Category Archives: Sofia Faculty

Remembering Unity, Remembering God. Understanding Sufi Practice by Dr. Robert Frager

Robert Frager, Ph.D., founded the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, now Sofia University, where he directs the Master of Education program in Transformative Education. Ordained a Sufi sheikh in 1985, he is president of the Jerrahi Order of California. His books include Sufi Talks: Teachings of an American Sufi Sheikh (Quest Books, 2012), Love Is the Wine (editor), and Essential Sufism (coeditor).

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The goal of Sufism is to make us into real dervishes, real Muslims, and real human beings. These three are essentially the same. Our goal is to come closer to God, and that is the same in all religions and all mysticism. The major difference between our practice and the practices of other spiritual traditions is we follow the shariat, the rules and the ways of worship of Islam.

Every tradition has an outer form and an inner meaning. But the outer form means nothing without the inner. Jalaleddin Rumi has become the best-known mystical poet in the West. His Western readers often don’t realize that he was a devout Muslim and also a professor of Islamic law and Qur’anic studies. Rumi wrote that the outer form of Islamic prayer is of no value without inner understanding. Those who follow only the outer form of prayer, which includes frequent kneeling and touching one’s forehead to the ground, are like chickens pecking grain. And the chicken is smarter, because at least it gets something from its efforts.

Remember, these are the words of a deeply devout Muslim. He understood that the outer must be accompanied by the inner. This is our tradition. We follow the outer because we hope it guides us to greater understanding, and we keep working to understand and practice the inner as well.

Remembering God

One of the central practices of Sufism is zikrullah. Zikrullah means remembrance of God. It is remembering what our souls knew before we were born. Zikrullah also means repetition. Much of our practice involves repeating God’s Names, or Attributes. In the Holy Qur’an ninety-nine Names are mentioned, but God cannot be limited to any finite number of Attributes.

The first Attribute we repeat is la ilahe ilallah. This phrase literally means “There are no gods; there is God.” A common mistranslation is “There is no god but Allah.” This came from Christian missionaries, who believed there is no way to salvation except through their own version of religion. They thought that Muslims believed the same way and that we denied the truth of other religions, which is not true at all. In Islam there is acceptance of other prophets and scriptures. In fact we believe God sent down 124,000 prophets, one to every people.

La ilahe ilallah means Unity. Multiplicity is a delusion. There is one God, and God is Unity. This holy phrase means there are no truths, there is Truth; there are different realities, but only one Reality. There is nothing worthy of worship, except for the One who is worthy of worship. ThSudan_sufisese are only a few of the different layers of meaning of la ilahe ilallah.

The first half, la ilahe, “There are no gods,” asserts that all our conceptions of God are limited and distorted. Whatever we can imagine or say of God, God is far more than that. The second half, ilallah, tells us “There is God.” It reminds us God exists and God is beyond our experience and understanding.

In Islam we think of Allah as the most important Name of God. It is considered the “proper name” of God and, more than any other Name, it captures the essential nature of God. It is an essential part of our zikrullah.

We also repeat in zikrullah the Attribute “Hu.” This refers to God without attributes, pointing toward the essential, unnamable nature of God. It is considered by some Sufis to be a universal spiritual sound, similar to Om in the Hindu tradition.

We also chant “Hai,” which means “Life.” God is the essence of Life, and everything in creation vibrates with this Name. If anything ceased chanting “Hai,” it would immediately cease to exist. Every cell in our bodies is constantly chanting Hai. Our breath chants “Hai.” Tugrul Efendi, our head sheikh, commented that although we are all constantly chanting Hai with each breath, we are not aware of what we are doing, and so it is not worth much.

When we pray and when we practice zikrullah, we attempt to experience at least a taste of who we are meant to be. Rumi wrote that God formed human beings by putting an angel’s wings on a donkey’s tail, in hopes that the angelic part will lift the animal nature to something that is beyond both. It is an image that stays with me as a description of who we are. If we could remember the image, it would probably keep us from becoming too egotistical.

The Role of a Teacher

People often ask if we really need a spiritual teacher. Can’t we do it all ourselves? One answer is that it is very difficult to see ourselves clearly. We can see our trivial faults, for example our tendency to be a little short-tempered or the fact that we eat too much and do not exercise enough. But the deeper problems in our personalities are harder to see. Why don’t I trust more? Why can’t I keep my mind on my prayers?

There is an old Turkish Sufi saying, “You can bandage your own cut, but you can’t take out your own appendix.” The sheikh is there to help you with your appendix, with the major changes you are seeking to make in your life.

You need a spiritual teacher who has the wisdom and ability to guide others through their spiritual challenges. And the greatest challenges generally involve issues that we don’t understand clearly, so we need to trust someone to guide us through them.

Of course trust and authority can be misused. There are power-hungry teachers and naïve, passive followers. That happens in every spiritual tradition. In fact another old Sufi saying refers to this: “Counterfeit coins prove that real coins exist.”

One of the advantages of Sufism is the silsilah, or chain of teachers, of each Sufi order. This is an unbroken chain. Each teacher has been the student of a teacher of the previous generation. Good teachers do not allow their students to become teachers in turn unless the students have developed a certain degree of wisdom, self-control, and ability to guide others. Also, if a teacher begins making serious mistakes, word is likely to get back to other teachers in their order. So there are people who can try and correct that kind of problem. In other traditions, self-proclaimed gurus have done tremendous damage to their students. From our point of view, that is very dangerous.

