Last month as Nancy Millner neared the end of her boat trip down China's mighty Yangtze River, she learned about the tragedy back home. Throughout the final leg of her journey, numerous Chinese people came up to her to express their sympathy. Says Millner, "In the shops, on the street, and in the airplane, people said, "'The Americans look very sad. We want you to know the whole world is sad with you. Sad and angry.'"
Compassion is what Millner cultivates daily, but she'd like to see it not just in response to calamitous events but to routine events and beliefs as well. In the early '90s, she founded the nonprofit educational organization, The Chrysalis Group; its mission is "supporting people in the art of living lives of meaning, creativity, and compassion." She wanted to provide people with the opportunity to understand and respect different spiritual backgrounds and help with psychological growth. The organization has sponsored a variety of speakers like poet David White and theologian Marcus Borg, as well as numerous workshops, including ongoing practices like dream groups and meditation. It also supports community outreach projects like the outdoor labyrinth on Westwood Avenue.
Counselor, teacher, college administrator, published author, and after years as president of Chrysalis, now its senior advisor, she remains devoted as ever to assisting people in spiritual and psychological development. This weekend, she and Katherine Myers, a leading lecturer on Myers-Briggs personality inventory and founding president of Association for Psychological Type, will offer a talk and workshop, "Spiritual Pathfinding: Many Roads and Common Grounds." The presentation aims to get participants to appreciate diverse spiritual paths and to deepen understanding of their own path. The presentation, part experiential, part lecture, part conversation, will also serve as a benefit to raise money for the organization.
Explains Millner, "I want to talk about the importance of recognizing different paths and how these paths are formed by culture and personality. Every religion is culturally influenced. And they're also influenced by personality structure. Organizations like Chrysalis are a good way to begin this, where we rub up against each other and see if we can live with differences and still find common ground."
Spiritual growth often gets spurred in times of anger, confusion and fear. Says Millner: "In general, we don't find the motivation to search much for anything until we get disturbed or shaken up a bit. It can be something horrendous, like what we experienced recently, or something more gentle." A person's response to a given situation and chosen path is highly individual and personal. She wishes she could offer a quick salve to pain, but confesses, "It's usually a complex issue with no easy answer." One's practice ultimately results from looking closely at one's experiences and tradition
Understanding one another is necessary, she believes, if we're interested in peace. It's imperative to accept other people and their ways. Equally necessary, she counters, is adopting a tough love policy. "We can accept their path, but that doesn't mean accepting some of their behavior. ...It's not easy," she admits. "It's a struggle, but we must all take responsibility for ourselves."
Millner is unreservedly optimistic. "In the final analysis, things will work out." She believes that there's an order to the universe larger than any one person or tradition, and she puts great faith in love, a common factor in all religions. "The bottom line is that the world is really about love. Love wins out over fear, it's its opposite, you know. That's what we must serve. ... I try to understand why people do what they do, what they need, and what is a loving
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