Category Archives: Crossing Boundaries video series

Palestinian Peace Activator – Eva Dalak

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Eva Dalak. You can view the video of our conversation here: https://youtu.be/jmHc-b3oC18?si=jddkFtv0uATJwYUn or just listen to the recording on my podcast here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447/15086746.

Eva was born in Israel in a Muslim family and as a child, learned to think of herself as an Arab-Israeli. She moved to France to study and received a double Masters degree in International Relations and International Administration from the Sorbonne. Her skills, and the fact that she speaks five languages fluently, led her to Brussels to work with an NGO and also as a consultant to the European Union. Living there for 10 years, she took on Belgian nationality. Her work included extensive conflict resolution projects in Africa and later New York.

Eventually, she came to the U.S. and began looking more deeply into the psychological and spiritual roots of conflict and realized she needed to do the work within herself before she could help others. She now likes to use the term “peace activator” to describe what she does, rather than peace activist, noting that it is the peace within that needs to be activated and brought out into the world.

Her self exploration and truth seeking led her to embrace her identity as a Palestinian. Especially now, she devotes herself to working with both Jewish Israelis and Palestinians. In her work with them as individuals and in groups, people find the common humanity they share with the people they had come to see as “others.” She sees this as getting to the roots of the conflict and a necessary part of finding solutions that will bring about justice and peace.


I found the work she does through PeaceActivation of great interest. As well, her life journey, crossing boundaries of different national or ethnic identities, seems to give her a clear vision of the role identity plays in all of us. I have found that when we recognize and accept our personal and collective identifications, we can more genuinely transcend the separative aspects of those identities and experience ourselves as fundamentally spiritual beings living in a human family. Eva Dalak seems to me to be someone who has done the work and is helping others find the way.

Eva and her partner live in Costa Rica and have a healing retreat center where they have “PeaceActivation” workshops and trainings.

Please see the links below to find out more about her work and ways to take part:

 Eva’s article on Medium – “Are You Ready..”  

Peace Activation – To register for the weekly calls https://peaceactivation.org/weekly-zo…

For individual coaching with Eva – http://www.evadalak.me 

Please feel free to share this and other blog posts from me and subscribe to my YouTube and or podcast series, Crossing the Boundary.

What Am I? – Jeff Kitzes, AKA Zen Master Bon Soeng

What am I? How many of us take time to ask that question in a serious vein and take time, lots of time, to investigate what we experience when we ask that question of ourselves?

Zen practitioners will sit quietly for hours and days and weeks doing just that. According to Zen Master Bon Soeng, they do that to be ALIVE in the fullest sense of what that means, vibrantly awake to the present moment. “What am I?” is not the only question, but it is at the core of many questions that have no rational answer that foster deep shifts in consciousness through meditation.

Born into a Jewish family, Jeff Kitzes, found himself alienated from the culture in which he grew up and was drawn to meditation at an early age. On a journey in search of Don Juan (the hero of the fiction/non-fiction books of Carlos Castaneda), he found himself at a zen monastery in Mendocino, California and then at a retreat with Korean Zen Master, Seung Sahn of the Kwan Um school of Zen. He says that when he first saw Seung Sahn, he saw someone alive in a way he had never experienced; he became his student for life.

After years of practice, Jeff was initiated as a Zen Master and given the name Bon Soeng. He has been the leader and primary teacher of Empty Gate Zen Center. Empty Gate has a home in Berkeley, CA, a center in Boise, ID and offers teachings online. See https://www.emptygatezen.com/. Many of Bon Soeng’s dharma talks (Buddhist teachings) are posted on YouTube and can be found through Empty Gate website.

In my conversation with Bon Soeng, he reveals a very open attitude as to the activities of his students. Aware that many spiritual teachers have abused their power, he is very much committed to individuals having free choice over their own lives,. This includes the use of psychedelics and cannabis which he feels is an individual choice and, in fact, may be of benefit to their lives and Zen practice.