Authority and power are always potentially dangerous. All spiritual communities are filled with imperfect members. No one here is perfect. Hari Dass Baba, a wonYanbaghi_LiKulli_Nafsinderful yoga teacher once wrote, “The ashram is designed to save you from the world. What will save you from the ashram?”

In our tradition it is much more demanding to be a dervish than to be a sheikh. At one level, a sheikh is only a position, although it is a position with serious responsibilities, and hopefully the sheikh receives divine help in fulfilling these responsibilities. A dervish, by contrast, is someone who always seeks to serve and to remember God. Those are major challenges.

There is a wonderful story about Rumi and his teacher, Shems of Tabriz. The two men are sitting outside having tea. Rumi’s wonderful writings have spread throughout the Islamic world and the number of his followers has increased tremendously. A man comes galloping in on horseback. He jumps off his horse and runs to Rumi. The man bows deeply and says, “The teacher you sent to us has died. Please send us another sheikh.” Rumi laughs and says to Shems, “Aren’t you glad he asked for a sheikh? If he asked me to send them a dervish, either you or I would have had to go.”

As I mentioned earlier, a Sufi order is traditionally referred to as a silsilah, or chain. I prefer the metaphor of a pipeline. Each sheikh is a section of pipe connected to the section before it. What flows through the pipeline is the blessing and the wisdom that flow from the great saints throughout the generations of Sufi teachers, all the way back to the Prophet Muhammad. What flows through the pipeline is not the sheikh’s. It is something that flows through each sheikh. My old Sufi master, Muzaffer Efendi, used to say, “If it comes from me, don’t take what I say too seriously. What comes from me personally is not worth that much. But if it doesn’t come from me but comes through me, then you should listen.”

Mysticism

Mysticism goes back to the dawn of human history. We forget that for thousands of years human beings have experienced and been inspired by the unseen world. The unseen world is not merely what people experience after death. It is here. We get too rational about religion and spirituality. Mysticism is not rational. It is arational, actually outside or beyond reason. Rationality can only take you so far. Years ago Huston Smith wrote that the rational approach is similar to the old anti-aircraft searchlights of World War II. The beam of light could only illuminate a tiny portion of the night sky. It is a very small part of the total. The vast majority of the sky is not illuminated, no matter how bright the beam is. Similarly, Western scientists think that the only reality is what they are illuminating in their rational searchlights, and that all the rest doesn’t exist.

We forget. Most of us have far too much education, and of the wrong kind. Modern education focuses almost completely on the head. It ignores the body, the heart, and the soul. We forget that there is a whole other world filled with different energies, blessings, and wisdom. These things are real.

One of the great blessings of hajj — pilgrimage to Mecca — is seeing other people from different parts of the wTurkish_whirling_dervishes_of_Mevlevi_Order,_bowing_in_unison_during_the_Sema_ceremonyorld, from very different cultures. Many of them had minimal formal education, and when they circle the Kaaba, which is also called “the house of God,” they don’t think that is a metaphor. They are circling the actual house of God. For them God’s presence is real. They are in a powerful spiritual state. Many spend their working days on their feet, herding, hunting, etc. They cut right through the crowds of people around the Kaaba. When I was on hajj, I was a little annoyed at first. I felt they were knocking everyone out of their way, but then I realized they didn’t care. It was not personal. They were in an inspired state, and if others weren’t, they couldn’t keep up. I felt tempted to give up my degrees and fancy education if only I could have the same kind of pure, concrete faith.

It is a balancing act. On the spiritual path we should never throw our rational minds away. God gave us intelligence, and we are supposed to use it on this path. It is an absolute mistake to fail to use discrimination and good judgment. But we should not use a certain kind of limited rationality to dismiss everything that is beyond rationality.

Ram Dass once said we are the closest to God when we are the most confused, because when we are confused, our opinions and theories do not stand between us and divine reality. 

Self-Control

We do have an animal nature, and there is nothing wrong with it. There is nothing wrong with a donkey. It is a wonderful creature, as are all animals. But we are not meant to be donkeys. We were born with other capacities.

We are meant to develop as human beings, especially to come to understand and control our egos. Some Sufi teachers have recommended we train our egos the way the Arab horses were trained. In the West we have a cruel and primitive tradition of “breaking” horses, breaking their spirit to make them docile. The old Western approach to child rearing was similar, symbolized by the phrase “spare the rod and spoil the child.”

The intelligent and compassionate way to train an animal or raise a child is through love, patience, and understanding — not through brutality and domination. Modern horse whisperers are highly effective because they understand horses. They guide horses rather than beating them. They shape a horse’s behavior by understanding how horses think and by understanding the basic patterns of equine behavior. The problem is usually the owner, not the horse. A well-known “dog whisperer” said, “I’ve never met a problem dog. I work with problem owners.”

We can work with our egos in a similarly patient and compassionate way. We can start by seeking to understand our egos. We were all self-centered as young children. It is a natural phase of human development, and ideally we grow out of it. But sometimes we don’t. Maturity and growth don’t happen automatically. It takes real effort to mature out of our basic narcissism. And, with so many things, we inevitably revert back to old patterns from time to time. Freud was absolutely right when he wrote about regression. At times we do revert to childhood patterns under pressure.

In working with our egos, we can tell ourselves it is OK to let go of some old patterns, patterns that made perfect sense when we were younger. Often we don’t need those patterns when we are older. Educating our egos is an art, and it requires consciousness and compassion.

