Feeding Our Souls: A Reflection on Journey Week

By Leonie H. Mattison, Ed.D.

Journey Week, An Immersive Week of Learning and Connecting at Pacifica Graduate Institute, was held September 27 – October 1, 2023, and included a Wellness Day, a career fair, and a weekend conference entitled “When Deep Calls to Deep: Journeys of the Soul for a Culture in Crisis.” Dr. Leonie H. Mattison, Pacifica’s President and CEO, participated in Journey Week, giving opening remarks, engaging with and supporting faculty, and meeting alumni, community members, and potential students. The following are her reflections on an event that will become a yearly Pacifica tradition.

Leading up to Journey Week 2023, we lost two African-American academic female leaders in a sudden and untimely way, Dr. Orinthia T. Montague, President of Volunteer State Community College, and JoAnne A. Epps, acting president of Temple University. The effects of these losses were a reminder of what C.G. Jung discusses in Memories, Dreams and Reflections about the possibility of life after death: “Only if we know that the thing which truly matters is the infinite can we avoid fixing our interest upon futilities and upon all kinds of goals which are not of real importance.” This mythological wisdom helped me connect to a deeper part of myself and the lessons and mysteries that come from the grief that follows death.

Dr. Leonie H. Mattison giving opening remarks

One of the key lessons learned through my grieving process is the need to redouble my commitment to nourish my soul, make conscious choices, and live fully and authentically. Pacifica will increase access to our amazing education, training, and services, and also ensure they are affordable. It is a big vision, a scary, audacious vision. However, pursuing a high-quality graduate degree is often out of reach for many people living, earning, and serving in under-resourced communities. I was given this vision for Pacifica, and I hold myself accountable for it happening. So, I was carrying a sense of grief for the passing of Drs. Montague and Epps and shouldering the weight of my responsibilities. But I was also very excited to welcome potential students and the community, to give a sense of openness and welcome to let people know they belong here with us.

Emiliano Campobello at Wellness Day

On Wednesday, September 27, for Community Wellness Day, I found the universe had heard my heart’s desire for balance. The first presenters, Archana Lal-Tabak, M. D., and Jim Lal-Tabak, spoke about a tool called “Balance,” which is about taking care of the soul, pulling from wisdom traditions. The soul has unfortunately been vacuumed out of education. Journey Week took us back there as depth psychology scholars and reminded us why the education we offer at Pacifica is so critical for this moment. We met Emiliano Campobello, who performed a land acknowledgment and played his flute through my grief. At that moment, I felt understood for the tension I was carrying. I watched him move around the room, seeing the connection, vulnerability, and openness to receive.

Dr. Leonie H. Mattison greeting attendees of the career fair

On Thursday, the BEAM Career Fair by the Pacifica Graduate Institute Alumni Association had hundreds of alumni, vendors, community members, and potential students roaming our campus. That was energizing, and we all felt a sense of aliveness. In greeting people, I learned a lot about the region’s employers and how many rely on education to equip the next generation of therapists, leaders, and teachers. It became clear to me that society still values education. We met people who’d lived here for many years, but this was the first time they’d stepped on a Pacifica campus. Souls came together, charters for change, and new histories waiting to be written. We discussed the importance of where you are and that where you are matters to who you are. That’s why we’re here: to cultivate an inclusive environment where people feel they belong.

Dr. Leonie H. Mattison has attendees up and dancing!

The opening night, Friday, September 29, of the “Journeys of the Soul” conference was the full Harvest Moon, which I thought was a perfect way to begin. Autumn is one of my favorite seasons when the trees show us their influence over our routines and moods and remind us to make the most of our time. It gives us more awareness of our capacity as human beings. When I gave my opening remarks, I began with this quote by C. G. Jung: “My soul, where are you? Do you hear me? I speak, I call you—are you there? I have returned; I am here again. My soul, my journey should continue with you.”

We had invited a family who’d suffered severe trauma. They’d been carrying this traumatic experience for many years, and I could sense the mother realizing that she wasn’t the only one who’d experienced a trauma like this and didn’t have to carry it alone. We met students who rode their bikes from Los Angeles to be here. I wanted to dance for survivors, carry us, and release the pent-up energy we hold. So I took off my shoes and went up to the podium barefoot, as we did during my childhood in Jamaica, walking to fetch water every morning. It was our way of grounding in the earth. Other people in the audience also began to take off their shoes, and we danced like butterflies. I needed to call my soul back to my body, and I wanted the participants to know where their souls were and how they showed up in the moment. I shared with them that once I’m grounded in my being, I can jump into the potential paradoxes I face in my mission. So I invited them to close their eyes and let an image or symbol come to mind, a name, a vision of something meaningful. We had everyone jot down a word on a piece of ribbon, which we asked them to bring back on Sunday.

