Tag Archives: Sofia University

Why Men Often Wait to the Last Minute to Save their Marriages


a6a6d-thecorlessfamilyfall2016-29About the author: Valerie Abitbol, LMFT, owner of Flow Counseling, PLLC  received her Master of Arts degree in Counseling Psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University. She is a counselor and therapist in Denver, Colorado who specializes in couples and  women dealing with major life transitions. We have re-posted an article from her blog here.


What Happened When You Stopped Fighting

Did you know that over 2/3 of divorces are initiated by women?

Photo by Charlie Foster on Unsplash

You’ve had it. It’s been months or even years that you have given up on the relationship and have been slowly preparing your exit. You’ve reached a state of status quo in the relationship; no real interactions, just a few words exchanged to deal with the logistics of living together.

At some point, you stopped complaining about the relationship. You’ve grieved on your own, while your partner didn’t have a clue. I know, it may seem hard to believe that your partner didn’t read the signs and realize you were checking out, and yet most of the time, that’s the case.

When you stopped fighting for, and about, the relationship, your partner took it as a sign that everything was OK again. It may sound shocking, but bear with me.

The Bomb and It’s After Effects

Maybe in the past couple of years you went back to school, got a job, or even met someone new. Whatever action you took, you found something that helped you cope with your pain, loneliness and hopelessness about the relationship. You found something or someone that helped you feel alive, valued, loved, and feel good about yourself.

cry-2673270_1920And here you are, finally ready to end it and move on with your life. At this point, I’m not sure who’s in shock the most: your partner who thinks you just dropped a bomb and who feels completely blindsided; or you, for not believing that he didn’t see this ending coming, considering you had told him over and over how upset and unhappy you were (prior to reaching the “status quo” stage).

This bomb is a huge wake-up call for your partner, but for you it seems too late. Maybe it upsets you even more to see your partner making all these incredible efforts to salvage your relationship. Why now, when you’re already on the way out?

You don’t even want to believe that these efforts could make a difference. You may even think that he’s trying to manipulate you, that he sounds fake, and that as soon as you give in and agree to stay in the relationship, he will go back to be less caring, loving, and ignore you again.

You have every reason to doubt his good intentions. After all, you’ve had months or years of feeling lonely, unloved, unimportant, so why would you trust him?

Caution is definitely important, and I wouldn’t blame you for wanting to protect your heart and your overall wellbeing.

However, if you’re even the slightest bit open to the possibility of making your relationship work, here’s what you should know about men. [And granted that I’m generalizing here of course, and that at times the situation could be reversed.]

Considering the Possibilities


According to Michelle Weiner-Davis, “The Divorce Buster”, women tend to communicate better with words while men are more action-oriented. So when you keep using words to explain to your partner that you’re unhappy, that you want things to change, he can hear it up to a certain extend, but it doesn’t always fully sink in.

Now, when you decide to leave, ask for a divorce or move in with someone else, you’re in the realm of actions and that’s something men get a lot more easily. That’s when they really listen, and they are willing to DO anything to make it work. Whether it’s spending more time together, stop unhealthy habits, going to see a couples therapist, working less, retiring… you name it, the impossible becomes possible.

You see that your partner is really trying, but your fears and grief may get in the way of being open and giving the relationship another chance.

Of course, there is no guarantee it would even work. However, know that this is really typical and that your partner will often do the work to change, and that if you don’t give it a try, the next person he will meet will benefit from the change, which you will probably resent as well.

junction-2156349_1920So you’re at a crossroad, but know it’s not too late for you to try to save your marriage or relationship – if you’re open to it.

Find some professional support to help you navigate this major transition, and process all the thoughts, beliefs and emotions that come along with it.


ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.