I don’t believe in hair shirts or other kinds of extreme asceticism. Years ago one of my colleagues was the Jesuit director of novices for Silicon Valley. When he moved into the director’s office, he found several boxes in the closet. One had hair shirts, and another had whips and chains. So we arSyariah-thariqah-hakikah2e not that far from the medieval notion that we grow spiritually by physically torturing ourselves. I am convinced that this kind of asceticism is a gross distortion of healthy self-discipline, and does far more harm than good. In fact I doubt it does any good at all.

One reason to avoid asceticism is that the ego is so clever that we are likely to become proud. We say to ourselves, “I torture myself more than anybody else I know. I’m certainly the most spiritual and the most worthy person here.” Our egos will always appeal to our pride. We can’t educate our egos by this kind of immature behavior.

Gratitude

The great scholar and Sufi teacher Imam al Ghazzali writes about eating as an example of practicing gratitude. We take eating for granted. First of all, we have a hand with five fingers, including an opposable thumb that allows us to use utensils to bring food to our mouths easily. Do we ever reflect on what a blessing this is?

When we put a piece of food in our mouths, we grind it up with our teeth so we can digest it easily. Just as a farmer grinds grain, we grind our food. But grinding alone is not enough. If the food remained dry, we couldn’t swallow it. We would choke. God has also given us saliva, which moistens our food and begins to break it down in our mouths. We are also blessed with a working stomach, an extraordinary organ that digests all kinds of different foods.

Then the circulatory system carries the nourishment that comes from digestion to every cell of our bodies. Our circulatory system is truly extraordinary. It comes within a fraction of a millimeter of every single cell in our bodies. If it did not, those cells would die from lack of nourishment. We can also be grateful that we are healthy enough to digest our food, that we don’t have to take it in intravenously.

Al-Ghazzali also wrote that we should consider how our food gets to us. For example, the farmer plants wheat. The farmer’s work rests on hundreds of thousands of years of human agriculture. For how many centuries have farmers experimented with ways of effective farming? Agriculture does not happen automatically. Our agriculture is based on centuries of trial and error and the work of untold numbers of farmers. Unsung geniuses have figured out effective ways to plant, harvest, and prepare food. Human cultures have kept that wisdom and passed it from generation to generation. Without culture great ideas and inventions would have been forgotten. We take our culture for granted, but it is priceless. It brings us the wisdom of thousands of years and keeps the wisdom of the geniuses who are born every generation.

If the farmer puts the seed into hard clay, it will not germinate. Something has to break up the earth. We have learned to till the soil, preparing the earth to grow seed. This brings us to a whole set of other human achievements, such as the invention of metallurgy and the development of plows. Before that, early farmers learned to use digging sticks to break up the earth so seeds could germinate. Farmers today rely on sophisticated machinery, which developed as a result of the development of whole industries, from mining to electricity to the automotive industry. Then there is harvesting, grinding, and knowing how to prepare the wheat so we can digest it. We can’t eat raw wheat!

These are examples of human effort. Consider also the rain that God brings down. Without water the earth would be an arid desert. We also need the sun. Seeds will not grow in frozen earth.

When we consider what it takes for a seed of wheat to turn into a wheat plant, we see it is not a small thing at all.

Think about how grateful we should be for a piece of bread or a bowl of rice. God’s blessings are in everything we eat, and so are thousands of years of human history. Think of how many people are working today to manufacture the thousands of elements that go into the production of any kind of food.

We don’t worry about our food. We are blessed with abundance of all kinds. We take for granted the security we feel from having so much food in our homes. How many meals do we have at home? Think Roof_hafez_tombof all the food in our refrigerators and freezers, the canned foods and dry foods we have at home. Do we ever think to be grateful for the security this brings?

Most of us have never been truly hungry, except for the little bit of hunger we experience during Ramadan. We think that is a big deal, but during Ramadan we have a big breakfast before dawn and a bigger fast break after sundown. How about those who go days without eating, who worry about how they will get food for their next meal? This was the situation of many people for thousands of years. Even today many are starving, many are constantly worried about obtaining food for their next meal. Imagine the pain of parents who cannot feed their children.

We should also be grateful for our Sufi community. We have many others we care about and who care about us. Recently the dervishes in New York experienced days without power because of a major storm. Some of those without electricity moved in with those with power. Everyone gathered at their center for meals in the evenings, because the center has a gas-powered generator. The New York dervishes fed their neighbors as well, because most of the neighbors had no power. It is a tremendous blessing to be part of a generous and loving community, to have so many others we care about and who care about us. That is real wealth.

Let’s reflect in this way about how much we have to be grateful for. Some Sufi teachers have recommended that we feel gratitude with every breath. Muzaffer Efendi (God rest his soul) used to say that we can practice feeling gratitude three times with every breath — when we breathe in, between the in-breath and out-breath, and when we breathe out. With each breath we have three opportunities for feeling grateful, three opportunities for remembering God.

There are some who actually do that. It is helpful for us to know that this is possible, that a human being can attain that level of spiritual practice. We get lost in the world. We can counter that tendency through remembering la ilahe ilallah, which is to look at all that engages and attracts our attention and realize it is temporary, is not eternal. It goes in the blink of an eye. And then we can remember ilallah, there is that which is eternal, which is truly valuable, that which is beyond price, that which our hearts are all yearning for. We could use this formula to keep reminding ourselves.

There is nothing wrong with the world. Muzaffer Efendi used to comment that many Sufi teachers have said the world is bad, the world is our spiritual enemy and it distracts us from God. My Efendi would laugh and say, “That is not true . . . the world is our spiritual enemy if we put it between ourselves and God. The world does not insert itself in there. We put it in there. The world is our spiritual ally if we use it to remind ourselves of God, and if we use the world as an opportunity to serve. Then the world is an extraordinary spiritual gift.”

