Tag Archives: Transpersonal

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

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

Sufi Practicebob-frager-222x196

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

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

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

Remembering God

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Role of a Teacher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mysticism

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

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

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

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

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

Self-Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leave a comment

Filed under Academics, Sofia Faculty

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”

Dharma_Primary_School_-_Children_Meditating_2015.jpg

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Academics, Degree Programs, The Transpersonal

Embracing the Visionary – Sofia University Archetype #2

download
Every university has its audience. Like a magnet, a school can grab your attention based on subconscious desires you may not even know were important.

Sofia University has always attracted those who connect with the Visionary energy. Visionaries see possibilities and solutions where others see problems. Our programs are a great fit for individuals who identify with the Visionary Archetype.

As a pioneer in transpersonal psychology, we too envisioned new possibilities for humanity that are finally taking root in the mainstream with the focus on mindfulness and conscious business and technology.

Check out this article on the Visionary archetype and see if it’s a match for you!

Then visit our website to learn more about our degree programs. Once you find a program that matches your archetype, contact our Admissions team for more information at admissions@sofia.edu or 1-888-98-SOFIA.

imagesk

 

Images Courtesy of:  tomasbisono.com & www.horriblelogos.com 

Leave a comment

Filed under About Sofia, Sofia Spirit

Learning at Sofia University: A Student’s Perspective

By Yifan Wang

I wanted to share my experience as a student of Sofia University’s Doctor of Transpersonal Psychology program.

Formerly called the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, my school was founded in 1975 with the intention of providing an education in transpersonal psychology.

But what does transpersonal psychology mean?

screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-11-13-34-am

For me, it means the experience of life beyond the self. According to Abraham Maslow’s Hierachy of Needs, transpersonal psychology would be on the level of self-realization and self-transcendence. The theories of transpersonal psychology are built into all of the programs at Sofia including the Bachelors, Masters, Doctorate and Certificate programs. It is also blended into the non-psychology degree programs like Computer Science and Business Administration. I believe this unique component helps graduates stand out from other applicants in the workforce.

Choices: Online, On-Campus, or Hybrid

One of the reasons why I chose Sofia University was its hybrid model of learning as I had been looking for a school that provided online learning and also face-to-face mentoring. Sofia’s hybrid format provides students with the flexibility to study anywhere in the world, with the opportunity to meet faculty and students in person through bi-annual on-campus seminars.

screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-12-36-33-pm

For me, I prefer the hybrid format because it allows me to continue to work a job and engage in coursework when I have free time. I find that it’s also great for international students who may speak English as a second language because instructors are available for additional questions outside of classroom time via email.

Experience is learning. Learning is healing

Studying at Sofia requires a lot of hard work. There is a lot of reading, online discussion, and some experiential components. But there is another type of work involved while being a student at Sofia: the work of self-awareness. To make sense and gain insight into yourself is critical. It is imperative that we learn about ourselves in order to better understand others – especially in the healing field of psychotherapy.

I’ve learned unique and life-changing skills through my classes at Sofia. Our papers include both self-reflection, and sometimes art modalities that reflect and deepen our understanding of our childhood experiences, developmental stages, and relationships that formed who we have become as individuals. And, all of this self-exploration is held in a safe and private container. We have built good trust between each other.

screen-shot-2016-09-06-at-12-39-14-pm

The most interesting course so far has been the martial art practice of Aikido, which is a requirement for all psychology students. We use Aikido techniques to re-experience verbal “attacking” and “defending” used in daily life. We explore how to redirect and renegotiate other people’s energy while maintaining a harmonious relationship with them.

Sofia’s learning environment creates a space where people respect each other without judgment. And the instructors act like spiritual surgeons, gently opening and closing their student’s life wounds with loving presence. I feel so honored to learn from them as they are masters in this field who have 15-30 years of clinical experience.

I’ve already gained so much from my experience as a student at Sofia University. I look forward to more learning, growing, and rich experiences throughout my journey here. I highly recommend this school to anyone who is interested in a unique learning experience that will not only provide you with academic rigor and professional training, but will also provide you with greater self-awareness and inner strength.