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The Secret to Building Trust Lies in the Unspoken: Train Leadership in Your Body Language

Rachel Tegano, M.A. has spent the past 12 years using her academic and professional expertise in psychology to help individuals and organizations optimize their interaction with each other. She holds a master’s degree in counseling psychology from The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University and completed her clinical training in neuropsychology at Stanford University and somatic psychology at The Hakomi Institute. We have re-posted her blog on Building Trust here.

The Secret to Building Trust Lies in the Unspoken

Great leaders empower those around them by creating a sense of trust that many of us find elusive.  When people on your team feel safe and seen, they’re able to present an authentic picture of themselves and their situation, and consequently, take risks, grow and develop, and to do their best work. So how do great leaders build this sort of trust?

Researchers have found that nonverbal communication can account for as much as 93% of communication. You might be surprised to learn that the secret to building trust lies in things unspoken. In fact, the key to creating an authentic and deep connection with your team is grounded in effective nonverbal communication — in your body language, the tone of your voice, and the manner in which you speak (far less than what you actually say). Studies have shown that the majority of communication is actually non-verbal. In fact, researchers have found that nonverbal communication can account for as much as 93% of communication, depending on the topic matter. As it turns out, gaining the trust of others comes from what you are communicating when you’re not saying anything at all.The good news is that being a skillful non-verbal communicator is something you can learn through practice. Here are three strategies to help you improve this essential leadership practice.

Step 1:  Explore your own non-verbal communication

attractive-woman-2722932_1920The first step to becoming a great non-verbal communicator is to recognize that you already have a non-verbal communication style, even if you aren’t sure what it is. We all start life communicating through sound and movement before we acquire words; we cry when we need our diaper changed, or put our arms out when we want to be picked up and held. These and many other gestures are the early foundation blocks of how we still communicate at a nonverbal level when we become adults.

Becoming aware of our current style of nonverbal communication is essential to making it more effective. Here is a simple exercise to help you better understand your non-verbal communication style. First, identify two different people in your life: someone you feel comfortable and at ease communicating with, and someone you struggle to connect with or feel less confident interacting with. The next time you are speaking with each of them, ask yourself these questions:

  • What was my tone of voice?
  • How was the pace and volume of my speech?
  • How was my posture?
  • Was there any tension in my body, and if so, where?
  • Did I use any specific mannerisms?
  • What physical gestures did I make?

In this first step, it’s important to not change anything about how you normally interact; your goal is to paint an accurate picture of yourself before you start making adjustments. Simply observe your behavior while you’re speaking, and note your reaction to the other person’s communication.Once you’ve collected data from both of these situations (i.e., interacting with these two different people), compare the data. Notice the subtle differences in your own non-verbal communication style in each situation, and begin to make yourself  aware of which of these elements are consistent patterns across multiple interactions.By trying out this exercise, you are developing a crucial aspect of self-awareness which will be essential to gaining control over your own communication style, so that you can later be more effective in using non-verbal communication to deliberately build trust in your relationships with your teammates.

Step 2:  Recognize the nonverbal communication of others

wings-1940245_1920Being an excellent non-verbal communicator isn’t just about understanding your own style and being able to modulate and control it. It also requires developing an awareness of how others are communicating, so that you can see what they are trying to say “between the lines,” and adjust your own style to better connect with them.The exercise in this step is a straightforward extension of the previous one.

Repeat the exercise above, but this time, focus on the person you are interacting with, and their non-verbal communication style. Take note of their tone of voice, posture, and body language, just as you did above for yourself.

Now you are in a position to find some interesting insights. Compare your own non-verbal communication style with that of your interlocutors. Chances are, you’ll find similarities between your communication style and that of the person you feel a connection with; while you find discrepancies between your style and that of the person you struggle to connect with. Why is that?

The simple explanation is that familiarity creates trust. Recognizing elements of another person’s behavior helps us feel kinship with their character and a sense of empathy with their experience. Cross-cultural communication shows how challenging diverse styles can be for establishing a sense of connection; while a sensitivity to the nuances of communication within a culture help to deepen intra-group bonds and understanding. As a result, it’s natural that we will feel greater connection with those people whose communication style is similar to our own.Now that we have observed this pattern in action, we can use these fundamental insights to improve our relationships with our teammates.

