Graduate School – Transpersonal Psychology

The idea of going back to school has been floating around in my mind for quite some time. I enjoy learning and I find the school environment works pretty well for me, particularly in smaller classes where I can be mentored by a challenging professor. I was lucky enough to have that in undergrad and I think I can find that in grad school as well.

What hasn’t been completely clear is what I want to study in grad school and why I want to study it. Generally, we treat formal education as fulfilling two purposes: research/discover an area of interest or passion and gain the skills necessary for a career. The former can generally be done without school in the modern era. School is often unnecessary for the latter as well, except when there is certification necessary to practice and finding a mentor outside of the academy is difficult. Either way, going to grad school appeals to me, even if it is just an experience that I decide wasn’t right for me, at least I had the experience.

So, what do I want to study? As much as I love Economics I don’t have any interest to pursue it professionally or in any advanced way (sorry Dr. Calcagno!). The only field that has really appealed to me consistently since high school is psychology and the older I get the more that passion grows. I have a couple of interests within the field. If I decide to work on the clinical side I’d like to help individuals who are LGBT, polyamorous and/or in sexually open relationships, and I’d like to use some “non-traditional” methods. If I decide to work on the research side (which would probably involve more schooling but my economic background could provide some assistance) then I want to study sexual diversity within a society, particularly with regard to kinks and paraphilias.

What do I mean by “non-traditional” methods? I mean using things like meditation, psychedelic drugs (including MDMA), spiritual practices, and other altered states of consciousness. This seems to broadly fall under the field of Transpersonal Psychology, which is basically spiritual psychology. I know that my hippy, Burner side is showing with this, but I don’t think spiritual necessarily means pseudoscientific. I tend to take a similar view of spirituality as Sam Harris and think that spiritual practices and altered states can be beneficial to people without resorting to supernatural explanations.

It will be 5 years before I am really ready to enroll in grad school due to my bike ride, prereqs, and this shitty $65,000 student loan Sword of Damocles hanging over my head. That time is probably good though, it will give me time to research transpersonal psychology more and see if it really fits for me. If things do fit I hope to enroll in Naropa University’s fall 2021 MA Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program. They several interesting specializations. At this point Mindfulness Based Transpersonal Counseling is my first choice because of the explicit focus on human sexuality, yoga, and Jungian Dreamwork. I also like the Transpersonal Wilderness Therapy due to the focus on the outdoors and the natural world, as well as the Somatic: Body Psychotherapy because of the focus on touch and connecting the mind, spirit, and body.

I have my work cut out for me. Between the three programs that interest me there are 62 books that are recommended reading, as well as 6 undergrad courses that I will need to get credits for. I can knock out many of the readings on the bike ride, though I’m not sure how many are actually necessary. To be honest, I feel like I will be competing with much younger people out of my league and I need to be really on top of my game to be accepted at my age (though, I’ve heard that some grad programs would look at 20ish years of travel and life experience as a good thing). While on the ride I can also take free online courses to become familiar with the material before enrolling in a course for credit at a community college. There are also tons of YouTube videos by professors and authors on this subject that I can watch. I will also need some real world experience by working or volunteering in a “helping” profession and working directly with clients. Ideally, I will also find a transpersonal therapist to see for my own mental health needs once we stop the bike ride. I’ve got a Excel checklist ready to go.

All in all, I’m excited. It has been a long time since I’ve had any sort of focus. I tend to hop around from subject to subject trying to learn on my own, which is fun but it isn’t necessarily the most efficient way. Now, I feel like I have a path to explore something that I’m interested in and can maybe lead to passion and inspiration.

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Why Travel?

Travel is really important to me, but that wasn’t always the case. My family didn’t travel a whole lot when I was a kid, mostly because the logistics and funding required to get a family with six kids and two adults on vacation made it impossible. I lived several places growing up throughout Washington, California, and Oregon as my father found teaching positions and we moved to be closer to my grandparents, but those places were always “home”. We didn’t really go on vacation and I was perfectly fine with that. In fact, until I joined the military I had every intention of staying in Gresham, Oregon for my whole life. I even turned down an option to be stationed in Italy in the Army but turned it down because I didn’t want to be far from home… Travel just didn’t appeal to me.

All that changed once I got my feet wet and saw a bit of the world. My first travels were in the military and, as such, were a little bit unconventional. I didn’t really get to do touristy things, but I did get to see the beauty of other places and meet a lot of people from diverse backgrounds. I spent a lot of time in a guard tower with an Italian soldier who talked a lot about his life in Italy, he also introduced me to the concept of consensual non-monogamy when he offhandedly mentioned that his girlfriend was sleeping with other men and he slept with other women. It didn’t seem like a big deal to him, though my views were still very conservative at the time and I promised to pray for him.

I also met many interpreters in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as soldiers from the UK. The most influential people on my drive to travel ended up being in my own unit. My squad was made up of an eclectic bunch from all over the US. My team leader was a African-American Muslim from Kansas named Vinnie; the other SAW gunner was from Rocky Mount, NC; my grenadier was an Irish Catholic from New Jersey; etc. We really reinforced the 82nd Airborne Motto of “All American”. This ragtag group of soldiers from all over the country made me want to see the country for myself, and as my belief system shifted to a point where I saw all borders as artificial and all humans as my brethren I became more interested in seeing the world.

In some ways travel is an unending task, and that might be one of the things I like about it. There will always be another place to see, festival to experience, person to meet. Even as we’ve spent two years bicycling around the United States we have only gotten a taste of many places we’ve been. There is no end to travel, even if certain vacations and adventures do end. After each adventure you become more aware of other adventures, like all things as you get deeper into them you realize they are more complex and beautiful than you could have ever imagined. I will never see everything I want to see, and that’s okay.

