Jerry Streets – On Universal Love in Practice

I find there can be a wide divide between theory and practice.  Using words like love, empathy, and understanding is one thing, but actually putting them into practice can be challenging.  Jerry Streets recently introduced me to a book by Howard Thurman called Jesus and the Disinherited.  One of the most interesting thought exercises in the book is the exploration of Jesus as a person living in the context of his social situation and how that likely influenced his teachings and behavior.  The book emphasizes a difference between the teachings and the institution around them concluding with an exploration of the practical application of universal love.

In my personal experience, I find universal love to be a practice of seeing the interconnectedness of all things.  Somewhere in that process there is an acknowledgment and respect for the common source of all phenomena.  What to do with that respect for the “beingness” of another could be the subject of a much longer write up, but the cliff notes would allude to compassion and inner freedom.  Compassion because I see that the other person is a product of a long chain of universal conditions that have brought them to this point.  And inner freedom because true compassion is much more constructive than anger.  In a sense, the energy of that compassion is the transformed product of the original anger.

In my last conversation, Jerry and I unpack the philosophy and practice of universal love.  Frederick “Jerry” Streets is an adjunct Associate Professor of Pastoral Theology at Yale Divinity School, and a visiting professor in the Department of Social Work and Latino Community Practice at the University of Saint Joseph. He previously served as the Carl and Dorothy Bennett Professor in Pastoral Counseling at the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, Yeshiva University. From 1992-2007, he served as the Chaplain of Yale University and Senior Pastor of the University Church, in which role he established a model of multi-faith campus ministry. From 1975-2007, he served as Senior Pastor of the Mount Aery Baptist Church in Bridgeport, CT, in which role he led the congregation through significant growth, oversaw the building of a new church edifice, and developed social services and outreach ministries.

We cover a lot of ground ranging from practical love to modern societal issues such as racism and empathic failure.  Jerry shares a moving story of his own experience with and response to discrimination in his life that puts Thurman’s theology into practice.

Gaea Logan – On Courageous Conversation

I often have a hard time concentrating in a cluttered environment. Somehow the disorganization of my space reflects itself in the state of my mind.  The dynamic flows both ways.  The very act of organizing my space tends to focus the mind.

In some ways this quality of symbiosis is reflected in interpersonal interaction.  Two or more people absorb and reflect each other’s state of being.  Deep listening is both an outward function towards the speaker and an inward function observing self as reflection of other.  In my own practice, I have been learning to navigate this fine line with attentiveness and a curiosity towards the very subjective nature of my experience.  My next conversation continues to unfold the vast depths of this domain.

This week I explore group process and deep listening with Gaea Logan.  Her integrative trauma work sits at the intersection of neurobiology, contemporary psychoanalytic psychology, somatic awareness and Buddhist meditation practice. For over 35 years, she has worked as a clinical consultant on the frontlines of trauma bringing group trauma training to wounded communities in both international and domestic settings. Her model, Contemplative Based Trauma and Resiliency Training, has been adapted for implementation in the UN Peace-Keeping Missions throughout the Middle East and in refugee settlements in Africa.  She is founder and executive director of the International Center for Mental Health and Human Rights. She is also the creator of one of our most popular courses on Sutra, the Portable Calm, a mindfulness awareness program for professionals working with trauma.

Our dialogue explores group experience as a three fold process occurring inter-psychically, inter-personally, and as a whole.  Gaea speaks about courage in conversation and the group as sacred space. She shares a simple exercise that she uses to teach listening and we briefly touch upon why listening offers a path towards healing and wholeness.

Gaea offers a lifetime of practical insight into contemplative and compassionate listening and it was a true joy exploring this subject with her. Please enjoy our conversation.

Tom Atlee – On Listening and Diversity

A close friend of mine once shared that humility is a self protecting virtue – the idea that it is hard to assert the grandeur of one’s own humility.  I often observe my own arrogance – thinking that I know better, not being inclusive, or simply not paying attention.  In my experience, humility has been an acquired skill, practiced and all but natural.  It is also a prerequisite for true listening.  It’s hard to listen to another if you think you already know what they’re going to say.

I was reminded of the importance of humility in my last conversation with Tom Atlee.  We spoke at length about his definition of co-intelligence – a term he coined – and the value of deep listening and diversity in that function.  In preparing for this write up, I caught myself tuning out for the first ten minutes of listening to the recording – because “I had already read about it.”  When I went back and listened again, I realized how much I missed.  Humility is a never ending practice.  Unfortunately, we rarely have an opportunity to replay our interactions.

