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3 Principles to Conscious Business and Leading with the Heart First

georgezimmer-750xx954-538-46-19.jpgHow many people can really say that they are conscious entrepreneurs? What does that mean to be a conscious entrepreneur? George Zimmer, Chairman, CEO & Founder at Generation Tux who received his honorary doctorate from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University in 2003 shares his ideas on how conscious business, and in turn conscious capitalism, involves leading from the heart and knowing the significance of serving. George will also be the 2017 Commencement Keynote Speaker for Sofia University.

“Grounding Conscious Capitalism in Shared Servant Leadership”

In business, like in sports, increased energy and loyalty comes from being valued as important members of a team. In this way, it’s been my conviction that conscious business leaders should define success by creating success for others. A conscious business leader can help unleash the synergistic human energy and creativity that comes from motivated, cooperative groups, that are moving forward with a shared intention. This is much like a great coach helps individuals and the team reach high levels of success.

PyramidThinkingSuccess.jpgJohn Wooden, famed basketball coach at UCLA for over 20 years, who died at the ripe old age of 100, understood this well. He also saw the importance of creating a solid foundation on which to build collective success. Nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood,” he had a program for coaching that he called the “Pyramid of Success.” At the bottom of the Pyramid is all the foundational stuff that makes someone a great player.

He would take the freshmen All-American recruits and explain that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do everything. This includes basic things that one might take for granted, like how you put on your socks and lace up your sneakers. Based in his simple philosophy, his team won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including an unprecedented seven in a row. To get to the top, you have to set a strong foundation.

20178472040_8abd75e3ca_z.jpgThroughout my business career, I’ve always encouraged managers to think with their hearts as well as their heads. As is the case in sports, in business a solid foundation is created when people are able to openly discuss the integration of body, mind, heart and spirit. It’s important to work hard, but also to celebrate success and have fun together. These qualities help to build a strong team. In the process, it’s vital for those in management to understand that leading employees and selling merchandise to customers is as much about authentic caring and building trust as it is about conforming to rules and meeting benchmarks.

Over the decades I have found that this involves three foundational principles: respect; listening and demonstrating understanding; and asking for help in solving problems. It’s important to create an atmosphere in which people aren’t afraid of failing – since this is the way we learn and prosper together. Our goal as leaders is both to inspire and motivate the people that we manage, helping them to become their best and brightest selves – this is fundamentally positive reciprocal altruism.

During my career I’ve sought to develop these principles by becoming a servant leader. This concept was originally introduced by organizational development guru Robert Greenleaf, who started writing about servant leadership almost 50 years ago. For Greenleaf, the best test of leadership is helping those who are being served grow as people, becoming freer, wiser, healthier, more autonomous – and more likely to become servant leaders themselves.

Read more of George’s LinkedIn article

Learn more about conscious leadership and leading from a mindful perspective in Sofia University’s MBA program. 

About George Zimmer

He is Chairman, CEO & Founder at Generation Tux and zTailors as well as Founder and former CEO and Chairman of Men’s Wearhouse. He is a father of four, husband and business Warrior Monk who roots for the underdog.

 

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Are the Mind and Body Truly Separate? Exploring Mind Body Healing with Dr. Deepak Chopra

There’s a mind. There’s a body. Distinctly different right? Maybe not. Are mind and body the same thing or are they just different modes of conscious experience? How does Cartesian dualism thinking stand up in scientific communities today? Has the idea of non-dualism taken over?

Exploring these concepts becomes clearer once we have defined the understanding of healing and its relation to health and wholeness. Dr. Deepak Chopra, Professor of Consciousness Studies in the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University, discusses these thought provoking topics and more in this video.

If these subjects intrigue and fascinate you, consider taking your studies to the next level with a Master’s degree in Transpersonal Psychology, residential or global, or a residential or global PhD in Transpersonal Psychology.

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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).

Sufi Practicebob-frager-222x196

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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Reaching out beyond the brain: Are we more than physicality? Marilyn Schlitz explains.

