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Mother Earth Speaks – Ram Dass – Subtle Activism

“I suggest, therefore, that when Mother Earth “speaks,” She is asking us to “be” more conscious about what we are doing and to use the Archetypal Energy “Harmony” as a guide for corrective actions.”
–Carroy ‘Cuf’ Ferguson

“Social engagement does not only mean taking care of hungry children in remote areas or protesting wars. It means first engaging to transform suffering right where you are, then slowly moving out from there as far as you can.”
Sister Chan Khong, Learning True Love

“Our passage into the new era, if viable at all, is obviously extremely narrow and fraught with danger. It is as though we are undergoing a collective initiatory crisis that, like all initiations, demands that we pass a crucial test to graduate to our next level of development.”
–David Nicol

I’m seeing a growing consensus among an – admittedly still small, but rapidly growing – number of wisdom/spiritual teachers. Put very simply, what they are saying is that spiritual growth, or awakening, is not separate from the awareness of and responsibility towards all living beings. Add to that an awareness that “living beings” includes all that is, not just human and not just what we call organic. Add also, that this responsibility involves not just outward behavior, but our attitude, thoughts, and subtle energies, which are ongoingly, inter-connected with the physical world. We are especially being drawn to recognize and appreciate in all this the life and consciousness of Mother Earth.

I recently had the honor to speak with one wisdom elder who shares this view, Dr. Carroy ‘Cuf’ Ferguson. Cuf is the first African-American to become the president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology and a full Professor and past Dean of the College of Public and Community Service at the University of Massachusetts – Boston. He is the author of many books and articles exploring human consciousness as it relates to our personal and collective experiences especially involving ecology and race relations.

Our conversation is available at my YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/-77pPk8GSeI

Or you can listen to the podcast: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447/10257708.

In it, Cuf explains his ideas about “archetypal energies” and how they relate to our personal life experience and the planetary shifts that are moving through all of us. His ideas come from a lifelong study, starting with his experiences of racism in the South, and his experiences of spontaneous expanded consciousness. I found his thoughts very deep, refreshing and inspiring. He is also a most delightful man. My own introduction to his work came from finding an article in which he wrote about engaging in a process of “tuning in” to the voice of the corona virus. My interest was piqued as I’d been posting articles about COVID that I found to be illuminating in my Medium blog, “Covid Inspirations,” ( See: https://medium.com/@covid.inspirations).

I’ve added an article of his below from 2010 which took a deep look at the roots of our challenges with climate and the environment; totally relevant to today. See “Mother Earth ‘Speaks’: Change Yourself, Change The World, Use The Archetypal Energy “Harmony” As A Guide.” You can download the pdf file of this article here and many of his writing are available through an internet search. http://www.crossingtheboundary.org/motherearthspeaks/

(I’m having trouble adding pdf files to this format, so please note you will need to click on the above link and them click on the link to “motherearthspeaks and then come back here. I promise to get better at this.)

———

Most everyone is familiar with the spiritual teacher, Ram Dass. Ram Dass contributed enormously to the shift in direction of millions towards Eastern spirituality and then towards integrating spiritual practice with social action and service. He was a pioneer in so many ways and his work is being carried on by his associates and students at Love Serve Remember which you can find at: https://www.ramdass.org/.

My good friend, Joseph Tieger, went through a huge trove of material from Ram Dass and distilled a beautiful collection of RD’s talks on this subject, “Ram Dass – Engaging in a World on Fire.” Please download the file and read when you have time. http://www.crossingtheboundary.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/ramdass.pdf

——-

As we grow and expand consciousness, individually and collectively, we are transforming our sense of ourselves and the community within which we find ourselves. We see and feel our inter-connectedness with all-that-is and are moved to do what we can to help relieve suffering and find joy and love in all our relations. May we allow the overflow of this consciousness to spread to all parts of the world, to and through the one blessed world we share, Mother Earth and all creation.

