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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).

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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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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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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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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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A Hero’s Journey – From Resistance to Acceptance. Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Embracing diversity and imparting knowledge and skills that empower people to live together in peace within multicultural communities are core values for Sofia University. In this regard, among others, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is an amazing role model. On January 15th, the nation honored his courage and vision.

This post celebrates Dr. King from the perspective of the hero’s journey. Following the hero’s journey in Sofia University’s Global Master of Arts in Transpersonal Psychology is a staple in the core curriculum, helping students to recognize the cyclical nature of life, and to acknowledge all stages of growth and self development.

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. : Social Activist and Influential Change Maker

We have no alternative but to protest. For many years we have shown an amazing patience. We have sometimes given our white brothers the feeling that we liked the way we were being treated. But we come here tonight to be saved from that patience that makes us patient with anything less than freedom and justice.

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1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. has left such a strong legacy in this country that America has set aside a day in his honor to recognize his achievements. Many people know little about his background, but his journey toward greatness was fraught with the same internal conflicts that anyone on the Hero’s Journey must confront. Cultural, social and parental influences strongly shaped King’s early childhood.

The Home Environment

Dr. King’s father was a minister, who himself was raised in a culture of ministry. King’s father grew up in a life seeped in racism and he chose a life of social activism to fight against it. His strong belief that racism, as well as a sense of racial superiority, was against God’s will shaped King Jr.’s upbringing. King Jr was clearly academically advanced, skipping both 9th and 11th grade to enroll in Morehouse College at age 15.

A Conflicted Life – Refusing the Calling

Not everything was great in King Jr.’s life.

  • At age 12, young Martin jumped from a second story window at the family home, allegedly attempting suicide when he missed being at the bedside of his grandmother when she died.
  • Despite his father’s hopes, King Jr. spent his first two years at Morehouse College unmotivated and continued questioning religion in general as well as overt religious displays.
  • Rebelling against conservative values, King Jr. played pool (considered an unseemly activity), drank beer through most of his college years, and entered into a relationship with a white woman that was more than controversial.

The Awakening, the Mentor and Crossing Over 

In Dr. King’s junior year at Morehouse, he took a Bible class and was soon spiritually awakened (despite being baptized at an early age). Finding his life path, King Jr. began to thrive.

  • In 1948, he attended the Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania and thrived. He was elected student body president, earned a graduate fellowship and was chosen valedictorian of his class in 1951.
  • Finding a spiritual mentor under the guidance of Morehouse College President Benjamin E. Mays, an outspoken advocate for racial equality, King was encouraged to view Christianity as a potential force for social change.

Moving Humanity Forward – Finding the Approach & Living the Challenge

 

Rosaparks.jpgMartin Luther King Jr.’s rise to prominence began with the arrest of Rosa Parks (pictured) in December, 1955. The head of the NAACP, E.D. Nixon, chose Dr. King to lead a citywide bus boycott. With youth and strong family connections, Dr. King had strong credibility within the black community. After 382 days of intimidation, violence and refusing to board the buses, the financial losses finally made the city of Montgomery lift the law mandating segregated public transportation.

This success led civil rights leaders to create an organization that would coordinate efforts nationwide. In 1957, Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy and over 60 activists and ministers created the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. 

Gandhi and  JFK – Allies of Non Violence

sit-in.jpgInspired by Gandhi’s success with non-violence, in 1959 Dr. King organized a trip to India which encouraged him to increase his commitment to non-violent actions within the civil rights movement. When he returned, he became co-pastor with his father at the family church while continuing his civil rights efforts.

In 1960 at a lunch counter sit-in, Dr. King and others were arrested when they continued to sit at the counter after being refused service and told to leave. The mayor of the city of Atlanta where the sit-in took place, recognized that with Dr. King’s national notoriety, the city would suffer and so he released.everyone. But Dr. King would be imprisoned not long after that for a simple traffic violation. It was then when presidential nominee, John F Kennedy interceded, and political pressure soon got Dr. King’s release.

The Dream – Having a Vision

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On August 28. 1963, Dr. King gave his most recognized speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. His “dream” consisted of more than a vision, but a request of a nation to honor their words.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice… But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.

When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir… Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.

What did Dr. King envision? Among many of his statements, this is the most famous.

So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

Revising the Vision – Tests and Enemies

Although Dr. King’s movement was becoming more popular, and had now expanded to Chicago and Los Angeles, young black leaders increasingly began to challenge his methods. Dr. King, ever vigilant, decided to expand the vision of civil rights to not only the Vietnam War but to issues of poverty. His hope was to broaden his base to include all disadvantaged and unemployed people of all races.