Step 3:  Adjust your communication to unlock connections with others

Human beings are biologically equipped to be natural empathizers, so long as we don’t let our own habitual patterns of communication get in the way.

in-love-2503412_1920The key to establishing a sense of familiarity with someone is finding that connection between your nonverbal communication styles.The biological mechanism behind this process is the operation of mirror neurons.

Have you seen a loved one cry and suddenly felt your own tears welling up? This is the power of mirror neurons; they fire in our brains when observing other people, giving us an experience that mirrors their experience. While science has studied and explained these neurons in primates in more technical detail, the simple way we can think about their operation is as literally giving us a way to feel what it’s like to walk in another person’s shoes.

Human beings are biologically equipped to be natural empathizers, so long as we don’t let our own habitual patterns of communication get in the way. So how can we take advantage of the operation of mirror neurons to develop a connection with someone?

Here’s our last exercise:The next time you’re having a difficult time connecting with someone, start by identifying what about your two styles of communicating is the same and different, as you did in the previous exercise. You’ll find that, sometimes, simply observing this is enough to create a deeper sense of connection.

Next, begin to play with mirroring your non-verbal communication style to match the other person. Notice their manner of speech and body language, and see how you can weave those into your own behavior. The key to doing this successfully is to also stay true to yourself. If you force yourself into a mode that’s too foreign, you run the risk of creating further disconnect. Look for the aspects of the other person that are somewhat familiar already and start there.

This exercise is similar to the practice of reflective listening, i.e., verbally repeating something back to someone right after hearing it. Mirroring someone’s body posture, movement, or pace opens up communication between your bodies in a way that words alone cannot, increasing the opportunity for you to develop familiarity and trust. When teammates feel they can trust you, they’ll be more likely to show you their strengths and weaknesses, so you can collaborate to find the ways to best develop and utilize them, and create a relationship of empowerment.And that is a major step forward in becoming a great leader.

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.


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Sharing Your Love: Poetry & Letters from the Heart



Whether you believe in Hallmark Card holidays like Valentine’s Day or not, this month is a good time to think about someone you love, either alive or passed. But instead of sending flowers, giving chocolate, or going out to dinner, consider writing a letter or poem. If the person is deceased, you obviously can’t send the letter, but it’s a nice way to remain connected to that individual. My dad passed away twenty-eight years ago, and I always use this month as an excuse to write him a letter telling him how much I miss him, and letting him know what’s going on in my life.

9780141027562For creative inspiration, you might consider reading some love poetry. The poetry of our beloved Leonard Cohen is always inspiring, especially his book of Love Poems, more commonly called, The Book of Longing. More recently, for spiritual inspiration and to surround myself with love, I’ve been reading the works of the Sufi poet Rumi, and I’ve been blown away by his words and sentiments. There are numerous translations of Rumi’s work, but I’ve found those by Coleman Barks to be the most powerful and compelling. As Barks says in his introduction to The Essential Rumithe poems “are food and drink, nourishment for the part that is hungry for what they give. Call it soul” (p. xv). Barks goes on to say that Rumi’s poems help us feel what living in “the ruins feels like . . . heartbroken, wandering, wordless, lost, and ecstatic for no reason. It’s the psychic space his poems inhabit” (p. xvi).

These feelings are what many of us experience now and then, which is why Rumi’s poems have resonated with me and so many others over the years. They fill us up when we’re empty, and illuminate all that is wonderful when we feel good.

rumi-774725_1920Barks’s introduction shared a lot about Rumi, his history, and his life. This timeless poet was born in Balkh (in what is now northern Afghanistan) on September 30, 1207. As a teenager he was identified as a great spirit, and in his 30s he met Shams Tabriz, with whom he shared many mystical conversations, resulting in a strong and magical friendship that inspired and informed Rumi’s poetry.

