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This was my concentration proposal from Fairhaven College at Western Washington University. If I had to do it again, I would change the concentration title to "Spiritual Psychology: Becoming Conscious." A lot has changed since then, as I continue my journey, getting more centered on my path and all it entails. - 7/10/10 

 

 

Spiritual Psychology

 

Long before I realized I wanted to be a therapist, psychology grabbed my attention. This fascination began a journey that is allowing me to wake up and begin discovering who I really am. There have been many frustrations along the way. The society I live in is not conducive to change, especially when those changes took me out of the cultural norms of behavior and beliefs. My own journey took me into mainstream therapy. There was a lot of good that came out of it. But, at some point I realized that there were discrepancies. Some of the answers I received didn’t feel right. Issues were skirted around towards other areas. This feeling I had didn’t have words. I realized that it was time to move on. As I explored I found answers that felt right. I got into career and life counseling, Aikido, and a body therapy called Rolfing. I started to open up and grow in ways that therapy didn’t even touch. Later I enrolled in college to pursue a degree in psychology.

 

It was during this time that I began to really see the effects of culture on human beings. My anthropology teacher acknowledged many of the discrepancies I had been feeling. One day in class a realization surfaced about how culture forces people to conform. It was here that it dawned on me that psychologists were often causing harm to others who were trying to wake up. Psychologists are enculturated like everyone else in mainstream culture. Enculturation can effect conscious and unconscious pressure to conform to mainstreamed cultural beliefs. Those seeking counseling are quite often limited or kept from becoming conscious. This occurs with Caucasians, but more so with minorities. This is a major reason why most minorities don't seek counseling with Caucasian psychologists. At this point I all but gave up on being a therapist. Synchronicity intervened and made me aware of Fairhaven College, where I could customize my own degree program. My intuition told me to create my own degree program in spiritual psychology.

 

Critical thinking has been my biggest ally in my waking up process. The educational system is supposed to embrace this. I found this to be the exact opposite with many students and teachers alike. Enculturation is a very powerful force to be reckoned with. Moving beyond my own beliefs was difficult enough. Trying to move beyond mainstream culture has been even more mystifying. All of my classes have assisted me in my process. I have always been able to see the similarities among the various studies such as cultural anthropology, political economy, philosophy, art history, creative arts, sign language, logic, history, astronomy, and even math. Since beginning my journey, I have been able to see from many perspectives. This goes totally against mainstream culture. Throughout my process of learning I have taken the readings, discussions, and documentaries and critically thought through all of what made sense and what didn’t make sense. Paying attention to my intuition allowed me to discern what truths are more like half-truths. This is where I was led to discover the discrepancies and begin re-integrating the half-truths back into whole truths. Spirit has led me to sources of information I needed to know to understand the whole truth.

 

I cannot explain how the non-rational works. I know without knowing how. I see something I am interested in and I explore it. In exploring the person, place, or thing I come away with an understanding. Say for example, I am interested in understanding what course work will create my degree in Spiritual Psychology. I find myself taking required course work first. Then I explore what classes are available. I find what it is that I am drawn to. Sometimes it is an interest of mine, other times it is some intuitive feeling that I know I must follow. The classes always fit in some way, offering me perspectives I wouldn’t have thought about prior to the class. This has happened throughout my entire education. When I look back on my life I can see that all things played their part in creating who I am now and getting me to this point. I have faith in this process and I am never misled. I remember being asked at the start of this concentration seminar to come up with questions for what I wanted to learn. This goes totally against what I have been nurturing all along. I am reminded of something my counselor said recently, “the kinds of questions you ask will determine the answers you get.” If I ask questions then those questions become my guide as to where I am going to go. However, in listening to what feels right, I am led by Spirit. Spirit transcends ego, it is not limited by cultural beliefs and limitations. To become whole I must trust my Spirit to guide me beyond the limits. This concept works by choosing classes I am drawn too. Once in that class I become aware of themes and ideas that I was unaware of before. The themes and ideas then become what I ask questions about. The other route decides the direction I will go. If I don’t want to deal with certain issues my unconscious self will lead me in the other direction. The ego leads me to answers within cultural boundaries. Spirit leads me beyond those boundaries to greater truths.

 

Traditional education offers some degree of diversity, but it does not discuss the interconnectedness of these various disciplines. It wasn’t until I attended Fairhaven that I began to realize that this is the root cause of being disconnected. The disciplines, these facts, are disconnected. A Spiritual approach to attaining a degree in psychology must include course work in various forms of cultural studies, creativity, body therapy, human ecology, psychology, and Spiritual perspectives. This interdisciplinary study will allow me to regain my own body, mind, and Spirit connection, to attain the necessary wisdom to help others become whole. I can assist others in healing only if I have the necessary awareness, knowledge, and tools to become whole. I cannot heal cross culturally unless I completely understand my own culture’s strengths and weaknesses. The process of spiritual psychology differs greatly from modern psychology. The field of psychology focuses mostly on the Western notion of objectivity and rational methods to find a truth. Spiritual Psychology uses both Eastern and Western methods to become aware of truths. This blending of perspectives balances and strengthens the whole of truth and reality. I would like to explore this rift and re-integrate them into a holistic perspective.

