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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.

From Pencils to Cosmic Love


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…”

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The Doctors are In!

012373 Freud's confusion between sexual and sensuous

“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

Free Will – Fantasy or Saving Grace?

hamburger over truthLast week I heard Robert Sapolsky being interviewed on the radio. Prof. Sapolsky is apparently a renowned and popular U.S. scientist. He is Professor of Biological Sciences and Professor of Neurology and Neurological Sciences at Stanford University, and a big shot in the world of neuroendocrinology. The New York Times has called him one of the finest natural history writers of our time.

Despite all his knowledge, talent, expertise and fame, Prof. Sapolsky left me chilled when he said:

“Free will is what we call the biology that we have yet to study.”

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Places of the Higher Self

Five-day Journey Through the Green Heart of Italy

September 18-23, 2017

Assagioli at camadoli

We will visit the Camaldoli Hermitage near Florence. Here is a photo of Roberto Assagioli (fourth from the left) outside of this same hermitage (courtesy of Fernando Maraghini).

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. Throughout history and across cultures, our ancestors have always created ritual space and time for the transpersonal to enter into the ordinary. Such holy places are often located on mountaintops and deep inside caves, in silent havens and in nature. Churches, temples, and mosques have been built to hold the polar tensions of spirit and matter, inner and outer space and light, as well as the community that shares the transcendent experience. As an expression of beauty, awe, and awakening, art has also always played a great part along this journey to our Higher Self.

La Verna, Italy

La Verna, Italy

Continuing with the theme of “Synthesis,” after the International Meeting at Casa Assagioli, we embark on a Journey to the Higher Self. Starting from Florence, we travel east to visit medieval churches and mountain hermitages, allow our souls to soar from La Verna, discover beautiful villages and, of course, enjoy the cucina locale. During this five-day journey, you will have a chance to discover places of transcendence in the green heart of Italy – in the forest-covered Tuscan and Umbrian Apennines, the home of many generations of seekers and saints of the transpersonal.

The journey is especially meant to be an open voyage of discovery and a direct personal experience of all that presents itself during its various stages. We will go slowly and quietly, allowing you the time and space necessary to directly experience the reality of the Higher Self, the key part of you that connects the personal with the transpersonal and, hence, the personal with the universal.

DSC01520This journey promises to be a fonte of inspiration for anyone seeking the Higher Self in the natural beauty and surroundings of Italy. We hope to provide you with a journey that might help transform and strengthen you when you ultimately return to your daily life.

This trip is organized and hosted by Catherine Ann Lombard and Kees den Biesen, the guides and facilitators.

Cost: € 985.00 per person. For more information and registration, see A Journey to Places of the Higher Self.

Assa…who? Psychosyn…what?

Roberto Assagioli

Roberto Assagioli (Assagioli Archives, Florence)

If you ever wondered how to explain who Assagioli is to people who have never heard of him or psychosynthesis, I recently had a short article published about him in The Florentine magazine. You can read “A Man of Peaceful Action” by clicking here.

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Women’s Psycho-Spiritual Gifts

Olga Froebe Studio Assagioli

Painting by Olga Fröbe-Kapteyn, hanging in Assgioli’s studio in Florence.

In his controversial essay, “The Psychology of Woman and her Psychosynthesis,” Assagioli discusses the psychological characteristics of both women and men, and how together, “each can become, psychologically, a complete human being.” He also describes in detail “womanly functions” such as the maternal function and wifely function.

In June, 2016, Piero Ferrucci related a funny story about this essay and Assagioli’s ideas concerning feminine roles. In the 1970s, Betty Friedman, author of the Feminist Mystic, came to meet Assagioli in Florence. She had a great time and during a guided meditation, the image came to her of a rainbow uniting men and women in the world. She asked for some of Assagioli’s writings to take back with her. Despite Ferrucci asking Ida Palombi, Assagioli’s secretary and associate, not to give Freidman his controversial writings on the psychology of men and women, Palombi did. And they never saw Friedman again.

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