A conversation on Wholeness, By: Dr. Stephanie Bondi and Naomi Rodriguez

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.

N: No.

(Both laughing)

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.

N: Yeah!

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.

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Framing Selfcare as not Selfish, By: Wayne Glass

Self-care, as we continue to know it, is framed as a mental, physical, and/or spiritual pause that the millennial generation (my generation) is grasping onto more-and-more, in efforts to preserve a sense of self. An act of preservation as a result of times where there is and continues to be a plethora of inconsistencies, injustices, and systems of oppression impeding on folks’ abilities to simply live a life that is right for them. Furthermore, self-care as we continue to know it, can even be framed as radical actions that communicate that is perfectly OK to advocate for self so that we can remain engaged in work, family, friends, and community. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Wayne, why the intentional use of ‘radical’?” Great question. Thus the catalyst to the framework of this post begins to emerge.
Self-Care as Self-Ish
To begin, I think it is important that we spend time dissecting the association with self-care as ‘selfish.’ Self-care, in some personal and professional circles, remains this idea and practice that if one is making / taking time for self, they are being selfish, self-centered, lazy, and, ultimately, do not care about others around them. For me, all of these ideations are capital ‘F’ False. I say this because I think and feel that we continue to live and work in self-sacrificial environments. Environments where if one is not giving 110% of themselves all of the time, they are not good enough, not competent, not professional, should feel ashamed, and the list goes on. What an awful, toxic reality this is that continues to persist in what can be said most environments.
Secondly, I think it is essential to name that taking / making time for self-care is a privilege. There are an insurmountable amount of communities that do not have the time, efforts, energies, and/or luxury to pause and breathe, reflect, and do something that may not directly correlate with serving as a caretaker for a family member, taking care of siblings or children, or working multiple jobs to provide some type of stability for self and/or others; to name a few examples. Access in relation to education, jobs, affordable housing, affordable healthcare, and affordable nourishing foods can all contribute to whether or not folks have the privilege of taking / making intentional time to physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually step away from life’s daily trials and tribulations.
Self-Care as Self-Less
The concept of “self-care as selfless” is something I learned from a fabulous colleague and mentor, Coco Du, who serves as Macalester College’s Director of Residential Life. Therefore, how I have come to understand this concept is that, in order to remain an effective member of society; personally, professionally, both, we need to do the best we can to briefly (a subjective term) disengage with what takes up most of our physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. I say ‘ briefly’ disengage because I do not think it is helpful and appropriate, pending the situation, to completely disengage. Temporarily disengaging may be framed as taking a trip away from home and/or work to enjoy a change of pace, reading a book on the couch with all technological devices living in the ‘Off’ or ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, or spending time moving one’s body at the gym or in nature. Examples of when it is not appropriate to completely disengage without proper support from colleagues and/or the department is when one works in a high-touch, service-oriented functional area within Student Affairs, such as Residential Life.
Building on this example, being that I serve as a Residence Hall Director, folks in Residential Life work hand-in-hand with students navigating multiple, intersecting challenges, triumphs, and hardships. As a result, these items can, and a lot of times do, have an impact on the professional and paraprofessional (student staff). Consequently, I think it is absolutely imperative that folks are able and empowered to take time to “replenish their cup(s).”
As student affairs professionals, we need to continue to challenge self and others to critically think and act on how we can sustain and remain in a field where it is highly unlikely that the world’s trepidations, which are having significant impacts on the students we are serving, are going to simplify or ‘go away.’ If we do not, I think that we will continue to experience high-burnout and high-turnover rates. Student affairs professionals, in my mind, are not robots that are hired to be all things for all students. Although there is a lot of love and care for the populations we are serving, we cannot remain at full-throttle at all times without having moments of intentional pause.
Self-Care in Action
