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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Beyond Resistance: Prophetic Empathy and Radical Love

Apr13

by: Rev. Carolyn Wilkins on April 13th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Cat Zavis leading a Spiritual Activism Training in January 2017

Cat Zavis leading a Spiritual Activism Training, January 2017

These are the times that try men’s souls, but we can Rise Up!

A few weeks ago, I was walking to join a protest rally at City Hall in Los Angeles, when I caught the eye of one of the city employees. We briefly exchanged salutations and he then whispered to me, ‘Oh no, not another protest,’ and continued to express his distaste for having his day interrupted by people complaining about something. Instead of arguing with him, I shared that he’s right: most people do complain, but here is a group that wants to do something about it -they are standing up for justice. As my new friend went his way, he said, ‘You’re right, they are doing something worthwhile.’

Many of the people I speak with are frustrated and angry about congress, this administration, the NRA, the environment, Trump supporters, etc. These are (indeed) the times that try (wo)men’s souls - this quote from Thomas Paine, written to dispirited soldiers in Washington, DC, seems so appropriate at a time like this. Yet, we have a choice on how we want to respond to this moment in history… We can complain or we can rise up, take action, and give voice to our vision of a loving and just world.

I want to personally invite you to our next Spiritual Activism Training that begins on April 24. In our program, titled Beyond Resistance:Prophetic Empathy and Radical Love, we are integrating spirituality and activism to build a world of love and justice.

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Stepping into Leadership: 
the Magic of Self-Acceptance

Mar16

by: on March 16th, 2018 | No Comments »

A Hassidic story tells of a rabbi Zusha who summons his students on his deathbed and tells them that when he gets to the other side, he won’t be judged for not being a good Moses; he will only be judged for not being a good Zusha.

This story captures, for me, one of the most challenging tasks of supporting people in stepping into and developing their leadership. Time and time again, I have found people comparing themselves to me, or to some other admired leader, and giving up on themselves and the path because they don’t “measure up.” Each time, I come back to the basic truth that the only leader any of us can be is based on who we each are. As we step into leadership, we are called to lead with our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses.

This truth, for me, has been both a relief and an exacting discipline. It requires a profound shift in our relationship with ourselves: from judging to observing ourselves, from minimizing to celebrating our strengths, from criticizing to tenderly accepting our limitations, from motivating ourselves with “shoulds” to connecting with purpose and choice about creating change within ourselves, and from hiding to asking for support regarding our challenges.

Each of these shifts challenges the patriarchal legacy and upbringing that almost all of us have grown up with, transcending shame, fear, and the perpetual doubt that we matter. This approach asserts, boldly and loudly, that we do matter, whoever we are.


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Planetary Parenting

Feb27

by: Stan Charnofsky on February 27th, 2018 | No Comments »

Children are on the march.

Our planet has been around for some three-and-a-half billion years, and we have received countless devastating blows from space debris–some of it destroying vast segments of the earth and a variety of life species.

We now have evolved to where a given species has the intelligence to prevent such collisions and it becomes our choice whether or not we apply our resources to do it.

Therein lies a lesson.

We live with many earthly anomalies, human and planetary issues that clamor for correction, that range from inhumane treatment of children to violent warfare against entire populations.  We now also have the technology and know-how to banish these practices; we have not, alas, mustered the courage or the willingness to do so.

It might be a vacuum of leadership, or perhaps a failing in people, that we do not rise up in Peace and Acceptance nearly so well as we do in Combat and Criticism.  My personal lean is toward a Humanistic philosophy which eschews the sense of an innate negativity in people, but rather that we are wounded by early hurts.  It follows that if we do have a failing, it has been absorbed over time, has become an applique on our psyches as protection against any new hurt and pain.

To counteract those protections and intercept future hurts, we must consider our children and offer them a legacy of love-that-leads-to-safety by cleansing our own hearts of prejudice and aggression.

Since children are our future, we must focus on their parents.

Our world culture does not parent well; therein lies another lesson.  Almost every other species nurtures its young more fastidiously than the human.  We are often neglectful. We are sometimes assaultive.  A world in turmoil is the product of neglected and assaulted children.

Thirty years ago, children eight to fourteen years of age, from twenty-four countries, were surveyed about what they wanted from their parents. The top several responses were: Harmony, Love, Honesty, Acceptance, Closeness, Attention (to their questions), and Appreciation of their friends. We need to provide these picks for children everywhere, whether as biological parents, cultural parents, or–grand notion–planetary parents.

