Sunday, April 1, 2012

Spiritual Strength - the Richard McHugh SJ way

Tools of the Spirit are an experience. Also subtitled "Pathways to the Realization of Universal Innocence," it is based on a workshop authored by Robert Dilts and Robert McDonald. The original concept is that there are aids, (prayer, meditation, singing, dancing, parables, rituals and blessings), that bring us more in harmony with the "larger Mind" and "the larger nervous system" of which we are a part. The authors see NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), as a tool to achieve those ends. Richard McHugh (Dick) goes further than this. In fact, he brings to fuse his ‘awareness’ paradigm, partly informed by his Vipasana experience under Goenkaji and partly from his days at Sadhana with Tony D’Mello. Dick does not pretend to know what he does not. So he does not go to the koans or Confucian outgrowth from Buddhist thoughts. He merely stresses bodily delight in awareness through meditative postures endured in silences such as that of Vipasana.
Rev. Richard McHugh SJ, PhD, Master of NLP

What Dick does is to reinforce our connection with larger systems of which we are a part. These include family, profession, community, and the global system. When he does so, he is in the least bit eulogizing Christ, and in fact, chastises Christians for not understanding Christ as someone who asked us to love others as we loved ourselves. that is knowing ourselves more deeply. Experiencing fully, without self-judgment, arrogance or suppression of our sexual energy, Dick leads participants through bodily sensation and kinesthetic movement. We begin to know our limits, appreciate our intentions, the strengths and perception of others. We gradually develop the acuity and the receptiveness to experience grace as unmerited mercy. 

Forgiveness, says Dick, is the ability to give with compassion as we would have given before the hurt. This is possible if in a state of awareness, we can dissociate the feeling from the thought of being hurt. Meaning is to be made, such that we are not attached to the feelings that stifle us from the past. Meaning is to be made in the moment. And meaning is made because we receive it. We receive it only when we allow the unconscious to do its work. We do not know exactly how it works, in the classical scientific traditions of explanation. That is the choice of human discretion we have. The more we resist, the more it will persist. The more we accept it, the more we transform ourselves. 

It is quite tempting to give a procedural rundown of the experience. In fact, that is the easier part. Most practical however would be to refer the original book by the Roberts – Macdonald and Dilts. . I would rather surrender to the spirits at work within the confines of dignity and beauty. While the rational in me may seek to find coherence in propositional logic, the nature of the proposition of spirituality is incomplete without intuitive inference and the inter-subjective unity in the experience. Empirical evidence is therefore not a direct perception, but as Hindu mystics augur - an atyadhmik atman at work. The self becomes the observer of the self. Perhaps, that is why the individual needs the community and vice-versa. Perhaps, when emotions help us acknowledge interconnectedness through individuals, we realise companionship as a trustful resource in spiritual journeying.

Expressions here are therefore apparently muted, though they come largely from deep realizations of what Dick gives insights in. It is only to the few therefore that the phenomenon of death will seem remote from spirituality.  There are the modern day equivalent of miracles, that Dick facilitates in participant discovery of themselves. His interpretation of dreams and the near instant therapeutic kinesthetic invitation he provides a clear sign of process at work. The Death towards Love, is Spirituality. Love is a decision, and not a basic emotion. That is the paradox many in psychology and philosophy have tried to unravel. Below are some of my insights at the workshop.

1.   A wish could be a fantasy, alright. A want is more concrete. A wish can challenge the Giver. A want can honor the giver. Ask with care.
2.   In Pain, there's a beauty that that endures, as pain passes over. In Suffering, the attachment endures, as the mind fights Reality.
3.   Wisdom comes from forever and the depths of Eternity, just as Meaning comes from the Moment as a gift of the Present time.
4.   Mercy is a compassion that overrides fear, as in a disregard for conventions so as to be in service of the heart. It leads to spiritual wholeness.
5.   Forgiving is to give as you would have given graciously before the hurt. Understanding is awareness of pointless attachment, unmerited mercy
6.   Spiritual presence is like a cosmic perspective through the awareness that you and I are specs of dust that in turn hold the universe.

As I reflect, there is genuine appreciation of the levels of neurological learning, from the environment, behaviors, capabilities, values,  right to the identity. Robert Dilts adaptation of Gregory Bateson's gift from anthropology is a constant reminder of the great intellectual traditions from California. Tools of the spirit, in fact raises us from our own unconscious to the spiritual vision we have for ourselves. 

