001: Setting Intentions

001: Setting Intentions

March 4 2023, 7:16am. I barely had my eyes open when I turned on my laptop and stumbled my way to open a letter from SFU Graduate Studies.

There was my life before this moment. And there is my life after this moment.

It's been about two months since I received my PhD acceptance of admission to Simon Fraser University in Vancouver BC, Canada. And no, I do not have a reaction video like so many others you see on social media.

Completing a PhD has only been a recent aspiration of mine. Being raised in Sydney's most elite, academic environment (which was decided for me at a young age), I had come to despise learning because a) everyone around me seemed infinitely more intelligent and b) you could not force me to like learning if I did not like it in the first place. Growing up in an Asian household, the notion that a successful education was the key to freedom and happiness was woven into the fabric of daily life. It was a firm truth (one that I now know to be socially constructed) that was always elucidated to little me. However, I often found what I learnt in school to be useless for when I grew up or disinteresting. This was coupled with many personal challenges that was dealt to me in the game of life, with minimal support and understanding from those around me. I frequently scraped through with rote-learning.

It was not until after graduating from my Bachelor's degree did I discover philosophy through Hadot's 1995 work, Philosophy as a Way of Life. It ignited my curiosity and passion, making it feel as if my life force was coming into being. Learning was something that I would now voluntarily do, pouring my energy and time into texts on spirituality, ethics and human flourishing. It felt like the cosmos was gently nudging and helping me unfold parts of my inner self that I had suppressed through understanding philosophy as medicine for the soul. Fears, trauma, sorrow. All the arms of human suffering which I needed to face and work on to feel more at one with nature, equanimous and sangfroid. Shortly after this discovery, my postgraduate studies became a time of learning how to learn. Concomitantly, the process itself was the journey, as much of my academic research focused on applying philosophy as a form of inner work to improve my teacher wellbeing. Having this heuristic experience deeply transformed my inner ways of being in the world.  

Coming off the heels of this, immersing myself in doctoral studies would be a fitting way to continue this penchant for philosophy, education and human flourishing. If you had told me a couple years ago that this is what I would be doing in 2023, I would not believe you. But there were a handful of professors, mentors and close friends who could see my potential much clearer that I could earlier on. I thank them for their belief and support in uncovering this life path with me.

Sometimes it helps to write things down...most of the time it helps to shepard clarity into my intentions. My point here is to let you, the reader, know that I am positioning this PhD experience as a monastic endeavour, one which I can direct my energy towards attending to the human dimension of teaching which calls for a way of heartfulness. By choosing to be part of a faculty and program which educates the whole person – body, mind and spirit – I can purposefully and ethically contribute to society by continuing to do the inner work on myself first.

Every now and again, I will document my musings and reflections, creating a compendium of my time in Vancouver. Stay tuned for what's to come.

If you would like to show your support, feel free to buy me a coffee! ☕