Junod: What kind of advice would you give to someone starting out doing this type of work for the first time?
David: I would say be patient and consistent. It will be tough because you are now learning the various parts of yourself, and there will be all types of reactions. You may get fidgety, start to itch, your mind may wander off to what you were doing hours ago or weeks ago; you might begin to compare this experience of the exercise to another instance when you felt better… All these things belong to the realm of the brain or intellect, and it takes time to be able to access another part and stay connected. Just be patient, perseverant, and to enjoy this as a process connecting to your internal being.
Carol: I would also add that for those who do start it, and feel frustrated because they don't think they are getting it, or decide it has no value, I would recommend that each person reflect on what brought them to this work and to the desire to practice this exercise and this philosophy. I would ask them to reconnect and to try every day to practice without defining it, without expectations, but just to try it in various areas of life – when you wake up in the morning try it first thing. When you are sitting in a bus or subway, or taking a walk, these are good opportunities to focus inside. If you are in an argument, give yourself a gift, and take that moment connecting to your breath, and feel your own energy, and allow yourself to disconnect from the brain, the fears, the judgment, and you will have a chance to feel calmer and less attached to negative feelings and lose energy, as you might if you are completely invested emotionally.
David: I would just add that these exercises will also help you to define what happiness is, what fun is, what peace is. According to my brain, there is a definition of what happiness is and it comes from the outside in: being at a party, exercising, or hanging out with friends. There is another type of happiness that only my spirit knows, and the only words that can describe it are calm, harmony, peace; when I do these exercises, this realization of what I am gives me a totally new perspective on what these things are, and the world feels very different.
Junod: Thanks for that. Before we finish, can you share what should people expect who come on the workshop to experience this work?
Carol: I believe what we were just talking about was to let go of expectations.
David (chuckles): That’s what I was going to say.
Carol: So that’s my first recommendation: suspend any expectations, just come and be open to experience what it might feel like to connect to your true being, your spirit, what it feels like when it fills you up and the possibility might open itself to you when you come. That will happen if you are open to receive without judgment or expectations of yourself or the workshop.
Junod: I want to thank both of you for spending the time, and I, for one, will be there.
If you are interested in attending, and learning more about the exercises mentioned in this article, find more information about the November 21st workshop here.
I interviewed David Owens and Carol Haggerty Reardon as they were preparing for the November 21st workshop entitled “Step Your Game Up”. Both senior students at the Institute for Hermetic Philosophy, they were kind enough to divulge some ”inside information” and perspectives about the kind of exercises they will share at the workshop, and on the inner work they do on themselves.
Junod: When we talk about consciousness, people sometimes think of concepts and intangible ideas that take time to grasp. Can you talk a bit about some of the practical benefits of doing these types of consciousness-raising exercises?
David: Sure. I am someone who can be prone to anxiety and rushing especially living NY with such a fast past and constant bombardment of stimuli. Being connected with myself internally allows me to dictate the pace and speed of how I want to execute my day as opposed to letting the outside make that dictation. Even when stressful circumstances arise, and they do, I am still connected to myself and don’t have the emotional highs and lows and hence loss of energy, and don’t suffer being on an emotional pendulum. I am calm, even keeled, and I use less energy, I make decisions from a better place and at the end of the day I am not exhausted.
Carol: I will add that it allows me to observe more quickly when I am affected emotionally or energetically by something outside of me or within me, like a judgment or negative emotion, or stressful situation. I am now more sensitive to an energetic or emotional shift in my body and instead of identifying with it and having it define me, I observe that “something just shifted what is going on inside of me”, and I can take a step back and observe how mechanically my emotions have been triggered. This helps me see again and again that certain emotions are triggered when I thought I had already processed them. The more I do this exercise, the more natural it is to dismantle negative emotions with no judgment and without being defined by them.
Junod: In trying to do these daily exercises, what kinds of challenges, if any, do you find popping up again and again?
