Life at the crossroads - My Spiritual Discourse


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This is an old paper that I wrote in Spring of 2007 at the conclusion of an Education and Spirituality course that I took. For my more current thoughts on spirituality, see my blog:

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Life at the crossroads - My Spiritual Discourse

  1. 1. Kimberly Knowles DeRoche EDU P&L 705 My Final Spiritual Discourse May 30, 2007 Page 1 Life at the Crossroads – My Spiritual Discourse Before I begin writing my final discourse for this Education and Spirituality course, Iwould first like to discuss how I am choosing to approach it. You see, rather than approachingthis paper with my intellectual side that I have honed in my master’s program and previous yearsof education, my goal is to write this paper from my heart and soul – to use this process ofrecording my thoughts as a meditation in itself. While I have just reviewed my notes and thecourse readings which I found the most compelling, I am purposefully not opening the StyleEaseprogram on my computer that helps me sort out my references when writing a research paper.By not doing so, I hope to remind myself that this is NOT a research paper. While I plan to mention materials from the course and explorations this quarter that haveguided my thoughts, my main intention is to journal how I have come to see the spirituality that Ibegan this course with, the spirituality that I have right now, and the spirituality that I hope tocultivate in the future. Though I have an inkling of what I would like to share, I hope that thewriting of this paper will lead me to new awareness as my inner words flow naturally onto thepage. I invite you to share in my experience by reading the thoughts and reflections that bear awitness to my spiritual journey. My Spirituality at the Beginning of this Course Being a part of this course has illuminated for me both the everyday spirituality that Ibrought to this course and the spiritual hunger (a la the Armistead article) that drew me to take it.In some ways, they are tied together. Because I am a naturally spiritual person and have feltconnected with the Cosmos at times in the past, I knew instinctively at registration time that thespiritual renewal I would gain in this course was just what I needed to guide me towardscommencement and life after graduate school. In much the same way, I signed up for a yoga
  2. 2. Kimberly Knowles DeRoche EDU P&L 705 My Final Spiritual Discourse May 30, 2007 Page 2class my last semester as an undergraduate, perhaps subconsciously realizing that I would benefitfrom more intense spiritual practice before facing such a major transition. Being a part of class discussions and reflecting on my current practice has made merealize that I frequently tune into intuition to guide my choices. For example, I cue into my gutwhen deciding whether I need a nap or a Jazzercise class to cure my ill temper and whendeciding which type of cuisine I feel most compelled to microwave for dinner. I neveracknowledged those practices as being spiritual before, but now I am more inclined to do so. Iwas also very moved by the poem, “The Sacred,” that we read in class because it validated thesense of inner purity that I feel while riding home in the car sitting alone with my thoughts andmusic. I am now more attentive to the intuition with which I approach my choice of music andthe sense that a collection of songs can become intimately bonded with a particular time in life,marking that part of the journey as I go by. I also enjoyed the “Everyday Spirituality” video series that we watched in class because itshowcased several ways that I cultivate spiritual practice in my life on a regular basis. Mostimportantly, I enjoyed the segment on “Place” because it reminded me how my husband and Iconnect to each other and our surroundings by going out for walks and become acquainted withparticular parks and neighborhoods. Here in Columbus, we like to take walks around the lake inthe middle of our complex, taking in the serenity that that brings. Similarly, the park that wefrequented in Cincinnati became so meaningful to us that it was where he eventually chose topropose. Thinking about place and walking also reminded me that my most vivid memories ofstudying abroad in Florence, Italy and Seville, Spain were both of the path that I would take backand forth between the main downtown areas and my lodgings. While I appreciated all of the
  3. 3. Kimberly Knowles DeRoche EDU P&L 705 My Final Spiritual Discourse May 30, 2007 Page 3magnificent buildings and natural wonders that I saw in those countries, it is visions of the streetsand the sidewalks that most come to mind when I recall those chapters in my life. Watching theEveryday Spirituality series helped me to recognize those connections to place as my ingrainedspiritual practice. While I was slightly less enthused by the Everyday Spirituality video on the home(perhaps because I have been so transient in recent years), it still made me think differently ofmy connections to homes within my family. I now have a better understanding of why mymother and I are reluctant to take down the stuffed animals, bedspread, and decorations in myold bedroom in Chicago that I have had for years. It drives my husband crazy when we go backthere, but I realize that stepping into that room each time I return home helps me to take pauseand reflect on how far I have come since I lived in it. Similarly, I love visiting my grandparent’scottage in Wisconsin whenever I can because doing so brings back memories of trips that mycousins and I used to take there when we were little and other fond memories of familygatherings. When I pore over my grandmother’s photo albums, it makes me ponder how timeflies and how fleeting youth can be – perhaps reminding me to live more in the present. The Everyday Spirituality series also helped me understand why I still have a strongattachment to my family’s annual Christmas Eve and Christmas morning traditions. For severalyears now, I have been trying to understand why I still feel compelled to celebrate Christmaswith such gusto when I am no longer convinced of Jesus Christ being the Son of God andChristmas being the day of his birth. After watching that video and reflecting, I realize that theholiday is spiritual for me because of the connection it generates for me with my family, with thegiving spirit of mankind, and my past.
