>Francis Charet, a faculty member in Goddard’s Individualized MA (IMA), and BA programs, walks his talk, even if that means long treks to various ashrams in India. As founder of the Consciousness Studies Concentration in the IMA program, Charet knows the importance not just of expansive consciousness, but expansive cultural consciousness, enhanced by immersion in other cultures and spiritual traditions.
During the last year, Charet went to India twice, first in January of ’08 for a conference on spirituality and psychology which Goddard College sponsored. After the conference, he traveled to the Rishikesh, the yoga capital of India, where he wandered, scouted out pilgrimage points and ashrams, and did a lot of yoga and meditation. While visiting the ashram of one of his teachers, the late Neem Karoli Baba, he met an elder, who, upon hearing Charet’s Indian name of Vidura, told Charet of the Vidura Kutir (hermitage). “You must go there,” the elder said. So Charet visited his namesake, where he was welcomed with open arms. Returning to India in September, Charet visited the Shivananda Ashram in Northern India along with other communities, all of which deepened spiritual practices, initially sparked by six months he spent in India in 1972.
“It reconnected me to some of the very important influences in my personal life that became part of my own teaching and research and academic work, and it was largely a rejuvenation, like going back to the holy land,” Charet says. “Experiential learning for Consciousness Studies and this degree involves an engaged practice, and this arises out of the Goddard pedagogy in the program itself, but it also reflects what I felt so much in my own life. Your learning is grounded in experience.” Charet has mentored students ground their MA studies in practices such as meditation, Kabbalah, chanting, dreamwork, memoir as spiritual exploration, Buddhist mindfulness practice, and shamanism.
Charet’s main practice these days is yoga, which he rises early to do daily from colder climes — his home in Montreal. He explains it’s not just the physical exercise, but the spiritual practice of yoga. “It connects you to deeper resources and allows you to express this in your interactions with others, and it informs the work you do, which is, in my case, teaching. It opens you to a wider reality — the Obama thing of “Yes, we can,” there is hope, there are possibilities, the universe does cooperate even though sometimes we have grave doubts about that. I think connecting with these traditions when the connection is authentic can help bolster and give us the help we need in our lives, which are so driven by activity,” he says.”It also makes you calm,” he adds while laughing.