Carol: My challenge is my brain that wants to be in charge by bombarding me with different thoughts and tell me things to distract me, or how I should be doing the exercise, or that I don’t have time to do the exercise right now... Anything to distract me from doing the exercise at that moment. That is my biggest obstacle.
David: Similar to Carol, it is constantly fighting the distraction that my brain will provide. My to do list for the day, that I have to eat, make calls, that I have to take a shower. My brain can even make me forget that I have to connect to my body, forget that I have an internal world that is not on external world time. For example, if I am running late for an appointment, I can easily get upset and blame the subway system or schedules - whereas when I connect, it leads to a positive attitude and I find a way to make the situation better.
Carol: As an example, when I sat on the deck this morning to do an exercise, I was having a very positive experience, but I realized what I was doing was admiring the beautiful fall foliage -I was admiring the sun glinting off the yellow leaves. Now I realized I was feeling positive, but my energy was going outside of me. I was enjoying the experience but that type of exercise doesn’t give me the same energy as when I put my attention inside; into my eyes, into my body, lungs, and into my breath. So instead of admonishing myself or listening to the part that wanted to judge how I was doing it, I simply shifted my attention and brought the beauty I was seeing, inside myself, and continued the exercise.
Junod: Wouldn’t some say that looking at the trees admiring the beauty nature, wouldn’t that help you be calm inside as well?
Carol: They could, however, if our attention is not focused within, we won’t receive the same benefit. I may have felt calm, but my brain was the part processing what I was seeing, instead of my being. What I want is to create an alive energetic connection that helps me to grow. If I am only focused on the outside beauty of the day, and not directing my attention inside, I won’t have the same level of real energy for myself.
David: For me, the trick no matter what environment I am in, to be like I am looking at nature. If I am in the subway doing it, its like I am in nature because I am connected to myself. But always looking at nature from the inside out as opposed to from the outside in.
In preparation for an upcoming workshop for women, I had a brief conversation with Carol Haggerty-Reardon, Director of Spiritual works for women at the Institute for Hermetic Philosophy. She was kind enough to share some interesting points from her experience as a woman about the work taught by Dario Salas Sommer.
JE: What part of the idea "be with yourself" relates to your experience of being a woman?
CHR: That no matter what is going on around me, I can connect to the peace within me, where my true self resides and try to live from this place where there is power and calm. Naturally, there are many things to distract me and keep me from making this real connection: putting others’ needs before my own, negative emotions, self doubt, self judgement, fear, physical or emotional pain, all of these things can keep me from "being with myself".
Of course, I still have feelings and old definitions of myself that want to rule and define me, like being easily distracted, self loathing and rejection, but the more I experience “being with myself”, the more on guard I am to the traps that lower my energy through self sabotage and rejection. When I am truly "being with myself" I feel light and limitless.
JE: It sounds like you have gotten a lot from your personal work. In your experience, what part of this work has touched you the most?
Carol: What has touched me the most is that this energy is REAL. Anyone can learn how to connect to it and grow it - when I am connected to this true, real energy, this vibration of peace, calm, self acceptance, I am open to giving and receiving in a way that I didn't know was possible. My level of energy will determine how my day will go. When my energy is stagnated because I am feeling low, or judgmental of myself or others, that is when I do damage to myself. If I realize this in that moment, I have the ability to connect to a positive place. These tools we are given allow us to take our energy, and our continued ways of connecting to it to another level.
JE: So what would you say to a woman who is struggling to bring her life into balance?
CHR: First, I would say it’s normal. Today it’s so difficult for most people to find balance, especially women, who play different roles and support others in their lives. They are used to supporting others and being the nurturer, typically giving to others before giving to themselves and that leads to depletion of their energy. In order for a woman to find balance, she needs to find her center first, she can use that place as an anchor to make decisions based on her reality and not on her expectations of herself or others. I would say to someone who is trying to find that balance, to first accept where she is - you can't change things over night, but you can accept them. Then she can find ways to bring herself into the present moment by breathing, to love herself, to take care of herself. In the end she is the only one who can figure out what she needs and then give it to herself.
