Essay Encountering


It happened in the summer of 1998. I am alone at home. Home is a little village in the Belgian countryside. The month of August is warm. In the attic, in my study room, I am preparing for a philosophy exam. I have always been fascinated by the phenomenon of life and its ‘meaning.’ That degree in philosophy is supposed to give me answers, to help me understand what life is about. Naively, I had thought that space engineering would bring me closer to the mystery. After a few years of working in that field, it became clear that the reality I wished to explore is here on the earth and now. Not out there, light-years away.


Sitting at my desk, I am reading theories about life and death. The whole thing feels a little stuck in my head as if the information is trapped there, in that upper part, without any communication with the rest of my body, or with the birds outside, the sun shining through the clouds and the farmers working in their fields. Around lunchtime, in that slightly confused mood, I leave my study room to fetch the kids. I am a young mother of three children. While I was studying, they were having fun somewhere with friends.


On my way back home, on the highway, something happens. The children are in a state of tension between excitement and tiredness, unable to sit quietly in the back seat. They are two, four, and six years old. The tension amplifies my own state of confusion. I turn to them with the intention to restore calm. My movement is a little too fast, a little too strong and a little too agitated. In that movement, I drop the driving wheel for a second, and that second is enough for the car to change its trajectory.


I intended to restore calm, but at what cost? I am not driving the car anymore, but the car is driving us, taking the four of us on its own course—a dramatic one. The accident is bound to happen. We can see it coming. We see it happening in front of our eyes. The car pitches slowly from right to left, and left to right. On the highway. At high speed. Until something reaches a limit in the car structure. Until something breaks up, projecting the car in the air. Everything is then darkness, sound, and movement.


The car is now standing still. I smell the disaster before I see it. A smell of fuel and burnt steel. Where are the kids? Not in the car. I look for them on the highway. I find their bodies. I take care of them until ambulances arrive. While running from one child to another, I discover strength in me. At that very moment, I feel at the best of my human capacity. I am able to love as I have never loved before. The immense pain seems to be counterbalanced by an immense sense of gratitude. Love for the kids, for the people around me (car drivers who have stopped to help), for the rescue workers. Total dedication.


One child is missing. Someone shouts, “She is here!” Indeed. She is laying down on the grass away from the road. Someone says, “Don’t worry, her heart is beating, she is alive.” I believe these words of a stranger, although I see no sign of life in that little body. A young woman is standing nearby. She has witnessed the accident. I take her hand, I ask her to come closer. I place her hand in my daughter’s hand. I ask her to keep holding that little hand. “Her name is Anaïs,” I told her. “She is six. Please stay with her, keep talking to her.” Then it is OK for me to leave her and to run back to the other kids.


That day, we were very close to death. The four of us. Today, we are all alive. Gratitude. It took me years and years to relax, to process the pain, to go through the fears, to heal the injuries. We left the hospital after a few weeks. Anaïs had spent three weeks in a deep coma, between life and death. It took her another two years to fully get ‘back to life.’ It took us a good 10 years to recover. We will never return to ‘normal.’ There is no sense of ‘normality’ after such an event. Our family, our lives, have radically changed.


The shock has been such that it has deprived me of a large part of my energy. What was left was to be used mindfully, with a clear focus on essentials. At that moment, it was to support the kids through the crisis. What was the ‘right,’ useful support? Slowly, a story shaped before my eyes in which the notion of ‘respect’ had a core role. Respect as basic consideration for reality, including myself, others, life, situations. Respect as listening deeply and showing regards to inner as much as outer realities.


That day, on the highway, while ambulances were driving the kids to hospitals, I stayed a few more minutes. The landscape was one of desolation. In an instant, the pain struck me. I realized that I was seriously injured. Oxygen was lacking, it was more and more difficult to breathe. Something then happened. Something I can hardly describe with words. It took me years and years before I was able to articulate specifics. Sometimes, I need to go back to my diary to check if it really happened. That day. On the highway.


I simply did not know how to talk about it and who would be able to understand. Such an experience is hardly describable. It includes all opposites and goes beyond the realm of words. It feels unreal and at the same time, it feels like the real stuff. It feels both warm and cold. I was lifted from my body, in a vertical movement, like in a tunnel of tiny particles. Like raindrops reflecting thousands of colors. At a high speed, with a sense of stillness. Thousands of colored particles. Further away, a warm radiating light. Intense but not dazzling. The whole experience is quiet, cool, clean, in contrast with the chaos on the highway.


