The personal story of the head of the Center for the Study of Human Spirit – Prof. Ofra Mayseless

About 15 years ago my son Ouri, who was 22 at the time, was killed in a car accident in the beautiful, faraway landscapes of Alaska. He was there on a trip with a childhood friend, Oren Simon, shortly before graduating from the Technion in Israel. A driver making a reckless overtake on a winding road collided with them head-on at a 100 mph. Both Ouri and Oren were killed, as was the driver.
And me – my whole world came crashing down around me, like a sword ripping through me, from my stomach and uterus to my chest.
For many years I walked around with the feeling that there is something beyond our existence as we know it, some sort of energy, something infinite and eternal… But I didn’t give it much thought, and frankly wasn’t really interested in it. But following Ouri’s death, I had to know – is there something, or isn’t there? And if there is, what is the nature of this energy, and did any part of my sweet, smiling, smart and beloved Ouri remain? Because if not, I have no life.

At that time I was wrapped up in extensive academic work – research, teaching, and a major executive position. I left it all behind, troubled and anguished, and looked for answers – in traditions of wisdom and mysticism, in research on spirituality and parapsychology, in dozens of conversations with other bereaved parents, in dreams, in messages I’ve received from near and far and in connecting with the spiritual realm. Along the way I have met many dear friends and soul mates, here and in other dimensions, who have become my companions on this journey, and who all have my deepest gratitude. Thank you!!
During this process I have received answers to many of my questions, experienced the strength, joy, and beauty to be found in the spirit, and realized what was important and right for me to do. I now deeply understand that my calling in this world involves my taking part in both of these worlds – academia and spirituality, and the integration that I am welcome to promote as a professor and scholar between academia and research, which were my professional home until that time, and the spiritual realms, which have also become my home. This process led me to a path which wasn’t always easy, with struggles and stumbles but also with love and friendships, towards the establishment of the Center for the Study of Human Spirit, where many activities are already taking place.

Currently I am running, along with others, a large-scale study (Teaching with the Heart and Mind) as well as applications of contemplative pedagogy in the education field. In addition, I chaired the first national conference on contemplative education held in 2018, which reflected the great work already taking place; and have also designed a free online course promoting a caring, benevolent environment in educational settings. I am also involved in and working towards the integration of spirituality into psychotherapy, through the Gateways to Spirituality in Psychotherapy and Counselling Conference and the establishment of an MA specialization in Integrative Psychotherapy: Body-Mind-Spirit. More projects are in the works, revolving around spirituality in businesses and organizations, spirituality as a means for inter-group reconciliation, promoting research and study programs on spirituality and the human spirit, and more. These activities, conducted in collaboration with colleagues from the center and outside it, are just the beginning of our vision to connect and build a bridge of light, wide and boundless, between academia and the spiritual realms, and between researching the human spirit and working in the community, with the center acting as a beacon lighting the way, outlining the possibilities and welcoming a connection between different incredible people, each with their own passions, visions and wishes to do good in the world.

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I hope that through the spiritual strengths within all of us, the knowledge and insights the world of research can provide, and the support of the realm of light and consciousness, together we will succeed in spreading good in the world.

The center’s staff currently includes about 30 members from 5 universities (Haifa, Tel-Aviv, Hebrew U., Bar-Ilan and Ben-Gurion) and a number of colleges (Zefat Academic College and Oranim Academic College).
The center shares its vision with a number of major international organizations focusing on similar topics, based in universities such as Columbia, Berkeley, and Stanford.
Its activities so far have included research, study programs, and work in the community, mostly with educational and health-related organizations:

*MA specialization in Integrative Psychotherapy: Body-Mind-Spirit
*Study on applications of Jewish spirituality in psychotherapy
*Teaching with the Heart and Mind research project , including development of the program and implementing it in Israeli elementary schools – a flagship study of the Israeli Ministry of Education
*National conferences on various topics such as The Study of Contemporary Spiritualities, Contemplative Education: Spirit, Consciousness and Magic in Education, Gateways to Spiritualities in Psychotherapy and Counseling
*Innovative free online course (MOOC) on Creating a Caring and Benevolent Environment in Education

Academic Research Staff
(in alphabetical order)

Dr. Aviva Berkovich-Ohana, University of Haifa

Prof. Nadav Davidovitch, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Prof. Zehavit Gross, Bar-Ilan University

Dr. Shiri Lavy, University of Haifa

Dr. Shahar Lev-ari, Tel-Aviv University

Prof. Oded Maimon, Tel-Aviv University

Prof. Ofra Mayseless, University of Haifa

Dr. Michael Motola, Oranim Academic College

Dr. Marianna Ruah-Midbar Shapiro, Zefat Academic College

Dr. Pninit Russo-Netzer, Achva Academic College and University of Haifa

Prof. Nurit Yirmiya, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Research and Practice staff 
(in alphabetical order)

Yafit Auerbach

Shiri Aviel

Dr. Sofi Barzilay

Dr. Osnat Beery Grinspan

Yossi Ben Asher

Dr. Liora Birnbaum

Amir Freimann

Galit and Shay Hanien

Dr. Dida Kimor

Dr. Tali Nachman

Lia Naor

Orly Porat

Dr. Nimrod Sheinman

Dr. Keren Tzarfaty

Iris Wolberg