I Am Grateful

Shunmathi and other students washing dishes

by Shunmathi Shanmugam, student leader

Above photo: Shunmathi (middle), enjoying a moment of spontaneous laughter while doing chores together at a weekend spiritual retreat. As a student, Shunmathi has been very involved in helping to plan and lead activities. Now that she’s graduating, we’re very excited to welcome her back as our new Intern assistant! She will be be helping to organize our weekly volunteer groups, assisting at our leadership training sessions this coming year, while continuing her learning about community development and creating safe spaces for reflection. You can hear more of how she has grown through her involvement in Student Open Circles in this video

I am grateful to the Student Open Circles community for so many experiences and teachings.

I am grateful for all the people who are a part of the community because they taught me what it feels like to be part of a community that values diversity, safety, openness, and respect and who meaningfully engage in consistent dialogue on what it means to hold a safe space for others and yourself.

I am grateful for all the Becoming Yourself Series courses and spiritual companioning sessions because they taught me what it looks, sounds, and feels like to be deeply honest with myself about my needs, values, boundaries, dreams, curiosities, and questions - and to gather the courage, compassion, and strength to move forward.

I am grateful for weekly reflection circles, especially creativity and meditation circles, because they offered me spaces to explore new contemplative and spiritual practices in a safe social setting with my peers. I cherish what I have learned. I have seen how just 50 minutes of quiet time each week can transform my presence, my relationships, and my service to the diverse communities I love. I trust I will return to these practices as the years unfold, knowing that they are there for me to use and grow from when I need it. 

I am grateful for the Open Circle retreats because they offered a depthness to reflection, spiritual practice, and social connection that I had never experienced before. They taught me what it means to live fully committed to daily reflective and spiritual practice and how precious, and important, the gift of conscious listening is. 

I am grateful for the leadership training and event planning meetings because they taught me that it is possible to plan meetings and workshops with mindfulness, heartfulness, laughter, and with a consensus-based approach - who ever knew it was possible?! I didn’t for a long time. 

Since my very first Becoming Yourself Series session, I felt accepted and a sense of belonging whenever I attended an Open Circle reflection circle, event, planning meeting, or a course. These experiences were, and continue to be, life-giving and nourishing, especially when I found myself lost, disoriented, and tensed throughout my body in the vast rocky territory of what we call the university experience.

A heartfelt and warm thank you to each SOC supporter for your generous support over the years. It means so much to me that Open Circle continues to exist, thrive, and serve as a community, especially for the last few years in the pandemic. All your contributions and support are a large part of that important story.