Mariana Caplan, PhDMariana Caplan, PhD, co-founder of Center for World Spirituality, psychotherapist, professor of yogic and transpersonal psychologies, and the author of seven books in the fields of psychology and spirituality, has reviewed Your Unique Self:

“Your Unique Self is a great gift to the modern spiritual world. The author, Marc Gafni, has been immersed in spiritual study and practice for over three decades, and his work comes to a full flowering in this beautiful book.

In this way, Your Unique Self is both a philosophy and a practice that is relevant to seekers and practitioners of all traditions, both traditional and modern. The radical but grounded theory and method Gafni articulates offers the reader a chance to experience not only his or her unique gifts to the world, but to recognize uniqueness itself as an enlightened expression of our own inherent divinity. Unique Self in Gafni’s realization is the expression of the irreducibly unique “personal face of essence”. Here is a direct taste of the book itself.”

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You can buy the book and more books by Dr. Marc Gafni at Amazon>>>


Grounds, People and Property of Esalen Institute




Yoga & Psyche: Psychological Integration Through Yoga
April 12-14, 2013
Esalen Institute, Big Sur
www.esalen.org

Mariana Caplan is a PhD, MFT, SEP, is the author of 7 books including: Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path. She is a psychotherapist in Marin and worldwide, specializing in working with spiritual practitioners who wish to do psychological work.  She is also the co-founder of the Center for World Spirituality.[Read more...]

yoga-psycheSince December 2012, the Yoga & Psyche Dialogue Series has enriched our understanding of Yoga, psychology, and trauma research with insights from Mariana Caplan, Richard Miller, Rick Hanson, Reggie Ray, and other leaders in the field. Produced by Diana Justl for publication on Mariana Caplan’s Real Spirituality website, the dialogues are free. They could open up a new world of understanding for anyone interested in discovering how the practice of ancient yoga integrates with the contemporary Western mind and psyche.

This week, Mariana Caplan dialogues with Roger Walsh, author and psychiatrist. Mariana Caplan writes:

This week our research continues in dialogue with Roger Walsh, an esteemed psychiatrist, author of many books and extensive research, and a highly experienced teacher and practitioner of meditation. I have personally always been fascinated by the relationship of psychiatry to spiritual practice, and the rampant bias people have against medication on the spiritual path, as well as a great deal of shame and secrecy among the many spiritual students and teachers who make use of these medications at various junctures on their spiritual path and path through life. In this dialogue, I talk extensively with Roger on this subject.

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Daily Wisdom from Mariana Caplan’s “Walk the Talk: The Principles and Practices of Embodied Spirituality”:

Since that first trip to India, a great deal has transpired. I have engaged over a decade of discipleship with my own spiritual teacher, Lee Lozowick, who is a master at revealing the countless forms of self-deception we encounter on the spiritual path, ranging from spiritual narcissism, to erroneous notions of enlightenment, to a collectively mistaken notion of the goal of spiritual life itself (Caplan, 1999). I have done extensive research into the movement of contemporary spirituality in the Western world, and interviewed many of the greatest teachers, mystics and scholars in the field, as well as countless spiritual aspirants. As a result of my research and of working as a spiritual counselor with clients and teaching at several spiritually oriented universities in the U.S., I have found myself privy to an uncommon body of spiritual data””what we might call “the underbelly of enlightenment.” The kind of spiritual gossip that would make any serious aspirant of the path quiver in their shoes if they took it seriously and realized that absolutely nobody, including themselves, is exempt from such spiritual shortcomings, and that anyone, including themselves, can fall.

I have heard harrowing tales of how some of the most admired, “enlightened” teachers of our time have abandoned their children in their pursuit of spirituality; how they have used spiritual practice to avoid human intimacy and mistreat their intimate partners, often using spiritual terminology itself to justify this dismissal (Caplan, 2002b). Scandals of sex, money, and power pervade the contemporary spiritual scene like a lewd virus that spreads undetected until it has caused irreparable damage. Nearly every time I give a public presentation, somebody approaches me and begins, “I’ve got a story the likes of which you have never heard . . .,” at which time they proceed to tell me a relatively common story about how “X” teacher, a self-professed celibate, slept with countless students, claiming they were providing a “tantric initiation”; or how they cheated on their wife and had sexual relationships with the young women and men in the community; or how they forbid women in the community to have children, telling them it would cause too much attachment, or that it was impossible to raise a healthy child before one was enlightened oneself. They tell me stories of how self-proclaimed enlightened teachers manipulated their students to give them large quantities of money, or how their narcissism ran rampant and they ended up lying, cheating, and abusing their students and loved ones””whether the abuse occurred on a physical, psychological/emotional, or spiritual level. As Theravadan Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield is fond of saying, “If you want to know how enlightened somebody is, ask their husband/wife.”

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From “Walking the Talk: the Principles and Practices of Embodied Spirituality,” by Mariana Caplan:

I was 24 years old when I arrived in India for the first time. I had only a one-way ticket, a change of clothes, my journal, and a small handful of cash. Not an Indian rupee nor a guidebook to my name. My sole intention for that trip was to learn to listen to, and follow, the true voice of the heart. Even at that time I had done enough spiritual practice and psychological work to understand that not every voice that came from within was the voice of the heart. That there were, as Russian mystic G.I. Gurdjieff taught, multiple “I’s” within each of us. I knew the true voice of the heart had near-doubles, imitations, and even outright sabotaging impostors, as well as sincere but unobjective aspects of the self that did their best to provide spiritual guidance from within but whose voice still did not represent the innermost voice of the heart.

