By Gonzalo Salinas
According to Charles Duhigg author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, approximately 40% of what we do every day, we do unconsciously. We have formed a habit that we tend to repeat every day, and it’s making our choices for us.
So, think about all the things you do every day. Some of them probably don’t serve your highest purpose but still, you repeat them religiously … even knowing specific behaviors are putting you away of the reality you want to live. Duhigg explains that every time you repeat those habits your brain reinforces them … so it craves, later on, this repetition. Even if is not beneficial, you get a neuro-chemical reward in your brain that not only will create some sort of addiction but also reinforces the identity you have created for yourself.
I have tried many times to change bad habits and create new ones. With a sincere heart I must confess that I have failed more times than I have succeeded. But I noticed something happened every time I was succeeding; the positive new habits were daily rituals.
Yes. I do have rituals. Ritual - “a series of actions or type of behavior regularly and invariably followed by someone.” I repeat certain rituals every day, and believe me dear reader of the MKP Journal, to repeat an action every day, is not an easy task, especially when I am trying to create a new self.
Let me share some daily rituals hoping that this will inspire action to enhance lives.
I do my rituals first thing in the morning: I wake up and I go for a run. The running part is simple. I already told myself that as soon as I hear the alarm I must jump out of the bed. At the beginning it was hard, now is automatic. My recommendation is to avoid dealing with ANY logistics - so your sportswear must be ready next to the bed from the previous night.
A second ritual is: I carry in my wallet one handwritten page. One side of the page is divided in two: on the left side I have a few statements: my flaws or weaknesses to become aware of what I want to change, and on the right side my good qualities and virtues to remind myself the tools I have for my own growth. Deliberately this second list is bigger than the first one. On the other side of the paper I’ve written a brief composition about who I want to be. I’ve included goals and projects and a description of how I see myself in the next three years.
I read this paper three times a day. As soon as I wake up, at lunch time, and before I go to sleep. It takes me two minutes each reading. When I read it I focus on staying present: just reading.
Third: In the morning I also do a brief visualization … right before I come back from running I stop and I visualize: It takes me three to five minutes. I visualize the same three goals I have written on the paper I carry on my wallet.
Finally, is my gratitude time. On a notebook I got specifically for gratitude, right before I go to sleep, I write three things that I’m grateful for that day. It doesn’t matter if it’s as simple as “the kid I saw having some ice cream at Lincoln road in South Beach.” If I feel like writing it, I write it. Then I say a brief prayer, and I go to sleep.
These four rituals have changed my life dramatically in the last two years. Have I been 100% consistent with them?… absolutely not. I used to give to myself a guilt trip, this usually led me to abandon my regular practice for a while. If for some reason I miss my rituals now, instead of the self punishment, I just carry on.
That’s it. Just a couple of thing before I finish: You may notice that my rituals are very simple; they are simple because when I create a complex plan, I find I’m planning to fail. Start small and keep going; it is a great exercise of self love.
And lastly, be creative with your rituals! Some people create a vision boards with images, others do mantras or incantations, others meditate or do breathing exercises. The rituals become habits because of repetition, and the daily practice causes transformation.
I’ve got more from my 2 years of rituals than from my entire previous life without them. Use them and then you tell me!
by Gonzalo Salinas
I’m extremely grateful to Dr. Lissa Rankin. I think she saved me by helping me understand what was happening in my life. I was training for a triathlon, and I wasn’t feeling good. My body couldn’t take it anymore and when I went to three different doctors, they each ran some tests, and the result was the same: Everything was all right.
But I wasn’t feeling good. One night as I was leaving work, checking my email, I found a video in my inbox, I can’t recall now who it was from. The title was The shocking truth about your health by Dr. Lissa Rankin. It was a TED talk from 2011 (I included it below). After watching the entire video, I was hooked. I ordered her book Mind Over Medicine, and I started a healing process that was more related to a daily practice of my passion than to a pathology.
Lissa Rankin is a brave soul fighting against a system that treats our bodies like machines. Her armament to fight the battle: LOVE. She says her mission is to highlight the “care in the health-care.” I consider her work an amazing opportunity for every doctor, healer, therapist, shaman, people involved with medicine or any kind of healing practice to learn and grow in their practice.
She is on a mission. And she is being recognized. I pray that she continues healing humankind.
Here is a link to a great article she wrote. Check it out, and consider getting involved:
A Reflection on Martin Luther King Jr. Day – the New Warrior and cultural change.
by Boysen Hodgson
“Agape is more than romantic or aesthetic love. Agape is more than friendship. Agape is creative, understanding, redemptive good will for all men. It is an overflowing love that seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say that this is the love of God operating in the human heart. When one rises to love on this level, he loves every man. He rises to the point of loving the person who does the evil deed while hating the deed that the person does. I believe that this is the kind of love that can carry us through this period of transition. This is what we’ve tried to teach through this nonviolent discipline.” ~ December 18, 1963, the Speech at WMU
One of the core values of the ManKind Project is Multicultural Awareness, often referred to as inclusiveness, or more simply, as diversity. It is something we strive for personally and institutionally, a value that we believe in and that we have dedicated significant resources to. We have created and offer a number of trainings directly addressing the ‘isms and issues’ that stand in the way of effective cross-cultural connection and partnership.
We integrate, at the highest levels of the organization, tools to create a safe dialogue that distinguishes multiple levels of communication and bridges the gap between differing belief systems. We don’t try to use a hammer to cut glass. We don’t try to use Interpersonal Conflict Resolution to solve Institutional or Cultural Problems – but we strongly recognize how personal and interpersonal issues impact our Institutions and our Culture. Learning to hear, recognize, and act from a place of multiple intelligences has revolutionized our work, and has forever changed the lives of thousands of men.