Bon Soeng says that his lineage is committed to the Bodhisattva path, committing ones life to the benefit of all sentient beings. His students find their own way of understanding that and taking actions as they find themselves directed from within through their practice.

I just posted my YouTube and Podcast conversation with Bon Soeng. Please check either out here to hear the inspiring journey to the Zen path of awakening.

YouTube: https://youtu.be/gj1VSpMT39w?si=WQ-_WFFFHkQo_WLa

Podcast: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447/14407863

You can watch many of his wide ranging Dharma Talks at https://www.emptygatezen.com

Addendum:

After our zoom conversation, it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked a very important question. Essentially it is “how does meditating, Zen or otherwise, develop a person who behaves ethically?” Do we just assume that “being more alive or awake” would lead people to behave with each other and the Earth in a healthy or “good” way?

I ran the question by Bon Soeng and this was his response. Being that we are friends, this will lead to many more conversations.

“Interesting questions.

Ethics have obviously changed over the Millenia. Zen arose in China between 500-700 AD. Indian meditation was practiced well before the Buddha ever appeared and Taoist meditation predates Buddhism in China. The ethics of those places in those times were very different than ours. One of Trump’s main nuclear arms advisors was a Buddhist chaplain. During WWII the Japanese Zen establishment sided with the government in their war effort. Many monks in Burma rose up to exile the Rohingya from their territory. And, many monks in Burma rose up to join the democracy movement. 

So, I can’t really say that meditation and practice will lead to a particular standard of ethics. Rather, I think culture drives the particular standard of ethics for a society. In modern America it is mostly white left wing types who seem to be drawn to Buddhism and Zen. I suspect the “left-wing” values are more important in the creation of modern American Buddhist convert sanghas than the ethics espoused by Buddha more than 2500 years ago. We have found voice in Buddhism to values we hold dearly. Care for others, compassion, lovingkindness, equanimity, service, and non-materialism are parts of Buddhist teachings. They resonate for us, so we like it. Just like any pick and choose practitioner of religion, most of us ignore the parts of the teachings that we don’t relate to or agree with, like the confucian views of hierarchy and fidelity to family and country (which my teacher espoused).

My Zen tradition is based on the Bodhisattva way. That way is service to all beings. Zen Master Seung Sahn said: “For me, suffering appears. For all beings, no suffering.” To focus on the welfare of others is the practice of uprooting self-centeredness. Self-centeredness is the great mistake. When “I” becomes the most important thing, we all suffer. To live the Bodhisattva way is to practice. It is the playing field of our life. If we truly take up this vow, we dedicate our lives to the healing and growth of the whole in each and every moment of our life. A life lived from this vow can become a life which benefits all sentient and non-sentient things. This is meditation in action in our daily life.

One more point. When we practice a meditation which focuses on What am I? we learn about ourselves and become more aware of our actions and the conditions that lead to those actions. This awareness can grow into wisdom, which allows us to act in less unconscious and hurtful ways. We act out of our psychological blindness less and in that way bring healing to the world. So, our practice directly impacts the wellbeing of others. Whether that extends to systemic issues is less clear to me.

I hope these thoughts help. I am very interested in the questions that have arisen for you and look forward to the challenging conversation we could have in looking in to those questions.”

Keeping the Sacred Fire Burning – Chief Dwaine Perry

I am writing this from what we commonly call the Lower Hudson Valley, north of New York City, which is the land of the Ramapough Lenape Munsee people.

It has become a practice for some folks while in public communications, zoom calls, etc., when asked where they are from, to say, “on the land of …” and then the name of the tribal people who inhabited that land prior to the arrival of Europeans and the forced removal or genocide of that people. It seems like a respectful thing to do.

When I was growing up in the 50’s, we played “cowboys and indians” and watched western movies where the indians were savages and the really evil villain was the medicine man. As time went on we began to see Native Americans portrayed with more nuance and then respect and even a kind of idealization. The medicine man we learned is a shaman with access to great wisdom and healing powers. Movies have changed. Lots of attitudes have changed. But the reality of many Native tribes is still quite dire.