Yet even armed with that awareness, what I could not have appreciated so early in my spiritual search was the immensity of the task before me””that I must learn not only to access the true voice of the heart, but to then integrate that understanding into the body on a cellular level, into the deep grooves of psychological conditioning, into all aspects of daily life. To integrate that nondual source of wisdom into every microfiber of dualistic expression. I could not have imagined then that the mere insight into nondual reality””as awe-inspiring and life-changing as it is””was merely the beginning of the spiritual journey rather than its completion. That I could not and would not be satisfied until I could find a way to integrate that nondual wisdom such that it would gradually transmute all aspects of my experience””from intimate relationships and friendships, to sexuality, to child raising, to my relationship with the environment. I simply could not have known what such an integration would require. How potent and stubborn our mental habits and repetitive thought-forms are; how deeply the conditioning of karma, psychology, and a society based on ignorance, scarcity, and fear had worked its way into the cellular structure of the body. To embody my nondual insight and experience would be no small task.

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Mariana Caplan, writing in Common Ground Magazine, in the winter of 2010/2011, shortly before the opening of Center for World Spirituality:

Finally, for the first time in history, the most profound teachings and living teachers from all the great systems of Spirit are readily available in a non-coercive and open-hearted form, not only to people of their particular religion, but to all who wish to study and practice with them. World Spirituality seeks to unite our common ground while acknowledging, celebrating, and partaking in the diversity of the world’s religions and cultures, so each religion can put forth its deepest and most profound contributions. While the idea of a World Spirituality is not new, the actualization of it remains an evolutionary leap whose time has come, and there is little more exciting than to be in the wake of a movement that is breaking ground. The yearning to articulate a World Spirituality is rippling across the globe in the hearts and minds of tens of millions of people, and this nascent urge needs to be articulated, lived, and practiced. As yet, there is no set of practices, obligation, or surrender, leaving seekers and practitioners without guidance or a formal community with whom to practice. This is soon to change, however, with the opening of the Center for World Spirituality on March 5 in San Francisco.

Read the whole aricle…

Mariana-Caplan-featuredReprinted from the Huffington Post

If somebody had to live my life, why did it have to be me?!

As a young woman on the spiritual path, I was always both intrigued and bothered by the concept of karma. It just didn't seem accurate that everyone I knew who remembered a past life was a princess in Egypt or a king in medieval Europe. Or perhaps they had done something really terrible in a past life and they were being punished by God by not being able to get pregnant or running into continuous relationship landmines. The deeper principle of karma called to me, while many of the explanations seemed superficial and overly linear. So I did what any diligent young spiritual journalist would do, approaching each spiritual teacher or great yogi I met on my travels, and asking "What is karma?" and over the years try to sift through it all.

My conclusion, to date, is twofold: 1) The deeper principles of karma are so subtle and intricate that a lifetime of skillful inquiry and practice are necessary to begin to near a real understanding of it; 2) Viewing karma through the lens of deep psychology provides a means to approach the question of karma in a user-friendly and practical way.

Our personal psychology is how our karmic patterns show up in this lifetime. A general Buddhist or Hindu perspective on karma suggests that the individual soul moves through consciousness lifetime after lifetime, incarnating again and again in the school of life in order to complete various tasks and lessons, and to release contractions of consciousness.


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(c) January 2012 Stuart Miles

(c) January 2012 Stuart Miles

October, 2011

by Mariana Caplan

"We become skillful actors, and while playing deaf and dumb to the real meaning of the teachings, we find some comfort in pretending to follow the path."
~Chogyam Trunpga Rinpoche

Given that global culture has been turned toward materialistic values in a way unprecedented in human history, it is inevitable that this same ethic would infiltrate our approach to spirituality. We live in a culture that values accumulation and consumption, and it is naïve of us to assume that simply because we are interested in spiritual growth that we have relinquished our materialism -- or even that we necessarily should.

There is nothing wrong with having an "om" symbol on your t-shirt or being an avid practitioner of meditation while also enjoying moneymaking and big business, but it is useful to explore, understand and check your integrity in relationship to your choices. Spiritual materialism is not a matter of the things that we have, but of our relationship to them.


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by Mariana Caplan

Originally posted on the Huffington Post.

There is great debate, and in many cases a sharp divide, between practitioners of psychology and those of spirituality. On one end of the spectrum, most of mainstream psychology does not concern itself with issues of consciousness and spirit and rejects what is not scientifically quantifiable. On the other end, many contemporary spiritual traditions view the psyche as an unreal construct and believe that psychological work is an indulgent reinforcement of the story of the false self.


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Dr. Marc Gafni and Dr. Mariana Caplan explore the the notion of a World Spirituality with Claudio Naranjo and ask him what type of spiritual practices he recommends to practitioners to help articulate the principles of World Spirituality.

Claudio Naranjo is an elder statesman of the U.S. and global Human Potential Movement and the spiritual renaissance of the late 20th Century. After coming to live in the United States, Dr. Naranjo was among the staff of the early stage of Esalen Institute, where he became one of the three successors to Fritz Perls. Later his life's pilgrimage brought him in contact with various spiritual masters including Swami Muktananda, Idries Shah, Oscar Ichazo, Suleyman Dede, H.H. the XVIth Karmapa, and, most decisively, Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche.

mariana-caplan-100x100

Mariana Caplan, PhD, is a psychotherapist, professor of yogic and transpersonal psychologies, and the author of seven books in the fields of psychology and spirituality, including the forthcoming: The Guru Question: The Perils and Awards of Choosing a Spiritual Teacher and the seminal Halfway Up the Mountain: the Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment. Her recent release, Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path, won five national awards for best spiritual book of 2010.

Dr. Marc Gafni holds his doctorate from Oxford University and has direct lineage in Kabbalah. He is a Rabbi, spiritual artist, teacher, and a leading visionary in the emerging World Spirituality movement. He is a co-founder of iEvolve: The Center for World Spirituality, a scholar at the Integral Institute, and the director of the Integral Spiritual Experience, as well as a lecturer at John F. Kennedy University. The author of seven books, including the national bestseller Soul Prints and Mystery of Love, Gafni's teaching is marked by a deep transmission of open heart, love and leading edge provocative wisdom. Gafni is considered by many to be a visionary voice in the founding of a new World Spirituality and one of the great mind/heart teachers of the generation.