Tom Atlee is vice president and research director of the Co-Intelligence Institute, a nonprofit organization he founded in 1996.  His early co-intelligence research in the late 1980s focused on the relationship between group dynamics and collective intelligence. Beginning in the mid-1990s through the mid-2000s, his focus shifted to developing society’s capacity to function as a wise democracy.  He is the author of numerous books and recently published the Wise Democracy Pattern Language resource online.

Tom offers his unique understanding of human intelligence and wise co-existence.  He shares his experience of “listening aikido” – taking the energy of a person’s response, particularly if it’s negative, and directing it towards constructive expression – as well as some simple ways to practice reflective listening.  

Tom’s perspective stems from a life time of peace activism and thought exploration and he is truly one of the great minds in this domain.  Please enjoy.

Paul Morris – On the Tension of Being

Increasingly I find that tension and discomfort is implicit in the human experience. Whether I am hungry or overfed, hot or cold, insecure or overworked, self conscious or angry, the range of conditions under which I am explicitly comfortable and content is very narrow. It is only natural that I reach for ways to avoid this discomfort and yet, in so doing, I avoid some essential part of my being.

This condition is highlighted between people. I have struggled with self consciousness my entire life. At some point, this kind of insecurity becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The irony is that the tension itself is the catalyst for connection – it is the common thread that I and the other share. In avoiding it, I avoid the one thing that we surely have in common – the discomfort of being human. As I bring awareness and presence to the tension, my experience opens to deeper levels of connection and relatedness. I often find this process to be extremely uncomfortable – something that I have to practice over and over.

In today’s conversation my guest and I explore this tension in real time as it comes up between us. What emerges is a deeply honest examination of the inherent tension of being.

Paul Morris is the Bay Area Director of Pathwise, a leadership development program that emphasizes self awareness and deeper understanding of human nature through a year long small group driven learning experience. Having served as strategic advisor to the Pathwise founders since 2007, Paul joined full time in 2011 to oversee the advising process of the Pathwise community as a whole.

Paul is no stranger to anxiety and, even after years of teaching, finds the experience of walking into a classroom physically distressing. Paul shares his approach to dealing with this discomfort in a way that creates spaces for vulnerability and openness. We explore the source of this anxiety and how it offers opportunity for empathy and deep relatedness.

Please enjoy.

Rasanath Das – On the Enneagram

I often contemplate what it means to take full responsibility for myself. Sincerely taking responsibility requires awareness and this quality of awareness – true, unbiased insight – can be elusive. A few years ago I was telling a friend about my experiences with anger. In one of those rare “aha moments” when everything just clicks, he helped me see that much of my anger stemmed from avoidance of shame. Without this painful insight, I had lacked the awareness to truly take responsibility for my actions. It was my very anger that prevented me from seeing the truth.

One of the tools that has helped me navigate the tricky landscape of self has been the enneagram. This body of work is a form of personality assessment tool that revolves around understanding different types of ego structures and how they operate. Originally popularized by G. I. Gurdjieff, its origins go back millennia. The enneagram was introduced to me by an organization called Upbuild and today I share my interview with one of its principles, Rasanath Das – who also happens to be the friend in question above.

Rasanath started his professional career in strategy consulting at Deloitte in 2000 and later worked as an investment banker for Bank of America. He then spent four years in a New York City monastery during which time he co-founded Upbuild to focus on cultivating mindfulness and personal development. Rasanath is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post, has been featured as a speaker for TEDx and SXSW, and has been profiled in The New York Times, CNN, and PBS.

Rasanath combines the timeless wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita with the incisive insight of the enneagram to offer a unique approach towards understanding self and other. We cover the underlying mechanics of his work as well as some of the ways in which Rasanath creates safe space and actually teaches this deeply interpersonal material.

Please enjoy.

David Passiak – On Co-Creating the Future

Recently I have been reintroduced to the concept of subconscious archetypes. Archetypes are a type of pattern language that assign meaning to common recurring patterns in the human psyche. In Jungian psychology, these are used to garner deeper insight into a person’s unique mental situation. However, co-creative innovation often relies on processing similar subconscious data in a collective context.

A few weeks ago I interviewed David Passiak and, although we didn’t specifically talk about archetypes, it was the unique way in which he described co-creation that highlighted this connection:

When you’re co-creating you’re drawing out these things that are deep or hidden in your subconscious. There’s a way in which you’re coming together and you’re trying to pull out these bits and pieces inside of you or inside the other people you’re co-creating with and trying to create something that’s new and fresh and at the same time you’re trying to create something that you feel should exist in the world.