从前,有一个有趣的心理类学校

两周前发过一篇微信文章“不一样的标准答案”,有很多朋友对我走这条路挺感兴趣的,也表示出了对心理学,和对非传统的学习方式很感兴趣。那么这篇文章,让我来介绍一下我们这个“小精品”学校。

之前读过牛津大学的好处是他是一个好的敲门砖,另外一个特别大的好处是从此以后“妈妈再也不用担心学校排名了”,我可以自由的选择自己喜欢的学校。有人问我这个学校排名怎么样,我说这个学校没排名,可能都没参与排名。因为外界会定位这个学校非常”boutique”, 小精品的感觉。

我们学校叫做索菲亚大学Sofia University,以前叫做Institute of transpersonal psychology, 1975年建校。所以我们学校主打的就是transpersonal psychology, transpersonal 是啥意思呢,可以理解认为它是在自我(self)范畴之外的经历,比如说梦境,灵魂深处,深度的合一,马斯洛提出的人的需求理论的最高层级,自我实现和自我超越。这门课程是基本上学校所有课程的必修课,从本科,硕士到博士,或者证书课程,从学校传统的灵魂心理学,临床心理学到学校新开设和将要开设的计算机,和商业类课程。 从心理学来讲这是非常新的一个类别, 有别于精神分析,行为学,和人本主义。从非心理学课程来讲,学校让这些科目变得非常独特,让这些理科和商科科目注入了新的生命。相信你的经历会让你在人才市场或者是生活中变得的有特点,有别于其他竞争者从而可以脱颖而出。

怎么上学:线上,线下,还是线上又线下

这是我三年前为什么选择索菲亚大学的另外一个重要原因。我希望找一个学校可以线上读书,又可以有面对面和老师交流的机会。这样可以既不耽误工作,又可以有多重的学习体验。就是上图所示的Hybrid课程。1/3面对面授课,2/3线上教学。

索菲亚大学提供了非常灵活的学习方式。如果你想扎扎实实的呆在美国读书,可以选择来学校上课(on campus/residential)。如果你想完全线上(online/global)来上课,这样让自己的学习时间可以自己掌控,那么可以选在在国内或者其他任何有网络的地方。如果觉得网络没有让大家看见“真人”,完全泡在学校又不现实,可以选择半线上的课程(hybrid/low-residency)。

对于我来讲,我太喜欢线上的学习了。虽然线上课程,网络课程在我们国家,或者全世界都没有传统的全日制认可度高。但是学习效果可以非常好1)理论实践的完美结合,如果你一边工作一边读书的话,可以使得两边相互促进。 2)合理分配自己的时间。选择你想上学的时间上学,不用担心早上8点的课起不来了。3)讨论的内容都在论坛里面,可以随时查看,根本不怕跟不上,听不懂(可以查词,查百科),没机会表达自己观点的顾虑。4)一直在进行。这一点很容易让人忽略。网络的讨论和老师的在线解答时一直进行的。面对面的授课我个人的经历是,上完课一走人,什么内容都忘了。

总之线上的学习拿到的文凭不好听(半线上的就好听一些),但是真的能学的很透彻,可以规避掉很多面授的弊端。

体验就是学习,学习就是疗愈

在索菲亚的上课,更多是以阅读,讨论配合体验的方式。人和人其实没有太多的不同。对自己的认识和理解是任何自我提升中比较重要的环节。在索菲亚的心理课程的学习过程中,我们对自己的生命发展历程,儿时经历,和母亲的关系,性经历,成瘾/着迷经历进行了深度并且安全回顾,通过写文章,还可以通过各种艺术形式来表达。我们学校另外一门必修课,也是学生最喜欢的一门课就是合气道(Aikido),我们通过和同伴之间对抗练习来充分体会人和人之间的攻防是怎样进行的。每天面对各种压力“攻击”,怎样通过动作来优雅的防御,并且和攻击者保持良好的关系。通过招式的体会,我们可以自然的抵消,转化很多来自于外界的批评,刁难和施压。

索菲亚大学的另外的特点是这个学习社区(community),有一位著名的心理学家曾经说过从哪里受伤,就回到哪里去疗愈。人都是从关系和人群当中受到伤害,我们还要回到人群当中来治疗。所以,在这个学习者都很尊重对方的伤痛的环境中,学习者可以安全的说出自己以前的不好的经历,老师(以治疗师的身份)会同你的同组的学习者帮你轻轻的揭开伤疤,再帮你轻轻的缝合。在学习的几年中,学生可以深度才从各个角度看到自己的伤痛,人性中的不完美,也同时认识到自己的“资源“(正能量)。当然,从中你也通过给予他人的爱,来了解其他人,在给别人疗愈的同时让自己得到新生。所以,把自己的经历理顺出来,不逃避,用真实的情绪讲出来,再加上众人的接纳和包容,这是自己的治疗的珍贵体验,不是书本上学的来的。

