Category Archives: The Higher Self

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.

Resting on Angel Wings

Mother of Horus Isabelle Bagdasarianz-Küng without saying

The Mother of Horus. (Photo by Isabelle Bagdasarianz Küng)

How can we cope with the overpowering images and messages from the daily news? Hurricanes, fires, mass murder, nuclear threats, and crazed world leaders can be overwhelming, pushing us towards a spiral of negative thoughts. Naturally, we want to be informed about what is going on in the world so we can make clear decisions and activate change. But we also need to find the right balance in our lives so we don’t feel lost in the constant swell of bad news.

The key is to seek equilibrium. Like feasting on salty food all day, when we only nourish ourselves by munching on the news, we can make our hearts and minds ill. We need to refresh ourselves with the taste and sound of spring waters, waters that might help us flush the salty taste from our mouths and renew our bodies and souls.

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The Poem that Crossed Borders

Lotus flower 3

Assagioli writes that the Lotus is a symbol of Synthesis.

Next week I will be at Casa Assagioli in Florence, helping Gruppo alle Fonti host their International Meeting. The theme this year is “Synthesis,” a mighty big concept to come to terms with in less than a week. In anticipation, I have begun to reflect on what Synthesis means. The word comes from the Greek word syntithenai, in turn deriving from syn meaning “together” and thtehnai meaning “to put, place.”

Assagioli Triangle Equilibramento

One of Assagioli’s triangles from his Archives.

The concept of Synthesis is complex because it is not only a quality or a state of being, but also a continual process, an attitude, an approach. I have written a number of blogs about Assagioli’s ideas on the synthesis of polar opposites. Basically, synthesis occurs when a pair of opposites continually interact until they are brought into equilibrium. Ultimately the opposites are transmuted into a transpersonal quality. Assagioli liked to draw triangles to illustrate his idea of balancing and transmuting these opposite energies into higher spiritual qualities. Continue reading

(Re)Learning to Mother Ourselves

1024px-Mother-Child_face_to_faceRecently I have been taking psychosynthesis lessons from my 3-1/2 year old neighbor Martina (not her real name). She is an only child without many friends who has been wandering over to my garden whenever I happen to be planting or hoeing in the late afternoon. At first she showed up in her electrical jeep, zig-zagging down the country road from her grandparents’ house, alternatively jerking to a halt and zooming full speed ahead, her three dogs chasing after her.

Martina is highly intelligent, strong-willed and precocious. She is an organizer and often explains to me where plants should be placed and what vases and flowers I need to buy and where they belong in the garden. She is also a great storyteller. In true Italian style, her entire body moves while she talks, her hands fly around with precision, and her facial gestures rise and fall with the tone of her voice. Continue reading

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.

Beauty – Where Spirit and Matter Converge

John
As an expression of beauty, awe, and awakening, art has always played a great part along our journey to our Higher Self. Throughout the world, holy places 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 within the architectural space.

Assagioli noted that:

“Matter is the highest form of Spirit and Spirit is the lowest form of Matter.”

In this way, spirit seeks matter to express the full beauty of the transcendent. Assagioli also noted that Plato, Plotinus, and Christian mystics have recognized and proclaimed that “beauty is the essential attribute of the Supreme.”

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