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Another Kind of Spiritual Practice

Jan30

by: on January 30th, 2015 | No Comments »

It’s easy to think of spiritual practice as something separate from ordinary life: the time one spends on a meditation cushion or chanting prayers or sending praisesongs into the world. But for me these days, the most powerful spiritual practices are things I seldom put in that category. Is facilitating a discussion a spiritual practice?

Last weekend I was the lead presenter in a series for public artists working in community offered by the city of Calgary in the Canadian province of Alberta. I gave a talk and led a couple of workshops for an engaged group of artists, students, administrators, and educators. I like the way Dawn Ford, the Public Art Program Coordinator, has gone about helping local artists become more engaged in public practice.

At day’s end, a number of participants came forward to thank me, which always feels good. Several of them paid me a compliment I am often privileged to hear: “I learned something,” one woman told me, “from the way you called on people and responded to their comments during the discussions. Your face stayed the same no matter what they said.”

I discovered I had a knack for this a few centuries ago as a young arts activist in San Francisco. Things would get contentious, people would take polar positions, and somehow it fell to me to try to create the container that could hold opposing sides and find some resolution that respected them all. It was an epiphany festival. I could see that I liked some people and disliked others, agreed with some assertions and rejected others. I had just as many personal preferences as everyone else in the room. Inside my head and body, the jostle of winners and losers kept right on making a commotion, but a different inner voice rang louder and truer.

Now I think of that voice as godlike. You know what I mean: not omnipotent and patriarchal, but regarding every person as beloved, the way a good parent loves her children. I could hear what each person was saying—the specific content of each message, including the edges that invited conflict. But I could also sense something of the joy or pain, the yearning or striving that colored each attempt to communicate, regardless of message. That voice told me to hold each person’s words in the same light, as part of a brave and beautiful persistence to care and connect despite all the rejections we may have experienced, all that may have been done to us. At first I thought of it as a game I played with myself: could I root myself in a position of fairness and enabling, of respect and mutuality?

But then something magical happened. I fell in love with that voice. I started genuinely wanting each person to speak his or her truth and the love infused my gaze and my capacity to listen. Now, so many years later, I’m not consciously doing anything when I facilitate a meeting. It reminds me of many years ago, when painting rather than writing was my medium as an artist. I painted a great many portraits, and when someone sat for me, my former feelings about that person fell away. Spending hour after hour sitting close, gazing at another’s face, breathing the same air, letting the stories flow: the word for the feeling generated by that experience was the same: love.

No matter what the context, this unbidden love—this grace—is a form of spiritual practice. I only have one endorsement, but I think it’s pretty compelling: if it works for someone as full of opinions and preferences as I am, it can work for anyone.


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Fighting to Abolish Unjust Debts: Check Out Tikkun’s Winter 2015 Issue

Jan29

by: Tikkun on January 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

Jubilee and Debt Abolition

It’s the Jubilee Year according to the Jewish Calendar – the year when all debts are to be forgiven and all land redistributed in equal parcels. In a time when debts have reached unprecedented levels and people are suffering under this burden, how can people of all faiths – as well as our contemporary secular societies – be inspired by this radical biblical vision? The Winter 2015 issue of Tikkun features people putting the concept of Jubilee into action in the fight for debt abolition.

Don’t miss out on this important discussion. You can get a taste of it by clicking on each article and reading the first few paragraphs. Then, if you are not yet a subscriber or member of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, you’ll be asked to subscribe or join (after which you will get the print and/or online version of the magazine). If you are already a paid-up subscriber or member, you should be able to read the full article online and be getting the print version in the mail. Many of us forget how to log in to read subscriber-only content online; please don’t hesitate to seek guidance on how to register to read the online version of the print magazine. Just email leila@tikkun.org or call 510-644-1200 for help. If you are a subscriber or member of the NSP and haven’t received the print magazine in the mail yet, please email leila@tikkun.org. We want to fix the problem as soon as we know about it!

Now, for your taste of the magazine…

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Intern with Rabbi Michael Lerner and the NSP

Jan29

by: Tikkun on January 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

Heal and Transform the World Internship with Tikkun Magazine and the NSP interfaith and secular-humanist and atheist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives a few blocks from the UC Berkeley Campus.

Are you worried about climate change and upset about how the destruction of our environment is threatening our collective future? Are you outraged by the amount of power that corporations and the top 1% of wealthy people have over U.S. politics and our lives? Do you want to build a future in which “homeland security” is achieved through ending global poverty rather than through the military invasion of other countries?

If so, come intern with Tikkun magazine’s Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), an interfaith organization that is also welcoming to “spiritual but not religious” atheists and agnostics. The Network of Spiritual Progressives is a project of Tikkun Magazine. Internships are at 2375 Shattuck Ave between Durant Ave and Channing Ave in Berkeley. Tikkun is a Hebrew word which means “healing, repair and transformation.” The NSP is co-chaired by Rabbi Michael Lerner and environmental activist Vandana Shiva. Please read our website at www.spiritualprogressives.org.

