Interests in Spirituality

Encountering the Divine

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Angels among us

Posted by Jennifer Mata on September 28, 2008 at 12:19 PM Comments comments (0)
I got an email today from Angels Among Us (facebook group). I really liked it and thought I'd share. Enjoy!

Standing Watch

We have one Angel standing watch
above us as we sleep

Another gathers up the hopes
and dreams we wish to keep..

One Angel is the tiny voice
that whispers in our ears
With words of love and comfort
to conquer grief and fears

We have so many Angels
with one friendship keeper too

Another just to mend
the thoughtless things we do

We have a guardian of love
who protects our destiny
and helps us with our soul mate
with who we're meant to be

We have a host of Angels
that keep us company...
In order that we may become
the best that we can be!!!

Religion and Spirituality

Posted by Jennifer Mata on June 9, 2008 at 11:31 AM Comments comments (0)
"Religion is an institutionalized approach to spiritual growth formed rounf doctrines, ritual, and standards of behavior. Spirituality is the very personal and intimate expression of our relationship with the Divine." (Hart, 2003, p. 173)

What are some of your opinions about religion and spirituality? Do they intersect? How?

How to recognize a spiritual experience

Posted by Jennifer Mata on May 4, 2008 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (0)
I found a great way to help define spiritual experiences in Hart's book "The Secret Spiritual Lives of Children". He states that these experiences tend to :
1.- Reflect an openness and expansion of consciousness,
2.- Show us more of who we are and what the universe is, and therefore shape our worldview, and
3.- Reflect a more direct, intuitive knowing that is so often the route toward spiritual insight. (p. 116)

Nourishing spirituality

Posted by Jennifer Mata on April 27, 2008 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)
I'm designing a spiritual curriculum for a public NYC secondary school and as part of my reading list I've been focusing on books which provide useful suggestions of activities and strategies to be used with youngsters. One of my favorites so far is 10 Principles for Spiritual Parenting by Mimi Doe and Marsha Walch. It's been a stretch for me to use their suggestions in a classroom environment and to pose them as to be used by teachers instead of parents. But if you are a parent I highly recommend this book. It's insightful, well written and has an incredible gamut of activities you can do with a small child and also for yourself, to nourish spirituality. Go on, give a read and enjoy!

Stop looking and have faith

Posted by Jennifer Mata on January 11, 2008 at 1:49 PM Comments comments (0)
I've been reading "Our Lady of the Lost and Found" by Diane Schoemperlen. It's an excellent book. Not only because it's on spiritual matters, and relates the story of a writer who is visited by none other than the Virgen Mary herself, but because it promotes pondering and deep reflection on beliefs and values. I highly recommend it.

"Having found in my own writting that thinking or talking about an idea too much or too soon can cause it to evaporate all together, it occurs to me now that the same paradox applies to faith. Searching too hard for God can get in the way of finding him. Sometimes you just have to stop looking and let yourself be taken by surprise. Sometimes God is as plain as the nose on your face. And sometimes you just can't see the forest for the trees.
In several of the books I've read recently, the authors make it clear that this business of finding faith is not an intellectual exercise: you cannot think your way to faith." (Schoemperlen, 2001, p. 121).

Religious Language, the only language?

Posted by Jennifer Mata on December 2, 2007 at 12:19 PM Comments comments (0)
I went to a Breathwork session yesterday at Union Theological Seminar. It was hosted by Dr. Judith Miller, who is a professor at Teachers College, and has been doing breathwork for over 20 years. I had been to one of her sessions back in the Spring, but this was my first complete workshop. I went in with very low expectations of what I would get out of it, since it is very difficult for me to be able to quiet my mind and experience altered levels of consciousness if I am not closely guided by someone. This was large group setting and everyone was left to explore and experience as they would. The only instruction given was to breath deeper and faster than normal, and then the music started. We were breathing for about 2 hours and then came together to share our experiences.

My experience, as I expected, was not earth shattering. I was very distracted by people walking by me, by others moving close to me, and making noises (someone next to me was actually chanting) and I was also very, very cold and somewhat hungry. Needless to say, close to the end I was ready for the music to stop, and the whole activity to come to a halt. Nevertheless, I saw some lights, heard some words, which came in passing, and saw something that looked like an eye of light, a couple of times.

Other people had very powerful experiences, most of them could relate what they saw and felt to what they are going through currently in life. I made some parallelism of my own involving: control issues, letting things be, accepting that things happen for a reason, having too high expectations of myself in regards to performance, etc.; but again nothing quite ground moving.

What was of worth to me in this workshop, and the reason I think I came to have this experience, was the conversation that took place close to the end. While a woman was relating her experience to the group, through Dr. Miller's scaffolding, she describe her vision as an overwhelming love, a sense of utter beauty, and feeling safe and peaceful, all of this after going in a dark scary cave and coming out victorious of a fight of some sort. Dr. Miller's interpretation of this immediately was that she had had a Christ Awakening experience. I had to ask the question which I have been grappling with in my research: "Do you think there are other words, another non-religious vocabulary, to explain what she experienced?". Of course, I explained where I was coming from, and how I understood spirituality away from religion, and religion as one path, but not the only path through which to develop spiritually. Dr. Miller's answer was non convincing. She did though, acknowledge her biases and explained that all religions begin with a mystical experience, and this being a mystical experience itself, and sharing this characteristic with religions, was easily explained through religious language.