The Ramapough are still here in New York and New Jersey and I live on what was their land. They are struggling to keep their language and customs alive and to preserve the sacredness of what remains of their land, much of which continues to be gobbled up by suburbia and mega-mansions. In recent years the tribe has fought numerous legal battles just to have the freedom to hold public ceremonies on the small patches of Mother Earth they can still call theirs. These ceremonies have been attended by Native people from all over the world and hundreds of non-Native people in the area (myself included).

The tribe was recognized by the State of New Jersey as the Ramapough Indians in 1980. Their effort to achieve federal recognition was thwarted largely by intense lobbying from, yes, Donald Trump. Trump claimed the Ramapough were not legitimate and would bring waves of crime. Of course, he also feared they would establish a casino that would compete with his own just miles away in Atlantic City. The story of this struggle is told in the film American Native (2013).

Over the years they have dealt with the classic definition of environmental racism. Portions of a toxic waste dump of the Ford Motor Company became the site for affordable housing for many of the Ramapough people. The contamination has been linked to nosebleeds, leukemia, and other ailments. They also have been at the forefront of the battle to stop the Pilgrim Pipeline from carrying gasoline, diesel, kerosene, aviation fluid and heating oil through their land. * At the center of these activities is the man who since 2007 has been the elected Chief of the Ramapough Munsee tribe, Dwaine Perry. It was an honor for me to record my recent conversation with Chief Perry for my podcast and YouTube channel, “Crossing the Boundary.”

Chief Perry has a long history of fighting for human rights, today focusing primarily on issues of concern to the Ramapough Munsee nation, decolonization, and the indigenous community at large. He has sat with Elders and indigenous leaders in the Himalayas, the Andes, and throughout North America. His journey to Standing Rock was instrumental in establishing the Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp in northern New Jersey. He is also currently working to establish the first Embassy of Sovereign Indigenous Nations of the Western Hemisphere.**

While Chief Perry often speaks sardonically, he is a serious man who, against all odds, seeks to unify his people and bring together native and non-native peoples to work together for a kinder humanity, honoring the living Earth and all creatures as sacred. As I previously said, it was an honor (and a joy) to speak with him and learn more about the tribe and his life. See: podcast: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447/13710848 or YouTube:

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramapough_Mountain_Indians
**https://www.riverkeeper.org/riverkeeper-mission/our-board/chief-dwaine-perry/

Please check out the amazing photos taken by Lisa Levart that have been made into an outdoor installation entitled, “Still Here – Women of the Ramapough Lenape Nation.”

Philosopher – Activist: Dr. Lenny Grob

“A human being becomes whole not in virtue of a relation to himself [only]

but rather in virtue of an authentic relation to another human being.” –Martin Buber

Faith is not a question of the existence or non-existence of God.

It is believing that love without reward is valuable.” – Emmanuel Levinas

The first time I met Lenny, Dr. Leonard Grob, I asked him what he did. He replied, “I’m a philosopher.” That was the first time anyone ever introduced themselves to me that way and I was quite moved. It was the beginning of a deep friendship, long conversations and many collaborations as activists for peace and justice. Many of our efforts have related to Palestine/Israel. While we often find points of difference in our perspectives, we always have maintained mutual admiration, respect and love in our ongoing relationship.

My most recent conversation with Lenny was recorded for my YouTube channel and Podcast series “Crossing the Boundary.” It’s called, “Philosopher – Activist: Dr. Leonard Grob.” I hope you take some time and watch or listen. Lenny is a deep thinker and while in his mid-eighties, continues to be very active in working to help transform our world to a more just and loving place.

Lenny has a long resume of activities and writings. He is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Teaneck, New Jersey, where he served for most of his career as Chairperson of Philosophy Studies and Director of the University’s nationally-recognized University Core Program in the Humanities. As an activist, he is vice president of Partners for Progressive Israel and has been active for decades in Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

Earlier in his career Dr .Grob published extensively in the areas of the philosophy of dialogue and peace studies, focusing in particular on the philosophy of Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas. He is the co-editor of two anthologies based on Buber’s philosophy.
A journey to Ukraine to uncover the history of the destruction of his father’s family during the Holocaust led him to the study of genocide, a focal point of his research during the second half of his career. The Nazis killed all the members of his fathers immediate family in Poland. He has said, “Speaking about the lessons of the Holocaust and striving to make the world a better place is a way of memorializing the dead, particularly my own grandparents and other members of my fathers family.”