How can I communicate that sense of integration, fullness, unity, and peace I experienced in that moment? In the tunnel, three times, I moved up. Three times I moved down. When I finally regain normal consciousness, I am in an ambulance with an oxygen mask on my face. Landing is painful, but it doesn’t matter. Years later, after a long healing process, I reconnected with the sense of peace experienced in that very moment. I learned to approach it in the silence of meditation, in nature, in the depth of authentic relationships, in the flow of life.


This notion of ‘peace’ became central in my life. Peace as an art, as a movement of integration of opposites. Peace as a radical opening to a wider picture. I started regarding conflicts as opportunities for transformation. From a personal perspective, I moved naturally to a collective one in which we are all together breathing the same air, illuminated by the same sun, walking on the same earth. I became passionate about relating to people as if this whole experience had brought me closer to fellow human beings. As if my story was a universal one and had brought me into the real phenomenon of life- that phenomenon I initially tried to understand through the theory of space engineering and philosophy.


About the Images

Claude Theys paired his photos with Nathalie’s essay at her request, using meditation to connect instinctively rather than literally with her words.

Belgian by origin, citizen of the world by heart, Claude is passionate about traveling. For him, photography is the art of capturing the present moment, feeling connected with the environment, the people he encounters, and the colors that attract him. He spent over twenty years in Africa with his family and has spent much of his time in nature and wildlife.

About Nathalie Legros

Nathalie Legros holds a degree in space engineering and certificates in existential counseling and mediation. She has spent a great deal of her time in Brussels and European institutions, supporting the project of Integration and Peace in Europe. In her fieldwork with civil servants, through perspective to bring attention to ‘peace within,’ she introduced individual practices of resting (silent pauses) and collective practices of deeper inquiry and reflection (Bohm Dialogue Circles). She regards conflicts as fuel for transformation and is the author of the little book ‘Chouette, un conflit!’ for which the English translation is waiting for a publisher. In the context of the Monastic Inter-religious Dialogues (MID), she follows contemplative practitioners of different traditions in the mutual exploration of their experience. Today, she lives in a village in Belgium and gives priority to local engagement and dialogue in all its forms, including with nature.

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An Uncommon Song

Essay Encountering

An Uncommon Song

One week in early February, a local artist visited our class and led us in the painting of a mural. Using thick creamy paints, the kids took turns filling a piece of craft paper the size of a kitchen table with whimsical plants, sunbursts, and big, fat raindrops. There was a red heart in the center. It was winter, but we painted outside in shirtsleeves. It had been warm and dry for months, and we needed those raindrops desperately.

Throughout painting, we sang. The children followed along at first, then carried the melodies into their brushstrokes. Our visiting artist hummed. Birds whistled. Moving my hand back and forth in the water bucket, we soon had a sloshy rhythm section. I am not a musician, but I have come to love the sound of living things—tree branches that sound like marimbas, pinecones like tiny thumb pianos, the blip, bloop, blop of stones as they fall into the river.

The relationship between song and education is well-known. Many have written on the subject, perhaps most famously Plato in The Republic. In the story, Socrates warns about the dangers of teaching certain ungodly songs. If the gods are portrayed as vengeful and cruel, he says, what will prevent our children from emulating them?


My daughter grew up in an intentional community. Song permeated our days. It filled our meetings, our meal blessings, and even our work parties. For most of my life, I recoiled at such sentiment. Too cheesy. Or worse, evidence of cultism. And that is precisely the message Plato intended—song invades the mind and heart, and whatever message rides that melody buries itself deep in a person’s bearing. So, do not think this an idle subject. It is one of the most potent forces known to humankind—song.

Song can hold us as individuals, but it can also carry a whole group, a movement, a nation. As the children dabbed bright colors in their little aprons, the mural slowly expanded above their heads. A massive blue sky—the real one—towered over us, and each brushstroke was lifted with song. The kids beamed with the task. The task of painting. The task of singing. The task of being alive. Birds flew by. Trees danced in the wind. There were only nine of us there, just a handful of humans on this planet, but we squeezed every last ounce out of that moment, achieving something all too rare and precious today—unadulterated life.

