Although the process is, in actuality, continuous, as individuals we can experience the will as having four stages. The first stage is having no will. [A common human experience is] to feel like a victim to outside forces, other people or the circumstances in which we find ourselves. At many times in our lives we all experience a sense of angst, impotency, frustration and an inability to act. Instead of doing what we wish, we become reactive to the circumstances or the environment. We feel as if what we are, and what we are able to do or not do, is totally dependent upon what happens outside of us.1

As I embarked upon an investigation to identify what others may have already done in the areas of interfaith and interfaith programming for children, I shared my growing interest with the pastor of our church family in Howell, NJ, and the Pastor for Kids Alley.  I hoped that they both might share some interest in collaborating with me on a pilot initiative given that they were already working together and previously expressed a desire to reach more children in their respective communities. Unfortunately, it turned out that the interreligious approach of my programming ideas did not fit well with their church doctrine or the established mission for Kids Alley.  I suppose that I was rather naive about what I thought might be possible.

At first, it was difficult for me to understand their position.  However, in time, I came to accept and acknowledge the shared conviction behind their responses.

Who better to turn to once again than Dr. Michael Poutiatine?  I felt sure that he would recall my preoccupation with things spiritual and that he might be willing to provide me with wise counsel about increasing my understanding about the value of integrity, wholesomeness, holiness or ‘Spirit of Life’ as a source of great wisdom and a prerequisite for better serving the ‘common good’ as a ‘servant leader’. That is, if his calendar would allow him the time.  I could not have been more correct, pleased, and encouraged by his continued supportiveness.

Concern for wholeness requires moving beyond shallow appearances and symptoms. It requires moving into fuller meanings, deeper causes, greater complexity, subtlety and ambiguity.

To attempt to understand the whole means to humbly recognize the fact that “there’s always more to it; to appreciate the limits and evolution of knowledge and certainty.

Wholeness often refers to the unity of spirit — and commonality of story — that underlie the details of life. Unity and commonality are often overlooked when we focus too much on differences and separateness (although these, too, are part of wholeness!).

“Wholeness” is the concept that best embraces “new paradigm” efforts to create a more just, sustainable and wise society.2

Intentions center on plans of action.  Future-directed plans are rarely specified in full detail at the outset. It would require omniscience to anticipate every situational detail.  Moreover, turning visualized futurities into reality requires proximal or present-directed intentions that guide and keep one moving ahead (Bandura, 1991b).  In the functionalist approach to intentional agency enunciated by Bratman (1991), initial partial intentions are filled in and adjusted, revised, refined or even reconsidered in the face of new information during execution of an intention.

Research has proposed that spiritual beliefs, practices and commitments seem to be linked with positive results like psychological, psychological and physical health; marital satisfaction and stability; positive interpersonal and improved quality of life (Seybold and Hill, 2001). One of the factors that contribute to these positive results may be that possessing spiritual orientation about life protects humans against non-desirable and non-adaptive behaviors like acting in destructive ways, socially or even personally (Emmons, 2000a).

At the heart of my interest, is looking more closely at whether or not spiritual beliefs, practices and commitments when regularly adhered to day-to-day positively contribute to improved self-awareness, self-identity, self-regulation and strong feelings of meaning, purpose, and well-being and good health.3

Dr. Poutiatine asked me to clarify my expectations of him in providing advisory assistance regarding my emerging investigative work.  Accordingly, he requested that I clarify what I hoped to accomplish and the likely outcomes that I might possibly result from any research study.  This seemed a daunting challenge at first and I had to ask myself, whether I was willing to do the long and arduous work that would be required?

Dr. Poutiatine agreed to work directly with me over the course of several months in formulating a thesis statement for my area of interest.  In time a number of his views and ideas became interwoven with mine strengthening my vision/mission and fundamental principles and hypotheses much more than would otherwise have been possible.  Most importantly, I found an approach that for me felt natural and spirit-led.


Midway through this process, I learned that a long-time friend, former schoolmate, and Sunday school pal Nancy Hansen Zuschlag, now a two-time Fulbright Award winner was engaged in what I believed to be very exciting and complementary work of her own. I decided to reach out to her to see if she would be interested and available to collaborate with me.

Nancy had become a Nordic wisdomkeeper, a practitioner of shamanism, and weaver of circles of people seeking to come back into harmony with the ways of Earth and the spirits.  As an environmental educator, writer, and entrepreneur I thought that she could bring tremendous integrity and professional experience to my initiative and thereby strengthen our efforts in building bridges of cultural respect between the lands, communities and people who would carry sacred world traditions to a Center for Inter-spiritual Dialogue (CISD) in its earliest stages.

Nancy currently works with cross-cultural groups of North American native nations, co-shaping youth and environmental programs based in Earth spirituality. Under Nancy’s coordination the Green Triangle-Eagle Bridge-International group ad, the WHEYA project (World Healers’ Exchange and Youth Alliance), worked closely with multi-indigenous communities and councils of elders from all over the world. Including Pomo healer, Lorin Smith; the Larrikia Didgeridu/Flute musician and Northern Territory Aboriginal Clever Fellow, Ash Dargan; the Nordic Healer, Ove Svensson and the Ogala Sioux author of “Mother Earth Spirituality” and Nature’s Way (2004), Ed McGaa-Eagle Man. Based in Colorado, Nancy divides her time between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Europe and Scandinavia.

Michael and Nancy greatly facilitated my giving the proper level of attention to the different factors that one needs to consider in order to create the “social construction” of an organization’s culture as a learning organization along with the ethical system and values that should underlie it and become visible through the everyday attitudes and behavior of everyone that wishes to become deeply involved in such a desirably spirit-led undertaking.


  1. Assagiolo, M.D., R. (N/A). The Training of the Will. (
  2. Ibid.
  3. Poutiatine, M. Ph.D., (2005). Finding Common Threads: Selected Summary of the Research on the Courage to Teach Program and the Process of Teacher Formation.