Studying a PhD with a difference makes a difference

Studying a PhD with a difference makes a difference

Right from the get go of meeting Serge Benhayon I realised there was more to life than meets the eye, and that I was far more sensitive to life than I had chosen to see.

The way I was living my life was having a detrimental effect to my own wellbeing, and was also having a knock-on effect on the quality of my work. I realised I now had the choice to make changes and I learnt that to be a student of The Way of The Livingness is to learn to live life in a way where I honour myself in a world where there are many so-called ‘normal’ ways of living, but to claim for myself what was my normal in amongst this.


After a few years of studying The Way of The Livingness I became aware there was a PhD study to undertake, one of my own pathway, where I chose to learn about life and let my body show me the way, inspired by the teachings of Serge Benhayon.

A study where I could share with others what I was learning as The Way of The Livingness was too great not to share with humanity, it is pure gold – gold that I realised was not my gold, but all of our gold, for us all to share.

At this time I was particularly inspired by this quote that Serge shared in an email:

‘The true delivery of service begins first by delivering that same service to self in every way, and to all others by the same manner, that are within the group, before any organisation can truly serve’ (Benhayon 2006).

The inspiration the quote offered was to consider taking care of self first, before serving others.


The overarching research question for the PhD study was – How is Self-Care at Work Developed?

I knew to my bones that this PhD study could not be studied through the old way I used to study (pushing my body, not taking care of myself). This was an opportunity to learn to study not from my mind but to learn to study from my body, and this was part of my learning throughout the PhD. This in itself was a game changer.

I explained at the outset to my PhD Supervisors that the PhD was not the ‘normal’ PhD as it was about a lived experience and part of it would be written in the first person, with real experiences and stories. A few academics said this would be difficult for me to accomplish and went through the ‘rules’ of the game to get a PhD. They sent me reams of papers to read as to how a PhD ‘should be’. My whole body felt disturbed by this; I knew I would not be able to ‘do the PhD’ in that way. I knew that while I did the PhD I needed to make self-care my foundation as there would be no lived integrity in the PhD if I wrote about self-care without learning to live in this way while undertaking the study.

The PhD was a 6-year study with other participants (volunteer colleagues) who agreed to experiment along the way with me with self-care in a range of different work settings. The findings of the study showed clearly that not only was self-care possible but that when we do self-care the quality of the way we work and the work we do is vastly improved.

A first draft of the write up of the PhD got knocked back by academics saying it ‘wasn't academic enough’ yet I knew deep down there was a way to present it simply and still get a PhD, so I persisted with support from a few wise colleagues. I rewrote 80,000 words in a few weeks, structuring my days to ensure that as well as working during the day, and writing the PhD, I rested, ate nourishingly, hydrated well, didn't override the need to pee, and looked after my posture. My PhD Supervisors were touched by the quality of the re-write and encouraged me to submit the PhD as soon as possible. In my experience it is unusual to have written it up using personal stories and reflections in the way it was written and to get the ‘nod’ to ‘submit the PhD straight away.’

At one point just prior to completing the PhD I attended a research conference in Oxford to present the PhD. The amphitheatre was stacked full of academics and I thought they would grill me on my research methods, but they didn't – they asked me questions about their sleep, about issues in their working lives, and things they found stressful in life; they asked me how I had made the changes I did, no one mentioned the research methods.

Doesn't this strike you as unusual? How many academic get-togethers openly discuss their sleep problems and don’t pick up on the ‘research methods’?

On the day I handed the PhD in I felt fit, well, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and the day after a close relative died who I had also been nursing for the previous months at the same time I was writing it up and working full time. And my body felt amazing… doesn't this buck the trend? How many people complete a PhD feeling fit, well, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed?

My academic supervisors and examiners were surprised at the quality of the PhD in that it met all the academic standards and was very solid even though it was written simply. One of the supervisors told me they had been struck by this ‘PhD’, as it had caused them to examine their own life and the way they were living. How many academics do this – feel inspired to make changes to the way they are living from reading a PhD?

I had the Viva examination with a number of academics/professors and one of them also said how the PhD had stirred him into action, so much so that he had been having dinner conversations with relatives and friends about going to bed earlier, about what they ate and that had inspired them to consider their own lives too. How often does that happen? That examining a PhD causes a stir in someone that they take the conversation to their own dinner table and contemplate the way they are living?

The PhD passed the Viva there and then (with a need only for a few minor grammatical/presentational and small changes). The examiners commented it was one of the most practical and simple PhD’s they had examined and one of them was so struck by it that he wanted to use it as an exemplar for other PhD Students and made it available to his PhD students immediately. How often does this happen – that a simply written PhD on Self-Care, written with stories and reflections, becomes an exemplar for all other of an academic’s PhD Students?

This brings me to another difference – something striking about the way we learn and develop. The teachings of The Way of The Livingness that Serge Benhayon presents are multi-dimensional and speak to the whole person, their whole body, in such a way that the simplicity cuts through the miasma of falsities, of false academic premises, and of constructions of the mind. Serge Benhayon and The Way of The Livingness are the ultimate sophistication that reach realms within us, and in our universe, way beyond that which any mind could consider.

The PhD was undertaken with the willingness to learn to study from the whole body and the openness to experiment and find a new way. It touched many that examined, supervised, read or were presented with it, and yet this PhD study only touched the very surface of the potential here of a new way of learning and living – the potential that Serge Benhayon lives every single day.

The Way of The Livingness makes sense as a way to study. It is a whole body experience and a way of learning to live in a life with its many images, ideals and beliefs by claiming the authority we feel in our own body to do it ‘our way’ and not the way that is often forced upon us by academic traditionalists and doctrines.

From this PhD experience, I have come to realise anything is possible even in the face of rigid rules, regulations and bureaucracy, and that we can make our own ‘normal’.

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