Do the following scenarios resonate with you?
- You believe in social justice, world peace, and sustainability, but as you look out into our world’s rising social and ecological problems, you can’t help but feel disheartened.
- You believe that higher education can help solve our world’s problems, and yet you can’t understand why hierarchy and systemic challenges still exist in universities.
- Increased political correctness, polarized beliefs, and the intolerance of differing opinions has you walking on eggshells with the fear of speaking or writing the wrong thing.
Or perhaps, the oxymorons found in graduate studies have left you utterly confused?
- You are unsure of how to relate to your supervisor since they are partly your boss and partly your mentor.
- Your are unsure over what is research. You’ve been told to do original research and yet you are expected to play within the confines of academic traditions.
- You feel like an imposter when someone tells you that you are an expert in your study area since you have learned to validate everything you write with the words of people more successful than you.
- You want your research to be for the greater good, to be honest, and accessible, but you’ve been told that you can only “make it” by climbing the academia ladder and publishing in gated knowledge communities.
- You know your university campus is full of students and faculty, and yet you find yourself ever so lonely.
I invite you to a consider a paradigm shift.
Consider an eco-spiritual and self-loving approach to higher education.
You are not alone. The essence of spirituality is the recognition that every element in the universe is interconnected. For better or for worse, we make a home (eco from the Greek word oikos) together of this existence. The world’s flourishing is a reciprocal phenomenon between individuals and their environments. Therefore, you play a notable role in your environment. But how “at home” are you in yourself and as a grad student? People may call academia the ivory tower and the world outside of it the “real world,” but as a matter of fact, the “real” world doesn’t exist solely outside the university doors. More importantly, real life doesn’t start only after you graduate because your life is real, right here, right now. The fact that you are breathing in this very moment is living proof! So turn your confusion into a discovery and turn your contribution of knowledge production into compassionate ways of being by using your research as a personal development opportunity. Give yourself and (y)our world a chance to flourish the way it was meant to.
Heart-based research comes from a nurtured self-love that exudes out into the world
Research projects that speak to our world’s social and ecological distresses are loaded with conscious and unconscious pain passed down through generations. We cannot do justice to this suffering without a heart-based approach to research. Plant the seeds of compassionate change in the world by loving yourself first. Then you can turn your knowledge into wisdom.
Hi, I’m Van Thi Diep, the founder of A Flourishing Commons. I earned my PhD in Environmental Studies after practising as a landscape architect for 8 years. I am an ecophilosopher, an idealist, and a sensitive soul at heart. Although I feel the world deeply, I had been conditioned (like most of us here) to feel insecure in my feelings and my inner wisdom. For most of my life, I kept myself safe with a cloak of invisibility and an armour of intellectual legitimacy, but through ecopsychology and spirituality, I learned that our inner worlds mirror our outer worlds.
Therefore, if I wanted to live a meaningful life, I needed to tend to my inner landscape. Accordingly, if we want a change in our social and ecological landscapes, we also need to tend to the landscapes of our collective consciousness. A spiritual breakthrough and a serendipitous journey of self-reflection in my dissertation changed the course of my life. Now, I use what I have learned to help socially and environmentally conscious grad students build their own spiritual foundation to love themselves more, find fulfillment in their research, and compassionately serve the world.
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