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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Next Step

Today was my first real “work day” off since I quit my job. It is time to really buckle down and focus on things for the next couple of months as I prepare for my bike ride. It is an interesting feeling being unemployed, but it feels good and this is why I live very minimalistically and save money. I have known for about a year that the office life is not for me, there is something soul-sucking for me to commute and sit in a cube each day in front of a screen, particularly when I feel most jobs can be done from home, a beach, or some place less creatively stifling. The people I worked with for the last year and a half were absolutely fantastic and I plan on staying in touch with them for a long time, but the office life isn’t for me and I felt myself in danger of being numbed down and sucked into it long term. So, I quit and now I have 157 days until the next adventure starts.

I’m going to be spending a lot of time focusing on my writing, fitness, and other interests over the next few months. This blog will likely reflect that journey, as well as dig deeper into my views on politics, religion, relationships, and current events. I am really hoping to increase the quality and the quantity of the posts on my blog, as well as become more interactive with the blogs I follow regularly. A major focus will be finishing the book of my cross-country ride last year. I don’t necessarily think I will make a lot of money off it but if I can create something that draws a few dollars in over time it could really be beneficial to Anna and I. Part of good writing to me is reading, so bookshelf (Kindle and real world) will likely get much larger and greater use, and expect more book reviews.

I will also be implementing serious daily exercise which will primarily be bike rides and yoga, but if I can find a inexpensive way to add weights or other exercises to the routine I will do that as well. Some extra skills that I’m going to be working on is cooking (the ladies love a good cook… right?), an undetermined musical instrument, and a foreign language. I just can’t imagine living my life without learning how to communicate in another tongue or with language of music. Of course, this time will also be used to further my formal education as much as I can and chart out what steps I need to take to get into providing psychological support for those that need it.

All in all, I’m excited. My first day was not as productive as I would have liked but I have a nice dinner started for the lovely ladies I live with (sweet potato gnocchi with seared brussels sprouts and tarragon cream) and am starting a schedule for tomorrow. Hopefully with some experimentation I will get into a routine of happiness.

Yoga

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After 8 months of travel, settling in, being broke, being busy, and procrastinating I went back to yoga last night. Man, I have really missed it. As an INTJ it is always really nerve-wracking to start anything new in a class based setting. I like to slowly observe and process things first and that is rarely possible for a yoga class. I did make the decision to start with the Restorative class at this studio and I think that was the right choice.

The class was mostly breathe work and slow, long, deep positions. In the 75 minutes we only did 4-5 positions but they were long, this provided a great opportunity for a meditative atmosphere and plenty of time to get comfortable in a new surrounding. The instructor, Denise, was incredible. She was patient and attentive to the fairly large class and made time for each student. Even in LA it is tough to find a studio that is affordable, has classes at a time and place that I can get to, and provides a comfortable environment with instructors that I connect with. The Yoga Place fulfilled all my needs (and having a Groupon didn’t hurt either).

There were many first time students present who were incredibly friendly. In fact, it took me by surprise when several people initiated conversations with me. I’m always a bit shy in these situations and it is a struggle to converse sometimes. I think it will go more smoothly in the future when I am not as overwhelmed by a new studio, new people, new instructor, and new class format. I think my yoga mat may have made people think that I was more experienced than I was, I have a beautiful mat from Devi Yoga that was absolutely amazing. If you are looking for a new mat I recommend you check out their beautiful selection.

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My awesome mat 🙂