Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Gift of Education

A guest post from Lorraine Casey, Continuing Studies' student.
I had the unique opportunity to attend university, in that my mother had signed over her Residential School Education Credits to me. She was genuinely happy and excited for me in my endeavours as I was the only one in my family who had not received any post-secondary education.

I have absolutely loved attending Royal Roads University. What a great site – it even has a castle for heavens sakes (!!!), scenery galore, beautiful gardens, a little waterfall, waterfront property one can sit at and enjoy one's lunch, and of course those beautiful peacocks.   Prior to enrolling at Royal Roads, I had checked online courses offered at UVic and Camosun, but found navigating their websites confusing and frustrating. I was so happy to find a Royal Roads University Continuing Studies catalogue at the library (a hard copy!), easy to follow, every bit of information I needed was right there, and that is what sold me on RRU.  Once enrolled, I found the staff so very helpful, cheerful with a genuine caring attitude. One could just feel the positive energy here.

My goal had been to obtain a Professional and Applied Communication Skills Certificate, for which I required eight courses. I had the first five classes with no problems, but then because of low enrolment, several of my classes had been cancelled and a couple re-scheduled; and I was getting concerned that I'd only get seven of the eight courses I needed. But with continued assistance from Tess Wixted and from Dr. Hilary Leighton, I was very excited to reach my goal!  May 26th was both an exciting and a sad day for me – exciting because I reached my goal and obtained my Communications Certificate, and sad because my course was complete and it would be my last day RRU.

I have had the best time – a definite High point in my life.

Thank you Mom, Tess and Hilary! :)


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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Mindfulness and Horse Time

A guest blog from Rebecca Bosma, a staff member here at Royal Roads University and a student of our recent course, Mindfulness and Horses.

Friday after work I changed into jeans and boots and headed to Mary’s Farm and Sanctuary. I stopped at Goldstream Park for a short walk because I was so early. The majestic old cedars, the sounds of the river and a family of Canada geese put me into a calm mood and ready to learn what Mindfulness and Horses would offer. The workshop description was a little vague but I trust Royal Roads University to offer experiences that are transformative in some way or another.

The location in itself is enough to put you in a peaceful state…. a sanctuary indeed. 30 acres of cared-for nature, sloping down Mount Finlayson to Goldstream River. A beautiful senior cat greeted each participant with a gentle face and responsive meows. Some chickens foraged about freely and I could hear the horses in the barn. Down a gentle slope two llamas and two goats resided in a generously sized pen, showing some interest in the new visitors as we arrived.

Oriane Lee Johnston was the first to welcome us and when Mary Rostad joined us we went into the tack room for introductions and an overview. Then we walked across to the “meditation stall” and sat on bales of hay (and blankets) while we focused on our breathing and sense of place. Then it was time to meet the horses, but not to touch them… just stand by them and breathe with them. That was new. It felt respectful. A coffee/tea break and then we walked down into the 10 acre field. So picturesque; 10 acres of tidy horse field, a pond, a healthy garden, and happy animals both domestic and wild. I had the feeling of being protected by the beautiful mountains surrounding this sanctuary. We stood within a horseshoe of logs waiting for the horses to be led into the pasture while holding a calm space for them and imagining that we were a herd as well. The horses were happy to join us in the vast pasture and seemed to have no concern with our presence. We watched them graze and interact, while we tried to guess which horse was the herd leader. Then we changed our mindset from calm to excited and waved our arms around and made some noises like cheering and loud wind. The horses noticed this and moved quickly away! When we stopped walking towards them and went back to our calm state, the horses stopped moving as well and continued their grazing, once again unconcerned with our presence.  For them, the alarming moment was over. They just got back to grazing.

We checked in again back at the tack room and Oriane shared a quote by Coleman Barks from Essential Rumi that set a comfortable tone for the workshop (mini-retreat): “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there”. Driving home on Friday night, I realized that I had slowed down… not just my driving speed, but my mind. It felt like time had slowed down, like I’d been at the farm for several hours, not just two. I had to focus on keeping up to the speed limit and my mind felt so calm. I was not worrying.. about anything!

On Saturday morning we met in the tack room to check in about how we felt last night after leaving and how we were feeling that morning. Many of us felt more aware and mindful of how we really felt, not how we wanted to feel or thought we should feel, but how we really felt. We were encouraged to bring our authentic selves and to recognize our feelings. We would not be processing any of the feelings that arose for any of us, but were told to just recognize the feelings and let them be. Our caring facilitators made us feel safe.