Learning from COVID

Covid InspirationsJust now·6 min read

“If I succeed in loving you, I will be able to love everyone and all species on Earth… This is the real message of love.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh

“The bullets fired by a crazed gunman only travel
a distance measured in feet;
the hatred generated by that gunman’s subtle energy field of
thought and emotion can travel around the world.
So can the energies of love.”

–David Spangler

“There’s a disturbance in the Force!”
–Obi-wan Kenobi

When I started the site on Medium, Covid Inspirations, like many other folks, I thought the pandemic would run its course fairly quickly. Wrong, at least insofar as “quickly” meant a year or so. I also thought that perhaps this visitation from the micro-organismic earth intelligence would serve to unify humanity in a collective effort to respond. Wrong again.

There were signs in the early days of the pandemic that a spirit of goodwill and cooperation was being fostered. It was noted that this was the first time in human history that people in all parts of the world were focused on dealing with the same sense of threat. Also, people were being asked to make sacrifices to keep themselves and their community safe and they were finding creative ways to do this, to help their neighbors, to make music across the streets in lockdown, to wash their hands as rituals for all of humanity. Most of the posts in Covid Inspirations had reflected this hope.

But it soon became clear that the strategies for responding to the pandemic became just another dividing and militantly polarizing issue in a humanity already at war with itself. This division about the response has compounded the stress of the physical aspects of the pandemic exponentially. Truthfully, I’ve found it hard not to contribute to the divisiveness myself in words and in my heart. It seems clear that the unifying lessons of the pandemic are not easy ones. Listen to the words of the Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, “Land of the Free — Home of the Self-Centered.

On the far other end of the spectrum, Robert Kennedy, Jr often references the holocaust and Nazi Germany in describing the vaccine and the mandates.

Perhaps it’s time to step back and revisit the question of what the virus itself may be telling us. David Spangler’s essay (the most read piece on Covid Inspirations), does this in reporting a message from a ‘subtle, wise entity’ that communicated with him about the pandemic. https://medium.com/@covid.inspirations/message-from-david-spangler-7ce7a700a665 . Spangler received the following suggestions from his non-physical friend:

“In this pandemic, you look upon the microbial realm as an enemy. This can only add to the imbalance. Please send love into this realm.

“There has been a cry for help from many sources in the natural world and the beings that serve it, and this virus is responding to this cry. You can build a civilization that serves your needs and aspirations while also serving the harmony and well-being of the world around you. You will need to make changes, but this is within your capacity. You need to see yourselves as citizens of a planetary, Gaian community. This virus reminds you of this.”

Dr. Carroy Ferguson, president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology does something similar. Dr. Ferguson calls attention to the ideas of quantum physicist, David Bohm, that there is an implicate order in the universe within which we can commune and communicate with other intelligent life forms. He “wondered what would happen if I opened my mind to see what would emerge from the implicate order in a dialogue with COVID-19.” The full text is here: https://www.academia.edu/68031590/An_Inner_Dialogue_and_Message_From_COVID_19_Carroy_Cuf_Ferguson_Ph_D_President_Association_for_Humanistic_Psychology_Professor_University_of_Massachusetts_Boston. Some excerpts:

“As I understand it, your Collective Consciousness as a species is seeking to become a more mature Collective Consciousness that understands its connection to All That Is consciously. It is why you are here at this time in human history, and why I am here…

”I also want you to know that just like all aspects of All That Is, I too have consciousness and purpose….

“My message is a simple, yet broad reminder message. That message is: It is time to change how you think about and act toward one another; it is time for each of you to get in touch with who you truly are as souls on the planet at individual and collective levels and to embrace your power as a creator of your reality. At individual and collective levels, it is important that you recognize and understand the true nature of your interdependence with one another as souls, your Group Soul-Linked Consciousness as a species, and your interdependence with the Soul of the planet that you inhabit. Your consciousness, like my consciousness, therefore, is very much linked to the Consciousness of All That Is and to the Consciousness of what you know as Mother Earth or Gaia….