  4. 4. Kimberly Knowles DeRoche EDU P&L 705 My Final Spiritual Discourse May 30, 2007 Page 4 Of course, as I mentioned earlier, while I now believe I brought some spirituality alongwith me from the start, I now also believe that a spiritual hunger led me to seek it out. Toillustrate, I have a tendency towards relying on my mind, fixating on the future, and forgetting to“smell the roses.” When my stress is at a manageable level, I believe the spiritual practices thatI’ve spelled out above have been sufficient to keep me balanced and feeling unified with theuniverse. However, when stress ramps up as it did Winter Quarter with my job dutiesintensifying, classes challenging me, and my job search kicking off, that balance and my spiritualnourishment began to slide as it often does when stress overtakes me. When I signed up for this course, I intuitively knew that my stress would only intensifyas the race towards the end of my Master’s program continued Spring quarter. For that reason, Inow realize that I signed up for this course because I was semi-interested in learning how tospeak about spirituality with students but mostly because I was eager to quench the spiritualhunger (Armistead) flaming within me. My yin and yang were out of alignment and becomingeven more of whack each day, and I knew that I needed help – fast! My Spirituality at the Present Time Now that I have discussed the awareness and practice of spirituality that I began this classwith, I will discuss the awareness and practice of spirituality that I now have at the end. BecauseI have enjoyed this class so thoroughly, I would love to say that I have fully tapped in to thecosmos, have grown tremendously, and have got it all figured out now. Unfortunately, it is notthat simple. I do think that I have made progress, but that progress has come more in the form ofa heightened understanding of where I am in my life. It has come in an initial grasp of practicesthat can help me clear through the clutter and still the thoughts racing through my mind daily.This class has also raised new questions for me about the unknown nature of the world.
  5. 5. Kimberly Knowles DeRoche EDU P&L 705 My Final Spiritual Discourse May 30, 2007 Page 5 Regarding my heightened awareness of where I am in life, I have become more consciousthat I am at yet another important crossroad in my existence, particularly career-wise. Aboutthree years ago, I made the major decision to leave my dream job at Procter & Gamble because itwas making me miserable and strike out to figure out where my true calling was instead. Aftergathering a multitude of information, reflecting on my passions, and listening to my gut, Idecided that I wanted to be a Career Counselor and would apply to Higher Education andStudent Affairs Programs in order to achieve that goal. Now that am almost through my program, my interests within Higher Education havebroadened beyond working in Career Services to a multitude of possibilities includingDiversity/Social Justice education, Leadership Development, and Institutional Assessment andPlanning. I have applied to a number of positions in each of those areas and am currentlywaiting to find out what my new professional identity will be. I am also moving from theMidwest where I’ve spent the majority of my life and will be in the San Francisco Bay Area inless than a month. In many ways, the “destination” that I have been orienting myself towardshas finally arrived and it is time to put all of these dreams and plans into shape – which bothexcites and scares the heck out of me! Where spirituality comes into all of this is in the nature of a true calling or purpose in life.So far, I feel like I trusted intuition and fate the last few years and things have worked out justfine (although Yalom would argue that that is just my cozie to cover up my fear of freedom). Ifeel that my master’s program has been a great source of growth for me, and I’ve been pleasedwith the practicum and assistantship path that I have taken thus far. I was quite moved by thesection on conceptions of the soul in Miller’s book in which he talked about people’s workfinding them. In particular, I liked the following quote that he shared by Moore (on p.26 of the
  6. 6. Kimberly Knowles DeRoche EDU P&L 705 My Final Spiritual Discourse May 30, 2007 Page 6Education and the Soul book) as he said, “finding the right work is like discovering your ownsoul in the world.” That quote resonated with me because the role that I have served the pastyear as grad assistant for the Diversity Leadership Transcript Program has felt just like that – aperfect fit. But that job is coming to an end, and I will be moving on soon – to an unknownfuture – which is scary and helps me to grasp the fear and distress that Yalom speaks about inLove’s Executioner. Spirituality has also affected how I am dealing with an additional aspect of this transition.You see, while I do not yet know where I will be working, I interviewed earlier this quarter for aLeadership Development position in California that I really feel is a match for me – my nextstep. Everything went well in the interview process, and