We started the day off with a Ten Points and Earth Descent Meditation beside the horse pasture. The horses seemed slightly interested that we all laid down in the grass. Then we were sent out into the pasture to find a spot to just be for 20 minutes or so.  I sat on a huge old log and soaked in the scenery and sounds and fresh clean smell of the air. I saw a snake but it was the blue feather near it that had originally caught my eye, the snake moved silently through the grass away from me. After our reflection time we went back to the barn and gave the horses some treats of apples and carrots before enjoying our own packed lunches. I shared some broccoli and parsley from my lunch with the llama; he rejected the radishes. After lunch we did a Tree Meditation and there was no lack of magnificent old trees from which to gain energy from. Then we broke into pairs and took turns doing different activities with the horses. The last exercise I participated in was interesting. My first role had been to simply observe and hold space for them (the facilitator, the other participant and the horse). They were trying to engage with the mare in the ring and she was a bit standoffish. After 10 minutes or so, she showed an interest in connecting with me and came over to stand against the fence that I was standing on the other side of. I thought peaceful thoughts and she stood while the other woman walked over and hugged her for awhile. I felt trusted and honoured that the horse had asked me for help by simply connecting, perhaps asking me what they wanted and maybe I thought back to her… they just want a horse hug… because who doesn’t?

There was some reflection time and then we met in the tack room again for closing. We all felt we had experienced some healing and definite shifts in our awareness… our mindfulness. Personally, I have a new place to think of when I feel a need to connect with myself. I think of the sound of horses contently munching on hay, the wind in the leaves (audible because of the general quietness), the free roaming hens clucking away and a feeling of peace – for humans and animals and nature.

Rebecca Bosma is Administrative Manager for Centre for Coaching and Workplace Innovation at Royal Roads University.

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Hurry up and retire - you're ruining my career prospects!

A guest blog by Continuing Studies facilitator Lee Anne Davies.

Lee Anne Davies
Does the title of this blog make your blood boil?  How dare ‘they’ suggest that it’s time for you to retire!  You have so much to offer your organization and you don’t feel ready to retire.  After all, Hillary Clinton at age 67 has just tossed her hat into the ring for the presidential nomination.  Governor General David Johnston is 73 years old and recently accepted two more years on his term as the Queen’s representative.  It’s a long list of people, past the traditional retirement age of 65, who continue to contribute in the workplace at optimum levels.  Living longer may mean it’s an economic necessity for most of us to continue to work well into our seventies.  If this is the case, there are ethical, physical and financial considerations we need to confront.  Most organizations are not ready for the older worker.

On the other hand, you may be nodding your head in agreement, wondering when those baby boomers will get out of your work place and stop blocking your career progress.  The boomers are blocking senior positions with higher salaries and greater responsibility.  The aging of the work force is entirely unfair and you feel it’s time for those boomers to take their pensions, their fortunate timing in the escalation of real estate values, and to move on with their lives.  Young professionals are having great difficulty accessing career-path positions.  This delays their entry into full adulthood at the same time when they are burdened with unprecedented levels of student debt.  It’s the millenial’s turn to be a major player in the work force, deploying new techniques with modern technology and modern insights.

Older workers is a topic that is sure to elicit many opinions – whether the older person is in paid or volunteer positions.  Some will feel that these older workers are taking opportunities away from the younger generation, who are having great difficulty at breaking into the workplace.  Others will feel that without older workers our health care costs and other government benefits will no longer be sustainable because the number of workers per retiree is decreasing rapidly (this is the dependency ratio). 

Regardless of your point of view, older workers are increasing in number in both paid and volunteer positions.  This requires new considerations in workforce management including health-related job performance changes such as the early stages of dementia, elder care issues, lack of financial preparation for retirement, inter-generational conflict, grey-divorce and access to company benefits.  The opportunities offered by older workers include an increased ability to see the big picture, patience working through familiar issues, corporate memory and a willingness to mentor others. 
The economic implications of older workers or young retirees is vast.  The social implications are even more complex.  With ten million Canadians turning 65 over the next 20 year period there is no time like the present to consider the question – ‘what happens to Canada if we don’t encourage older workers?’.


Lee Anne Davies has a PhD. in Aging, Health, and Well-Being, and an MBA in Information Technology Management. Her company, Agenomics, analyzes the risks of an aging population. Along with years of experience working in the financial sector for insurance, wealth management, banking, and financial education companies, Davies is also a sought after speaker, including TEDxVictoria, national newspapers, radio and TV. She is the co-author of the book When Life Bites You in the Wallet: Taking Control of Your Finances

Join her April 30 for Agenomics: Older Workers on the Rise at Royal Roads.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Return to Royal Roads

A guest post from Continuing Studies facilitator Julie DuBose.