Watch the videos: 


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by Mariana Caplan

Originally posted here on the Huffington Post, 8/13/2011.

Many people get disillusioned on the spiritual path, and it is not because spiritual practices and approaches are not effective -- they are. If we sincerely engage spiritual disciplines -- whether meditation, contemplation, yoga or prayer -- our practices will bear fruits. We will have more experiences, insights, moments of connection with presence, oneness or divinity. The problem is not spiritual technologies and practices. Spiritual teachers do not routinely fall into scandals around power and sexuality because the practices they engage and teach do not work. Spiritual students do not become disillusioned with spiritual life because they are not practicing sincerely enough. If we look closely, we see that these practices do work, and that part of our lives actually are improving.

So why isn't this making us ultimately happier? Improving our relationships? Diminishing our reactivity? Depression? Anxiety? Through working with hundreds of spiritual teachers and practitioners in the western world, I am convinced that spiritual work alone does not address many of our deepest psychological knots and traumas, nor does it provide tools to address our wounds in relationships that block us from fulfilling our deepest longings, dreams and spiritual possibilities.

We get stuck because we have not integrated the psychological wounds and traumas that live within our bodies and keep repeating themselves again and again through unfulfilling, if not self-destructive, behaviors and dramas in our lives. We engage in spiritual bypassing, hoping against our often-better judgment, that our spiritual practices will remove our unpleasant emotions or help us to transcend our relationship challenges.


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by Mariana Caplan

[adapted from Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path©, Sounds True, 2009]

Some things just don't want to die. Much to my surprise, a little piece I published over 10 years ago, about a certain type of spiritual guy I found myself dating in my early twenties, set alight a dormant flame throughout the world. Originally published in the anthology "Radical Spirit," "Zen Boyfriends" was rapidly translated into multiple languages, and I soon learned that Zen boyfriends were found in Italy, Spain, France and even communities in Thailand and other parts of Asia.

More years on the path brought more Zen boyfriends and infinite variations on the theme, not only for myself but from my clients and from readers and seekers everywhere. "Zen Boyfriends" eventually resurrected itself as a musical produced by Oregon musician Mark Steighner, and it was finally updated and reproduced in the San Francisco Bay area by me, with musician Anastasi Mavrides and actress Suraya Keating, to sold out audiences. I hope you enjoy the snippets from the original writing and revised theater production, and please share your stories!

***

At a certain stage in my own spiritual development, I began to attract a new breed of men that over time I came to call "Zen boyfriends." I use the term "Zen" loosely here, because a man doesn't have to be a Zen Buddhist to fall into this category. He could be a Tibetan Buddhist, a Sufi, or even a practitioner of some obscure brand of yoga. The more rigid the tradition, the better for this type. What defines a Zen boyfriend is the manner in which he skillfully uses spiritual ideals and practices as an excuse for his terror of, and refusal to be in, any type of real relationship with a woman. He is both too identified with his balls to become a celibate monk, and at the same time too little identified with the wider implications of them to take responsibility for them. The result: a righteous, distant and very intelligent substitute for a real man.

Andrew was a great example of a Zen boyfriend. This is how a typical morning went in our love nest:

At 4:30 a.m. his alarm sounds. "Andrew, your alarm is going off."

"Press the snooze."

I oblige. Then at 4:38 it goes off again. "Andrew, get up!"

"I'm too tired."

By the fourth snooze I was wide awake, while he dozed away like a baby in arms. When he'd finally open his eyes sometime around 5:30, I was undeniably and un-spiritually pissed off. Without even a word or a glance in my direction, he would roll out of bed and head for the bathroom. I would listen with mounting rage as he gargled his Chinese herbs, did an hour of tai chi on the creaky hardwood floor, and then adjusted himself on his zafu to meditate. Often I would get up and meditate as well, but since I didn't practice the same form of meditation as he did, he said we couldn't practice together. The argument was always the same:

"Why do you set your alarm if you're not going to get up?"


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by Leyna Roget

We enter into the psyche this morning with Mariana Caplan to address the concept of unity, accessible through a focus on inward form. “Mind lives in the body” so that when you examine one through the other, with knowledge of aliveness, the body becomes a foundation for spirit. We first tune into the spirit of the group through single articulations of our state of mind in that present moment: transformation”¦open”¦receptive”¦ discovering… Many of our words begin to mirror one another’s and Caplan points out, the wonderful thing about spirituality is that often before we can articulate our experience of it, the feeling lands within us. There’s no doubt that spirituality is on all our minds and bursting from our hearts.

More and more, I experience the feeling of spirituality in the observations of external synchronicity and an internal calm-joy. While this is different and at times confusing for everyone, the principle of discernment is presented as a valuable tool in separating truth from untruth along our “spiritual path”. Discernment means continually developing a context within ourselves, through trial and error, that helps us to answer psychological and spiritual (psycho-spiritual) questions, in favor of our growth. When we apply discernment to our journey, we highlight the endlessness of our path and pierce falsity.

Caplan engages John Welwood’s initial concept of “spiritual bypassing” to shed light on how esoteric practices present esoteric results without truly tapping into the traumas or neurosis of the Western psyche. When we exercise spirituality apart from the body, we are likely to spiritually bypass and avoid dealing with psycho-spiritual issues that have been repressed deeply within the body. If we understand our physical parts as contributing to the whole of our form, and the whole of whom we are as part of the pulsating divine force, it becomes more clear how illness and disease can be physical manifestations of a spiritual disconnect.

