The Theosophical Society in America

Presidents Diary

Printed in the Summer 2013 issue of Quest magazine. 
Citation: Boyd, Tim,
"Presidents Diary" Quest  101. 3 (Summer 2013): pg.114 -115.

Tim BoydAt the end of January, after I had returned from  travels to Adyar and New York, it was off to Krotona for the annual Partners in Theosophy program. Each year I find myself refreshing our read­ers' memory about this exceptional ongoing program. It started back in 2009 "to interest, support, and guide both new and seasoned Theosophists who wish to develop or strengthen skills that will enhance the pre­sentation of Theosophy." Every year since, the partners (members from around the country who are paired with one or two mentors) have met at Krotona for one week in January. The week's events involve a program by some of our prominent longtime members. Past years have been presented by Nelda Samarel, Joy Mills, Robert Ellwood, Maria Parisen, and Vic Hao Chin from the Philippines. Partners also present the various projects they are engaged in.

For the second year in a row we were fortunate to have Vic Hao Chin do the week-long program. Last year the focus was "Mainstreaming Theosophy." This year was quite special. For some time now a number of us here in the U.S. have been prevailing on Vic not only to present his highly successful Self-Transformation Semi­nar (STS) but also to train some of our members to be STS facilitators. The STS was developed over a number of years by Vic and his coworkers in the Philippines. It began as an effort to address the gap between the lofty ideals of Theosophy and the way we actually live our lives. There was a sense that in order to make the deep teachings real for us, there needed to be a means of addressing the common experiences of anxiety, fear, anger, frustration, resentment, relationship issues, and the host of other personal "push buttons" that form the greatest obstacles to a genuine spiritual life. A pam­phlet about the seminar describes it this way: "The Self-Transformation Process is a self-learning process of character-building and spiritual growth. It has been designed to empower the individual to gain mastery over the factors that contribute to human fulfillment and happiness. These are essential for effectiveness in our personal life, family and whatever profession that we engage in . . . The seminar uses experiential meth­ods and processes that allow the participant to learn by doing."

Since its early days, the STS has grown into a highly successful training process that thousands of individu­als and numerous organizations have gone through. Examples of organizations in the Philippines that have sought out and come to value the program are vari­ous police departments, national military and politi­cal organizations, youth groups, and Catholic schools and universities. It was the program's success with young people that inspired the founding of the Golden Link School (now Golden Link College) by Vic and his coworkers.

The facilitators' training lasted five days after the end of the Partners program. This winter we will be doing a weekend program at Olcott to train people in using the STS tools. We will also be presenting the seminar in other places around the country Keep an eye out for it. I feel it is an extremely valuable tool that would enable anyone to live a more fulfilling life.

While at Krotona, I had been invited to speak at the TS Ojai Valley branch, which meets at the Krotona School of Theosophy. It was (for me at least) a thor­oughly enjoyable evening talking to a packed house of old friends, family who came up from Los Angeles, and a complement of folks I was meeting for the first time.

During my absence from our national center, we hosted an artist's reception for Joma Sipe, whose work is featured in a recent Quest Books release Soul of Light. It was a fine affair, on a level with those of the excellent art galleries in neighboring Chicago. There was music by our "house band," Into the Real, featuring our staff members, the talented and beautiful Juliana Cesano, and the equally talented, slightly less beautiful Dan Smolla. There were hors d'oeuvres, an interview with the artist, a raffle, all in the midst of the wonderful artwork in our Olcott Gallery.

During February, we normally have one of our two annual meetings of the national board of direc­tors. This year was no exception. For three and a half days our directors gathered from around the country, along with John Kern, adviser to The Kern Founda­tion, and national treasurer Floyd Kettering. One task of this meeting was to replace one of our Central Dis­trict directors. Doris Swalec, from the Detroit area, has served on the board for two years. Recently she and her husband have moved to Tucson, Arizona. The way our bylaws work, directors are required to live in the district from which they are elected. The board selected Jo Schneider of Covington, Louisiana, to replace Doris for the remainder of her term. Jo has been a member of the TSA for fourteen years, and has been active in lodge work and in the Theosophical Order of Service (TOS). Doris will be missed, but I feel fortunate that the TSA has such capable members as Jo waiting in the wings.

In March I was invited to participate on a panel at a local chapter of the Institute of Noetic Sciences (IONS). There were six of us, a fascinating and inspiring group drawn from a number of traditions. There was a rep­resentative from the Ethical Humanist Society, a rabbi, a minister from a very active Chicago New Thought church, a Catholic layperson, a Buddhist psychothera­pist from the Shambhala tradition, and me represent­ing Theosophy. We had been asked to speak to the question, "What does 'waking up' mean in your tra­dition?" Around forty people attended. I first became acquainted with the organizer of the event, Ruthie Lan­dis, when I had spoken at a large event in Chicago this past November.

Later in the month the teachers and kids from the Prairie School of DuPage came into my office for a visit. They had scheduled an appointment the week before, saying that the kids had something they wanted to ask me. Just to remind you, the Prairie School has been oper­ating on our campus since January 2012. Their stated mission is "to educate and inspire the whole child, and to prepare each student for a life of discovery by culti­vating a strong sense of self, compassion and respect for others, and a deep connection with the natural world." A great deal of the school's focus is on understanding and connecting with nature. Every day the kids are out playing, exploring, and examining the flora and fauna of our forty-two-acre estate. There is a surprising num­ber of animal species living in and around our suburban campus. It has gotten to the point that any time I need to know something about the coyotes, skunks, deer, rac­coons, hawks, owls, and other creatures that share our space, I ask one of the kids. Invariably they can tell me its name, habits, where I can look to see it, where they last saw it, etc.

When the time for the appointment arrived, the kids and two of the teachers came to the outer office and checked in with Elvira, my secretary, who was expect­ing them. She announced them and ushered them into my office. We were making every effort to make a big deal out of their visit. I was sifting behind my desk. The kids, age six to eleven, lined up in front of me. They had organized their presentation so that it was presented n waves of two. The first two students told me why they were there. They wanted to ask if I would allow them to plant a bird and butterfly garden just outside of the main door (technically the back door) to our build­ing, which is also adjacent to the entrance to the school. Each group had props—calendars, photos, cards. They explained what they would plant, the type of "bubbler" bird bath they would install, and how families at the school had already been scheduled to tend the garden each week when the school was closed during the sum­mer. They talked about the cost and how they planned to raise the funds. When they had finished their thor­ough and confident presentation, I asked them if I could think about it for a minute. I put my hand to my chin and looked up at the ceiling in mock contemplation. The kids' tension was building. Would I say no? After several seconds of this sham, I looked at them and said yes. The room exploded. The kids were jumping and shouting for joy. Of course, both the kids and I knew from the beginning what the answer would be. As they said in the movie Jerry Maguire, "You had me at hello."

A final event during the month was the visit of facilitator Carrie Cameron from the Institute of Heart-Math. After our experience with HeartMath's direc­tor of research, Rollin McCraty, at our last Summer National Convention, we had been looking forward to further exposure to the institute's practical meth­ods. We had scheduled Carrie to do a Thursday public talk and a Saturday workshop. In between those dates we arranged for a full afternoon staff training. All of our staff attended, along with a number of our regular volunteers.