The Dream is Questioned – Reaching the Inner Most Cave of Doubt

No matter how brave, strong or supported we may be on our journeys, as humans we all become weary. This was no different with Dr. King. After so many years of energetic and passionate dispute and confrontations, Dr. King began to get discouraged as to whether civil rights were possible.

I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.” April 3, 1968 speech

The Ordeal – A Dream Never Dies – A Hero is Reborn

mlk-by-bstangland.jpgThe day after Dr. King gave his prophetic speech about never reaching the promised land, he was shot while standing on a balcony at his hotel by James Earl Ray. Dr. King’s death left a lasting impression, as seen by riots and demonstrations across the nation, but also further into history. Since that time, he has been honored, not only with streets and schools named after him,but with a national holiday.

 

References

Martin Luther King Jr. Biography http://www.biography.com/people/martin-luther-king-jr-9365086

The Hero’s Journey http://www.thewritersjourney.com/hero’s_journey.htm

 

 

 

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A Transpersonal Evolution and Awakening – Maria’s Story

202163-334076-1_120x150.jpgI was fortunate to teach Transpersonal Entrepreneurial Skills fall quarter, 2016. In this hybrid course, I hoped to inspire students who are not used to transpersonal studies, to personally evolve and awaken to the transpersonal in all aspects of life. Maria exemplifies such a journey, poignantly evident in two of her final class writings–the last journal entry, and the last of three “evolution” papers.

English is Maria’s second language. We decided not to edit her writing except an insignificant spellcheck. But we changed “briefing” to its intended word, “breathing.” I mention this because “briefing” is, in fact, metaphorically apropos, and we can also interpret it transpersonally.

Similarly, when Maria writes “. . . my body in the same proportion experiences the various sensations and is organized to transform* itself with the leaves that are released from trees. . . .” nicely uses structure to symbolize the process of evolution, albeit cyclical, in both self and nature (Fall, rather than the start of ending, as some poets symbolize it, is another beginning for Maria)–some words inadvertently have dual meaning, but relevantly so.

Goolrukh Vakil, Marriage & Family Therapist, PhD, MA, LMFT, MS

[*In psychotherapy, a good theory–which informs the processing of personal material in session–has structure. A structural change in the client can be symbolic of evolution and healing yet, the change remains in proportion to the client’s essence such that she can remain authentic in processing anew, life’s events].

Maria and Her Children – “The best meditation that I have had”

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I asked my kids what is Meditation? They answered it with a big and sweet smile:

  • “Is when you sit in silence and fill your heart with love,”
  • “Is when you put your favorite teddy bear in your belly and starting breathing to see all the movements that he makes,”
  • “Help us to thing better”,
  • “We are behavior better after listen to maestro music and breathing very deep”

After hearing my kids voices I asked them to joy me in my silent moment.They did, with their feet firmly on the ground and keeping their back erect sitting in the floor with me with their hands in the lap, “towards the sky”. They closed their eyes and gently they started breathing.Before opening their eyes I told them to image a good feeling embracing them and what color it would be–they said in common agreement that was the rainbow, “because the rainbow is the happiness color.”

Was a very brief meditation however, my little ones understand the basic and the most important thing is to allow them to feel what they feel. This experience was the best meditation that I have had, to image the rainbow of my “jewels” with the biggest and happy faces; embracing myself was a very nice feeling.

Autumn and Me: Recycling and Transpersonal Transformation with Autumn

Autumn gives us magic in the colors of its leaves. The eyes capture the changes in color, the magic of the tones. The scent that spreads in the air and the thermal sensation that touches our surface, awakens our senses. Thus my body in the same proportion experiences the various sensations and is organized to transform itself with the leaves that are released from trees that I have not planted.

boy-713169_960_720.jpgI give myself as I walk on a dazzling carpet of leaves that fall to renew, and to my gaze nature is bound to offer me a spectacle of colors. Blue sky and brushstrokes of yellows, oranges and reds take my horizon and deep green hills there highlight the vivid hues of these raw colors. I will still hunt for the colors of autumn. This landscape that grabs, envelops and awakens my eyes represents the essence of this passage. The clear sky favors the colors that get lush. The days gradually get shorter and the nights come back to have the same duration of the days, the temperature also remodels.