Many of us are probably so used to crisis in the world that it has become a natural part of our mental scenery. We've grown accustomed to living in a world where acts of bitter conflict, unrest, and inhumanity are everyday things, and their constant contradiction with our essential values almost seems normal.
But are we really aware of the effect that these daily messages have on our minds and attitudes, on our inner life? How do we deal with our real feelings about the war, terrorism, the elections, the environment, and other issues? Do we even know those feelings are, aside from our general opinion? It's surprisingly easy to carry silent resentment, fear, and deep anxiety about these things without even realizing it.
Everyone knows it's important for any individual to stay balanced, but how can one do it when the pressure is on, when one is assaulted by negative messages from all sides?
Get in Touch with yourself.
People are usually much more willing to analyze an external issue and give opinions than to look inside themselves. Take a moment to get in touch with your inner response to a much talked about and urgent current event. Use some adjectives to describe your personal way of relating to the events you are aware of, and write them down on a piece of paper. Do you feel concerned, combative, hopeful, disgusted, despondent or numb? Are the feelings obvious or vague? Allowing your feelings to become clear to you gives you more power to influence them.
Decide what gets inside your head.
Every day, Americans are bombarded by information from advertisements and the media. Maybe in years past, news about world events used to come at a slower pace, often by word of mouth, but nowadays it's easy to overdose before finishing breakfast, on information about events occurring on the other side of the world.
Just as you make choices about the foods you eat, be judicious about what you allow to enter your mind. What you hear and see affect what you think, and what you think over time determines the quality and substance of your life. How necessary is it to read the entire newspaper every day, or to listen to and share office or family gossip? What other possibilities can you think of for your valuable time?
Train yourself to consistently stay on guard, and watchful of the external messages constantly contending for your precious attention. Make it a point to actively allow or deny them entrance, according to your best judgment. Over time, this kind of work on yourself will help you be freer of the invasion of external messages, and to help you think more clearly and precisely.
Invest in your personal Vitality (Wind your Clock)
Much like a car depends on gas, everything you do in life is made possible by your level of vitality or energy, especially the decision to remain inwardly balanced and happy. Surprisingly, your energy comes from many more sources than just the food you eat.
For example, in Hypsoconsciousness by John Baines, a book of consciousness-developing exercises, the author describes a consciousness building exercise where the individual moves very slowly and carefully, in a relaxed manner, mentally concentrating on the movement. Any physical movement (such as writing or walking) works and is performed at an exaggeratingly slow pace for five to ten minutes, and sometimes more. After practicing this exercise, you should feel an increase in vitality, presence, and greater mental clarity. Try this exercise when you feel fatigued, and see how it makes you feel.
Take life as a Challenge
When life is taken as a healthy challenge, difficulties seem more like an engaging game; it becomes more intense, joyful, and real. To spend most of our lifetime fearfully avoiding problems ultimately doesn't work, because fear contaminates our every act, and in the end, we have to deal with even more problems. Things take a different color when we accept difficulties as normal, patiently work through them, and don't assign so much negative emotional weight to them. This takes development of the will.
Try this suggestion: Set one small goal for yourself this week. For example, if you hate washing dishes, set yourself the challenge of washing the dishes with a light, cheery attitude for the entire week. If you tend to be shy around people, go to a party with the specific aim of chatting comfortably with a few strangers. Whether you succeed or not, if you take the right attitude with this exercise, you will see yourself and your possibilities differently. Remember to take small steps - making the challenge too difficult or too easy defeats the purpose.