Dianne Travis-Teague, PGI Director of Alumni Relations; Dr. Jaiya John; and Dr. Thema Bryant, President of the APA

On Saturday, there was more dancing, laughter, and discussion of dreams. Dr. Jaiya John spoke about the soul and his experiences overseas, learning traditional knowledge, connecting with locals, and understanding the importance of those connections. He spoke to the depths of our souls, and his words rang true for many of us as audience members were left crying and smiling. By Sunday, we connected, weaving together, designing a masterpiece, and conversing with people with tears streaming down their faces because they finally felt they’d found a place to belong. When Dr. Thema Bryant, President of the APA and a keynote speaker at Journey Week, poured into us about taking care of ourselves, that it isn’t an option but a daily priority, I felt seen, heard, and ready to continue leading our organization.

We met students of color who’d been told not to come because Pacifica was not diverse enough, but they’d seen me speaking and came because they wanted to meet us. We had admissions interviews on the spot, the faculty were amazing at answering questions, and our admissions team gave great tours. It was a beautiful, soul-centered experience, with hearts letting go of their burdens and people listening and having conversations at a deeper level.

Dr. Leonie H. Mattison and Dr. Thema Bryant, in discussion

The first Journey Week ended beautifully on Sunday with a soul circle. I shared my experience of my own trauma, donated my books to the audience, and we danced some more, went on the lawn, called in our ancestors, and centered our thoughts around what was important to us. We spoke to the ancestor that resonated most with us; we brought the ribbons from the start of the conference and attached them into one long ribbon we wrapped around ourselves. I was able to release what I was going through, the untimely deaths of these two presidents, and closing the chapter on my first year as Pacifica’s president. I needed to show myself compassion and grace because there were some moments when I didn’t feel like I fit in. Journey Week connected with people who love Pacifica and value who we are, which made my heart sing and let me know that we’re on the right track. I allowed myself to be present and fed. When you’re someone who does a lot for other people, it’s not always easy to receive. Journey Week taught me it was okay to allow my soul to be fed.

May you go in quest of yourself, and you will find yourself again only in the simple and forgotten things. —C.G. Jung

Dr. Leonie H. Mattison, Ed.D.
President and CEO of Pacifica Graduate Institute

Dr. Leonie H. Mattison, Ed.D, the fourth President, and Chief Executive Officer of Pacifica Graduate Institute, ushers in a new chapter as the first black female to assume leadership of the 45-year-old institution, with her term beginning in October 2022.

Dr. Mattison brought her extensive experience as a transformational, people-first philosophy to increase the impact of Pacifica. She will ensure Pacifica becomes a world-class institution that improves lives and communities through collaboration among students, alums, faculty, and staff. This starts with listening to the Pacifica community to ensure she can provide the highest-quality education to students and equip them with the tools to better the world. Since taking office, President Mattison has focused on engaging diverse voices on and off campus in conversation about Pacifica’s past, present, and future.

Born in Jamaica, West Indies, Dr. Mattison grew up learning from her mother, who taught her how to interpret dreams, and her grandmother, who taught her the power of turning imagination into reality through quilting. Moving to New York City in her teen years, she witnessed the potency of education to elevate people out of poverty and change lives, including her own. She earned a Master’s in Business from Georgian Court University and a Doctorate of Education in Organizational Leadership from Argosy University. Prior to Pacifica, she served as Chief Operating Officer of a community agency that provides education and support services for vulnerable Santa Barbara residents. Other leadership positions include adjunct professor and lecturer at Antioch University and Santa Barbara City College School of Extended Learning and Chief of Organizational and Talent Development at the County of Santa Barbara, where she was instrumental in developing the Employees University, an open-source university created through a partnership between the county and Santa Barbara City College that has provided high-quality training and cutting-edge leadership development for over 4,700 county employees.

She is the proud mother to her three daughters and a grandmother to one granddaughter. In 2018 she was recognized by the Pacific Coast Business Times as a 40 Under 40