Rumi died in 1273, and on his tomb is the inscription: “Do not look for him here, but rather in the hearts of those who love him.” For many, Rumi’s poems deepen their overall sense of faith and hope. He was a wonderful soul and spiritual teacher. As Barks says, “He shows us glory. He wants us to be more alive, to wake up . . . he wants us to see our beauty in the mirror and in each other.” Rumi’s poems in their original form have no Persian titles. Barks says this is because “they are works in progress in a life in progress, oceanic living tissue always reconfiguring itself”; however, for the purposes of his book, Barks assigned titles for each poem to facilitate accessibility.

It’s not easy choosing one of my favorite Rumi love poems—I simply adore all of them—but here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite ones, “Buoyancy,” which coincides with February, the Month of Love:

Love has taken away my practices
and filled me with poetry.

I tried to keep quietly repeating,
No strength but yours,
but I couldn’t.

I had to clap and sing.
I used to be respectable and chaste and stable,
but who can stand in this strong wind
and remember those things?

A mountain keeps an echo deep inside itself.
That’s how I hold your voice.



ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

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Virtual reality as a window into our multidimensional nature? Dr. Marilyn Schlitz thinks it’s possible.

Marilyn-SchlitzDr. Marilyn Schlitz, program chair of the doctoral program at ITP/Sofia U is a social anthropologist, consciousness researcher, and co-author of the books Consciousness & Healing and Living Deeply.

Reality Bubbles? Paradox? Multiple Worldviews? How can we move into this new world? Well Dr. Marilyn Schlitz believes virtual reality technology may help us. Dr. Schlitz’s anthropological research has focused on indigenous practices and mind-body interaction in healing. Taking this a step further, she is wondering how virtual reality technology can catalyze collective shifts in consciousness. Intrigued?

She says that we’re each living within our own reality bubbles, and that some of the most important skills in the 21st Century will focus on coming to an awareness of our filters and to cultivate the capacity to understand, empathize, and interact with people who are living in completely different models of reality.

The following podcast features an interview with Dr. Schlitz as she talks about some of the game design work that she’s doing in order to achieve this, as well as how virtual reality might provide a window into our multidimensional nature and help us become more aware of our own aspects of inattentional blindness.


About The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia UniversityITP-logo_small

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

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Filed under Faculty at Sofia U, Research at Sofia U

How Screen Addiction is Damaging Kid’s Brains

“I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict,” says Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, author of ‘Glow Kids.’

Nicholas Kardaras

Alumnus Dr. Nicholas Kardaras received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University. He currently works at The Dunes in East Hampton New York. His research has led him to focus on addiction and more recently on screen addiction in children. His book, “Glow Kids”, is a plunge into the phenomenon of screen addiction in children. Nicholas was interviewed by Vice.com. We have re-posted the article here.

Thumbnail image via Flickr user Sleeping TV Man





In the 80s, Graham Nash from Crosby Stills & Nash appeared on MTV for an interview. The popular band had refused to make music videos, and Nash said the reason why was that he didn’t want to provide the images that people would see when they hear his music. Instead, he said that they should instead create their own internal and unique mental visuals to accompany the track. Today, as a consequence of our constant bombardment with screen-based media, some experts believe that kids may have a harder time doing that.

A new book out on August 9 called Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids by Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, one of the country’s top addiction experts, details how compulsive technology usage and reliance on screens can neurologically damage the developing brain of a child the same way that drug addiction can. Through extensive research, clinical trials with diagnosed screen addicts, and experience treating a variety of other types of addicts, the author explores the alarming reality of how children could be “stunting their own creative abilities” by constantly turning on and tuning in.

