A PhD from the heart

Educating the heart

This first two months of doctoral work has me stretched, confused, tired, sore and downright headachy. (It’s only been two months? Feels like forever.) I’m spending an exorbitant amount of time in head, critically thinking, reading, synthesizing, analyzing and writing. These doctorate courses are all about critical pedagogy. I’m full of more questions than answers and my mind is often spinning.

Finding a balance between the head and the heart is always a difficult one. However, I’m facing no bigger challenge right now, within an academic setting, where the head rules. Where competition is ripe and where brainpower is graded. What about the heart?

I’m figuring out, moment by moment, how to keep in tune with my heart, to hear its tugs and wishes. I’m expanding, growing, unlearning and exploring possibility every day. Here is how I will attempt to complete a PhD from the heart. (I’m sure this is only the start and this list will continue to grow.)

1. Escape: I will find moments to escape my desk and move into the world. I will explore Ottawa and its surrounding natural beauty. I will take advantage of breaks and visit special people (like now – it is reading week and I’m in Vancouver) and make space so that my traveling/exploring-self keeps me grounded.

2. Breathe into moments of resistance: There are lots of these. I find resistance within deadlines, within articles, within word choices (my dictionary is getting a lot of use these days!), within funding proposals, within myself, questioning why I’m here and what my purpose is. I will continue to breathe through this and know that it’s all a part of the process.

3. Recognizing privilege: I will recognize my privilege within the academy. I am extremely blessed to be given this opportunity. I feel grateful every day for where I am and will remember what my intentions were to do this in the first place – to add value to the profession of social work. This is my heart centre.

4. Stay on the mat: I’ve been getting back on the yoga mat a few times a week and it feels incredibly powerful. My mind is turned off for at least 60 minutes and I’m thinking only about breathing and a pose. This is instrumental in connecting with my heartbeats.

5. Music: I’ve been enjoying simple pleasures such as good new music. It lifts my spirit. I’m having lots of sporadic dance parties in my living room when I need to shake out the academic blues. I’m enjoying the new Katy Perry, Drake, Lorde, John Mayer, Banks, Sara Bareilles, The Weeknd, London Grammar and Daft Punk.

6. Connection: There is always a connection between what I am reading/learning/doing and my heart. I have to sometimes look harder to find it, but it’s there. I’m linking materials to topics I’m passionate about such as women’s issues, international relations, awakening silenced voices, education, global poverty, community development and mindfulness within social work practice.

7. Super human: This I am not. There is only so much one can do. The rest you have to let go.

8. Let love in. I am allowing others to support and love me. I’m sharing my experiences and welcoming in help which is not always easy for me. My heart is opening, which in turn, will make this experience even richer. Joy expands when shared. I’m also allowing love to become a part of my research. Dr. Love in da house.

9. Laugh. A lot. I will find a community of other like-minded individuals who get it.

10. Go for everything. I’m putting my name in the hat for every opportunity that comes my way – conferences, courses, funding. Why not take a risk? I’m training for rejection (this will be inevitable) and keeping my heart open to possibility. I’m only doing this once and want to give it all I’ve got.


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