Student Profiles

David Johnson

Coming to Naropa

I graduated with a BSc in computer science in 1986. The years following my graduation were spent traveling interspersed with odd jobs. I had a wish to shake my feathers and do something different for a few years. It was during this period that I developed two interests that have shaped my life until now, and eventually brought me to Naropa University and the MA Transpersonal Psychology: Ecopsychology program. These were an adoption of Tibetan Buddhism as the main focus of my spiritual practice and a love of the outdoors, specifically focused on environmental concerns.

On return from my travels I moved into a Tibetan Buddhist community in South Wales. (I am from the United Kingdom.) This was my home for six years, helping in the day-to-day running of the community and some time spent traveling with my teacher.

Towards the end of my time with the community, I bought a plot of land next door to the retreat center on which there was a wooden house in disrepair. At the same time I had become familiar with a Buddhist architect who specialized in ecological projects while he was working on a conversion project at the center. I approached Andrew with the proposal that we build an ecological house. Two years later I moved into the house, which included wood recycled from the original house.

It has been living in this house and the experience of working closely with the environment to produce electricity, hot water, collecting rain water for domestic use, along with getting to know the land on which it is situated, that developed in me an interest in ecopsychology. Not finding anyone local to discuss some of my thoughts with, I typed them into Google?ecopsychology was a common word that came back.

Studying through Naropa seemed like an ideal way to combine academic study with spiritual exploration.

Time at Naropa

I joined Naropa's Ecopsychology program in the summer of 2004. We were the first student group for the Ecopsychology MA program and met in Boulder that summer for an intensive. Aside from the learning that took place during intensives, they were real opportunities to strengthen the community bonds that made the online experience so enjoyable. Logging into online classes each day was like meeting up with friends as opposed to anonymous, virtual names. Each January and June I looked forward to the journey to Boulder to meet up with everyone.

Other highlights of the program included:

  • the Wilderness experience that we took during the summer of 2005; this had been a contributing factor to why I choose the Naropa program
  • the "Waking Up Together" class that we took that summer before going out to the wilderness, exploring the applications of ecopsychology
  • "Deep Ecology in Context" that we took in spring of 2005
  • the practical exercises that were set for us to do through the classes. Even online the experience wasn't a passive process of reading and writing. We engaged in 'Place bonding exercises' and 'Medicine Walks.' Even a spontaneous winter equinox ritual was arranged online
  • the "World Wisdom" class that I took as my final elective.

Master's Paper

My master's paper was entitled, "The Spiritual Basis of Ecopsychology." I used the opportunity of having to write a paper to explore the very subject that had brought me to Naropa in the first place. Choosing a subject about which you have a strong interest, makes the writing experience so much more rewarding?and makes it easier when the going gets tough.

Service-Learning Placement

My service-learning placement was made up of three main elements. During my time at Naropa I became very interested in the work of Joanna Macy, and attended a week-long retreat with her in the U.K. in the spring of 2005; this retreat actually became part of an independent study that I set up while at Naropa. Her work informed the underlying basis for my placement. Along with another student in the Ecopsychology program, we ran some workshops in Calgary, culminating in a successful weekend retreat.

In the U.K., I helped set up a website that acts as a resource for work based in Macy's vision, as well as a local ecopsychology group that meets monthly and which is also informed by Macy's work.

The Future

I graduated from the MA Transpersonal Psychology: Ecopsychology program in the summer of 2006. In the short term I shall be co-facilitating some more workshops based on Joanna Macy's work this coming October in Calgary. I have no longer term plans at the moment, though I am considering taking my education further. My time at Naropa has been a rich learning and growing experience, which has and will open new doors for me.
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