Category Archives: Crossing Boundaries video series

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

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