Calligraphy as Sacred Art: Meeting Golnaz Fathi

Image result for Golnaz Fathi art workGolnaz Fathi, Untitled, 2011

Dear Students,

Last night I had the great pleasure toUntitled.png hear the accomplished Iranian artist Golnaz Fathi share her passion for painting at a presentation at Hong Kong’s Asia Society. As I listened to Golnaz, I realized that she was describing her love of art as a sacred practice. Upon a night’s reflection, it seems to me that her example can be both instructive and inspirational to those of us who want to explore art as a restorative force in our lives. Continue reading

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Teaching Inspiration: Avaaz’s 100 Victories for Justice


The first semester of Humanities I in Action introduces students to suffering in the world. I often say it has a “shock and awe” impact on many students, as they struggle to make sense of a myriad of injustices: colonization, genocide, racial discrimination, violence, abandonment, and many others. So when we get to the second semester with our overarching question, “Can I make a difference?” and they begin a semester-long community-based Elixir project of their own choosing, it’s important to show that change can and does happen. I designed the following activity to help students learn about the inspiring work of Avaaz, an online advocacy organization of currently 43 million people (!) that brings about real change through harnessing a global will for justice. In only a decade, they have enacted thousands of actions around the world, including more than 100 inspiring victories for justice. Continue reading

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Using Spiritual Practices to Transform Service Learning Guilt into Compassionate Action: Two Students’ Experiences

DSC_2875.JPGThe shadow side of powerful service learning experiences, like the one that Claudia had at the Foshan orphanage, is that students carry a burden of guilt with them when they return to school. This blog entry explores the possibility of drawing upon spiritual practices as a pedagogical strategy to integrate such deeply impactful experiences beyond the more common approaches of discussions and written reflections. Continue reading

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Essence and the Self: Entering Emptiness to Find Fullness

Image result for almaas


“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

– Jesus (Matthew 5:4)

Dear Students,

We have built our semester’s exploration in “Service, Society, and the Sacred” around the concept that a common message in the Wisdom Tradition is the need to let go of a small self in order to allow a Larger Self to emerge. But this simple message begs the question: what is it really like in daily life to experience this movement from one to the other? Continue reading

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Opening to Presence: Best Books of 2016

screen-shot-2016-12-25-at-10-52-13-pmIt is not difficult for me to pick out my spiritual highlight of 2016. A good friend recommended that I look into Dot B mindfulness training during the summer holidays, and so I applied across Europe for a program. However, each was full, and so I gave up, assuming that I would remain in Hong Kong for the summer. Image result for EnneagramThen at the last minute I stumbled across an Enneagram workshop in London, taught by Russ Hudson, arguably the premier teacher in the field, and his gifted co-teacher Robert Holden. They had a few remaining spots, so off I went to London, with the Brexit vote looming, trying to better understand this captivating personality typing system. My biggest underlying question that I carried to London with me, however, was how does the Enneagram fit into my understanding of the Wisdom Tradition, as taught by my teacher Cynthia Bourgeault. Continue reading

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Finding and Letting Go of the Self through the Enneagram and Spiritual Practices

Screen Shot 2016-12-21 at 10.35.41 AM.pngThis entry describes a two-fold project in which students (1) seek to identity their Enneagram personality type, and then (2) design a spiritual practice to let go and purify this preferred way of being in the world. In this way, students begin to practice a potentially lifelong dynamic of simultaneously finding and letting go of the self.

“If psychological work helps us find ourselves, spiritual work takes a step further, helping us let go of ourselves.”

– John Welwood, Toward a Psychology of Awakening, 97.


Dear Students,

This semester in “Service, Society, and the Sacred“* I want you to explore yourself at a level of depth and specificity that I assume you have never done before. Ideally, this self-exploration will give you some clue about your life purpose. That may sound over-the-top grand, but I don’t believe it’s too early for you to understand something about your soul’s purpose in your experience as a high school junior or senior. Continue reading

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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 World Religion Students,

We have been talking all semester about moving from the small self to the Larger Self, which means bringing 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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