Paranormal phenomena. ESP. Quantum aspects of reality. Is there a correlation? Can our awareness reach out beyond the brain and describe something in another location? And is this truly a function of the brain?

Marilyn Schlitz, Professor and Chair of the PhD programs in the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University, shares her research on this topic.

Does this work intrigue you? Are you interested in deepening your curiosity as a researcher? Perhaps a doctoral degree at Sofia University is right for you. Learn more about our residential and global programs.

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Is there scientific data supporting an afterlife? Charles Tart explains

Many people wonder about the after life. Is there such a thing or is this just our unconscious mind connecting to our imaginations? Where do we go to find evidence regarding this question – do we rely on religious conceptualizations or review data from near death experiences and interviews and testing with spiritualist mediums?

Dr. Charles Tart, Professor Emeritus from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University, shares his ideas about the data and what people have really experienced.

Intrigued by these topics? Pursuing research on these topics and more at Sofia University is the place to do so. Learn more about our Residential and Global PhD in Transpersonal Psychology. 

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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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Culture Inclusive Psychology: The Perspective in Social and Personal Relationship Study in Chinese Cultural Societies

By Sin-Ping Hsu and Kwang-kuo Hwang. Psychology, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan.

During a person’s lifetime, cultural traditions may operate psychologically through heuristic processing. Accumulated through time and life experiences, these cultural traditions gradually become thoughts or habits that can be used to handle problems by the majority of the people in a society, which forms a cultural mentality unique in comparison to other societies.

Thai_Earplug_5Such cultural mentalities affect how people adapt to their lives, and can be used as a method for self-healing. Since Chinese cultural societies are affected by relationalism, people tend to be very different from their Western counterparts, who take on individualistic ways in dealing with interpersonal problems.

According to Hwang (2011), if a person can use the habitus (Bourdieu, 1990) of normal action to smoothly handle life events under certain social conditions, it is unlikely that they will engage in deep reflection.

However, if habitus cannot be used to resolve a problem, the person will attempt to seek solutions from their personal stock of knowledge or social stock of knowledge. The former include schema, as proposed by Piaget (1977), while the latter are cultural traditions (Shils, 1981). In other words, some cultural traditions are instrumental to problem-solving, and provide the crucial origins for the creation of cognitive schemas. When a person encounters difficulties and a certain method from socCognitive_Schemata_Diagramial stock of knowledge is found to be effective, it may be incorporated into one’s personal stock of knowledge for future application.

In Chinese cultural societies of relationalism, the psychological stresses elicited by interpersonal incidents tend to arise from significant others. For instance, the marital tensions between a couple may not necessarily be caused by themselves, but due to the involvement of their natal families. Therefore, in dealing with interpersonal issues, one cannot overlook significant others and situational contexts. Based on their life experiences, people are accustomed to appeal to yuanfen to convert negative feelings, awkwardness, or setbacks caused by interpersonal incidents, into a type of belief that can be used to combat anxiety. Its true functional mechanism is in embodying the perspective of the mandate of Heaven (Wang, 1987Lee, 1995Yang, 2005Hsu and Hwang, 2013).

These beliefs become practical wisdom or mechanisms of psychological adaptation for handling interpersonal problems. People use yuanfen to interpret the problem, and in turn adopt suitable actions to achieve psychological adjustment. Yuanfen demonstrates that people who live in Chinese cultural societies are accustomed to taking a continuous rather than fragmented perspective toward various interpersonal issues. They believe that the formation and destruction of various relationships may connect the past, present, and future as causes and consequences on the same timeline. This is particularly true for expressive ties that satisfy personal, intrinsic needs for love, warmth, security, and sense of belonging, such as parent-child, romantic, marital, and intimate relationships (Hwang, 2012), and may produce different judgments based on whether such expressive ties are inherent or learned.

