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Spiritual Exploration

The Spiritual Exploration Committee of the Board of Deacons provides educational and spiritual opportunities for Plymouth members and friends in the areas of Bible study, spiritual growth, contemporary theology and interfaith dialogue.

Fall 2015

Updated Aug. 18, 2015.

Finding Your Way Home
The Enneagram: Passions and Virtues

Monday evenings in October (5, 12, 19, 26), 7:00–8:30 p.m., Room 205, $50. Register here.

This class is about returning to and reclaiming the essence qualities that we were born with and have never left us. It focuses on how to live from “awareness, presence and joy.” The Enneagram map unlocks great wisdom and guides us in moving beyond our personality. We will explore the nine passions, the ego-driven emotional states that can dominate our lives, such as fear, anger and pride. Discovering and recognizing the passions in an experiential way can lead us to what lies beyond the personality itself. As we do this, the virtues, which include serenity, courage and humility, naturally arise to support our transformation. The virtues that live in each of us replace the compulsive and reactive patterns of the passions, and we become freer of the ego. This moving from our passions to our virtues is one of the hallmarks of inner development and transformation. This series is for all seekers who want to gain deeper access to the full dimensionality of who and what they are. We will learn practices and tools to open our hearts and ourselves to the beautiful and generous virtues we each contain.

The classes will include learning new Enneagram information, experiential exercises, specific practices for each type, panels, support, insight and much laughter. Please attend and bring a friend.

Anne Muree is an Enneagram educator and transformational coach. She’s a master teacher with 40 years of experience in facilitating adult groups. Anne has studied and used the Enneagram for 30 years and has taught it to tens of thousands of people. Anne is certified to teach the Enneagram by the major schools in the United States and has studied extensively with Claudio Naranjo. She founded the Minnesota Chapter of the International Enneagram Association and has served on its board for 15 years. Anne provides a safe, supportive, fun atmosphere in her classes.

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R-rated Stories in the Bible

Thursday, Oct. 22, 10 a.m.–noon, repeats 7–9 p.m.; no fee. Fireside Room. Register here.

Sunday School stories are G-rated versions of the Bible. We will explore familiar and unfamiliar stories from the Bible—without censorship. We’ll explore questions such as: Who were the women with one baby between them who came to Solomon? What son of Jacob impregnated his widowed daughter-in-law, whose child was an ancestor of Joseph, Jesus’ father? Why did Abraham have Sarah pose as his sister? Who were Abraham’s sons with his second wife and why are they significant? Why did Esau marry his Uncle Ishmael’s daughter? What are the stories of the Levite’s concubine, Dinah, who was Jacob’s daughter, Jephthah’s daughter, Amnon and Tamar and others we never heard about in Sunday school? What about Samson and Delilah and David and Bathsheba? Soap operas have nothing on the Bible.

The Rev. Mary Kay Sauter is a retired UCC pastor.

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Awakening Compassion through Communication: An introduction to Nonviolent Communication

Saturday, Oct. 24, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. (lunch on your own); $75. Fireside Room. Register here.
Yvette Erasmus

Our cultural conditioning often teaches us that we can either be kind in our interactions with others, or honest, but very seldom can be both. We struggle internally between being “nice” or being “honest,” struggling to find ways of being authentic while sustaining goodwill and relationships. The practices of nonviolent compassionate communication invite us to integrate honesty with kindness, enabling us to fully speak our truths in ways that are kind and effective, honoring all parties and supporting collaboration and intimacy. Join us to learn more!.

Workshop facilitator Yvette Erasmus, Psy.D., has experience teaching Compassionate Communication at the Yvette ErasmusAslan Institute and leading preschool children, teachers, parents and prison inmates to a more spiritually centered communication model.

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Book Study: The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-Free Living

Thursdays Oct. 29, Nov. 5, 12, 19 at 10:30 a.m.–noon and 7:00–8:30 p.m.; no fee. Room 205. Register here.

“Your brain and mind work very hard to keep you stressed.” The goal of Amit Sood’s book is to offer simple solutions for complex problems and share principles-based skills that are applicable to most life situations. This book taps into the wisdom of philosophers and sages as well as advances in science, particularly neuroscience and psychology. Join us for an engaging discussion as we seek to live stress-free!