We pursue this value, and continue to integrate it into every aspect of the organization by creating spaces where men and women have the opportunity to engage ideas about the ‘other’ and simultaneously examine their own lives and the circumstances they were born into, or grew into. For many of us it means seeing clearly the many privileges we have, and letting go of illusions about ‘rugged individualism’ that have so hindered our society from making significant gains in equality and human rights. We meet men where they are in their lives and invite them to take a step, and then another, toward self-awareness, integrity, responsibility and emotional authenticity.
It is in our circles, through personal connection, that we begin to see and feel the weight of the systems and structures that function to keep some in places of power and others without it. When we connect with one another with our hearts, eyes and ears open, the fog lifts and our fears lessen. The illusion of us and them fades. We begin to see how each of us, in so many ways, are the same. We also see, in jarring reality, how deeply embedded systems privilege some over others. And it is through brotherhood that we develop the trust and commitment to make a difference, personally, institutionally and culturally.
Martin Luther King Jr. is beloved as a hero in the United States, and yet the significance of his message — the vision that he held for our culture to awaken from a poverty of mind and love — are far from realized. To awaken, we must look into the shadowy depths of both personal suffering and systemic injustice, and develop the right tools to heal both. Taking full responsibility for ourselves and the realities of our world, as ‘New Warriors’, means that it becomes harder and harder to ‘stay asleep’, to blind ourselves to the suffering of others and the systems that create it.
“It is simply this, that through our scientific genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood. Now through our ethical and moral commitment, we must make of it a brotherhood. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will perish together as fools. This is the great challenge of the hour. This is true of individuals. It is true of nations. No individual can live alone. No nation can live alone.”
In the ManKind Project, we acknowledge Martin Luther King Jr. as an example of the ‘New Warrior’, someone willing to stand on the cutting edge of risk, fear and change, and take powerful action to create a better world for all of us. It’s going to take a vast army of ‘New Warriors’ to create a sustainable and just world. The men of the ManKind Project are part of that army, and we have spent the last 27 years helping men wake up to a purpose beyond themselves, a unifying reason for being, as Martin Luther King Jr. did. We invite you to join us, to work with us as partners and collaborators, in making the dream more real for our children and grandchildren.
EDITORS NOTE from Boysen Hodgson: I heard the following story told at a Christmas Eve service in Sage Chapel on the campus of Cornell University, December 24, 2011. It was the first time my wife and I had ever attended a Christmas Eve service, and we went because my sister in law was a soloist in the choir (and she sang beautifully). The service was offered by the Unitarian Universalist Society of Ithaca, NY. Over 600 people in a beautiful mid 19th century chapel for a night of carols and an uplifting message of unity, connection and peace. As a man with no religious beliefs, but a deep love of stories, metaphors and myths, this was the perfect night – a beautiful way of spending an evening with family. The Minister offered a short homily which included the story below.
May that you and yours experience the full joy of your own being this holiday season. YOU are the gift. Blessings to you and your family, whatever beliefs you hold.
The above first appeared in St Joseph’s Advocate, the magazine of
the Mill Hill Missionaries, in December 2005.
The Other Stocking
Gilbert Keith Chesterton
What has happened to me has been the very reverse of what appears to be the experience of most of my friends. Instead of dwindling to a point, Santa Claus has grown larger and larger in my mind and fills almost the whole of it. It happened in this way.
As a child, I was faced with a phenomenon requiring explanation. I hung up at the end of my bed an empty stocking, which in the morning became a full stocking. I had done nothing to produce the things that filled it. I had not even worked for them, or made them or helped to make them. I had not even been good – far from it.
And the explanation was that a certain being whom people called Santa Claus was benevolently disposed towards me. What we believed was that a certain benevolent agency did give us those toys for nothing. And, as I say, I believe it still.
I have merely extended the idea.
Then, I only wondered who put the toys in the stocking. Now I wonder who put the stocking by the bed, and the bed in the room, and the room in the house, and the house on the planet, and the great planet in the void.
Once, I only thanked God for a few dolls and crackers. Now, I thank him for stars and street faces, and wine and the great sea.
Once, I thought it delightful and astonishing to find a present so big that it only went halfway into the stocking. Now I am delighted and astonished every morning to find a present so big that it takes two stockings to hold it, and then leaves a great deal outside.
It is the large and preposterous present of my self, as to the origin of which I can offer no suggestion except that Santa Claus gave it to me in a fit of particularly good will.
by Boysen Hodgson
Target; this movie, as Justin Hunt says, is targeted to men. And often it is women who ‘get’ the film.
Energy embodied; informational, emotional, invitational
Empowering intent; To present a simple thesis … ‘the father is the first human being in a child’s life who either chooses them, or not …’ and the choice, intended or unintended, has consequences.
Primary archetypes; the lover, the king
Commitment; 1.5 hours
To start this review, take a look at the trailer for Justin Hunt’s newest film, ABSENT, about the role of men as fathers and father figure in modern culture and the impact that the absence, literal and figurative, of strong male role models for young people is having.
Justin has already built a reputation from his previous major documentary release, American Meth (see preview), which took an incredibly hard hitting look at the impact of the methamphetamine epidemic in the United States. Read more
ROBED IN SILENCE, STAND IN STILLNESS
REST WITHIN YOUR QUEST
GROW IN THE RICH SOIL OF SACRED EMPTINESS
BE HOLLOW BONE FOR SOUL TO FLOW
EMPTIED OF SELF – SURRENDER TO GRACE
A LIVING ALTAR OF THE HOLY ONE
ALLOW CREATOR TO REST ON YOUR SOUL FLESH
YOUR HEART ABLAZE – FIRED BY YOUR HARD WON CERTAINTY
REST – KNOWING YOU ARE BLESSED!