This reference to the subconscious aspect of co-creation reminded me that a big part of generative interaction is collectively refining this abstract data into meaningful outcomes that deliver value. I invite you to share your own reflections on the co-creative application of archetypal analysis with me here.

David Passiak is a keynote speaker, innovator, futurist, and author of three books – Empower – How to Co-Create the Future, Disruption Revolution, and Red Bull to Buddha. He is also the co-founder of blockchain marketing agency, Blox 7. My conversation with David covers his unique journey from religion scholar who did Ph.D. studies at Princeton on “Great Awakenings” to his current work which focuses on building movements, co-creation, crowd-based innovation, and emerging business models.

We delve deeply into David’s co-creative workshop process and unpack a specific exercise he runs people through. I found the guided meditation and visualization practice to be particularly interesting. David’s experience in this domain is extensive and he offers a wealth of insight into the near and long term future of co-creation and humanity.

Please check out his latest book, available as a free donation based download, here.

Jenn Sander – On Play

The message is clear: I must play more.

Time and time again, I am reminded that I am far to serious and it’s true. My life needs more playfulness.

There is an innocence that comes through in genuine play. Five year olds don’t care about your job title. They are immersed in the creative potential of the moment, be it finger painting or fantasy lego block adventures. With no agenda or fear of judgement, a child’s creativity knows no bounds.

Play in adult life can be a source of tremendous insight and inspiration. Yet, playing can seem like such a childish preoccupation. Who has time for play in a world filled with cellphones, meetings, and email?

I recently spoke with Jenn Sander who’s passion lies at the intersection of play and creativity. Jenn is a year-round staff member at Burning Man, advising on Global Initiatives and Innovation. She also consults on civic engagement and urban development with Re:Imagine Group, an urban prototyping lab based in San Francisco. Additionally, she is the Founder of an Urban Experience Design Studio called Play Atelier, based in Vancouver and NYC.

We talk about the power of doing things for no reason, losing track of time, and letting yourself get silly without fear of judgement. Jenn shares her philosophy on play, prototyping, and bringing adults together in fun, simple, and human ways.

“Trying to be innovative and shooting ahead can inhibit true innovative potential because you need to actually create an opportunity for people to see each other and invest in themselves via investing in each other in a much more human and simplistic way for these very diverse and mixed industry perspectives to percolate together. That’s what children do, combining different ideas until they develop a sort of clear cut perception of the world. As adults we just live in that perception and continually try to innovate within it versus exploring what a different version of society can be.”

The unfortunate tragedy is that, at times, I feel I have almost forgotten how to play. This conversation reminded me that play is at the very heart of creative endeavor.

Please enjoy.

Jody Levy – On Storytelling and Communication

Unbeknownst to many, besides being an entrepreneur, I am also an artist. Reconciling the two, finding synthesis in the tension, has been an unfolding journey of recognizing the inherent opportunity for creativity and meaning in all forms of creation.

Recently, I interviewed artist and entrepreneur, Jody Levy, on her approach to work and community building. Jody creates art through experience.

Five years ago her path led her to the founding of beverage company World Waters. Today, their flagship product, WTRMLN WTR, can be found in over 25,000 stores across the country. Powerful story telling and creative community building through experience driven events have played a central role in their success.

Since 2001, Jody has been creating unique events, interactive environments, brands, products, and multi-sensory installations that connect people in engaging ways. Her professional focus is all about the integration of art and technology. Jody’s experience includes working with American Idol, Chrysler, The Coachella Music Festival, Ford Motor Company, Heineken, Hewlett Packard, Lexus, MAC Cosmetics, Mos Def, Museum Of Modern Art, The Museum of Science and Industry Chicago, Palm, Paramount Pictures, Project Runway, San Francisco Museum Of Modern Art, Scion, Shades Optical, Toyota, W Hotels and many other international brands.

In our conversation Jody offers her unique experience from the front lines of launching an entirely new product category (watermelon juice) in a hyper competitive beverage industry. She shares how she’s honed their messaging and built a mission driven brand that has an edge, creates value, and inspires people to care about something.

Jody’s approach to community is all about story telling and communication. That’s the glue that holds everything together.  Jody takes us inside her role as a leader and how she communicates the story both internally and externally in a way that is always grounded in truth.

Listen through to the end to hear Jody share her personal philosophy on how the universe works and mastering the inherent duality of “decisive action in a state of surrender.”

Please enjoy our conversation.