As a Holocaust scholar he has been the principle organizer of international conferences and forums on the subject. He is the author or co-author of numerous books and articles, several of which focus on the lessons we can learn from the Holocaust in relationship to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the issue of torture, ethics, Jewish-Christian-Muslim dialogue, women’s and mens liberation, genocide, the use of power, and his most recent book with Dr. John Roth, Warnings – The Holocaust, Ukraine, and Endangered American Democracy.

The phrase “Never again” has meant, for many in the Jewish community, “never allow Jews to be persecuted again.” Dr. Grob has shared with me his view that this is a mistake. The phrase should refer to all people. We need to dedicate ourselves to preventing the persecution or genocide of any group. And that would include Palestinians.

While many steeped in Holocaust studies have become staunch, unquestioning defenders of Israel, Lenny has taken a different direction. He is active with Partners for Progressive Israel and is a very active participant in an NGO committed to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In that role, he is currently bringing peace proposals to ambassadors and their deputies at UN missions. The underlying principle is that in any just solution, both Palestinians and Jewish people in the land must be valued equally and have equal rights.

Lenny describes his politics as derived from the teachings of Martin Buber and Emmanuel Levinas. In my admittedly very limited understanding, these philosophers exhort us to live as though our relations with others define us, and only love will save us. I know from my experience with him, that Lenny applies this not just to politics, but to his relations with family, community and friends. I am happy to be one of them.

Please check out our conversation and explore my conversations with others who have crossed boundaries and are making the world a better place.

Peace and blessings,

Alan Levin

YouTube talk with Lenny Grob: https://youtu.be/D3JKJa1Y8f4?si=CCynMFwl0tMUVrhR

Audio podcast with Lenny: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447/13580818

Below are some of the publications Lenny has authored or co-authored.

Warnings: The Holocaust, Ukraine, and Endangered American Democracy by Leonard Grob and John K. Roth | Jul 6, 2023

Encountering the Stranger: A Jewish-Christian-Muslim Trialogue (Stephen S. Weinstein Series in Post-Holocaust Studies) by Leonard Grob and John K. Roth | Jan 3, 2013

Losing Trust in the World: Holocaust Scholars Confront Torture (Stephen S. Weinstein Series in Post-Holocaust Studies) by Leonard Grob and John K. Roth

Teen Voices from the Holy Land: Who Am I to You? by Mahmoud Watad and Leonard Grob | May 1, 2007

Education for Peace: Testimonies from World Religions by Haim Gordon and Leonard Grob | Jan 1, 1987

Anguished Hope: Holocaust Scholars Confront the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict by Leonard Grob and John K. Roth | Aug 20, 2008

Women’s and Men’s Liberation: Testimonies of Spirit (Contributions in Philosophy) by Haim Gordon, Leonard M. Grob, et al.

Devotee of Justice and Consciousness Change – Joseph Tieger

When I am reminded of the bravery of those who put their lives in danger for the sake of justice, I am moved to find at least a bit more of that courage in myself and take whatever steps I can to continue that struggle for a more just and peaceful world. I recently had a conversation with my good friend, Joseph Tieger, who was among the early white participants in the civil rights struggle in the South. By activist, I don’t mean someone who attended a few civil rights marches or protests, but someone who devoted himself full-time to local and national efforts and was repeatedly threatened, beaten and imprisoned. I recorded our talk for both a podcast and YouTube and hope you can take the time to tune it in.

