For many years I have been studying the nature of worldview transformations. How do we change our minds? What actions do we need to take to make fundamental shifts in how we experience ourselves and the world? How can we shift our view of death in order to live life more fully?
Over the past two decades I had the privilege to work with a team of researchers through the Institute of Noetic Sciences to study the nature of individual and social transformation. We published our results in Living Deeply: The Art and Science of Transformation in Everyday Life (Schlitz, Vieten, and Amorok, 2007).
One of the most beloved teachers with whom we interviewed was Angeles Arrien, a soulful woman with great wisdom, insight, warmth, and dedication to the dharma. She died on Thursday afternoon, April 24, 2014. In remembering Angie, I bow to her great insights about transformation and her boundless expression of love. For her, death represents an essential aspect of life. It is not something to be feared or resisted. She explained her own perspective in an interview in 2002:
I really trust the mystery. I trust what comes in silence and what comes in nature where there’s no diversion…There’s a tendency to want to be other than where I am, rather than to face that and to trust that I am on schedule and that this is what I’m learning.
For Arrien, it was important to stay present to what is so, rather than to grasp for what we want things to be like. She explained that people can get developmentally arrested in their growth if they get stuck in a certain stage of development. We need to live life without putting up what she called self-imposed boulders that make it harder to accept life just as it is. She did not want a memorial; it was simply her time to go beyond her embodiment.
In order to help people come to terms with life and death, Arrien recorded two transformative practices or tools for helping people move through the various stages of life. These are included in a DVD on transformative practices entitled Living Deeply: Transformative Practices for the World’s Wisdom Traditions (Schlitz, Amorok, and Vieten, 2007).
In the video below, Angeles offered perennial wisdom from two traditions that she knew and trusted. First she drew on the philosopher, Spinoza, who asked each of us to consider each day what has meaning or fire for you? From the wisdom of Spinoza, Arrien reminded us to ask ourselves three questions everyday:
Question 1: What made me happy today? Not who, but what made me happy?
Question 2: Where did I experience comfort and balance today?
Question 3: Who are what inspired me today?
Arrien also shared her insights about the Blessing Way, drawn from her love of native American traditions. From this she offers three qualities that we may draw on everyday.
Action 1: Set sacred intention everyday.
Action 2: Give gratitude everyday.
Action 3: Take a life affirming action everyday.
As I reflect on my friendship with Angeles, I will continue to draw on her wisdom and insight. May her spirit soar into planes of understanding that are filled with inspiration and appreciation. With deep affection and boundless love for this gentle woman, I share with you two brief teachings from Angeles Arrien.