Society & Culture

A Lesson from Nazi Concentration Camp Survivors

I lived in Israel for a year in 1972. I was working my way to India. I had come from six months in Frankfurt, Germany, where I worked in a bakery under the supervision of Herbert, who had been a drummer in Hitler’s private marching band; so he said. In Israel, I worked as a civilian employee of the Israeli Air Force. I lived with soldiers in tents in the Sinai Desert, close to the Suez Canal. We dug underground ammunition bunkers all day.

During my year in Israel, I met many Nazi concentration camp survivors. The stories they told me, quite honestly, were so horrific as to defy belief. Some people today do not even believe the Holocaust actually happened! How could it? How could human beings descend into such a hell as to do this to other human beings?

How could our very humanity be corrupted such that we became monsters, betraying everything good and beautiful and decent and caring and loving that is within our true heart, our living spirit? Hitler?

camps

No, I was told. Not Hitler. Us. The people. How? Why?

A Heartfelt Message to my Brothers Regarding Women

I first thought I should wait to write and post this, because I am having some real issues with “chemo brain” — a common term used to describe thinking and memory problems that can occur after cancer treatment, which I had a few days ago. Chemo brain can also be called chemotherapy-related cognitive impairment. I like this one, because it is so significant-sounding. Write or wait? Post now or later?

You be the judge. Maybe if I waited, I’d be more articulate, coherent, and persuasive. Maybe not. I feel drunk, stoned, and exhausted. Chemo brain sucks. I should wait.

But, I don’t want to wait. I’m clear enough on this now. My “cancer treatments” remind me that life is live TV: no reruns. It’s now or it’s not. So, here it is.

I have been around. I have done, seen, and heard a lot of stuff. Truly. Trust me. So, it takes a lot to make my mind spin out of control behind a massive WTF? But it does happen, more often than I’d like to admit.

Sometimes this happens in the wake of a “big” thing: a whistle-blower-inspired revelation of governmental or corporate misconduct. I confess to being particularly susceptible to ideas and actions motivated by greed, cruelty, and deception. Sometimes, this WTF? head spin happens in the wake of a “small” thing — in terms of social media coverage or cultural outrage.

This is what I want to talk about. A small thing. Seemingly. It came up in a Speaking Truthfully masterclass I did a while ago. It’s about how we men sometimes treat woman. Not “our” women; but women. Hear the difference?

In her talk to the class, this brave woman told us that her significant other had forbid her from attending an event that he had not been invited to. He said that she could not go, that she could not defy him. No discussion. No negotiation. No reasons. Just: YOU cannot go. Do not defy me.

That did it. My head spun, and then I groaned — maybe growled — a very guttural WTF? Again? Come on! The objectification of women.

Brothers: we do not own women. We may not forbid them anything. They are not our property. We may not take; we must ask. While most societies today still are ruled and run by the values of patriarchy — a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it — we can see the tide turning, and I could not be happier. You should be happy. Truly. It is essential that we rejoice and that we all facilitate and expedite this evolutionary trend whereby men realize that patriarchy is more than obsolete. This ideology is, existentially, criminal. All forms of it. All rationalizations for it.

The issue isn’t even one of gender-equality. In my view, that belief-system argument is too general and broad and, perhaps, inaccurate. I do not want to argue in this way. I do want to say this. Brothers, listen up. Seriously.

We do not own women. We are not superior to women. We do not control women. We may not take from them anything without asking and without permission. We may not harm, debase, degrade, imprison, bully, intimidate, or threaten any woman at any time for any reason. We CANNOT AND WE MAY NOT DO THIS.

If you do this, stop and get help. If you see this being done, get involved and stop it. All the time. This ideology of patriarchy and its behavioral corollaries are criminal, sinful, horrible. We must stop this, right now. Everywhere.

