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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Considering a Living Universe: Teaching about the Biggest Cosmic Questions

Edgar Mitchell quote: The universe is a self-organizing ...

“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

-Albert Einstein

“The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”

– Nikola Tesla

Introduction

Many of my students perceive the relationship of science and spirituality as a zero-sum relationship. The more one believes in science, the less one puts stock in issues of faith and spiritual identity. The assumed worldview, then, for the majority of students is that the materialist paradigm explains how the universe works, which leaves little room for any mysterious energy or power, let alone some type of divine force. Along with this perspective comes belief in the ultimate purposelessness of the universe, which seems to make the task of forging a meaningful life far more difficult. Continue reading

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The Cosmovision of Jesus: Letting Go in an Abundant Universe

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Dear students,

If you have grown up at HKIS, you know that Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus — Christ the King Priorythe message that Jesus represents is love. You probably would nod to having heard a smattering of related passages: for God so loved the world; love your neighbor as yourself; greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends. These are certainly lofty aspirations. However, for most of you, the words alone do not strike you as especially insightful or compelling so to inspire a new way of living.

1 - What was Jesus' Worldview? Part 1 - Connecting The Testaments ...So I write to you as a teacher who wants to share why these words are compelling to me, and indeed do inspire a new way of living. What breathes new life for me into these two thousand year-old teachings  is considering Jesus’ radical vision of reality that underlies these famous sound-bites. To use words we use in class, I’d like to share with you Jesus’ worldview. I’d like to call this larger view of reality Jesus’ cosmovision, his  understanding how the universe works in all of its visible and invisible dimensions. Continue reading

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Exploring the Vertical Dimension: Creating a Wisdom Path for 21st Century Students

lilmisxedhunny riplles Several years ago one of my art students, Sam, felt stuck in her creativity, and as evidence of her malaise, she showed me recent pieces that were awkward, angular, and angry. Two weeks later after doing a regular meditation practice, she began quite unconsciously to produce works like the one above. This is a tangible example of what a Wisdom path for 21st century students might produce. 

Introduction

As a religion teacher committed to the transformation of students, the key question for Spiritual Explorations (SPEX) teachers always involves the outcomes we observe: has our teaching enabled students to become better versions of themselves? Have they changed personally? Is some form of self-transcendence apparent? This, SPEX teachers believe, is the sine qua non of a spiritual curriculum.

And when transformation occurs, can we explain what are the essential ingredients that fostered such growth? We asked students at the end of our grade 9 SPEX class this year to respond to a survey regarding their end-of-year worldview conclusions about spiritual reality. This entry addresses these questions using data from our grade 9 Spiritual Explorations (SPEX) to better understand student engagement in spirituality. Continue reading

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In Search of a Larger Self: Combining the Enneagram with Spiritual Practices in SSS

Screenshot 2020-05-29 at 10.35.47 PMA happy group of “Service, Society, and the Sacred” students on the last day of class

I keep getting this feeling – if I can humbly state so – that I’ve found a reliable path to facilitate students’ psychospiritual growth! Continue reading

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“Sit in Your Cell and It Will Teach You Everything:” Supporting Student Well-Being During COVID-19

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Calligraphy is one of the spiritual practices that students can do at home during COVID-19.

But when the music stops and the storm comes as it has, and so much of that which we relied upon has fallen out from beneath our feet, we are left with what we have cultivated inside our own heart, inside our own being. This time teaches us how important it is to gradually grow the good inside oneself.

                                                                                    –  Rick Hanson

Introduction

Sit in Your Cell and Your Cell Will Teach You Everything

Reading my students’ final written reflections on their experience with Spiritual Explorations (SPEX 9) this semester brought to mind the advice given by Abba Moses, one of the Christian desert fathers in Egypt in the 4th and 5th century: “Sit in your cell and it will teach you everything.” While withdrawing from our normal busyness has been deeply disconcerting for most of us, perhaps it is possible to recast this deprivation as a modern version of monastic seclusion with an invaluable silver lining, if only we can see it so. As one of my students Carolina remarked more prosaicly, “I think that during Covid-19 in quarantine I have actually been able to integrate my body, mind and heart more than normal. This probably came out of a little bit of necessity because I would have probably gone a little insane if I hadn’t.” Continue reading

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Release, Receive, and Return: Using Labyrinth-Inspired Spiritual Practices during the Coronavirus Crisis