Joseph recently published a memoir of his activist time in the civil rights struggle from 1962 – 72, and his later attempts to find an even deeper path towards bringing about change. The book, Lately It Occurs To Me: A Memoir of the Civil Rights Movement & The Open Road (1963—1976) offers a deep and detailed look into the movement in North Carolina and beyond. It givers us a glimpse into the overt hatred and violence as well as the only somewhat more subtle actions of the political and legal establishment to stop the movement towards integration and voting rights. It’s an exciting and mind-opening read.

After his years as a civil rights activist and then attorney, Joseph watched as the movement splintered and broke apart. He went on a journey of self-discovery not unlike many of us in the 60’s ending up in California. (Full disclosure: In many respects Joseph’s journey is very parallel to my own, and when we met in the 1980’s we discovered that we were in each other’s FBI files).

It was in the Bay Area of California that I met Joseph. He was then traveling and presenting a video series with his wife Johanna called “How Then Shall We Live.” It featured Ram Dass and Stephen Levine and eventually became a PBS series offering “essential teachings for personal awakening on social action, impermanence and living life fully present.”

After that, Joseph and Johanna produced a magical ten-part series with Ram Dass and dozens of other visionary teachers and celebrities live in Oakland that involved thousands of participants in social justice and diversity training while cultivating self-awareness and an open heart. This series, “Reaching Out” also became a video series.

Interestingly, on the day I had my recorded zoom conversation with Joseph, I received an article from Tikkun Magazine that included the following passage:

“However, in a sense, the saturating effects of the sixties movements were radically incomplete. They have not reached many people, particularly many White people, in our bones. Although the movements have created, and continue to create, institutional and legal and systemic shifts, the system is quite stubborn because most people’s hearts and minds have not been deeply affected. That’s why what’s needed in the United States, and the world over, is a moral, even a spiritual, change, to rise to the level of the demands for political change. ….. It’s actually quite empowering to know that we’re responsible for what we see on the news. Instead of wringing our hands, we can rewrite the script.”
–from “My American Violence” by Robert Birdwell in Tikkun Magazine

It’s well worth asking, ‘Where did all that passionate courage of the movement in the 60’s go?’ As well as, ’Where did all that hateful resistance go?’ Obviously, there are aspects of it in the current scene all around the world. But, perhaps part of the answer is they are both within us, you and me. It’s just a matter of which part we feed.

Love and blessings,

Alan Levin

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You can get Joseph’s book at Amazon here.

The podcast of our conversation is here.

The YouTube is here.

And please check out and subscribe to the series of interesting interviews with fascinating boundary-crossers at YouTube and Buzzsprout podcast.

Human Kindness Inside and Outside Prison

“The world changes for the better with every act of kindness,

and for the worse with every act of cruelty.” – Bo Lozoff

I’ve heard a powerful teaching attributed to the mystic/philosopher/spiritual teacher, George Gurdjieff. It goes something like this: “A person cannot get free of a prison if he doesn’t know he’s in one.” Incarcerated men and women are reminded 24/7 that they are in a prison by the bars that limit their movement. Those of us on the outside are mostly blind to the imprisonment defined by our self-limiting beliefs and narrowed vision of reality. Who then is in a better position to do the work aimed at inner freedom?

My dear friends, Bo and Sita Lozoff, created the Prison Ashram Project in 1973 to help prisoners make their time behind bars one of spiritual awakening through yoga, meditation and a wide range of wisdom teachings from the East and West – to make their prison an ashram for their spiritual awakening. They were inspired and supported by Ram Dass and their project has grown into the largest prison ministry in the U.S. reaching tens of thousands of incarcerated men and women. It is now renamed the “Human Kindness Foundation.” In addition to ongoing letter exchanges with prisoners, they have visited and held workshops in prisons all across the country while distributing free copies of books to prisoners. The Village Voice called Bo’s book, We’re All Doing Time, “one to the 10 books everyone in the world should read” and has over half a million copies in print.

Sita Lozoff is a wise and deeply spiritual person with a warm and loving heart. She happily took a supportive role to Bo’s very dynamic leadership and teaching activities until Bo’s death in 2012. She has now stepped into a greater leadership role herself as the spiritual director of HKF and I was very happy to have a recorded conversation with her which you can now see on YouTube or listen to as a podcast (links also below).