When we consider the dictionary of words — of thoughts, beliefs, actions — that support and inform how we relate to women, do we see words like: love, adore, worship, elevate, celebrate, empower, serve, honor, respect? Do we listen, learn, and grow in their presence? Are we open, curious, and patient in our exploration of women’s mysteries and riches and dimensions? I hope so.

We need to open our eyes on this. It’s great that Elizabeth Warren can blow away The Donald with her “nasty women” speech” but that is plucking low-hanging fruit. There are so many ways, maybe less graphic and visible than The Donald’s exercise of patriarchal privilege — that haunt our society. Look around. Let’s open our eyes. Let’s understand this. Let’s acknowledge this. Let’s change this.

RIGHT NOW. NO EXCUSES.

A Short List of Leadership Qualities

In a recent interview by Judi Neal on her Edgewalkers Teleconference, the topic of leadership came up. That is one of those tricky words that, to me, does not have much meaning unless put into a context. Leading a firefight in a war zone and leading a mindfulness walk through a meadow require different leadership mindsets, skills, and competencies.

However, I do think that there are a few of these that are universal and apply to all “leadership” definitions.

In my view, this is a short but critical list of leadership capacities. These need to be embodied and manifest behaviorally; otherwise, they have no potency.

A clear mind. An open heart. Present-centered attention. Deep listening. Truthful speaking. Self-awareness. Honesty. Curiosity. Creativity. Empowering. Socially conscious. Service-oriented.

See if you can add to this list. A leader is not a leader simply by virtue of social or organizational position. A leader must earn that designation by virtue of embodied, manifest qualities and behaviors.

The 10% Project — Radical Conversations about Social Action

I would like to introduce you to “The 10% Project: Radical Conversations about Social Action by the Global Consciousness Community.”

The 10% Project invites the community’s millions of members to become personally involved in this unprecedented initiative to meld our various spiritual paths and explorations of higher consciousness with outer civic engagement.

The guiding spirit of this Project is a simple, heartfelt question: “How can we embody our spiritual practice and demonstrate our evolving awareness of higher consciousness in our everyday life so as to make a positive impact in our community and society?”

Please click on the icon just below to watch the 10-minute video I produced to describe the Project.10percentproject-sidepic

This Project does not advocate a particular form of activism or cause or issue. This Project does advocate the conscious, purposeful participation in any aspect of civic life that naturally activates our heart and irresistibly calls to us as our responsibility. Key talking points in the video include:

2016 GOP Convention: a crucial spiritual lesson

I  confess: I have been watching hours of television coverage of the GOP Convention. I cannot stop myself: CNN, MSNBC, FOX NEWS.

The Trumps

The Trumps

Even though my brain has crashed and collapsed and my soul has tried a roll-call vote to stop me, I continue to watch. I now have the justification I need. A massive, crucial, urgent spiritual lesson for me and, quite possibly, for you.

Ex-SEAL Marcus Luttrell

Ex-SEAL Marcus Luttrell

Truth be told, I have already understood this lesson, taught this, written and spoken about this. But here it is, courtesy of every person who has appeared on any screen: main speaker, delegate, pundit, analyst, commentator. Everyone teaches the same thing.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani

The lesson? It is this: all thoughts are automatically self-justifying. So are beliefs, which are gangs of thoughts gathered together to bully lone thoughts. in other words, one can say anything, anything at all, and that spoken thought, that thought spoken aloud, is proof enough of its veracity. Nothing more is needed. No evidence of any kind. No proof, no logic, no analysis. Each and every thought is unassailable, true beyond question, absolute.

The Donald

The Donald

As long as our awareness remains tethered to the thoughtstream; as long as our consciousness is imprisoned in our mind. When this is the case, we are unable to question our thoughts and beliefs, to interrogate them, to challenge them on the basis of evidence. One can say anything, and it is accurate and true — as long as we live in the thoughtstream.

Which seems to be an accurate and true statement, based on the evidence.

What to do? Get out of the thoughtstream.

Light Up Nepal's Tsum Valley

It won’t take much to make a massive difference in the lives of these gorgeous people in Nepal! Please take a moment to read this and contribute what you can.

