By Jennifer Wake
Seeking and Sharing
Lifelong passions can be sparked by simple things. When he was a boy, Brother Camillus Chavez developed an interest in altered states of consciousness. At age 11, he ordered a 10-cent book on hypnosis, hoping to tap into the mysteries of the mind.
Although he "wasn’t too successful” at hypnosis as a child, Brother Camillus never gave up his pursuit of the deeper self. It wasn’t until he entered the Brothers’ novitiate at Mont La Salle when he was 18 that he truly experienced the peace that is attainable through meditation and deep prayer.
"Meditation helps you find out a deeper dimension to yourself,” he says. "You’re able to understand yourself and say, ‘I am who I am; I am a son of God.’ "
The transcendental experience at Mont La Salle was so profound he hoped to teach similar meditation techniques to all students. But the techniques taught to Christian Brothers are complex and time-consuming, so he put aside the thought.
After teaching high school Spanish for 17 years, Brother Camillus attended a workshop by José Silva — a leading meditation teacher who explained how to enter an altered state of consciousness using very simple techniques. Inspired, Brother Camillus set up his first meditation program at Saint Mary’s College High School in 1973 before coming to Saint Mary’s College in 1975, where he has continued to teach meditation classes to students, faculty and even parents.
"Meditation is a healthy practice, therapeutic emotionally and physically, and spiritually enlightening in the deepest part of one’s inner consciousness,” he says.
Brother Camillus went on to earn a doctorate in social and clinical psychology in 1985, and now focuses on transpersonal psychology — a school of psychology that studies the spiritual aspects of the human experience. "Meditation is a part of transpersonal psychology; it studies how to connect to a deeper part of yourself.”
In meditation, Brother Camillus says we access a level of the mind that enables us to learn more effectively and recall information, so we’re able to use it as students. Many of his meditation students say they have "a clarity of mind” they’ve never felt before, and their grades have improved.
Meditation, transpersonal psychology techniques and Catholicism fit together, he says.
"Jesus said ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ but when I ask someone how they love themselves, most say they eat well and exercise. But what about their inner dimensions?” he asks.
"Learning meditation is one of the most important things we can do to heal ourselves, to touch people’s hearts — but we only can do it if we’re spiritual people.”
Now 80, Brother Camillus continues to expand his outreach to others, offering workshops at parishes, schools, and universities in Mexico and the Philippines. He also created a website (www.brothercamillus.com) where people can participate in online meditations.
"This is my life,” he says. "It helps others grow spiritually, feeds my spirit and keeps me going."