I pursue travel for lots of reasons, but primarily it is my love of novelty. Travel has allowed to have experiences that I couldn’t get at home and that technology hasn’t reached the point of accurate simulations. Whether it was a threesome at a pagan festival, getting snowed on in the Montana mountains, skinny dipping with a group of nudists in Florida, getting stoned in New Mexico and going to the hot springs, working the “Orgy Dome” at Burning Man, cycling through the Redwoods, or a thousand other experiences that I’ve forgotten, these are all things that I wouldn’t have experienced if I stayed home.

Travel inspires me, it makes me more creative, it keeps me healthy, and it makes me more loving. It shows me who I am and who I want to be, and it gives me greater love and appreciation for the little battles that other people face. The internet has connected us in many ways, but it also isolates us. We see a shadow of a person and reduce them to soundbites and a few views, we don’t get to see the passion in their eyes or heartache. Travel reminds me that we are all human and even if I disagree with a person they aren’t evil.

I realize that not everyone has an interest in travel, but I think we all have an interest in new experiences and getting the most out of life. There are many paths to reach those ends, mine just happens to involve a lot of movement.

OMGYes

I recently purchased season 1 of OMGYes and I couldn’t be happier with it. It was definitely money well spent and I wanted to write a quick summary and review of the product. This is clearly from the perspective of someone who does not have a clitoris, labia, vulva, or vagina, but I do enjoy being sexually active with people who have those body parts and I want to give them as much pleasure as possible. I am sure that people with those body parts will also get a lot of value out of this product (at least one friend of mine says she is glad she purchased it, I know I would get a lot out of a similar set of videos for people with a penis, testicles, and a prostate. Variety is the spice of life and we can learn a lot from each other in regard to giving ourselves and others pleasure. Some of my favorite moments from past threesomes and group situations was seeing how other people enjoy their bodies in a way that is different than me.

So, what do you get for the limited time pricing of $29? A whole lot of information and inspiration.

Season 1 is divided into 12 sections that you can navigate between as you see fit. Within each section there are video interviews with individuals about the subject, data collected about the subject from extensive surveys, charts and graphs to visualize the subject matter, videos that show individuals demonstrating the techniques in a informative way (it is not particularly erotic but you will see clitoris, labia, and vulvas of the participants), interactive “games” to practice the techniques, and recommendations on how to bring it into the bedroom. For example, you can check out some of the section on “Edging” for free here, the actual paid section has a lot more information.

The sections don’t only cover physical techniques for bringing pleasure. Also included are incredibly important subjects like framing the experience to reduce anxiety and increase pleasure, giving and receiving feedback, and multiple orgasms. I really do think there is something for everyone in this and it could be beneficial for new partners, established partners who would like to try some new things, and unpartnered people who want to maximize the pleasure they give and receive. I know I am excited to try this out on any willing partners I can find, and hopefully season 2 will be just as awesome.

 

Age

I’ve been thinking a lot about my future recently… which is kind of weird for me. In particular, I’ve been thinking about my age and whether I can still accomplish the things I want to. We live in a culture where people are encouraged to be on a certain track by time they hit the age 30 and it is odd for people to redirect their education or careers after that point. I am 34, and for all intents and purposes I won’t be able to formally start on a new educational or career until I am about 40. My basic plan right now is to go back to school to become a therapist, I want to either be a counselor for people in “non traditional relationships” (for lack of a better term) such as polyamorous groups, open relationships, and maybe LGBT relationships. Either that or I want to be on the research side looking at paraphilias or the use of MDMA in counseling. So, will that be too old to start down that route?

Let’s run the numbers….

I’ll be 36 when the bike adventure ends. After that we plan on stopping for a few years in a city to do things that require a stable location… home brewing, gardening, chickens, etc. I’m not sure what city that will be yet but it will be cheap and awesome. So, during those years I will need to pay off my $65,000 in student loans before starting school again. I figure there are a few ways to do that:

  • I can get a full-time job somewhere to supplement my current part-time job. If I keep my cost-of-living at about $12,000 per year (which should be easy enough) then all my second job will go to paying off student loans. If I find an $8/hr job it will take me about 5.5 years of constant work to pay off my student loans. That would suck…
    ($8/hr * 40 hours a week * 52 weeks * .75 for taxes * 5.5 years = $68,640). Of course, if I found a full-time job that paid more this would speed up the process.
  • Instead of focusing on a shitty full-time job I can try and create something (or several things) that will make me $65,000. I have a few ideas that I think could reasonably net me $5,000 – $10,000 each, and maybe one of them could really take off and cover the whole thing. In the grand scheme of things $65k isn’t that much. This is clearly the riskier approach and would require the most amount of discipline
  • I could also do some combination of those two. Maybe work part time somewhere and work on my side projects as well. On the surface this seems to be a good balance between the two, but I also think this would be very difficult for me. Having any job outside the home means I am mentally drained a lot. I don’t know if I have the discipline for this middle road

So, even if I get all my shit paid off by 40, is it still worth going to school for a degree? Sure. 40 may seem kind of old but it is still possible for me to get the proper certification to set up my own practice by 43 and then spend 20+ years continuing my education and running a practice. I feel like there are a lot of fields that could be integrated into therapy in a way that is beneficial to clients, including meditation, yoga, MDMA, hypnotherapy, sexology, massage therapy, dance, sex surrogacy, etc. Those sub-specialties can be added after I get certified.

After all this thought and analysis about age and how I am going to move forward in life I come to the same conclusion that my gut always comes to… fuck social norms and I should just do what I want. Though, I do wonder if schools will accept me into their programs after a certain age and whether having a decade between schools will hurt my chances, though I will likely need to attend some community college courses to brush up on the field anyway.