|"Your visions will become clear when you look into your own heart.
Who looks outside dreams; who looks inside awakes." ~ Carl Jung
"Be curious, be open, be present." These were the parting words of our professor at
Naropa University on the day of our graduation. We were a small group of graduates from all
over the country. This day was the culmination of a journey in which we'd shared our hearts,
hopes, and tears while earning a Master of Arts in Transpersonal Psychology.
By the time I entered Naropa University in 2005, I already had a good deal of schooling
under my belt. I had been a Mathematics Major at both Rutgers University and Stockton
University. And I'd received both a Bachelor's Degree in Geography and a Master's Degree in
Public Relations from Rowan University.
But only Naropa University provides something most other colleges do not;
meditation classes are included in the curriculum.
I've been practicing meditation and yoga since I was 16 years old.
As a teen-ager, I found the stress-relief that meditation provided
helped me navigate through life's ups and downs. And so I carried
the practice forward into my adult life.
Therefore, when I decided to formally study psychology, Naropa seemed like a perfect fit.
It has a storied history, founded by the Oxford University scholar and Buddhist Monk,
Chogyam Trugnpa. My professors at Naropa had studied with respected contemplative
experts such as Pema Chodron, Thich Nhat Hanh, and Jon Kabat-Zin, to name a few.
All of whom have contributed greatly to the burgeoning, yet ancient, fields of meditation and mindfulness. Modern
scientific research continues to uncover the many health benefits of yoga, meditation, and mindfulness which are now
widely included in mainstream psychological therapies.
The Naropa Experience:
The wonderful thing about studying psychology at Naropa is its deep understanding of the human
mind. Like most colleges there is a lot of scholastic work and studying. But there would also be a moment in class
when the professor would pause ... and take a few slow, deep breaths. We students would do the same. Like re-booting
a computer, our minds cleared. Then class continued. With each of us a little more present.
The field of psychology is a science with many conflicting views. Naropa has a unique way to support students in
developing their own scientific and intuitive understanding of the mind. We were taught how to present our differing
views to each other, not as a debate to win an argument as many colleges do, but as a means for developing a deeper
understanding. The discussions were based on guidelines that work well in day to day life too.
The Art of Listening:
~ Favor Curiosity Over Opinion
~ Favor Building Community Over Scoring Points
~ Favor Understanding Over Self-Defense
~ Favor Being Truthful Over Being Right
~ Favor Trust Over Doubt
All of the above foster the openness that being present requires. Open to each other's views. Open to our life's
experiences. Open to ourselves. It is through being open that life can reach us; move through us in waves of discomfort
and joy creating a deeper meaning and understanding of our life's journey.
"We usually think of giving as more important than receiving. Yet only by receiving light can
flowers grow into their beauty and pollinate the earth. Only by absorbing rain can the earth grow
what feeds us. Only by inhaling air can our bodies walk us to each other. Only by accepting each
other's pain and vulnerability can human strength grow between us. In these ways, receiving
involves absorbing, inhaling, and accepting the life that flows through us, between us, and around
us. These are all deeper forms of listening."
I am deeply humbled and honored to have studied within the Naropa lineage, one that promotes deep listening.
And I find great joy and purpose in helping people learn to listen more deeply. To each other, to nature, to themselves.
And so paying forward the words of my Naropa professor: be curious about, open to, and present for your own
personal journey. It can assist you through the ups and downs of life to receive the gifts each moment offers.
The author, Mark Nepo, in his book Seven Thousand Ways to Listen, describes this openness in terms of receiving:
From it all we can receive a greater understanding; an awareness that soothes us in times of sorrow and
celebrates with us in times of joy.