“You know and call me a virus and you currently view me as an enemy against which you must fight. I am not your enemy, although I understand that I appear to be. As strange as it may sound to you, I am here as a collaborative teacher and learner with you at individual and collective levels. I learn and adapt just like you do….

“My mutations are my expressions of what I learn about how best to live with you, how to communicate more effectively and efficiently with you and your body consciousness so that I can do less harm and co-exist with you. Likewise, your vaccines are your expressions of what you learn about how best to live with me. Your vaccines, in other words, are the methods you have developed to learn how best to communicate more effectively and efficiently with me and my consciousness. You see, we are both engaged in a collaborative and cooperative learning process to figure out how to more effectively and efficiently communicate with one another so that we can co-exist together…

“So, why am I here? My role, my broad purpose, is to assist in the evolution of your Collective Consciousness as a species…..

“While my origin may be scientifically interesting, what is more important is that for the first time in human history, as you understand it, you are now engaged in the same global conversation. This external condition, which you call a pandemic, is a necessary context to assist you in the evolution of your Collective Consciousness as a species. Through this kind of global, external conversation, opportunities have been, are, and will continue to open up…

So does any of that resolve the questions about whether the vaccines are a good thing? Whether we should have mandates for mask wearing in public venues? Whether any particular medical intervention is worthwhile? Whether the public health measures that have been adopted have caused more suffering than the virus or saved us from a enormously greater toll of illness and death? I don’t think they answer any of these questions.

Whether or not you believe the source of these ideas is anything other than a human attempt at wise counsel is not really the point. There is no denying that humanity is in peril as a result of it’s failure to respect and live in harmony with the web of life of which we are a part, from the micro to the macro. It’s clear that this lack of an attitude of respect and empathy is in full expression in human-to-human relations, making it almost impossible to address any of our problems with a spirit of trust.

Einstein is often quoted as saying “A problem can’t be solved from the mindset that created it.” These “voices from beyond” are telling us to shift our consciousness, to expand our consciousness They tell us that only from a state of mind that loves and includes all beings will we find our direction not only with COVID, but with all the much greater challenges coming our way.

As a psycho-spiritual therapist I feel a need to add that expanding consciousness does not mean avoiding or suppressing the fear and anger that are a natural human response to behaviors that are hateful and abusive. While we need to recognize, accept and honor these feelings, we don’t need to feed them. We can learn to transmute their energy into the fuel for action with compassion in service to Mother Earth.

The very recent passing of the venerable zen master, Thich Nhat Hanh, brings to mind his explanation of the essential Buddhist teaching called “inter-dependent co-arising.” Nhat Hanh tells us that this means “that everything arises in dependence upon multiple causes and conditions; nothing exists as a singular, independent entity.” To paraphrase Rumi, “There is a field — a unified web of inter-dependent beings, co-arising — I’ll meet you there.”

Communing With the Realms of Life on Earth

This message comes with a link to a prayer/meditation that I recorded for my podcast series. The practice is one that I learned from my good friend and teacher of many years, Ralph Metzner, who joined the ancestor spirits in March of 2019. It’s a very helpful way to focus your attention before going on a journey of any kind, whether inward for healing, growth or exploring and expanding consciousness, or outward through the world. Similarly, it can be used at the end of a journey for opening to and expressing gratitude.

“Communing with the Realms of Life on Earth” begins with a short meditation to center, balance and open to a fuller integration of body, mind and spirit. We then invoke (or call attention to) the spirits of the different realms: place, time, the four directions, the animals, plants and fungi, minerals, ancestors and humans. We do this for the good of ourselves and all life on Earth. 

Here is a link to the podcast which I hope you enjoy and find helpful: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447/9799490.