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Inside the Uniform, Under the Hood, Longing for Change

Jan28

by: Kathy Kelly on January 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

From January 4-12, 2015, Witness Against Torture (WAT) activists assembled in Washington D.C. for an annual time of fasting and public witness to end the United States’ use of torture and indefinite detention and to demand the closure, with immediate freedom for those long cleared for release, of the illegal U.S. prison at Guantanamo.

Activist wearing orange jumpsuit and black hood holds sign that reads Shut Down Guantanamo.

There are 122 prisoners currently held at the Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay. Above, Witness Against Torture activists demonstrate in Washington, D.C. to close the prison. Credit: Elvert Barnes/ Creative Commons.

Participants in our eight day fast started each day with a time of reflection. This year, asked to briefly describe who or what we had left behind and yet might still carry in our thoughts that morning, I said that I’d left behind an imagined WWI soldier, Leonce Boudreau.

I was thinking of Nicole de’Entremont’s story of World War I, A Generation of Leaves, which I had just finished reading. Initial chapters focus on a Canadian family of Acadian descent. Their beloved oldest son, Leonce, enlists with Canada’s military because he wants to experience life beyond the confines of a small town and he feels stirred by a call to defend innocent European people from advancing “Hun” warriors. He soon finds himself mired in the horrid slaughter of trench warfare near Ypres, Belgium.

I often thought of Leonce during the week of fasting with WAT campaign members. We focused, each day, on the experiences and writing of a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo, Fahed Ghazi who, like Leonce, left his family and village to train as a fighter for what he believed to be a noble cause. He wanted to defend his family, faith and culture from hostile forces. Pakistani forces captured Fahed and turned him over to U.S. forces after he had spent two weeks in a military training camp in Afghanistan. At the time he was 17, a juvenile. He was cleared for release from Guantanamo in 2007.

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Running in High Heels? Not!

Jan28

by: on January 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

high heels

Credit: Creative Commons / SPERA.de Designerschuhe, Taschen und Accessoires

There is an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) television commercial that shows a woman in a short skirt and high heels while the voice over talks of finding a career you love at any age and about life reimagined. Whenever I see this spot called “I’ve Still Got It”, I think that when anyone is old enough for an AARP card, there are some things you should know, one of which is running in high heels is a dumb idea.

If you are old enough for an AARP card, you ought to be able to recognize a non sequitur, a logical fallacy where the premises do not lead to the stated conclusion. A miniskirt and high heels have nothing whatever to do with continued vitality as we age, nothing whatever to do with working on exciting projects either as a career or not after age 50, nothing whatever to do with re-imagining life’s possibilities.

If you are old enough for an AARP card, you should know, especially if you are a woman, the history of high heels. They were first used in ancient Persia by men who used the heels to keep them in stirrups when riding horses. Over time, high heels have been used by short kings and queens to make them appear taller. The aristocracy used them to distinguish themselves from the lower classes. The heels showed that unlike the lower classes, they did not have to walk. With the Enlightenment, men were thought to be rational and useful, in charge. They stopped wearing high heels. Women were seen as sentimental and as decoration. The more successful the man, the more beautiful the woman or women with which he was associated. Once upon a time, the only women who wore high heels were prostitutes. Today, many women wear high heels because they are supposed to make a woman’s legs look longer and shapelier. They cause her to walk with more sway to her hips. Many women wear high heels so that they feel confident and sexy.

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Jewish in Europe: Another Perspective

Jan28

by: Donna Swarthout on January 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

Anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, and other rising tides of extremism have dominated recent media coverage of European affairs. A growing number of Jews are fleeing Europe, right wing patriot rallies and marches have spawned an increase in violence against Muslims, and the outlook for an abatement of hatred against Europe’s minorities and immigrants seems bleak. Media coverage of these trends seems to sow the very fear to which civilized people say they will not succumb.

Protesters holding up a sign in German against anti-Islamic groups

European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP) protests against PAX Europe, a racist organization. Credit: Frank M. Rafik/ Creative Commons.

Amidst the constant reports of threats from extremist forces, many observers claim that European leaders and the media show indifference towards some victims of terror. Some see double standards in the amount of attention that is devoted to certain groups of victims over others. After the slayings in the kosher market in Paris, there were cries from some Jewish quarters about the insufficient amount of attention given to these anti-Semitic crimes. “Why won’t Europe acknowledge the grave threat to its Jews?” screamed one recent headline. As if Angela Merkel and the rest of the continent had been silent or inactive in the face of anti-Semitism.

Must we really compete with other victims for attention in a world besieged by so many tragedies? Responding to terrorism with complaints about the amount of attention one group receives compared to another is divisive and counterproductive. Some groups do receive more attention and expressions of sympathy than others. Jews are not at the top of the list, but we have not been ignored either.