In the field of Eastern psychology, guan-xi, a similar concept but not the same as “relationship” in Western psychology, has long been an important issue. However, existing literature has tended to focus on the explicit “guan-xi as it ought to be” rather than on the implicit “guan-xi as it is.

According to Zhai (1993), in Chinese society, there are three localized concepts for interpersonal relationships: personal appeal (ren yuan), human sentiment (renqing), and human relations (renlun). These three concepts correspond, respectively, to psychology, values, and norms, in turn creating an overall framework fochinese-familyr the exploration of interpersonal relationships. This study postulates that human sentiment and human relations correspond to the explicit “guan-xi as it ought to be,” which can satisfy the expectations of Chinese social values and norms, but are also the sources of psychological disturbances.

Since personal appeal corresponds to psychology, and is related to the overall configuration of the model of interpersonal relationships, it should have the most direct impact on psychological adaptation as part of relational interaction. For example, when a person forced to accept a breakup and attribute the failure of the relationship to lack of yuanfen, the relationship has also been framed as something that does not have to be taken seriously. Since there is a lack of yuanfen, the relationship should not be fought for. This interpretation is actually beneficial for psychological adjustment in terms of achieving a positive outcome.

Read more from http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00282/full?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Psychology-w17-2016

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Finding My Research Sweet Spot with Non-symbolic States of Consciousness

By Ph.D student Lindsay Briner

The Power of Exploration and Wonder

screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-4-22-40-pmI have an MA in Transpersonal Psychology and a relentless passion toward my own personal evolution. I became interested in the *industry* of transformative technology via Dr. Jeffrey Martin and the Transformative Technology Lab, and for the past year explored options within that industry. With that in mind, I spent several months at the University of Arizona with Dr. Stuart Hameroff (pictured) where I investigated Transcranial Ultrasound Therapy, worked with Deepak Chopra on the Jiyo platform and collaborated with Neurohacker Collective as a research member. I enjoyed exploring innovative technologies with fellow research associates, but I still was not able to chisel away a clear point of focus for 2017. However, these explorations did make me wonder as an industry what we are optimizing for and how do we consensually measure it?

Through my lived experiences to discover my area of focus, I have come to realize that the future of human development, education and medicine, through the exponential growth of technology, is destined for human optimization. We are at the cusp of an emergent human ontology with a new interdisciplinary epistemology of neuroscience with technology.

Finding Clarity at the Transformative Technology Lab

My coursework as a PhD student at Sofia University has been complemented with work at the Transformative Technology Lab (TTL) with Dr. Jeffery Martin. The lab is a niche space where technology intersects with transpersonal psychology. The aim of the Lab is to evolve psychology’s working axiom of wellness, from one merely transcending acute distress, to one tapping the outer reaches of human potential.I thoughtfully examined how my contribution at this intersection can be maximized and chose to look at the Finder’s Course.

The goal of Dr.Martin’sFinder’s Course is to help people obtain Persistent Non-Symbolic Experience (PNSE) which includes the states of consciousness commonly known as enlightenment, non-duality, and unitive experience. Such states are not inherently spiritual or religious, nor limited to any particular culture or population, and they can form differently according to various personal experiences.

screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-4-22-24-pmIn January of 2017, Dr.Jeffery Martin launched his 10th Finder’s Course research protocol with 2,000 participants. The Finder’s Course collects data from participants on the progress of their psychological states throughout the 4-month program. Dr.Martin’s most recent study achieved strong validation, with approximately 73% of participants reaching ongoing non-symbolic experience in less than 4 months during the program. The program utilizes various methodologies to achieve this, such as positive psychology techniques, mindfulness practices, meditation, and use the transformative technologies such as the Muse neuro-feedback technology for meditation. (Pictured – Jeffery Martin in white & Lindsay Briner)

Curiosity Brings Focus

Over the last year as a research associate at the TTL, I delved into Finder’s Course data and gained an understanding of Dr. Martin’s approach and strategy. His human optimization techniques not only lead to what are often perceived as spiritual experiences, but more broadly form a framework for groundbreaking states of wellbeing. For example, PNSE is linked to significantly decreased depression and anxiety, and enhanced physical health and sense of purpose in life.

