There was an accumulation of opportunities which assisted me in imagining a possible direction for my Creative Action Project (CAP). I believe each was mysteriously weaved in the background of my psyche through intentional and timely courses in my doctoral studies, the sincere and shared learning in the cohort, as well as in my personal life and professional experience. It was in the allowing; the letting go of dogmas and the expectations I held, the project was able to take hold. Extracting and distilling until eventually what emerged and was produced was The Soul Project: Evoking an Ensouled Life. The invitation to produce a CAP for my doctoral program at Meridian University was appreciated and the process transformational in ways I have yet been able to articulate.
At the beginning of the CAP creation, several iterations were outlined. However, none seemed to develop past the initial stages of ideation. The flow began shortly after engaging in a course offered to faculty at my institution, Vancouver Island University (VIU) in September of 2017. Three one and half-hour sessions were offered at the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (CIEL) on The Non-Disposable Assignments: Enhancing Personalised Learning. These sessions were taught by the Director, Liesel Knaack and Learning Technologies Application Developer Michael Paskevicius of the. I signed up!
In the first session, I knew that this process of design might work for my CAP and wrote about it in a reflective post that participants were encouraged to share after each session. These posts are available for review on an open-access WordPress site for the workshop:
This initial workshop in the series already has me hooked. It was my first introduction to the idea of The Non-Disposable Assignment. My early impression is of the benefits to students, as well as the credibility it would yield the instructor, a win for both students and faculty. For me, the non-disposable assignment as a concept has me swirling in ideas. One, in particular, although not within a classroom environment, would be of the possibility of designing a piece of work I might use for my doctoral Creative Action Plan Project (CAP). This approach could work because some of the criteria for the CAP are: adds value, has a purpose. The bonus might be the real takeaway format (non-disposable) for the participants in my project, yes, it could be brilliant.
Hmmm, lots to think through, I can’t wait for the next session of, The Non-Disposable Assignment.
And so, it began, the fleshing out of my CAP. I attended all three sessions offered and learned about the non-disposable assignment and its merits. After the sessions were complete, I meet with Michael several times to talk through some of the ideas that were beginning to take shape. Originally, I thought I might look at the soul as it relates to our purpose in life. I began by doing an informal survey, stopping those colleagues I knew well or casually and engaging them in a conversation about the soul and their sense of calling. No one rebuked the idea of the soul, in fact quite the opposite, they engaged easily. Throughout this experiment I found myself standing in a hallway, outside an office or on the many steps that make up the pathways at Vancouver Island University, cloaked in the mystery of the soul. However, it became quickly evident that an approach too direct, that of asking “What do you think your soul purpose is?” would not allow participants in my CAP to explore from where they were and what their soul wanted to express. Noting this, I continued writing in my journal and dreaming.
It was in one of the meetings with the CIEL folks I’d arranged as a way to try on ideas around my project that Michael and I began to discuss the format my CAP might take. Many ideas were offered; conversational circles, a workshop series, stories developed using a PressBook format, a blog and others. I settled on a blog because I felt that those participating in my project, those I would be sharing my CAP with; faculty and my cohort at Meridian, as well as the colleagues who I took the non-disposable session with could, in blog format, follow along as I created, designed and produced The Soul Project. It is important to note; I wanted to have a contributable outcome for the non-disposable assignment workshop I’d taken part in, while also fulfilling the requirements of the CAP in my doctoral studies.
The early work of creating or rather, just getting things down using the VIU WordPress blog site started in early November 2017. This process helped me immensely because I was able to reflect and think through what exactly I wanted to offer as I wrote and designed and created the blog site. Even the seemingly simple aspect of adding images to the site was a process. I originally had chosen pictures from a free source, but they did not feel right–I would sit at night and review the blog and think ‘the images somehow feel removed from what I want to evoke.’ The aha moment occurred when on a long walk one morning I realized I had the images I needed. I enjoy photography, and as I have written on my blog, I especially like taking photos of houses; new, dilapidated, pieces and aspects of a home lived in or abandoned. As well, also like taking photos of those things we hold or make with our hands, I had the photographs! All the pictures on the blog are my own. Once I had enough content to share, I met with Michael two times to get feedback on assistance with moving my project forward; these meetings took place in November 2017.
On February 2, 2018, the day of my grandson’s fifth birthday I released my CAP–sending out the invitation to participate in my project. When I got into work, I received a note from the director of the CIEL, Liesel Knaack, who was now working with me on my project. She had forwarded me an article on the quest to find the soul of the country through stories and images. Which of course, me being me, I saw as a sign of acknowledgement from the mystery and an opportunity to share my initial apprehension of what felt, to me, a bold and public declaration of my desire to study to the soul, replied to Liesel saying,
“This is great! Thank you for forwarding. Since releasing my project I’ve been racked with the ‘shoulda’s-should have done this or that differently.’ I just have to stay in my center and let it be what it is.
Liesel replied to my relief with a generous offering of reassurance,
“Hang tight.” Send out your emails to invite your peeps and colleagues (as you likely have done) and stay cantered…this is typical to reflect back and say I have, should have…just smile and move on!”
I did move on and was able to, for the most part, to feel good about my efforts. A second email was sent out to those who had agreed to participate based on some feedback from a participant on the navigation of the blog.
The due date for participants to submit their digital stories, narratives was on March 31, 2018. As an educator whose philosophy is to remain flexible, the due date was extended when requested by participants, and as it turns out, this was just fine because it allowed people to feel good about their submissions. Of the nine who agreed to participate, seven submitted their completed soul narratives. In May 2018, I began the work of working with VIU’s IT department to combine each digital story into moving images–a movie. On their own the recondite beauty of each submission touches my soul and put together with the other participants, I am moved beyond words. I am honoured by the honesty and splendor and uniqueness of each and put together make up a small group of humanity on a quest to listen and respond to their soul’s calling.
In July 2018, during my summer intensive for my doctoral work, I will share my CAP and the completed movie made up of seven people’s images and words used to express their soul. I am very excited about the prospect.
 Post written on September 18, 2017, for the Non-Disposal Assignment: Enhancing Personalised Learning session
 Email to participants-Appendix B: Second Email to those who agreed to participate http://wordpress.viu.ca/mccartnem/appendix-b-second-email-to-those-who-agreed-to-participate/