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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Domino’s Falling

January 1st, 2014 – The first legal recreational marijuana sale in Colorado occurred. The sale, like the vast majority of legal sales, was peaceful and mutually beneficial. That can’t be said about marijuana sales in the past.

I have strong opinions about the failed War on Drugs and it always surprises people when I tell them I don’t really smoke weed. It just isn’t my drug of choice, but I don’t think my personal tastes and preferences should be used to restrict the actions of others. The War on Drugs isn’t important to me because I want to get high, it is important to me because I truly believe it is the greatest civil rights issue of our time and we are winning.

To outlaw a peaceful activity (and using drugs is a peaceful activity with no victims) is to claim dominion over the bodies and minds of another person. It is to claim that their vice makes you superior to them, so superior that you are somehow morally authorized to use violence against them to prevent this peaceful action. It is the mindset of a tyrant. Many drug warriors will fall behind cliches like “protecting children”, “family stability”, or other such nonsense but they never want to compare whether prohibition causes more harm than good. What destroys more families, allowing people to smoke weed or using the drug war to give America the highest prison population in the world? What protects children better, allowing people to smoke weed or prohibiting a teenager from getting college support because he got caught with a joint? 

The War on Drugs is not about getting high. It is about the type of society that we want to be. Do we want to treat sick people with medicine or jails? Do we want to provide education and harm reduction or do we want to use lies and scare tactics to discourage behavior? As alcohol prohibition and abstinence only sex education have shown time and time again, prohibition leads to unsafe use and violence. We now have real world examples of a better way, a way that treats people equally with respect regardless of their chosen vice. A society that puts love, compassion, and peace above paternalism. The War on Drugs has been a total failure, it has cost billions of dollars, lead the unknown number of deaths across the globe, has militarized the police, and destroyed communities.

And it is coming to an end… finally. The Drug Warriors won’t give up easily, they have invested their lives into it. Entire industries exist because of it, but like civil rights issues of the past the birthing pains we are going to go through are worth it in the end. Thank you Colorado and congratulations to all the freedom fighters out there (NORML, SSDP, etc), you have done the right thing and I look forward to more communities following your example. 

Interesting Things – Thursday (11/14/13)

Here is today’s collection of things I found interesting online.

Marijuana: Police officers in Colorado have begun purchasing “nose telescopes” to detect marijuana odors and give out tickets for anyone who lets the smell of weed waft about publicly. It appears that the battle continues, even after a drug is legalized… the government will continue to find ways to profit off of you. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10448756/Police-use-nose-telescope-for-cannabis-odour-mapping.html)

Quote of the Day: “If it’s still in your mind, it is probably worth the risk” – Paulo Coelho

Prostitution: Prohibition always, always, always makes things worse. People will use drugs, pay for sex, and gamble no matter what. When you put it on the black market you end and ruin lives. Everyone, particularly the women, would be better off if prostitution was legal. (http://www.businessinsider.com/why-america-should-legalize-prostitution-2013-11)

Art: A painter creates beautiful works of art that create an optical illusion. It is incredibly mesmerizing. (http://retelly.com/art/artist-riusuke-fukahori-paints-three-dimensional-goldfish-embedded-in-layers-of-resin)

Privacy: The NSA continues to defend their spying programs and fight against any reasonable oversight. That agency is becoming increasingly frightening and we should be ever vigilante against those who would violate our rights in name of security, their intentions are irrelevant. (http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/11/nsa-transparency-effect/)

Secession: Syrian Kurds have declared their independence for Syria and have set up their own government. I support any group of people to peacefully withdraw from the government if it no longer supports their interests, and in some cases I support violent revolution. The world needs more of this. (http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2013/11/12/Syrian-Kurds-declare-autonomous-government.html)

Nuclear Weapons: A 7-minute video showing the thousands of nuclear blasts that humans have created on the planet since we first split the atom. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9U8CZAKSsNA)

Leg 3: Sparse Populations = Open Sky Banging

The third leg of the trip should take us out of the mountains and into the Great Plains. Throughout Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, both Dakotas, and into Iowa there will be days without major populations centers but some pretty decent flatlands. This will take some preparation to make sure we have the food and water necessary for each day but I am confident we can handle it. Overall we are looking at 2100 miles and about 40 days… but all plans are tentative and depend on the awesomeness that may come our way. Some highlights include:

  • The awesomeness of Denver
  • Kat Humphries
  • Mount Rushmore
  • Cuddle Shop
  • Jubilee Days in Laramie, Wyoming
  • Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge
  • Beaver Lake State Park
  • Crazy Horse Memorial
  • Being half the population of the state of North Dakota for a few days

Leg 3

If you have recommendations for this approximate route I’d love to hear them… or if you want to host or know someone with a soft couch we are also always looking for new friends and family.