I relate to and am fascinated by this material, often reflecting on my own experiences of PNSE. Last year, I began experimenting with nootropics to assist in my levels of productivity and ability to concentrate on tasks. As I was taking these supplements, I began observing an increase in my ability to access and maintain higher states of PNSE while also increasing focus, motivation, and productivity.

I experienced a flow-state from the productivity, yet also experienced states of PNSE. This may be difficult to understand if you are not familiar with these states, but the experience of sustained, calm focus, backdropped by a general sense of wellbeing, is an experience I desire to help other people access and maintain. I want people to be able to feel so deeply connected to nature — to experience a unitive, non-dual awareness — while remaining grounded, healthy, and more productive in a meaningful way than ever before.

Because of my extraordinary results from my own use of nootropics, along with my curiosity to deepen the scholarship on this emerging field of human optimization, I felt I would be potentially well suited for the lab’s extraordinary research vision.

Finding My Research Sweet Spot

This desire caused me to approach Dr. Martin in the lab one day with an idea with which I was ready to hit the ground running. And now, I am excited to say that in January 2017, I started collecting data on cognitive performance with three experimental groups during the 10th Finder’s Course. A particular point of emphasis within my work will be investigating the effects of nootropics or “smart drugs” on Finder’s Course participants. Nootropics provide cognitive enhancements, and are intended for people who have a good physiological and psychological baseline of health.

Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 4.34.22 PM.pngThe work will show how increasing one’s processing capability of symbolic states may influence one’s relationship to non-symbolic states. The data collection in the Finder’s Course has great implications for engineering specific states for human optimization across various applications. I am honored to work alongside him as I move into my final stages of the PhD program.

Summary

For so long, psychology and medicine have been focused on pathology. At the Transformative Technology Lab, we are focusing on healthy individuals and asking, “How do we advance our need to be more healthy into true optimization?”

This last year has revealed to me how humankind is now at the very precipice of our next great civilizational epoch. Fifteen years ago, “social media” was a virtually unknown phrase and concept, and so too, “transformative technology” will become the next great societal wave of influence. It may end up under a slightly different name- “human optimization”, “neurotech”, “transtech”, etc.- but it is clear that there is an emerging coalescence of brilliance and technology across the world, centered around the concept of transcending previous assumed limits of individual neurophysiology. This includes any technological methods that enhance wellbeing, such as non-invasive brain stimulation (i.e. ultrasound, tDCS, tACS), virtual reality, augmented reality, brain-computer interface (i.e. microchips, Elon Musks’ brain lace), neuro-feedback, all bio-feedback devices, and much more.

 

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The Power of Presence – Mindfulness based Therapy

The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

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What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness has been present in multiple practices throughout the world for millenniums. Its origin has been traced to Hinduism in 1500 BCE and was introduced to the field of psychology in the 20th century. Mindfulness is a mental state which consists of achieving a deeper awareness of one’s body and mind by focusing on the present moment. It is utilized in many therapeutic practices such as Mindfulness-based stress reduction, Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

Mindfulness is more than an intervention, it is a way of life. According to an article on the benefits of mindfulness by the American Psychological Association, mindfulness has been shown to:

Reduce

  • rumination
  • stress
  • emotional reactivity

Increase

  • working memory
  • focused attention
  • cognitive flexibility
  • relationship satisfaction

Techniques used in Mindfulness based therapy

mindset-743166_960_720During sessions, therapists can use various tools in order to help their clients achieve a state of mindfulness. Some of the techniques used include breathing meditation, sitting meditation, and body sensation meditation. The techniques can be used at any time and whenever needed.

It is also recommended to practice mindfulness outside of therapy. There are various practices promoting mindfulness such as yoga, qigong, tai chi, as well as the meditations mentioned above. The goal is to focus on oneself and on the present moment.