I am still in the running – but I amcurrently in the process of waiting to hear about it and have been for an excruciating month.That is where the true crossroads within the crossroads comes in because I felt very much athome at that university and feel in my bones that is where my energy should be going, but it isquite possible that it will not work out and life has a different path in store for me – but if that isthe case, I truly have no idea what. Going through this process while taking this course has helped me see how my awarenessand practice of spirituality weaves into the important aspects of my daily life. For instance,acknowledging that I already came into this course being a spiritual person has made me feelmore comfortable admitting that I am thinking about this situation in a spiritual away. I haveshared with people that if I get this job, I will feel like my spiritual instincts were right, and I amcontinuing on with my calling. If I do not, I will do my best to fully appreciate the emotions thatemerge for me and live in the present while I wait for guidance about what life truly intends forme.
  7. 7. Kimberly Knowles DeRoche EDU P&L 705 My Final Spiritual Discourse May 30, 2007 Page 7 Learning about the mind-body connection and things like the placebo effect and theBotox taking away worry effect has made me think twice about the raw potential of energy,prayer, and positive thinking. As a result, I have tried to focus my energy towards thisopportunity and have been more open about asking friends and supporters to keep their fingerscrossed for me and send some positive job search karma my way. Whereas I previously wouldhave thought in an empiricist way (as Christian Smith’s article suggests) and discounted theinfluence of thoughts or prayers that we can’t scientifically account for, I am now compelled togive them a second look. Of course, learning about Shambhala Buddhism at one of myalternative religious experiences for this course and their concept of “letting go” has made mewrestle with which is right – should I be praying for getting the job that want (as one of myclassmates shared she prayed for something she wanted) or should I praying for the strength toaccept the way things are meant to turn out? Whether or not it is best to pray for what you want or pray for the strength to let it go, Ihave found through this course that the latter is likely to be more spiritually satisfying. Moreimportantly, this course has taught me a number of practices that can help me to get my point ofinner serenity, or acceptance, like walking a labyrinth, engaging in centering prayer, doing a Zenmeditation, chanting, guided visualization, and focusing on my breath. It has also restored myopenness to the possibility of transcendence in the here and now – versus simply at death.Reading pieces like Malidoma Patrice Somé’s memoir about his initiation camp and Justin’sstory about being able to embody the answer to conundrums by doing Zen meditation remindsme that there is more out there than can be explained rationally. My beliefs about religion andhumankind all searching for a truth or God that we cannot conceptualize support that – it is just
  8. 8. Kimberly Knowles DeRoche EDU P&L 705 My Final Spiritual Discourse May 30, 2007 Page 8hard to let go of culturally prescribed skepticism towards the idea that there is more to the worldthan we can “explain.” My current conception of spirituality has also been influenced by my personal reactionsto the activities in this class. For example, while I have had positive experiences with yogabefore and have attempted to pray and felt a connection at random times in my life, I was stillsurprised at how energized I felt after going through visualization or meditations in class. I alsofound that the experience of walking through the labyrinths truly calmed my spirit and madereflect on the fact that each of us humans are on own unique path with its ups and downs, ins andouts, etc. – i.e. trust the path. I particularly felt a connection during the centering prayer when Ilost connection with my body and felt that my head was somehow floating or moving around. Ittruly felt like I was moving although it is likely that I was sitting completely still. Reading KamChi Chan and William Taylor’s article on Somatic perspectives makes me think that perhaps Iwas entering into the “fourth circuit” during that prayer – something I wouldn’t have thoughtpossible before having that experience. I also drew a strong connection between the process I went through to try and still mymind in meditation and the process that I go through when I try to clear my mind and focus onthe moment in order to orgasm. The fact that both the process to get there and the results that Iobtained were somewhat similar leads me to believe that Justin may be right in saying that weare all seeking transcendence in various ways, either consciously or unconsciously. Of course, Isee these personal experiences that I had as just the tip of the iceberg, as they have both affirmedmy faith in the possibility of the unknown while summoning up a multitude of questions in mymind.