Walking a Labyrinth at a Thanksgiving Community GatheringIntroduction

We are beginning week three of “virtual school” during the coronavirus crisis in Hong Kong. Using the online platform “Zoom,” we are teaching our classes at their scheduled times through our laptops. While technologically this is certainly far better than using email and an electronic bulletin board as we did during SARS 17 years ago, our students still feel very much “imprisoned” – confined to their flats and chained to their computers. autorizacionFrom a Wisdom perspective – which aims is to balance the body, mind, and heart – virtual school is even more tipped towards the mind than conventional schooling. Our most recent school survey found that sophomores and juniors are working in front of tbeir screens 10-11 hours a day! If that weren’t enough, our necks, shoulders, and backs let us know that we are spending too much time sitting and working with our various devices.

I’ve taken the perspective that the best way that religion classes can contribute to student well-being during this unprecedented time of the coronavirus is to get them out of their chairs doing spiritual practices, such as tai chi, body scans, Tibetan singing bowls meditation, conscious walking, and other forms of body-based practices. In this entry, I share my lesson plan using practices related to the labyrinth. Continue reading

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The Path to Loving Consciousness: The Univocal Message of Three Wisdom Traditions

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Introduction

It seems behind a shadow of a IMG_20170707_153112089doubt to me that a person engaged in the spiritual dimension of life lives a happier, healthier, and more meaningful life than someone operating within the material paradigm only. And so it is my deep, abiding desire to offer “spirit” whenever possible to students, which is accompanied by an array of luminous qualities: depth, beauty, subtlety, mystery, connection, resonance, fulfillment. As Richard Rohr says, “The only real sin is superficiality.” Continue reading

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Individualizing Psychospiritual Growth: Matching Enneagram Types with Spiritual Practices

Screenshot 2019-12-26 at 6.33.06 PM.pngOur last day of class in “Service, Society, and the Sacred.”

“Everywhere people ask: ‘What can I actually do?’ The answer is as simple as it is disconcerting: We can, each of us, work to put our own inner house in order.” 

-E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful, p. 297

“The testimony of the greatest humans who have ever lived is that the way to make the most of ourselves is by transcending ourselves… When you transcend yourself, the fact will be confirmed by the quality of your life. We will attain – even if only momentarily – a transparency and a radiance of being which results from living both within and beyond yourself. This is the promise and the excitement of self-understanding.”

-Don Richard Riso, co-author of Personality Types and the Wisdom of the Enneagram

The near absence of research on secular, school-based spirituality programs in youth reflects the general shortage of those types of interventions. This is an explorative time for spirituality….

– Cobb, McClintock & Miller, p. 253 in Mindfulness in Positive Psychology: The Science of Meditation and Well-Being

Introduction

Is it possible to customize – or, to use the educational term, differentiate – something as nebulous and abstract as psychospiritual growth? In my “Service, Society, and the Sacred” class over the last month, I have been attempting to do just that through the application of  a personality typing device called the Enneagram to students’ spiritual practices.  Every semester students come away with very positive experiences using this combination of study of the Enneagram with a spiritual practices project to help them become better versions of themselves.

In this entry, I first set the stage by describing the context of this unit of study. Second, I share the overall student self-reported results for the unit. Finally, I allow the students to speak for themselves about their experience. Overall, this blog entry attempts to take anecdotes that I often hear about these topics and put them into a more organized format to demonstrate the impact that such a curriculum may have on students.

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The Courage to Deal with Negative Emotions: A Welcoming Prayer Approach

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Cynthia teaching at Lake Cowichan’s  “Luminous Wisdom” Wisdom School
in April, 2019

Introduction

One of the most impactful teachings I’ve come across recently is David Hawkins’ map of consciousness, which assigns energy values to various negative (low scores) and positive (high scores) emotions, as seen in the figure below:

The lowest scores – shame, guilt, apathy, grief, and fear – lead to inertia, while those a bit higher on the scale – desire, anger, and pride – generate hyperactivity. All of these, however, keep us stuck in the red zone of negativity. All of us, one would assume, prefer to be in the higher energy states of trust, optimism, and forgiveness, or higher yet – love, gratitude, joy and peace. How do we get there?

The gatekeeper emotion between the lower and higher energy states, according to Hawkins, is courage. What does it mean to deal courageously with negative emotions? Continue reading

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