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living circles and empty hands

the story of a methodological revelation

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I was sitting in front of a blank computer screen trying to write the methodology chapter of the Mini-Proposal for my dissertation: "The Experience of Seeking, Receiving, and Following Divine Guidance." The little black cursor was impatiently flashing on the white computer page. I turned the computer off and did a guidance meditation. An inner voice whispered "Come to me with empty hands." During the next few days I repeatedly received messages on emptiness and surrender as I randomly opened the spiritual texts of "A Course in Miracles," "The Daily Word" of the Unity Church, and the Kabbalah. The inner voice urged me to let go of everything, even my intention of writing a dissertation. I finally got the message and let go. Suddenly, the methodology chapter started to flow out of me and I wrote it in a few days. The plan was a statement of my intention while establishing that the essential nature of the topic required a continually unfolding and open approach.

I entered the proposal phase of the dissertation assured that I could continue to work with a structured methodological plan while keeping open to the process. Within a matter of weeks I found myself caught in the clutches of anxiety as I became increasingly aware that I was ‘off schedule.’ Even though my schedule and deadlines where created as estimates, they subtly played on my consciousness. Just saying the word deadline was enough to churn my stomach. Once again, I asked for guidance while meditating. I received a stream of images and ideas that released my inner tension. The inner voice told me that "deadlines kill the present moment and flatten reality into a linear prison." The image of my linear schedule expanded into interweaving multidimensional circles. Each research phase was a circle that seemed to emerge out of the previous one while feeding the next. At the same time, the phases extended throughout the whole process, surfacing and submerging when needed. The word ‘deadline’ was transformed into the phrase ‘living circles.’

This inner guidance sent me into a deep altered state that I can only describe as a methodological revelation. It became clear to me that I needed to create an ‘empty hands’ and ‘living circles’ methodology. This methodology would establish an initial method of seeking guidance for the project at various steps along the way. The design for each phase would emerge out of the previous stage using input from inner guidance and outer cues from the external environment. These external environmental cues would come from a variety of sources including co-researchers, literature, media, and synchronistic events. A method of discernment would be developed to direct the research based on these internal and external cues.

This whole experience reflects the Chthonic process referred to in Organic Research (Clements, Ettling, Jenett, & Shields, 1998). This mysterious, natural, and organic process of growth that binds together the soil, seed, roots, trunk, branches, and fruits of the ‘organic research tree.’ All our intentions, plans, designs, and methods wither in the shadow of this profound and glorious force that brings all things out of emptiness and into wholeness . . . and into emptiness again...



Clements, J., Ettling, D., Jenett, D., & Shields, L. (1998). Organic research: Feminine spirituality meets transpersonal research. In W.G. Braud & R. Anderson (Eds.), Transpersonal research methods for the social sciences (pp. 114-127). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishing.


Published in Dissertation Express, Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, Palo Alto, California,
Volume 5, Number 1, Fall 1997.



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