When young men do horrible things

The events unfolding in Boston have been shocking. Such terrible tragedies, changing lives forever and creating such lasting pain and anguish. My first reaction is disbelief, then I try to frame it in some way. Then the roller coaster of feelings: real sorrow for those most affected, then a kind of detached curiosity when surfing for more information, then fear that this could become more and more common, then feeling the senselessness of the whole thing.

Eventually we arrive at the question of- who did this? Do we pause to think of why do we want to know that?

The pattern has been to find out what country they are from and what religion or cause they follow and train our anger and emotion on that other.

This focus on the other who did the terrible acts temporarily relieves our pain, sorrow and discomfort. It gives us a feeling that we are striking back, taking out our anger on the evildoers. Wars even start as a result.

Then time goes by and life returns to the new normal. And we repeat the process the next time young men (from a country who follow a cause) kill innocent people. They are always from a country and they always have some cause that they are trying to advance….and they are invariably young men.

So we have a choice in our response: We can take the “find the other” and demonize and attack them approach. Which seems to just create more others Or we can understand that the young men of the world need help. They need to be connected with. They need to be mentored. It is time to take a step forward.

If you are reading this and feel any of these same things, it might be time to connect with a young man. It is so hard to imagine that a brief conversation with one person could affect change in the world. But if everyone had a brief conversation and brought more connection (not Facebook connection but hand on the shoulder- look in the eye connection) and meaning to someone’s day, what would be the effect?

I am feeling more and more that the distance between me and the bombers travels through actual people. What I mean is that we are probably not going to get the most troubled individuals into a mentorship program. But we just need to support the guy across the street in his quest to become a better man. Then he in turn helps and embodies something that his nephew picks up on then the nephew is more of a leader at college and connects with others there and so on. The small empowering gesture flows through networks of people and effects many down the line.

Its nearing the weekend. As we continue to pray and send healing energy to the Boston and world community that is on fire, lets also work in a few minutes to walk some good across the street.

Category : Inspiration

What is a Men’s Group?

To most men, “men’s work” means such things as going to a job and
achieving success, providing for a family, building a deck off the back of
the house and helping out in the community. We also have been taught
that the term “be a man” means to always have your guard up, don’t
show any emotions except anger, and never appear vulnerable.
This style of thinking has evolved over the years. Hollywood’s 50’s and
60’s tough guys have morphed into slightly more multi-dimensional
characters. But the core message remains: real men still don’t eat
quiche.
Our society and culture often does not encourage men to ever stop
and feel; to look inside themselves and ask the questions:
What do I want?
Do my needs matter?
What is my purpose?
How can I feel empowered in my romantic
relationship and in my job?
This has resulted in generations of men out of touch with their
feelings and their power with no way to articulate why they are
frustrated and drifting through life.
Men’s Circles
One way for men to reconnect with themselves and increase their
focus is to form a regular meeting circle with other men. The size of
the group works well at anywhere from 5 to 16 men. The group should
be large enough to shift the focus off the individual but not too have
too many members thus prohibiting each man from getting to speak
regularly.
In order for most men to be comfortable enough to discuss issues that
previously have been off limits, the right environment must be created.

One of the first ways to do this is to set up firm ground rules around how
the group interacts. Certain upfront agreements are crucial to building the
trust necessary to go to a deeper level of communication.
The first rule is no talking over, or cutting someone off, when they are
speaking. Notice how common this is the next time you are in a group
of men. It is the main form of communication in bars, golf courses and
workplaces. Its absence in a men’s group encourages a free flow of
authentic feelings to surface, which starts the process of reconnecting
to our power.
All men also must agree that all things talked about in the circle are
confidential. When this trust is established the men are much more likely
to go deeper into themselves.
Another aspect of a highly functioning men’s group is avoiding trying
to “fix” the person or his problem. Rather, evoke from him the truth
that he already knows but is feeling blocked from being able to do
anything about. This is done by asking questions or offering new
perspectives on the issue.
In time, these techniques create a supportive, non-judgmental setting.
It becomes a place where real breakthroughs can happen and men
can feel what they feel, know what they want, and reclaim their power.
And, if they want, they even can feel free to eat quiche.