This was how we prepared for Valentine’s Day.

School for the Earth Children, our small outdoor kindergarten, usually begins with Silke leading the kids on a walk into the woods or a nearby canyon, me sweeping stragglers in the back. The mountains and canyons of New Mexico offer a rarefied classroom and we take every advantage. There is no school building. But on this particular day, we braved the morning traffic and met in the center of town. We put on heart bands and necklaces and began walking toward the bank. Along the way, we sang.

The first folks we met stood with hardened expressions outside the Presbyterian Church. It appeared to be an early AA meeting. Silke led us directly through them, singing The Heartbeat of the Universe. One of them, a young man smoking a cigarette, smiled uncomfortably. Another ducked inside. But several men and women caught our eyes and smiled back. The kids handed out felt hearts.

Then we hit the bank. The tellers, all women, nearly swooned. My old boss was inside. We hugged, then sang together, and shared valentines all around. Stepping outside, we crossed the street to the bakery. It was closed. But the owner was in the back and he came out with a tray of snacks for the kids. The children gave him a felt heart and a cookie, then drew chalk hearts all over the sidewalk.

We went to the copy store, the fiber arts store, and a construction site—all impromptu. Silke led our merry train. We waved at cars and attracted the eyes of pedestrians all over Taos. We had done much the same at Christmas, caroling the holiday hit list. This time, the children smiled and sang love songs. “Happy Valentine’s Day,” I said from the caboose with a smile.

Just before noon, we arrived at World Cup, the coffee shop at the center of Taos. The kids got hot cocoa and sang with the patrons inside, then we scurried out the door and headed toward the plaza. We only had a moment to get there to meet the rest of our group, but along the way we ran into a young man, a street musician dressed all in black. He had downcast eyes and a severe expression. I assumed we’d smile politely and pass by—Taos is full of drifters like this—but Silke stopped us front and center and asked him for a song.

The young man looked up uncertainly. One of our kids complimented him on his guitar. Another asked if he was a real musician. We all laughed. One child noticed a pen near his foot, picked it up and placed it in his shirt pocket. Finally, the young man sang. He called it a lullaby, but I think it was a love song. Every young man yearns to be noticed. Every human being craves to be touched. When he finished, he looked up with a soft expression, then recalled himself. Silke placed a few dollars in his hat, and the kids waved goodbye.

We crossed the street to Taos plaza. Four other teachers met us there, along with their students and several other men and women. There were two-year-olds and kindergartners; first-, second-, third-, sixth-, and seventh-graders; mothers, fathers, babies, uncles, grandmas. All told, about 50 big-hearted folks.

We held hands and sang songs. We jumped rope and laughed. We smiled shyly, then brashly, at passersby. Silke wove us through the plaza, hand in hand, like a train. As we sang, I recalled the painting of the mural, the AA meeting, and the bankers; the coffee shop and the bakery; the street musician. A police truck rolled by. Life is imbalanced sometimes. Songs come and go. Sometimes we aren’t beautiful. Winters can be dry.

That evening, I learned that a young man in Florida had walked into school and opened fire on his classmates, robbing us of the lives of 17 young men and women who no longer have a voice to sing.

Valentine’s Day. 

That night, it rained all over Taos.

About Joe Brodnik

Joe Brodnik is the father of a six-year-old girl and a teacher at Taos Earth Children, an outdoor kindergarten with no school building. Read more at

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Healing Into Consciousness

Essay Healing

Healing Into Consciousness

Witnessing the birth of my grandchild, I was humbled in a very profound way. Looking into her eyes was like having a glimpse into the eyes of the unknown. I wondered where this newly-born child’s soul had been traveling, how her life would unfold, what her trials and tribulations on this planet would be, and what kind of gifts she brought into this world to share. 

Every child is born a blank slate. No matter how loving, caring, and conscious the child’s parents are, they cannot predict what their child’s experiences will be, what lessons he/she is here to learn, and what kind of beliefs the soul will adopt from her personal experiences and social conditionings. Like the very fabric of the Universe, our human existence is complex and multidimensional. The exploration of our human condition and the discovery of our true nature is a mysterious and sophisticated journey. As we become conscious of one aspect of our existence, another is revealed to us. We are led into the arms of the unknown over and over again to discover truths about ourselves, others, and the Universe.

