By PAULINE E. REIF, alumna of Writing and Consciousness MFA program
Noor Najafi is a first-year MA student in the Integral Counseling Psychology (ICP) program. Noor, an Afghan American, was born in Florida and raised in the Southeast. He graduated from Emory University in Atlanta in 2011 with high honors and awards that included the Robert Woodruff Scholarship, Emory’s highest merit award. A teacher described him as “not simply passing through, but actually forming and shaping the world he would like to live in.”
When asked how his journey led him to CIIS, he spoke of his desire to bridge his traditional academic career with the integral education that the Institute offers: “I want to be at a place where I’m not only engaging intellectually and academically at a mind level, I want to be somewhere where I’m also engaging myself psychically and exploring my own human issues, challenges, and limitations—unearthing what needs to be unearthed. I was seeking the exploration and cultivation of both mind and heart and of all the places I looked, I perceived CIIS to best accommodate these needs."
From a young age Noor experienced life as a continual learning process that did not begin or end with school. He longed to engage his “whole being,” to dive beneath the surface of the known to explore the spiritual questions of the unknown, “the questions that had plagued humans for eons of existence”—What is truth? What is reality? What are we evolving into? As a part of his spiritual quest, he majored in religion at Emory, which gave him the opportunity to investigate in-depth comparative religions, world religion, and mystical philosophy. Wanting more than the intellectual and theoretical, he carried his exploration out of the classroom into holy shrines, places of worship, various spiritual circles, and mystical lineages where he learned different styles of meditation and gained a respect and appreciation for the different ways in which people communicate and express devotion.
He did not think there was a place for him to combine his academic and spiritual dimensions in an institutional setting until a transpersonal psychologist told him of CIIS. Here he’s found a place that “holds space for the human as an individual with all of their subsets, acknowledging the spiritual dimension, which is so important to human life and existence”; a place where the individual is supported in growth and healing.
Noor’s deep interest in the spiritual dimensions of life and his desire and commitment to alleviate the suffering of others as a therapist and a teacher has grown from his own suffering. He struggled with Crohn’s disease from a young age and was in and out of the hospital during his high school years, using every allopathic medical intervention possible. Western medicine did not offer him the complete healing he longed for that would allow him to be free from drug dependency. He wanted a curative, not palliative, path that went below the surface and addressed him as a whole person: “I’m not just this human being who is suffering with an isolated illness that is somehow separate from my whole existence. All of me has to be addressed, and that begins with my self-exploration. I want to be working and studying with people who address all the dimensions of being, not just one aspect because that, I think, is the most effective solution to deep transformative healing work.”
He knew there had to be another way and so his self-exploration took on new forms. He began to work with a transpersonal psychologist, and this experience opened him up in “a very important way.” He came out when he was in college, an essential step in his authenticity and self-expression. His healing process began in full. Since then he has committed to healing all aspects of himself and devoting his life to “empowering others through healing.”
For Noor, this means using and applying the skills he’s previously developed, along with integrating what he’s now learning. It means he will keep pondering the questions, “How can I help others come home to themselves?” and “How can I come home for myself?” Noor wants to help people enter into a practical and experiential awareness of the “indivisibility of the One life that runs through me, you, and all of existence—the idea of Oneness."
Currently he is trained and certified in movement work, energy work, and alchemical healing work with the goal of becoming a licensed psychotherapist and teacher. He shares these various healing modalities within the CIIS community by offering workshops that align with the goals of helping people to begin to explore their potential for authentic freedom. Through the Student Alliance, Noor currently offers two workshops that meet on a regular basis here on campus:
Expressive Movement Exploration (EME) offers workshops/classes that explore different styles of creative movement and themes relevant to life—both individually and universally, in a safe and sacred container. Through creative inquiry, and by connecting with one’s authentic self-expression, participants are afforded the opportunity to “heal through dance, through embodying their lives, wisdom, visions, hopes, and dreams, their journeys merging together.” The next workshop will be held on Friday, July 13, from 6:30–8:30 pm in Namaste Hall in the CIIS Main Building.
Noor also facilitates a monthly Belvaspata group healing session at CIIS. Belvaspata, which means “Healing of the Heart,” is a sacred healing modality brought through by the seer Almine. His next workshop will be held at CIIS on July 27, from 6:30−8:30 pm, in room 210. For both events and information, RSVP to Noor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
These words from Krishnamurti provide Noor Najafi with a fitting context for his continued educational, spiritual, and embodied journey at CIIS: “the biggest gift we can give to humanity is our own felt realization.” In Noor’s spiritual quest, he is currently studying the teachings of the mystic-teacher Almine. In Noor’s own words, “We teach by example. We teach by expressing our full potential and that’s my commitment. I want to live truth. I want to live in integrity in my life. I can’t say I’m perfect at it but I want to help others discover home, which is what I’m starting to discover.”