Mindfulness Based Therapy at Sofia University

Mindfulness is one of the major educational teaching models at Sofia University that provides the foundation for deep transformational growth and enhanced personal experience of the subject matter.Faculty understand the stress and anxiety experienced daily by both students and humanity in general, and the school’s mission is to teach students how to integrate and transcend these stressors.

Almost every in-person psychology class begins and ends with meditation and centering, while other classes are entirely focused on mindfulness. Courses such as “Transpersonal Skills Labs (Yoga, Ai-kido)”, “Meditation & Mindfulness”, and “Creative Expression” are examples of such mindfully focused courses.

If you’re interested to learn more about yourself, as well as how to help others in a mindful and transpersonal environment, then Sofia University is meant for you! Have a look at our degrees to find what resonates best.

Hope you join the family 🙂
A bientôt!

Here are some external resources if you would like to learn more about mindfulness:

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Mindfulness quote borrowed from Goodreads 

About the Author

paramanBlog writer Pierre Araman is a student in the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology program. He is an international student originally from France who has lived in many different countries around the world. Serendipity brought him to Sofia University.  His goal to fuse spirituality and science in the field of psychology is based on the belief that body, mind, & soul have not been fully integrated in either domain. Promoting Sofia University is a passion as well as he believes the university is a unique and wonderful environment. You can contact Pierre at p.araman@sofia.edu

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Alumna Rosie Kuhn, Ph.D Talks Cultivating Spirituality in Children

rosiekuhn.jpgMost parents, grandparents and guardians have great hopes for their children, but they do not take seriously enough their role in creating an environment that truly empowers children to fulfill their fullest potential as human beings… We are not attending to their human needs beyond their survival. We are not attending to their needs as spiritual beings.” Rosie Kuhn, Ph.D.

Interview re-posted from Psychology Today.

Welcome to Childhood Made Crazy, an interview series that takes a critical look at the current “mental disorders of childhood” model. This series is comprised of interviews with practitioners, parents, and other children’s advocates as well as pieces that investigate fundamental questions in the mental health field. Visit the following page to learn more about the series, to see which interviews are coming, and to learn about the topics under discussion: http://ericmaisel.com/interview-series/

Rosie Kuhn, PhD, began her career over 30 years ago as a clinical therapist for addictionrecovery programs in Nova Scotia, Canada. In 1999 she founded The Paradigm Shifts Coaching Group and in 2001, she created the Transformational Coaching Training Program in Silicon Valley, where she facilitated the program for over a decade. She is currently a coach, author, and trainer.

EM: Your work as a Transpersonal and Transformational Life Coach embraces a much larger perspective of well-being than that of psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists. What contributed to you choosing such a different orientation to mental health and well-being?

RK: Initially, through my Masters degree in Marriage, Family and Child Therapist, I cultivated the foundational perspective that we are a member of many systems. An individual’s symptoms, especially a child’s symptoms, are indications of a breakdown within the family system, or any one of the primary systems within which a child interacts. This will lead to a breakdown within the individual member of the system.

Through a second Masters degree, in Social Work, I was exposed to patients within the mental health hospital system. All had been diagnosed and were being treated with medications. And from my humble experience, what contributed to their hospitalization was rarely acknowledged, nor were they given many opportunities to reveal that which triggered their mental health issues. They were learning to manage and cope with life and their diagnosis. Their identity became attached to their diagnosis, which limited their capacity to see themselves beyond the handicap and disabilities defined by their diagnosis.

I spent eight years in the field of addictions and recovery. Working with families dealing with addiction and recovery issues revealed to me the huge absence of support for spiritual crisis within the therapeutic model. And, with the incredibly positive influence that the 12-step program has on individuals who work with this programs, it made sense to me that I begin to find a program which allowed me to understand more fully the influence that spirituality has on our human experience.