As humans, we have been gifted with an ability to question, explore, and discover the Truth of who we are. Though not an easy path, the longing to awaken to our True Self is built into the core of our being. Discovering the ultimate health that resides in our being is each person’s destiny, no matter how much they stray from the path of self-discovery.

I was five years old when I saw my grandfather die after battling cancer. He was in pain and very frustrated. He finally decided it was enough and grabbed a bottle of morphine that was used to ease his pain and drank from it. Shortly after, he died and everything became calm and peaceful.

Watching his lifeless body, I remember thinking that I will die one day, too. The world will continue going, just as it did after my grandfather’s death. I was suddenly taken into a different dimension of reality where I had a bird’s eye view of the impermanence of life. I knew, in that moment, that the most important things for me while I was on this planet would be to discover who I am, where I came from, and where would I go when I die.

Like everyone else, I ‘forgot’ about this important insight as life took me on its spin. Like all of us, I was inundated with conflicting ideas, beliefs, and conditionings and began to identify with them. I accumulated ideas from my parents, personal life experiences, and those that were imposed on me by social and religious structures. By the time I attained two university degrees (education and architecture), I had forgotten about the awareness of what I thought was the most important thing in life. Something inside me kept feeling misplaced, however. I did not want to fit into the structure that my parents and the world expected of me.

Fortunately, no matter how much we stray from our own path, our inner light never can be lost. Sooner or later, we will all revert back to the Truth that is undeniably at the core of our being.

After going in a roundabout way through many hardships, heartaches, and disappointments, I recognized the falsity that was all around me. I began to internally rebel and longed to find my lost inner peace and authentic Self.

I was 24 years old when I was first introduced to the teachings of George Gurdjieff and Osho. Immediately, they resonated with me and I knew that I was back on track. What they called enlightenment was the path to finding my True Self. So, I left behind what the world considered valuable in terms of a career, material success, and prestige, and, with great passion, focused on meditating and looking inward.

Things gradually began to crystalize as I embarked on this uphill path of self-discovery, which essentially meant unlearning everything that I had learned and with which I was conditioned. After several profound experiences through meditation and introspection, I experienced firsthand what dis-identifying from the body, mind, and emotions truly meant. I saw the partnership between my mind and my ego mutually feeding on all the beliefs and conditionings to stay alive.

My curiosity to explore the workings of my ego-mind and observe them as a scientist of my own inner world helped me understand the ego’s fear to die and disappear into the unknown. When I gathered courage to face the fear and passed through the hurricane into its eye, I was left within the simple existence of my being which felt like an “am-ness” without anything written on it. I saw that this am-ness—which also can be called presence—was at the center of everything in the universe, including humans, trees, rocks, oceans, stars, planets, and even things.  

Reconnecting to this place of absolute stillness is not an easy task. In order to find and live from this place of innocence and Pure Being, we must unlearn what we have learned. We must peel away the many layers of adopted beliefs and conditionings. We must transform what is false in us and all the games that our ego plays in order to survive. We must understand that awakening can only happen by with integrity and purity of heart.

Beliefs never lead us to self-discovery. Beliefs keep us ignorant of the universal truth of who we truly are. They keep our energy and consciousness imprisoned in anxiety and false fears about survival.

The easiest way to begin the process of unlearning is first to explore:

What are your beliefs and conditionings; how were they formed; and how can you transform them into consciousness so you can fully live your life and contribute your unique gifts to the world?

Answers to these questions cannot be found with the mind or energy work. Just like a computer program, the mind actually is the generator of the beliefs and cannot see or dis-identify from itself. Only consciousness, which is an integral part of the being, can recognize itself and see what is eternal and indestructible and what is impermanent and finite.

Having worked with thousands of people over the past 25 years, I have discovered a fundamentally new way that helps people access and transform their beliefs (which are not just in the brain but in the entire body) without using the mind. Each person can use this self-healing and self-discovery system on their own, to become self-empowered, to discover what is true and false within them, and to heal into consciousness.

