Googling for Guidance: the Story Continues…

by Elise Desjardins, Open Circle Student Leader

When I first discovered Open Circle I had been going through a difficult journey, unsure of my changing values and the growth I was experiencing. I had gone to Catholic school for 14 years and had always considered myself ‘religious.’ The values that had once guided me during that period of my life no longer resonated with me. I didn’t really have direction, but I was searching.

At the time I didn’t know what I needed to find, so in a state of wild frenzy at 2 a.m. as my sleeping roommate snored, I googled the words “McMaster spiritual guidance and reflection”. Or something along those lines. I had no idea what I would find. I remember thinking, “You are probably the first person to ever put those exact words into Google. The search won’t come up with anything.” But it did, I discovered spiritual companioning with Marybeth and Jeff. I emailed her two minutes later, I can only imagine that she doesn’t get emails very often at 2 a.m., but she responded the next day and we met later that week.

As I’ve reflected on that evening over the past few years, I’m able to see now what I couldn’t then. I needed a new way of looking at my relationship with a spiritual being. I needed a new way of directing the personal growth that I was living so that I could become the human being that I was meant to be. I needed to direct my passion by becoming involved in a social justice issue that mattered to me. I needed a community of people who valued reflection, awareness and growth.

I’ve learned that even if there are no right words to articulate what I need, simply asking is enough. Life knows and so does a deeper part of myself that I trust more and more every day. I am thankful every single day that I was brave enough to ask that evening. And that somehow life knew what I needed.

Open Circle is a space that is so sacred to me. This is a community of souls, and I say souls and not people or individuals because we connect and share at the soul level, and that difference has shaped me so much as a human being. As an inclusive space, I’ve learned to embrace diversity, to disregard the reality of prejudice that colors our vision in society. The abundance of varied personalities and cultures and spiritualties is refreshing and offers new perspectives. As a community of souls, we nurture awareness, respect, compassion, a willingness to be authentic, and a desire to be of service to those in need. The intention to live out these values doesn’t end when our meetings do. This type of change makes waves in the broader community, as Open Circle members encourage these values in other clubs, courses, jobs, and in the city of Hamilton.

Over the past two years, I have attended the Creativity Circle led by Marybeth every week and have facilitated a meditative art activity once or twice. Open Circle weekly reflection circles are wonderful not only because of the diversity of students that participate, every week (more or less) and make the space feel safe. This allows me to feel comfortable in my own skin. This is something that I have struggled with a lot over the past three years. To be comfortable in my own authenticity, not to judge it or wish it were different, but to embrace it. And then to let others see me. I still struggle every day. But being part of Open Circle and having a community of souls who welcome my authenticity gives me courage. I live with the intention to be aware, authentic, kind, open and of service to others because I have grown with Open Circle.

Life can rarely be simplified as ‘Before’ and ‘After’, but the gradual change and growth that I experienced is definitely rooted in the community that I have found in Open Circle. If I’m being honest, I chose to come to McMaster because there was something about this campus and this city that resonated with me. It instantly felt like home. I’m not studying exactly what I would have wanted to because it wasn’t offered at McMaster, but close enough. I had to be here. I had to live here and experience this community. Three years ago, I didn’t know why. I do now.