Rev. Dr. Paula Northwood is a minister at Plymouth Church who is always striving for balance.


Cultivating Deep Personal Peace: A deepening training in the practice of Nonviolent Compassionate Communication

Saturday, Nov. 7, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. (lunch on your own); $75. Fireside Room. Register here.
Yvette Erasmus

True nonviolent compassionate communication is not a list of speech tactics, but instead lies in the spirit behind our words. We may ask: Were my words, thoughts or actions intended to harm or alienate another? Were they done out of fear instead of courage? Did I strive to maintain the dignity of all parties involved?

These questions require self-knowledge, a lot of deep introspection and the cultivation of humility and transparency to admit when we’ve acted imperfectly and out of congruence with our own values. Join us to practice directing our attention below the surface to what’s really going on inside our hearts, minds and spirits.

Workshop facilitator Yvette Erasmus, Psy.D., has experience teaching Compassionate Communication at the Yvette ErasmusAslan Institute and leading preschool children, teachers, parents and prison inmates to a more spiritually centered communication model.


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Staying Sharp: 9 Keys for a Youthful Brain through Modern Science and Ageless Wisdom

Saturday, Nov. 14, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. (lunch on your own); $100. Jackman. Register here.
Henry Emmons & David Alter

Whatever your current age, you are probably interested in this essential question: “How do I best care for my brain as I age?” Integrating ageless wisdom with modern neuroscience, the Staying Sharp program teaches you how to preserve the youthful vigor of your brain. In this engaging workshop, we will explore cutting-edge information about brain health coupled with accessible practices that support a resilient brain, a vibrant mind and an awakened heart. Through guided exercises, personal reflection and group discussion, the retreat focuses on 9 Keys to a youthful brain from Staying Sharp, the new book by Drs. Emmons and Alter. Learn to put these keys into practice and enliven the second half of your life.

Henry Emmons, M.D., is a psychiatrist who integrates mind-body and natural therapies, mindfulness and compassion practices into his clinical work with Partners in Resilience. He is also the author of The Chemistry of Joy and The Chemistry of Calm, and is a popular workshop and retreat leader for healthcare professionals and the general public.

David Alter, Ph.D., is a psychologist with 30 years’ experience in health psychology, neuropsychology and clinical hypnosis, which he integrates in his work. He is also a sought-after speaker, teacher and trainer offering talks, workshops, and retreats to general and professional audiences. He is a cofounder of Partners in Healing, a center for holistic health in Minneapolis.

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The Rebirthing of God: Experiencing the Mystical

Saturday, Nov. 21, 9 a.m.–noon; no fee. Fireside. Register here.
David Astin & Catherine Crooks

Through the writings of John Phillip Newell, the nature photography of Plymouth member David Astin and the passion for all things Celtic of our Minister Cathie Crooks, this workshop will explore the sacredness of being.
In his introduction to The Rebirthing of God, Newell writes:

The Rebirthing of God is a radical reemergence of the Divine from deep within us. We do not have to create it. We cannot create it. But we can let it spring forth and be reborn in our lives. We can be part of midwifing new holy births in the world. . . .

Cathie and David hope that you will join them for a morning of beauty, affirmation and grace as we explore together the sacredness of being in word, image, music and worship.

David Astin is a Plymouth member on a journey. His deeply felt connections to Nature make photography a part of his spiritual practice, and make him feel at peace with Celtic traditions and thought. His presentation, Learning to See Nature as a Spiritual Practice, and his spiritual practice are deeply connected to the teachings of early Celtic monks, as well as those of John Phillip Newell.

Catherine Crooks is a Plymouth minister whose first pastorate 25 years ago was on the north shore of Nova Scotia in eastern Canada. Both of her grandfathers, Crooks and MacLean, hailed from Scotland. The works of J. Phillip Newell speak to her Celtic roots and stir her Celtic heart.


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Download PDF for fall 2015 Spiritual Exploration programs.

Please register for those programs that require it.

Keep in touch: To receive regular email notices about these opportunities, send an email with "Spiritual Exploration" or "Adult Learning" in the subject line.

At a on the title for details or to register.

