The Magic of Living with Purpose

by Marlene Malik

I discovered Student Open Circles as I headed into my first year biology lecture wherein I found myself exhausted and disillusioned by the endless stressors and often superficial norms of university culture. A poster on the bulletin board outside the hall showcased various reflection circles, one being a meditation session. I sporadically attended a few meditation circles, in complete awe that there were other people at McMaster interested in and committed to spiritual growth and cultivating self-awareness.

In my second year, I began volunteering with the Learning and Fun After School program for at-risk children in the Hamilton community through Student Open Circles. I had been fond of volunteering from a young age but had never given much thought as to why service, especially in your own community, was so powerful and meaningful. Each volunteer session ended with group reflections facilitated by a student facilitator and through these I found myself becoming increasingly comfortable with being vulnerable in sharing my thoughts and feelings and more aware of the significance of my experiences with the children. I continued to volunteer for the duration of my university career as I witnessed the positive impact of the bonds we developed with the children. It always felt incredible to direct my energies toward something so meaningful and to spend time with such kind, creative, and bright children.

I later completed a Personal Discovery Course facilitated by Marybeth during a time when I was reconsidering my values and the career I’d felt drawn to since I was younger. The reflection and work weaved into the course led me to learn so much about myself, the magic of living with purpose, and the amazing journeys that others were on. One lesson I learned on an experiential level was how the process of personal discovery is ongoing throughout our lives, wherein our potential for expansion into compassionate, aware, and luminous humans is as vast as we allow it to be.

In my final year, I joined the executive student team for Open Circle and found myself growing into an open, accepting, and unconditionally kind leader due to the positive influence of Marybeth, Jeff, and the other students I was fortunate enough to collaborate with.

The value Student Open Circles has brought to others and myself in our university and the Hamilton community cannot be overstated. In fact, I find myself limited by language in attempting to express the magnitude of subtle and profound ways in which I have been seen, heard, supported, appreciated, and transformed and in which I have had opportunities to be the same source of goodness for others. Marybeth and Jeff have been beacons of warmth, wisdom, conscientious leadership, and boundless support throughout my time in Student Open Circles. I am exceptionally grateful to have been a part of such a gorgeous community rooted in an appreciation and respect for our shared humanity and committed to creating a world with more depth, purpose, compassion, and reverence for all other beings.