Seeing the Big Picture
Have you ever been positively influenced by a person who had some quality you admired? Sometimes just one well balanced and positive person can affect a great number of people just by the way he or she "is". It's been said: "If you want to change the world, start with yourself." Though it's tough to accept at first, each of us who is concerned about the world can make a contribution with our own development, with our own growth. It's easy to feel powerless in the face of negative events on a global scale, to give up, to contaminate each other with opinions, or to avoid how we feel. These things only make matters worse, on the inside and out. The most potent tool each person has for attaining genuine happiness is his or her potential for self development, and the greater the number of people who work on themselves, the greater the effect on the world.
Junod Etienne is a Workshop Presenter at the Institute for Hermetic Philosophy in New York. The ideas and exercises in this article originate from the Teachings of philosopher and author Dario Salas Sommer, who writes under the pen name John Baines. For more information about the Institute, consider attending an upcoming Workshop.
David Owens: "Why did you decide to offer a workshop for Men only?"
Junod: I think the best answer to that is that men in today’s society face so much pressure just to be men. If you look at our role models and the people we pattern ourselves after, look at 007, UFC fighting, even when the president of the United States gets up to give a speech, he has to project what we think of as a commonly manly attitude in order to get a positive reaction. Men have a lot of pressure to fit a common mold that in many ways is not good for us. We figured that having a forum to talk about our issues and talk about the pressures that we feel, which is something that we’re not “supposed to do”, is a good way to open up to some new territory that we don’t usually get to explore.
David Richeson: There’s something I’ve learned here at IHP: that the art of being a man is a lost art. We get so many images of how you should be from the outside, but when it comes to a real internal feeling of what its like to be a man, to have honor, to keep your word, to have a wellspring of masculinity, it's a lost art – I know my father didn’t know it, his father didn’t know it, it's a lost art. So beyond just a workshop for men, but this institute doing a workshop for men, there is a lot of power in that.
David Owens: "In your experience, what are the most common issues for men, especially men who are trying to be more aware of themselves in life?"
James Reardon: First of all, this subject is a taboo. There is an unspoken code among the average man that you don’t talk about this. You don’t show a chink in the armor. That it's a jungle out there – And you get up, go out, put on your armor, and you do battle. That’s a game of diminishing returns over time. What I’ve experienced in myself is, by trying to fit the mold, I’m slowly internally ground down. I’m trying to fit myself into a machine, almost dehumanize myself in order to fit today’s “ideal” of what it means to be a man, which is a distorted perverted ideal. So it's a breath of fresh air to be able to expose my real issues, seeing them, accepting them, and learning to take responsibility for them, I find I’m moving more toward peace, self-respect, self-esteem, all these things.
David Richeson: I would say the ability to be vulnerable, and find strength in vulnerability, and not being afraid of it - growing this internal strength, then with this strength I can start to build real character traits like having my word, having honor, being chivalrous, the things that the knights used to have. I don’t mean pretending to be a knight, but working on those internal virtues by first being honest with myself about what I need to work on to have those qualities, and slowly day by day, brick by brick actually having a stronger word, being able to be a stronger man - but from the inside out, not from the outside in.
Register Today for this rare and special event - the Men's Workshop.
This is part two of a conversation with David Richeson, James Reardon, and Junod Etienne, the presenters of the May 2014 Workshop titled What is Being a Man? The interview was conducted by David Owens at the Institute for Hermetic Philosophy's midtown Manhattan space.
David Owens: How have you changed as a man during your time at IHP?
Junod: That’s a great question. To answer that question, I’d have to answer the question “what is masculinity?”- something which I’ve never asked myself before I started this work. When I came here, even though I was bright kid, and aware of myself physically, I can see I had so many holes in what I considered to be my manhood. I was not able to talk emotionally about my world, and for me, that’s a big part of being a man. If you are not able to talk about what you are feeling and experiencing, then you are really shut off, and its an issue that is going to come up again and again your life.
I feel that as I’ve worked on myself, the energy of masculinity lives in me more than before. It's a more active energy, meaning if I have a problem or issue, instead of reacting or running away, I will put all my energy towards that problem and work to solve it – it's a much more direct and powerful way to approach an issue.
