Monday, November 17, 2014

Who is the “School for Living?”

Taize 2Over the past couple of months, the School for Living has been meeting each Thursday evening with the intention of clarifying what sort of meeting structure works best for us. This coming Thursday is the last in that series. Here is what I think we have discovered.

What we are doing works for us. We are going to continue. Because of the calendar, Thursdays are challenging for the remainder of the year—Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day—though New Year’s is in January and we might actually meet as a good way to start 2015.

Language is important and a problem. We are clear that we want to be able to talk about our spirituality and that we can only talk about the transpersonal with the use of metaphor, but the words we have used are freighted with meanings from our various pasts which result in confusion and even resistance. Words like “church” are just descriptive for some but convey a rigid and oppressive structure to others. Words like “divine” are universals for some but smell like a pompous piety to others. We struggle to find words with which to speak of our experience that are both inclusive and specific.

We are drawn to our individual transformation in the support of a diverse community. We find that one of the words that works for us is “maturity.” We are all attracted to a context that supports our efforts to become more spiritually mature. We can appreciate that we are all at different places and we are able to see this condition as both inevitable and valuable.

We talk about what matters to us. While we are encouraged to name the places in our lives where we feel stuck, we are not a therapy group. While we hope to support each other’s healing, and thus may be seen as therapeutic, we are not only focused on naming and addressing problems. We are gathered to share and celebrate whatever is important to those who gather. And one does not need to name issues in one’s own life to be fully a participant in the School for Living. Being present to each other is the only requirement.

There are some challenging aspects of the community we are creating together. When we find ourselves in a bind we can use the tools of JustConflict to help us through. To that end, everyone is encouraged to learn about those tools. The easiest way is to take the Sunday evening classes. The most in depth way will be to participate in the Retreat: The Practice of Presence in February.

These tools include Maps for the Journey: an exploration of the nature of development and the benefit of transformational maps so we can find our way. The definitive map is the Orders of Self.
The central practical Tool for Transformation is the use of JustConflict to address the Persistent Patterns of Conflict that arise in our most Significant Relationships.

A Summary of these tools is available on the site.

This leaves us with at least one central question. “Who do we say we are?” We are not a church. We are not a therapy group. I have a sense of what we are but the only words I can think of to describe us are ones we can’t use because of what they have meant in the past. Hope you can come Thursday, November 20 from 6:30-8:30 when we try to solve this conundrum.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


In a retreat setting in which we are two dozen people living together for four days we will
  • Consider what it means to transcend ourselves and what it might mean to grow into a complete human--into our fullest Selves.
  • Learn and practice a set of disciplines which have been shown to support "awakening," including silence, intentional dialogue, sitting meditation, structured movement, journaling, and chant.
  • Identify our own personal "best practices" to support our individual and social well being.
  • Construct communal activities which align our physical being in relationship to each other with our inner spiritual experience.

This retreat is a four-day immersion into an experience of Presence with each other, with one's Self, and with the Divine.  We will share in a variety of contemplative practices [chant, silence, meditation] and private and small group exercises [journaling, Creative Conversations, and conflict resolution].  See the sections below for more detail about the retreat.

The two options are February 15-19, 2015 and June 28-July 2, 2015.  The event will start on Sunday afternoon and conclude on Thursday afternoon.

People from any or no religious tradition.  Each retreat can accommodate from 24-30 persons.

All of the activities will be at the Pallottine Renewal Center in northern St. Louis County just outside St. Louis, MO.

The pace of modern life is accelerating with the consequence that we have less sense of connection to ourselves, to those we love, and to the spiritual practices that helped our forebears know the Presence of God.  This retreat will give us an opportunity to be with others in a context that is small enough to connect with each other, private enough to not be distracted from each other, and safe enough to really encounter ourselves with each other.

How Much:
The full cost without transportation is $690 per person single occupancy. Double occupancy is $650. This covers housing, meals, and snacks and drinks for social hours. We will be able to offer some partial scholarships.
Transportation from the airport will be available for $20 each way. It is about a 20 minute ride.

By Whom:
The School for Living is a project of Sacred Soup of Pilgrim UCC and the Center for Creative Conflict Resolution. The Center is the fiscal agent for this event. The retreat is led by Rev. Dr. Mark Lee Robinson. Mark is the Minister of Reconciliation and Evangelism of Pilgrim United Church of Christ and the Executive Director of the Center for Creative Conflict Resolution. 

He is the creator of a set of principles and practices that are collectively called JustConflict.  This retreat will be an opportunity to learn about and to practice these disciplines for mastering the complexity of everyday life.