Viewing the threat from extremist forces in Europe through the narrow lens of identity politics does little to address the root problems that foster terrorism. I worry less about the depth of hatred towards Jews than I do about how to support Germany’s economically depressed regions and growing refugee population so that extremism does not take root and spread. The racism of PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), the group that has been holding enormous anti-Islamic rallies in Germany, threatens all of us, not just Muslims.

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American Sniper: Chris Hedges’ “Killing Ragheads for Jesus”

Jan28

by: on January 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

A screenshot from the movie american sniper

A still from the movie 'American Sniper.' Credit: remolacha.net/ Creative Commons

Editor’s note: While we at Tikkun do not feel it’s fair to blame Christianity or imply that all Christians somehow implicitly support the kind of Christianity that leads some American Christians to feel that their murdering of Arabs or Muslims is doing Jesus’ work, and want to remind our readers of the many progressive Christians who join the Network of Spiritual Progressives and other organization that oppose the US “Strategy of Domination” and instead identify with Tikkun’s Strategy of Generosity (as manifested in our proposed Domestic and Global Marshall Plan (please re-read it by downloading the full version at www.tikkun.org/gmp), we do think that Hedges’ powerful critique of the movie “American Sniper” should be read by those who are too willing to forgive the American media for its implicit and sometimes explicit glorification of the U.S. military. And shame on President Obama and liberal Democrats for not having stopped the (what was at first just Bush’s) war in Iraq when they had control of both houses of Congress and the presidency 2009 and 2010, instead backing a “surge” and providing the background and equipment that eventually led to ISIS and all its cruel perversions and murderous ruthlessness.

Below we have excerpts from Chris Hedges’ piece, “Killing Ragheads for Jesus”, which can be found here, at Truthdig.com.

A Future in Prison

Jan27

by: Kathy Kelly on January 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

The Bureau of Prisons contacted me today, assigning me a prison number and a new address: for the next 90 days, beginning tomorrow, I’ll live at FMC Lexington, in the satellite prison camp for women, adjacent to Lexington’s federal medical center for men. Very early tomorrow morning, Buddy Bell, Cassandra Dixon, and Paco and Silver, two house guests whom we first met in protests on South Korea’s Jeju Island, will travel with me to Kentucky and deliver me to the satellite women’s prison outside the Federal Medical Center for men.

Soldiers and civilians standing in front of an airplane.Drone killings across the Middle East and the casual executions and incarceration of black males in our own country are not unrelated. Credit: Shane Franklin

In December, 2014, Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced me to three months in federal prison after Georgia Walker and I had attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of Whiteman Air Force base, asking him to stop his troops from piloting lethal drone flights over Afghanistan from within the base. Judge Whitworth allowed me over a month to surrender myself to prison; but whether you are a soldier or a civilian, a target or an unlucky bystander, you can’t surrender to a drone.

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Dear President Obama: Please Invite Me to the White House During Netanyahu’s Congressional Speech

Jan24

by: on January 24th, 2015 | 11 Comments »

Dear President Obama,

You don’t know my name, though you know the names of those who represent hundreds of thousands of American Jews who, like me, publicly support your diplomatic efforts with Iran.

And while you don’t know my name, you know that I and those like me represent 52 percent of U.S. Jews who support your diplomatic efforts over those presented by Congressional Republicans and Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who are now shamelessly working in concert, behind your back, to undermine your administration’s historic gains.

As the leader of Israel, Netanyahu often claims to speak for all Jews, absurdly conflating his political ideals with those of American Jewry. But he does not speak for most of us. Indeed, there are over three million American Jews for whom he does not speak. Over three million voices in the American Jewish community who reject current efforts to scuttle historic nuclear negotiations with Iran. Who reject efforts to undermine peaceful diplomacy. And who reject John Boehner’s outrageous breach of protocol by inviting a foreign leader to deliver a response to your State of the Union address.


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From Ferguson to Palestine: Dispatch from the Troublemaking Frontlines

Jan23

by: on January 23rd, 2015 | No Comments »

“We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you’ve been to any of the #blacklivesmatter protests, you may have seen the slogan “Justice from Ferguson to Palestine” on a protest sign. You may have wondered: Really? How are these struggles really connected? This December, I was in Palestine, and I found out first hand.

People at a conference raising their hands together

The audience at A Hole in a Brick Wall conference standing to show solidarity with #blacklivesmatter. Credit: Active Stills

I was asked to give a brief keynote about New York’s People’s Climate March at a conference on feminism and nonviolence in Jaffa, the port city that was once the thriving center of commerce in Palestine, now the neglected south end of Tel Aviv, Israel. Why fly halfway around the world to talk about the climate to people who live in a land riddled with its own share of environmental destruction? I guess, sometimes, you have to burn carbon to stop carbon. As I was preparing my talk, the #blacklivesmatter movement was erupting across America. I couldn’t ignore it. My task: illustrate the interconnectedness of climate justice, racial justice, and ending state violence? In, um, under 15 minutes.

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