Human Kindness Foundation, like most non-profits, depends primarily on small donor contributions and I encourage you to consider making a donation if you want to support their mission. As you know, mass incarceration in the U.S. is enormously destructive and unjust. It is inflicted disproportionately on people of color, with little benefit towards rehabilitation or restoring justice. Nonetheless, while in prison, facing the injustice of the system and the often brutal reality of life there, individuals have transformed their thinking and way of being with the help of HKF. You can see more about their projects and make a donation here: https://humankindness.org/

May all beings be free.

With love and blessings,

Alan

YouTube video of conversation with Sita: https://youtu.be/NUbD05sRsOA

Podcast: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447/12658257

Website of Human Kindness Foundation: https://humankindness.org/

Taoism – Being One and Being With Suffering

Interview with Ken Cohen

Ken Cohen is the author of The Way of Qigong: The Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing and also Honoring the Medicine: The Essential Guide to Native American Healing. He is the rare individual who has entered fully into these spiritual traditions, studying and honoring the lineage, language and practices with absolute integrity. It was my honor to have another chance to interview Ken for my podcast and YouTube series having previously spoken with him for my book, Crossing the Boundary: Stories of Jewish Leaders of Other Spiritual Paths.

In our conversation we cover a lot of ground and I hope you take the time to either listen to the podcast or watch the video. We begin with discussing his identity as a Jewish man as well as his being an adopted member of the Cree people. He recalls his Jewish family history that shaped much of his life’s direction even while choosing to focus his attention on two distinctly different paths: learning the Chinese language, Taoism, Qigong and Tai Chi, and finding himself adopted and trained by Native American elders in their traditional, healing arts.

In response to a wide range of questions, he offers rich teachings from a Taoist perspective as well as his views on learning from nature. In regards to the latter, he emphasizes the importance of cultivating deep knowledge and intuitive relationships with plants for healing body and mind, much of which he learned the elders.

We explore the focus of much of my own work: how the spiritual quest, (Taoist or otherwise) relates to helping relieve suffering and to activism for peace, justice and a sustainable human relationship with the world. I find what he shared to be very powerful teachings for being with our internal process when responding to the painful state of the world. Recognizing his own troubled reactions, he describes going out into nature and praying for guidance. What he received are four guidelines. He emphasizes that this is not a substitute for active work in the world, but for preserving personal, psychological and spiritual well-being in the face of injustice. (I’ve summarized them here, but hope you listen for the full explanation of this very powerful teaching.)

1.Release the injustice you experience up to Creator. Don’t return the fire.
2. Never indulge in negative thinking. That only strengthens what feeds the abuse.
3. Don’t allow even a single shell of bitterness to form around your heart.
4. Do whatever is necessary to keep your heart fully capable of receiving and giving love.

We continue on to discuss the use of psychedelic plant medicines, the use of tea as a spiritual path and the need to focus deeply with a spiritual tradition rather than diluting or mixing them haphazardly, . Ken is quite an amazing individual and I encourage you to listen to our interview and check into his books and websites to find out more about him and his teachings.

The Way of Qigong: https://www.qigonghealing.com/
Honoring the Medicine: https://www.sacredearthcircle.com/

Our conversation can be found at

And https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447/12089957 and

You can listen to all the Crossing the Boundary interviews here:

https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447

and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpfneC8HTO0&list=PLBTcFhpF_7838Ckgn-8rf508QrjEqc9GAhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BpfneC8HTO0&list=PLBTcFhpF_7838Ckgn-8rf508QrjEqc9GA

With love and blessings,

Alan

Subtle Activism with David Nicol

The old will disappear. Human level consciousness by itself can no longer resolve the complexities it has created.”
–David Spangler

“We are all affecting the world every moment, whether we mean to or not. Our actions and states of mind matter, because we are so deeply interconnected with one another.”
― Ram Dass

Subtle activism is a bridge between the inner world of spirituality and the outer world of activism (as normally conceived) that emphasizes the potential of spiritual practice to exert a subtle but crucial form of social influence.