请把手弄脏

我还记得我上学的前几天,老师就说了一句话我们不做role play,我们就拿出自己的问题给对方来练习。作为初体验美国这个文化,美国这个心理文化还有这个学校的文化时,有些事情真的不习惯。我看到我的同学在和老师做示范的时候,直接拿出自己而是强奸的经历, 有的同学直接拿出昨晚上做的噩梦,吓得直哭。虽然面对同学强烈的情绪和脆弱时,手足无措,但是这都是很好的实践机会。所以,两三年下来我们和彼此建立了很好的信任,也都做了彼此的治疗师,所以实习的时候我们基本上都已经”get our hands dirty”, 已经有了一些技能的基础了。同时还把自己做的治疗过程进行录音,然后逐字逐句的和老师进行修正讨论。这些都不会让自己像象牙塔出来的书生。

Leave a comment

Filed under About Sofia, Academics, Degree Programs, Sofia Profiles, Sofia Spirit, Students Speak

What can I do with a B.A. in Psychology?

If you’ve been yearning for a new career path or wanting to finish what you started years ago, you may find what you’re looking for through our Bachelors Completion program in Psychology.

Our unique program offers a rich and transformative learning experience through a flexible online format, which is suitable for working professionals, parents, and global students. This completion program allows you to complete your Bachelor’s degree online so you can finally start your career in the field of psychology.

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 1.38.16 PM.png

Loretta Farris, one of our BAC graduates said:

I had my doubts about receiving an education on-line, but I’m pleased to say that the experience was an overall success. I was fortunate to have a kind academic advisor who provided the guidance and encouragement I needed to help me complete my capstone project. Instructors with real-world expertise in their respective fields showed me how to go beyond my expectations of learning. Perhaps most importantly, my classmates shared their experiences with love, honesty and integrity and I will always be grateful to have been a part of their journey at Sofia University.

But what can one do after graduating with a B.A. in Psychology?

165088092-56a793665f9b58b7d0ebd6ea

BA Completion graduate, Devi Prem shares her success story:

I am most grateful to the quality and flexibility that the Sofia offers. For my BA completion I have received the most wonderful support to create my own body of work “Seven Sacred Rhythms of Leadership”, a dance meditation coaching offering. I will be continuing with the Global MA in Transpersonal Psychology program, which is truly a choice of my heart.

And BAC graduate Nisha Jumn shares:

I have nothing but great things to say about Sofia. This is an amazing program which offers students the stepping stones that propels us into worlds we may never have thought of entering. I am grateful for my professors and all they had to offer. The BAC program and the knowledge I gained from it resulted in me creating, Adi Shaktee, as an oasis for healing and a platform which I intend using for my women’s movement.

Below is a list of key elements that might help you increase the chances of landing the job of your dreams.

  • Plan early. Meet with your academic advisor to discuss your career interests and options and identify the unique constellation of knowledge, skills and characteristics you need to enter the career of your choice.
  • Assess yourself. Figure out who you are and what you want from a job. Consider these questions: ‘What are the 10 traits that describe you best? What working conditions must you have? How much money do you need to make? What are your long-term goals? What skills do you have and which do you most enjoy using?’ Your answers will provide a foundation for your job search and enable you to pinpoint the opportunities best suited to you.
  • Capitalize on your connections. Think about the people you’ve met who could give you job leads—perhaps you completed an internship, participated in a service learning event or volunteered at a school. Be sure to stay in touch with your professors since local agencies may contact them looking for “good” graduates to fill a job. And don’t forget, even after you graduate, you will need references or letters of recommendation, so staying connected with faculty is a smart choice.
  • Look beyond Internet job postings. With such sites as careerbuilder.com and monster.com, Indeed.com, linkedin.com, and ideal.org, the Internet is a wonderful tool for finding jobs. Many corporations may not list their jobs there, so be sure to visit company websites that may interest you and send an email to introduce yourself.
  • Take advantage of campus services, even after you graduate. Your campus career center and alumni office are both interested in your long-term success.

Kendra Cherry wrote an article on Verywell.com (About, Inc. company) entitled “Careers Options With a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology”.

In this article Kendra mentions that as an undergraduate, chances are you have done a considerable amount of research and writing, and these skills would be useful in positions as a library assistant, probation officer, business manager, case worker and many other related areas. She also points out that the biggest advantage of a bachelor’s degree in psychology is its adaptability.

