by Barbara Sherf
How do we find compassion and profound understanding in difficult times? Is it even possible?
Marcy Vaughn and Gabriel Rocco, co-founders of Contemplative Arts in Bryn Mawr, will explore those questions and more during a talk at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 22 E. Chestnut Hill Ave., on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2 p.m.
The program is hosted by the Center for Contemporary Mysticism, a member-supported community committed to enriching the human experience through a better understanding of the spiritual and mystical dimensions of life.
Last week Rocco gave us a preview of their upcoming talk. “We will discuss ways in which one can depart from our attachments to the ego. We teach about the three doorways, allowing a practitioner to connect to the inner refuge of spaciousness, being present and aware in the moment and connected to the dynamic flow of warmth, love and compassion.”
Rocco’s contemplative journey began at age 7 when he had an experience before bed following a Sunday school session with Catholic nuns. The class had been told that if you died with the tiniest black dot on your soul, you would go to hell and experience an everlasting fire.
“That freaked me out, and that night as I was lying in bed saying to myself that means forever and forever, I was repeating that like a mantra. But then I connected to something vast, an open space that was not frightening but very welcoming,” said Rocco, who tried to explain the experience to his parents but chose not to share it with anyone else as a child.
Rocco continued searching for meaning when he went to Boulder, Colorado, to explore becoming a “body worker” and go to massage school when he stumbled upon Naropa Institute (now Naropa University). He was welcomed in and introduced to Vaughn, a graduate of Naropa who worked in the admissions department, and he signed up. Rocco returned to the home of friends, who asked if he had made it to the massage school.
“No, but I pretty much think I found the woman I plan to marry,” Rocco chuckled, noting that he and Vaughn will be married 34 years next month. “Our marriage and raising our son is pretty much my greatest life accomplishment,” he said.
“Raising him in a Quaker setting was very important because we felt like sitting in Meeting was similar to the meditation work we were doing. He is now a gaming industry software engineer in San Francisco, interested in creating some contemplative games.”
A graduate of Naropa, Rocco created the non-profit Life Support Group and served for 18 years as a mind/body/health specialist at Philadelphia’s Cancer Support Community and over a decade as an instructor with the Penn Program for Mindfulness.
Vaughn’s journey began in the early ’70s, practicing Buddhist methods of mind training while studying psychology at the University of Connecticut. She continued to become aware of the power of meditation while earning a Masters Degree in contemplative psychology at Naropa University.
What does Rocco say to people who say they don’t have time to meditate? “I’ve had many people say that over the years, so I usually ask if they want to practice. No matter how hectic your life is, if you are living a life where you can’t find time for kind and compassionate care for yourself, then you have to question how you are living,” Rocco replied.
At Contemplative Arts, Rocco and Vaughn offer programs and classes on mindfulness, meditation, contemplative mentoring, living with cancer, imagery and healing. More information at www.contemplative-arts.com.
The October program hosted by the Center for Contemporary Mysticism at St. Paul’s Parish Hall will be on Sunday, Oct. 8, 2 p.m., on evolutionary astrology with Christiane Meunier. More information at www.contemporarymysticism.org.
Flourtown resident Barbara Sherf wears many hats: storyteller, author, personal historian, publicist, free hugger and evolving human being. She can be reached at www.CommunicationsPro.com or 215-990-9317.