The first of May is here – finally! And so begins my summer. I can store my school work away and leave my books in my room, instead of letting them carve perma-holes in my backpack. It’s been a whirlwind of a year for me here at U of T – new people, new ideas, new stressors, and an interesting dynamic between sameness and constant change. At times I’ve felt like Kramer, a few (very few) times like Sheldon but mostly like Samwise – a bit of a wanderer in this strange new space called U of T. Sam always craves potatoes. I always crave tea. We are not so different!
A friend of mine recently wrote a blog about spring and renewal, which got me thinking about my own life. One of my goals for this year and beyond is to focus on Doing and Being, instead of just Thinking. Hmmm. A tricky thing for someone like me, who gets lost in thought. Correction, lost in Many Thoughts. I’m pretty sure that my mind is a leafy labyrinth filled with comfy chairs, cozy throws and west-facing sunny rooms designed for Great Thinks.
I took an Aboriginal Worldviews class with Professor Jean-Paul Restoule at OISE this semester, which was rather life-changing. It moved me from the Think to the Do. Each class began with a Smudging ceremony, which is all about using the Sage plant to cleanse a space of negative energy. I usually entered class a bit frazzled, my mind jumping between to-dos and must-haves and what-nots. And yet, by the time each of us had drawn the smoke from the Sage over our hands, hearts and faces, I always felt grounded and calm. Professor Restoule would end the ceremony by giving thanks for the grass, for the trees, for winter, for the opportunity we had to gather together again, and so on. We were all brought to the present moment. That’s a beautiful way to start, well, anything, isn’t it?
I decided to start be a bit more grateful for regular things every day. It’s a curious thing: the more I gave thanks, the more content I was with who I was and how my life was taking shape. The less I looked at how others around me were doing and the more I focused on what I could do to create change. You know that paralyzed feeling you get when you realize just how much more you need to get done? Well, those moments came fewer and further between. And, the more I did. I started taking a bit of time to draw and paint again. I started to take a few minutes to close my eyes and breathe in silence in the morning. Bit by bit, I started on a journey of renewal and change.
I have always been focused on next steps. When is the next paper due? What am I making for dinner that will last me a few days? How can I best plan my day/week/month/year? The act of writing these words makes me feel rushed. It is no secret that the life of an undergraduate or graduate student can often be stressful, scattered and difficult. So it was a beautiful gift to learn to be grateful for what just is.
Being grateful for even the smallest things (It’s sunny! I can feel my fingers! My taste buds can still taste this ghastly coffee!) helped me get through was must be the longest winter I can remember. Expressing gratitude is a form of doing. It is giving positivity back to a world which throws a lot of positivity my way too.
You have all written exams, handed in papers, and completed final labs over the last few weeks. Some of you have four months of Summer. Others of you are closing your chapter at U of T, and heading onto other wondrous things. Good Luck. Take a moment to create renewal for yourself (it feels great!).
In the spirit of Spring Cleaning, Happiness and Mental Health Awareness, check out MindFest at Hart House next Monday, May 6th. Activities include exhibit booths, an art crawl, film screenings, workshops, guest speakers (Steve Paiken!), free food, stand-up comedy, and prizes.