Self-care, as I have come to know it, has been a practice that took me until I was in my Mid-Twenties to internalize. Like a lot of folks, I lived what I identify as a ‘self-sacrificial’ work and academic lifestyle. A lifestyle where I would work on schoolwork and/or work-work all day, every day because I genuinely cared more about those around me than myself. Now do not get me wrong, I have a lot of love, care, and compassion for people in-and-out of my life. However, giving my whole self 24/7 is / was not healthy. I was reaching moments where I loathed my jobs, school, self, and, at times, would take out all of this loathing on close relationships in my life. This loathing and, essentially, ‘hating’ everything became a huge ‘red flag’ for me and I came to realize that I needed to make some changes in my life.
My (ongoing) self-care journey truly began my second year of graduate school with me taking intentional time in the mornings (5:00am) to go to CrossFit classes at gym close to my apartment. Come rain, shine, snow, or anything in between I would trudge myself out of bed and hangout with who would become amazing people in my life. Unbeknownst to me, CrossFit would become not only an integral part of my mornings but an integral part of my life. So much so that I established a chosen family of caring, passionate, hardworking, and diverse group of individuals. These individuals empowered me to utilize my body as a strengthened tool to navigate the uncertainties of life, to eat food to fuel my body as opposed to framing it as a inconvenience and chore, and put on notches of resiliency with life through enduring several tough workouts.
Prior to discovering CrossFit, I was struggling with establishing harmony with work, academics, and life, suffering from debilitating depression, and experiencing a relapse with an Eating Disorder. My mental health was deteriorating and I was not finding fulfillment with every-day life. Everything, for a lack of better words, sucked, and I was giving up.
My commitment to CrossFit is something that I would have never imagined. How can an effeminate gay boy ever workout or connect with, in some instances, a predominantly hyper-masculine group of individuals? I found that through slowly “testing the waters” and coming into a new community more reserved, which is not my “typical” approach to anything, I began to realize that CrossFit is not, from my perspective, a community that needs to subscribe to a “one size fits all” approach. Additionally, since moving to a more Queer-affirming city, I have found that I can (more comfortably) navigate the intersections of being Queer and effeminate while also lifting heavy weights and physically competing with more masculine-presenting individuals.
Final Thoughts
All of this to be said, I have learned so much about myself as a person, the importance of self-care, and why we should not be framing it is selfish. I have learned about how resilient I have become in tough moments, while also recognizing that there will always be areas for growth and improvement. I have found a new sense of purpose and meaning outside of school and work. Something that allows me to disengage and then re-engage with a revitalized commitment. I have learned that my body is a machine capable of doing so many things that are necessary. to navigate daily life. Things that require adequate and appropriate nutrition and rest. Finally, I have learned that in order for me to be an effective an effective son, brother, friend; an effective student affairs professional; an effective athlete; an effective aspirational change agent, I need to spend time focusing on a piece of life that is completely unrelated to my day-to-day professional endeavors.
Self-care looks differently for everyone. My hope is that we can continue to work to shift the culture of self-care from actions that are selfish to actions that are necessary to live a healthy, meaningful, and harmonized life. How do we do this? Great question. There is not one finite way to shift the culture, but for me, I think sharing lived-experiences where acts of self-care have fundamentally changed one’s life can be powerful for folks to hear; particularly those who are in positions of power. Also, I think that continuing to share the importance of self-care for self-preservation is essential. We cannot continue to survive (and not thrive) in environments where self-sacrificial ideations and practices flourish.

 

 

My name is Wayne Glass (He, Him, and His gender pronouns). I currently serve as a Residence Hall Director at Macalester College where I work with and oversee two first-year Residence Halls.

Navigating the realm of social justice and inclusion has, and will forever be, a priority and emphasis of every personal and professional endeavor I embark upon. Thus, my student affairs endeavors have been to continue to advocate, educate, and support the importance of intersectionality and how identity shapes and plays and role in how we live and breathe in society. As an aspiring social justice educator, I strive to encourage and empower myself, students, faculty, and staff to go outside of our “comfort zones” and fight for equity for all humankind.

If folks are interested in getting (or remaining) connected, I can be found on Instagram | @WayneGlass, Twitter | @WayneGlass1, Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/wmglass2, and/or through E-Mail | wglass@macalester.edu. Feel free to reach out!