A series of four interactive meditation exercises are performed with gentle guidance from Caplan, some with partners, as we “drop into the body” to perceive emotional breaks, without breaking ourselves completely open. Prana ( or life force) follows attention so that as we transition from focus on pleasure to discomfort, these respective energies emerge from our cells memory, free to reveal hidden stories of psychological trauma trapped within us. Caplan challenge us to delicately expose and release these emotional wounds while in meditation. We employ non-rejection tantra, which allows our darker spaces to be engaged comfortably before regrouping attention on pleasurable feelings in the body. I experienced some difficulty evoking coherent images of psyche in the meditation, but I solidified the discernment of trusting these embodied ”˜feelings’ as authentic to my spiritual self. I grew up with a lot of physical pain. I didn’t know it when I began yoga three years ago, but that was my introduction to embodied spirituality. Caplan explains, it is the postures or asanas that connect us to our body and not the move itself because holding a position is an internally motivated action. We are taking a ”˜seat’ within ourselves, and attempting to be comfortable in it. It was during this exercise of psycho-spiritual troubleshooting that I was able to articulate how I felt myself to be fully on the path to de-fragmenting my mind-body connection, and that’s the best place to be!

Leyna Roget networks with community organizations and businesses to introduce the inspiring stories of Planet Progress and the developing works of iNDIGO PROjECT MEDIA. She captures on and off camera images for Blog posts, Twitter updates, and various other engaging platforms to bring the viewer into the company’s interconnected sphere. Leyna creates new outlets and sustainable community events that invite the public to interact with iPM.


by Mariana Caplan

Editorial remark from Integrales Forum: We've added this essay by Mariana Caplan, American bestselling author and expert in the field of teacher-student-relationship about the criteria for spiritual teachers and their students to our collection. It is not a direct response to the position paper but touches some of the central points of the discussion.

Rarely does a week of my life go by, without someone writing to me either looking for a spiritual teacher, confused about a spiritual teacher, or upset by a deep disillusionment by their spiritual teacher. The question of the spiritual teacher is a perennial question that in many ways is so less real and relevant among seekers as it was 500 years ago. The difference is that the stage is different. Unlike the great Buddhist hero Milarepa who transversed the Indo-Tibetan subcontinent by foot and then built nine houses before his teacher would begin to instruct him, we can simply click on google and within minutes have access to almost every prominent spiritual teacher there is, living or dead, and likely even some type of cyber-transmission.

In other words, the longing for guidance, the ambivalence about seeking the wrong kind of guidance, the hurt by having been guided poorly, are all great themes in world mysticism, but what is relevant to most of us today is: How am I going to approach this matter? What are the real, gritty questions that I must ask, and murky psychological areas in a potential teacher as well as in myself, that I need to consider when approaching a spiritual teacher? How can I distinguish between various teachers? How can I protect myself from getting into a less-than-holy situation and badly disillusioned? How do I do this in a way that is intelligent and not a waste of my time?

There is both a problem, and a value, to attempting to define criteria for spiritual teachers, as well as for us as spiritual students, who are no less responsible for challenges with our challenges with spiritual teachers as they are for themselves. At best, criteria for spiritual mastery offer highly generalized guidance pointing in the direction of where to look when considering a teacher -- a framework for making rudimentary distinctions. At worst, a set of defined criteria is a rigid and subjective moral code that ego creates to protect itself from those techniques in the teacher's bag of tricks that might undermine its autonomy. Criteria for spiritual studenthood can help us to evaluate if deep engagement with a spiritual teacher is what we really want, or if we will end up in over our heads. It empowers us with self-responsibility and discernment when engaging with spiritual teachers.

Criteria for Teachers


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by Mariana Caplan

When I was 21, as a student at the University of Michigan, I went for a semester with a group of students to live in the woods of Maine to “learn to live deliberately,” as we followed in the footsteps of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. One of the activities we engaged in periodically throughout our semester was called “marsh mucking.” We put on thigh-high rubber boots and walked directly into the marshes — literally hanging out neck deep in the swamps for hours at a time — as we closely examined the diverse life forms of fungi, mold, thick grasses and all the microscopic organisms that together comprise mud.

Little did I know that my professional life would follow directly in these footsteps, only now the subject of my study would not be the literal marshes, but the internal muck comprising the all-too-human path of psycho-spiritual transformation. The complex mold comprised of our karma, psychological conditioning and trauma. The often mucky, muddy territory where spiritual longing, realization, blindness, psychological unconsciousness, spiritual bypassing, politics, and power meet. And that says nothing about the marsh and oftentimes wastelands of interpersonal relationships!

The strangest part of all is that I like doing this. I guess that is why I landed the job of writing books on such complex topics as “The Guru Question”, or premature claims to enlightenment, or discernment. It is not that I find the psycho-spiritual marsh appealing — I’d take the landscape of the Hawaiian islands any day. However, for better and for worse, as a practitioner on the endless path that marks spiritual life, I recognize that on the path to truth, the process of discovering what is untrue is one of the most effective and efficient means to increasing clarity, and therefore greater capacity to serve life in an integrated way. Vivekakhyatih aviplava hanopayah, it is written in Patanajali’s Yoga Sutras (2:26). One must continually separate truth from untruth.

As a young writer on the path, I imagined that I would write about these murky topics for a number of years and then finally get onto the real work. Now that I’m (at least partially) grown up on the path, I have come to believe that this is the real work. Due to the nature of the kinds of things I write about, my psychotherapy practice has become almost exclusively focused on working with the emotional and relational challenges of long-term spiritual practitioners and teachers — their relationship failures, nervous breakdowns, depressions, anxieties and the psychological complexities we encounter in spiritual communities as teachers and students.

