"Manifesting Spirit: Ordinary Grace as Every Day Experience"
This workshop is designed to explore, and most importantly, to personalize ways in which each of us can bring grace into the world through small acts of compassion, altruism, tolerance, and kindness. Based on Kathleen Brehony's book Ordinary Grace, participants will learn how simply and easily spirit can manifest when we are conscious of the immediacy and closeness of grace. Powerful stories drawn from examples of many others - men and women of all ages, races, ethnicities, economic situations, and lifestyles - inform this workshop to inspire and motivate. Sacred poetry, myths, and the teachings of a wide variety of spiritual traditions amplify and reinforce the basic points of the workshop.
The workshop includes ample opportunity for small group discussion as well as specific exercises designed to personalize and emphasize the core material. It can be offered as three distinct classes (of approximately three hours each); as a day-long workshop, or as a one to three-hour lecture/workshop. The core material has also been delivered as a keynote address, a short talk, and as a message (sermon) during church services.
Part One - Everything Depends Upon How You Start Out
We begin with a frank discussion of human nature. What do we expect from each other? What beliefs inform our perceptions of the world and our place in it? Do we believe in 'original sin' or 'original blessing'? Provocative evidence from the fields of biology, ethnology, philosophy, sociology, religion, psychology, and physics attest to the basic interconnectedness of all of life and prove that empathy and altruism are both natural and instinctive in human beings.
Part Two - We Determine What We "Tune In To"
Evidence surrounds us that goodness and grace are far more prevalent than the evil that appears to surround us if we listen only to the evening news. While it may be true that "Seeing is Believing" it is equally true that "Believing is Seeing." What we expect to find is very often what we will find. Exercises to heighten consciousness for the experience of goodness and grace bring home the universality of the stories that demonstrate this point.
Part Three - Good and Evil Are Not Dualities
As human beings, we seem to have a strong need to cast everything into opposites: Light/Dark, Strong/Weak, and Right/Wrong. Nowhere is this tendency toward seeing things as opposites more powerful than in our thinking about good and evil. And yet, there is clear evidence that this duality is no more true than any of the other illusions that we believe in. Using Jung's notion of "holding the tension of the opposites," participants will explore their unconscious thinking about the nature of grace and come to new understandings of the truth that everyone (and everything) of substance has a 'shadow'. Exploration of personal and collective shadows will be discussed and emphasized especially with respect to their impacts on the experience and expression of grace.
Part Four - Characteristics of People Who Express Ordinary Grace
Informed by research conducted for my book, the seven characteristics of people who routinely express ordinary grace will be discussed. Participants will be asked to work with these points in order to make an honest, personal assessment of their own feelings and expression of each. These characteristics are:
Felt connections with others and with all of life.
Faith in the goodness of others.
Helping others is not service, but a blessing or privilege to the helper.
Impulses to good are immediate, instinctive.
Turning negatives into positives.
Part Five - Bringing it all Home
Thirteen strategies derived from the study of individuals who effortlessly manifest spirit through ordinary grace will be discussed and personalized through exercises. These are:
Discover what you love.
Be prepared for pain as well as joy.
Start where you are.
Simplify and scale down.
Recognize the spiritual ties between people.
Understand and celebrate the differences between people.
Put beliefs into actions.
Find grace in small things.
Build on your immediate, personal connections.
Understand that you are not alone.
Part Six - Group Ritual
During the course of the workshop, participants will be asked to create elements that will be used to create a group ritual that will end the program. Using music, intention, meditation, imagery, and movement each of these concluding rituals will be unique to each workshop group. All, however, will have the intention of assisting the conscious awareness of a personal strategy to bring more ordinary grace into the world.