STEP NOW THROUGH THAT OPEN THRESHOLD DOOR
CROSS OVER, FIND UNION EVER MORE
DELIGHT ABOUNDS IN YOUR SOUL GARDEN
AS THE BELOVED PLANTS FERTILE SEEDS IN THE
FERTILE SOIL OF YOUR CALL
BECOME BUD, FLOWER AND FRUIT OF WHAT YOU WANT
FOR ALL CREATION, CHOOSE NOW YOUR SACRED INTENTION
WITH EVERY BREATH
CREATION YEARNS FOR YOU TO RELEASE YOUR GIFT
BE SACRED PRAYER, UNSPEAKABLE JOY, PERPETUAL MIRACLE
UNFORGETTABLE LOVE SONG
GO FORTH BELOVED
ROBED IN SILENCE, STAND IN STILLNESS
REST WITHIN YOUR QUEST, ROOTED IN SOIL OF
– TWO CROWS CALLING
At the suggestion of my friend Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Ph.D., editor of HUC-JIR continuing ed blog Tzeh U’limad, I’ve written three prayers for Veterans Day. “Veterans Day Prayer” is classical in structure and language. “To the Soldier, To the Veteran” is a three-stanza prayer/poem with a parallel structure. “The Last Soldier” is a prayer for peace that honors the soldier’s journey. I haven’t yet recorded audio for them, which I’ll post later. Click here to read them on Tzeh U’limad. The photo is my grandfather, David Solovy z”l. He served in The Great War, World War I.
Veterans Day Prayer
G-d of compassion,
G-d of dignity and strength,
Watch over the veterans of the United States
In recognition of their loyal service to our nation.
Bless them with wholeness and love.
Heal their wounds,
Comfort their hearts.
Grant them peace.
G-d of justice and truth,
Rock of our lives,
Bless our veterans,
These men and women of courage and valor,
With a deep and abiding understanding
Of our profound gratitude.
Protect them and their families from loneliness and want.
Grant them lives of joy and bounty.
May their dedication and honor
Be remembered as a blessing
From generation to generation.
Blessed are You,
Protector and Redeemer,
Our Shield and our Stronghold.
To the Soldier, To the Veteran
These things I do not know:
The sound of a bullet.
The power of a blast.
The blood of a comrade.
The depth of your wound.
The terror at midnight.
The dread at dawn.
Your fear or your pain.
These things I know:
The sound of your honor.
The power of your courage.
The blood of your wound.
The depth of your strength.
The terror that binds you.
The dread that remains.
Your dignity and your valor.
For these things we pray:
The sound of your laughter.
The power of your voice.
The blood of your yearning.
The depth of your healing.
The joy that frees you.
The hope that remains.
Your wholeness and your love.
The Last Soldier
When the last soldier passes on,
When armies are disbanded and militias discharged,
When weapons are abandoned and armor discarded,
Your mission will, at last, be over.
For you know the soldier’s secret.
Yours was not a mission of war
Nor a mission of ruin.
Yours was not a mission of destruction
Nor a mission of death.
Your mission was safety, security, protection.
Your mission was honor, loyalty, service.
Your mission was to end violence, tyranny, despair.
When the last soldier passes on,
When the uniforms are retired and the final grave filled,
We will remember all who served and sacrificed for our nation.
Until then G-d of Old,
Watch over our soldiers and our veterans.
Renew their courage.
Rebuild their strength.
Heal their wounds.
Bind their hearts with Your steadfast love.
And give them peace.
© 2011 Alden Solovy and www.tobendlight.com. All rights reserved.
Postscript: Here’s a link to a related prayer called “In Times of War” and a prayer “For Peace in the Middle East.” Special thanks to Rabbi Ruth Abusch-Magder, Ph.D., yet again, for her suggestions and encouragement. Here are links to other prayers written at Rabbi Ruth’s suggestion: “Be’chol Lashon (In Every Tongue)” and “A Liturgy for 9-11”.
This is the final part of a Sermon delivered by Richard Wiener, who experienced the Holocaust first hand as a Jewish child in his native Germany. Richard is a Ritual Elder in the ManKind Project.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring, Maryland
August 28, 2011
So what relevance might my story have for our lives today?
The question of why people hate us and want to harm us has been posed many times since 9/11. Among the answers I often hear is that we are hated out of envy of our standard of living. If only! I suggest that this answer obscures far more profound causes of — if not hatred, then at least deep resentment and anger. For the first time, through modern technology, people in Third World countries can see with their own eyes how we in the West live, and experience resentment at the contrast with their own — often abject – poverty. For us, the Crusades may be half forgotten ancient history . . . but, when George W. Bush described our incursion into Iraq as a “crusade”, Arabs were reminded that it was they who once were called “infidels”, and slaughtered accordingly. We in the West may have forgotten the Spanish conquistadors, but Latin Americans remember who drained their territory of its silver and gold, and left poverty and submission in their wake. We may tell ourselves that ending colonialism after World War II liberated the peoples of Africa and Asia . . . but they know that the economic exploitation of their countries continues to this day, with the collusion of despotic leaders whom it has often served us to install or even to provide with arms.
And if and when they don’t remember, those same leaders are only too ready to tell them whom to blame for the abject conditions under which many of them live.
And given that awareness, is it really so surprising that the accumulated sense of injustice and suppressed rage is now being released, hatred against the West is being stirred up in madrassas, and young men without a future are being seduced into becoming suicide bombers?
Or is this a case of chickens coming home to roost?
And what has been our response to the acting out of the release of this explosive rage? Predictably, in both Europe and in this country, the Muslim has become an object of fear, of suspicion, and for projections of the worst kind. For some, Muslims have become the ”Jews” of our time. Just recall the uproar when, about a year ago, a community center was to be built by a Muslim developer a few blocks from Ground Zero. And then ask yourself: what’s your gut reaction when you see a woman with a head scarf, or a swarthy man with a turban and a full beard . . . going through airport security? Do even you have to remind yourself not to default to stereotyping?
I know from my own experience what it is like to be singled out for special scrutiny, to be considered guilty until proven innocent. And when I see minority men and women singled out in this way – I cringe. And no doubt most of you do as well.