We are in the world to serve others and to serve all of God’s creation. Service is the practice of spirituality throughout our daily lives. Every time we speak with someone is an opportunity for service. That includes not o
nly interacting with people but with animals as well, and not only with living beings but with the earth, the air, and the water. It is part of our practice to serve all of creation. Our practice is to remember God as much as possible, in all circumstances, and to serve others, remembering God is in them. God is in everything in creation.

That is our goal — to be in the world and remember God. We are not monastics, and we don’t treat living in the world a s a second-rate spiritual choice. To us being in the world is a wonderfully rich, rewarding, and demanding spiritual practice.

We are different from the angels in that we have the capacity for failure. Angels are structured so that they are always in a state of remembrance; they are always seeking to carry out God’s will. We, on the other hand, can fail. And this makes our successes much more valuable. My teachers have said that a human being who is self-centered and narcissistic is lower than the animals. The animals do love in their own way.

A human being who learns to love God and serve God’s creation is said to rise higher than the angels, because that achievement is done through human effort and choice, as well as through God’s blessing. When we pray and perform zikr (remembrance) we are experiencing ourselves as the people we are meant to be.

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When Worldviews Clash – 9 Ways Dr. Deepak Chopra Found to Get Beyond the Conflict

diversity-33606_960_720Can’t we all just get along? What keeps us as a society from finding that ability to see each other as humans and resolve conflicts in a peaceful manner?

In a new course at Sofia University with co-teachers Dr. Marilyn Schlitz and Professor of Consciousness Studies Dr. Deepak Chopra, students consider the ways in which worldview literacy can be used to help people transform their behaviors, improve relationships, develop effective communication strategies, and enhance lived experience. By identifying methods for engaging in collaborative dialogues about diverse worldviews and beliefs and applying worldview literacy to transpersonal psychology, these questions and solutions are considered.

According to Dr. Chopra, in order to engage in conflict-free dialogue must begin with seeing the person or group with opposing viewpoints from a place of shared humanity. One method to do so is by using the following 9 principles:

  1. Treat the person holding a different worldview with respect.
  2. Recognize perception of injustice on both sides.
  3. Be ready to forgive because forgiveness brings you peace within.
  4. Refrain from belligerence as as you lose respect.
  5. Use principles of emotional intelligence and speak using feeling words.
  6. Avoid stereotyping based on based on verbal formulas in areas such as race and gender.
  7. Avoid words and statements that prove the other wrong.
  8. Avoid bringing ideologies like religious beliefs into the discussion.
  9. Recognize there is fear on both sides in how the world operates.

Interested in learning more about this course? Click here to read more about the course intentions and outcomes.

Want to watch Dr Chopra share his 9 principles on video? Check out his Facebook live link.

Marilyn Schlitz 2Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D. is Professor and Program Chair of the doctoral programs at Sofia University. Marilyn Schlitz, Ph.D. is a social anthropologist, researcher, writer, and charismatic public speaker. She is currently the Founder and CEO of Worldview Enterprises. She also serves as President Emeritus and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Additionally, she is a Senior Scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center, where she focuses on health and healing, and is a board member of Pacifica Graduate Institute.

choprahDEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, Health Sciences. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine.He is currently a professor at Sofia University in the PhD program.

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Math, Consciousness and Artificial Intelligence with Deepak Chopra

Dr. Deepak Chopra speaks on the topic of whether placing consciousness into something that is non – biological material is possible. Chopra explains his interpretation by speaking about mathematical frameworks, Einstein, and the gap of discontinuity.

To learn more about taking a course with Dr. Chopra at Sofia University, try a sample lesson from our course “Death Makes Life Possible.”

 

About Dr. Deepak Chopra

DEEPAK CHOPRA MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation and co-founder of The Chopra Center for Wellbeing is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation, and is Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Endocrinology and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego, Health Sciences. The World Post and The Huffington Post global internet survey ranked Chopra #17 influential thinker in the world and #1 in Medicine.He is currently a professor at Sofia University in the PhD program.

 

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Descartes, “Political Deals” and Inner Experience: Reconciling Science and Wisdom Traditions

Is consciousness an illusion? Dr. Marilyn Schlitz, Program Chair of the Doctoral program at Sofia University discusses her views on this fascinating topic.

Dr. Schlitz, who also serves as President Emeritus and a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Senior Scientist at the California Pacific Medical Center and board member of Pacifica Graduate Institute, has been a leader in the field of consciousness studies. Her research and extensive publications focus on personal and social transformation, cultural pluralism, extended human capacities, and mind body medicine.

Her most recent research has focused on how death makes life possible, of which she was lead author with Dr. Deepak Chopra.  You can view her videos on diverse perspectives to healing  here.

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Causality, Billiard Balls and Synchronicity: Tart and Reality

518bd27karl-_sx309_bo1204203200_Dr. Charles Tart is internationally known for his psychological work on the nature of consciousness (particularly, altered states of consciousness), as one of the founders of the field of transpersonal psychology, and for his research in parapsychology. Charles studied electrical engineering at MIT before deciding to become a psychologist. He received his Ph.D. in psychology from the Universi­ty of North Carolina with research on influencing nighttime dreams by posthypnotic suggestions, and then received postdoctoral training in hypnosis research at Stanford.

