Krista Tippett has made a wonderful video about compassion for TED. She is host of the NPR show “On Being.” I especially like the way she compares tolerance and compassion. Many people inappropriately conflate the two.


Followers of James Hillman’s work will be interested to hear that Krista associates compassion with beauty and notes that her Muslim radio guests often describe beauty as a moral value. That’s quite consistent with Sufism in particular. (Check out Henry Corbin's Alone with the Alone.)....


See the video and read the rest on my blog, Sacred Disorder.

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Comment by Lucia d'Ancona on March 8, 2011 at 4:14am
Naaa, Cliff. You didn't do anything wrong slinging around the C-word (Claire) around! It's just that she doesn't use it, (I never knew that was her original name) and for some of us who are given Sanskrit names, the old names that are given us at birth sort of desiccate and fall off. Are you guys friends? Do you go wayyyyy back and what not? I just think that's wild.

I read your interviews, and I thank you for sharing them with me.
Thanks also for the explanation of literalism, and of your work.

It seems to me that your ambivalence might just be healthy. I saw your post on my Doctoral Dilemma discussion and you hit the nail right on the head. Saybrook, by the way, is not-for-profit. Just sayin...
Comment by Cliff Bostock on March 7, 2011 at 6:35pm

Uh oh. I didn't know I was doing anything inappropriate by using Claire's name. I found Ma Jaya's affect overwhelming. She wouldn't leave me alone during the workshop I attended -- probably because I had written about her -- and the attention embarrassed me.

I have made a handful of visits to Mother Meera in Germany. She conducts darshan in complete silence, a much more effective style for my noisy mind. (I did have something of a falling out with Mother Meera, though I feel reconciled now.) Anyway, you can read my initial interview with Ma Jaya, "Guru with a schtick," here.

I know I wrote at least one more column about her, but I can't find it. The interview was for a weekly column on psychology, pop culture and spirituality I wrote for more than 20 years. It was cancelled about 18 months ago, thanks to the effect of the recession (although, honestly, I needed a break). I continue to write a weekly dining column that I've also written for more than 20 years.

I have interviewed a zillion people, including lots of celebrities. The vast majority were incredibly boring.

HIllman's main criticism of psychological and spiritual culture is the way everything is taken as literal instead of metaphorical. Gaston Bachelard put it this way: "The psyche's reality is lived in the death of the literal." This is consistent with Jung's statement that the psyche IS image.

An example of literalism's negative effect would be the way Mother Meera describes herself as a literal incarnation of the Divine Mother. I'm not buying that, but I do know she has a powerful effect on my imagination and activates my mother complex. Several of her former followers, like Andrew Harvey, turned totally against her when she expressed some opinions about gay people that were consistent with Indian culture but not of a perfect being. In fact they weren't even consistent with her own treatment of gay people. So, while I found this all disturbing, I avoided Harvey's total rage because I did not literalize her divinity as he did.

I see clients who mainly have creative blocks. As I wrote on another thread, I  (like hundreds of others) was denied a license after graduation from my master's program because the state had radically changed its requirements and would not grandfather in those of just graduating or already in practice. I was twice sent cease and desist orders from the state. I got a lawyer and fought them. Instead of taking me to court, the state authorities just disappeared both times. I do not call my work psychotherapy and I refer anyone with mental health problems to someone else. I require clients to sign a form that acknowledges that I am not providing psychotherapy.

It's crazy. Here's an old interview that describes my work, although I no longer use the term "soulwork".

And as for teaching, no, I don't do that, although Pacifica did recently ask me to teach a class in cyber psychology. The offer was dropped and I suspect it was because of my very ambivalent attitude toward the school.

Comment by Lucia d'Ancona on March 7, 2011 at 4:54pm
OMG, on so many levels, Cliff! :-) Oh, no you did NOT just "out" Swami Jaya Devi to me as Claire in this public forum!!!! [LOL] That is just hilarious--and sort of wild, too! And I think its FASCINATING that you interviewed Ma. I would love to hear about that some time, although I'm sure it will be far more entertaining for me to hear/read than it would be for you to tell/write. I understand the "not my style" sentiment. You are a gentleman and a scholar!

It's clear that you are a marvelous writer, was it through that medium that you sought to interview her. Who else have you interviewed??? (It would be cool if you said Mick Jagger or Chaka Khan!)

Stan Grof scares me. But I did read a lot of his work while at ITP and I have a lot of respect for many of his theories. I did not ever hear him speak--that must have been interesting! In particular, I like that he refers to Karmic Pattern Emergence in some of his writings. That is something I have a great interest in. Did you ever read Laszlo? This is an interesting exploration:

Bache, C. (2006, January). Reincarnation and the akashic field: A dialogue with Ervin Laszlo. World Futures: The Journal of General Evolution, 62(1/2), 114-126.

I hear you about the certification games--and the money. Are you teaching in Higher Ed currently, or practicing clinical work? I think you're the person who said "it's complicated" and I can identify with that, too. I have been struggling with the research vs. clinical question and others like it.

I'm afraid I don't exactly know what you mean by the way Hillman uses the term literalized, but I am interested in that. I have yet to really get into his work too deeply. What other uses does holo breathwork have (other than the context of pre and peri-natal psych?)

Forgive me for my ignorance. Thanks for indulging me with your kind responses.

