Applied Spirituality Final Post

I recently shared that I’d done a creativity/spirituality process for a grad school class. I shared my original proposal. Throughout the semester we did forum posts with updates about our process and progress. I thought today I’d share the final post that I did at the end of the course, which I titled Looking Forward.

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A lot seems to be happening for me, in me, around me lately … because of the work for this course, because of the work in this school. And while I thought about sharing some of that here, particularly in regards to what I’ve been continuing to do for Applied Spirituality, I’ve decided that what’s more important for me at this stage is to look at what it all might look like moving forward. What did I get out of this? What will I take with me? What will it mean for the people I encounter personally and professionally in the future?
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Applied Spiritual Experience Proposal: Creativity = Spirituality

This past semester included an independent study course on Applied Spirituality. My plan ended up taking shape in creative ways throughout the semester and it ended differently than it begun – but I think that was the point. I thought today I’d share my original proposal for my course.

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Intro

I am interested in using this course to explore the concept of creativity as a form of spirituality. I want to look at how creative practice can be used to tap into something bigger and more universal than the self, allowing the creativity of whatever created us to move through me as an individual. I am curious how this practice can expand my own creativity and broaden my sense of creative work as a form of spiritual practice. I am also curious how I can use a creative practice to deepen my sense of the spiritual/ the oneness/ the creative flow of the universe.

Nature of Practice

I will be working with the practices of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way workbook series, which essentially says that creativity is a part of our nature and that it is safe and valuable to open ourselves to a creative channel that allows a creative spirit bigger than ourselves to flow through us and work in the world.

The practices of The Artist’s Way specifically include:

  • 3 pages of daily handwritten “flow” writing each morning, daily
  • 1 20-minute meditative walk, daily
  • 1 creative solo “artist’s date” with the self for at least one hour weekly
  • Weekly reading on specific topics
  • Weekly written and creative exercises related to the reading topics

The exercises for each week incorporate a number of different practices including affirmations, mining the past, service to others, seeking synchronicity, etc.

For my daily walk I want to practice three types of walking meditation throughout the weeks. One is a gratitude meditation that I’ve already been doing in my life and find very valuable. One is a more basic meditation coming back to the breath in the body and the ground beneath the feet and working to release attachment to any other thoughts. And finally I want to take this opportunity to deepen the work by using some of the meditative walks to explore/ inquire/ examine/ observe how creativity is working in the world at a more universal, energetic, flow level.

Purpose of the Practice

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Grad School Reading: The Tao of Leadership

tao of leadership

I’m starting my grad school classes next month but I have a ton of reading to do before classes begin so I’ve been digging into that. It’s fun reading for a purpose again. I read all of the time anyway but I’ve done mostly pleasure reading for a long time and it’s interesting to do more focused reading again, although the topics are still ones I’d study on my own as well. One of the recent books I finished for classes was The Tao of Leadership by John Heider, which is a modern interpretation of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu.

I thought I’d share a summary of what I felt like the book was basically trying to say:

Tao is “how”, meaning how things happen. It is unity. It is not right or wrong and doesn’t have any rules. It just is what it is. It’s an infinite principle, not a thing or a process. Tao is univresal; there is no substitute for knowing how things happen and acting accordingly and all power derives from conscious or unconcsious cooperation with the single principle.

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Good leaders consistently return to awareness of Tao and try to pay attention to how things are happening right now. They do this through silence, taking space to reflect, letting go of their own expectations, and letting the group process happen. Some of the other traits and beliefs consistent with good leaders include:

  • Being silent
  • Being receptive and fluid
  • Being open
  • Being non-judgmental and unbiased, respecting the wisdom of all people and ideas and religions
  • Choosing not to intervene
  • Yielding when a fight approaches
  • Not being concerned with what “could” or “should” happen, only what is happening
  • Being present with what is happening and teaching by example and instinct, not specific theories or models
  • Remaining centered and grounded and not swayed in reaction to others
  • Never trying too hard, especially to do “the right thing” or to “win”
  • Belief that potent leadership means conscious but spontaneous, nonmanipulative and non-calculating, present leadership. Less potent leadership happens when you try to do what is right and calculate actions based on what you think should happen and the least otent is when you try to impose a calulated morality on others.
  • Good leaders know that all is one, all things contain their polar opposites and creativity comes from the interaction of those opposites
  • Knowing how to follow
  • Practices simple living
  • Not being concerned about appearing foolish or disturbing others
  • Practices “do less, be more”, knowing that we each have a ripple effect

Basically, a good leader is a compassionate person who lives simply, believes in equality, reads lightly and models behavior in acordance with the way that things are happening.