He is a Professor Emeritus at Sofia University and Professor Emeritus of Psychology at University of California Davis. He consulted on the original remote viewing research at Stanford Research Institute, where some of his work was important in influencing government policy makers against the deployment of the multi-billion dollar MX missile system.

In the video below, Dr. Tart speaks on causality and physical reality.

Interested in learning more about states of consciousness, altered realities, and transpersonal psychology? Check out our online and residential doctoral concentrations in in Consciousness and Creativity Studies.

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Faculty Spotlight: David Bergner

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Meet David Bergner, Interim Chair of the MBA program.

David is an energetic organizational leader, accomplished technologist, and passionate teacher with a strong commitment to his students. David earned both his Ph.D. in Management Science and M.S. in Engineering Economic Systems from Stanford University.

He retired from NASA with 30 years of diverse experience in science, engineering, technology research and development, program formulation and management, executive management, and organizational development. He teaches courses in Quantitative Methods, Operations Management, and Applied Decision Sciences. David’s research interests include frame analysis, computational dialogue models, organizational and team factors in data mining, and the emergence of online decision support communities.

We interviewed David to learn more about him and his interest in working at Sofia University.

How did you hear about Sofia University?

I learned about Sofia University in the spring of 2014, when I met Dr. Liz Li, the President. Liz expressed great enthusiasm for opportunities to create new programs in Computer Science and Business Administration, built on Sofia’s established excellence in Transpersonal Psychology. Liz explained that Sofia University is an evolutionary outgrowth of the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology, and that the traditions of that institution would continue in the new programs. I was very excited to hear about such a worthwhile effort, and I offered to help any way I could. Liz asked me to serve on an advisory board for the new programs, and I enthusiastically accepted.

What made you decide to join Sofia University as faculty and interim chair?

I suppose I chose to come to Sofia because of the people – I’m impressed with Sofia’s leadership team, as well as the faculty, and also with the students I’ve met so far. I have known of the ITP for many years, and have long held its founder, Bob Frager, in deep regard. Liz and her team have successfully implemented the vision she outlined two years ago, and now the new programs have become reality. I am grateful for continuing opportunities to support Sofia’s mission. At Sofia, I feel surrounded by positivity, enthusiasm, competence, commitment, worthy goals, and high ethical standards. When Liz offered me the opportunity to develop a new course on decision making in such a context, I said “Yes!” – no decision analysis required! I also welcomed the opportunity to help administer the new Business Administration program.

Any special interests or passions that you bring to the Sofia Community?

I’ve had deep interest in decision making for many years. This was the main focus of my graduate work. In graduate school, I studied Decision Analysis (DA) in depth, and discovered the power of that discipline to create clarity for many people faced with difficult decisions. However, there is a major gap in the primary foundation of DA, which is Decision Theory. That theory is focused on how to make a choice, given that the hard work of framing the decision has been accomplished already.

Decision Sciences in general have paid insufficient attention to the essential inquiry processes that generate decision alternatives and elicit values, and to decision framing. Often these are the main difficulties in decision making, so this is where I focus my own work.

At Sofia, I look forward to taking an integral approach to teaching and research focused on how inquiry, communication, and reflection provide a foundation for high quality decision making. Given this foundation, the mathematics of Decision Analysis and Data Science may be applied effectively in an integrated decision making process. I’m also particularly interested in how people sometimes turn to the Internet when faced with difficult decisions – I’d like to develop tools and processes to help make this more effective for them.

Tell us a bit about you and your interests and family.

I like to spend my spare time cooking and appreciating the beauty of nature, particularly in the company of my wife and our four twenty-something children: two daughters, and two sons.

David teaches a course called Applied Decision Sciences. This course provides an opportunity to improve decision-making. Students learn how to apply tools and models to more deeply understand their decision-making processes and those of their fellow students. Emphasis is on the dialogue process for effective inquiry, balanced with contemplation and reflection, clarification of values, surface assumptions, and development of an appropriate frame.

With this foundation, mathematical modeling and data science can generate insights by focusing further inquiry on essential variables and facilitating collaborative deep reasoning. Additional insights from decision science will deepen awareness of decision traps, such as “frame blindness,” as well as cognitive, perceptual, and motivational biases.

The decision matrix is defined as: the conjunction of four human capacities – believing, caring, framing, and doing. Here, matrix means “an environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure”; it is derived from the Latin word for womb. A decision is “born” from this womb through awareness of the conjunction of these four capacities.

The decision matrix is a model that provides a basic foundation for structured inquiry about specific decisions, and also about decision making in general. In this course, the matrix model will provide a foundation for acquiring, integrating, and applying the knowledge of decision theory and decision science to actual decisions. The decision matrix is depicted at the center of the figure shown above. The Decision Wheel expands the matrix model to encompass additional concepts essential to applied decision science.

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The figure provides a graphical outline for topics covered in the Applied Decision Science course at Sofia. The Decision Wheel will be used to facilitate dialogue about decisions, and to organize and integrate topics covered in the course. Simple decisions as examples to reveal essential aspects of decision-making – however, the primary concern will be with challenging decisions, those having aspects such as uncertainty, complexity, dynamics, new situations, high stakes, long time horizons, or lack of established precedents, for example.

We assume decision makers in such situations will need to rely on others for information, expertise, and perhaps facilitation or analysis. In these cases, communication and inquiry are essential to decision quality, as is deep reflection to elicit and clarify values and to become aware of unconscious and implicit aspects of decision frames. From this perspective, the quality of a decision hinges on the quality, balance, and depth of the inquiry process that shapes it.