  9. 9. Kimberly Knowles DeRoche EDU P&L 705 My Final Spiritual Discourse May 30, 2007 Page 9 Spirituality That I Would Like to Cultivate in the Future Now that I have discussed the spirituality that I began this class with and the spiritualitythat I currently have, I will briefly discuss how I would like to cultivate my spirituality in thefuture. While I was encouraged to find everyday ways in which I already nourish my spirit, Ihave also concluded that there is opportunity for me to engage in more regular practice. Havingseen the myriad of ways in which I have changed my emotions about the job I was waiting tohear about just by changing my visualization or reaction to the process has reinforced for me thepower and responsibility that I have over the reality that I experience (as Yolam pointed out). IfI can become more disciplined about letting go of my attachments and rejuvenating my spirit, Ibelieve I will be able to alleviate much of the stress, worry, and anxiety in my life. In many ways, I see myself represented in the description of a young adult provided byParks in her two chapters on the in between period between adolescence and adulthood. I wouldagree that I have been in a state of tested commitment while trying out this new field of studentaffairs and many of the beliefs that I adopted through earlier spiritual exploration without fullymaking a convictional commitment to any one practice or path. It is possible that my criticallyaware ambivalence towards things will continue into the second half of my twenties (as I amabout to turn 26 this summer); however, I would like to start easing towards convictionalcommitment as I venture back out into the real world for the second time and begin a new full-time career existence. One of the biggest takeaways that I have taken from this course is that I would like topush myself to find a spiritual community in the Bay Area and begin meditating or practicingwith them on a regular basis. After all, Wenger’s article about Communities of Practice leads meto believe that while I have engaged in some process of spiritual learning on my own, I will
  10. 10. Kimberly Knowles DeRoche EDU P&L 705 My Final Spiritual Discourse May 30, 2007 Page 10likely do so more effectively and consistently with a group to support me. I also drew a similarconclusion from reading Miller’s words (pp. 144-145) about “communities of congruence” thatoffer mutual support for beliefs and actions. And, I have been encouraged by the experience ofthis class – by listening to classmates discuss things that worked well and didn’t work well forthem and by having a curriculum of sorts to guide me along the way. While I have never beentoo enthused about religious traditions, I think it would be helpful to receive some coaching orfind role models who have been down this path before to point me in directions to explore andassist me in avoiding road blocks along the way. M experience at the Unitarian Universalist Church here in Columbus leads me to thinkthat my “community of conscience” will not be a traditional, churchy type of congregation butrather a more Eastern-oriented Buddhist or Zen type practice that will help me still the mind. Ianticipate that the mass consumerist culture that Christian Smith speaks about will likelyinfluence me to “shop around” for a spiritual practice and community, but I think that is okay.The point for me is to stop shying away from religious communities because I had badexperiences with them previously and take the time to find one that feels right and stick with itfor a while. Several people that I spoke to in the Shambhala group said that the benefits ofmeditation are much deeper if you do it on a daily or weekly basis. It has been a long time sinceI have engaged spirituality at that frequency (if ever), so I am curious how centered and worry-free I would feel if I did – it is a worth a try to find out! As I continue on with my spiritual journey, this course has also reminded me that I wouldlike to continue the everyday spiritual practices that I partake in right now once I reach the BayArea. For example, I think it is important that my husband and I get to know our newneighborhood and the parks nearby to figure out what our new sacred places there will be. I also
  11. 11. Kimberly Knowles DeRoche EDU P&L 705 My Final Spiritual Discourse May 30, 2007 Page 11want to find an amenable substitute for listening to music in my car when I begin taking publictransportation and walking to places in greater earnest – my classmates’ reassurances about thesolitude experienced while listening to an iPod makes me feel more confident that I will be ableto do that. Finally, as my current practice of writing papers and participating in class discussionswinds down, I would like to revisit the journal writing habit that aided me in reflecting on myexperience and stilling my mind during previous years. All in all, I feel this class, this quarter, and this paper have helped me become more awareof the spirituality that I carry with me everyday and the spirituality that I would like to cultivatein the next phase of my life journey. I appreciate your facilitating my exploration of spiritualitythis quarter and your taking the time to read this collection of thoughts and reflections that I holdwith me as I stand at yet another fork in the road!