This week on “Mindful Path to PhD,” let’s talk about gratitude. Graduate school is full of challenges and obstacles, but it’s also a time full of growth and opportunities. Eduction is a privilege, but when we find ourselves facing difficulties we have a tendency to take things for granted. Mindfulness meditation, in my experience, has been like a beacon of light in the darkness, one that reminded me of the balance in life. Without darkness, we cannot appreciate light; without running, we cannot appreciate walking; without obstacles, we cannot appreciate a clear path ahead.
My practice of mindfulness has reminded me to appreciate the challenges that I have faced in graduate school. Each year of graduate school, so far, has presented its own obstacles. The first year was all about settling in and trying not to feel like a newbie (new school, new people, new lab or projects). During the second year, stress often begins to build around the occurrence of qualifying exams and the steep learning curve that may come with new thesis projects. Then the “3rd year slump,” as it’s most often endearingly referred to as, hits. In the 3rd year of a PhD, you feel far enough along in your projects that experiments should be yielding usable results, but this is still often the time when things aren’t working. The 3rd year of my PhD was a time full of difficulties and consequently, growth. I was often doubtful and lacked confidence, especially when facing “failed” experiment after “failed” experiment. However, I persevered during my 3rd year of graduate school. I learned to take time for myself, and I began to develop a work-life balance to stave off burnout and maintain healthy relationships with my family and friends.
I’m beginning my 4th year of graduate school, and I am grateful for the opportunity to pursue higher education. In science, troubleshooting and optimizing experiments is the nature of the beast. However, how you react to situations is a matter of perspective. Mindfulness has allowed me to adjust my perspective to one that brings curiosity and acceptance to the challenges of completing a doctoral thesis. I hope you may all find your own sense of gratitude and appreciation for something that has brought balance into your life.
“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” – Rumi