Don’t misunderstand me: we have come a long way in this country. When I served in the U.S. Army in the 1940’s, there were no blacks in my platoon; integration at the battalion level had only just begun. I still recall being on weekend pass in Newport News, Virginia, with a black sergeant buddy. It was a hot day, so we went into a candy store on Washington Street to buy sodas. Sorry, the clerk said, I can sell to you, but not to him. We walked out and went over to Jefferson Street, in the black part of town. And wouldn’t you know that we got the same response . . . in reverse.
And in 1959, over a decade later, when I arrived in Washington, blacks still had to sit in theater balconies.
Today, all that has changed . . . at least for most of us. We see racially mixed and same sex couples walk down the street hand in hand and barely give them a second glance. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is on the verge of becoming history. And yet, can we deny that suspicion and hatred of blacks and Latinos, of gays and lesbians, is still alive and well in many parts of our country? And so long as that is the case, so long as hatemongers like Glenn Beck are free to spread their toxic messages, fear and suspicion continue to roil just beneath the surface of American life.
I have no doubt that all of us here this morning are men and women of good will. Yes, I may be “preaching to the choir;” that is probably true. So then, what is my message?
If there is one thing that we ignore at our peril, it is the risk we take in accepting hate speech as a price we pay for an open society. Yes, tolerance of those with whom we disagree is a critical part of our democracy. But when that tolerance extends to those who incite others to demonize, to insult and to persecute others for their religious beliefs, their race or sexual orientation – for characteristics that are purely personal and that do not hurt anyone else – then we endanger our society in unpredictable ways. It is tantamount to “yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.” It is intended to create fear and panic. And so it clearly meets the definition of “terrorism.”
Hate speech is like a ticking time bomb. When the Nazis first appeared on the scene, when they beat up Jews on the streets and threw stink bombs in crowded theaters, most people regarded them as an annoying nuisance. And when they seized power, they began by introducing labor laws that most people liked. And even when they began to pass the infamous “Nuremberg racial laws,” they did so in small increments, to “test the waters.” By then, we Jews were frightened, but we told ourselves that the Nazis were too radical to last, that they would surely be voted out at the next election.
Famous last words.
Some of you may remember the prescient words of Pastor Niemöller, the minister who spent seven years in Nazi concentration camps until he was liberated at the end of World War II. Here’s what he said:
“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew. And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me.”
We are all prone to manipulation if only it is done with sufficient finesse. Our consumer society is evidence of that. The famous Orson Welles radio program of the 1940’s, “Invasion from Mars,” caused thousands of people to panic over a supposed landing of aliens in the New Jersey meadows. Sounds incredible now, but it actually happened.
A few weeks ago, I listened to a memorial service for the victims — many of them children – who were slaughtered in Norway by a right-wing extremist. This was a moment of greatest national shock and grief in this most peaceful of countries . . . and yet I heard not a word about revenge. Instead, the focus was on the killer as a human being, as a man who acted out of fear-motivated rage . . . and on the causes of violence, the belief systems that motivate hatred and demonization of others.
No one is born with the intent to kill. In the words of a song from South Pacific, “you’ve got to be taught to hate, you’ve got to be carefully taught . . .” And when rage has been suppressed for a long time, the teaching of hatred, and the incitement to revenge, comes easy. We need to understand that. Yes, of course, our first response must be to defend ourselves from those who come to do us harm . . . but, unless we recognize the source of their rage, we cannot “hear” them . . . we cannot address their grievances in a manner that someday . . . someday . . . may turn the tide of violence.
There always have been – and there always will be – those who cynically incite others to violence in order to achieve their ends. Absolute safety is an illusion. But that does not mean that we are powerless. We can’t eliminate hatred . . . but what we can do is to try to understand the source of that hatred . . . and refrain from confusing self-preservation with vengefulness.
Lest we forget: a potential killer lurks inside every human being. Under sufficient pressure . . . and with sufficient incitement . . . that killer can leap from thought to action. For some, the trigger may be political or economic oppression and exploitation . . . for others, a sense of humiliation and powerlessness. And once we are sufficiently triggered, anything becomes possible . . . even violence . . . especially against strangers on whom we can project our worst fantasies and fears.
In the end, we are the brothers and sisters of all who walk this earth . . . yes, even of those we choose to call “terrorists.” And in these troubled times especially, we must make every effort to gain the trust of those who have long been humiliated and exploited – both by us in the West, and by their own despotic rulers. And a first step for gaining that trust is for us to acknowledge what has been perpetrated in our own names. Before we can move beyond the endless wars, occupations and 24/7 security, we need to make sure we have cleaned up our act.
And when we have done our best to accomplish that, we need to forgive . . . to be forgiven . . . and finally . . . to forgive ourselves.
As the French say, “tout comprendre c’est tout pardoner” (to understand all is to forgive all). Easy to say, hard to do. But ultimately, the only way to move from endless confrontation to the acceptance of our common humanity.
The Journal will publish the second part of Richard’s Sermon on Sept. 6, 2011, the third part on Sept 11, 2011.
This is the second part of a Sermon delivered by Richard Wiener, who experienced the Holocaust first hand as a Jewish child in his native Germany. Richard is a Ritual Elder in the ManKind Project.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring, Maryland
August 28, 2011
My reason for sharing this story with you is to show how it eventually led me to my life mission: to help create a world of peace and harmony, by advocating reconciliation among both individuals and nations.
This did not happen overnight. Decades had to pass before I understood that my childhood experiences had a silver lining — a gift of deepened insight . . . and a capacity for compassion . . . and ultimate forgiveness.
In 1990, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I returned for the first time to Wittenberg, the town I thought I had left forever 51 years earlier.
The town looked like a time capsule. Because it dates from the Middle Ages . . . founded in the 13th century . . . it had escaped bombing during the Second World War. We drove past the old market place, where the farmers still came twice a week to sell their produce . . . and it seemed like yesterday . . . nothing seemed to have changed . . . except that the houses looked rundown and shabby after 45 years of Soviet occupation.