Interested in checking out a Men’s Group? Visit http://blog.lifeleadersforum.com/rockland-mens-circle/

Category : Inspiration

Road Rage, and the third option

One of the most clear examples of anger out of control is in the case of road rage.

Picture the scenario: a person cuts you off as you are driving on the highway. You look over at them and they shoot you a nasty look. Then escalates to them flipping you the bird. You are thinking, what is going on here? He speeds off and you are left shaking your head and stewing over the fate of humanity, or worse.

Then a few miles later you pull over at the rest stop and go in. As you are walking toward the bathroom you see the person waiting in the Starbucks line.

Now, what are your options? Our society has evolved to really steer us to one of two options. The first and probably most common is to just ignore the person. Fear of them having a gun or being violent takes over and we swallow any emotion we have and we move on.

The second option is to approach them and say something that gets stuff off our chest. “Hey, how about toning it down out there, you are going to kill someone being reckless like that!”

What about a third option? The one where we walk up to the person, look them in the eye and calmly say, “I saw that you were upset out on the highway, I know it gets kind of hectic out there, I wanted to see if you were OK?” If the third option is used with sincerity, eye contact, and a composed demeanor, can we see how it could diffuse tense situations and make the world a better place?

Would love to hear your comments and idea’s around this.

Category : Changing perspective, Healing your body, Inspiration, New rules, Transforming your relationships

Valentines Day reminder- Presents vs. Presence

As Valentines day quickly approaches, there can be an increase in anxiety. I have heard many talk about the pressure that they feel to “do Valentines Day right”. One woman I knew said that the MINIMUM effort she expected was dinner, flowers, chocolate and a gift. That was break even! That’s rough!

Is rough because the expectation has taken one of the main ingredients out of the process and that is the THOUGHT. It’s the thought that counts has become a cliche because…..its true! It is the thought that counts.

I would even go one further. That the single most important thing on Valentines Day has nothing to do at all with presents. I has everything to do with Presence. Presence in an extra long hug. Presence in long, relaxed, loving eye contact. Presence in really mindful gestures of service like making a ceremony out of presenting your partners morning tea or coffee to them. Presence in listening without distraction.

The experience of exchanging Presence with your loved one might be so enjoyable and satisfying that you’ll decide to make it an everyday practice.

Category : Changing perspective, Inspiration, Transforming your relationships

How to Be a Hero

Last night we watched a fantastic movie called Finding Joe.  It is inspired by the lifetime work of Joseph Cambell.  Campbell was a Mythologist and prolific author and teacher who was known for the message “Follow your bliss. ”

Yesterday was also Father’s Day.  One of the most common phrases heard on Fathers Day is “Today is all about you”.  I love this because it means meals delivered to me, no dishes to wash, etc.  But the more I thought about it the more it dawned on me that being a Father is so NOT about me.  By its very nature it’s about who you are a father to — it’s about service to the person who calls you Daddy.

And this got me thinking about how we approach things in our lives.  When we evaluate whether we are going to go to an event or social gathering, the tendency is to start having an internal dialogue like this:

“Will I like it?”

“Will I be comfortable there?”

“What will I get out of it?, will it be worth it”

And this brings me back to Finding Joe.  These two Campbell quotes jumped out at me:

“A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.”

“When we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness. “

When the words hero or heroic are used, we tend to think really big.  Like saving your village from marauders or saving a baby from a burning house.  But hopefully, those opportunities won’t come around often.

The smaller, micro-hero opportunities do come around often.  Several times a day.  And how much would this shift of consciousness change our internal dialogue next time we prepared for an event or social gathering?

Maybe it changes to:

“How will my energy add to the mix?”

“Whose day can I uplift in some way?”

“How can I best serve the whole and not just me?”

Changes the nature of the experience, doesn’t it?

And look at this final Campbell quote and play around with the two meanings of the word “our”:

“One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that.”