The arrival of autumn is also to remember who brought it, spring and summer and understand why they change color.With the shorter days, longer nights the trees recognize the lesser amount of light they receive and restructure. The trees get ready for winter. They send less nutrients and water to the leaves. Each leaf builds a protective layer at the base of its stem to block receipt of any tree supply. The predominant green leaves by its chlorophyll, due to lack of nutrients give space for the new pigments to appear. Individually each leaf is transformed. At different times the remaining shades of green merge into yellows, reds and oranges. These are accentuated and soon, one sheet at a time in the completeness of its cycle and rhythm, comes off.

In this beautiful process of losing their leaves, the trees eliminate the toxins left by the leaves and are ready to nourish themselves during the next season. In this impressive process of metamorphosis the soil feeds on the decomposition of this rich organic material. What make this cycle of nutrition, protection, preparation, transformation to be so perfect?

 

ITP-logo_large.pngThe Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University offers courses in both clinical and non-clinical psychology at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral levels. Transpersonal psychologists work across disciplines and draw on insights from not only the various areas of psychology, but also the sciences of cognition, consciousness, and the paranormal; philosophy; social and cultural theory; integral health theories and practices; poetry, literature, and the arts; and, the world’s spiritual and wisdom traditions.

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Sophie’s Story – Saying Yes to Spirit and Becoming a Spiritual Entrepreneur

 

Sophie F.JPGSophie Skover Frabotta is an alumna who received her degree from the Sofia University Master of Arts in Transpersonal Psychology Global program with a specialization in Spiritual Psychology.

Through her education at Sofia, she realized that she had the gift of sacred remembrance and is devoted to sharing that with her community. Whether it is helping one remember the lost parts of their truth and one’s connection to source,  or how to release the past, embrace the future, experience joy in the moment, work towards their vision, and have healthy relationships,she believes all that she is doing is helping them access that sacred truth that sits deep within their being.

Her Background. Sophie arrived at Sofia with an undergraduate degree in psychology. She had been a practicing Life Coach for the past 6 years and running her own business, but began to feel like her practice was running a little flat. She started looking at Master’s programs, but didn’t want anything that was traditional. And that is when she found Sofia, or as she likes to say “heard the call from Sofia.”

Clarity of Spirit.”Sofia changed my life and connected me back to who I really was. Sofia awakened me. From the very first seminar I had a lot of fear that started to unravel.  I had to dig through the depths of my soul and deal with it to a point where I was able to transmute the energy and move into a new space.

In my second year I took this class, Entrepreneurial Spirit and my world was flipped upside-down. At that point, I was thinking [my business ]Awaken was going to be a spiritual center that needed substantial funding in order to happen. In that class, I ended up creating a 50-page business plan. I worked nights, weekends, and poured my soul into this project. It was intense and challenging on deep levels. After seeking funding, and going through the process of presenting my idea and meeting with potential investors, my idea of Awaken the Spiritual Development Center began to shift.  I began to see that I already had momentum in my coaching business and could use a much smaller investment to re-brand and grow what I had already created. I felt that the class truly unlocked the spiritual entrepreneur in me, and that space of driving spiritual transformation into commerce was born.

It was probably the most difficult 10 weeks academically I’ve ever been through. It was rather like boot camp; you’re happy when it’s over; I really got stronger during that, but through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.”

team-building-1381084_960_720.jpgA Supportive Tribe. Sophie found that the faculty at Sofia was transformational in itself and that she felt safe academically and spiritually, at the same time “Most teachers carried this similar vibe of holding of space for the students to really search and express the true self. I found this experience to be so soft and kind.  I just really felt that I could just be myself and I was going to be loved, supported and encouraged no matter what.” .In addition to classes and teachers, she loved the seminars, her fellow students , and cherishes the friendships she made.

And Then This Happened.  “I had this whole experience during my master’s program. I was saying yes; yes to spirit, yes to my purpose, yes to whatever wanted to come through me, and yes to whatever I needed to do in the world. This practice opened up a funnel and all this energy began to flow, creating an improved version of my Life’s work.

A Career Worth Loving.  Sophie has had her coaching business for the past 8 years. Near the end of her master’s program she began to feel that her company was in need of an awakening, a make-over, itself. She began rebranding, and Awaken was born. Awaken, however came with a much bigger presence than her former company.  Mid-way through her re-branding she realized that she was building a lifestyle brand that focused on transformation in three areas: life coaching, meditation and crystal education.

My intention is to bring spirituality into the business world and to integrate transpersonal awareness while creating beneficial business.”

