We asked participants at our June 2009 workshop to think about people they had known in grad school who were leading convincing lives. They had to scratch their heads for a moment. Most of us remember grad school as a period of anxiety and stress, when we are all bound up with ourselves, studying for exams, trying to finish our dissertations, and arming ourselves to face the hopeless odds of the job search. Among survivors, grad school is hardly remembered as a time of fun, fulfillment, or healthy relationships.
Our yoga balance posture for grad school is the Eagle Pose. When you are all wrapped up in yourself, how can you stay on your feet, and even stretch upward, without toppling over? How can your energy be oriented around the emerging self without strangling it or flying outward in all directions? It is not easy, but it can be done.
One person remembered a colleague who worked on building a canoe in his spare time. Another recalled a friend who spent time socializing, often at a local watering hole where he played darts. Another had a friend who liked to act. Another maintained “two identities,” doing research and playing sports. Still another, a woman in her 40’s, seemed to “glow” even though her free-thinking put her at odds with prevailing intellectual fashions; she was stressed but not up tight, and she seemed happy amid the “creative chaos” of her life and work.
In discussion the group decided that convincing lives in grad school seemed to “radiate outward.” These people did their work but also connected to something else. Some brought family or regional traditions with them, such as the fellow from the South who held “bream cookouts” for his colleagues. Another described one friend who took a menial stocking job at Target and would bring back “really refreshing” stories. “These kinds of things buoyed us,” she said. Reaching beyond your work, connecting to a larger community, and self-nurturing activities seemed to be key tools for balance here.
Up next: a detailed case
(picture source: full-well.blogspot.com/2008/09/yoga-finally.htm)