Spirituality is the focus of weekend seminar in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Spirituality is the focus of weekend seminar in Aspen

Amy Meyerson
Special to The Aspen Times

A seminar being held this weekend in Aspen will explore the concepts of contemplation and meditation by comparing and discussing the traditions of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and Buddhism through lectures by world-renowned leaders.

The Spiritual Paths Foundation is sponsoring the workshop this Friday through Saturday. Founded by Ed Bastian 12 years ago, Spiritual Paths helps people in the development of their spirituality through an understanding of the numerous religions prevalent in America.

The Way of Contemplation seminar offers people a weekend during which they can learn about the various spiritual traditions, said Bastion.

“We recognize that because we’re in this very diverse, very pluralistic country, all of us are kind of mutts as individuals,” he said. “We grew up influenced by many different traditions. Our parents are often different religions.

“Oftentimes, we try a church or a synagogue and it doesn’t quite work, we can’t find our answers in a single source. This project takes that as a beginning point and recognizes that we all have our own learning styles and spiritual styles.”

The seminar begins Friday, at 5:30 p.m. at The Aspen Institute. Father Thomas Keating and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf will open the weekend with a talk at the Paepcke Auditorium.

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Keating, a Cisterian monk, is the former Abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey in Massachusetts. He is widely known as a spiritual leader and author on Christian contemplative practice and the relationship between Christianity and other religions.

He currently resides at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass. Keating is interested in the ancient Christian traditions of mysticism, contemplation, meditation and prayer.

Abdul Rauf is the Imam of Masjid al-Farah in New York City. He practices a Sufi tradition of Islam, which emphasizes love and compassion in combination with meditation, as a means of creating a mystical union with the divine.

Feisal founded the ASMA Society in 1997, a nonprofit organization designed to educate and create a union between the American public and American Muslim community. He served as a representative and spokesperson of the American Muslim community after the events of Sept. 11.

On Saturday, Rabbi Rami Shapiro, Swami Atmarupananda and Ajahn Sundara will all give lectures, followed by group discussions and an evening service.

Shapiro is known for his liberal, contemporary position on Judaism in America. He is an award-winning poet and essayist, and directed the Simply Jewish Foundation, an organization rethinking Judaism in the 21st century.

Atmarupanada, the Hindu representative at the seminar, joined the Ramakrishna Order in 1969, and lived in India for seven years. He was trained in India before he returned to the U.S. to found and serve as the resident minister at Vivekanada Retreat in New York.

Sundara, the Buddhist speaker and only female representative at the seminar, was born in France and was ordained in England by Ajahn Sumedho in 1979. Ajahn observes the traditional vows of a Buddhist nun and has trained nuns in England.

The seminar will conclude Sunday at 12:30 p.m. with an interfaith service. Each representative at the conference will read a passage that addresses the issue of contemplation.

“I think this is the first time anything like this has happened here and it is quite a rare event to have so many esteemed spiritual leaders at the same time at the same place and to be performing an interfaith service,” said Bastian.

Bastian hopes that this seminar will be the first of many around the country. He already has plans to coordinate a similar event in Boulder in November.

He considers this weekend’s seminar to be a “celebration of the diversity and pluralism in our country and of what we can learn from each other. The goal is to help each individual person who comes to have an understanding of these traditions and an appreciation and a respect. And, if they wish to use it to develop their own spiritual path, this can also help them recognize the richness in their own tradition.”

The seminar costs $195, but people interested in a particular event can pay for sessions individually. For more information, call 925-7184 or visit the Web site at http://www.spiritualpaths.net.

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