Sophie GMATP.JPGSophie describes herself as a Spiritual Entrepreneur and says, “I believe it means you believe in commerce and  want to be a profitable, abundant person. However, you have this intense amount of spirituality rushing through your veins. This makes it very important to be in tune with what you are doing, which also creates profit and can support the lifestyle you desire to live. What I’m working on in my own life is blending the two, finding the best of both worlds. I have a lot of dreams, a lot of things in this world that I want to experience, and I know it takes money to get there. I also know that I have some spiritual gifts that can help people transform their lives. So Spiritual Entrepreneur means to me that I’m blending my gifts with the ability to create financial abundance.” Sophie wrote her final paper for her MATP masters program on Being a Spiritual Entrepreneur in Modern Business Society, and defines spiritual entrepreneur below.

Spiritual Entrepreneur (n.): (a) one approaching commerce with a divine alignment first of all and innovatively identifying needs and finding solutions that create profit and make a meaningful difference in the world; (b) one pursuing morally sustainable commerce, providing the consumer with a meaningful resource, while making a profit;

(c) one creating business with an outer force and an inner force that are in balance; (d) one with a practice of opening to the divine flow, thinking outside of the box, finding a community need and fulfilling it, welcoming things already happening instead of always making things happen, and acting with inspiration as soon as the download is complete; Synonyms: Spiritual Leader, Spiritual Trailblazer, Beneficial Business Pursuer, Conscious Commerce Practitioner.

Sophie wants to experience everything. “Part of embodying the spiritual entrepreneur is being in tune with two very opposing ideas, and blending them together in a way that is innovative. I don’t feel like they’re opposing, but when I talk about it with others, sometimes I’m met with a little bit of confusion.”

Building A Life Worth Living

I think that one component that I offer clients, is that I believe in them. They may have forgotten what they are capable of, but I know it. I hold that space for them naturally and help them remember their greatness.” 

Sophie currently works with clients, teaches meditation, holds local and virtual workshops and designs and makes crystal jewelry, which she sells online. “I have this gift of hearing things that are said underneath words. I’m very word sensitive and when I work with people and I hear what they are saying, there are specific words that pop out and I can usually go deeper into what needs to heal. I then help them to release whatever is blocking them from their inner alignment and what they truly want.”

“What my true credentials are and what they will always be is that I do the inner work. I live the work; I am dedicated to the work. So the spaces that I’m able to travel to with my clients are because I’ve been there myself. I know what it looks like to be bulimic, depressed, anxious, suicidal, 70 pounds heavier, and so on. Darkness is darkness, but the light can save us all. I understand that those spaces of darkness in the soul can heal, and find it natural to go there and bring the light.”

This past summer, Rich—Sophie’s Husband—saw an amazing opportunity to take
Sophie’s healing vision and technique—using crystal jewelry—online. Coming from the corporate world, Rich knew she could reach more people on the world wide web. So they partnered up and created an online platform for her to sell her crystal jewelry and teach people about healing crystals online.

 

Awaken.JPGHer Business: Awaken. Awaken’s different healing modalities: life coaching, meditation, crystal jewelry, and crystal education, are often weaved together. Her days are spent seeing clients one on one. She also teaches local classes and workshops on meditation, crystals, and the chakras.

She began her virtual work as a way to expand her reach and work with people all over the world. She always uses a video platform as she believes that having a face-to-face connection preserves the intimacy and connection of in-person transformational experience, so one requirement for her clients is that they have internet connection and front facing camera.

“I find that there are different ways to connect with people. Some people are more comfortable with eyes closed, in that meditative space, to do their inner work, which is where the meditative lessons come in hand. On the other hand, crystals offer this very stable, transmittable vibration due to its molecular structure. Different stones offer a variety of vibrations. I use crystals as companions for people as they go on their healing journey..”

One important component of Sophie’s work is structure. She provides structure for people going through what is an unstructured journey. “Typically I work with people from 8 to 32 weeks. The length of time depends on what they put into it, as that is what they get out of it. I offer accountability, forward movement, strategic planning and goal setting, but the most important principle is doing the inner work to heal the blockages in front of one’s desires. Simultaneously I know that people will also begin to have a spiritual awakening and the speed at which they awaken, is the speed they awaken. And there’s no rushing that.”

The entrepreneurial aspect also comes into play on the business end. Sophie describes, “there’s a business end to all this as well. Client’s are paying for a transformational experience, a seat in my office and that costs money. That’s not something that I offer for free.” She feels it is important to acknowledge her time and she balances the sharing of her gifts with financial reimbursement, which is an important aspect of being a spiritual entrepreneur.

