I could not quite believe my eyes as I checked my master’s degree results online, just before I returned home to Ireland on my holiday in Canada. The college website read, “First Class Honours”.
I first shared the news with my cousin’s partner who responded by giving me a hug and declaring that my act of faith beared fruit – that is, I believed if I put the effort and time into the Applied Spirituality programme that something good would come from it. I then told my cousin the news and got another warm embrace.
The long road
This positive result meant so much to me because I was keenly aware of how hard I worked over a number of years to make it happen. I was originally accepted onto the programme in 2013, but I had to decline a place due to my poor mental health. I had plenty of ambition back then, but I needed to be patient with my condition.
Instead, I continued with a mental health recovery course at a college for people with disabilities and adjusted to an easier pace of personal development. I remained at the college for four years, progressing to an employability course where I participated in work experience and completed various related projects. I was also a student at a retail course where my concentration and critical thinking improved. I progressed to a better place in my mental health – more confident and grounded in meditation.
After a period of mainstream employment, I enquired about the master’s degree again. The director, a well-known spirituality scholar, suggested that I audit a contemplative psychology course as a means of preparation. This involved grappling the subject with other students, studying in the library and doing an assignment. Upon completion, I started the MA in 2017 and at that point felt on par with the other students’ development.
Over the past year, I wrote a spiritual autobiography, took part in practical exercises, journalled and submitted academic papers. I listened to feedback and adapted accordingly. I sought out support from the core staff who helped me to maintain a manageable study schedule and overcome any academic and personal hurdles. At one stage, my results showed that I was near the first class honours grade, so I dug deep and persevered with regard my research dissertation. It was all worth it when I made it across the finishing line.
Other fruits on top of my academic success included a competence in writing about spirituality and mental health, an integration of my inner and outer life and an improvement in my reflective process.
My sincere thanks go to all those who helped and assisted me this past year. These include my family, friends, programme staff, fellow students, work colleagues and ‘God’. I was deeply consoled when my colleagues and MA director presented me with a ‘high five’ card! Their comments and love provided me with plenty of momentum. Perhaps my next step will be to pursue a PhD in contemplative studies or contemplative psychology.
My heart strums with praise and my spirit rejoices as I contemplate such wonderful personal development! I am grateful that my greatest desires have been fulfilled in good time. To those who are early on in their mental health journey, know that you can achieve your dreams too – be patient and trust yourself.
If you want your heart to be on fire with a sense of mission and purpose, you need to truly appreciate and respect your journey – sometimes an arduous one. Try to enjoy each step and always be ready to burst out in praise: “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!”