Much has been said about the need for a major paradigm shift in human consciousness in order to avert or mitigate the impending catastrophic consequences of human activity over the past centuries. Some of the elements of that include shifting from an individualistic, competitive orientation towards greater cooperation, collaboration and mutual respect. Going deeper, the transformation we are opening to calls for a different quality of awareness of who we are, what our place is in this world, and how we pay attention to what is all around us.

I think I am safe in saying that anyone reading this has, like myself, been strongly conditioned with the attitude that humans are the only truly intelligent life on Earth. While a few alternative scientific studies have revealed some kinds of intelligence in animals and even plants, there is still the tendency, for most of us, to keep our attention focused primarily on humans. This may be true even if we have begun to adopt beliefs that humans are not the pinnacle of evolution or that consciousness is not a product of the human brain. Beliefs do not become our reality until we essentially embody them in the substance of our body, until we know in our heart and gut. This cultivation of a change in consciousness takes openness, intention and practice.

In the meditation/prayer “Communing With the Realms of Life on Earth” there are several suggestions that stretch the boundary of the mainstream consensus of what is real. One example is opening to the non-physical, spiritual, intelligent aspects of animals, plants and minerals. This was (is) the way indigenous people related as they sought prayerful connection with the spirit of a particular animal they were hunting or sought the benefit of a plant for medicine or spiritual awareness.

Other elements of the Communing practice is a focus on place and time as having sacred energy with which we can attune; the calling of attention to the spiritual energy of the four directions of the planet; the opening to experience the presence of ancestors who are no longer “alive” in physical bodies. Rather than believe, you are asked to simply be open to the possibility that when you direct your attention with thought, heart and senses, without prejudgment, you may experience these realities for the first time or more deeply.

I think this non-dogmatic, empirical approach and attitude is what can help us shift our consciousness and contribute to the collective transformation of humanity. We have been counseled to “be the peace we want to see in the world.” Likewise, may we be the mutually respectful, multi-dimensional beings that are vehicles of compassion and bring the harmonizing power of Spirit throughout the web-of-all-beings within which we live. I invite you to listen to this practice and I hope it is helpful to you in that realization.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447/9799490

The Wounds of War and the Warrior Archetype

War is what happens when civilization fails. And our efforts at civilization have failed again and again, including at this very moment in many areas of the world.

I have just finished a stimulating interview with my friend, Dr. Ed Tick, a depth psychologist who has focused on healing the wounds of war.

Dr. Tick is a profound teacher and healer who works with the relationship of the Warrior Archetype to the healing of the traumas of war: PTSD and moral injury. His work with Veterans of Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan has included bringing groups of Veterans to Vietnam for reconciliation ceremonies with what were “enemy combatants” from the “Viet Cong” and National Liberation Front.

In this interview he talks about his own development. He speaks of the work he needed to do himself as an anti-war activist crossing boundaries of belief and attitude so he could sit with empathy and compassion with physically and emotionally wounded soldiers who have fought America’s wars.

Dr. Tick is the author of numerous books including, Warrior’s Return -Restoring the Soul After War, The Practice of Dream Healing – Bringing Ancient Greek Mysteries into Modern Medicine and his just released Coming Home in Vietnam. Coming Home is a book of poetry that comes from his direct experiences doing the reconciliation work in Vietnam. The book “illuminates the soul-searching and healing that occurs when Vietnamese women and children and veterans of every faction of the “American War” gather together to share storytelling and ritual, grieving, reconciliation, and atonement.”

I highly recommend his books available at all the regular sources and hope you listen to and enjoy my interview with him either on YouTube , or as a podcast.

Blessings and peace,

Alan Levin

YouTube link for interview: https://youtu.be/ObRpdPcQM2M

Podcast link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447/9624838

Website for Dr. Tick’s work: mentorthesoul.guide

One Brave Angel – Ciaran O’Connor

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
–Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address (before the Civil War)

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
–Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address (as the war was ending)

Are there Angels, Aliens, Beings that reside in other dimensions? Are we humans able to contact them, communicate and commune with them in ways that would be of benefit to ourselves and this planet? Even to entertain this question seriously, one would have to cross a series of mental boundaries set by the Western, secular and scientific mindset of reality.