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There are many paradoxes in Tao:

For example, selflessness through service enhances the self. This relates to the important idea that creation is a whole. Separateness is an illusion. Therefore power comes from cooperation, independence comes through service and you achieve a greater self through selflessness.

Some other paradoxes:

  • letting go of what we have lets us receive what we need
  • freedom comes from obedience to the natural order of things
  • the feminine allows and surrenders to the masculine that “causes” but the masculine is eventually surrounded and embraced by the feminine, which outlasts it
  • what is soft is strong

Some other key points or ideas that were made that I personally found poignant:

  • There is a “group field”, which refers to what is happening in the silences of “nothing” happening in a group. I saw this in action in multiple groups including a great group theory psych class I took in my undergrad years. I’m really looking forward to my group dynamics class this semester! The book also discusses how groups tend to be self-regulating and will unfold so there should never be forcing or intervention.
  • Traditional wisdom says that being content allows simplicity, what is common is universal and what is natural is close to the source of creation; this is why we should live simply, quietly and naturally to be good leaders.
  • Good leaders act as midwives; they are facilitating another person’s process and not their own process so it is important to trust that person and their person.
  • Good leaders also act as a combination of warrior and healer, taking time for Tao (silence to replenish). A warrior is the yang/ masculine power that makes decisions and this sometimes is required but good warriors know not to always interview. A healer is the yin/ feminine nourishing strength but good healers learn to take time for self-care. A good leader knows when to act, when to listen and when to withdraw.
  • Being like everything else is ordinary, which is what we all are. However, consciously konwing that you are like everything else is extraordinary. This consciousness is the source of our greatest ability so we should focus on increasing this consciousness. Similarly, conflicts will always resolve themselves regardless of whether or not you know how things happen but being aware of how things ahppen makes your words more potent and your behavior more effective so power comes from this consciousness.
  • Existence contains both life and death. Favoring either denies existence and creates tension. Tensions causes mistakes to happen in critical situations and can sometimes be more deadly than existence itself. Therefore we must neither love nor fear death. All things will come and go so there is no point in grasping, clinging or worrying. All things have a beginning, middle and end; it is important to learn to recognize beginnings because this is when gentle interventions will be most effective and difficulties can be easily avoided. Once an event is energized (“in the middle) it is time to stand back and when endings are coming it’s especially important not to intervene in the rush to seek a specific resolution. At birth things are flexible and flowing and what is flexible grows; at death things are rigid and blocked and what is rigid will atrophy and die.
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SmartChick at the Blog Carnival: Wellness

Anyone who is interested in yoga, meditation and general wellness should make it a point to check out the many different articles that were recently submitted to the Roundup of Yoga, Meditation and Personal Development blog carnival. There was a lot of useful information provided there!

My own post was on the many benefits of yoga was included in this carnival. Of course it was in the yoga section along with posts on bikram yoga, face yoga, yoga for beginners and the internal strength built by yoga. Also in the yoga section were two chakra-based posts on the root chakra and the heart chakra.

Another topic covered very well in this blog carnival is the topic of meditation and spiritual growth. This includes posts on the zen of clearing your mind, the law of attraction, consciousness and mysticism.

Additional posts in this blog carnival ran the gamut of topics including happiness, hypnosis, making the most of life through gratitude, forgiveness and optimism, making good eating choices (like papaya), your subconscious mind, having children, addictive drugs, anorexia, creativity and life goals.

Which of these posts made you feel most at peace?

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Yoga Is About More Than The Physical

Yoga is a popular form of exercise, especially in California where I live. However, it’s more than just a form of exercise. Yoga is a means of connecting with yourself. It’s a tool that can be used to get away from the hectic pace of life and bring yourself back to the core things that matter for you. It’s a way to establish peace of mind, get to know what’s going on with your body and really heal yourself from the inside out.

I never thought that I would be a yoga person. I was always someone who couldn’t sit still for long. I was always someone who wanted to do hiking and indoor rock climbing and other activities that involved a lot of motion. And I was definitely never someone who enjoyed classes filled with people who were exercising together.

But then things happened in my life. My world crashed down around me. And the only thing that I felt capable of doing was breathing (although some days I didn’t even feel capable of that). That was when I found yoga. I signed up for a weekly workshop. I dragged myself there. I learned to do some basic poses. I learned to breathe more deeply. And I learned to settle my mind so I could just relax despite the chaos happening around me. The physical exercise is certainly an important part of yoga but yoga is about so much more than that.

Ever since I started that first workshop, I have felt that yoga must be an important part of my life for the rest of my life. I make time for yoga classes no matter what else is going on. When I was ill recently, the thing I missed most was being able to go to yoga. Although it’s not the right activity for everyone, it’s now the right activity for me.

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