Discernment and Darshan: Perceiving the “Things Themselves” at Life’s Crossroads

My parents and I after Sunday mass at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, Colorado

Introduction

I once again find myself unexpectedly at something of a crossroads. Two years ago as I anticipated the summer holidays, life seemed pretty clear. I had just finished my 30th year of teaching at HKIS and had a very discrete and meaningful task: to complete a book summarizing my two takeaways of my teaching career, which I short-handedly call the yang of social conscience and the yin of inner awakening. In fact, I did submit (what I thought was) my final manuscript that summer, assuming I would then happily return in the fall to teaching Humanities I in Action and our Spiritual Explorations program, courses that manifest these two takeaways in the lives of my students every year.

However, on June 1st, 2020 I received a text message from a guy whose name I didn’t recognize. Sean from Kinesiology Asia contacted me about an introductory kinesiology course in the coming weeks. Being stuck in Hong Kong during that first covid summer, I was overjoyed to have some in-person teaching about a topic that I found intriguing. But my initial glee in no way prepared me for what I found, for from the very first hour, energy medicine was mind-blowing, challenging what I had come to understand as reality. Somehow through kinesiology the body was able to speak to me in ways that would have previously seemed unimaginable. I always say, “Kinesiology isn’t like magic, it is magic.” During that first 8-day course I wrote in my journal, “Life will never be the same.”

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“Life Will Never Be the Same:” Reflecting on a Life Inflection Point

Nora and I doing our kinesiology practice at Kinesiology Asia

Dear Readers,

I have been “missing in action” from this blog since last June after writing consistently and passionately for 10 years. What happened? As I mentioned in my first attempt to tell this story more than a year ago, I’ve fallen in love with something called energetic kinesiology, which is a healing modality based on Chinese medicine.

The last 21 months have been a deep falling into study and amazement of how this ancient energetic technology, transmitted through millienia of Chinese history, has now been combined with modern anatomy and physiology with the goal of transforming the whole person. I frequently say kinesiology is not like magic, it is magic. So, rather than writing blogs, I’ve taken more than 20 courses, read fascinating books, and most importantly done literally hundreds of energetic balances, some in person, but most at a distance sitting in my cloistered study at home during the worst outbreak of covid here in Hong Kong. At a distance means that I’m helping my parents in Nebraska, students in my Zoom classes, covid-infected colleagues, long-out-of-touch-friends, and — hopefully soon — Ukrainian refugees. That to me qualifies as magic!

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Introducing the Wisdom Way of Teaching: Educating for Social Conscience and Inner Awakening in the High School Classroom

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The Second Gaze: The Essence of the Spiritual Life

Dear Students,

I know for the vast majority of you taking Spiritual Explorations the word “spiritual” sounds like something quite abstract and distant. Perhaps there have been moments in nature or a certain intimacy involving family or friends that seemed charged with some “energy” that is palpably different than “ordinary” life. Certainly such times can be described as “spiritual,” but I’m afraid that a fairly narrow understanding of this term takes us far from the busyness and stress of your everyday life.

Franciscan priest to appear on Oprah Winfrey's 'Super Soul Sunday'
Richard was the first Catholic priest to be interviewed on Oprah’s “Super Soul Sunday” in 2014.

It’s for this reason that I want to share a brief reflection by Catholic (Franciscan) priest Richard Rohr that he wrote for the first day of 2021. It has nothing to do with “extraordinary moments” dependent on certain external circumstances, and everything to do with one’s inner posture towards all of life. Richard works very closely with my own spiritual teacher, Cynthia Bourgeault, and so I know that this message comes out of the universal Wisdom tradition that I have embraced wholeheartedly in the last decade. Richard’s “The Second Gaze” is perhaps the most succinct summary of what we are trying to help you accomplish in a course like Spiritual Explorations. Here, I suggest, is the essence of the spiritual life.

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A Walk in the Park: Groundtruthing Spiritual Experiences in One’s Being

Tai Tam country park where I frequently take walks in the late afternoon.
HKIS is the white set of buildings left of center.

Introduction

I’ve been writing this blog for a decade. I have written exactly 200 pieces, I discovered recently, when I posted my first entry in 2021. Certainly, this is the longest “dry spell” of these past ten years in which I’ve posted on average once or twice a month. Yet this paucity is not caused by an imaginative life gone dry, nor primarily due to COVID restrictions, although I have found it necessary to take long walks during the pandemic. Rather, my writing hiatus may be due to some inner stirring.