Are many of the people who embrace and support Trump actually decent, moral and intelligent men and women? For a liberal or progressive person, it would involve crossing a boundary of beliefs and attitudes to even consider this. Likewise from the other direction.

I had a conversation with someone who has crossed both those boundaries and is also helping others to do the same, especially regarding the latter issue. Ciaran O’Connor is one of the leaders of Braver Angels. Braver Angels is one of the organization that I’ve spoken about (see: https://youtu.be/PhSPDyFnEfo) and written about (see: http://www.crossingtheboundary.org/talk-with-your-enemy-dialogue-about-dialogue/ ) that brings folks from polarized political and cultural viewpoints together for what I call bridge building of the heart. They call this reducing affective depolarization – being able to disagree strongly about ideas, but not hate or disrespect the person with the opposing views.

I’ve participated in a number of Braver Angels workshops and recently began a one-to-one series of meetings with a conservative, Trump supporter arranged through Braver Angels. These meetings have carefully structured outlines for the encounters. In all my experiences with BA I’ve found myself challenged. At the same time I’ve found myself gaining a more expanded sense of appreciation for the people on “the other side” and grown in my ability to speak of my progressive ideas without anger or disrespect.

Ciaran has been with Braver Angels since its very early days and has helped it grow to where now it has thousands of members and has reached many thousands on both sides of the political divide. I admire how he models the attitude and skills of healthy dialogue involving complex and usually divisive issues. He does this through his own podcast and through Braver Angels style panel “debate/discussions” on very contentious issues of the day.

I was also very interested (and pleased) to hear from Ciaran that he has explored altered states of consciousness through both meditation and psychedelics. In my interview with him, he talks about how these experiences have helped him in his life. He’s also talked of experiences that opened him to the possibility of relating to non-physical beings as allies in our work to make the world better. He and I agree that this reawakening to the indigenous and shamanic worldview may be an important key to resolving the crises of our time.

Whether you are yet a believer in the presence of Angels or believe that humans can act more like “angels” courageously and empathically, I think you will find my interview with Ciaran O’Connor stimulating.

Here is a link to my YouTube conversation with Ciaran O’Connor: https://youtu.be/4TnRNDGlWz4

Thoughts on Drugs

“Any drug can be used successfully, no matter how bad it’s reputation,
and any drug can be abused, no matter how accepted it is.
There are no good or bad rugs;
there are only good and bad relationships with drugs.”

                         ― Andrew Weil, M.D.


“The difference between passion and addiction
is that between a divine spark and a flame that incinerates.”

               ― Gabor Maté,

“By banning psychedelic research
we have not only given up the study of an interesting drug or group of substances,
but also abandoned one of the most promising approaches
to the understanding of the human mind and consciousness.”
           –Stan Grof


I’ve been thinking about writing about drugs for the longest time. There is so much to say and it’s also hard to keep up with the changing mood of the public at large and the slower but noticeable changes taking place in public policy. So it’s been hard to know where to begin.

But now, the New York Times has published the sanest, most sensitive, rational and clear and…did I say, SANE, article on drugs that I’ve yet seen in the mainstream media. As I read it, little wows kept going off in my mind. Wow, this person really gets it, the whole picture: the stupid waste and destruction of the war on drugs, the false assumption that some drugs are inherently addictive, harm reduction, legalization, cultural appropriation of native cultures, the healing and spiritually awakening potentials of psychedelics, and more. The author even managed to write about all this without what has become the required disparaging note about Tim Leary, even offering a respectful observation of Leary’s insight about set and setting (which, in fact, this is all about – see below).