Through my final degree, a Ph.D. in Transpersonal Psychology, I specialized in the field of spiritual guidance. After three masters degrees, a Ph.D., and 30 years of experience supporting and empowering all people, including children, I see each individual child and grown-up as whole and complete, and quite brilliant in how they come to create the myriad of strategies they use to survive their circumstances. My work empowers my client to see just how empowered they are to create these strategies and to survive. If they can empower themselves in the way they have so far survived, they certainly have the capacity to choose more self-fulfilling strategies.

EM: What is the single most common trigger for children seeking professional health assessments?

RK: Childhood is filled with firsts, presenting every one of us with so many moments of testing ourselves in an unknown world. Every child experiences anxieties as they continually enter realms of human experiences that are unfamiliar and perhaps challenging to comprehend. Each child assesses their situation from their own unique youthful orientation. Depending on the temperament of each child, they all confront anxiety to one degree or another. And, depending on the degree to which a child feels safe and secure in their environment, they handle the everyday stresses and anxiety with ease or with fear.

6239670686_65fdd9e0eb_b.jpgI see the most common trigger for children potentially requiring support from a health professional is a crisis of trust. Quite often, something happens; it could be something significant or something that, for many, could seem very mundane. But, in that moment, for that individual child, their reality is shattered. In their experience, what they believed was true, and the person they believed they could trust, was taken away, and their way of being required a shift. They begin finding patterns of thinking, feeling and acting that allowed them to compensate for any restlessness, irritableness and anxiety that arose. They create survival strategies in their logical, rational mind, which they believe will keep them invulnerable from ever experiencing that kind of shattering ever again.

The more distressed a child is, the more intense their survival strategies. When parents and other guardians ignore, deny or distract themselves from the child’s symptoms, perhaps hoping the symptoms will go away, the child is most likely going to intensify their symptoms until they are acknowledged. Good parenting requires intentional focus on what’s working, and what’s not.

In my work as a life coach, it is not uncommon for my adult clients to share that specific moment when their childhood innocence was shattered. They remember specifically how they began to think and act differently to assist them in not feeling the trauma of the shattering, or hiding it from others. Again, the degree to which a child feels safe being seen and heard within their family system is the degree to which they can share and perhaps be supported through these childhood crises.

EM: What treatment do you suggest?

RK: My suggestion is that the whole family enters into family therapy. A child’s world, the systems within which he operates, contributes to his or her way of being. The family system is the number one source of support and comfort, except when it isn’t. If the family doesn’t participate in treatment a huge component of the child’s reality is left out of the healing process.

EM: You wrote a book for parents called Cultivating Spirituality in Children: 101 Ways to Make Every Child’s Spirit Soar. Why did you write this book?

RK: I wrote Cultivating Spirituality in Children because I believe that though most parents, grandparents and guardians have great hopes for our children, we do not take seriously enough our role in creating an environment that truly empowers our children to fulfill their fullest potential as human beings.

4568163813_2a9b9db088_b.jpgWe don’t take seriously our role in their development, on all levels. We are mostly concerned with making sure their survival needs are taken care of, and that they have the education required. By attending to survival needs, we teach our children to attend to their survival needs and not to the needs of their spirit-selves, that which inspires them to thrive beyond the limiting perspective of consensus reality. We are not attending to their human needs beyond their survival. We are not attending to their needs as spiritual beings.

In dysfunctional family systems (dysfunctional corporate, religious, and educational systems as well), individuals are not allowed to know what they think, feel, need or want. Given such circumstances where an individual’s creativity, imagination, and ability to express themselves fully is diminished, emotions and psychic energies build up and they have to be expressed in some way or another. Depression is caused through the process of self-deprecation. When deprived of the freedom to discover their own expression, children learn to deprive themselves of their own knowing of their own truths and natural exuberance. Again, they begin to suppress their natural exuberance, and develop strategies that will minimize the anxieties that arise. Anxiety arises when we feel unsafe.

EM: In your opinion, how does spirituality contribute to mental health and mental illness issues?

