San-Ni-Ichi

Peak Experience3 ClombardTranspersonal experiences have blessed my life for many years. Perhaps one of the earliest and strongest occurred in 1987 while I was living in Japan. After graduating from UC Berkeley, I moved to Fukuyama, about 400 miles south of Tokyo to teach English.

Before I left, my brother gave me the name and address of Takashi (not his real name), a friend of his from business school who lived in Tokyo. Soon after settling in, I contacted Takashi and introduced myself. He replied with the suggestion that I meet him in Kyoto where he was planning a business trip. During the weekend, he would have time to accompany me through the ancient capital city.

I happily agreed to this idea. Kyoto is renown for its numerous temples and shrines. Surrounded by mountains and graced with bamboo gardens and philosopher paths, Kyoto seems to hold the essence of Japan. With a guiding hand, I hoped to touch this essence.

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The author and her guide Takeshi at Sanzen-in, Kyoto (1987)

When I left for our rendezvous, it was early February, a blustery cold month, that the Japanese calendar marked as the beginning of spring. Takeshi, a gentle-voiced Japanese with high cheek bones and a wide smile, met me at the train station. He wore a grey trench coat, standard attire for an international banker, and his jet black hair was flecked with grey, as if he had accidentally splattered himself while painting a room white.

The next morning, when I opened the frosted windows of my hotel room, I could hear the coo of morning doves mingled with the soothing trickle of a waterfall. It was a cold winter day, and we first visited the dimly lit temple halls of Sanjusangen-do where 1001 serene Kannon figures lined the wooden floors.

Later that afternoon, fat snowflakes swirled around us while we strolled through an ancient tea garden in the nearby hills. I stood spellbound in front of a plum tree that was in bloom. Swollen pink blossoms undauntedly fluttered in the snow.sanzenin

The next day, we caught a bus to Sanzen-in, a renown temple rebuilt in 860 A.D., tucked away in the mountains. Upon arriving, we found the snow piled high, the sky deep blue, and the air biting.  We entered the temple, and robed monks led us, along with other visitors, to a room with low tables. Sitting at the tables, we were given the day’s sutra written on hand-made, cream-colored paper. The monk then invited us to meditate and trace the kanji sutra.

kanji for peaceOn the same piece of paper, we also were asked to write down a personal goal.  At the end of each day, the monks collected these papers and burnt them with incense.  My mind felt cleared after tracing the sutra, as I waited for a goal to enter my heart.  Finally, I wrote “To grow wise with age,” and Takeshi drew the kanji for peace, the character depicting a stalk of rice next to a mouth—everyone satiated in all ways.

Takeshi then walked over to a shoji door. The mulberry paper meticulously covered its cross-lattice bamboo frame and seemed alive with sunlight. “San…ni…ichi.  Three…two…one.” He counted backwards and then slid the door open.

I was stunned. The garden beyond the door was unworldly in its beauty.  At that moment, I lost all consciousness of self and became one with everything, one with light. The manicured pine trees and carefully placed stones seemed captive in snow, frozen in time. Iridescent colors of green, blue and orange flickered in my mind’s eye. I felt like I had finally, breathlessly arrived in Japan.

Regaining consciousness, I found myself moved to tears. For only a split-second, I had transcended time and space and momentarily encountered a limitless universe, yet I felt I had been gone for days. A monk’s voice floated towards me in a soothing rush of monosyllables. The air tasted sweet and cold. A stream of melted waters ran beneath the snow.

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The author 30 years ago (!) at Sanzen-in, Kyoto

Takeshi offered me his arm, and we stepped into the temple’s garden. Pine trees occasionally shook piles of snow off their boughs onto our heads, as if to mock our awkward humanness.

Since that time, I have indeed aged. As for growing wise, that remains a work in progress. But one thing is certain, this brief glimpse of the invisible through the visible reverberates through my soul today.

You can also Journey to Places of the Higher Self

In our everyday lives we are often too busy, distracted, or caught in the mundane to be open to the places of the Higher Self. That is why these experiences tend to happen in foreign lands in beautiful natural settings. In this light, we would like to invite you to experience great natural beauty in the spiritual landscape of Umbria, Italy, with the hope of awaking a connection to the Higher Self.

Please join us as we Journey to Places of the Higher Self from September 17-23. During this five-day journey, you will have a chance to discover places of transcendence in the green heart of Italy – the Umbrian Apennines –home to many generations of seekers and saints of the transpersonal.

For more information, please visit Journey to Places of the Higher Self.

Meeting Ourselves in Foreign Lands

Valsorda

Valsorda, Umbria. One of our stops on Journey to Places of the Higher Self, September 17-23, 2018

During the initial interview with every client, I always ask: “Do you have any religious or spiritual practice?”

The following is a typical response:

“I would call myself an atheist. As a scientist, I know that there is no proof showing that God exists. But I also know that there is no proof showing that he does not exist.”