It becomes clear that most of the problems we face are not because the spiritual paths and practices are not effective: they are. Spiritual communities do not fall apart, nor do students become disillusioned with their teachers because the teacher’s spiritual practice is weak or lacking. If we practice intelligently, consistently, and over time, our spiritual perception and insight will deepen. The challenges instead fall into the domain of our psychological and relational wounding, how it is held in our bodies, and how it repeats itself once again in the context of our spiritual lives.

I once listened to His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa address a group of 5,000 monks and nuns in Bodh Gaya, where the Buddha received his enlightenment. He began, “The greatest challenge you will experience in your lives of monks and nuns…” My ears perked up as I awaited to hear the esoteric secret of the great breakthrough that awaited these monks and nuns who had dedicated their lives to a life of monastic practice. He continued, “Is the task of facing and dealing with your human emotions.”

This is where we live. All of us. Beginning practitioner and idealized spiritual teacher alike. We must engage the utterly human, humbling task of facing all that we are. “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light,” said Carl Jung, “but by making the darkness conscious. The later procedure, is disagreeable, and therefore unpopular.” By revealing that which is untrue, the radiance of deeper truth emerges from within.

Now we are taking on “The Guru Question,” one of the most complex questions that we face as sincere practitioners on the spiritual path (and by practitioners I mean all of us, including teachers). As the possibility of a worldwide spirituality emerges, and the world itself evolves and changes at an unprecedented speed, the question of the teacher remains as critical and timely as ever. It involves increasing webs of complexity as we engage these questions from the possibilities and challenges proposed by the integral framework, as well as the wounds and trauma present in the Western psyche.

To take full responsibility as a practitioner and servitor of the spiritual path, we are called to educate ourselves on the question of the spiritual teacher, whether or not we have or wish to have a teacher, have been burnt or disillusioned by a teacher or teachers, and perhaps most importantly, if we ourselves are assuming a teaching function.

May our discernment ever grow, and may we refine our capacity to live into the questions such that our lives as students, teachers, and servitors of the path are ever radiant, effective, integrated and joyous.

Do You Need a Spiritual Teacher?

Is there a point in one’s spiritual journey when reading books or hearing lectures isn’t enough and the student hungers for a teacher, in the flesh, to learn from directly? In a culture where a distrust of authority is considered a healthy trait, Americans tend to be justifiably suspicious of gurus and spiritual leaders. How do you find a teacher worthy of trust and devotion, or should you?

The Guru Question: The Perils and Rewards of Choosing a Spiritual Teacher (Sounds True, June 2011) is a new book by Mariana Caplan that offers advice on what to look for””and what to avoid””when seeking a dedicated spiritual teacher. The book includes a foreword by Robert Thurman.

Drawing upon her knowledge as both a scholar of mysticism and lifelong practitioner of spiritual traditions, Caplan delivers a candid, practical, and daringly personal examination of the student-teacher dynamic, featuring:

  • Are you ready to be a student? If and when you should consider making a commitment to a spiritual teacher
  • The path of the conscious learner””how to retain your power and autonomy while accepting a mentor’s authority
  • Spiritual scandals and predatory gurus””tips for avoiding the inherent pitfalls in the student-teacher relationship
  • The true source of power””how to recognize the inner light of divinity as it manifests in the imperfect human guise of your teacher and yourself

With The Guru Question, Mariana Caplan helps readers develop the discernment that is crucial when seeking a teacher””and reveals the immeasurable rewards that can come from having a trustworthy guide on the spiritual path.

Mariana Caplan, PhD, has spent over two decades researching and practicing many of the world’s great mystical traditions. She is a psychotherapist, a professor of yogic and transpersonal psychologies, and the Co-Founder of The Center for World Spirituality. The author of seven books on cutting-edge topics in spirituality and psychology, including Eyes Wide Open (Sounds True, 2009), Mariana lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit realspirituality.com and centerforworldspirituality.com

What People Are Saying About The Guru Question

“The Guru Question is a very important, perhaps definitive, examination of this fundamental question, open to professional and layperson alike. The book manages to cover virtually every aspect of this incredibly important and timely topic, and does so in an elegant, comprehensive, and succinct fashion. I think it amounts to something like the final word on the topic (or very close to it). Highly recommended for anybody on a spiritual path or considering one!”
”” Ken Wilber, author of Integral Spirituality

“Mariana Caplan has written a powerful and important book about the guru-disciple relationship. What I love about The Guru Question is how Mariana balances her recognition of the depth and sacredness of the relationship between a true teacher and a true disciple, with her recognition of the pitfalls that can arise when we seek from another human being the redemption that can only come from within. Writing from her direct experience with her own teachers, and drawing on the experience of others, she illuminates the mystery of the guru in a way that should be of benefit to many, many readers.”
”” Sally Kempton, author of Meditation for the Love of It

“The best disciple is one who is prepared. Mariana Caplan astutely and sensitively explains what this means. I strongly recommend The Guru Question.”
”” Georg Feuerstein, PhD, author of The Encyclopedia of Yoga and Tantra

“[Mariana Caplan] unapologetically tackles the most difficult, controversial, nitty-gritty issues without hedging, flinching, or smoothing over the rough edges.”
”” John Welwood, author of Toward a Psychology of Awakening

“Mariana Caplan’s book answers this question better than any book I’ve read. If you are curious about the subtle gifts and traps of the student-teacher relationship . . . then read this book.”
”” David Deida, author of The Way of the Superior Man

Purchase today!


The can of worms is open. Opening up the question on my last blog of “How To Find a Spiritual Teacher,” or whether we need a teacher at all, tends to incite even the most dormant of creatures. We have strong reactions, powerful opinions and oftentimes righteous convictions regarding this topic, as was seen from the many and varied, but never lukewarm responses to my last post. In fact, when I toured an early version of my book in 2002, there were two uprisings in bookstores where I spoke — one in Manhattan and the other in Barcelona. In both cases, the movement was to incite the crowd to see that spiritual authority comes from within! I have absolutely no problem with this approach, nor with those who deeply feel the need for a teacher, or those who are confused, but why so much energy?