“To me the biggest principle is that living your life’s work is a balance. And balance fluctuates…. Sometimes my practice will be more driven by spirituality and sometimes more by commerce. And both are okay.”

For Sophie, it all comes down to being in tune with your soul purpose and sharing that with the world. She encourages us to create a joyful life by accepting our true self, falling in love with who we are, and living with an open heart!

Connect with Sophie

www.AwakenLifeCoachingWPB.com       www.PalmBeachOfficiant.com

Instagram: @SophieFrabotta  & @AwakenCrystalGallery
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sophie.Skover.Frabotta

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Change your thoughts and you can change your worldview – That’s CBT in Action

Change your thoughts and you change your world.”–Norman Vincent Peale

Is it true? Is it possible to change your thoughts for a more positive outlook on the world? Aaron Beck, father of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), certainly thought it was. He believed that people are capable of self-healing by restructuring their thoughts and changing the schemas, or cognitive concepts that created them. By altering the negative thoughts, symptoms of anxiety and depression could be safely treated. CBT is now one of the predominant therapeutic treatments  used in clinical settings to alleviate and treat cognitive distortions or false beliefs.

truth-257158_960_720.pngWhat are some examples of Cognitive Distortions, aka False Beliefs? 

Mislabeling aka Global Labeling . Mislabeling is represented as extreme, emotionally charged, negative, and irrational generalizations such as : I flunked a test therefore I will never succeed at anything/I’m a failure – They didn’t say hello to me therefore they must hate me/no one likes me
Catastrophizing – Castastrophizing is represented  by “what if” questions that magnify both positive or negative possibilities to an extreme degree  such as: Oh no, it’s raining. What if I drive my car and I begin to aquaplane? What if I walk in the rain and then I slip and hurt myself?
Polarized Thinking – Everyone and/or everything is black or white, there is no middle ground. Examples such as  X gave me chocolate, they are a good person but Y did not give me chocolate, means they are a bad person,  speak to a difficulty to see shades of grey.

Techniques used in CBT

Once the schemas or distortions are found, therapists will use some of the following techniques to help clients reshape their thinking processes.

Reattribution. Therapists begin by testing assumptions and automatic thoughts via alternative causes or events using questions such as: Have you failed all your tests? No? Hence you are not a failure.
Redefining.  By providing new thoughts that will empower the client such as: Say “I will study more” instead of “I will fail this test, therapists are able to give control back to clients.
Diversion.  Interrupting thought patterns by using activities such as social clubs, sports, work activities, are examples of techniques therapists use to reduce negative thinking. The key is to distract and help clients from ruminating about their problems..

Therapy using CBT is very structured and usually encompasses homework and/or a workbooks.

 

CBT in Action with Aaron Beck

In this video, Beck is using a technique called downward arrow to find the client’s schema. Once discovered, he begins to restructure the thoughts using redefining, reattribution, and decatastrophizing.

 

 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy at Sofia University

Learning at Sofia University is both intellectual and experiential. One of the best strategies to understand the therapy is through self-evaluation and role play. CBT is covered in different classes such as “Critical Thinking in Clinical Psychology”, “History and Systems of Psychology”, “Psychotherapy theory and Interventions”, and more! Special thanks to Dr. Sersecion for her lecture on CBT!

If you feel ready to heal yourself in order to better heal others, come join us at Sofia University!

Come join the family 🙂
A bientot! by Pierre Araman

If you would like to learn more about CBT, here are some links to additional resources:

 

 

ARTICLE REFERENCES
Quote: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/normanvinc130593.html

book 1: https://www.psychotherapy.net/data/uploads/m502590c42a684.jpg

book 2: https://www.selfesteemshop.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/The-Anxiety-and-Worry-Workbook-The-Cognitive-Behavioral-Solution-David-Clark-Aaron-Beck-239186-200×262.jpg

book 3: http://www.bestcounselingschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/50-best-self-help-books-feeling-good.jpg

CBT techniques: http://www.counsellingconnection.com/index.php/2014/11/05/cbt-techniques-cognitive-and-behavioural/

CBT distortions: http://psychcentral.com/lib/15-common-cognitive-distortions/

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Blog writer Pierre Araman is a student in the Master of Arts in Counseling Psychology program who enjoys sharing his growing knowledge of therapy and therapeutic technique with the wider audience.

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