At the bottom of the article I found out the author is Michael Pollan, which then made sense. He’s the best selling writer about food who then wrote about his exploration of psychedelics in his book, How to Change Your Mind, and has made psychedelic journeys a best selling experience. I say that respectfully. I’ve been closely aware of what Pollan calls “the underground psychedelic movement” (as distinguished from the “above ground” much smaller, but growing, network of government sanctioned research studies at various university medical schools). Pollan’s book has brought folks who may or may not have done some acid or shrooms “back in the day” out seeking psycho-spiritually or shamanically guided experiences with entheogens (the now preferred word for psychedelics). And I think that’s a very good thing (for the most part – again, see below).

Suffice it to say, I highly, highly recommend you read Pollan’s article, “How Should We Do Drugs Now?”  https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/09/opinion/sunday/drug-legalization-mdma-psilocybin.html?referringSource=articleShare

AND, let me take advantage of this moment of sharing the lucid writing of Michael Pollan to segue into offering some of my own thoughts on the subject that I hope you find interesting.

 Coming back to set and setting. Basically, this means that a psychedelic (for example) does not contain in itself the states of consciousness that people experience with them. Rather, they are catalysts for what is happening with the mix of the setting (all that is out around the person – people, sound, environment, etc.) and the set (all that is within the person – expectations, fears, hopes, beliefs, intentions, etc.). In truth, and Pollan does say this, this is happening all the time with everything that we experience. Our inner world is meeting with the outer world and producing an experience.

When I was teaching a class on chemical dependency treatment at several schools in California in the 90’s, I developed a model that I feel applies to everything we relate with whether drugs and alcohol or people, places, things, or even processes or activities like sex, exercise or eating. The idea is that we relate with a quality of consciousness, a mindset, that defines and makes the relationship into one that is very destructive or very helpful, even sacred.

These kinds of relationships can be thought to exist on a continuum from addiction to spiritually awakening. And the interesting thing is that almost anything can be used in any of these ways, depending on the set and setting. Andrew Weil, whose classic on the subject, From Chocolate to Morphine, gives numerous examples of the ways that different cultures (settings) have made use of substances that we think of as destructive and addictive (e.g.: opiates, coca, tobacco) in healthy and sometimes sacred ways. If we only know about the unhealthy ways people in our culture have related to them, we tend to think the substance is inherently bad.

I portray the continuum of relationship this way:

______________________________________________________________________________
Addiction     Abuse      Recreation       Learning/Creative        Sacred/Spiritual

Fo another example, it’s not too hard to see how one can have a kind of relationship with another human being that falls within any of these descriptors: addictive, abusive, recreational, etc.. Likewise with sex, exercise, food (or certain foods), or any substance. It’s all in how we relate.

Some folks seem able to use substances recreationally that other folks abuse or use addictively. For some people, the healthiest way to be with a certain substance may be to only use it ritually or ceremonially with a clear intention, or not at all. I once worked with a medical doctor who was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. In a visionary experience he came to see that he loved tobacco but that the healthiest way for him to relate with it was to put a small amount in a bowl on an altar and not smoke it. He stopped smoking from then on.

As marijuana legalization is now the rule in a growing number of states, and will likely be legal nationally before long, it’s a good idea to recognize that pot (like very legal alcohol) is not an innocuous substance. It can indeed be abused and people can be addicted. That in no way means it should be illegal or criminalized. People need to learn to form healthy relationships with it if they are going to use it. To quote Tim Leary again, “Just say KNOW.” Know what you are doing and how you are doing it. Pot can relax and help sleep, it can be fun, it can inspire creative, artistic work, it can be used to amplify spiritual discovery. It can also be used to numb the mind, amplify depression and stunt motivation. To say it one more time: it’s how we relate with it.

With stronger psychedelics now becoming mainstream, we should also be aware of some dangers. Inexperienced users taking potent substances in chaotic settings and untrained “guides” setting up shop to lead sessions may very well lead to dangerous and harmful events and be a setup for another backlash.