Category : Changing perspective, Inspiration

Monday Morning Choice

Monday morning.  Lots to think about.  There’s Syria, the upcoming election, Fox News viewers knowing less than people who watch no news, summer vacation plans, the Mets slump, gotta put the new shutters on the house, dog needs a check up, starting up my exercise program, the neighbor’s leaf blower is making too much noise……etc.    It’s endless.

We can easily get lost in it and many do.

This morning I offer a different approach to consider.

Before embarking on the voyage of real and imagined woe, close your eyes for a minute.  Get quiet.  And then ask your self the question, Who am I today?

Did I arrive at this precise moment in history to:

1. Chronicle personal and worldwide problems in an endless loop in my brain, or…..

2. Use all my accrued knowledge, energy and experiences to create vibrancy and aliveness today.  Now.   Getting coffee with a smile and a friendly word for the barista.  Entering work, putting a hand on a co-workers shoulder and saying “Let’s go big this week.”  Holding a door for someone unexpectedly.  Looking someone right in the eye and saying, “Big day today”–and when they ask why saying, “Cause it’s today”.

One of the few things we truly control is where our attention goes.    Choosing to watch the news, to trade tales of victimization with a friend, or to worry about far-flung, detached problems will pull us down to that level of being every time.

Choosing to be alive, positive, and of service to mankind usually results in, you guessed it…… being alive, positive and of service to mankind.

Some Native American Wisdom
A Native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner:
“Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time.”
When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, “The one I feed the most.”

Category : Inspiration

The Heart of the Matter in The Belly of the Beast

Had two amazing experiences the last two weekends that I have to share.

The first weekend was a Men’s Initiation in Northern California.  Twenty five men came from all over the country to a training at a beautiful location up on a mountain.  The views were stunning.  The training tested us.  We lifted logs, bruised our bare feet running through the mountains, and went long hours without sleep. We learned wisdom from some extraordinary men, opening our hearts and becoming a closely knit group by the Sunday closing ceremony.  There was a circle that followed that ceremony where the facilitators were taking feedback from the elders and participants.  We discussed different aspects of the training and I’ll just say that the men had differing opinions on how the training should have been run.  Overall a great experience.

This last weekend was a Alternatives to Violence Project training in upstate New York.  Twenty five men voluntarily took part in a training at a beautiful location up on a mountain.  The views were stunning.  The training consisted of experiential exercises and fun activities that really allowed all the men to see into one another’s hearts and experience our vulnerability together.  There was a great deal of processing (letting the men speak from the heart about their true feelings) after the segments, ALL the men leaning into the truth and deepening that was occurring. The men had a seriousness about living life to the fullest that was combined with expansive humor.  Above all there was a positivity that you could feel in the room. At the closing ceremony, I was so moved by the high quality of the men and inspired by their full authentic engagement in the process that I cracked with emotion as I addressed them. It was one of the most profound moments of my life.

The first weekend was at the Institute of Noetic Sciences campus in Petaluma Califonia.

Last weekends training was inside the twenty foot high razor wire fences of the Otisville State Prison.

 

Category : Changing perspective, Inspiration

Life Leaders Forum Panel – “Practice”

Great discussion in Nyack last night on the “Art of Practice”.  Had such a diverse panel, and so many passionate voices that it made for yet another truly magical eventing in this series.  There were a variety of practices represented on the panel, from Martial Arts to Tango to Meditation to Acupuncture to Yoga.  And each of the panelist also had a deeper practice that extended from their primary one.  Things like receptivity, breathing, kindness, clearing the bodily field, and perhaps the most agreed upon practice of the night “the practice of showing up”.

While we delved into them, many other practices found their way into the conversation. Truth telling practice, mindfulness practice, even the practice of being courteous unleashed strong passions and perspectives.

