"Spiritual, Not Religious"
A collaborative and community-based effort, the Center for Spiritual Life (CSL) grew and evolved from a series of conversations between Roger Morimoto, the pastor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Palo Alto, CA; Brynn Saito, a poet, educator, and former scholar of religious cultures and movements; and their respective spiritual and artistic communities. As more Americans identify as "spiritual but not religious" and as more people seek out forms of healing, discovery, and community outside of the formal institution of the American church, the question of what comprises a spiritual life? becomes an increasingly relevant, transdisciplinary, and creative line of inquiry.
Though CSL collaborates closely with Aldersgate United Methodist Church (AUMC)—a 105-year-old progressive Japanese American Christian community—it moves beyond the framework of the church to expand the definition of a spiritual life. From Reiki—the traditional Japanese art of somatic healing—to artistic expression, science, self-understanding and metaphysical inquiries, CSL values and supports myriad modes of spiritual inspiration, and acts as a forum for connecting and conversing with others engaged in cultivating an innovative spiritual existence.
CSL’s mission, vision, and programs developed over the course of 2013-2014, through a series of rich conversations between Roger Morimoto, Brynn Saito, members of AUMC, AUMC’s young adult group, members of the local Buddhist community, and many more. In that sense, CSL is truly community-based—it’s an organization founded in response to the needs, questions, and passions of local healers, artists, believers, doubters, scientists, organizers, and educators.
All of us involved with CSL are invested in making a space for many formative lines of inquiry: What makes a meaningful life? How does one practice and put into action a meaningful, spiritual existence? How can one fully engage with the aliveness, the mystery, and the complexity of the present moment? In that sense, the everyday praxis—action and reflection—involved with cultivating an engaged spiritual life is one of the core focus points of CSL.
"Other Words, Other Worlds": Launching the Center for Spiritual Life
In January, 2015, we celebrated the launch and opening of the Center for Spiritual Life with an intergenerational poetry and story-telling event called "Other Words, Other Worlds." Award-winning Bay Area poets, Brian Komei Dempster and Mia Ayumi Malhotra joined CSL Director, Brynn Saito, in sharing poetry’s capacity for summoning histories of struggle, trauma, and survival that continue to act upon and activate the present and the future. In preparation for February's "Day of Remembrance"—which commemorates the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II—Aldersgate and CSL community members shared stories, memories, and objects collected from the camp years. A slideshow of images from the day's event is presented below.
Director of CSL: Brynn Saito
Assistant to the Director: Lauren Morimoto
Directors of Healing Arts and Reiki: Joy Nakamura, Ben Hashiba, and Terry Shimizu
Directors of Creative Expression: Sekayi Edwards and Brynn Saito
Director of Enneagram Studies: Matt Schlegel
Directors of Science and Spirituality: Luke Konno and Roger Morimoto
Directors of Other Worlds: Roger Morimoto
Director of Tabemasho: Lyn Ishizaki-Brown