Job_interview_0001

So what are the most commonly held careers for those with a bachelors degree in psychology? According to The College Majors Handbook, some of the top occupations that employ those with a bachelor’s psychology degree are:

  1. Top- and mid-level management and administration
  2. Sales
  3. Social work
  4. Other management occupations
  5. Labor-relations, personnel and training
  6. Administrative positions
  7. Real estate, business services and insurance
  8. Marketing

As you enter the job market, consider jobs that require the skills you obtained during your psychology education. These abilities include:

  • Critical thinking
  • One-on-one and small group communication
  • Effective written communication skills
  • Understanding of individual human behavior
  • Knowledge of group and organizational behavior
  • Creative thinking skills

Some students even decide to continue their education due to specific careers that require further training. Therefore, many graduates of B.A. in Psychology programs eventually go on for their Masters in Counseling Psychology to become licensed therapists, the Masters in Tranpersonal Psychology to become educators and authors, or choose our doctorate level programs to become licensed psychologists and/or researchers.

Whichever path you choose, you are sure to set a solid foundation for your career success with our Bachelors Completion program.

For more information about our B.A. in Psychology program, please contact our Admissions team at admission@sofia.edu or 1-888-98-SOFIA.

Leave a comment

Filed under About Sofia, Academics, Alumni features, Career, Career Tips, Degree Programs

When a New Life is Calling You – How Will You Respond?

Live_a_Life_Worthy_of_the_Calling

How I Came to Sofia University

Kimberly Anne ChristensenKimberly Anne Christensen, 4th year – PhD in Transpersonal Psychology

Many students come to this school because it is a CALLING! We have been directed through signs or spiritual messengers to come here. This is not a NORMAL school.(Smiles). Clearly, there is something very special about this school which attracts people that believe or recognize in another level of consciousness. Coming to this school is a sure sign that you are seeking a non-traditional approach that recognizes something within you that is crying out for expression and can transform not just yourself, but send ripples of transformation outward to all who come in contact with you.

IT WASN’T JUST A DREAM…...

1864411974_fa6b7b02f9_zI woke up one morning in April 2012 after a dream in which I saw myself in San Francisco and I didn’t know why. I was hundreds of miles away in Yreka, CA, wondering what I would be doing in this 3rd phase of life. I had no job or source of income, but knew I was supposed to get my doctorate. Two weeks later, in a guided meditation on my life purpose, I imagined myself standing on a beach and saw on a huge banner laying on the sand displaying the words TRANSPERSONAL PSYCHOLOGY. I was shocked. I never seen words in my meditations and had no knowledge of this field of psychology.

When I looked it up on Google with a keyword search of San Francisco, I found a school that seemed to fit the bill – the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology actually existed and offered doctorate degrees! FYI. Once I made this connection, I was consistently sent messages and photos and signs that I was to move my life to San Francisco Bay Area. The synchronicity was evident!

RESPONDING TO THE CALL

hqdefaultOriginally from Southern California, this was a big move for me. I had never lived in the Bay Area before and I didn’t know anyone. But I kept moving forward. I applied to the school and made an appointment to visit and learn whether I had what it took to be part of the doctoral program.

That appointment in July changed everything and convinced me this was the right place for me. There were 3-4 Admissions counselors who all greeted me by name and they were some of the most caring people I had ever met. They were eager to show me the campus and point out the growth that was coming.

The school had recently been renamed Sofia University, and they completely believed in the future of the school.

Then I met with the kindest woman named Genie Palmer for my interview. She embodied my understanding of transpersonal and also made me feel SAFE. She told me how my dreams would fit in with the school and the program of my choice and clarified all the details.

When my interview was over, the admissions staff offered to drive me back to my hotel so I wouldn’t have to endure another 1 hour or more trip on the bus! My security needs were met, and the financial aid office assured me everything would be okay.

I never got housing squared away until I got here, and my financial aid check was not ready since I applied late, but to my surprise, some very generous and kind students took me in for free!

This is the nature of the school — THE HUMAN TOUCH. Kindness. Mercy. Generosity. These are qualities that ripple throughout the staff and faculty of this school.

THE RESULT

6660064659_5bd12b756a_bFast forward four years and it’s 2016. I have passed my proposal and am ready to conduct my research on the use of guided imagery in science to raise academic test scores for 3rd grade students (I was a former educator). I now also work at the school, beginning in the Dissertation office with Dr. Carol Haefner, and now with the Marketing and Communications department to help promote and share our special and unique gifts with others across the world.

