fears – “Student loans!”, “I’m getting old!”, “I have to do this now!” – and allowing ourselves to find a sustainable rhythm in which to truly live this self-actualizing chapter in our lives.
I invite you to consider ways in which you can support yourself in relaxing into this graduate school process; ways both big and small that you can step out of the “race” to recharge yourself for the going, or rework the “race” notion altogether. What are some personal practices that nourish your body, mind, and soul which you would engage in more if you had the time? Can you imagine ways you can drop some small (or larger!) measure of habitual busyness to make more room for such experiences? In the words of meditation teacher, Pema Chödrön:
What you do for yourself – any gesture of kindness, any gesture of gentleness, any gesture of honesty and clear seeing toward yourself – will affect how you experience your world. In fact, it will transform how you experience the world. What you do for yourself, you’re doing for others, and what you do for others, you’re doing for yourself.
May you all be well, and may you come to embrace this place where you find yourself, right now.