David Richeson: For me, I grew up with all women for the most part. I didn’t really have any strong men in my life. Although, I did well, went to ivy league schools, boarding schools, I didn’t have any concept of what a good strong male figure would be. I remember a long time ago going with James just to pick carpets with his wife, and just watching the male-female relationship there. I’m getting choked up because I recognized the beauty in it, and I didn’t see that as a kid – it was something that was so foreign to me. Over time, I have been able to build that in myself. Now I’m married, and can be supportive of my wife, and be the kind of man that I used to see, yet not have any frame of reference to project myself into that situation. That’s all from the Institute and having great brothers like these guys to work with, and have the support and sharing.
James: Our formative experiences shape our responses to these questions – the common theme being that we are examining ourselves and looking to see where we can improve. My formative experience was my Dad and my brother, we were very physical, would resort to physical violence to solve problems. They talked about the typical ideal of a strong, macho guy. My Dad was the kind of guy you wouldn’t want to fight in a bar fight, but on the other hand he had such a quick triggered temper that he was very weak in that respect. Of course, some of that rubbed off on me, and what I began to see through this work, is that I had my own reactions. And the work here has given me an opportunity to unwind, to “watch a video tape” of these things happen in me – they are happening automatically, someone provokes me, I respond, and I’m basically creating a destiny through some programming that doesn’t belong to me. So this work gives us a chance to figure out what the heck is happening, not feel ashamed to talk about it, because the opportunity is to literally change your life, to digesting them and realize why they happen. This helps me with my relationship with my wife, and work. And just being a human being.
Junod: I wanted to add something that struck a nerve for me when James was talking. As far as us working as men and realizing the vast difference between what society tells us a man is, and what through inner work we discover to truly be masculine behavior - What seems weak on the outside, is often strong. Talking about how you feel inside, being vulnerable, sharing yourself on a deep level with the people around you, forgiving someone – all these things are usually seen as weak. Whereas being physically tough, flying off at the handle, getting angry is seen as tough. It’s really the opposite – the strongest masculine behavior that I’ve seen has involved incredible self control: the renunciation of pride, showing yourself as you truly are, transparency –absolutely courageous. Walking away from a situation where you want to hit someone, or show them they can’t mess with you takes a lot of internal strength. That’s the type of strength we want to focus when we present this workshop.
David Owens: As you explore all these avenues of what it takes to be a man, Can you say something about working on yourselves as men, and how it affects your relationship with women?
David Richeson: I would say its’ transformed, night and day. The ability to be harmonious with my mother, my wife, my sister – all the important women in my life transformed. Women are no longer some scary force, I used to call them crazy when the storm would come and I would know how to deal with whatever emotion was coming at me. I might have been successful in one sense, but having real relationships that were harmonious was always a challenge for me. Now I’m definitely able to listen, to respond, to hold on to myself, even if there is some reaction coming at me, and be more loving. Its brought all these relationships where everything was more difficult to a place that is more loving and understanding.
Register Today for this rare and special event - the Men's Workshop.
This is part one of a casual chat with Carol Haggerty, Ceci Baker, and Rosemarie Ramsumair, the three presenters of the April 26 Wonder of Women Workshop. The interview was conducted by Soribel Fernandez in the Institute for Hermetic Philosophy midtown Manhattan space.
Q. Why a workshop just for women?
Ceci: That’s a great question, we’ve really thought about it, for a couple of years now, right? There are specific questions that women have and different ways that women have of answering those questions, that sometimes get clouded when the genders are mixed and so we feel like this is a great opportunity for women to speak out, say what they want to say without that friction.
Carol: Yes. We have work just for women at IHP and just for men. The work that we do here as women, the things that we learn about ourselves, the ways that we grow as women and as people are so profound for us that we really wanted to share it; share certain things with the public; introduce to the women who’ve never been introduced to this concept before, the ways that they can grow as women. We had a workshop a few years ago and it was so popular and it was just time to have another one.