I love Sofia University.  I am happy I heeded the call. I know getting my doctorate here is helping me fulfill my dream of opening up a charter school that provides the same kind of caring, compassion and transpersonal practices that Sofia/ITP has shared for 40 years.

Learn more about the residential Transpersonal Psychology doctorate program

Leave a comment

Filed under About Sofia, Academics, Career, Degree Programs, Sofia Profiles, Sofia Spirit, Students Speak

Research in a Sacred World

By Rosemarie Anderson, Ph.D.


While qualitative approaches have a long history in medicine and philosophy, the formal articulation of qualitative research methods begin with Phenomenological Research and Grounded Theory in the 1960s; Ethnography and Case Study methods in the 1970s; Narrative Research, HeurisStained_glass,_Holy_Family_Church,_Teconnaught,_September_2010_croptic Research, Art- and Body-based Approaches, and Transpersonal Approaches in the 1990s; and Auto-biographical Approaches, Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, and Mixed Methods, among others, in the 2000s. Qualitative Methods rapidly secured strong traditions especially in the United Kingdom and the United States and increasingly elsewhere. All these methods are rooted in hermeneutic perspectives developed in Europe in the late 19th C. and 20th C.

The Transpersonal Approach developed by the late William Braud and myself in the mid-1990s and first published in 1998 are essentially “mixed-method approaches,” that endorse both quantitative and qualitative approaches for the study of transpersonal and spiritual topics. However, in addition, to the standards of detailed documentation and analysis, we advocated that transpersonal research incorporate the following principles to guide transpersonal research:

  • An interior interpretative and reflective perspective
  • Research topics evolve from explicit personal life experience
  • Multiple ways of knowing, including intuition and personal insights
  • Transformation of self and others through research
  • Research as a response to the Sacred world

 

Biography

Rosemarie Anderson is Professor Emerita at Sofia University in Palo Alto, CA. and a research consultant. She received her Ph.D. in experimental psychology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1973 and a M. Div. from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA in 1983. In 1998, she authored Celtic Oracles (Random House) and co-authored, with William Braud, Transpersonal Research Methods for the Social Sciences (SAGE Pubs), the book that established the field of transpersonal research methods. In 2011, she co-authored Transforming Self and Others Through Research (SUNY Press) with William Braud and co-authored Five Ways of Doing Qualitative Research: Phenomenological Psychology, Grounded Theory, Discourse Analysis, Narrative Research, and Intuitive Inquiry (Guilford, 2011) with Frederick Wertz, Kathy Charmaz, Linda McMullen, Ruthellen Josselson, and Emalina McSpadden. As a research supervisor and consultant, she oversees research using Intuitive Inquiry, Narrative Research, Art- and Body-based Approaches, Case Study, and Mixed Methods (Quantitative and Qualitative). She lives in Oregon and is a student of Denma Locho Rinpoche and Paul Goodberg.


Learn more about our programs

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Academics, Promotional

Is Movement Meditation a productive alternative?

Mindful MovementUnknown.jpeg

Movement meditation is ideal when we feel energetic. Some people are so vigorous or restless that they cannot use sitting meditation; thus, moving meditation is a productive alt
ernative. In some monasteries and retreats, participants alternate between sitting meditation and moving meditation (usually walking meditation) in order to give the physical body some exercise and to release physical tension and stimulate blood circulation.

Read more from http://www.trans4mind.com/jamesharveystout/move-med.htm

Tai_Chi2.jpgWashing the Dishes–Mindfully 

You can also be imaginative. Some people do movement meditations while washing the dishes, or even rhythmically scrubbing the floor or stains out of clothing. Circular movements while polishing a car, or gently stirring a soup can also be other repetitive motions that you can attempt to bring a meditative or focused, calming mental state to. For creative people, simple dance steps, artwork that requires cross-hatching (and repetition in general), or even kneading clay can be ways to incorporate movement meditations into your daily life.

Read more from http://www.wildspeak.com/other/movementmed.html

images.jpegEight-Form Moving Meditation

Dharma Drum’s Eight-Form Moving Meditation is a set of easy-to-learn exercises that can be practiced almost anywhere and at anytime. This system of “meditation through motion” is beneficial to both body and mind, and once acquired through diligent practice, can be performed whether walking, standing, sitting or reclining, so that you are always mindful of being relaxed in body and mind. By practicing the Eight Forms, you will always be composed and at ease, and at every moment enjoy the bliss of meditation and the joy of the Dharma.