We visited my old school, the Gymnasium . . . and in the school yard, with its tall chestnut trees, I told my son how I had always dreaded recess. “Come on, dad,” he replied. “Let’s take a memorial lap around the school yard.” And so we did, and that short run was transformational — one of those rare moments when the past becomes just that . . . the past.
Next day, the mayor of Wittenberg received us in the beautiful Renaissance town hall, and gave me a medal commemorating the fate of the Wittenberg Jews, many of whom had been murdered. And then we spent a few days with my childhood friend Wolfgang and his wife, and I began to learn what had become of my former classmates during World War II. Most of them had been drafted when they turned 15 . . . and many had been killed or permanently injured.
For the first time, I began to realize how much suffering the Nazis had inflicted not only on the Jews, but on the entire German population. And with that realization, I started to see my former persecutors not as evil, but as human beings, as individuals who had been swept up in mass hysteria . . . and who had acted out the script that had been provided for them. It was the start of my journey of reconciliation . . . but only the start.
In 1997 I returned to Wittenberg for an alumni reunion at my old school. This time, I would be meeting my former classmates, and that really scared me. How would they feel about seeing me again? Would they feel guilty about the way they had treated me way back then? Maybe some of them were still anti-Semites. I thought about all that, but in the end I decided to take the risk.
And this time, in the grand auditorium of the Gymnasium, I was seated in the front row with the honored guests. The principal introduced me, along with the Minister of Education and other dignitaries. She described me as a man who was forced to leave the school “long ago under difficult circumstances (everyone understood what that meant) . . . and who had come all the way from America to show that he still cared about the school. At the mention of my name, the entire audience burst into applause. I sat there, gripping the arms of my chair . . . and trying hard to hold back the tears.
That night, there was a class dinner. A couple of dozen of my former classmates showed up, most of them with their wives. Among them were professors, doctors, lawyers like myself. We took turns sharing what had become of us since we left school. When my turn came, I told them what it was like to be the only Jew in the Gymnasium during the Nazi years . . . and particularly about having been persecuted in the school yard. Everyone fell silent. I saw a few tears in men’s eyes.
At the end of the evening, as we were putting on our coats, one of the men – a short fellow named Horst — came up to me. He seemed acutely embarrassed. And then he blurted out, “Richard, I need to tell you something . . . I was one of the ringleaders . . . and I want to ask for your forgiveness.”
I had waited all my life for these words. And when they came, I burst into tears, and so did Horst. We embraced, and all that had passed between us so many years before melted away in an instant.
The moment was so healing for me – for both of us – that it remains one of the turning points of my life. After I returned to America, I decided to pass on to others the gift I had received. And so began my workshop, The Power of Forgiveness, in which I share how healing it is for us – for all of us — to let go of our hatred and resentment of others. No matter how terrible were the things that were done to us, it is within our power to forgive and to let go of the burden of resentment and anger we have been carrying.
I have returned to Wittenberg every year or two since then. It now feels safe for me to do so. I have been repeatedly interviewed by the German press, and have had several articles published in an historical annual. Several years ago, my name was entered in the Golden Book of the city, and last October, on the 20th anniversary of German reunification, the citizenship which I lost as a child was restored to me before hundreds of guests . . . I became the only living honorary citizen of my old hometown. The wheel had come full circle.
The Journal will publish the second part of Richard’s Sermon on Sept. 6, 2011, the third part on Sept 11, 2011.
This is the first part of a Sermon delivered by Richard Wiener, who experienced the Holocaust first hand as a Jewish child in his native Germany. Richard is a Ritual Elder in the ManKind Project.
Unitarian Universalist Church of Silver Spring, Maryland
August 28, 2011
We all have a history. We’ve all faced challenges of one kind or another, and for many that is especially true during the current economic crisis. We are told that it behooves us to be kind to everyone we meet, because ultimately life is a struggle for us all. Read more
SHOW: Tickets to Manhood by James Scruggs
WHEN: July 14 – July 30
WHERE: Dixon Place, 161 Chrystie Street, NY, NY 10002
HOW MUCH: $15 in advance, $18 at the door.
WHY: a Play about Rites of Passage, Initiation, and Masculinity in the 21st Century.
From the Editor: I will be representing the ManKind Project for a talk-back panel discussion after the July 23 performance of Tickets to Manhood. I saw an early reading of this play and was offered the opportunity – along with a number of other MKP men – to make comments on it … good, bad or ugly. What follows is from my perspective. ~ Boysen Hodgson, MKP Communications Director
This play is hard-core.
After the reading that I attended with about 30 other people in Northampton, MA 2 months ago, audience members opened their feedback by saying they felt “ripped open” by what they had just witnessed. There was a physical charge of sadness and tension in the room, and yet it was not hopeless. It was the tension of engagement, the tension of creation. James Scruggs has that impact on people.
Scrugg’s last traveling production was called “Disposable Men”. It came to Northampton in 2009. I saw it with my wife, Kendra. At the end I felt ripped open. It was a play about the disposability of African American men in the United States. It was heart-breaking, challenging, and funny. After the show I shook James’ hand, thanked him, and gave him a business card with ‘the ManKind Project, MKP.org’ written on the back. We exchanged a couple of emails in which I talked about my experience of the ManKind Project, and related it to the impact that his play had on me. He expressed mild interest … the conversation ended there.
Now three years later, I got a call from Joseph Dicenso, a past co-leader in the ManKind Project, a man with significant multi-cultural chops, a friend and mentor of mine. He wanted to know if a play-write and his crew could come sit in my IGroup and then if I would be able to get some men together to listen to a reading of his new play, “Tickets to Manhood”. The play-write? James Scruggs. Holy shit. YES.
James Scruggs, Mark Rayment (the Director) and his cast of 5 men came to West Springfield, MA to sit in our Open Men’s group – and I believe that this experience altered the way that James, and several of the other men, think about what a ‘men’s group’ can be. Many of the men said that they experienced something radically different than what they expected … in a way that allowed them to actually show up authentically, be involved, and feel safe.