RK: I see spirituality as an essential component of mental health. We are born seeking love and expression of our whole self. We are trained to desire creative outlets, and ways to express ourselves – through language, affection, connection, activity, and our need to truly get to know who we are – as our essential self, intuitively.

woman-1264729_960_720.jpgWe feel our heart’s desires and are inspired to fulfill those desires. We are encouraged to use our imagination to create – what we want to be when we grow up. We feel what is true in our hearts. We are perhaps taken to churches, synagogues, or mosques, so we can learn to believe in those who are unseen, cultivating faith, and a capacity to surrender our will to a higher power. Creation, love, connection, inspiration, faith, and intuition are all aspects of our spiritual selves.

At the same time, the majority of our family, educational, and religious systems provide conflicting messages. Children who are spontaneously singing, laughing or playing, are told to stop making so much noise. They are told that they are wrong or bad for being themselves. They are told they can’t have their dreams or their desires. Now, as a parent or teacher, these may be necessary tactics to control a child’s behavior, but for the child, it can be very confusing. This can trigger a crisis of trust. And, again, they begin to compensate by developing ways of being that is more acceptable to authorities but may wreak havoc with their spirit-self.

Every grown-up knows this spirit self exists. And, it is so understandable that with today’s stresses, it is so challenging to attend to our children’s spiritual development, let alone our own. That’s why I wrote – Cultivating Spirituality in Children.

EM: What is the role of a parent as an advocate for their child?

RK: The role of a parent is to be an advocate for their child. Too often, parents turn their power over to those who consider themselves authorities. The child often feels helpless, and so do the parents. It makes sense that parents look to experts in the field of mental health for support, however, turning their power over to anyone means that they often relinquish responsibility for the current circumstances. That means that they let other people make decisions that may not be in their child’s best interest, even though they are experts. From a child’s perspective, if a parent relinquishes control or responsibility, the child may feel abandoned or betrayed, which only exacerbates the situation for both parent and child.

Parent as advocate requires them to participate in every aspect of decision-making. It requires them to educate themselves on symptoms, medications and treatment modalities, both standard and alternative. Parents need to talk with their child, discuss what feels right for them – what are their ideas and thoughts. Too often those who we put in powerful positions don’t always act in the best interest of their clients or patients. They utilize standard procedures, and miss important personal aspects of a person’s reality – especially related to our human-spirit.

EM: What do you suggest parents do to prevent mental health issues?

images.jpgRK: Attend to your children, give them quality time every day – even just 15 minutes a day will give your children a good sense of value and worthiness. Give them your presence – put away your iPhones, iPads, computers, and walk away from the television. A parent cannot be present to their children while on an electronic device.

Listen to your child as though what they have to say is important. Rather than tell them what to think or what to feel, ask them questions about what is happening for them. The sooner you begin cultivating a trusting open relationship with them, the sooner they will trust that they can come to you when life gets to be too much, too confusing, or when something is going on that they just don’t know how to deal with. If they learn to trust you at a younger age, you both can continue to cultivate and nurture that trusting relationship into adolescence, early adulthood and beyond.

Get to know who your child is, how they think and feel inside themselves. Ask questions that allow them to use their innate intelligence – stretching their intuition and imagination and to feel into what is true for them – not just mental constructs that are fed to them. This way of being with your child allows them to develop healthy interpretations about themselves – that they matter in your world, and in their own, no matter what.

Bottom line, when a child is having mental challenges, parents and guardians need to get therapy, education, and support for themselves.  In essence the child may need rehabilitation, but the parents need some healing, support and training so as to advocate for and empower their children’s lives, so that their spirit is able to soar.

**

If this article touched you and you have a passion for teaching children, you can  learn more about Sofia University’s Master of Education in Transformational Arts  which can help you  engage with your students in a more powerful and innately mindful way.

To learn more about this series of interviews please visit http://ericmaisel.com/interview-series/

 

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