Is Guru a 4-Letter Word?

I have spent time with gurus who are living proof that “guru” can be a four-letter word. Nobody has asked me to drink cyanide-laced Kool-Aid, but I have been offered plenty of other substances. And most of the other crimes of power and passion one hears about in relation to purported gurus have been perpetrated upon me and people I know. After 17 years of experience on four continents and 10 years of research in the field, I am both personally and professionally all too familiar with the kinds of shocking abuses of power that have been committed in the name of spirituality. Yet I cannot denounce spiritual teachers in general, any more than I can denounce all men simply because I have had some less than desirable lovers.

I have learned that when one writes or speaks publicly on this topic, four potential positions can be expected: 1) The strong assertion that the guru and the source of all spiritual authority comes from within, and that people who seek from without are essentially deluded. This group speaks the loudest and the strongest, usually with a slight edge of disdain towards those who have or want teachers; 2) The people who have a particular guru and not only think that the Guru Road is the only destination in town, but more specifically that their guru’s home is the center of the universe. They want the world to join their guru’s mission because they sincerely believe that the world would be a better place if this was so; 3) One step down from this are those who believe that we need a teacher, but that it need not be their teacher. This group is less likely to proselytize their perspective; 4) Those who are either questioning whether they need a teacher, or are looking for a teacher but cannot locate one — this group is humble, open, curious.

Not Always So

If there is anything I have learned over 20 years of study, practice and research on the spiritual path, it is the truth of the teaching propagated by Zen master Shunru Suzuki of “not always so.” There is not one clear-cut road of beliefs and practices to suit all human beings. There are well-trodden paths and religions that have proven to be helpful to many people in indescribable and irreplaceable ways. Yet whether we practice in one of these traditions or find our unique path through the labyrinth of life, we each walk the path differently, in a way that only the inimitability of each of our beings can do — our “unique self.”

I now understand that there are as many unique paths to spiritual unfolding as there are human beings. I remember when Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, my Sufi “uncle,” and Huff Po blogger, told me this. I was a die hard seeker in my twenties. Although in theory it made sense, inside I secretly believed, “But my path is the best path, or at least one of the very best, and there is a best way to follow my path.” Now, almost two decades later, it is clear to me that each human being follows a unique trajectory in relationship to spirit, truth or God.

The Need for Discernment on the Spiritual Path

Spiritual discernment, called viveka khyātir in Sanskrit, is said to be the “crowning wisdom” on the spiritual path.

The Yoga SÅ«tras of Patañjali say that the cultivation of discernment is so powerful that it has the capacity to destroy ignorance and address the very source of suffering. According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, to discern is “to recognize or identify as separate and distinct.” Discrimination, its synonym, “stresses the power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or excellent.” Those who possess spiritual discernment have learned this skill in relationship to spiritual matters, and they can consistently make intelligent, balanced and excellent choices in their lives and in relationship to their spiritual development. Their eyes are wide open and they see clearly.

Viveka khyātir is believed to be such a powerful tool that it has the capacity to pierce all levels of the physical, psychological, energetic and subtle bodies of the human being. In “Light on the Yoga SÅ«tras of Patanjali,” B. K. S. Iyengar explains that through this unbroken flow of discriminating awareness, the spiritual practitioner “conquers his body, controls his energy, retrains the movements of the mind, and develops sound judgment, from which he acts rightly and becomes luminous. From this luminosity he develops total awareness of the very core of his being, achieves supreme knowledge and surrenders his self to the Supreme Soul.”

I believe that more potent than any of our current spiritual convictions — which if we observe closely and honestly within ourselves over many years, we discover, do in fact change no matter how certain we were of what we believed — is the capacity for discernment. The degree to which our discernment is refined is the extent to which we can move through the complexities of the spiritual marketplace and the deepening of spiritual life with effectiveness and wisdom. We make radiant choices that serve others in smaller and larger ways, and become part of the evolutionary and healing force in life, instead of what George Bernard Shaw calls, “a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making me happy.”

Do You Need a Spiritual Teacher?

Is there a point in one’s spiritual journey when reading books or hearing lectures isn’t enough and the student hungers for a teacher, in the flesh, to learn from directly? In a culture where a distrust of authority is considered a healthy trait, Americans tend to be justifiably suspicious of gurus and spiritual leaders. How do you find a teacher worthy of trust and devotion, or should you?

The Guru Question: The Perils and Rewards of Choosing a Spiritual Teacher (Sounds True, June 2011) is a new book by Mariana Caplan that offers advice on what to look for””and what to avoid””when seeking a dedicated spiritual teacher. The book includes a foreword by Robert Thurman.

Drawing upon her knowledge as both a scholar of mysticism and lifelong practitioner of spiritual traditions, Caplan delivers a candid, practical, and daringly personal examination of the student-teacher dynamic, featuring:

  • Are you ready to be a student? If and when you should consider making a commitment to a spiritual teacher
  • The path of the conscious learner””how to retain your power and autonomy while accepting a mentor’s authority
  • Spiritual scandals and predatory gurus””tips for avoiding the inherent pitfalls in the student-teacher relationship
  • The true source of power””how to recognize the inner light of divinity as it manifests in the imperfect human guise of your teacher and yourself

With The Guru Question, Mariana Caplan helps readers develop the discernment that is crucial when seeking a teacher””and reveals the immeasurable rewards that can come from having a trustworthy guide on the spiritual path.

