Alissa Meredith, DSS, graduated with the Doctor of Spiritual Science degree at the Peace Theological Seminary graduation on July 2, 2020. A fellow minister interviewed her about her experience with DSS and successfully completing her Practical Treatise.
Q: I gather that you had sort of a “start-stop” experience with your DSS class work. You found it difficult to continue at a certain point, and dropped out. Then, a year or two later, you re-joined the DSS class and completed the coursework. What prompted you to re-join?
Ah yes! My DSS journey, which started in 2005, has been something of a long and winding road. When I took DSS 1 and 2, I had a very full work life. My day job as a physical therapist wasn’t full time, but required working some weekend days each month. I also had a small psychotherapy practice. I was working once a month at USM (University of Santa Monica). I supported their class on the weekend, but the job took five full days each month. So, I had only one full weekend off most months. For both the DSS and USM weekends I had to travel two hours from my home in the San Diego area. The USM weekend was right before the weekend of my DSS class. Also because of this timing, I needed to complete my homework for DSS about 2 weeks before the class weekend, which was a bit unnatural. During the DSS weekend I was exhausted.
Based on all of this, I believed I wasn’t giving DSS the focus it deserved. I was disappointed with myself to be dropping out. But I see now I was taking care of myself—I was actually doing a method, a positive behavior, which would later become a key part of my personal DSS study.
After taking a few years off, I realized that DSS and my goal of Soul Transcendence were important enough that I needed to return and complete the DSS classes. I was still working just as hard. And, I had become executor of my parents’ estates. Also, because I had dropped out after only two years, I needed to repeat DSS 2. This was a bit disappointing, but I didn’t let it stop me. My commitment to my spiritual progression was strong enough to support me past my challenges.
The classes required for the degree include DSS 1, DSS 2, and DSS 3, each offered in an academic year. I was enjoying the classes and finding value doing the homework. However, I didn’t feel called to write the Practical Treatise (PT), which is required for graduation. I wanted to take the optional year of DSS 4, but had to wait several years until it was offered.
The next DSS 4 class was offered in the worldwide online format. What a great blessing, because I had health issues and might have had to discontinue the class if I had been traveling to Los Angeles.
By now I was no longer working at USM and had closed my psychotherapy practice. This freed up my time and energy to participate with more focus. Then, near the end of DSS 4, I retired from my job as a physical therapist. This freed up much more energy, and I began to believe that I could write a PT, and in fact might want to.
DSS 5 is yet another optional year of classes. I had heard so many wonderful things about it. I enrolled. Again, thankfully it was the online format, as about half way through the class I moved to North Carolina. I kept leaning into writing a PT.
Around the time I was getting ready to submit my draft PT, I chose to audit DSS 1 online. Being in the energy of DSS helped me stay focused on Soul Transcendence and receive support for the series of revisions I would be doing to complete my PT.
Q: You shared that writing the PT (Practical Treatise) wasn’t “calling” to you until you were taking DSS 4, well past when you finished the required coursework. Was there something that helped you see the value of the PT more clearly or provided the motivation to do the PT?
First of all, let me clarify what the PT or Practical Treatise is. In DSS a student selects techniques and methods [tools of Spiritual Science] from the DSS offerings, and makes them personal. A student might also experiment and create new techniques. The student observes how the methods they practice relate to the results they experience. This exploration is called the Individual Study (IS). Among other elements, the PT includes a written account of this Individual Study. At the time I first took DSS1, 2, and 3, I found my Individual Study to be confusing—it meandered all over the place. I had trouble seeing a relationship between what I was doing and the results I was after. So, I didn’t see how I could possibly do a PT.
Here’s the part that is a little hard to convey. J-R tells us that we are multi-dimensional beings. DSS is very multi-dimensional. Very. So, exercises and meditations in class were lifting my consciousness and freeing me from past limitations—sometimes so subtly that I would only realize it much later. Homework assignments were inviting me to probe my inner life in many different ways. Being with other students and seeing their progress gave me encouragement.
In DSS 4, I read some Practical Treatises by previous graduates and listened to classmates share about their PT process. I started to believe that if they could do a PT, I could too. As my professional workload decreased, I had more energy and focus to put towards my PT. Retirement took this to the next step. These were some of the outer factors that helped me.