On of the hallmark of these evenings is where the energy in the room travels.  It seems like although each topic draws its own unique collection of kindred souls, the very intention of getting together for spirited and COMPASSIONATE sharing of perspectives creates a similar energy wave.  The energy gently rolls over the two hours.  At the start, the panelists and audience/circle find their space in the beautiful setting at 42 Main, a kind of curious buzzing about as the set up takes place.  Then we all sit in a circle and I can feel all of us utter a quiet “what is this, what exactly is going to happen here?”  When the panelists begin telling their stories of who they are and how they came to be in this place at this time, it starts.  Hearts open, connections strengthen. Invisible strings extend until everyone in the room has said or heard something that bonds them with everyone else.  It is amazing.  After last nights gathering, most everyone continued the exchange around a bowl of delicious kale chips (thank you, Raw Julia), still enjoying collective energy.

Thanks to everyone who came out and especially to the Panelists:
Andrea Maxine Frade: yoga teacher, storyteller, writer

Victor Gagliardi: owner, Gagliardi studio and gallery

Raw Julia: raw food expert and meditator, Lift Wellness

Lao Shir-Cindy Ming: senior student/head instructor of Cynthia Ming’s Tai Chi Fitness

Dr. Naomi Pelzig, M.D.: Nyack Integrated Health

Category : Changing perspective, Inspiration

An Easter Integral thought

Just read an excerpt from an email from Craig Hamilton of Integral Enlightenment. The significance of reading it on Easter weekend hit me like a ton of bricks.

From the email:

The problem is that we’ve all been steeped in a contemporary
spiritual subculture that tells us that the very reason we should
follow a spiritual path is so that we can live happier, more
fulfilled, more peaceful lives.

And, as long as our own happiness is all we’re seeking, we’ll never
awaken the depth of spiritual passion and conviction required to
propel us into genuine transformation.

That conviction can only arise when we realize that the spiritual
path is not about us–but about participating in something far
greater than ourselves.

To get a taste of what I’m talking about, imagine for a moment that
the fate of the entire human race rested on your shoulders alone. That
humanity’s evolution out of brute self-interest depended entirely
on your willingness to transform your consciousness, to rise above
your smallness, to evolve beyond your primitive conditioning, and
become an exemplar of humanity’s highest potential for the world.

Imagine, in other words, that for you, evolving beyond ego became
an evolutionary imperative.

Would you approach your path any differently? Would the energy you
brought to your spiritual practice intensify? Would the quality of
awareness and care with which you approached your interactions with
others become more profound?

Would you find yourself reaching with inner muscles you didn’t even
know you had to remain awake to the depth you’ve tasted in your most
profound spiritual moments?

If you knew it all rested on you, would you have any choice but to
change?

The Indian sage Ramana Maharshi once said that the spiritual
aspirant must want liberation like a drowning man wants air.

But the painful truth is that even when we recognize that we are
not getting traction on our spiritual path, most of us find it difficult
to generate the motivation to truly evolve.

The challenges of authentic spiritual transformation are so great
that most of us will choose to continue suffering in our smallness
over feeling the pain of allowing that smallness to die forever.

But how many of us would do the same if we realized that it wasn’t
only our own suffering we were perpetuating, but the suffering of
the entire human race?

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “That’s a nice thought
experiment. Sure, it makes me realize I could be more earnest on my
path, but what does it really have to do with me? I’m no
megalomaniac. I know that my transformation alone isn’t enough to
liberate the human race.”

And it is here that I would ask you to reconsider.

Modern science has in recent decades been verifying what the
ancient traditions intuited long ago: that, in both tangible and
mysterious ways, we are all interconnected, and any one of us can
have a profound effect on the whole.

And, if you accept the perennial mystical teaching that, at the
level of consciousness, we are not only interconnected, but are
actually one Self seeing through many eyes, then it should be clear
that, like it or not, in the way we conduct our inner and outer
lives, each of us is in fact always having an effect on the whole.

Add to that the reality that we are evolving beings living in an
evolving universe, that we are all part of a grand, cosmic
evolutionary process, and the question of our obligation to the
whole starts to cut close to the bone.

To reframe my earlier question: What would you do if you realized
that the entire human endeavor, the evolution of consciousness
itself, depended on your willingness to evolve your own
consciousness?

How would it affect the choices you make every day if you knew that
those choices were, in a very real sense, either contributing to
the evolution of the whole or holding it back?