All that said, I am one of those who find the upsurge in interest in the healing and spiritual awakening uses of psychedelics to be a very good thing. I know it may be a stretch to say, but it may be the primary thing that will keep humanity from driving over the cliff. But I’ll leave that for another day.

One last thing. Here is a great place to go for understanding the care and mindset that goes into a healthy guides orientation for “holding space.” Please see The Guiding Presence: https://theguidingpresence.com/.

Crossing Boundaries for Peacebuilding – Paula Green

“It is time to let go of the notion
that we are independent individuals and disconnected nations.”

— Paula Green

“Our survival depends
on a significant portion of the human race
accomplishing a change in worldview,
from one of patriotic and tribal loyalties
to loyalty to life itself.” 

—Paula Green

My interest in crossing boundaries goes back many years, focusing on individuals who adopted whole new belief systems and practices from the ones in which they were raised, to groups reaching across the chasms that divide them from other groups and finding common ground and appreciation.

In my last message I brought some focus to the work of Paula Green and the project Hands Across the Hills that brings together liberals from Western Mass. with Trump supporters from coal country Kentucky. Since then I’ve had the privilege of interviewing Paula and we had a wonderful conversation which is available on my YouTube channel at https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBTcFhpF_7838Ckgn-8rf508QrjEqc9GA. Please listen in when you have some time. Paula is truly an amazing “peacebuilder” as she calls her work. She founded the Karuna Centerwhich developed projects all over the world helping build bridges between people in areas wracked by violence and war. That work took her to Burma, Bosnia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Nepal and Israel/Palestine.

She also established the CONTACT program, Conflict Transformation Across Cultures, which brings people from conflict areas around the world together for training in peacebuilding and meeting and learning from each other. 

About Hands Across the Hills, Paula has said, “I believe, the project offers hope in a time of national despair.” We all can benefit from more hope

There is much to learn from Paula’s work and how it relates to our own consciousness. As she says, “Our challenge is to understand …and take responsibility for our role in the dance. The harm of mutually destructive simplifications reminds us to monitor our own steady stream of judging and dividing, a far more productive investment than trying to change others.”  We would all do well and benefit from learning to monitor our own stream of judging and dividing.


Neo-Hasidic Visionary – Art Green

“Tradition is a profound echo chamber
of the countless generations of its faithful
reaching into antiquity.”

“We are creatures of a natural world
that is itself a multi-colored garbing of divine glory.”

“I have learned to express the universal truth
in the language of Jewish tradition.”

                       –Arthur Green



Arthur Green went from being raised in a secular (in this case, atheist) Jewish home to become one of the leading lights among those re-infusing Judaism with a deep mystical experience that is universal in nature and devoid of the rigidity commonly associated with Orthodoxy.

He refers to his path as Neo-Hasidic, drawing on the mystical teachings of the great masters of the early Hasidic tradition and bringing them into alignment with life in the modern and post-modern world. Arthur has a voice of authenticity and makes no pretense of being a guru (or even rebbe) but rather teaches and shares from his own study, practice and experience.

He was a founding dean of the non-denominational rabbinical program at Hebrew College in Boston, where he still teaches and he has authored over seventeen books. I read Judaism for the World -Reflections on God, Life, and Love preparing for my conversation with him. There is something so real and honest and deep about the Judaism he describes that I can honestly say I am drawn to look again at the study and practices of the Jewish lineage.

