Session One: Courage
The Death of Fear
In this first session, we explore Emerson’s powerful teachings on fear, and tools for cultivating courage. “The death of fear is certain” when we feel equal to the challenges before us, he tells us. Knowledge and self-education are critical to neutralizing fear; when you equip yourself with wisdom and insight, and reduce fears to their smallest components, you’re less overwhelmed by obstacles and negative thinking.
Session Two: Intimacy
Love Is the Masterpiece of Nature
Emerson believed that love is the summum bonum of existence, and an opportunity to put Transcendentalism to the test. In this session, we look at how love expands consciousness and transforms our perspective, regardless of the form that love takes. “The love that you withhold is the pain that you carry,” Emerson knew. But how do we open our hearts despite insecurities? Why did Emerson view love as transpersonal, a doorway to the Self beyond personality?
Session Three: Adversity
When It Is Dark Enough, You Can See the Stars
Without hardship, loss, and disillusionment, awakening is not possible, Emerson tells us. “He has seen but half the world who has never been shown the House of Pain,” he wrote. In this third session, we examine the link between darkness and insight, and the spiritual purposes of adversity. When you realize that all suffering belongs to the “exterior life” – and does not touch the soul – you’re able to tolerate struggle and discomfort with more equanimity, and discern the wisdom lessons available in troubling times.
Session Four: Optimism
The Soul Refuses Limits
In this session, Emerson’s views on optimism and hope are the topic of reflection. An ardent believer in ‘cosmic optimism’ – fact-based hopefulness based on nature’s laws of abundance and procreativity – Emerson maintained that pessimism is a luxury we cannot afford in a dangerous world, where self-fulfilling prophecies threaten to negate our best intentions. We learn through imitation, after all. “Don’t waste yourself in rejection, nor bark against the bad, but chant the beauty of the good,” he counseled.
Session Five: Awe
The Proper Emotion is Wonder
Wonder and awe are hard-wired emotions in our human repertoire. Without the ability to feel awe, our lives are severely diminished, Emerson knew, and life loses its beauty and grandeur. “The earth laughs in flowers,” he believed. We must remember to be astonished. In this penultimate session, we explore Emerson’s observations about wonder, and how to bring more reverence, celebration, and gratitude to our precious lives on this miraculous planet. When we pay attention to moment-to-moment experience, he maintains, we awaken to a new way of being.
Session Six: Enlightenment
Coming Home to Yourself
In this final session, our focus is on spiritual awakening, and how Transcendentalism can open you to higher levels of consciousness. Rather than being otherworldly, Emerson’s instructions on enlightenment are grounded, embodied, and eminently simple. He believed that “ecstasy … is a normal state” mostly hidden from view by our overactive, analytical thoughts. When you quiet your mind, and listen to “the whisper only you can hear,” you’re attuned to this expanded frequency and prompt spiritual awareness in your everyday life.