At this time when it seems that our very future depends on our
willingness to evolve as a species, would you have any choice but
to act in alignment with the greatest evolutionary good?

The point I’m trying to make is that when we take a closer look at
what spiritual transformation is actually for, it quickly becomes
clear that the path of awakening is not primarily about freeing
ourselves from suffering and securing our own happiness.

Sure, that’s a nice by-product. But, as long as that’s all we’re
seeking, we probably won’t get very far.

Where the spiritual path really begins to get interesting is when
we recognize that transforming ourselves in the deepest possible
way is in fact an evolutionary imperative with profound
consequences far beyond ourselves.

When we begin to embrace the fact that our lives really are not our
own to do with as we please, that in everything we do, we are in
fact accountable to the Whole, something truly miraculous begins to
happen.

Faced with the palpable responsibility to transform for a greater
good, we find that we suddenly have access to a seemingly infinite
source of energy, intention, passion and courage to confront
whatever challenges present themselves on our path.

What’s more, all of the personal issues and problems, all of the
fears and doubts and resistances that once seemed so insurmountable
begin to seem a lot less significant.

Why? Because our attention is now captivated by something much
bigger than ourselves.

Ignited by a noble calling to participate in the grand adventure of
conscious evolution, we find we no longer have time to worry about
ourselves.

And in this freedom from self-concern, before long we
discover that the deep inner peace and joy we were seeking all
along has become the very ground we are walking on.

—————–

When I was reading this it occurred to me that the greatest example of this is in the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth. He lived and acted for a much bigger cause than himself. And in this big big context, maybe he didn’t die for our sins but maybe he lived the way he lived (and hence died the way he died- with inner peace and forgiveness) as an example to us of how we can endeavor to live. Not so we will be happy and fulfilled but so we will do our divine part in the ongoing evolutionary consciousness.

Category : Inspiration

Just another “normal” weekend in Nyack

What a beautiful weekend it was.  Spring coming into being, St. Patrick’s Day and the NCAA tournament in full swing.  That might have been a pretty full weekend.  But I live in Nyack, NY and happen to have lucked into knowing some interesting people.  So my weekend took some other turns.

First, my friend and colleague Mike Murphy tells me that on Saturday morning a friend of his is coming into town.  Would I like to spend a little time with them?

His friends name is Ping.  Ping teaches Martial arts and meditation at several colleges in China and the US.  He is also a master of the arts himself.  I watched a few videos of him doing Tai Chi (the frame seemed out of whack on the video because he was so precise).  So I said sure, would love to come.

Three hours later Mike, Chris, and myself had been led by Ping through three separate meditations (one involving looking into the sun- did that one in the town square),  and covered an astounding range of subjects: Zen Buddism, Ken Wilber, Sadhguru, Byron Katie, Skin Breathing, The biblical story of Turn the Other Cheek, Digestion, Osho, Ethnic Food in Queens, Crime Lords in Shanghi, the 2 minute exhale, and The Secret.  Those are just what I can remember right now.  Work in mid conversation body adjustments, visual diagnoses, and a pretty good Indian buffet for lunch, and you get my point.

Ping was a little late to Nyack because he took the bus.  Love the idea that on his way over he was just another guy on the bus.  Needless to say, I will jump at the next chance to spend time with this amazing man.

Then the next day there is a program at the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Nyack featuring an Andean Healer named Kari Churik. Kari is an Ecuadorian whose mission in life is to preserve the indigenous  knowledge for the healing of future generations and the planet.  He talked through an interpreter but his message was loud and clear.  He beautifully tied together the plight of the indigenous cultures in the face of Capitalist globalization with the growing genetically modified crops controversy.  Pleading to let the seed of corn (the indigenous people and the actual seed) retain there uniqueness and diversity.  Don’t mess with their divine nature and try to homogenize them and make them fit into the “modern culture” but rather endeavor to have our culture cherish the diversity that the earth has provided.  Preserve the uniqueness.  It was an amazing talk.  He would make a point and there would be gasps of profound recognition from the audience.

Just another weekend in Nyack.

Category : Inspiration