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Matching Your Enneagram Type with a Spiritual Practice: Exemplars from the Class of 2021

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Dear students, 

The beauty of the Enneagram is that it not only reveals with startling insight an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, but as a body-mind-heart system it also lends itself easily to the kinds of spiritual practices you have been doing throughout high school in our SPEX program. In this sense, it invites the intersection of the horizontal (your specific personality type) with the vertical (something larger than your type) for your psycho-spiritual growth.

This blog entry is an overview of the 9 types of the Enneagram through exemplars from the HKIS graduating class of 2021. Along with these examples, I also share a 6-9 minute video describing each type and suggestions for spiritual practices. The overall goal is to help you identify your type, specify a particular issue associated with your type that you would like to improve, and then offer a range of practices to help you become a healthier version of yourself. 

Before getting to the details of each type, you may want to view three introductory videos I made to introduce the Enneagram to SPEX (Spiritual Explorations) classes. Alternatively, feel free to skip these, if what you are really looking for is specific information to identify your type, issue, and practice. 

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“Start with the Whole World:” A Child’s View

I remember taking this picture. I told Christa the night before I had taken a picture of her asleep. Let’s see well how well she could fake sleeping – and compare the two! (See the end of the entry for the real thing.) All the fun games we play when kids are young!

Note to reader: I recently stumbled across this short anecdote I wrote 15 years ago about a discussion with my now 25-year-old daughter. The picture above comes from several years before this story when she was 8.

It Takes a Child

“I have a question for you, Ming.” 

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Is Humankind Inherently Selfish? Reconsidering the Veneer Theory in Humanities I in Action

Our lovely Humanities I in Action students on the very last day in December of face-to-face classes before resuming Zoom sessions due to an upsurge in COVID cases.

Introduction

I believe that the most teachable day of the year for my grade 9 students in Humanities I in Action is the first day of school, day one of their high school experience. For some years we have been doing a very successful chocolate experiment that was very memorable for my students. But what could we do on Zoom?

Humankind: A Hopeful History: Rutger Bregman: Bloomsbury Publishing

Over the summer our teaching team read the powerful new book Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman, who provided us with just the hook we needed. On the first day of class I asked my students to respond to this key passage, borrowed from social psychology professor Tom Postmes:

“Imagine an airplane makes an emergency landing and breaks into three parts. As the cabin fills with smoke, everybody inside realizes: We’ve got to get out of here. What happens?

  1. On Planet A, the passengers turn to their neighbors to ask if they’re okay. Those needing assistance are helped out of the plane first. People are willing to give their lives, even for perfect strangers.
  2. On Planet B, everyone’s left to fend for themselves. Panic breaks out. There’s lots of pushing and shoving. Children, the elderly, and people with disabilities get trampled underfoot.

Now the question: Which planet do we live on?” (p. 2-3)

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Connecting Heaven and Earth: Integrating the Higher Self with Primal Emotions in the Welcoming Prayer and Energetic Kinesiology

Practicing energy work with a fellow student at Kinesiology Asia.

Introduction

I’ve been writing this blog for a decade and have only very occasionally missed publishing an entry once a month. However, this is my first article since early September. What happened? The short answer is I’ve fallen in love – with a holistic practice called kinesiology that has happily consumed my peripheral time that in the past I have used for writing. Nevertheless, I’ve have recently come across in my study of kinesiology an insight of great spiritual resonance and exciting applicability that I feel compelled to share.

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Practicing Surrender in Uncertain Times: Burning Mandalas as Metanoia

Day 1 of Clare’s spiritual practice project of creating and then destroying her mandala to help her with her perfectionist tendencies.

Introduction

Has your life ever felt so uncertain as it does now during the coronavirus pandemic? Will there be graduations and anniversaries to attend, fall breaks, Thanksgiving travel, New Year’s Eve parties? Will the world slip into recession or a depression? Will the coronavirus return a second, third, or fourth time? All of a sudden our everyday approach to the world‑making plans based on a predictable future has been thrown to the wind. 

Global culture, too, has suddenly come to an inflection point, as we reach for comparable events in our shared history. The Great Recession and 911 have now been quickly eclipsed as lesser events; perhaps COVID19 is re-ordering our collective psyche in a manner akin to World War II. No country can escape the virus, and the impact will last years rather than months.

The biblical call at times of crisis is always “repent.” When a tower falls on fellow Galileans (Luke 13), Jesus’ critics try to engage him in a blame game. Jesus eschews such small-mindedness and calls for repentance by all. What could this mean? While “repent” falls uncomfortably on the modern ear, the original Greek word in the Gospels for this concept, metanoia, offers new possibilities. Metanoia can be translated as going “beyond the mind” or into the “higher mind.”  Think “metacognition” or “metamorphosis.”

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