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Professional Standards Update: Small Colleges & University Division Representative

September 1, 2019 Heather French Vice President of Student Affairs

I recently participated in a 21-day abundance meditation challenge sponsored by Deepak Chopra and the Chopra Center. Each day, I received a guided meditation to listen to as well as an assignment that required my reflection and participation. Although I began on a whim and embarked on it for personal reasons, some of my awakenings have felt more applicable to my daily work in Student Affairs. I’d like to offer you a few of my key takeaways now and invite you to consider what might resonate with you, and invite you to consider taking on this challenge with me again later.

First, the mere act of completing a 21-day challenge required a great deal more fortitude than I imagined. Some days it was difficult to complete because of life’s busyness, while other days it was difficult to complete because of the ways in which the assignments challenged me to push beyond my boundaries. Similarly, prior to assuming the senior student affairs officer role, I do not believe I could have ever fully understood the mental and emotional fortitude required to be successful. Certainly, on a cognitive level, I knew the job would be a lot of work. And I was ready for that. I truly feel called to the profession, and I love what I do to no end. Serving students is my passion and my vocation. But there are some things far less tangible (and at times trying) about the work that sometimes push and stretch me beyond what I thought myself capable of doing. When reflecting on completing the 21-day challenge and the sense of accomplishment and confidence it instilled in me to continue on my path of physical and spiritual wellness, it also reminded me that when I push through work-related challenges and persevere, I not only learn and grow through the process, but I then become better equipped to meet the next challenges that I will inevitably face.

Second, one of my most salient lessons was that I need to be more intentional and compassionate about extending myself (and others) grace. Some days, I admit, I fell asleep during the meditation. Other days, I had to listen to the meditation on the bus ride to work in order to fit it into my day. I wrestled with whether this was the “right” way of doing it, and felt guilty over how much more beneficial I thought it would be if I could have just carved out time to properly meditate and reflect in a quiet, sacred space. Similarly, how often in our professional lives do we participate in negative self-talk about not being good enough/qualified enough/competent at something, feel badly about not doing a perfect job on a presentation or project, or unnecessarily compare ourselves to colleagues? And is this really helpful? The thing is, I know I did my very best each day to participate in the 21-day abundance meditation challenge. Some days meant that participating to my fullest was merely listening to the recording. While other days, I could dive in fully and deepen my connection to self and others through the meditations and activities. I find that true of my work, too. I will never be perfect. I will make mistakes. I will wish I had done some things differently. And for those days, I will try to remember to extend myself grace. Because I also know that I am approaching my work with the very best intentions and that I continuously strive to improve as a supervisor, colleague, mentor, and student advocate.

Finally, the daily practice of placing my attention on increasing abundance in my life in every form (e.g. happiness, love, wellness, prosperity, etc.) was so incredibly refreshing. When I began my days this way, it allowed me to be so much more aware and appreciative of the beauty in the world and people around me, and to invite in opportunities for abundance to grow. Some days, this meant taking a leisurely stroll through campus to acknowledge the special place that it is, or writing heartfelt notes to my staff for all the ways I see their contributions and passions making a difference. Other days I looked within and embraced my own strengths of relationship-building, patience, diplomacy, and perseverance, and experienced gratitude for all that I have been able to achieve. For me, this last lesson of learning the power inherent in becoming open to abundance has been most rewarding. I am inspired to continue nurturing this in my personal and professional life, and to that end, am committing to participating in the 21-day abundance meditation challenge again.

This time when I participate in the 21-day abundance meditation challenge, I invite you to join me if you are so moved. It would be my absolute honor to share this experience with you. In recognition of the intensity of the beginning of the year in Student Affairs, I will aim to begin with anyone interested in early October 2019. Also, for those attending the Regional Conference in Fargo at the end of the month, we could arrange a meeting to share with one another about our experiences with the challenge and how we’ve been able to apply it to our daily lives. I hope you will consider! Feel free to reach out with any questions or to express your interest at heather.french@stlcop.edu.