One important inner factor was that I started to see my Individual Study in simpler, clearer terms. I stopped judging myself for the Individual Study I thought I should have been doing and just accepted the study I was doing. When I relaxed into that acceptance, I saw that it really did make sense.
When I paid attention to class experiences, I got clues. In a class exercise in DSS 1 or DSS 2, we were asked to “see” (visualize) a positive image of ourselves. I saw myself standing tall and striding confidently forward. I interpreted this to suggest that my PT direction was related to health and vitality. This indeed later became a major focus of my IS and my PT.
The other inner factor was a strong desire for completion. J-R has spoken and written a great deal about completion. Towards the end of DSS 5, I had mostly settled into our new home in the mountains of western North Carolina. I looked into a closet and saw a pile of DSS notebooks with yellow “stickie notes” fluttering from the pages. I saw this as a big incomplete. Completing my PT became part of my commitment to doing what I can do to free myself to get off the planet through Soul Transcendence in this lifetime.
A major piece of the PT is a Service Study [also known as a Repeatability Study]. For the Service Study, I needed to ask volunteers to do a key activity, called a method, from my Individual Study. Then I needed to do some measurements to see if these volunteers would experience results similar to those I had experienced when I practiced this activity. I was moving forward in other parts of my PT, but I had made no progress towards the Service Study. The jolt of recognition that my PT was an important incomplete finally pushed me past this stumbling block.
Much of my challenge with the Service Study was a lack of confidence. I judged that the activity I had chosen for my Service Study was too simple. I was reluctant to ask people to take their time to do this. However, the feedback I got from my Service Study participants was mostly very positive. This added to my enthusiasm for writing my PT.
Here’s the activity. You can try it if you wish.
Exhale and inwardly say, “Let Go.” Just relax all over, letting go of worries and stress. Then inhale and inwardly say, “Let God,” as you open to receive from God.
While doing this you can use your creative imagination to “see” Light coming into you, or “sense” God’s love coming into you, however it works best for you.
You can also experiment with different visualizations and get creative with it. You can repeat this several times.
Q: I have heard that the process leading to graduation can surface inner challenges. Were there key DSS tools you used to meet and overcome these challenges? Were there any new personal tools or methods that you discovered in your journey?
Actually, after I submitted the first draft, I had few challenges. As I made revisions, I spent much more time than was needed to fulfill the needs of each next step. Even though it continued to require focused effort, I was more relaxed and able to view the PT from a greater perspective. I began to appreciate it more. Where a key motivator had been completion, I now saw how I could really go for excellence. It was very satisfying to see my PT come into being and to be so pleased with it. The qualities that supported me included my commitment to my Soul Transcendence, perseverance, and endurance, which I think of as maybe even more grounded than perseverance. J-R has often told us something like, “She wins who endures to the end.”
Q: Looking at the coursework requirements and the PT requirement, it can appear to be a lot of work. Was it also joyful, fun? How?
The actual process of the writing was joyful: completing the sections of my outline, and seeing what came forward. After years of holding an ideal scene, my physical move to North Carolina manifested so suddenly. Similarly, as soon as I made my PT a focus, the writing came pouring out almost like the big spring rains we can get here. After I had struggled so long, doubting the clarity of my Individual Study, it was exciting to see how the pieces all fit together. It was truly joyful and fulfilling to review and describe my results. I had started DSS about 14 years before writing my PT. As I looked at how my life had changed, I saw so many successes on so many levels, especially in my health. I was blown away and so grateful to myself and for the support that DSS had been to me, especially seven of those years when I was attending DSS classes.
Q: What is the most surprising thing you learned about yourself thru DSS?
The big key to getting past my resistance to my Individual Study and my PT was coming to the recognition that my Practical Treatise is me. I needed to, and was able to accept myself and my process. I had judged that my hypothesis, my methods and my benefits (key structural elements of the PT) all seemed so ordinary, so basic, and so non-esoteric. They even seemed boring. By reviewing my journals and homework assignments through the years and writing and revising my PT, I began to have more compassion and acceptance for myself, just as I am. I saw that my approach to my Individual Study, and my PT was both valid and valuable. It is very consistent with my steady and practical approach to life, an approach that has worked well for me.