Nuns of the Dheron Gompa nunnery

Nuns of the Dheron Gompa nunnery

The organizer is Rob Rosenblum, the son of Tina Rosenblum, who is like a sixth sibling in the Rabbin family. We grew up as neighbors in Garden Grove.

Robert and Tina

Robert and Tina

Rob’s “uncle Bill” — Tina’s brother — has been my friend for 60 years! In addition to being childhood friends, we later shared an interest in meditation and Buddhism.

Oh, yes, we also raised hell in the Sierra Nevada mountains together, as chefs in a resort and then as a modern day Butch and Sundance — mountain guides and pack train operators.

Robert and Bill

Robert and Bill

Here is the story of what they are doing, and their request for funding via YOUCARING, Compassionate Fundraising.

The Story

In November, my uncle Bill and I will begin a 12 day trek through the Tsum Valley, a sacred Buddhist valley in the Gorkha region of Nepal. The Gorkha district was home to the epicenter of the devastating 2015 earthquake and the damage was predictably immense. Only opening to foreigners in 2008, Tsum receives far fewer visitors (and tourism dollars) than very popular Everest and Annapurna regions. Now over a year later, the rebuilding effort continues slowly.

We are working with Sonam Lama, a native of Tsum and head guide of the organization Tsum Valley Homestay (http://www.tsumvalleyhomestay.com/node/8), on two projects:

#1. To provide and distribute small, inflatable solar lanterns (MPowered Luci Outdoor solar lanterns) to the people of the valley.

And, if possible –

#2. To provide portable solar panels, a solar battery, and LED lighting to the nuns at Dheron Gompa nunnery, a week’s walk into the valley.

We are focusing on fundraising for the first project. $15 buys one of these magical little lanterns, and we will receive a 20% discount from the manufacturer if we raise the money to purchase 48 or more. We will look more deeply into project #2 depending on the success of this fundraiser.

We believe these projects will have a positive impact on the community: allowing families to burn less kerosene, giving children the opportunity to study at night, and providing emergency light sources in the case of another natural disaster.

The best way to help rebuild Nepal is to visit and contribute to the local economy. Not everyone can do this, but we can all help in a small way. Please help give the gift of light to these wonderful people!

Please help us help them! Donate what you can. THANK YOU.

 

The Koan of Leadership

This essay was included in an anthology entitled Leadership in a New Era: Visionary Approaches to the Biggest Crisis of our Time,
edited by John Renesch, published in 1994. Contributing authors include Warren Bennis, Margaret Wheatley, Stewart Emery, James Autry and Max DePree, among many others. It is still pertinent and relevant.

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No one I know has yet penetrated the koan of leadership. A koan is a riddle, the solution to which can only be found by going completely beyond all conditioning and thought. The solution originates from a place utterly free from image, belief, and concept. The mind that answers a koan is no mind at all; it is empty of all representation. Wrestling with the koan of leadership requires keen reflection and persistent inquiry. We must refine our awareness to have a chance of discovering what might be buried, as a treasure, beneath the layers of conceptual thinking. An idea of leadership will always miss the mark; it is too slow and cumbersome; ideas cannot respond quickly enough to reality. This is why leadership is a koan. Any definition or formulation of leadership will miss the mark. Contemplate leadership as a means to become liberated from conditioning and thought. Then you will be qualified to be a leader.

The steady practice of reflection and inquiry develops clarity of mind. Clarity, the state of being free from the impediments of image and idea, allows us to see things simply as they are, not wrapped in our various imaginings. Simple awareness—of ourselves, of others, and of the world around us—is the gift of reflection and inquiry. We cannot be didactic about awareness as we can about leadership. Awareness can’t be taught. We have to discover it for ourselves. If we have an interest in awareness, we can only unwrap ourselves from ideas, concepts, opinions, and judgments until awareness itself remains. Awareness itself supplants answers and solutions because it is more real and more useful.