Another participant urged us to be conscious when "giving and unknown territory a map" and thought that it might be helpful to just let the experience be described as the participant did, with non-religious words, and to not label it with religious terminology and constructs. Dr. Miller then made a point of explaining how the woman's experience was exactly the same as what she understood as a Christ Awakening, which is based on archetypes within the collective unconscious. She said she had offered this piece of information to the woman so that she could better understand what had happened to her and keep moving along in her process. The woman was thankful. Even though she clearly stated she was non religious, she now had a name for her experience and thought Dr. Miller's intervention was helpful.

For me it was clear where Dr. Miller was coming from and how ego, training, and previous knowledge was playing a part here. The role of the healer, the guru, the teacher, the therapist who can and has to save the suffering, imperfect, and in-process client, came to mind. Dr. Miller has obviously lived by and believes in religions, and seems to understand spirituality and spiritual growth through religious language, archetypes, and constructs. She has religious names for certain spiritual experiences, and seems to think that because she accepts and works with different religions (Christian, Judaic, Buddhist, and Shamanic) she is being all encompassing to every possible spiritual experience and our understandings of it.

In my literature review one of the problems I have repeatedly seen researchers encounter is not having a language, a non-religious language, to refer to spiritual matters. Every time I ask someone what is their spiritual background the answer I get is a religion. I truly believe that as along as we keep on explaining and seeing spirituality as tied and bound by religion we won't be able to truly understand spirituality. We need to open up and see that there are many paths through which we can live and experience our spirituality and make an effort, a conscious effort, to find words that can explain it, without falling into the common religious talk.

Here I am today, grateful that I had the opportunity to explore breathwork as a technique for spiritual development, and yet cognoscente of the fact that these particular spiritual guide is not the one which I am looking for, not the one which will allow me to transcend my religious bounds.

Good or Evil?

Posted by Jennifer Mata on June 24, 2007 at 5:59 PM Comments comments (0)
I think I've wrote about my dissertation work before, but if not, here goes. I am working on getting my proposal ready for its defense, and I'm still struggling with some issues. My topic is children's spirituality and how they live their spiritual experiences in public/secular classrooms. I ultimately want to observe children in a kindergarten class, and with time and a ton of data, be able to describe what it looks like, or how it feels to be spiritual in a place in which it isn't necessarily encouraged or nurtured. My overall goal is then to be able to help teachers go this route if they decide to do so.

During the spirituality in the classroom seminar I attended this weekend we were asked, at some point, to talk about our spiritual experiences as children or with children. I remembered a little girl I had in one of my classrooms which completely puzzled me and made me think and question what I believed was the core of humanness. I believed then, and I think I still do now, that humans are inherently good, that our bad sides develop through socialization and experiences we go through. Yeah I now, a very romantic approach to it, but what can I say?

This little girl though, was not all good, in fact she was down right evil at times. She would plot out nasty things to do to her classmates, and every time I would turn around she would do something to make someone cry or upset them. You might be thinking she was just acting out, or exploring her power and the different effects she could have on people, and that might be true. But she was 2 and half years old, and really how much experience do you have at this age, to be so bad?

She came from a loving family, the sweetest mom that a child could have. I talked to my supervisor about it and to the counselor of the school, because I had never seen anything like this, this little girl was scary. Here we were in an all girls Catholic school, encountering evil in a beautiful, smart, and sweet -looking little girl. You could really see it in her eyes when she retreated to a corner to plan out her next step. It was truly frightening.

We never really understood why she did this. If it was a phase, or something she was dealing with, or maybe something she had learned from others around her. We never really knew with certainty. I moved to another school after that, and I'm not quite sure what happened to her. But my question now is, can evil be inherent? Can humans be born bad? What have you experienced?

Spirituality Video

Posted by Jennifer Mata on September 24, 2006 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (0)
I found this video in YouTube and thought it was very insightful, although I don't agree that religions per se constrict people and make them mean and bad.
What do you think about spirituality and religion?

Can spirituality be fostered in classrooms?

Posted by Jennifer Mata on May 1, 2006 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (0)

I have been interviewing teachers and talking to them about how (if so) they foster spirituality with the children in their classrooms. The answers vary, but at the end what most of them want to know is "how to do it?"

Brown (1998/99) says that one of his greatest revelations as a teacher of young children was that "spiritual education is not about creating some kind of educational nirvana. It is about waking up to the sacredness of everyday learning" (p. 70).

So maybe being in-tuned to who we are as a whole person and in-touch, really in touch, with what our students are doing and learning, may set the stage and offer a solid beginning for nurturing spirituality in classroom settings.

Can spirituality be approached from other similar venues of development?

Posted by Jennifer Mata on April 6, 2006 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Recently I have been asked the difference between spirituality and values, morality, peace, multicultural and character education. People are interested in knowing if spirituality can be approached through either of these venues, or even all of them, within school settings.

I'm thinking that on one hand these more known and accepted venues would facilitate the entry of spirituality into the classroom and we might want to take advantage of this opportunity to do so. But on the other hand, I am also thinking that it might bring some negative consequences, such as associating spirituality too much with either of these venues and not giving it the space and importance it has for itself, diluting it into moral or peace education.

This is something we might want to think about further and discuss.


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