“Tickets to Manhood” looks at the ways in which men go through rites-of-passage in some very damaging ways as children and young adults, questions the absence of conscious men as role models, brings together a group of men with very hard stories to tell [race, incarceration, military service, religious abuse], throws into question what the role of a ‘weekend workshop’ can be in the process of providing a meaningful rite of passage … and demonstrates how a poorly facilitated group can go horribly wrong. It subtly holds up a mirror that was not always comfortable for me to look at. It has an element of ‘the Sorcerers Apprentice’ in it that left me feeling challenged; wondering what right I have to try and facilitate ‘men’s work’ … and at the same time … demonstrating how desperately needed ‘men’s work’ is. And it definitely showed me how much I have learned about creating real safety and opportunity for men in a circle, because there was a voice in my head screaming ‘NOOO!!!’ at several points in the production.
The story that is told about who we are (even in our own minds) is different than the reality.
I invite you to go and see the play. James Scruggs – the author – would love to see a showing of men from MKP. For men in the NYC Metro MKP community, he can make comp tickets available for men to see the play ahead of the July 23 performance.
I would love to have the support of some New Warriors to speak about the role that a positive male rite of passage and role models have played in their lives. Because the play deals directly with race and class differences – I would really love to see men from Peace on the Streets in attendance. I cannot speak about what it’s like to grow up in the inner city. I cannot speak about what’s it’s like to have few male role models as a child. I know there are men in NYC who can.
James Scruggs has not attended the NWTA. He hasn’t seen the real experience. He, like so many others, has gotten his information from whatever sources he could pull together. Not all the information he got was accurate. Not all of it was inaccurate. Context is so imporant, especially when the stakes seem so high. He has real, challenging questions about what role men can play for one another in creating a healthier masculinity. He is also hopeful and sees the hole in the culture for meaningful approaches to rites-of-passage and men’s personal growth. This is, I judge, an important piece of work. It’s not a cheer-leading piece by any stretch, and yet it contains the possibility for transformation that many of us have experienced.
Tickets To Manhood will be performed Thursday, Friday, Saturday, from July 14-July 30, at 7:30pm at Dixon Place, 161 Chrystie Street, NY, NY 10002, 212 219-0736. Tickets are $15 in advance, $18 at the door. For tickets… http://www.dixonplace.org/html/JamesScruggs_Jul11.html
Performed by DOUGLAS ALLEN, MAXIMILIANO BALDUZZI, SPENCER SCOTT BARROS, GERARD JOSEPH and JAMES SCRUGGS
Directed by MARK RAYMENT
What makes a man a man today? How do boys grow into men? America has become more and more urbanized: gang violence, drug addiction and imprisonment are often as much a boy’s rite of passage as religion, military service and marriage once were. The men in Tickets To Manhood examine the choices that boys make as they mature into men. But these men don’t apologize for their choices: they dive deep into them, and hold up the results for all the world to see. Their humorous and poignant stories offer a glimpse into the events that transformed them and how that metamorphosis occurred.
JAMES SCRUGGS was awarded a Franklin Furnace grant and a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Grant. His show, Disposable Men, which was performed at HERE, received the Bel Geddes Grant and has toured to 7Stages in Atlanta and Painted Bride in Philadelphia. (RUS)H, another collaboration with Kristin Marting, premiered at 3LD Art and Technology Center, NYC. In 2010 a reading of his work Touchscape, was staged at Harlem Stage’s The Gatehouse, followed by a 3-week residency at The Baryshnikov Arts Center and a WIP showing at Dixon Place.
TICKETS TO MANHOOD is commissioned and first presented by Dixon Place with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and the City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs; and with private funds from The Peg Santvoord Foundation.
By Paul Goldman
I release every single infinitesimal
ion of my being: my thoughts,
my emotions, my desires, and my beliefs,
everything at once.
In this glorious instant, my soul soars
to heights beyond imagining,
as I traverse the farthest reaches of
the Universe. I am nothing, I am
each quantum nano particulate
of matter sailing the electromagnetic
seas at the speed of light.
I release, I release, I release…
(c) Paul Goldman December 10, 2010 All Rights Reserved
by Francis X. Kroncke
To understand my claim and its message about masculinity and spirituality, some background about the 1970s anti-war trials of the “Minnesota 8″ draft board raiders is required.
“…five years in a federal penitentiary.” I was indicted on “sabotage of the national defense.” Convicted of a crime of violence, I remain a felon for destroying government property-the 1-A files of draftees. At trial it was decreed, “You gentlemen are worse than the average criminal who attacks the taxpayer’s pocketbook, you strike at the foundation of government itself!” After eight days of testimony by historians, theologians, ecologists, Vietnam veterans, anti-war activists, the jury was instructed, “Everything you have heard here for the last eight days is irrelevant and immaterial.”
Hands dangling down the iron cage, I wondered, What so deeply scared them that they needed to envision me a saboteur and in need of a maximum sentence? My answer stirred up a perplexing fact-they couldn’t understand what type of man I was trying to become. Simply, they understood the male who found initiation and fulfillment through slaying his brother, but they had no place in their mind or soul for a pro-active nonviolent male, except inside a barred cage.
When I burgled draft boards I was seeking to be faithful to the radical spirituality being championed by Vatican Council II. Pope John XXIII was opening the church’s tightly-shuttered windows, letting in the light of day from the outside world of other religions and secular societies. He issued, “Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth), and the Council claimed that, “The holy People of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office.” They spoke about “Building up the international community.” Issued warnings about the apocalyptic perils of “Total War” and the need to work towards “The avoidance of war” and “Curbing the savagery of war.” I was cowed by its challenging call for “The total banning of war, and international action for avoiding war.” Most of all, I pondered, “It is our clear duty, then, to strain every muscle as we work for the time when all war can be completely outlawed by international consent.”
