Getting Comfortable in Graduate School, by Lynsey Rubin
Sitting in orientation just eight weeks ago with the entering Fall class of sixty-four people, one of my first impressions and delights about Southwestern College was of the humor, levity and creative aliveness in the group energy. Webb asked us to share about our strangest experience in Santa Fe to date, and as people stood to relay their stories we all laughed and warmed to each other through the feeling of amusement and lightheartedness. What a great first impression. Alongside the laughter I was aware, that first day, that my nervous system was relaxing. It was a first date–with a new group, school, future–and the fit was right. The warmth, intelligence and realness that exuded from the staff that was present, as well as from the new students, was heart opening and inviting. An invitation to go deeper, and we are.
One sure way to go deeper is to sit in circles. In all of my classes we show up and face one another in a circle of chairs. Our attention is not on a central point, figure or blackboard in front of us, but includes an awareness of each other and the group as a whole. It is exposing to always sit in circles. There are days I wish I could hide behind a desk, or in the back row. But the circle keeps us contained, and there are new ways to see and be seen within a circle.
Exposure can be a path to authenticity. I’ve noticed some teachers here swear, or eat their lunch in front of us, or share their own emotions and occasionally stories of their own struggles. This is not a school about hierarchy, rank, and call and response. It is a school about heart, courage and truthfulness. We are in good hands here, and as we open and explore there is little we have to offset or ferret out because our teachers show themselves, and in doing so make space for us to show up.
The implicit feeling world is respected here. In one class we watched a movie in a language no one could understand, directly feeling and being called forward by its tones and meanings without the filter of language to busy the mind. In another class we learned and shared about our families of origin by deciding we were either bears, owls, foxes or sharks. We get to explore our childhoods through quick impromptu crayon drawings. What soft ways to land inside of truths and feelings that are delicate and that are just beginning to know themselves.
Eight weeks in and the training wheels are already coming off. We have started a journey both carefully crafted and chartered by the founders, teachers, staff and philosophies of Southwestern and simultaneously a journey that is absolutely personal, unknown and full of our own promise.