Dr. Kardaras, who grew up playing Asteroids and loved Ms. PacMan, discusses how game developers use tests to measure dopamine and adrenaline levels in order to make video games as addicting as possible. He also explains how technology might stagnate frontal cortex development. With Glow Kids, Kardaras seeks to push the thesis that we should let children’s “brains fully develop first before we expose them to these digital drugs.” VICE chatted with the author to learn more about his research, why kids are both boring and bored today, and why social media is an illusion of real connection.

VICE: In the beginning of your book, you quote the song that the Oompa-Loompas sing in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory featuring the lyrics, “It rots the senses dead/It kills the imagination dead.” How relevant is this to what is going on today with kids and screens?

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras: I think that Roald Dahl lyric is extremely relevant and prescient. I’ve worked clinically with over 1,000 teens over the past decade plus and one of the most amazing things that I observed was that kids raised from an early age on a high-tech/high-screen diet suffered from what seemed to be a digital malaise. They were, almost universally, what I like to call “uninterested and uninteresting.” Bored and boring, they lacked a natural curiosity and a sense of wonder and imagination that non-screen kids seemed to have. They didn’t know—or care to know—about what was happening around them in the world. All that seemed to drive them was a perpetual need to be stimulated and entertained by their digital devices.

Kids’ brains develop during key developmental windows when they engage their active imagination in such things as creative play. These windows are when the body builds the most neuronal connections. Kids who are just passively stimulated by a glowing screen don’t have to do the neural heavy lifting to create those images. The images are provided for them, thus stunting their own creative abilities.

I grew up in the 1970s and started playing Atari around middle school. I was enthralled with the video games, but still remained active. What’s the difference between how young people engaged with gaming back then compared to today?
The real key difference with that generation of video games and today’s generation of video games is a qualitative one. Games today are more immersive, interactive, and realistic. And that’s just the two-dimensional games. Don’t get me started on immersive 3D and augmented reality holographic games. As my friend Dr. Andrew Doan, the Head of Addiction Research for the Pentagon and US Navy who has extensively researched video games, likes to say, today’s games are a multi-billion dollar industry that employ the best neuroscientists and behavioral psychologists to make them as addicting as possible.

The developers strap beta-testing teens with galvanic skin responses, EKG, and blood pressure gauges. If the game doesn’t spike their blood pressure to 180 over 140, they go back and tweak the game to make it have more of an adrenaline-rush effect. The problem is that adrenaline rush affects what’s called the H-P-A Axis (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis) and creates the fight-or-flight adrenal response. But that fight-or-flight response in nature is a fairly brief event—you get chased by a dog, your heart races, and your adrenaline surges, but then you calm down when the threat is gone.

With video games, however, the kid sits and plays for hours of adrenal-elevated fight-or-flight. This is not a good thing. Research has shown that this latest generation of games significantly raises dopamine levels, the key neurotransmitter associated with our pleasure/reward pathways and the key neurotransmitter in addiction dynamics. One study showed that video games raise dopamine to the same degree that sex does, and almost as much as cocaine does. So this combo of adrenaline and dopamine are a potent one-two punch with regards to addiction.

I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict—Dr. Nicholas Kardaras

A friend of mine has two kids, and he takes them everywhere with him, but both kids are always engaged with their tablet and have headphones on. The only time we hear from them is when their battery runs out. What are some long-term effects of this type of behavior?
What you have observed is exactly what I just talked about: Kids who are so habituated to their hyper-stimulating and dopamine-activating immersive screen reality that they choose to stay in the digital Matrix. The reason why this effect is more powerful on children than adults—although we all know of many adults who are screen-addicted—is that children still don’t have a fully-developed frontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls executive functioning, decision making, and impulse control.

Neuropsychologists call the frontal cortex a person’s “brakes,” but that part of the brain doesn’t develop until our early 20s, which is why teens engage in all sorts of risky behavior—from bungee jumping to unprotected sex. They don’t have the impulse control and “consequential thinking” parts of their brains developed. Adding to the problem, research shows that both drug use and excessive screen usage actually stunts the frontal cortex and reduces the grey matter in that part of the brain. So hyper-arousing games create a double whammy. Not only are they addicting, but then addiction perpetuates itself by negatively impacting the part of the brain that can help with impulsivity and good decision making.