Rosemarie: And I feel it’s really important to have a workshop for women because there are not enough of them, and usually if you do a search for workshops for women it is not in the depth that we are going to go, to discuss the things that really affect us and to know that we are not alone. There are others like us.
Q. Why at this time?
Carol: Why not? There are a lot of things going on in the media right now, but there have always been. As far as the books that are out there now like “Lean In” and Arianna Huffington’s “Thrive.” There are a lot of women websites and
empowerment opportunity online and in books, but we just feel that now is the time to allow women to connect to themselves as women, not as a sexual object, not as a woman who is just trying to be better than the other woman next to her or get a man in her life or get the best job or become a CEO, but to become a better person, and understand what that means; to be more connected to themselves, self-referential , speaking from a true centered place inside, and allowing them, each woman, to be a woman based on who she is and what she feels and thinks versus the external advertising and what people around her think.
Ceci: This a great time of the year to do it too, going into spring, and you see the cycles of Nature that are changing, women are cyclical; that is one of our wonders. One of the things that makes us different from men is the cycles, so is it is a great time to celebrate along with Nature, because we are Nature.
Rosemarie: We are so connected and during spring everything flourishes and why not? There is new growth, new energy, and why not come together and have all of that energy synced to really not only help ourselves but all humanity.
Q. What changes have you experienced as a woman during your time at IHP?
Ceci: That’s one of the most difficult questions. There is a part of me that wants to say that I have changed as a Human being and end it there. But there is growing part of me that knows that I am a woman human being, I am a feminine being and my awareness of that femininity, that creativity, of the abilities that I have to connect to people on a more intuitive level all of that for me has grown. Additionally just physically, materially, I’ve changed. I have become less inhibited physically, sexually. I have found actual physical healing on feminine issues that I had over the years. And, I have found a different way to relate to men that is less combative or aggressive and I am still assertive.
Carol: For me this work is really profound, when I first came here I thought I was happy, well-balanced, in a loving relationship, and in many ways those things were true. But what I realized during the process of this work was I was only at the surface of who I am. This work had allowed me to dig deep into who I am as a person, who I am as a woman; what does it mean to be a woman? And get connected to this energy of Nature inside of me. I look back and think that when I joined the school I was actually more like paper doll. A one dimensional person compared to the person I feel I am today. I used to put people before myself, depending on others to have the answers, instead of looking inside of myself. The person I am today is stronger. I really like myself. I now know myself much more than I ever have, and I appreciate myself in ways which allow me to be happy and fulfilled without relying on others to do it for me.
Rosemarie: For me it is like night and day. I’m definitely not the raging, jealous person looking on the outside for happiness. I feel more connected, more self-referential, more of an understanding that I am whole now, I am equal, I do not have to be what the media portrays, not an object, But I am a strong, independent powerful woman.
Q. Would you say that you had defined roles as a woman in your life?
Ceci: I don’t feel that I have a defined role as a woman. I feel I have a way to connect to the world around me in a feminine way; it doesn’t mean that I have to be a mother, or a wife, or a daughter, or a sister, or an aunt. It means that I am all of those things and more, with the connection to who I am as a feminine spirit.
Rosemarie: I have a similar feeling; I don’t feel like there are roles. But, it’s more of a quality, a feminine quality, and it comes when you have that connection to yourself.
Carol: I haven’t thought of it as having a new role. I have a leadership position here leading the women in the Work. I feel a role that is very important is self nurturer, nurturing myself and my sisters, but also supporting and nurturing my husband, and my brothers and sisters. Again, what’s key is connecting to my learned self knowledge, allowing me to be a human being based on the changes that I’ve made, the way I’ve grown as a person, as a woman, instead of again defining myself or trying to act or say the right things based on what is expected of me or what my peers or what someone on the outside might expect.
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