Our loftiest task might be to behold our precious children in their honesty and innocence, learn all we can from them, and meticulously incorporate their zest, spontaneity and keen potential into our adult personalities.  Ironically, only when we have lovingly absorbed our children’s humanity can we turn and be effective adult examples to those very same children.

If we do decide to apply our ample technology to keep meteorites from colliding with our planet, it would be nice to think our world civilization is worth preserving.

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Stan Charnofsky  is a professor at Calif. State University Northridge, a licensed psychologist, and past President of the Association for  Humanistic Psychology.

Transcending Barriers while Life Meets Death

Feb20

by: on February 20th, 2018 | Comments Off

In this time, so full of pain and challenge, I was unexpectedly nourished by an email I received from someone who is consciously, purposefully trying to live applied NVC and Conflict Transformation in work and life, currently doing it in Eastern Sri Lanka. I am sharing an abridged version of her words here, with her permission, because I continue to be inspired and transformed repeatedly by her description of an encounter with a strange man dying of a violent act. I bolded the part that is most inspiring to me, in case you want to go straight there.

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Let’s Make Valentine’s Day Liberating Love Day! The Revolution Begins with Self-Love

Feb16

by: Mordecai Cohen Ettinger on February 16th, 2018 | Comments Off

Some years ago my cousin told me of an interaction she witnessed between my father and younger brother who was about 5 years old at the time. My cousin, now in her 50s was in her mid-20s then. My little brother, knobby-kneed and blue saucer-eyed, with the sweetest freckles you can possibly imagine, approached my father with a dandelion and gave it to him as a gift. My father promptly snatched the dandelion from my brother’s tiny hands, threw it on the ground (they were outside), and exclaimed, “that’s a weed!” Though I didn’t witness it myself, I can readily imagine my father doing such a thing. His behavior generally fell somewhere on the spectrum of violence, and for my father this was somewhat low-key. I can also imagine the sadness, fear, and crushing sense of rejection of my tender-hearted younger brother.

Love, and our expressions of love are policed and defined through this policing from a very young age. The contortion of love into acceptable relationships and expressions often begins in our families of origin, refractions of the oppressive norms and imperatives of our broader society. Our families also often serve as training grounds for these norms, regardless of our race, class, ethnicity, and immigration status. The most radical, iconoclastic, and even wonderful families pass along to us their fears, internalized oppression and limiting beliefs along with their love. Fully loving ourselves and others is complicated from the start, a truth intimately known by so many of us.

Further, in our white supremacist, heteropatriarchal, ableist society, love or its withholding is one of the primary ways in which our behaviors and their underlying and entangled beliefs are conditioned and controlled. For example many male (passing) children must capitulate to the demands of toxic masculinity to maintain the love and approval of their fathers (or mothers or other caregivers who could certainly uphold and engage in these types of behaviors as well).

In this story above, my brother was asked to refute or reject his own tenderness – an expression of his very organic, even inborn kindness –  to protect himself from rejection from one of the few people on the planet,  as a five-year-old, he most needed love, acceptance and protection: his father.

From a very young age the contradictions of our society reflected by and circulating through our most intimate relationships require us to choose between the love and acceptance of others and the love of ourselves. The root of these contradictions can be traced to settler colonialism and the highly instrumentalizing and transactionalizing economic system which co-evolved with it – capitalism.

Capitalism is an inherently disintegrating force; that which is dis-integrated and torn asunder can then be reconstituted and captured in the market for profit. Relationships are re-woven to meet the needs of the market instead of human need and we are set up to be divided against each other and ourselves. This has now been happening for generations. A father, my father, any father, chooses to uphold the demands of regulating masculinity and compulsory heterosexuality rather than honor, rejoice in, and fully receive the authentic kindness and love of his child. A child must hide their vulnerability and gentleness to be treated as a person, even though it is this self-same vulnerability and gentleness that enables us to most deeply connect with ourselves and others, and access our deepest wisdom.

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Belonging Cuts Like A Knife

Feb16

by: on February 16th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

I’ve heard it said that belonging sounds kind of soft, but to me, it’s a knife that cuts straight to the heart of our collective challenge. How do we cultivate a society that embodies the right to belong, that offers full cultural citizenship: justice and love, equity and compassion, the right to feel at home in one’s community, to feel safe in one’s school? To belong.

