Mind the Gap: Cynthia Bourgeault on Moving from the Small Self to the Larger Self

screen-shot-2016-12-04-at-11-22-14-amDear Students,

We have been talking all semester about moving from the small self to the Larger Self, which means to bring together your day-to-day experience living in this visible, competitive, and finite world (of the horizontal) with your Eternal Being (on the vertical). You are now doing the Spiritual Practices Project, which I consider to be the highlight of the course because it puts all these abstract ideas to the test. And the most practical question seems to be: what will happen as you do these spiritual practices? What is it really like to move from the small self to the Larger Self? Continue reading

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Non-Reactivity: The Supreme Practice of Everyday Life

screen-shot-2016-10-23-at-5-20-05-pmHigh school gives students lots of opportunities for emotional reactivity –
and for practicing its opposite, non-reactivity.* 

Dear World Religion students,

We’ve been talking about the common message contained within the cross-cultural Wisdom Tradition, which states that the goal of life is to marry the horizontal material existence in time with the vertical dimension of the invisible and eternal. Or more personally, we have said that the aim of life is to integrate Image result for after buddhism batchelorthe small self of daily life with the Larger Self that lives forever. All of these lofty and abstract ideals may be appealing, but what does it mean in real life and how do we get there? And, in keeping with body-mind-heart emphasis of the Tradition, how do we make sure the spiritual journey isn’t just some kind of head trip? The surprising and eminently practical answer to these questions is something that Buddhist writer Steve Batchelor calls non-reactivity.[1] Continue reading

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“Crossing Over:” A Poem about the Spiritual Journey


The 13th century Persian poet Rumi wrote love poetry that gave expression to the deepest yearnings of the human soul in search of God the Beloved. Here are two examples of his exquisite verse:

“In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest where no one sees you,
but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”

“Love is from the infinite, and will remain until eternity.
The seeker of love escapes the chains of birth and death.
Tomorrow, when resurrection comes,
The heart that is not in love will fail the test.”

I wrote the poem below, which bears some loose resemblance to Rumi’s  style and themes, in the middle of the night as I sought to deal with unconscious fears – by bringing them into conversation with spiritual symbols I encountered on my trips to Bhutan. Continue reading

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Homecoming at Last: Service Learning and the Divine Embrace

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When Christ said: ‘I was hungry and you fed me,’ he didn’t mean only the hunger for Image result for mother teresabread and for food; he also meant the hunger to be loved. Jesus himself experienced this loneliness.”

“Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, all the time, and his hand in every happening. This is what it means to be contemplative in the heart of the world. Seeing and adoring the presence of Jesus, especially in the lowly appearance of bread [Holy Communion], and in the distressing disguise of the poor.”

-Mother Teresa


Next month I will take my students again to the Foshan orphanage, as I have many times over the last 20 years, for a 4-day weekend as part of the Humanities I in Action course. What brings me back as an educator year after year is the raw, potentially transformative power of the experience. Over and over again the simple bringing together of my students with children who live in a state-run institution in China breaks into my students’ lives like no other event. Continue reading

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Breathing, Bowing, and Chanting: Researching Buddhist Spiritual Practices in World Religions Class

The Subong Monastery in Causeway Bay where we will be taught about Korean Zen Buddhism and their practices.

So far in this course we have established that in order autorizacionto become what we are meant to be as human beings – to majestically harmonize the small self of the horizontal dimension with the Larger Self of the vertical – we need to open our body-mind-heart to the spiritual dimension of life. We do this through various practices that relax and open us to something beyond our own selves.

During our field trip to the Subong Monastery, the monks and nuns will teach us about breathing, chanting, prostrations, and meditations. I want each person to contribute some idea in preparation for our visit.  Find some valuable points from your article and record your insights on the Google doc (with a picture or two), which you will then share with the rest of the class. Continue reading

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Balancing Body, Mind, and Heart: An Introduction to the Wisdom Tradition

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Dear Students,

Welcome to high school, and to my World Religions class! I’d really like to teach you something valuable this semester. Of course, you’ll learn a lot academically about Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, and Islam, but I’m hoping you actually come away with something far more important – something that can be applied to your life. So far I have made the point that religions envision the entire universe as being composed of two dimensions – a visible, every day existence that I’m calling “the horizontal,” and an invisible dimension of reality – “the vertical” – that might be called God, Ultimate Reality, the Sacred, Brahman, or the Kingdom of Heaven. Religions across the world teach that true happiness comes in living life at the intersections of these two dimensions. Continue reading

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Learning to “Lead a Life of More Profound Wakefulness:” Reflections on a Body-Mind-Heart Framework in a Senior Religion Class

:photo 4 (1).JPGAmar Bhardwaj’s Humanities I in Action Elixir Project focused on glass recycling, a project he carried on throughout his four years at HKIS. In this entry, Amar reflects on how he awakened to global environmental concerns in his grade 9 humanities class, and then continued his inner explorations in his grade 12 senior religion elective. More broadly, this entry shares reflections by Amar and other students on the impact of a new body-mind-heart framework that I used in this senior elective class, “Service, Society, and the Sacred,” this year.


Last school year I put into place a body-mind-heart curriculum framework in a religion elective course that I felt was the culmination of a 25-year search for what truly matters for students. From day 1 I posed this vision to the  juniors and seniors in my “Service, Society, and the Sacred” class: with big decisions about college applications and majors approaching, this new curriculum would enable them to gain access to an inner wisdom that would help them navigate some of their largest questions about life. In this sense, the course would be a follow-up to “Humanities I in Action,” a 9th grade course which raises student consciousness about global issues. While every year we see students respond fervently and empathically to the Humanities I in Action curriculum, the SSS course attempted to foster a different kind of clarion call: understand the self before trying to change the world! Continue reading

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