In 2014, I cut back my private practice in order to finish my upcoming book In Search of Aphrodite: Women Archetypes and Sex Therapy. 2015 has already been a year in which I am embracing more invitations to travel and to become a teacher of practitioners.
In January, I flew to Hong Kong to teach in a Spiritual Guidance program which trains practitioners to work with people seeking to resolve spiritual questions or deepen their spiritual lives. It was at the Tao Fong Shan Christian retreat center, which has a long and established history of inter-religious dialogue. I found the group to be one of the most endearing, sincere group of individuals I have encountered in a long time. I think we were both a bit shy at first, but they spoke excellent English and very little translation was needed (although I must say I enjoyed hearing occasional translations in Cantonese!).
After the first day, we fell into a lovely rapport, and for the next three days they engaged history, sex education, and case histories. The group was able to embrace a shift of perspective, where sexuality moved beyond genital activity and Eros became a foundational life energy that exists in each of us and can be expressed in a variety of contexts and pathways. They also delved into their own sexual stories in the experiential format originated by Gina Ogden and her Integrating Sexuality and Spirituality work.
On Thursday evening jI gave a public talk on Raising Sexually Healthy Children in a World Gone Mad. Several members of the group took me to cultural sites off the beaten path. The director stated that they had been searching for many years to find someone who could teach comfortably and expertly on sexuality in a spiritual context. It is 2015, and I marvel at how a meaningful conversation about how this core component of our identity and human experience is still such a taboo and troubling topic. Of course, I understand how we wound up in this shadowy mess…. St. Augustine and the “church fathers” being major contributors to our current malaise (my favorite chronicle of this debacle is outlined in Riane Eisler’s master work, Sacred Pleasure). When a Christian Spiritual Direction program asks me to fly half way around the world to teach on sexuality and spirituality, I begin to think that we may be coming out of the sexual dark ages!
My spirituality is deeply personal. I try to live consciously, relate well, to be open to the mystery, to practice presence, to anchor my life in a place of peace, to attend to the wisdom that comes from multiple sources, sacred texts and wise teachers, as well as my own night time dreams which help me “course correct” when I am out of alignment with my Soul Print. Because I am a product of western culture, I have a history of living in my head. Because I love the transcendent realm, one of my central spiritual practices is to remain consciously embodied and engaged with the world. I wrestle with my contradictions and unanswered questions.
What has changed over the years is my willingness and capacity to sit with inner contradictions and unanswered questions and to value “the gap.” My years have taught me that “answers” are temporary at best and often useless. They only serve as marking points along the way. I realize that while we share common human experiences, life is also incredibly nuances, and our experiences and interpretations are layered over with preconceived notions and projections.
I find myself returning to T.S. Eliot’s sentiments when he wrote that “the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and to know that place for the first time.” This quote becomes increasingly true as I age and understand that life is a spiral path and I will continue to reach deeper and deeper understandings of things that I thought I understood and had all wrapped up in certainty. While I don’t care much for the apostle Paul, he did say some rather profound things. We indeed, “see through a glass darkly.” Once we realize this, we cease to be quite so quick to judge with certainty or to “know” beyond a shadow of a doubt. This no longer distressed me. I understand that it is an indication that I may truly be entering a realm of wisdom.
This year, I accepted the position of Director of a new program at Rowe Center in Massachusetts (I’m commuting, not moving!). Over the past year, I have been part of a committee to develop their newly launched certificate program in Spiritual Guidance. The invitation to the directorship came as a surprise. Equally surprising was my readiness to take this on in a year when my 2nd book will also be “launching.” But my soul says “yes!” and so I go forward, with great enthusiasm. I am excited about the opportunity to shape the formation of people who will act as wisdom resources in the world. I look forward to the continued creation of a faculty that is both deep and wide in their perspectives and areas of expertise.
In additional to core competencies and an inter-religious perspective, this program will address topics and areas of concern that I don’t always see engaged in other such programs. In particularly, we will be emphasizing the importance of addressing the shadow realms of life, particularly spiritual shadow and how the recognition of emotional reactivity and projection can become important tools for spiritual development. We will talk about the problem of spiritual bypass, that tendency amongst spiritual seekers to become mistakenly “pious” and reach for “premature transcendence,” avoiding the messy aspects of relational and practical life. We will also be talking about sexuality and what it means to be an embodied mystic. We will talk about spiritual activism- being wisdom resources in the world. We will seek to develop and the profoundly difficult and centrally important capacity of presence, deep listening, and responding in a way that does not prematurely foreclose on the emergence of a seekers personal insight and revelation.
If you want more information about the Rowe Certificate Program in Spiritual Guidance, click on the link here and you will find the brochure and application information.
Or contact me and we can talk about it.
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