 

Cultural studies are crucial to begin examining the culture that I live in. In exploring other cultures I can begin to see differences and learn why they are that way. Living in a foreign country for awhile can allow this cultural bias to dissolve. In learning about other cultures I can see what doesn’t work in my culture as well. Cultural studies examine the infrastructure, structure, and superstructure of those cultures studied. Studying the politics, economics, religion, and customs can reveal a great deal about the limits of a culture and what it is unconscious about. I prefer to have teachers of diverse backgrounds that would offer different perspectives.

 

The different perspectives of creativity must be included in my studies. These perspectives include classes in playing with various forms. These forms might include diverse types of art, music, writing, playing, dancing, singing, and drama. Classes in art appreciation, art history, creative visualization, and creativity itself, would assist in conceptualizing the importance of creativity as a whole. Creativity as whole would focus on how the world is constantly in a state of creation and to understand this process through observation and participation.

 

Reconnecting to our bodies is an essential part of our healing. When the mind is joined with the body, space is opened for greater knowing and healing. This opening allows Spirit to enter our lives more fully to assist in becoming more conscious of who we are and what our purpose in life is. There are many types of body therapy from which to choose. Some examples are Rolfing, DFA, CONTINUUM, Alexander Technique, Somatics, Feldenkrais, Craniosacral Therapy and Rebirthing. Each person must be allowed to intuitively find what works best for him or her. Bodywork allows the body to discharge repressed feelings, emotions, stress, and trauma that are caused in all cultures. Bodywork opens up the body to integrate with the mind so as to make space for Spirit to enter. This is what allows one to become conscious and aware. Other areas I consider both bodywork and spiritual include martial arts, Yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong.

 

Spirituality is not discussed in much of modern psychology. Jeanne Achterberg said, “Soul loss is regarded as the gravest diagnosis in [Shamanism], being seen as a cause of illness and death. Yet it is not referred to at all in modern Western medical books.” To understand spirit is to understand our Self. There are many ways to understand and hear Spirit. Spirit can communicate to us in words, images, and dreams. It can guide us through intuition and synchronicity. Spirit is our inner guide to understanding our Self and the world. It is essential that we have our connection to spirit. My studies will continue to explore how this connection is broken. I am interested in how enculturation causes disruption in the individual's sense of self and how that causes one to seriously doubt themselves. If this doubt is not conquered it can lead to fear, which is an inhibitor of consciousness. I would like to further study how individuals can doubt and ponder without fear. It is important to understand that fear is a creation of culture. Being able to doubt and ponder is necessary to move into greater understanding. Various forms of inner work must be taught. This inner work allows the mind to be stilled to hear the inner voice of Spirit. This can be taught through diverse types of meditation, walking, prayer, fasting, vision quests, creative arts, shamanism, dream work, martial arts, Yoga, Tai Chi, or Qi Gong. In the past culture has taught me to follow the path of others. If I am to become whole, it is of utmost importance to listen to my inner knowing.

 

Psychology plays an important part in understanding the mind, behavior, and perception.[1][1] There are different perspectives to learn from such as Cross-Cultural, Gestalt, Depth, Jungian, Freudian, Behavioral, Clinical, Humanistic, Phenomenal, and Transpersonal. Currently, these are all taught separately, each vying for superiority over the other. Integration and connection needs to occur within all these fields. They all offer different perspectives. I would like to incorporate my psychology studies with this in mind and to see the connections that link them. The study of Whole Systems or Systems Theory would shed light on this paradox.

 

The study of Human Ecology brings awareness of nature to human beings. Our culture has conditioned us to view ourselves as separate from nature. This separation has caused considerable damage to the environment we depend on for our basic needs of air, water, and food. Human beings have been damaged as well from this separation because we are part of nature to. There is much to be learned about how nature can nurture us with more than our basic survival needs. Nature can heal our emotions and reconnect us to our spirit. Nature is our teacher if we are willing to listen, watch, and learn. Human Ecology classes teach awareness of what humanity is doing to the environment it is a part of. The class teaches about different types of gardening, how to compost and care for the soil, and conservation methods. New ways of living are explored and discussed. Current issues that are detrimental to the environment are brought to a conscious level. This allows us to change cultural patterns that threaten our basic survival needs. This field helps build relationships by teaching people to work together for common causes. It also teaches us to revere the Earth and our fellow human beings too. 

 

All of these together open the door to consciousness. When we stop separating these areas of study, human beings will stop being separated in body, mind, and spirit. It will no longer be possible to remain unconscious, anymore than it is impossible not to breathe and nourish ourselves. This is what I see as Spiritual Psychology and its role to teach response-ability to humanity. I believe strongly in teaching people to be empowered, not in coping amidst unconscious survival mode. Perhaps now is the time to take this whole thing a little lighter and less serious. I would like to incorporate more joy, laughter, play, humor, ecstasy, and reflection into my perspectives throughout my interdisciplinary studies. Taking things too seriously can cause a person to be shut off from other perspectives. My own history is full of seriousness and I can see the value in letting go of tension. It seems to have done a good job of limiting me in body, mind, and spirit.

 

Long-term goals would be to start a new program or field in Spiritual Psychology that moves beyond this stifling of Spirit within the context of becoming a therapist within the paradigm of the Clinical Psychology program. My desire is to teach the processes of “becoming” conscious versus teaching “about” consciousness. There’s a vast difference in doing versus thinking about it. One cannot experience consciousness through reading and talking about it. So, a large part of the teachings must  be experiential. This engages the body, mind, soul, and spirit.

 

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Updated: 7/10/10