Finding Your Way Home: The Enneagram—Passions and Virtues

R-rated Stories in the Bible

Awakening Compassion through Communication: An introduction

Book Study: The Mayo Clinic Guide to Stress-free Living

Cultivating Deep Personal Peace: A deepening training in Nonviolent Compassionate Communication

Staying Sharp: 9 Keys for a Youthful Brain through Modern Science and Ageless Wisdom

The Rebirthing of God: Experiencing the Mystical



Compassionate Communication weekly sessions


PlymouthSpirit blog: Explore spirituality from
your laptop or home computer


Meditation 9:30 a.m., Sundays, Fireside Room. Diane Boruff, Dawn Hofstrand and E. J. Kelley lead.

In silence we come to know and live from the Divine Mystery within us. Join this ancient spiritual practice which includes three parts: opening meditation, walking meditation, closing meditation. No experience is necessary and everyone is welcome!

Meditation is a method and discipline designed to promote contemplative prayer. Each Sunday, there will be helpful instruction and then we will pray in silence. After the prayer, there will be time for discussion. This ancient Christian spiritual practice of meditation allows us to draw closer to God and to know God in daily life. In this age of media overload and busyness, it is transforming to add the joy of silent prayer to daily life. Today mediation is widely recommended by doctors to promote mental health and well-being. With modern machines, neuroscientists can now document the beneficial changes in brain activity and body functions such as blood pressure that occur during meditation. Science is now catching up to the knowledge that the mystics have experienced for ages. While in the prayer one goes inward in silence, the “fruits” or blessings of the prayer are revealed in daily life. Praying in silence with a group deepens the experience and adds a dimension of community. Having come to deep interior silence, one goes out into the world to serve in love. All are welcome to join in silent prayer.

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Compassionate Communication weekly sessions

Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.
—Chogyam Trungpa, Shambala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior

I was watching a group of women interacting with a new baby recently, and heard the repeated comment, "What a good baby!" In the culture I was raised in, this usually means that the baby doesn't cry much, doesn't fuss, doesn't interrupt adults getting their needs met, and this got me thinking about how early on our training to not value, honor or be aware of our needs begins.  Our training out of being vulnerable begins very early in our lives. 

Embracing vulnerability involves changing our relationship with fear. It involves developing the capacity to sit with discomfort and disease, to tolerate ambiguity and complexity and to remain kind and gentle with ourselves and others, while simultaneously deeply and relentlessly truthful. The skills developed through the practice of nonviolent/compassionate communication have helped me learn to sit with difficult emotions, to approach myself and others with compassion and understanding, and to connect to the human needs underlying all human actions. —Yvette Erasmus

Companionate Communication Weekly Psycho-Educational Practice Group
Wednesday mornings 10 a.m.–noon, starting Sept. 3. Fireside Room
Yvette Erasmus, PsyD . $10–$20 requested per session. No registration needed.

All levels of experience and interest are welcome at the practice, but a basic understanding of the Nonviolent Communication Framework taught by Marshall Rosenberg will be very helpful to you. 

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Ben Lee

Every Wednesday except holidays,
6:45-8:00 p.m., One Groveland

Beginning Yoga: Have you ever wanted to touch your toes? Do you often feel tension in your neck or shoulders? Ever wonder what yoga is all about? This fun and exciting class will leave you feeling stronger, calmer and more flexible.

Each class begins with gentle movements designed to enhance body and breath awareness, then moves into traditional yoga poses that create strength, energy and flexibility while at the same time supporting the development of a perfect balance between body and mind. Class ends with a guided relaxation to strengthen your immune system and leave you feeling light and refreshed.

This invigorating class is open to all levels and is set in a safe and supportive environment. No experience necessary. Just wear comfortable clothing and enjoy.

Ben LeeAbout the instructor: Ben's been studying and practicing yoga since 1994 and teaching since 2001. He brings his knowledge of anatomy and a thoughtful approach to individual differences to each class. Ben’s class combines postures and sequences from various styles of yoga that emphasize strength, energy, balance and deep relaxation.

Cost: $10 per session (no pre-registration)

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Explore Spirituality from Your
Laptop or Home Computer

Plymouth’s Spiritual Enrichment Committee hosts a web-based discussion forum that invites your participation. Each week, one of our clergy posts the liturgical reading for the next week’s worship and offers questions for discussion. We encourage members to share their own reflections on the website. It’s free, convenient and another means of rich, meaningful spiritual experience we so deeply enjoy at Plymouth. Go to

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