Growth & Direction through Reflection

by Sofia Al Balkhi

At our Winter Retreat:

Graham (left), a Waterloo coop student volunteering for a placement with us this term, relaxing with a fun icebreaker.

Throughout the weekend we each shared our spiritual journey story. In this closing exercise, we talked about the connections we noticed.

We met Sofia 2 years ago when Open Circle invited science and medicine-related clubs to partner in planning an event for the many students at McMaster who are pursuing a career in medicine (and who are often very stressed about it!). Rather than the typical guidance on GPA or other requirements for getting into Med school, we initiated this event to encourage students to think about:  What kind of person do you need to develop into in order to care for the health of others? How do you discover who you are and stay true to yourself? How do you make decisions about your life path that are authentic to who you are, rather than basing your decisions on status and the expectations of others? 

The first time I was exposed to self-reflection was when I found out about Open Circle through getting involved in the “So you want to be a Doctor?” event.  After that, I did some reflecting from time to time and I discovered that there are some questions which were really difficult to answer and some that I was too scared to ask. Being honest with myself is more difficult than it sounds because it means that I have to accept an answer that might not fit the picture I hoped for.

So, this year I decided to take the “Personal Discovery Course” offered by Open Circle to help me tackle some of the questions that I had difficulty asking and answering. This experience has been very helpful and I’ve been able to decode my values, dreams and career aspirations. With meditation, I became more open to the ideas and thoughts that would arise. My journal writing also became more honest and tolerant of unexpected answers. I was able to learn a great deal about myself. I learned that I have a strong desire to make a meaningful contribution to people’s lives. I want my job to be rewarding but I also need a challenge that will keep me interested and engaged. I realized that I have a great curiosity for the etiology, treatment and care of diseases. For many years, I considered pursuing a career in medicine but reflection allowed me to recognize that I am choosing this path because it complements my values and I realized that I can accept the sacrifices that I will have to make in other aspects of my life should I continue in this path. Through reflection, I was able to explore other potential alternatives and I ultimately came to peace with my decision to pursue a career in a very demanding field.

Reflection also allowed me to think through any personal or work related conflicts. I was able to weigh different perspectives and reach decisions based on reason and respect for others. These decisions were not emotional reactions; instead they demonstrated thoughtfulness, and understanding. As a result, I’ve been able to build strong relations and friendships. I use the writing process as a tool to help me achieve inner peace since I am able to express my thoughts and views without fear of any consequences. I find that writing is a form of release and once I am done reflecting, I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my chest. Reflection helps me cope with stress but I also enjoy writing about moments in my day that make me feel appreciated, loved, and respected. I am very grateful to Open Circle because over the past few years, I have started to grow into the person I want to be and lead a more spiritually fulfilling life.