It’s not clear whether school shooter Nikolas Cruz actually trained with the white nationalist militia Republic of Florida (the group’s leader claimed Cruz, then said he’d mistaken him for someone else. But Cruz had been aligned for years with white supremacist views, according to a high school classmate and others: “He would always talk about how he felt whites were a bit higher than everyone,” Charo said. “He’d be like, ‘My people are over here industrializing the world and starting new things, while your people [meaning blacks and Latinos] are just taking up space.’”

When we debate who belongs—about how belonging must be earned and which categories of people are entitled to a say—we had better be ready to tussle with history.Consider a few scenes from the annals of belonging.


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On the Receiving End of Hate

Jan24

by: Phoenix Soleil on January 24th, 2018 | 3 Comments »

My cousin and I were texting about Trumps insult towards Haiti. She said: He’s so disrespectful it is really upsetting and I’m trying to emotionally block him out

This was my response:

 

It’s like a blow

I felt kicked in the stomach,

I felt shame

And then I felt shame about feeling shame.

I know this isn’t true so why am I hurt?

the capitalist life

Many of us give this materialistic socioeconomic system our time and energy so we can stay alive.

I play the game

I try to win

Most of all I want to safe,

And then the spiritual life

Most of us can only give a portion our non working hours to the spiritual life

For most of us that amount gets smaller every year

Of course we get entangled in the material way of seeing things

And when the leader and representative of our economic system insults an aspect of ourselves

We feel it

We’re suppose to better than this

Ideals values integrity

The stuff of children movies, 50s sitcoms and comic books

Believing that good will triumph

That hard work and integrity mean something

But this economic system is rigged

What he says hurts me because he’s voicing a shadow in this culture. From a purely economic perspective, many people can and do dismiss Haiti. It’s because of the popularity of a “might makes right” attitudes like his and historical oppression from the west especially from France and America that Haiti is poor. Because that way of thinking is so prevalent. In this country we’re brainwashed to see things from that kind of materialistic point of view. In most disney movies or superhero stories wining at the end is proof that you are magic, right and good. It’s natural that I would feel anger sadness and shame. It’s painful to be around that ideology and to see it in myself.

Deep down we know that the spirit and spirituality is more important than the money. The art and culture of Haiti is special. Every culture is special. It hurts because that’s not the way a lot of people think. Trump is encouraging people’s worse natures. No one thrives in a culture of bullying and materialism. And the people who are economically disadvantaged will suffer the most.

I understand the urge to block out his words. I encourage you to cry it out and feel the pain because pain has more power the more it’s repressed. Please cry, rather than insult Trump. Strive to understand your feelings. Honor the pain, rather than strike out. By condemning we replicate his emotionally stunted way of being in the world. By crying we release. With time, a more evolved response full of intelligence, action and compassion can emerge.

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Phoenix Soleil  is an artist, activist and teacher. She is passionate about the intersections of community, emotional intelligence and trauma. She is a partner at LIFT Economy where she helps businesses increase their emotional intelligence and collaboration skills. She has led trainings in communication, racial justice and emotional resiliency for individuals, groups, and organizations such as Google, Kellogg Foundation, UC Berkeley, and Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute. Check out her website for upcoming trainings, and more info on her artistic endeavors: phoenixsoleil.com.

#MeToo and Liberation for All

Jan22

by: on January 22nd, 2018 | 2 Comments »

“I want to kiss you all over your smile.”

The poetic beauty struck me even while my entire body was contracting. The man speaking was drunk. I had asked him several times to stop calling me, at least not so late. He was married, with four children, 20 years my senior, and the president of the company I was working for at the time. I was in my late 20s. It was 1984.

Somehow, between the persistence of the phone calls and my repeated attempts to create boundaries while being human and caring, an unlikely friendship developed. Maybe because I was touched by the vulnerability at his core, or inspired by his brilliance and apparent openness. Slowly and painfully I realized, like so many women before and after me, that maintaining the budding friendship would require succumbing to the sexual overtures. I remember the moment of saying straight into his eyes: “Do you really want me to kiss you even if I don’t want to?” I was so shocked by his insistence in the face of my disinterest, that I lost my will; as if being seen solely as an instrument for his pleasure actually made me less of a person in my own right.

A relationship of two years emerged. It had its moments of true intimacy. And it was a difficult and complicated relationship. When the time came to end it, he predictably asked me to resign. I, unpredictably, declined. I loved my job and didn’t want to lose it. He protested, insisting that it would be difficult for him to see me daily after the breakup. I told him he could fire me, and that I would speak about why. To this day, I am astounded by my matter-of-fact courage.