Q: What would you say to someone who has the sense that somewhere inside they really do want to complete their PT and graduate with a Doctorate in Spiritual Science?
Reach out for support from grads. Read some sample Practical Treatises. It’s so important to remember that God is your Partner. In this, you start looking at the possibility of your PT rather than the impossibility. This was a big key for me. My class participation was helping me clear blocks. And, I took baby steps in leaning into the possibility of doing a PT. I didn’t pressure myself; I was gentle with myself. Yet, I definitely shifted my focus towards possibility. Then, once I decided to do a PT, Spirit gave me “downloads” that I wrote as if taking dictation. The key thing, as I heard John Morton say, is to “make a decision.” Decide that you are going to do it and that you are starting it now. It can be very helpful to be in the DSS energy by auditing, assisting, and just being around people who are doing DSS.
Q: You shared that you had all your DSS notebooks, and I’m assuming that that included your homework from DSS1, 2 and 3. It sounds as though this was instrumental in your ability to complete your PT. What would you say to someone who wants to complete their PT, yet no longer has their DSS materials?
First, I would encourage them to reflect on the key themes currently present in their lives. I suggest they review any journals they may have. Perhaps they have taken other PTS classes or workshops and have notes from those experiences that might prompt some memory of their DSS experiences and work. They can also look at what their lives were like before they started DSS and compare them to what they are like now. I discovered that the Individual Study was in me and is me. As I accepted the simplicity and clarity of this, the PT was mostly a process of describing what I already knew and had experienced.
DSS 2 is being offered this year in the worldwide online format. The curriculum of DSS 2 includes a great deal of material devoted to the Individual Study. This is a great way to explore your unique Individual Study and possible PT focus. You might even be able to jump onto your own fast track to completing your PT. You can do this if you want to.
Q: I realize it has been just days since you graduated. And, by the way, congratulations! Is there anything different now in the way you relate to yourself, others, or the world at large?
I would say that this experience began when I made my first submission and expanded through the revision process, the acceptance of my PT by the faculty, and on to the actual graduation. The experience has been that of confidence and satisfaction. The confidence and satisfaction that came from going from “thinking” I could do it, to having completed it.
Q: Is there a question I should have asked to get a more profound sense of your experience in DSS? What is it? What is your response?
My overall intention through DSS has been to keep my eyes on the Lord. This means being consistent with my studies with MSIA and staying focused on my goal of Soul Transcendence. DSS has been a wonderful way to support my self-discipline and my enthusiasm for the inner work. Sometimes between classes I would notice that I was having a hard time even remembering that there were realms above the physical realm, which might be even more real than the physical realm. Then I would return to DSS class and not only remember that, but also have some sense of those higher realms.
Q: Some students have told me they assumed they were mostly complete when they turned in their PT draft. Then, they were surprised at how much more they grew climbing that final mountain to the completed PT. What did you experience in that final phase?
I’d say the growth was mostly of self-appreciation and self-acknowledgment. In the past, these qualities hadn’t always come easily to me. The encouraging feedback from my readers supported this.
What supported this growth the most was moving from the self-judgment I had had about my PT, to the appreciation when it was completed. In reviewing my final drafts, proofreading for those pesky typos, I could step back and see that the aspects and components of my PT were clearly consistent, congruent. It all fit together perfectly with my life plan, my karma, and my learnings in this life. This was a very pleasant surprise. My perspective lifted and clarified even more. I experienced even greater self-compassion and self-appreciation.
What I saw was a very clear and complete picture of my coming to this planet in this lifetime, the spiritual curriculum I chose, and my steps to make progress towards clearing my karma and moving into Soul. I’m deeply grateful I loved myself and endured through the completion of my Practical Treatise.
If you have successfully completed DSS Years 1, 2 and 3 and are inspired to write your Practical Treatise, you are welcome to attend an Information / Q&A Session on July 18 via Zoom. Contact Aspen at email@example.com for details.
Watch the Recording of the Peace Theological Seminary 2020 MSS and DSS Graduation