There are definitely benefits to returning multiple times to the same place to take or teach a contemplative photography course. The first time we come to a new place, we engage in the unabashed pleasure that comes from being in a visual playground with our favorite toy. It is like picking low hanging fruit from the trees. Every place has its textures, colors, style and design of architecture, quality of light, and ordinary phenomena, presented in unique combinations. In retrospect it always seems almost ridiculous how pleased we are to be let out of our backyard, released from the ordinariness of our everyday lives. We can laugh at ourselves because we have seen this whole thing before. The newness is like a feast of new flavors arranged for us to sample and enjoy.

The second time we visit the same place, everything is different. We hope we can experience the same excitement as the first time, so we are always a little let down to find there is a quality of sameness to what we are revisiting. The easy discovery of new phenomena is now not so accessible. We wonder why we didn’t go somewhere else this time. In the case of Royal Roads, the temptation to photograph a peacock in a new pose is not very compelling.

 Since I have seen this whole thing replay many times in my photographic past, I have learned that there is a way through it. In fact, Making Contact, the second course in our curriculum, offers a way through this boredom and restlessness. Michael and I have realized over time that this uncomfortable state is the best opportunity of all, the time we can really transcend entirely our database of previous experience.

I find I can just appreciate something I have photographed before, and while feeling pulled by the impulse to duplicate my previous successes, I notice the itch and I let it go. Many perceptions I have seen and appreciated before greet me once again, fresh, and vivid, and yet I recognize my perception as an old friend and walk by. As I let go of the desire to hold on to my previous experience, I begin to see more subtlety and experience more fully, deeply. I am more relaxed, and after a time I begin to feel like I’m almost floating freely through the environment without experiencing the push and pull of my mind as it tries to engage, judge, evaluate, calibrate, all of it. I expand my awareness beyond my sense of self into whatever is happening, abandoning my attitude about what I want and my doubt about whether I can do “it” or not.

 Then something new starts to happen. Everything, the world I see, and myself, opens up into gentle receptivity. I really don’t care much about anything particular, only being here, now, in this place, walking around, feeling the air, the ground under my feet, and touching the visual world with my being. This is the joy, the relaxation, that we all experience when we abandon our ideas about our worthiness, readiness, ability, why we can’t see anything we want to photograph. Each day we go through this sequence of wanting to see, getting frustrated and bored, then giving up and giving in, and finally experiencing deep pleasure in our visual experience.

Then we go back to our home. We wonder if we understood. And the next time we come back, everything is different. Because we did understand, but we didn’t even know conceptually what we learned. That is the conundrum. We learn without conceptualizing, but we do absorb the whole experience. We gradually learn the lesson that underlies the entire Miksang journey. There is no other moment.

So this time, when I return to Royal Roads to teach, I have no idea what I will see. But I have worn out my excitement about the heavenly Japanese gardens and all the spring flowers that will be reflecting in its waters, the European flower garden that will be in full bloom, and the brilliant display of male peacocks as they woo the females. I will be more humble, more open, and less ambitious. And I have no doubt that there are endless, previously unseen perceptions just waiting to be connected with in this wondrous place called Royal Roads.

 Photos by Julie Dubose; all rights reserved. This article was originally published at Miksang Life Blog.


Julie DuBose began her study of Miksang with Michael Wood in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1998. She has been traveling and teaching with Michael since 2000 and is a teacher of all Miksang levels. She founded the Miksang Institute for Contemplative Photography in 2009 in Boulder, Colorado and Miksang Publications in 2012. Julie lives in Lafayette, Colorado. Her first book, Effortless Beauty: Photography as an Expression of Eye, Mind, and Heart, was released in March 2013.

Join Julie this month for Miksang: Opening the Good Eye - An Introduction to Contemplative Photography, April 22-26.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Wild Cabbage

A guest post from Continuing Studies facilitator, Abe Lloyd.

The name Skunk Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) will never conjure up epicurean images of greatness but given my recent experiments with the young leaf stalks, I am encouraged enough to emphasize the vegetable epithet and leave out the “skunk.” Throughout our region, the young leaves are just emerging out of saturated soils, standing water, and slow moving streams. Within the next couple weeks, their yellow spathes will unfurl and add color to the wetlands.

I have been curious about the edibility of this plant ever since 1994 when my friend Owen fed me some Skunk Cabbage roots that badly burned my tongue and left me with sores for a week. I learned the hard way that raw Skunk Cabbage is NOT edible. However, Erna Gunther wrote in "Ethnobotany of Western WA" that the Skokomish steamed and ate the young leaves and the Quinault roasted the white part of the [leaf] stalks. The Quileute and Chinook also ate the roots (although I am inclined to believe that the white leaf stalks, which extend through the soil for several inches, may have been mistaken by ethnographers for the roots).

