Living the Real Life
By Tandy Martin

 

 

Karen Blomberg is an Associate Pastor at a flagship Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Virginia and she has a passion. She and her business partner, Deva Money, have spent three years developing a series of spiritual exercises called “Authenticity”. These exercises incorporate practices from different disciplines such as energy work, coaching, self-realization, neuro-linguistic programming, shamanism, and movement techniques.

They include spoken word, movement, sound, and focus (i.e. statements of intent, and definition of desires). Most importantly they allow people to come to a more profound way of relating to themselves, the world, and the divine. The practice is experiential rather than intellectual.

OK what is so interesting about that? After all the last 20 or 30 years have brought an explosion of both physical and metaphysical practices and many combinations of the two, with hordes of people leaving conventional religion for seemingly more expanded and less corrupt, patriarchal belief systems.

As a spiritual observer myself, I have spent considerable time wondering what is going to happen to organized religion. Will it last, and if so, in what form? And what about the next generation?  Church membership is dwindling, and churches are scrambling, trying to change with the times.

Here is what I think is fascinating. Karen believes that the “Authenticity” movement is not Christo-centric. It can be brought to churches or be implemented under the umbrella of any belief system. She observes that these practices hold up and are beneficial to everyone. They expand and augment conventional religious practices, or in fact, no religious practice at all.

I personally relate it to something I observed indigenous healers doing in Peru... they laid a mantle of Catholicism over their own beliefs, and somehow ended up with the best of both worlds, i.e. making a fire, lining up these three rocks, arranging carnations, sprinkling Agua de Florida, and then calling Jesus. Works for me.

Karen’s spiritual awakening began when she was hospitalized with severe ulcerative colitis in high school. While she was there she had a vision in the hospital chapel and felt the presence of God in a completely new way.

After graduation she attended a fairly evangelical Christian College, then went to work at a Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis which was in partnership with a non-denominational group for kids called “Young Life”, funded by a Lilly endowment. Young Life arranged activities for the kids, and gave them a nurturing place to hang out and be together. Young Life would encourage the kids to get back to church,  but the kids often liked Young Life more than their own churches. Young Life was so successful that Karen was paid to figure out what churches could learn from it. “In a way” she states “I have come full circle to what Lilly was trying to do years ago. In fact I am currently seeking funding from the Lilly foundation to bring the ‘Authenticity Series’ to churches by training pastors and lay leaders.”

The church in Indianapolis had a counseling center on the fourth floor, and by the time Karen went to seminary she was already beginning to form ideas of an integration of mental health and spiritual practices. Later at St. Elizabeth’s hospital as an intern, she became acquainted up-close-and-personal with serious mental illness and addiction issues and the roles of various healing therapies: music, art, psycho-drama, and conversations about spiritual life.

She earned a Masters in Counseling, then relocated to Washington D.C. to study at the Institute of Psychotherapy where she opened her own practice.

Karen says her consciousness was further expanded by her involvement in the Newfield Network Coaching Program which increased awareness of her own potential and gave her more tools. “It gave me a language to express what I had been trying to do in the church for all these years and that is to bring people to a place of awareness of their own contact with God, their own divinity, their own authenticity, whatever you want to call it, in ways that were not available to them before. I was embracing, and do embrace different models of looking at the world and different models of relationship with the divine.”

Somewhere in all of this,  she visited Sedona, and it was there that she had a visceral energetic experience where she felt the presence of something both inside and outside of herself that was beyond description… that allowed the presence of the divine to enter into her life in more dynamic ways. She learned meditation and a deepening prayer life, and began to look at the world in terms of energy.

Karen and Deva started working together in 2003. They led a church retreat for pastors, and noticed a yearning for a more expanded view of what they were presenting. As Karen says, “The conversation I began to have with myself is that there are so many dynamics in the church preventing us from revealing who we really are. There often is not room for bringing to the conversation those parts of ourselves that we feel will be rejected by the institution. To me, that means we are not being authentic as a church community. Part of the critical mass of this evolution is that we need to make space to provide for this conversation.”

As they developed the ‘Authenticity Series’, they began teaching it to their clients who began to transform quickly and deeply in spite of having a variety of religious beliefs and practices.

“Why didn’t we learn this before?” they asked, or “Why don’t we talk about this in my church?  It has helped me understand more about who I am and who God is?”  So Karen developed the idea of presenting ‘Authenticity’ in mainline churches, and possibly schools.

The ‘Authenticity Series’ is composed of 7 six-week sessions: Authenticity (relating to self, others and God), Compassion (Learning Compassion for self and others), Abundance (Creating and Celebrating the Fullness of the Present Moment), Archetypes (Weaving Our Arcehtypal Tapestry), Callings (Hearing and Heeding Our Calls), Surrender (Resting in Spirit & Living the Paradox of Responsibility), and Companionship (Creating Community & Paths of Service).

For more information, contact bergpcs@aol.com  or tandysue@comcast.net


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