Mariana Caplan, PhD, has spent over two decades researching and practicing many of the world’s great mystical traditions. She is a psychotherapist, a professor of yogic and transpersonal psychologies, and the Co-Founder of The Center for World Spirituality. The author of seven books on cutting-edge topics in spirituality and psychology, including Eyes Wide Open (Sounds True, 2009), Mariana lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit realspirituality.com and centerforworldspirituality.com

What People Are Saying About The Guru Question

“The Guru Question is a very important, perhaps definitive, examination of this fundamental question, open to professional and layperson alike. The book manages to cover virtually every aspect of this incredibly important and timely topic, and does so in an elegant, comprehensive, and succinct fashion. I think it amounts to something like the final word on the topic (or very close to it). Highly recommended for anybody on a spiritual path or considering one!”
”” Ken Wilber, author of Integral Spirituality

“Mariana Caplan has written a powerful and important book about the guru-disciple relationship. What I love about The Guru Question is how Mariana balances her recognition of the depth and sacredness of the relationship between a true teacher and a true disciple, with her recognition of the pitfalls that can arise when we seek from another human being the redemption that can only come from within. Writing from her direct experience with her own teachers, and drawing on the experience of others, she illuminates the mystery of the guru in a way that should be of benefit to many, many readers.”
”” Sally Kempton, author of Meditation for the Love of It

“The best disciple is one who is prepared. Mariana Caplan astutely and sensitively explains what this means. I strongly recommend The Guru Question.”
”” Georg Feuerstein, PhD, author of The Encyclopedia of Yoga and Tantra

“[Mariana Caplan] unapologetically tackles the most difficult, controversial, nitty-gritty issues without hedging, flinching, or smoothing over the rough edges.”
”” John Welwood, author of Toward a Psychology of Awakening

“Mariana Caplan’s book answers this question better than any book I’ve read. If you are curious about the subtle gifts and traps of the student-teacher relationship . . . then read this book.”
”” David Deida, author of The Way of the Superior Man

Purchase today!


Do You Need a Spiritual Teacher?

Is there a point in one’s spiritual journey when reading books or hearing lectures isn’t enough and the student hungers for a teacher, in the flesh, to learn from directly? In a culture where a distrust of authority is considered a healthy trait, Americans tend to be justifiably suspicious of gurus and spiritual leaders. How do you find a teacher worthy of trust and devotion, or should you?

The Guru Question: The Perils and Rewards of Choosing a Spiritual Teacher (Sounds True, June 2011) is a new book by Mariana Caplan that offers advice on what to look for””and what to avoid””when seeking a dedicated spiritual teacher. The book includes a foreword by Robert Thurman.

Drawing upon her knowledge as both a scholar of mysticism and lifelong practitioner of spiritual traditions, Caplan delivers a candid, practical, and daringly personal examination of the student-teacher dynamic, featuring:

  • Are you ready to be a student? If and when you should consider making a commitment to a spiritual teacher
  • The path of the conscious learner””how to retain your power and autonomy while accepting a mentor’s authority
  • Spiritual scandals and predatory gurus””tips for avoiding the inherent pitfalls in the student-teacher relationship
  • The true source of power””how to recognize the inner light of divinity as it manifests in the imperfect human guise of your teacher and yourself

With The Guru Question, Mariana Caplan helps readers develop the discernment that is crucial when seeking a teacher””and reveals the immeasurable rewards that can come from having a trustworthy guide on the spiritual path.

Mariana Caplan, PhD, has spent over two decades researching and practicing many of the world’s great mystical traditions. She is a psychotherapist, a professor of yogic and transpersonal psychologies, and the Co-Founder of The Center for World Spirituality. The author of seven books on cutting-edge topics in spirituality and psychology, including Eyes Wide Open (Sounds True, 2009), Mariana lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit realspirituality.com and centerforworldspirituality.com

What People Are Saying About The Guru Question

“The Guru Question is a very important, perhaps definitive, examination of this fundamental question, open to professional and layperson alike.  The book manages to cover virtually every aspect of this incredibly important and timely topic, and does so in an elegant, comprehensive, and succinct fashion.  I think it amounts to something like the final word on the topic (or very close to it).  Highly recommended for anybody on a spiritual path or considering one!”
”” Ken Wilber, author of Integral Spirituality

“Mariana Caplan has written a powerful and important book about the guru-disciple relationship. What I love about The Guru Question is how Mariana balances her recognition of the depth and sacredness of the relationship between a true teacher and a true disciple, with her recognition of the pitfalls that can arise when we seek from another human being the redemption that can only come from within. Writing from her direct experience with her own teachers, and drawing on the experience of others, she illuminates the mystery of the guru in a way that should be of benefit to many, many readers.”
”” Sally Kempton, author of Meditation for the Love of It

“The best disciple is one who is prepared. Mariana Caplan astutely and sensitively explains what this means. I strongly recommend The Guru Question.”
”” Georg Feuerstein, PhD, author of The Encyclopedia of Yoga and Tantra

“[Mariana Caplan] unapologetically tackles the most difficult, controversial, nitty-gritty issues without hedging, flinching, or smoothing over the rough edges.”
”” John Welwood, author of Toward a Psychology of Awakening

“Mariana Caplan’s book answers this question better than any book I’ve read. If you are curious about the subtle gifts and traps of the student-teacher relationship . . . then read this book.”
”” David Deida, author of The Way of the Superior Man

Purchase today!


It is clear that the time for the emergence of Spirit's next step is now, and that the emergence of a World Spirituality is an evolutionary step in human history. Our complimentary dialogue series, Spirit's Next Move, brings together leading-edge integral thinkers, teachers, and scholars from all the great traditions to chart the principles and practices of a sustainable World Spirituality.

