Introducing Abundant Academy
Abundant Academy: Emerging with new life and perspective for our new times
We are living not only through a Covid19 pandemic but also a cultural epidemic of overwhelm. Socially, we are learning how to protect ourselves against the CV19, but we remain wholly exposed to the overwhelm!
Our society admires busyness: we feel bad if we are not productive, we treat perfectionism as though it is a virtue, we feel like ‘imposters’ in our own territory, and we wear exhaustion almost as a badge of honour.
These behaviours are almost (and sometimes actually) killing us, and the irony is that more than ever we need energy and vision, not fatigue and stress, to respond to immense global challenges.
‘every day, the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, “This is important! And this is important!...You need to worry about this! And this!...” And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart and say, “No. This is what’s important”’, Iain Thomas
The University of Edinburgh Chaplaincy is launching the ‘Abundant Academy’ because we want our students and staff to thrive rather than deplete; to find vitality and belonging instead of trying to ‘push-on-through’ and ‘do it all alone’. We believe that our University community can create cultures of flourishing rather than of burnout, and can have the vitality and prescience to respond ingeniously to challenges. Abundant Academy courses and resources are designed to help us keep a topped-up well of intellectual, emotional and spiritual strength, and to grow a community of support, reflection and collaboration, out of which so much becomes possible.
Reports from the past two years show that 1 in 4 students experience mental health issues at university, and that university staff are also suffering an ‘epidemic of poor mental health’. Covid19 pandemic and lockdown have further affected the mental health of adults and young people, and responders are training for higher-than-usual levels of mental strain, trauma, uncertainty and loss. The world is also waking up to racial injustice in deeper ways than before, the climate crisis goes unabated, and we are questioning of old ways of doing things.
‘We have been going too fast for too long; we are waiting for our souls to catch up’, African story
As international, interdisciplinary leaders in teaching and research, universities are ideally placed for responding to these challenges with insight, creativity and energy, so long as their people are not overcome. In order to respond effectively to our societal and global challenges, and to thrive at the same time, we need an informed and supportive framework for maintaining our mental wellbeing and all-round vitality, and to replenish continually our intellectual, emotional and spiritual strength.
The Abundant Academy ethos, resources and courses are created specifically to move us from depletion to replenishment, from frenzy to reflection, and from ‘over-thinking’ to realisation. They reflect an understanding shared across ancient religious and philosophical traditions, and taken up in contemporary leadership research, that we can experience abundance in our lives, and therefore also in our studies and our work.
‘I came that you might have life, and have it abundantly’, Jesus
‘too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car…a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel’, Ben Sweetland.
Abundance is an organic image of growth, fruitfulness and harvesting. As organic beings, we may find ‘abundance’ a more resonant, communal, and uplifting concept than the industrial language of efficiency, productivity and output, which belong to mechanisation.
Even the notion of ‘work-life balance’ feels a little boxy, mechanic and shaky, and to be honest, like another thing we are told to achieve! Rather than pitching life and work opposite one another in precarious equilibrium, wouldn’t it feel better to move with genuine and deep-rooted ease and flow between all areas of our lives?
‘Abundance’ connotes a richness and vitality that goes beyond ‘sustainability’ or even ‘resilience’. We have abundance already within us, so the Abundant Academy is doing what all good education does: drawing out that which is within; that which waits to be discovered and developed. Living with the experience and anticipation of abundance helps us to find the spiritual and mental spaciousness that affords a sense of plenitude, generosity and possibility.
‘Living an abundant life…starts with a raise in consciousness and spreads from there’, Regina Brett
‘If you want to awaken all of humanity, awaken all of yourself’, Lao Tzu
‘The glory of God is a human being fully alive’, Irenaeus
Community and Belonging
The University seeks ‘to foster a welcoming community’, to which staff, students, alumni and friends feel proud to belong, and to be ‘a place of transformation and of self-improvement, driven to achieve benefit for individuals, communities, societies and our world’.
‘Community doesn't just create abundance - community is abundance’, Parker Palmer
Abundant Academy courses and resources will create welcoming spaces, and communal support, for self-improvement, and personal and cultural transformation. They are designed to enhance our perspective, and train us in habits of replenishment, reflection and collaboration, so that we can move from overwhelm, freneticism, and feeling stuck, to refreshed and thoughtful momentum and fruitfulness.
Illustrations by Geoffrey Baines, Thin|Silence