However, being in the moment, as in Dick’s workshop; I also saw different levels of intent and their manifestations. There were those stuck in analytical freeze. There were others consumed in unworked anchors like those for the need for recognition, fame and the limelight. Others were making journeys from their gender-based roles and learning to move from their deep to the shallows of feelings between masculinity and femininity. The youthfully unattached were curious of their evolving identity, and those who had worn many a life-battle coming to terms with their unrealized identities. 

Perhaps beyond the realm of the personally deepened visions, most people will remember the visually registered symbols that were in the public domain. e.g. A young priest, a young teacher of chemistry and a seasoned nun seemed to agree in a conspiracy of sorts to make Dick’s image and their association with him an unabashedly exclusive veneration. Much against Dick’s known preference for a non-public image, he was photographed in various angles and postures and striking lines of his utterances imprinted in designer bookmarks. First placed on seats on the last day of the seminar, it was next offered as a commercial package. Before the deal was made public, an elderly mother went from chair to chair collecting every single bookmark for herself. It was like each one had their magic card of poker that could deal no higher wild card on the table of the ones playing the game.

The fixation to personalities abounds in our world. I am reminded of a story narrated by Osho Rajneesh. A painter in his Ashram was told to stop painting breasts of women as he needed to mature. Breasts were a fixation in Rajneesh’s opinion, meant for ‘breakfast’ time in life! So the painter went and revised his approach. He had the figure of Rajneesh in the middle – well pronounced, and around this central figure – breasts and breasts and breasts.

Maturation towards inner development is no cakewalk. It is in this week, I realised Dick’s larger mercy, his coming from the space of Spiritual Wholeness, enmeshing his shadows and self-parenting himself past a bi-polar mother and a very misunderstood father of great spiritual resource….His holding cancer of the prostrate as his bodily guest, and ridding himself of the Jesuit cassock for pyjamas that signified his collapsed anchors with the wisdom of India. That is the Mind with the Heart we know, now already at age 82. His willingness to be the child in using mindful sarcasm and the maturity of drawing out others from their child-like state to experience their evolving adulthood, is testimony to a living example of the theory at work. His scholarly sense comes from the distilled understanding of the phase transition that Gestalt theorists missed in their evolution. In hindsight, he feels that had the Gestalt giants like Fritz Perls lived longer, they would have discovered NLP themselves.

He had to contend with a class size of 69 participants and 3 more on his team at our Bangalore session in the last week of March 2012. The march of technology in our environment makes it difficult for Dick to stress his wants in service of the Heart as he would have done in an alternate life-space. His unmerited mercy is a surrender in which the book-marker threesome would feel victors of a feat proximate to their idea of spiritual glory. The keepers of bookmarks in his name have an image; they would get visual anchors to glean through. 

Hopefully, the books they read would also merit attention. Else, I can assure you that the effect of the workshop is enough to ignore the book for a long long while. As of the first day after the workshop - the imprint I have is such that I would think a 5 day course with a day's break in between each would allow for requisite immersion and integration within the self. It is the experience here that is the intelligence and not the abstracted code of reference as in a machine manual! 

Analytical intelligence is seldom a predictor of spiritual wholeness. Besides, there's no place as spirituality that can celebrate the vitality of death, for its inherent lessons of honor and humility. If you see a man willing to laugh at himself, he has a greater chance of being humble and spiritual. This is even more possible because, each of us is innocent. Each of us can learn. Each of us can experience putting to use our creativity from the depth of our unconscious. Judgment is the end in analysis. It is suspended for learning of our greater ultimate selves.

Joy be with you.


  1. Wonderful encapsulation of our experience.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I am Grateful for this article... It spoke so much about Dick which i share and he is instrumental along with Leo and Steve in helping me unearth my deeper self and transforming myself to be able to be strong from within and deal with an auto immune disorder which gave no hopes of cure from the medical fraternitty... I recovered 75%

  5. Nice of you to express yourself here Shyamala. Glad your reading aligns with your experience of noteworthy mention and Iive testimony. Would you also like to write or publish in service of our understanding in such phenomena?

  6. Shyamala, I just had the fortune of leading someone on The Spiritual Rebirth process today. Every time, we visit the spirit so uniquely, and yet leaves us blessed to the core. If you can write to me at we could set up a meeting for you to share with genuinely interested souls. Or simply write and send me a script if you wish that it be previewed before you publish! Cheers to your health and rejuvenation.

  7. Great post I would like to thank you for the efforts you have made in writing this interesting and knowledgeable article. a course in miracles teacher