“Semper Fi!” Truthfully, the Documents were dead-weight in my hands until their central message was brazenly thrown back at me by a post-traumatically stressed battle-scarred veteran. In January 1970, as a pacifistic lay theologian, I was fulfilling my military obligation by completing two years of Alternative Service at the University of Minnesota’s Newman Center. A Vietnam veteran (and later trial witness) brought the battlefield into my office. A Marine, he had obediently “searched and destroyed” villages, property and people. Once home, he realized that what he had really done was search and destroy his own home, killed his own family. “It socked it to my head. It wasn’t a hootch, it was a home. It wasn’t a gook, it was a person.”
I listened to his heartfelt words and all at once the messages that Vatican Two offered “to all men and nations” found their clearest expression in the simplicity of: “hootch, home.gook, person.” He said-observing my totally stunned, somewhat paralyzed reaction to his gut-wrenching, hyper-violent saga-”What are you going to do?” Do? I thought that I was doing it-completing my Alternative Service. “I’ve heard you preach.” Another indictment! “We’ve got to stop the story from being told. We have to shut the system down.”
Earthfolk. For him, all people were his family and everywhere on Earth his home. He had faced his dark shadowy masculine, embraced its power to destroy and transformed it by opening his heart to all people and to the Earth, herself. To truly protect their families, he urged men to listen to their hearts, feel through embracing arms, and make present the healing spirit that arises when men open to their mothering, nurturing and healing masculinity. His call is to live peacefully and comfortably at-home on the living Earth. He was the first Earthfolk I met. I invite you, “Are you an Earthfolk?”
by David McCalib
(Written circa 2 A.M. Sunday, 12/19/2010)
These are challenging circumstances to focus on this now, in a cold room with a migraine at 2 A.M.; I’d rather be warm under five layers or in a hot tub or gently swinging in a hammock on a tropical Pacific island paradise, but I will do my best to focus on this idea, this task that flashed out of nowhere after I was asked to write something and envisioned writing it.
What does it mean to be a man today? Now is a time of extraordinary metamorphosis! So—to me—it means being infinitely flexible and adaptable, which is what life does as it manifests. Life expresses itself as energized bodies in motion, whether interminably slow or incredibly fast; plants, animals and other kingdoms appear on Earth in myriad forms, and a man matures in a male body amongst humanity that, like a reed in a stream, either bends with currents and floods to survive—maybe thrive—or snaps off and is washed away with all the debris from rigidity.
‘Ain’t no 2 ways about it—we’ve gotta change’; as always, but now more than ever before. Adapt + able = adaptable and if you’re able-bodied or able at something you have to act, sometimes persistently, to accomplish anything. Life adapts and acts and man is able if he lets it do so—lets it go, go, Go; lets it come and go. Resistance impedes the flow as in a cord or plug that doesn’t work and the light bulb doesn’t flash on, though some control is necessary so the bulb doesn’t burn out.
So how is a man able to decide, act and do anything with power and grace, and especially love and warmth, so that he can live well, enjoy life, laugh and celebrate? How can a man not do that?! Other people, the media and society too often tell or show us the opposite. By contrast between light and dark we are aware of, recognize and appreciate myriad shapes and forms, beautiful and ugly. Then we decide what to do with what has been done to us.
My inspiration and guidance, nothing new sparked by a few others, is to let go of all that—the past, and future–as much as possible, and experience the awe and joy, wonder and beauty of each moment, since power and presence are ubiquitous. Only now can you truly enjoy what life brings; only now can you be who you really are and not who or what others have told you to be in so many ways it became a struggle to escape that thought net and be free. Really it’s quite amazing not to be present and act spontaneously. Only fear of pain can keep us from love of bliss.
So let go and Love …
When I was young, I searched for gods – men without fear of death, men imbued with the unassailable power I so sorely lacked. At times I thought I had found such gods, but in the end all proved to be fallible like myself. Much later I learned that godliness resides not on a sacred Mount Olympus, but right here, right now, within ourselves.
By our rituals, we create sacred space, but in that space we are men, not gods. What ennobles us is our willingness to strive, within the confines of our mortality, to accept our human limitations, yes, but also to transcend them.
What makes a man a Warrior is his struggle, first, to conquer his shame and fear, and then, on the wings of that conquest, to carry his mission out into the world. As Michelangelo set free his Prisoners by chiseling away the marble that confined them, so the Warrior unlocks the prison of his past and emerges a living, noble work of art.
That past made possible our glory, so let us revel in it. The abuse, the isolation, the wounds inflicted on our innocence – these are what propel us forward on the path of self-recognition and of spiritual growth that we will follow to the ends of our lives. Sweet indeed are the uses of adversity.
We are but men, assailed by doubts and fears, paddling furiously through the white water of our lives into an unknown, perilous future, hearing always the faint roar of the waterfall in the distance. But oh, the joy of that manhood, of being fully alive every moment, of seeing all about us our Warrior brothers, facing the same odds with courage and honor.
by James Hanny
In most anything a Man encounters or desires, he has a choice upon which road to traverse. And in that destination, he chooses one of two essential directions in which to flow his decisions—to release and direct his energies.
One path taken is guided by his shadowy, dark fears.
It appears to be, and he perceives it as, the real fabric of his experiences.
This illusory path was configured from the legacy of his youth by the labors of shadow figures echoing within him; then made believable by the investment and attention of his own energy.
Through sheer mental projection, or by sheer attraction, this path is filled with ominous shadows, tricksters, and miscreants.
From his dark recesses, he may summon demons, monsters, the darkest of fellows, or wicked Sirens. Read more
I ask for a vision
so clear so radiant
that it takes our breath away
with its grandeur
I ask for a vision
that heals all men
women and children Read more
We read the first line on December 10, 2004. We read our last line, and once again the first line on October 30, 2010. This was my third time through. We start at the beginning of Exodus, read one line at a time, and talk about it. The Torah study group has been meeting every Saturday morning from 8 – 9:30 a.m. for almost fifty years.
Anyone can say anything. When I started in this group about twenty years ago, I couldn’t believe anyone could say anything. I was very mistrusting of my fellow Jews. After all, I’d been hurt growing up by non-Jew and Jew alike. I came into this group on guard, expecting to be laughed at or teased. I was ready to bolt in a Milwaukee minute.