Two years later, I discovered the literature on sexual harassment. My world exploded in understanding of what had happened; one of my own pivotal #MeToo moments. Even then, I knew I was relatively lucky. No ruined career. No watching him continue, with impunity, to victimize others.

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Fearless Truths, Ruthless Awareness: Into The New Year

Dec31

by: on December 31st, 2017 | Comments Off

At our Hanukkah party a couple of weeks ago, we asked our guests to each share a way in which they want to bring light into the world in the coming year. Like other festivals that kindle a blaze as the sun’s light wanes—Diwali, Christmas—Hanukkah can be understood as a collective refusal to surrender to darkness, a collective invitation to remember the light even in the darkest times.

My wish was for a pervading awareness, the kind that sees past the conventional categories that constrain thinking. I haven’t been blogging much because I’ve been giving my writing attention to a new book which treats this question as a central theme: why have we fallen so much into treating people and issues as toggle switches—#MeToo, for or against?—and what can we do to open the gates of awareness to multiple truths? My wish was for ruthless awareness, the kind that penetrates the surface of what is, allowing layer after layer to emerge and be explored, side-by-side, not always resolving to either/or.

I thought of this again yesterday. It was my task to offer the kavannot (intentions) for aliyot (Torah readings) in services yesterday morning, drawing out underlying teachings of the Torah portion assigned to this past week and inviting all who wished to connect to those energies to come take part in the blessings before each reading.

It felt like a really auspicious occasion: the last reading in the book of Genesis/Beresheit, the last Shabbat of the secular year. In the reading, Jacob prepares to die, offering parting messages to his offspring and blessings to Joseph’s sons, his grandsons. As the reading comes to a close, Joseph dies too. The Hebrew calendar only occasionally matches up with the secular year in this way. But because this is an annual cycle, because many of us have read it countless times, we know the book of Exodus/Shemot is coming next, the story of the long journey out of slavery. Everything ends, yet every ending is also a beginning.

For the second aliyah, I drew attention to the moment that Jacob offers parting words to his sons in Genesis 49:1-29. He speaks fearlessly, telling it as it he sees it, both what has been and the foundation the past has laid for what may come to pass. The passage is quite remarkable as he speaks very hard truths and very great blessings, equally without hesitation. This same capacity is my new year’s blessing for all of you, dear readers, fearless seekers after truth and wisdom, beauty and meaning, love and justice: that all may be able to see truth despite those who seek to obscure it; and speak truth despite those seeking to silence it.

Today we have new names for lies. The sleep of reason breeds monsters such as “fake news,” a club brandished by the Present Occupant of the White House to beat his critics into submission; and also by his opponents to discredit those who reprint his lies without reservation.

Eighty-three years ago, in 1935, the German writer Bertolt Brecht published his essay, “Writing the Truth: Five Difficulties.” To urge you on in the spirit of fearless truth, ruthless awareness, I offer a few of his words:

Nowadays, anyone who wishes to combat lies and ignorance and to write the truth must overcome at least five difficulties. He must have the courage to write the truth when truth is everywhere opposed; the keenness to recognize it, although it is everywhere concealed; the skill to manipulate it as a weapon; the judgment to select those in whose hands it will be effective; and the cunning to spread the truth among such persons. These are formidable problems for writers living under Fascism, but they exist also for those writers who have fled or been exiled; they exist even for writers working in countries where civil liberty prevails.

Here’s a live 1974 recording of Link Wray’s groundbreaking “Rumble,” first released in 1958. An essential part of living into truth these days is unearthing what has been suppressed, resurrecting buried truths. You must see Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World, a remarkable documentary on the Indigenous roots of rock’n'roll, released this year and now available for streaming.

Life, Interdependence, 
and the Pursuit of Meeting Needs

Dec18

by: on December 18th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

“Life is arranged to care for all that lives through an endless interdependent flow of energy and resources.”

After years of thinking, reading, writing, talking, teaching, feeling, and communing, that simple sentence came to me in a session I was leading about money at a nine-day intensive training in Chile. Perhaps being immersed in a cultural context that is so much closer to the collaborative, warm, community-based way of living that I am working towards – and that still hasn’t been wiped out fully there – brought this clarity. Or maybe it was the venue, built to mimic the non-linearity of nature. It came. And then the rest followed immediately.


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