It has been just over one year since I first arrived in India. I am a 27 year old male from San Francisco, Ca. My time in India has been purely for spiritual practice. It is through the grace of the Almighty that I was able to stay with saintly monks of India. It was not easy by any means. In fact it was like hell at times to continue my spiritual practices. With determination I stuck with it. Now I have come out a much stronger person, more determined to experience universal oneness/love.
Now to get the point. By January I will reach back to the U.S. Deciding my future work is my top priority. With the knowledge and more importantly the experience of finding more inner happiness through various practices, it is time I share this with others who are struggling to find their happiness. The idea of a spiritual-based psychology came to my mind. After googling these key words I found you, Dr. Moe.
I don't have formal training in Psychology. Should I go back to school and gain the formal knowledge or could I do home study of psychology? Are there any schools you may recommend in the San Francisco are which promote the integration of spirituality and psychology?
You are on an interesting path. The Eastern influences have entered your life before the Western, that's a switch. There may be some advantages to that.
Formal Psychology Training? Yes, I would recommend that because within the practices of psychology there are some very valuable insights and strategies that have to be understood if one is to become truly whole. As examples, an understanding of our emotional life, defense mechanisms, psychological protective strategies, dysfunctional family influences and addictions are a real part of Western Life and need to be addressed.
People who gravitate toward Eastern practices, at the expense of Western wisdom, do so at their peril. The thought seems to be that meditation and yoga poses, or Reiki, or whatever will take care of things. Not so! What often happens is that the pursuit of Eastern practices becomes an addiction in itself, because it is often done at the expense of one's psychology which continues to unconsciously foul up the seeker's spiritual interests. Like any addiction you never get enough. It has been my experience that you simply cannot sidestep your personal psychology.
For myself there has to be a balance between Eastern insights and Western psychological practices that promote self-awareness, self-discovery, self-knowledge and then, Self-Love - that is, an understanding that the Self we come to love is the Divine within. This awareness comes to us at the "feeling" level, from the heart. If you've read some of my articles, then you will know that I am Heart-Centered practitioner who knows both personally and professionally, that if you don't deal with your feelings and emotions you remain psychologically crippled.
Choosing One's Self is the key goal. But that comes with the burden of cleansing ourselves of all past influences, especially those coming from family, culture and religion. Western religions, in particular, are very offensive, psychologically speaking, and cause the most damage in our culture. I have just written a series of articles on recovering from Religious Indoctrination and they can be read at Dr Moe Unplugged.
Pursue a basic degree (3 or 4 Year B.A.) in psychology through a school that emphasizes "the practice" of psychology over "the science," and which preferably does not exclude the spiritual or "conscious" perspective familiar to you from Eastern practice. You do need the theoretical background, but the emphasis on practical application is more meaningful in the end. These would include courses on Counseling and Therapy and also courses on Addictions, because the latter is a huge feature of North American life. Attending a formal school could be rewarding in many ways. Sitting alongside your Western peers you will gleen many insights about Psychology and your Self. Valuable lessons that would not be available in a Home Study program.
This will set the stage for some kind of "Applied Practice" which I suspect is the direction you are heading. I can't recommend any schools in your area because San Francisco is unknown to me. But here's a tip you will understand. Do some online research on their Universities, read the Psychology Program guides, and, this is most important, Listen to Your Heart! If you feel a "click" inside, in your "feeling center" just below your navel, you will have connected with the right school. Your Higher Self led you to me. Now let Him lead you to the right school.
Of course, it is no coincidence that you have arrived here at Trans4mind, which happens to include many resources that teach just what you are looking for: the confluence of Western psychology (analytic, cognitive and transpersonal) and Eastern spirituality. In particular, the book that the site was named after, Transforming the Mind. Like you, the author started off learning Eastern practices, then Gurdjieffian techniques derived from central Asia, finally studying conventional Western psychology as well, because it remained both relevant and important. The book is a synthesis of all these ideas.
Another such synthesis is available at Trans4mind in the online book by James Harvey Stout, The Human Handbook. In addition, the articles available at the Mind Development section provide interesting views on many psychological topics.
They are no substitute for the personal teaching that is included in degree-level training but in comparison to most dry textbooks, these Trans4mind resources provide thought-provoking overviews of the subject of psychology, that will be helpful whether or not you go on to study in depth. I would also read through each of the Life Challenge entry pages at Trans4mind (see the orange menu items on most pages) to get a good idea of the range of personal development topics that can be best approached through an education in psychology.
Read more questions relevant to Lightworkers with Maurice's advice
To the reader:
We welcome your perspective on this important question. Email us your personal experiences, views and advice—your comments will then be added below...