--Ld' / VJ
Comment by Cliff Bostock on March 7, 2011 at 2:56pm

I've had lots of interactions with Jaya Devi over the years, although I still think of her as "Claire." And I have a bunch of friends who participate in Kashi activities. Honestly, no offense, I have great respect for Claire but I am not comfortable around Ma Jaya, whom I interviewed several times years ago. Just not my style, although I respect the work she did with people with AIDS.

Holotropic Breathwork is experientially powerful but I find Grof's fixation on the stages of birth kinda hard to swallow. I remember one lecture I attended that weirdly went on for hours and hours about sadomasochism and one of the birth stages. I ended up feeling tickled, like I was listening to Gilda Radner going on and on about how disgusting something was. 


I find the birth motif metaphorically powerful but can't take it so literally -- and my initial experience with the work was in the context of pre- and perinatal psychology. A lot of transpersonal and Jungian work in my view is too  literalized (in the way Hillman uses the term). I can't help feeling that this is about certification and money in many ways. For example, Grof's work is not so different from rituals of several spiritual traditions. Without the theorizing about birth stages, it would make little sense to turn its practice into something requiring certification.

Ditto for Jungian sandplay. The process is basically the construction of a waking dream and I don't see that anything is necessarily gained by the extensive training required for certification.

But I'm just obstinate, I guess.




Comment by Lucia d'Ancona on March 7, 2011 at 11:23am

Cliff--  I shy from holo breathwork--which probably means I need to do it more ;-)  The two or three sessions I did revealed troubling (and astounding) threads of things I still do not grasp.  (That was about ten years ago...).


I'm with you!  The luminous and transcendent sitting experiences are always guided by my teacher.  The others always seem to involve movement-as-teacher.  It's pretty cool.


Yet another over zealous yogini prosthelytizing about salvation-by-asana!  I'm sorry for your knees.  Yoga will welcome them anyway.  Just choose a style that offers support for modifications and that meets you where you are.


I highly recommend Kashi Atlanta and the Kali Natha style of yoga.  They're over on McLendon, I believe.  Tell Swami Jaya Devi that Vibhuti Jaya sentcha'! 



Comment by Cliff Bostock on March 7, 2011 at 11:08am

Hey, Lucia. I don't know that I've ever had a luminous or transcendental moment while doing sitting meditation in any formal way. I did have such experiences in the extreme while sitting in silent darshan with a spiritual teacher, as I have while doing holotropic breathwork.


I tend to regard these states as imaginal rather than literal, which is not meant to demean their significance.


Everybody I know seems to be doing yoga and evangelizing about it to me. I'm interested but I have really bad knees thanks to botched surgery four years ago. I actually did my physical therapy for that with a yoga instructor, but it was very painful much of the time.

I think most all such altered states are inherently healing. I did my training at what was then the only residential treatment center employing transpersonal modalities. (Stan Grof did a good bit of his breathwork training workshops there too.) But I question their value if they don't have a somatic component.

Comment by Lucia d'Ancona on March 7, 2011 at 8:57am

Ah!  Cliff, I asked because I've heard that so many times from students, and also because "sitting" practice alone is really, really, really hard for me.  I also asked because my mind says "I am good" and "I am not good" in the very same way.  The "good meditations" are the ones where we slip toward The Formless with ease and grace, right?  Where we are luminous, and are temporarily relieved of the burden of our own flesh, and clinging mentality?  :-) 


In my experiences with hatha yoga (physical yoga, or yoga of the body), I have been gifted with a really transcendent kind of meditation experience that is borne from the movement itself--and from awareness of breath, and also the body, as you suggested.  I also lift, and walk, and jog (I won't dare call it running) and I have experienced incredible bliss in those practices, too.  Some try and blame it on endorphins, but, to them I say:  "Whatever".


The physical practice of hatha (yoga asana) is often said to have served simply to prepare the body for meditation.  As soon as I heard that, I took it seriously, and I discovered that if I want to sit and go go God, before I sit, I must move.


Sometimes, I have to be content just to move and to let that be my meditation--and thank God for moving meditations!




Comment by Cliff Bostock on March 7, 2011 at 7:58am

Hey, Lucia. OK, you caught me. I know the mental confusion, the avalanche of feelings and thoughts, is all par for the meditative course. But in 20-odd years of fairly consistent participation in Shambhala programs, I've had very few experiences of, uh, calm abiding. I have found the practice rewarding because it has taught me to watch my "monkey mind" without always identifying with it.

I have been addicted to exercise most of my life and I think it has a meditative quality too and is probably more calming in that it involves movement, awareness of the body and presence.

Comment by Lucia d'Ancona on March 7, 2011 at 7:23am
Hi, Cliff, I really enjoyed this post.  In it you close with "...I’m not a good meditator..." which piques my interest.  What is a good meditator?  ;-)  I'm interested in hearing more of what you have to say on that...
Comment by Julie Ann Perkins on February 28, 2011 at 10:45am
Thank you for posting Krista Tippett's discussion of compassion and tenderness as words that can be brought 'down to earth', and used, to paraphrase the whole presentation, as a a way to approach the idea of creating One Human race through compassion as a spritiual technology... I loved the examples of Einstien and of the paraplegic who teaches yoga to disabled veterans.  A lot packed in to her brief talk!

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