Read more from http://chancenter.org/cmc/chan-practice/moving-meditation/

Unknown-1.jpegDance, Walk, Taichi or Do Qigong: Find your Pace 

Meditation can do it all: reduce anxiety and sensitivity to pain, make us smarter, ward off sickness, and prevent stress. If carving out an hour to sit on a cushion doesn’t float your boat, there are many unexpected ways to meditate every day. Get the benefits of meditation by trying out an alternative style from the list below.

  1. Standing Meditation
  2. Walking Meditation
  3. Tai Chi
  4. Qigong
  5. Integrated Amrita Meditation Technique
  6. Dance Meditation
  7. Daily Life Practice Meditation
  8. Hand Movement Meditation
  9. Gazing Meditation
  10. Breathing Meditation

Read more from: http://greatist.com/happiness/unexpected-ways-to-meditate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Resources

5 Ways to use your personality to increase visibility on LinkedIn

By Liam Austin–Founder of Small Today

The results your LinkedIn presence will have on your business, naturally comes down to your contacts.

You can post great updates and write amazing Pulse posts, but if you don’t put yourself in front of the right people you won’t get the result ysocial-media-552411_960_720ou want.
The huge benefit of LinkedIn is the possibility to build relationships with people you might not have met otherwise, and build on existing ones.
I can attribute a huge part of the success of our business to partnerships that often started out and grew on LinkedIn. I know the importance of making an effort to create an extensive network of valuable contacts.
A rule of thumb when connecting is: quality before quantity.
Don’t be afraid to aim high.
Request to connect with people you admire and look up to, who have a way of doing business that interests you and would be a really valuable person in your network.
But before you just go ahead and click that connect button, take the time to make your invitation personal and I guarantee you chances of getting accepted will be much higher.
This is what I do when asking people to join my network:509659503_1280x720
1. Delete LinkedIn’s generic invite request. It’s impersonal and gives the impression that you didn’t make an effort to write something personal – show your personality.
2. People respond to effort and personalisation. Highlight shared experience, refer to a Pulse post they wrote, tell them in what way their work has inspired you and let them know why you’d like to connect. Spend a few minutes researching the person to find touch points to include in your invitation.
3. Give value by offering your assistance and help, but remember: never, ever try to sell anything in your invite. You won’t be taken seriously, you will be seen as spamming and chances are quite high your request will be declined.
4. Your existing relationships. Dedicate 10 minutes each daymaxresdefault to like posts, say congratulations to new positions, comment on discussions and respond to messages. Be consistent and efficient, and you will see results.
Try this next time you connect, and you’ll be off to a good start in building strong relationships that are crucial for growing your business.
Good luck!

Leave a comment

Filed under About Sofia, Career, Career Tips, Uncategorized

Alumna Julie Gohman, PhD Releases 10 Sacred Questions for Every Mother: Stories of Joy, Pain, and Mind-blowing Love.

Julie Gohman graduated from Sofia University in 2014 from the Global PHD program in Transpersonal Psychology. julie.cropped-276x300

Having one book release is always exciting, but now Julie, who has always wanted to be a writer, has released her second book on Amazon titled: 10 Sacred Questions for Every Mother: Stories of Joy, Pain, and Mind-blowing Love.

Julie recognizes that her path and purpose, besides being a loving mother and wife, is dedicated to human growth and development, learning and teaching, and understanding the complex dimensions of human behavior.

10sacredquestionsfor every mother.bookcoverAs a human being, her goal is to be mindful and present, to be loving and kind, and to live with wisdom and grace.  Living wholeheartedly, and with greater consciousness, pushes Julie every day to show up authentically, and with gratitude for all that she has been given.

This book was based on her research about motherhood.

Here is the link to her book on Amazon. 10 Sacred Questions for Every Mother

51wTjIcUFFL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

Julie’s first book, 10 Sacred Questions for Every Woman,was based on the narratives from her doctoral research at Sofia University. Her insights and narratives are shared, along with questions for the reader to engage in  self-inquiry and contemplation.

The book focuses on the journey to discover one’s own sacred presence and answers questions such as What would I do if I were not afraid? How can I find true happiness? What do I need to flourish? What is my soul story?

Leave a comment

Filed under About Sofia, Alumni features, Career, Sofia Profiles, Sofia Spirit