Can a screen addiction even compare to a heroin or cocaine addiction? Most people would say no, especially since phones are a necessity in today’s world.
Well, I definitely think that screen addiction meets all diagnostic clinical criteria for addiction. As does the Chinese Health Organization and many other countries throughout the world. The US is a bit late to the dance. We don’t have it as an “official” diagnosis in our DSM, but we do have the topic marked as requiring further study and review. While phones may be a necessity—and I say may because, let’s face, we can live without a phone—they’re definitely not a necessity for an eight, nine, or ten-year-old.

My whole thesis is that we should let the child’s brain fully develop first before we expose them to these digital drugs (which they definitely are). I’ve worked with hundreds of heroin addicts and crystal meth addicts, and what I can say is that it’s easier to treat a heroin addict than a true screen addict, precisely because they’re so ubiquitous in our society that people inevitably have to interact with them on some level. Not so with heroin. In my clinical experience, the key to digital addiction prevention is to be mindful of the potential dangers of screen addiction and limit usage during those key developmental ages before it creeps over into digital addiction, because that’s a real bitch to treat.

How does screen tech affect behavioral disorders like ADHD, anxiety, depression, increased aggression, and psychosis?
Dr. Dimitri Christakis’ research has found that screen exposure increases the probability of getting ADHD, and several peer-reviewed studies have linked internet usage to increased anxiety and depression. I think some of the most shocking research is that which shows how kids can get psychotic-like symptoms from gaming, wherein the game blurs reality for the player. It’s known as “Game Transfer Phenomenon” and has been extensively studied by Dr. Mark Griffith and Dr. Angelica de Gortari in England. Gamers hear and see elements of the game long after they’ve stopped playing; Minecraft players start seeing the real world in the cube-forms of the game. I’ve worked with several teens who’ve had apparent psychotic breaks from their excessive gaming, and two who needed to be psychiatrically hospitalized. It’s scary stuff. We know that children develop their sense of what’s real and what isn’t—what psychologists call “reality testing”—between the ages of three and ten. If they are exposed to reality-blurring imagery during that key developmental stage, it compromises their ability to discern reality. That’s less likely to happen to an adult gamer, but it’s occurred.

Even though we are seemingly more connected than ever with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, it seems there’s a big disconnect in the way people communicate in person because of all the texting and social media. How does the screens play into that?
I like to call social media the illusion of connection. Author Johan Hari calls it a “parody” of genuine connection. We are social animals hardwired for social connection, but that seems to require genuine, in-depth, face-to-face intimacy and connection—not Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

Research has shown that the more Facebook friends one has, the higher the likelihood of depression. That’s been attributed to the “comparison effect”: I get more and more down about my life the more and more idealized images I keep seeing of peoples projected happy lives . Let’s face it, most people don’t post Facebook pics of when they’re struggling. Instead, it’s just, look at how wonderful my vacation is! types of photos. You see enough of those and you can begin to feel pretty crappy, if that’s your only social connection.

Order ‘Glow Kids’ here.

ITP-logo_smallAbout The Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University

Since 1975, the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology at Sofia University has continued to be an international leader and pioneer, moving humanity forward in the areas of transpersonal research and transpersonal education. training clinicians, spiritual guides, wellness caregivers, and consultants who apply transpersonal principles and values in a variety of settings.  The Sofia educational model offers students not only a solid intellectual foundation, but an extraordinary opportunity for deep transformational growth and personal experience of the subject matter. How does Sofia University accomplish this? The university builds upon its strong, whole-person psychological foundation to give students a greater understanding of the human condition.

Learn more about our programs.

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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 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. 


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.


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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Filed under Faculty at Sofia U, The Transpersonal