Interestingly, clients’ responses become very different when asked if they had ever had a feeling of connection to something greater than themselves. Without exception, all clients can recall having a transpersonal or peak experience at some point in their lives, mostly while they were in a natural setting in a foreign landscape.

bioluminescent bay

A bioluminescent bay

In fact, William James noted that nature “seemed to have a peculiar power of awakening such mystical moods. Most of the striking cases which I have collected occurred out of doors”.

My client Henk (not his real name), who is quoted above, answered this second question as follows:

“When I was 20, I was on a boat at night and all around in the water were bioluminescent plankton. It was so beautiful; I became very emotional and cried. I wish my girlfriend had been there so I could have shared such a deeply moving experience with someone.”

When I asked another client this question, her appearance completely changed. While relating her experience in nature, Maria’s tense, drawn face become radiant and smiling. She said:

“I had a deep connection while swimming in a lake in Finland under the stars. There were many experiences like this while I was recently traveling in Norway. I don’t believe in God, but I admit there are times when I think there might be a superior cosmic intelligence capable of creating this natural beauty.”

Join Us on a Journey to Places of the Higher Self in Umbria, Italy

eremo di carceri

Eremo di Carceri, Assisi. Another stop on Journey to Places of the Higher Self.

In our everyday lives we are often too busy, distracted, or caught in the mundane to be open to the places of the Higher Self. That is why these experiences tend to happen in foreign lands in beautiful natural settings. In this light, we would like to invite you to experience great natural beauty in the spiritual landscape of Umbria, Italy, with the hope of awaking a connection to the Higher Self.

Please join us as we Journey to Places of the Higher Self from September 17-23. During this five-day journey, you will have a chance to discover places of transcendence in the green heart of Italy – the Umbrian Apennines –home to many generations of seekers and saints of the transpersonal.

For more detailed information, please visit Journey to Places of the Higher Self.

Snow Blossoms

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First day of Spring, Umbria, Italy, 2018

As I write these words, my 93-year-old mother is dying. We are separated by an entire continent and an entire ocean, 6000 miles apart. It is a tremendous challenge to not race onto a transatlantic flight to be by her side. But I realize that our distance now is a gift, for I have no other recourse but prayer and the willful and conscious act of radiating Light and Love.

Only a month ago, we were together in sunny California where I was visiting her for three weeks. While I was there, my mom told her Hospice care worker, “I’m having such a good time with Catherine that I forget to take my pain medicine.” Continue reading

Psychosynthesis Granny Power

B&W Rasponi

Contessa Gabriella Spalletti Rasponi, in the early 1900s

For this International Women’s Day, l’d like to introduce you to the first President of the Institute of Psychosynthesis in Rome, which in 1926 was initially called the Istituto di Cultura e Terapia Psichica (Institute of Culture and Psychic Therapy). Yes, that’s right! She was a woman…the Contessa Gabriella Spalletti Rasponi (1853-1931), whom Assagioli greatly admired both as an international leader as well as a devoted grandmother.

To this day, Rasponi remains little known even in Italy. She was born in Ravenna into an aristocratic family (her grandmother was Napoleon’s sister Carolina) and was privately educated. Married at the age of 17 to Count Venceslao Spalletti Trivelli, she had five children, two of whom died in infancy. In 1874, the couple moved to Rome where her husband became a Senator to the Kingdom. Rasponi was widowed in 1899 when she was 46 years old. Continue reading

From Pencils to Cosmic Love

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What better day than St. Valentines to explore Assagioli’s thoughts on Love from a psychosynthetic point of view? But first we have to start with pencils…

In his dialogs with Bruno Caldironi, Assagioli described the process of reflective mediation. This type of meditation is a synthesis of many elements, most notably attention and concentration. The idea is to consciously direct your thoughts to an idea, problem, or concept and note how your thoughts connect, interpenetrate, and link themselves together into a new understanding.

In Assagioli’s careful didactic way, he first gave the simple example of how you might meditate on a pencil.  You might begin like this:

“What’s a pencil? It’s for writing. It’s of wood. It has lead inside…”

Continue reading

The Doctors are In!

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“Freud’s confusion between sexual and sensuous.” Assagioli’s note from his archives

As many of you probably know, Roberto Assagioli was the first psychoanalyst in Italy. However, not long after presenting his doctoral thesis on psychoanalysis, he found Freudian thought to be limiting and went onto becoming the visionary founder of psychosynthesis.

Undoubtedly, Assagioli had great respect for Freud as a pioneer of modern psychology, but he also believed that psychoanalysis actually forced you to live in only two dimensions as opposed to psychosynthesis, which opens up a third, higher dimension of the psyche. Continue reading

Something to Declare

Unconditional love Copyright Simon Carey

© Copyright Simon Carey

Less than a week ago I arrived in the USA after a four-year absence. I am here to visit my 93-year-old mother and a dear friend who has recently become ill. Before leaving Italy, I anticipated that I would experience a clash of subpersonalities. How would the American part of me emerge and what would the European part of me do about her?

Upon arrival, instead of a passport control agent, a machine took all my biometrics and a computer compared them with my passport. I am now in a NSA database somewhere… But a real person in uniform did stop me and asked, “Do you have anything to declare?”

Immediately I felt a subpersonality fight her way forward. She wanted to say: Continue reading