We spoke of the very common phenomenon of Jews seeking deep spiritual experience through other spiritual/religious paths such as those I interviewed for my own book, Crossing the Boundary – Stories of Jewish Leaders of Other Spiritual Paths. We also spoke of his early experiences with psychedelic substances through which he found, along with his friend and mentor, Zalman Schachter, an experiential confirmation of the mystical teachings of Judaism and all world religions. You can view a full half-hour interview with Arthur and Rabbi Zak Kamenetz on this subject which took place at the “Jewish Psychedelic Summit” in April of 2021. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KHZqwQiuO0A

My conversation with Art ranged along many lines including ideas about Jewish identity, the Soul, the role of tradition and ritual, the perennial philosophy, Israel/Palestine, and the One and the many. It is part of a series of Crossing the Boundary interviews I am doing with people who have crossed boundaries for their own good and the good of all life. You can see the the full list of them here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLBTcFhpF_7838Ckgn-8rf508QrjEqc9GA

And here is my interview with Art Green. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did talking with him.
https://youtu.be/C9LrA9fX_os

Photography for Hebrew College web site and publications.

Hasidic Child to Education Activist

(See video interview at https://youtu.be/7yHxCqejlVU)

Ultra-Orthodox Jews have shifted from being seen as a quaint, odd but innocent presence, mostly but not exclusively in New York, to a political power block at the center of numerous controversies. Their very high birth rate makes them the fastest growing of all Jewish sects in the U.S. (and Israel). As their population expands, they have taken over increasing areas of New York City, Rockland County, and small towns upstate. They have been able to roll over resistance from previous residents of those areas and present challenges regarding environmental regulations, residential zoning laws, school boards, and other issues.

However, while their population expands explosively, so does the growing number of those who seek to leave the fold when they are able. That ability to leave is hampered by the fact that children raised in the very insular ultra-Orthodox world often speak little English and have few skills for navigating the world outside. While this is not true of Modern Orthodox families, the more extremely fundamentalist schools of the ultra-Orthodox, (yeshivas) provide very little secular education (math, civics, science, history). As well, the students are taught to fear the outside world. A young adult seeking to find their way outside the boundary of the enclave faces not only intense family and community pressure, but a lack of knowledge on how to communicate, find housing and work.

Despite the fact that New York and most other states have requirements for all schools, including religious ones, to teach English and secular studies, the political power of the ultra-Orthodox has caused even liberal mayors and governors to look the other way. Along comes one yeshiva boy who couldn’t take it any more. Naftuli Moster was raised with 17 siblings in a very conservative sect of the Hasidic world in Borough Park, Brooklyn. His journey, starting with an interest in psychology, led him on an odyssey that put him in conflict with family and community and to his founding of YAFFED (Young Advocates for Fair Education).

YAFFED has taken on the task of advocating for young people who attend yeshivas to receive the state mandated time and attention to secular education. While he and his organization have received a great amount of recognition and awards, the actual progress has been minimal. Political leaders seeking re-election fear the voting block of thousands of ultra-Orthodox mobilized by their rabbinic leaders. The ultra-Orthodox leaders fear that if their youth were educated properly, more would find their way to live outside the very confining norms and traditions of their community. That fear may be well founded, but preventing kids from receiving a full education is both immoral and illegal.

Many popular books have portrayed the very difficult and sometimes dangerous road to leaving the ultra-Orthodox world. There are memoirs such as, All Who Go Do Not Return by Shulem Deen and the hilarious Foreskin’s Lament by Shalom Auslander. Also, several mainstream movies, such as “Unorthodox” and “One of Us” give a stark picture of the challenge in crossing that boundary to the outside world they’ve been raised to see as “the other.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Naftuli as part of my Crossing Boundaries series. We explored his life as a child growing up leading to his slow transition to a very different kind of life and dedicated activism on behalf of those young people still in the Hasidic yeshivas. You can view the full interview here: https://youtu.be/7yHxCqejlVU.

Resources:

YAFFED: https://yaffed.org/

Footsteps (the only organization in North America that assists people who wish to leave or explore leaving ultra-Orthodoxy). https://footstepsorg.org/

New York Times article on Naftuli and YAFFED: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/23/nyregion/a-yeshiva-graduate-fights-for-secular-studies-in-hasidic-education.html