To learn more about our MBA program, please contact our Admissions team at admissions@sofia.edu or 1-98-SOFIA.

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August 16, 2016 · 9:01 pm

A Writer and A Scholar: Remembering the Work of William Braud

william-b.jpgWilliam Braud, Ph.D. preferred to think of himself as a writer, educator, researcher, and scholar. He began his academic work in physics, at Loyola University in New Orleans, but switched to psychology, earning his B.A. in psychology in 1964 from the University of New Orleans.

He earned his M.A. in 1966 and his Ph.D. in 1967, both in experimental psychology,at the University of Iowa. From 1967 to 1975, he taught undergraduate and graduate psychology courses at the University of Houston and conducted original research in areas of learning, memory, motivation, psychophysiology, and the biochemistry of memory. After 8 years, he left his tenured Associate Professorship to join a private research organization, Mind Science Foundation (San Antonio, TX). In his 17 years there, he directed research in parapsychology; health and well-being influences of relaxation, imagery, positive emotions, and intention; and the then-new field of psychoneuroimmunology.

In 1992, he joined the Residential Core Faculty of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (Palo Alto, CA), serving as a professor, research director, dissertation director, and co-director of ITP’s William James Center for Consciousness Studies. In 2002, when ITP initiated its distant learning Global Ph.D. Program, he moved to its Global Core Faculty. In 2009, Dr. Braud retired from his position at ITP, and was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus.

During his 17 years at ITP, Professor Braud taught research-related graduate psychology courses, supervised dissertations, and conducted quantitative and qualitative research studies in areas of exceptional human experiences (mystical, intuitive, peak, transformative) and their interpretations, meanings, and life impacts; personal and spiritual change and transformation; alternative ways of knowing; the development and promotion of more inclusive and integrated inquiry approaches for transpersonal studies and science in general; and examining some of the underlying assumptions of science, psychology, transpersonal psychology, and certain spiritual and wisdom traditions.

He also served on Editorial Boards of several professional journals and is the recipient of fellowships, travel awards, federal grants, honors and awards, including a university-wide Teaching Excellence Award (University of Houston), Award for Outstanding Contribution (Parapsychological Association), and President’s Award for Outstanding Service (Institute of Transpersonal Psychology).

Before his death, Professor Braud published over 250 articles in professional psychology journals and numerous book chapters he coauthored, with Rosemarie Anderson, 

51Ql-hioArL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgDistant Mental Influence

Professionals in modern psychology, behavioral medicine, and psychoneuroimmunology are exploring ways in which we can “mentally” influence our own bodies through hypnosis, imagery, visualization, attention, intention, and other forms of self-regulation–for fostering physical and psychological health and well-being.

  • Is it possible for us to use such techniques to influence others, even at a distance, for purposes of healing?
  • Is it possible for us to influence the images, thoughts, behaviors, and physiological reactions of other persons–separated by distance–without conventional sensory means of interaction?
  • Can these abilities extend to animals and even to cells (e.g., human red blood cells)?
  • Might these abilities be involved in the efficacy of distant, mental, or spiritual healing and intercessory prayer?
  • Might these influences even extend to events distant in time–even “backwards in time?”
  • Do these influences have major implications for our scientific theories, our human identity, the interconnections between ourselves and nature, and our relationships with others?Careful laboratory work–described in detail in this book–suggests that the answer to all these questions is a resounding “Yes!”A personal introduction and 12 detailed chapters describe the evidence that support these important claims. The book also describes the factors that make such distant mental influences more or less likely, so that anyone might use these distant influence skills more effectively and consistently for their own benefit and for the benefit of others.

 

51UTqckqLTL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTransforming self and others through research

Research approaches in the field of transpersonal psychology can be transformative for researchers, participants, and the audience of a project. This book offers these transformative approaches to those conducting research across the human sciences and the humanities. Rosemarie Anderson and William Braud first described such methods in Transpersonal Research Methods for the Social Sciences (1998). Since that time, in hundreds of empirical studies, these methods have been tested and integrated with qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method research designs. Anderson and Braud, writing with a contribution from Jennifer Clements, invite scholars to bring multiple ways of knowing and personal resources to their scholarship. While emphasizing established research conventions for rigor, Anderson and Braud encourage researchers to plumb the depths of intuition, imagination, play, mindfulness, compassion, creativity, and embodied writing as research skills. Experiential exercises to help readers develop these skills are provided.

41rxTbaOAXL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgTranspersonal research methods for the social sciences

There is no shortage of research methods that are easily applied to the study of everyday human experience. How, though, does one attempt to study extraordinary human experiences – ultimate values and meanings, peak experiences, transcendence and heightened awareness, among others.

William Braud and Rosemarie Anderson introduce a series of transpersonal research methods that are intended to help researchers develop new ways of knowing and methods of inquiry. While these methods will be of particular interest to researchers in transpersonal psychology, humanistic psychology, or transpersonal studies applied to traditional fields, the authors argue that these approaches – with their emphasis on developing intuition, empathy and self-awareness – can benefit anyone involved in the research enterprise across many disciplines.

re-upload.jpegRosemarie Anderson is a professor emerita at Sofia University. Together with the late William Braud, she created the field we now know as transpersonal research methods. Her individual scholarship includes the creation of an oracular system based on Celtic mythology, a transpersonal research method called intuitive inquiry, an assessment of body awareness called the Body Insight Scale (BIS), an embodied approach to writing and data collection called embodied writing, and a model of human development, which begins at conception and continues through death..