I was clearly the youngest person in the group, and was welcome with open arms. I felt it, and did not trust it. It was like being with a bunch of grand parents. They are a bunch of grandparents. Nowadays, many are great grand parents. I never knew my grand parents or great grand parents, so I thought this could be a good thing. These sweet old people are also Jews.
I could not believe the group read one line at a time. People just knew when they could add a comment. The discussion has a pace. People are respectful. The Rabbi always keeps us on track. Members take turns bringing bagels and cream cheese.
Group members are teachers, lawyers, doctors, psychologists, and others. Some of the members are brilliant in their knowledge of history, medicine, law, ethics, and other fields. Discussion feels like an advanced graduate study program. I am always learning something.
Many groups I’ve been a part of evolve over time, and either end, or turn into something else. Groups get more personal, more social, and less topical. Not this one. The line we left off on is read at exactly 8 a.m. We close our books at exactly 9:30 a.m.
Over the years, being in this group has done several things. Like a boulder on the shore of the ocean, it has worn away my mistrust. It has healed the pain I suffered as a Jew. Deep, deep inside, in what I believe to be my soul, the people and experience of this group have helped me to feel whole. It taught me to be a patient listener. It taught me that revisiting text at different times in my life, and at different times in our evolving history, brings out different perspectives and lessons. It has taught me that every one brings something to the table. People who might irritate me for what ever reason, I’ve learned to accept, as the group has accepted me. The group is soothing and restorative. It continues to teach me the value of sticking with a good thing. It teaches me to be patient with other people in my life. It has taught me how to interact with all kinds of groups. It has deepened my understanding of many, many things, including myself.
Finally, the group has become a touch stone of serenity and sanity for me. I look forward to my fourth trip through the Torah.
by Peter Clothier
The gift of another insight today. Well, it’s not exactly new, but it arrives with good timing and particular focus.
A peculiar set of circumstances led me this morning to a video interview on Living Smart with the Jungian scholar, therapist and writer James Hollis, who — among a great many other useful thoughts — challenged me with this question: What did I internalize from my parents’ lives?
My mind went immediately to my father and this mantra, which he repeated often enough out loud for it to stick in a prominent place in my skull: “What do I know? I’m just a simple country priest.”
My father allowed this mantra to define his life — and to limit it. Beyond being a “simple country priest,” he was also an extraordinarily insightful man when it came to human behavior. From his constant reading as well as from his studies at Cambridge, he had a solid understanding of psychology and its various proponents, especially Jung and Freud and Adler.
My father’s intellectual capacity raised him far above the level of the “simple country priest” he chose to remain. He was gifted and qualified enough to rise in the ecclesiastical hierarchy much further than he ever did.
He also had the intuitive power of the healer and believed fervently in the healing potential of the “laying on of hands.” He himself had the gift, but practiced it with timidity and reservation.
What I internalized from my father was the underestimation of my own gifts, the reticence that holds me back from realizing the full extent of my potential as a man.
In some all-too often unconscious place in the mind, I repeat my version of his mantra: “I’m just a little writer on the fringes of the real action.” I not only repeat it, I believe it, and in this way it gets to be the truth.
The insight comes on the eve of the publication of what I think of, timidly, as my new “little book,” Persist. The insight comes at precisely the moment when I need to learn the lesson that the book itself explores, which is that there is no success of any kind — whether internal or commercial — without persistence.
Persistence requires a fundamental and unswerving belief in the task at hand. We teach, as I have reiterated many times, only what we need ourselves to learn.
For me, this is one of the meanings of manhood.
|Peter Clothier has published include two novels, two books of poetry, a monograph on the British artist David Hockney, and scores of art and book reviews in national journals. This essay is adapted from his new book, Persist: In Praise of the Creative Spirit in a World Gone Mad With Commerce, due out in January 2010. For info, visit TheBuddhaDiaries.com.|
by Steve Norcross
“Hike the Grand Canyon at your age?”
Apparently this co-worker was not aware that ageist comments like this are not socially acceptable. He also was not aware of the assumption he made about what a man should be at my age.
I was also immediately aware that he was really talking about himself, way overweight and definitely not fit and aging along
with everyone else.
Having recently moved to the Southwest, one of my goals was to hike into the Grand Canyon, camp in the inner gorge, and hike out two days later. Furthermore, I wanted to hike down the South Kaibab Trail which has the
better views, and hike up the Bright Angel, giving a chance to rest half way at Indian Gardens.
I applied for my backcountry permit, and on or about the middle of April, off I drove to Northern Arizona.
Down into the canyon, it’s mostly of matter of holding one’s self back. My knee began to complain bitterly, but all pain was forgotten as I walked to the Tipoff and saw clearly the inner gorge. I was awash (wrong image — this is
the desert) with joy at seeing one of the truly spectacular places in the world, and I’m in it, all my own effort.
Camping was good except that I had carried way too much stuff. I managed to give away half my food and most of my fuel. Whew, that’s better. Fifteen pounds lighter.
Breaking camp in the dark so as to make some time before the big heat, I took off over the suspension bridge just as the dawn was returning. Up, up, up, struggled against the force of gravity and my own limitation. After a rest, up the switchbacks I went, wondering how I would ever make it.
At last I gasped my way to the trailhead, somehow managing not to yell at day trippers holding their soda cans and smoking their cigarettes. There’s no one quite as self-righteous as a through hiker near the trail head.
I made my way to the car, immensely grateful that I had made it and, yes, I was one of the oldest people on the trail.
Back at work, the co-worker looked just the same as always. I probably did, too, but I felt a million times better.
|Steve Norcross is a leader in the MKP Northwest and Portland Councils. An Episcopal priest, he is the director of pastoral services at William Temple House and the Priest-in-Charge at Ascension Parish. He is married with two grown children and a granddaughter on the way. snorx.wordpress.com/|