We have been weaving a multi-strand planetary Web of Light as energetic support and protection for humanity and the Earth as we pass through this global crisis of initiation.”
–David Nicol

How does the intention to wake up spiritually intersect with the intention to serve and make the world a better place?

I write this from 50 plus years of observations and personal experience with both spiritual communities and activist movements. I was initiated into the civil rights and anti-war movements as an angry young man in the Sixties. I withdrew into a disciplined spiritual group for the decade of the Seventies to find inner peace. Over the last forty years I’ve evolved through different approaches to integrating the two paths.*

For several decades now, spiritual teachers and communities have been shifting their emphasis from the individual journey of awakening or enlightenment to focusing on awareness of the inter-relatedness of life and the intention to reduce suffering and make the world a better place. This is, of course, not a new idea. It has been part of the wisdom teachings that come from almost all ancient, traditional religious or spiritual sources. We have been told, “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “You are here to heal and repair the earth.)”

But many of us in the last half century who became disenchanted with the religions of our families adopted a very individualistic notion of spirituality. We thought that if we sat and meditated or chanted or prayed long enough, we would become enlightened and that was the goal of life. Over time, those of us who were sincere and paying attention found that this pursuit of individual enlightenment was naive, unfulfilling, and ultimately not bringing about the beauty, goodness and truth we were seeking. It was not in alignment with the calling of their souls. Perhaps more importantly, it was not in keeping with Reality, wherein we are not essentially separate beings.

More and more spiritual teachers, even those whose primary focus is on “non-duality,” have been pointing attention to the need for those on a spiritual path to address the problems of the world. It is clear that the primary causes of human suffering (racial and economic injustice, poverty and hunger, the threat of nuclear war, the poisoning of the Earth, climate change and a host of related issues) stem from a terribly imbalanced collective human consciousness. Rather than simply sitting and meditating, a spiritual life means recognizing ones relationship and responsibility to these issues and the people and other life forms who are suffering.

The question then becomes how does one integrate or harmonize these seemingly opposite directions of attention. On the one hand there is the inward focus on acceptance, stillness, presence and being. On the other is the outward focus on resistance and confrontation with injustice and action to right what is wrong.

What I find most spiritual teachers suggesting is a process of alternating between the two. That is, take time to meditate or go inward to experience and merge with the refreshing flow of life energy from Source or Higher Consciousness, then participate in traditional actions of advocacy or protest, then come back to your meditation practice to recenter yourself. This provides a solution to the “burnout” often experienced in the frustrating work of political and social activism. It also helps avoid the tendency to react with anger and competition-based consciousness which are poisons that infect many activist movements. We develop the ability to take action with compassion, a loving heart, and a spirit of collaboration.

Additionallly, there is a very interesting alternative: subtle activism. This is the work advocated by David Nicol, (among others) applying the methods of spiritual practices to directly influence the currents of change in the world. I invite you to watch my recent conversation with David in which we explore his personal journey to understanding, practicing and teaching this approach. (Or if you prefer, you can listen to the podcast.) As he’s written, “Subtle activism is a bridge between the inner world of spirituality and the outer world of activism (as normally conceived) that emphasizes the potential of spiritual practice to exert a subtle but crucial form of social influence.” David elaborates the theory and practice of his ideas in his book, Subtle Activism – The Inner Dimensions of Social and planetary Transformation. He has founded several projects bringing together tens of thousands of people from all over the world for worldwide meditations dedicated to social change.

It does seem to me that the old ways of bringing about social change are very limited in our current environment of mass misinformation and polarization. The subtle activism approach, which draws from ancient understandings from indigenous spirituality and uses modern technology, may be a vital ingredient in the mix of what will bring about the necessary change in our collective human consciousness.

For more information on David’s work and ways to learn more about and participate in subtle activist projects, see: The Gaiafield Project – https://gaiafield.net/

Youtube link for interview with David Nicol: https://youtu.be/EEF0cws-pk4

Podcast link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1827447/10630045

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.)

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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

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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.

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