Using my hands to scoop away the soft wet muck around the young rosettes of Skunk Cabbage leaves, I was able to follow the emerging shoots 4-6 inches down to the root crown. The shoots that I dug up ranged from about ½ inch to 1 ½ inches in diameter and were as white as a leak stalk.

The roots (bottom) don't look nearly as good as the leaf stalks
I have experimented with both steaming and boiling the leaf stalks and found that boiling does a better job of rendering the stalks harmless. All parts of Skunk Cabbage contain crystals of calcium oxalate called raphide that painfully embed in mucous tissues. Boiling cannot destroy raphides but it may fix the crystals into a starch matrix that prevent the sharp points from damaging our soft tissues. Leslie Haskin wrote in her 1934 publication, “Wild Flowers of the Pacific,” that Native Americans in Western Washington cooked Skunk Cabbage roots with hemlock cambium and it is interesting to speculate if the starchy cambium provided additional substrate for binding raphides. Another matter of speculation is that raphides are most concentrated in the perennial roots and least concentrated in the new leaf growth, which may explain why the young leaf shoots were traditionally eaten. After boiling for about ½ hour in two changes of water, I only noticed a slight tingle on the sides of my tongue. The leaves have a mild flavor and substantial quality that is very similar to cabbage.

While I am still too inexperienced with this plant to give it my full endorsement, I am posting this account with the hope that other people who have eaten our western Skunk Cabbage (which is different from the Easter Skunk Cabbage, Symplocarpus foetidus) will share their impressions with me. If you are curious about experimenting with this plant, BE SURE TO COOK IT, only use the leaf stalks, and try a very small serving to see how you react to it before mixing it with other foods.
Chopped and ready to boil
Warning: In some parts of the continent, the deadly poisonous False Green Hellebore (Veratrum viride) also goes by the common name Skunk Cabbage. All parts of this plant are poisonous both raw and cooked.

Abe Lloyd has a passion for plants and indigenous foods that traces back deep into his childhood. He holds a Master’s Degree in Ethnoecology from University of Victoria and now works as the director of Salal, the Cascadian Food Institute. He is a professor of natural history at Western Washington University, ethnobotany at Whatcom Community College, and instructs courses related to wild foods at RRU. Abe actively researches, promotes, and eats the indigenous foods of this bountiful bioregion.   

Join him next month for Wild Edible Foods of Southern Vancouver Island, April 25 and 26. You too might discover the secrets of Skunk Cabbage.

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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Business Technology Certificate produces results

A guest post from our facilitator Dan Doherty.
When it comes to using office productivity software do find yourself doing something and think, there must be a faster way, but you haven’t the time or the knowledge to find it? Guided by the vision of instructor David Sudbury, Continuing Studies restructured its suite of MS-Office courses over the last few years from conventional feature-based courses to a comprehensive line-up of learning-centred application and procedural modules that facilitate development of knowledge, skills and values related to how to use software, and equally as important…how to learn software. This was done in response to labour market demand and through funding with Employment Skills Access (ESA), this became the Business Technology Certificate (BTC). Through this program learners “confidently use computer-based technology to perform business front-line and administration tasks.”

The secret sauce has two primary ingredients: 1) a facilitated community cohort model and 2) a focus on self-managed learning. People enter this program with a wide range of background skills and knowledge about computers, from neophytes to skilled users, for whom the technology has evolved greatly since their last use of it. Learners take responsibility for catching up on the basics or on forging out into advanced concepts, whichever meets their needs.

The program starts with a week in the classroom, where participants get to know each other’s strengths and learning needs. Once in the lab, the well-formed learning community serves as a base for advocacy and resource sharing, while instructor-led modules, learning plans, online modules and self-assessment provide the content and process structure. The two most recent cohorts were facilitated by two people passionate about learning and office productivity tools, Dan Doherty and Sabrina Shea.

A work shadow day is organized for the 6th week. This is where the truth about their learning is revealed. Participants are assigned to an office team at RRU or in a best fit situation in the community, to observe the use of computers in daily work tasks, or to pitch in and help with something that requires knowledge of MS-Office. The general level of knowledge about MS-Office features is either narrowly focused or shallow, so BTC participants find they can offer practical assistance to the team they are embedded with. They are often surprised to find that their new learning is the solution to a sticky problem that an employee has been struggling with or working around.

These students demonstrate a high-caliber of application during their final presentations. They employ the suite of MS-Office tools at a level not achieved by many professional users, such as PowerPoint slides with dynamic visual design, embedded audio and video, and integrated links to applications where they show how they produce results in each of the MS-Office programs, then seamlessly return to the slideshow. With skills like these they are ready to work, and make an immediate contribution to their team.