Rosemarie supervises doctoral research and serves as the U.S. representative on the Board of the International Transpersonal Association (transpersonalassociation.org). Throughout the year, she lectures on spiritual and transpersonal topics, including intuition, intuitive inquiry and the creative process.

Before joining Sofia University’s core faculty in 1992, Rosemarie taught in undergraduate and graduate programs at Wake Forest University, Graduate Theological Union, and the University of Maryland’s Asian and European programs. From 1983-87, she served as a university dean for the University of Maryland’s European Division in Germany. In 1987, she was ordained an Episcopal priest and served as a parish priest and university chaplain for several years.

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Is it just that simple? Appreciation and breathing as a formula for stress relief

Think stress is an inevitable part of life at Stanford? Think again.maxresdefault

While most of us have more stress in a normal day than our bodies are designed to handle, understanding and managing that stress is in our control.

BeWell talked with Fred Luskin, Ph.D., head of the Stanford University Forgiveness Projects, about the physical and emotional toll that stress puts on the body and mind. Dr. Luskin offers some simple tips that can make a difference in reducing daily stress.

Q: How does stress manifest itself?
A: Stress manifests as a sense of threat that is felt in the body through increased heart rate and muscle tension, in the mind as extra alertness, and in the emotions as anxiety, anger or fear.

Q: Why is stress harmful?
A: Stress is harmful when it lasts too long or when the situation is not really dangerous, but we respond as if it is. Stress is a full-body response that over time can weaken a person’s most vulnerable organ system. We also get used to our normal level of arousal and if that normal level remains too high we lose physical and mental bandwidth.

Q: What practical advice can you offer?
If you have a persistent problem, take 30 seconds and try to solve it. It sounds simple, but instead of stressing, complaining and feeling sorry for yourself, ask yourself, “Is there a simpler way through this?” Make sure you are not overlooking an obvious solution. Many Issues can be solved with simple, direct and kind communication.

In other words, yell less and think and act more constructively.

Q: Is there a simple change that can help?
Two of the simplest and most important practices are:

1. Regularly appreciating what you have and holding on to the feeling for 10 seconds;
2. Breathing slowly and deeply for 20 seconds throughout the day. Really focus on expanding your belly, which helps you let go of the stress you hold in your core. We hold our residual “fight or flight” impulses here. When you create a sense of safety inside of you, you reduce your mind’s desire to “catastrophize.”

Q: Any final words . . .
Everything you need to know you learned in kindergarten (laughter). I should know because my wife is a kindergarten teacher and we have the same curriculum. Be nice. Use your words. Hold hands when you cross the street. Seriously, try and re-frame your problems as challenges, and communicate your feelings often and with care.

This blog post originally appeared on Scopeblog, the link is https://bewell.stanford.edu/features/thoughts-on-managing-stress

 

Fred Luskin, Ph.D. Biography

Fred Luskin. Ph.D. is a professor in the Psy.D. program in clinical psychology at Sofia University. He teaches the clinical assessment sequence, as well as quantitative research methods. He also chairsfred-luskin.jpg the research ethics committee and has an extensive background in assessment and research, as well as teaching positive psychology.

Frederic is a senior consultant in wellness and health promotion at Stanford University, where he teaches the positive psychology class. He also teaches forgiveness and stress management to groups around the United States. He is one of the most recognized researchers and teachers of forgiveness in the United States. He has clinical licenses as a marriage and family counselor, educational psychologist and clinical psychologist. He also holds credentials in counseling and school psychology.

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True Forgiveness-Can you accept your portion of pain?

The long, wooden conference table was surrounded by 12 women, including me. We giggled a bit: Where were the men?

fred-luskin-222x196“All over the world, it’s almost always women,” said the first and only man to enter the room, Fred Luskin, PhD, the instructor of a four-week “Forgive for Good” class (presented by the Stanford Health Improvement Program) and founder of a movement to forgive – for your own health. He looked every bit the professor — gangly, with disheveled hair and a shirt sporting an equation.

“Even in northern Ireland?,” one woman asked.51d-ptDQCAL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

“Even in northern Ireland,” Luskin responded.

I came to watch, to record as an observer, just as I have covered hundreds of events in the past. But in Luskin’s class, everyone must forgive. Even journalists.

It hurt to darken my laptop and separate my fingers from its well-worn keys. I bristled during the initial relaxation session, where we were directed to focus on our breathing. He’s saying things and I’m missing them! Grrrrrr. My heart raced.

“You can’t forgive if you don’t relax,” Luskin said. “You have to quiet down and open.”

I tried to pretend I was in yoga class. I took in a breath. Open. Breathe. Then, the relaxation session was over and I relaxed, once again reunited with my trusty Mac.

But then, as Luskin was mentioning that many women had taken his classes to forgive their ex-husbands – “There’s lots of terrible ex-husbands running around,” he joked – I looked around the table. Here were 11 women, driven to spend four evenings letting go of a hurt that was tearing them up inside. Instantly, my aggravation slipped away. My teensy anger was nothing compared to the real wrongs of the world.

“It’s quick and difficult to be a human being,” Luskin said. “You don’t get a do-over.”

14639703609_f04d1582c7_b.jpgGrieving and suffering are normal, he said. Yet make sure the harm doesn’t dampen the rest of your life. A jerk cuts you off on the freeway? Fume for a second, but one exit later it should be forgotten, Luskin said. A drunk driver leaves you crippled? That takes a bit longer, maybe five years. Dreadful childhood? No one in their 50s should still be stewing about their harsh lot.

