Acheson’s Rule has proved a major stumbling block to thousands trying to navigate their way through organizations. And universities can be just as confusing as any government, corporation, or church. That’s why conscientious professionals like you need this week’s killer app. Click on the video for details:
In yoga the warrior poses are the most resolute postures, combining strength, flexibility, and balance. Body and mind are integrated and aligned. Energy flows into you, through you, and out of you toward what is coming. At this time of year, when career decisions come down, we all need warrior skills to meet the challenges offered by desperate situations. One essential principle might be called “Four-Way Vision.”
Consider the Warrior II Pose, also called viribhadrasana or Warrior B. You stand with both feet firmly grounded, one pointing ahead and the other rooted behind; you spread your arms into a T and sink forward, looking straight ahead over the middle finger of your forward hand. You can feel energy rising up through your feet and legs and shooting along your arms. Your back and torso stand straight up, as if a steel lightning rod ran from the crown of your head down your spine and into the ground.
Now think about what this posture betokens. Your feet connect you to the earth; they are your foundation, grounded on your wisdom and skills, the fruits of your experience, education, and character. You draw strength upward from these sources, which can never be taken away.
Your head, spine, and torso connect you with the sky, with heaven. This is where your hopes and aspirations, your best values, and your creativity all come from. The heavenly energy and the earth energy meet in your eyes and shoot out through the arm along which you gaze. This arm reaches out to meet the challenge. It focuses and directs all your energy forward, but it also touches and learns. It does not shrink from contact. It lights up and ignites whatever it meets.
Your other arm reaches back to draw strength from those behind you, that multitude of comrades and supporters who have a stake in your struggle. These are your parents, friends, teachers and mentors. They all care; they all want you to flourish and succeed. They back you up and push you forward.
A warrior needs to remember and practice four-way vision in order to stay balanced and meet the challenge. Can you turn what comes at you into what comes to you? That is the question.
What can we learn from these stories and reflections about finding balance in grad school? Each group develops its own wisdom, but here are some tools we gleaned from the ASLE workshop last June.
1. It’s not just about work. No doubt work – making the grade, learning the ropes, designing and conducting research, writing, seminaring, conferencing – always comes first in people’s mind. But there is more to life than learning and more to learning than books and talk. The primary tool, then, is to keep the dream of balance alive, to make it part of your life practice.
2. Mentor yourself. Take time to explore options and study alternatives. Remember that a PhD gives you many transferable skills, and that teaching is not the only path open to you. Investigate other channels in the braided stream of an academic career: administration, foundation or nonprofit work, government, think tanks, research, industry, writing, journalism, even entrepreneurship. Listen for what the Quakers call “leadings,” the inner voices, signs, or hints that point toward the path of your own soul’s growth. Then find activities that shed more light down that path.
3. Learn from the community. If you observe both your institutional community and the larger society in which it is embedded, you can learn much about the culture, personality types, and social drivers that govern the world you are preparing to enter. This sort of knowledge can often prove of more than equal value to field expertise as you navigate the choppy waters of a career. Try looking at your school, your professors, and your colleagues with the eyes of a novelist, and don’t neglect the folks behind the steam tables.
4. Get involved with undergraduates. And not just as a TA. These are the people you may soon be helping to educate. They are the future. Better yet, most of them will not become academicians; they will go out into the “real world.” They are still experiencing education for the whole person, so their journey, which is also yours, can become mutually supportive, even inspiring. Staying in touch with the undergraduates will help you stay in touch with your own growth process and balance the professional training emphasis of grad school.
5. Network to build relationships. In grad school, everyone is pretty much equal, on the same level, in the same boat. Soon enough, you will all begin to diverge. Relationships formed and nurtured early on can pay handsome emotional and professional dividends in years to come. Don’t just stick to your own department, but venture forth to other fields, student organizations, and colleagues from other institutions that you meet at conferences.
6. Choose work that feeds your spirit. There is no point in doing research that will “get you ahead” if it doesn’t speak to your soul. Take time to find your own burning questions and build research that will address them. That is how fields evolve, and how academic work leads to progressive social and intellectual change.
7. Engage in self-nurturing activities such as hobbies, socializing, recreation, sports, or sharing your home culture with friends and colleagues. Be sure to take good care of your body as well as your mind; remember the Sufi admonition to “be kind to your ass, for it bears you.” Eat well, sleep well, work hard, play often.
Got tools? Please share them in a comment.