In this week's innovative dialogue, Reggie Ray, a long-time teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, and Mariana Caplan, author and co-founder of the Center for World Spirituality consider the application of Tibetan Buddhist practice for the Western practitioner of spirituality and the benefits and challenges of applying Eastern practices to the Western psyche. They also consider the importance of accessing consciousness within the body and integrating body-consciousness when envisioning a World Spirituality. If you're interested in the relationship of Tibetan Buddhism to World Spirituality, this audio dialogue is for you.

World Spirituality and Tibetan Buddhism with Reggie Ray and Mariana Caplan


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Join us this week for a groundbreaking dialogue with Claudio Naranjo, one of World Spirituality's great-grandfathers and revolutionaries. Claudio is a Chilean psychiatrist who is considered a pioneer in integrating psychotherapy and the spiritual traditions. He is one of the three successors named by Fritz Perls in the Gestalt movement, one of the pioneering developers of the Enneagram, and the founder of SAT (Seekers After Truth Institute), one of the most influential systems of psycho-spiritual transformation in Central and South America, and Spain. He is the author of numerous books, including Ennea-type Structures, The Way of Silence and The Talking Cure, Songs of Enlightenment, The End of Patriarchy, and the forthcoming, The Healing Journey: New Approaches to Consciousness.

In this audio-dialogue, Claudio brings over five decades of immersion, study, teaching, research and publications into the world's great wisdom traditions, as well as a profound immersion in psychological transformation and transpersonal psychology. Claudio's life itself represents that of a man who has journeyed into World Spirituality. This dialogue will consider questions including: What are the possibilities and pitfalls of drawing from multiple traditions and paths in a holistic and embodied approach to transformation? How do we develop a personalized path to transformation in the context of respecting the great traditions? What wisdom does the Enneagram system offer to the evolution of a World Spirituality, and are their specific challenges and possibilities for specific ennea-types, and more. . .


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If you are an existing user, please login Click here.

New users may register below Click here.

World Spirituality Service & Celebration

GOD is a Verb

Saturday, May 7th Ӣ 6pm Р10pm Ӣ Emeryville, CA

Join your World Spirituality guides Marc Gafni, Mariana Caplan, Decker Cunov, Dustin DiPerna, & Marcy Baruch for an intimate and deep evening of practice, love, and relationships as we explore GOD is a Verb.

GOD has become quite lonely in the spiritual world. It seems like with all the talk of meditation, presence, nonduality, mindfulness, consciousness, and all the other good things that we all believe in – GOD has become lost.

A direct personal relationship with GOD, is almost nowhere to be found in so many of the spiritual communities that we all inhabit and love.

The art of reading and being informed, inspired, comforted, or guided by a sacred text is all but lost.

On Saturday, May 7th, we welcome you to a vision and a reality”¦

”¦ To the church you never went to when you were growing up because it didn’t exist.

”¦ To the synagogue you never even dreamed was possible.

”¦To the monastery where you can talk, celebrate, and play.

”¦To the ashram that is fully relational, contemporary, and evolutionary.

”¦To the dance party where you can learn, grow, and transform spiritually.

”¦To the kirtan that also exercises the mind and interpersonal relationships.

”¦To a place where single people can openly and fearlessly meet potential life partners.

”¦To the conscious community where you can raise your babies, children, and teens with spiritual values and practice.

”¦To the place where the disenfranchised become re-enfranchised, and the believers can dream into the future.

”¦To a place where the lover is you, and you meet the beloved in your own body.

”¦To a center of evolutionary activism.

”¦To a place where the special guest is you, and what you bring to it effects the evolution of what we create together, and perhaps even the evolution of consciousness itself.

Welcome to Our Shared Center for World Spirituality.

Featured Contributors

Dr. Marc Gafni holds his doctorate from Oxford University and has direct lineage in Kabbalah. He is a Rabbi, spiritual artist, teacher, and a leading visionary in the emerging World Spirituality movement. He is a co-founder of iEvolve: The Center for World Spirituality, a scholar at the Integral Institute, and the director of the Integral Spiritual Experience, as well as a lecturer at John F. Kennedy University. The author of seven books, including the national bestseller Soul Prints and Mystery of Love, Gafni’s teaching is marked by a deep transmission of open heart, love and leading edge provocative wisdom. Gafni is considered by many to be a visionary voice in the founding of a new World Spirituality and one of the great mind/heart teachers of the generation.

Mariana Caplan, PhD, is a psychotherapist, professor of yogic and transpersonal psychologies, and the author of seven books in the fields of psychology and spirituality, including the forthcoming: The Guru Question: The Perils and Awards of Choosing a Spiritual Teacher and the seminal Halfway Up the Mountain: the Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment. Her recent release, Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path, won five national awards for best spiritual book of 2010. She has spent 20 years researching cutting edge and controversial topics in Western Spirituality, and focuses her consultation and psychotherapy practice on somatic approaches to healing trauma and spiritual issues.

Decker Cunov is the Executive Director & Founder of AuthenticWorld, committed to inspiring people towards more fulfilling relationships. He’s spent the last decade working successfully with everyone from soldiers to teenagers, from the clinically dysfunctional to doctors & lawyers, from a mechanic in Wisconsin to top level executives across the country, helping them reach unprecedented levels of success in relationship in organic and profound ways.

Marcy Baruch is a lifelong lover of the question, What is it to perceive, embody, and unfold the divine? Her work as a musical artist invites listeners into spaces of communion and grace. As a vocal coach of ten years, she brings a highly skilled awareness of the body’s sound-making mechanisms to her support of speakers and singers who wish to merge with, and emerge as, the full, life-affirming resonance of their unique voices.


Schedule

Doors open at 5:30pm

6pm Meditation with Mariana Caplan

6:30pm – 8pm World Spirituality Service with Marc Gafni

8pm – 9pm Intersubjective Meditations with Decker Cunov

Directions & Parking

The Besler Building
4053 Harlen Street #202 – Loft #202
Emeryville, CA 94608

Click here for directions.

Sponsored by