For many student affairs professionals, our daily work is focused on campus life. However, the growing movement for self-care and the need to balance our professional and personal lives is quickly becoming part of the daily dialogue. Wholeness, defined by a quick google search as “the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole” is a part of the self-care process. The following is a transcript of an interview between Stephanie Bondi and Naomi Rodriguez talking about Wholeness.
N: What’s the concept? I would say metaphorical connecting the mind/body experience. What we are doing physically with what we sense who we are and connecting that with what we do. So, utilizing our minds and our critical thinking skills and our ability to do things in kind of whole hearted way.
S: Yeah, I like that. What I keep thinking about are the moments when I don’t feel whole. I know those moments, where, I can’t fully be myself. Or I feel tension in what I know and how I feel with how I think I should be. And I know what it feels like when I experience that tension– my body is on edge and I don’t trust myself. I have lots of questions. And it generally feels not good.
N: I definitely agree with that. For me right now wholeness is a journey. Finding those other moments where I feel the opposite. I know what my physical feeling is and my spiritual feeling is and what my mind is thinking but I’m not outwardly projecting that. So, how can I connect that and integrate into a state of wholeness? So, I can recognize all those moments when I’m not feeling whole. But hey, now that we can identify that, it’s the first step, right? (Laughs)
S: Yeah! So as I am able to identify it I can figure out what are those different things that are going on. And I can narrow down what is it in myself that needs to be seen in a particular way to meet those external expectations. Then I can start saying: “Well do I want that? No.” And I can start letting go. And when I let go I am finding the more and more that I do this the more and more I can get those moments where it’s like. (Exhales) It’s a sense of relief and there is also an energy. That feels great! Then I trust myself and am very confident because I’m not feeling those divisions and tensions that distract me. Those tensions are a huge distraction. You’re nodding. It’s good to know I’m not the only one.
S: So we talked about this before and you mentioned your family. How does your family play into your experiences of coming into wholeness?
N: I think part of this wholeness journey for me is analyzing who I am. Again, the spiritual and inner core part of who I am. And when I was thinking about it I realized so much of, you know, of what each individual has comes from the ideals of our parents, our families and those closest to us. Oftentimes, tensions and insecurities we have can go back to when we experienced it as kids or our parents struggled with the same things. And maybe they didn’t want to tell us that because they were parental figures, and they were trying to be strong and be role models for us.
But part of coming into wholeness was of going back and identifying what that was. After I brought things up from my childhood, my mom said: “When you talked about that, I looked back when I was young. And I realized a lot the things you talked about have been so important for me now.” So my mom will tell me she’ll go through parts of the wholeness process by thinking about: “Why do I feel this way? How have I felt this way before?”
S: I see that you’re talking about that with a lot of emotion. And I can relate to that because my mom would tell me too about how I would get very emotional about things and for me I knew that that wasn’t always welcome. And the message that I always got was “Ok, well you’re fine.” A piece of wholeness for me is, I guess, being okay with the fact that I am emotional about things. And maybe things matter to me that don’t matter to other people. I’m realizing how often I use other people’s values and ideas to judge myself. And so, over time I think what that has taught me is that the feelings that I have are not as important as going along with how things are going. Or what other people’s need might be.
Part of your story was in sharing your own process of coming to understand wholeness with your mom then she’s considering that in her own life. And I’ve kind of wondered if that had an effect on your relationship because I feel that relationships are so important in social justice work.
N: I would say that it has been positive. Leading up to now, my relationship with my mother has been up and down. Now, I’m far away, it has been a great help. My mom, she will say “All I had was my kids. Raising you and making sure you found your way in the world.” But now, she is having that moment where: “Both my kids are adults. What about what I’m doing and what’s my role now in this world?” I think in a lot of ways it has helped her a lot to talk with me about my journey for wholeness.
S: Do you have any recommendations for Student Affairs Professionals?
N: If we think about it, we fulfill so many roles. We’re counselors, leaders, motivators, supporters and encouragers. When I look at wholeness, sometimes it’s about not getting lost in all those things. If I have a hectic day at work, I’ll go home still thinking about all the things I have to do. Then, I’m not being a whole person because I’m just thinking about the stresses of being at work, what went wrong that day and what I wish I could do better the next. So lately I’ve been thinking of ways to spend “me time.” I found that if I just take the bus for five/ten minutes, I get to sit there and enjoy life for a moment. Like how the suns out, the scenery is beautiful and watching the people walking by. Those moments just appreciating who I am and where I am in my journey.
S: You know when I hear you saying that “I need to do this and I need to do that.” It’s like you’re a robot or like a machine where you are supposed to be cranking stuff out. That doesn’t sound very human to me. So thinking the importance of paying attention to the fact that we’re human and we’re living a life. I think people could really benefit from just paying attention more to what’s going on in their mind, body and spirit. I’ve heard some yoga instructors say “Let go of anything that doesn’t serve you.” I found in my own life the more I can let go of the things that don’t serve me, the more whole I feel. For example, if I’m trying to have a conversation about a social justice issue. I’m often worried the person is going to say “I didn’t mean it that way.” Which will feel like a conflict to me, and I avoid conflict. I’m finding moments where I can let those kinds of anxieties go. The energy changes, and it’s so hard to describe but I feel lighter, more excited, and I feel happier. When I have that energy, gosh! I could move mountains! I could be so productive and check all the things off my list! And, I have so much compassion and capacity for other people who are dealing with their own stuff.
Are there certain things that you found to be really helpful in trying to prioritize wholeness in your life?
N: Being very intentional about what my goals are and planning for the day. If I’m going to ride the bus for instance, it might take longer in my day instead of walking. Or another example, intentionally setting aside 45 minutes to practice piano so I’m not going to think about “Well, if I maybe skimp on practicing, I can get back to my busy schedule.” No, I have 45 minutes. So I’m feeling the moment and enjoying a spot of wholeness in my day.
S: Any last thoughts?
N: I think a lot about what wholeness feels like, and it’s such a self-exploratory process. It is really not going to be the same for every single person. So for me, the process is like what you said. When I’m being whole, I’m stepping away from that high emotional person that I am. I recognize that, but instead saying “Ok, I don’t have to protect myself right now or worry about all the things I’m doing wrong.” And that’s what wholeness really feels like for me. But for other people who always feel cool as a cucumber and detached, being whole might be in an emotional movie and a good cry. But either way when you come out, you just feel so good. You feel so invigorated with life. And now I just want to hi-five everyone and give everyone hugs. When I think about wholeness the ultimate goal is connecting with others’ wholeness and changing the environment.
S: Yeah, it would be nice to feel that way more often than not.
S: Well, I’ve enjoyed the conversation. And I feel like we should hug now?
N: I know right? Make the world a better place!
Stephanie Bondi (She/Her/Hers) is a faculty member in the student affairs program at University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She keeps her family in mind as she works towards wholeness. She studies dominance and oppression and student affairs preparation.
Naomi Rodriguez (She/Her/Hers) is a Los Angeles native with a B.A in Graphic Design. After a chance job opportunity at the student union of her undergraduate school, Cal State University Northridge, she has steadily taken the career path into student affairs. She is currently studying at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in the M.A Educational Administration, specialization in Student Affairs Administration program.