For the past eleven years I have worked in administration, taught, developed and coordinated courses in higher education at Vancouver Island University (VIU). In these spaces, I have had colleagues and good friends all with differing levels of education and degrees, in search of the soul. Although many people would not describe their journey as the soul at work, my perception is, however, different. The soul and my daimon are friends of mine, in a place I inhabit. Often, when my colleagues or students share their thoughts and expressions of disenchantment, the images they experience through dreams, or when imagining something more, different or radically changed, I witness their exploration as soul work. They seem to be, though I can never know for sure, deep in an investigation with a desire and a sense of how things could be different in their lives, be it with work, home, or a challenge with a family member. It is natural for me when I respond to them to bring their attention to the soul and how it can connect one’s unique vocation, lifestyle and expression through the arts. Met with a slow and somewhat vague response, I notice in their expressions possibly a faraway awareness of the soul. Some express an inner sense that life is not meant to be as it currently is for them. Others reveal feelings, images, sleepless nights or lethargy as dissatisfaction. Often people struggle with the restlessness and tell me they “should” be grateful for what they have; instead, they express feeling guilty about their unhappiness. These expressions appear to me as though they seem troubled with these uncomfortable shifts in their consciousness, which they state as irrepressible. In these moments, I offer them the opportunity to pay attention and to listen to and explore where their daimon, spirit, higher calling, heart and soul are leading them.
When I taught courses on career development the predicament for many students was that some were not able to uncover what they felt was purposeful work or felt ill-equipped to stand in the truth of what they wanted, which sometimes was much different than the program they were taking. Further, students often confessed their refusal to take on the perceived hardship of change or the sense of daring it would require of them to follow what awakened in them. The paradox not lost on me was the fact was my courses fell under the description of experiential education, where students apply theoretical knowledge to the world of work within the context of their chosen studies. However, the curriculum I was teaching was not what I considered a deep dive or genuine exploration of self and the soul. I felt that if I ventured into this territory of the soul and vocation in a less than a traditional method, without a standard definition and support from the institution, it would be irresponsible. Therefore, I did not assume I could discuss or approach the idea of a unique calling and probably not the concept of the soul; even I considered teaching topics on the soul beyond the norm, and I shelved my notions.
Enter Meridian University and my embarking on a doctoral program where my soul’s constant nudging to enter into dialogue and work on the soul has found its place to begin what I believe is part of my soul’s purpose. The Creative Action Plan (CAP) it seems is a perfect assignment for my shelved thoughts and the reveal of a project on the soul I’ve been dreaming of while engaged in my doctoral studies. The coursework and learning through my doctoral program have been incredible most especially from my cohort (too many to name, but you know who you are!), professors, Aftab Omer and Melissa Schwartz, the beloved Chancellor of Meridian University, Jean Houston and the wise Peggy Rubin. I find myself nestled amongst the most talented, engaged and brilliant people.
Over the past several years at VIU I have had the good fortune to work with the Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning (CIEL). This past year there was a workshop offered to faculty, called the Non-Disposable Assignment, for further explanation of the seminar and non-disposable assignment concept go to the tab Framework for Creative Action Plan (CAP).
It was while in the Non-Disposable Assignment workshop I realized early on in the conception stage, the potential to develop a project that could reach a wide selection of people, including students. Thus, The Soul Project. It is my sincere belief many remarkable and essential projects and initiatives hatched are from those who study and work in higher education. These projects are built on the belief held when we first arrived – that we would be able to access our life missions. It seems I am now able, gratefully, to access my life mission.
As I write this assignment what wells up in me is a sense and a need to have influence, however small, on the future of universities to ensure they remain a place of higher knowledge, community, shared and transformational knowledge, and a place of hope for future generations. University was a tower I never thought I would enter—my future was never associated to the possibility of higher education, and it was not encouraged because I am a first generation student. However, I have come to understand that the soul has drawn me steadily towards my calling, and as luck would have it, through my imposed overcompensation in what I perceived as a lack of academic chops, I gained skills and knowledge inside the mystery of life. I honed my intuition, paid attention to the images of my soul, and listened to my inner voice. All the while I wanted so badly to be a part of evocative conversations and contribute to collective efforts to affect students, my own life and the world in positive ways. I genuinely care about people, the animals, and Mother Earth. What I regarded as a lack of scholastic aptitude, was a damaged ego. While my Master’s degree helped to begin to heal my wound, it is this past year of my doctoral coursework and experiences with my cohort that has had a transformative effect on me. I have a clear and confident sense of belonging and fit within the hallowed halls of Meridian University; the nasty egotist dragon in my mind given orders to vamoose! Since my Master’s degree, my daughter, three nieces and two nephews are in varying stages of completion of higher education degrees and trades certifications. The potential that what I do today can positively affect future generations is a value of mine. It is my humble hope my choice to become educated becomes a part of my legacy.
Today I can imagine a workplace within higher education where those who come to learn and teach speak fluently and directly about the soul as a way to find meaning, purpose, and even to have conversations which are fraught with fear. It is what I finally, in this later chapter of my life, have come to discover as significant to the heart of my purpose. To varying degrees of intensity, humanity has felt the turbulence of the ever-changing times. For me, education changed my life, and I have seen what it can do for students both economically and socially. It is then incumbent upon universities to manage the ever-present turbulence with agility, creativity, and oomph! I believe we need to develop and teach courses on the soul and invite and bring into the open, conversations on the soul. Rather than just grant students with degrees, we also need to prepare students to graduate knowing what their purpose is, through courses on the soul. New and long-term employees, new students and those preparing for the transition out into the world stumble far and are sometimes racked with emotional turmoil, perhaps more often than we know. Those students set to transition out with their backpacks full of theory may not yet have had the opportunity to invest in themselves through the exploration of the soul. They need built-in opportunities to be given time and classes to unpack, and for some, discover their unique plan. This would ensure students do not become destined to take “any” job, or worse yet, leave the institution not knowing themselves, and their callings any better than when they entered. As well, those employees for a variety of reasons may need opportunities to sift through, explore and re-evaluate their soul’s yearnings.
It has been my humble hope in the design and implementation of The Soul Project, that everyone who participates–students and colleagues, and classmates and friends–that each will come a little closer to understanding what their soul’s missions are, to realize their unique purpose through the rumblings, images and call of their soul. The Soul Project will allow me to venture into the wilds with teachers, administrators, students, and friends with an applied and experiential focus on the soul and the self.
Finally, I hope through my CAP and subsequent dissertation to create some lasting effect upon, or at the least influence, the culture within VIU where the topic of the soul becomes widely accepted and dialogued. Besides the potential for developing more productive relationships, my intention is to enrich the current curriculum. My hunch is that not only VIU but other institutions begin to co-create, coexist and prosper because they would be better able to retain, attract and develop students and employees through teaching and curriculum which speaks of the soul as it relates to one’s life purpose. A bold closing statement, but by now you know, my soul is bold!