“Life is very challenging,” Luskin said. “Do you want to spend years holding on to your part of that challenge? Or can you accept your portion of portion of pain?”

Once the grieving is done, stop talking about the hurt, Luskin said. “We used to call this shut-up therapy…  Just shut up and stop driving yourself nuts.”

Then, he said, you can love again, without hiding your heart. That’s a message worth parting from my computer.

-This blog post originally appeared on Scopeblog, the link is http://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2014/10/03/learning-to-forgive-with-fred-luskin-phd/              By Becky Bach on Oct. 3, 2014

Biography

Frederic Luskin is a professor in the Psy.D. program in clinical psychology at Sofia University. He teaches the clinical assessment sequence, as well as quantitative research methods. He also chairs the research ethics committee and has an extensive background in assessment and research, as well as teaching positive psychology.
Frederic is a senior consultant in wellness and health promotion at Stanford University, where he teaches the positive psychology class. He also teaches forgiveness and stress management to groups around the United States. He is one of the most recognized researchers and teachers of forgiveness in the United States. He has clinical licenses as a marriage and family counselor, educational psychologist and clinical psychologist. He also holds credentials in counseling and school psychology.

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Dr. Robert Frager – When The Sufi Talks Heart, Self and Soul

bob-frager-222x196.jpg“The core of transpersonal psychology includes the premise that wisdom, creativity, and intuition are essential qualities within each individual. The goal of transformational education is to facilitate our access to our own rich inner resources”- Robert Frager, Ph.D. Founder ITP, Chair META

Robert Frager is the founding president of Sofia University. He is the Chair of the Master of Education in Transformational Arts program, a spiritual guide, transpersonal psychologist and Aikido teacher.

Robert iBobs ordained as a sheikh, or spiritual guide, in the Sufi spiritual tradition and has been directing the spiritual guidance program at Sofia since 1998. He trained in Aikido in Japan, where he was a personal student of the founder of Aikido, and he holds a 7th degree black belt—the highest honor awarded to a westerner. He has taught Aikido since 1968 and has founded Aikido dojos at UC Berkeley, UC Santa Cruz and Sofia.

Robert has written several books on Sufism and Islam, and his personality textbook Personality and Personal Growth, written with Jim Fadiman, is now in its seventh edition. He has also edited Sharing Sacred Stories, a collection of writings on spiritual guidance.

 

51W4Z482jjL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThrough a set of different theoretical lenses, Personality and Personal Growth gives students the opportunity to understand their own lives and the lives of others. By observing their own reactions, readers’ come to their own conclusions regarding the value of each theory.

The seventh edition continues to have a streamlined organization to help students understand its cross-cultural, global, and gender-balanced perspectives in psychology.

Learning Goals

Upon completing this book, readers should be able to:

  • Understand new research developments in psychology and its significance today
  • Support readers in evaluating theories for personal knowledge
  • Relate psychological ideas to readers own life and lives of others

 

51Yh1zC6D9L._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgHeart, Self, and Soul is the first book by a Western psychologist to explore the rich spiritual tradition of Sufism as a path for personal growth. Western psychotherapy aims largely to help us eliminate neurotic traits formed in childhood and adapt to society.

In contrast, the Sufi goal is ultimately spiritual: Yes, we need to transform our negativity and be effective in the world; but beyond that, we need to reach a state of harmony with the Divine.

Full of stories, poetry, meditations, journaling exercises, and colorful everyday examples, this book will open the heart, nourish the self, and quicken the soul.

 

51KyU7bl0RL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThis book presents an intoxicating mix of essays to satisfy the spiritual thirst of those with long experience in Islam, as well as those encountering Sufism and the meaning of spiritual love for the first time. Themes including generosity, faith, self-knowledge, patience and love are developed with stories and teachings by Turkish Sufi master Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak. A mesmerizing storyteller, master teacher, and prolific author in his native country, he was ideally suited to bring the richness of the Sufi tradition to the West.

The chapters of this book, skillfully edited and compiled by the psychologist and Sufi teacher Dr. Robert Frager, were derived from talks given during Sheikh Muzaffer’s visits to New York and California over the last years of his life.

Sheikh Muzaffer Ozak understood Westerners as almost no Sufi master before him has. His religious bookshop in Istanbul attracted hundreds of Western seekers visiting Turkey. In his travels, he initiated hundreds of Americans and Europeans into the Halveti Jerrahi Order, interpreted their dreams, and answered their questions about everything from theology and mysticism to marriage and earning a living.

These stories and teachings are memorable, yet highly enigmatic, and meant to be told and retold. Like great spiritual parables, the themes are universal and their applications ageless. The astute reader will appreciate new levels of meaning in these profound teaching tales with each reading. “Love is the Wine” is a treasury filled with priceless items of Sufi wisdom.

 

61W4umJ73mL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgSufi Talks

Among the practices Dr. Robert Frager teaches are Zikr, or remembrance of God through chanting; Halvet, or spiritual retreat; and Adab, or “right action.” Thus do we develop character-or, rather, restore the character we had at birth. “I’ve never seen a baby with a bad character,” he says. “We are all born in a pure state. With hard work and God’s blessings we can return to it.” Other topics include Obstacles on the Path, Reducing Narcissism, Inner Work, Prayer, Marriage, Generosity, Taking Responsibility, and Waking before We Die.

No matter what one’s religion, the reader will find such universal wisdom in this book that he will agree with Frager’s teacher Muzaffer Efendi who once advised, “You can tell these stories ten thousand times and people will still benefit from them”

 

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