About Mada Dalian

Mada Eliza Dalian is a spiritual teacher, creator of the self-help Dalian Method for adults, teens, and children, and a master trainer of Dalian Method Facilitators and New Paradigm Leaders. She is the award-winning author of In Search of the Miraculous: Healing into Consciousness and Healing the Body & Awakening  Consciousness with the Dalian Method: A Self-Healing System, for a New Humanity (book and 2 CD set). For more information, visit


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These magnificent colour lithographs of the Great Water Lily of America are the work of British-born printer William Sharp. With their bold and stunning depth of colours, these water lily images by Sharp stand out as some of the finest examples of chromolithography, an art which at the time was only in its infancy. (Source:

Presence at the Edge of Our Practice

Article Authenticity

Presence at the Edge of Our Practice

Humanity is in a time of transition, one that we can navigate successfully only with a shift in consciousness. How can we wake up from the collective neuroses that have driven our civilization into decadence and decline? How do we recover from the addictions that hold us in their thrall? In this article, I propose the perspective of practice as a pathway to liberation from destructive and reductive habits that is accessible to all and offer a preliminary overview of human practices for the 21st century.

One of the most potent invocations ever uttered by humans has to be the famous Chinese curse (and blessing) “May you live in interesting times.” No doubt, the times we are living in are hair-raisingly interesting and getting more so by the day. So much so that we really don’t know whether we—humanity as a species—are going to survive them. The dangers facing us and our fellow sojourners on ‘Space-Being Earth’ are by now so well known that I prefer not to dwell on them, saving space instead for unpacking more edifying ideas. Starting with the Good News.

This News is not new. We have instinctively and experientially known it, literally, forever—since the dawn of homo anything. Namely, that the Cosmos is a living, sentient entity of indescribable radiance, magnificence and numinosity, in which we participate as an inextricably entangled component, along with all of the rest of life (including that which we thoughtlessly assume to be inanimate). We knew this, however, back in the days when we still lived immersed in the oceanic womb of the Great Mother. That was before the evolutionary process ripped our consciousness free of its matrix (our expulsion from the ‘Garden of Eden’) and placed us in a relationship to the rest of life which has become pathological: in our newly self-conscious state, we succumbed to the urge to subjugate and control nature, in constant terror of being sucked back into the maw of unconsciousness and ‘barbarism.’[1]

For the past 5000 years or so, we- particularly in the Western world and all those places under the thrall of the Abrahamic religions[2]- have chosen to forget this knowledge of the inextricable Oneness of all things in favor of an absolute belief in the supremacy of man over nature, man over woman, mind over matter, reason over emotion. These days, the human rational intellect still assumes it reigns supreme, repressing and denying instinct and unconsciously projecting the repressed elements of the human psyche (both individual and collective) onto ‘the other.’ Herein lies our supreme peril. Few voices have articulated it more clearly or prophetically than Carl Gustav Jung, back in the first half of the 20th century. Jung recognized and warned of the danger—one that our civilization is still quite oblivious to—presented by the growing dissociation of the conscious ego from what he called the primordial or instinctual soul. He saw that the more we emphasized reason and the supremacy of the rational mind, the greater the danger that instinct—whose power we have failed to acknowledge or understand—would drive, possess, delude and overwhelm us, and the more we would fall victim to ideologies and utopian goals which could ultimately lead us to destroy ourselves.[3]

This danger springs from the failure to recognize and acknowledge that the conscious, rational mind of the human being, in both its individual and collective/cultural manifestations, sits like a lily pad atop a caldera of unconscious psychic material that is both unfathomably immense and inconceivably powerful. Our dawning understanding of the universe as a holographic phenomenon indicates that matter, energy, space, and time are not primary, as we have tended to assume. Rather, these are all different expressions of information.[4] One ramification of this is that the visible world is not the only dimension that is fully interconnected. The human conscious mind is a very, very thin, terrifyingly fragile layer of self-reflexive awareness that floats atop the species memories not only of homo everything, but of every single form of life (animal, vegetable, and mineral) that has evolved over the lifetime of planet Earth. We are talking here about the psychic imprints of patterns of behaviour that have endured for spans of time ranging from millennia to hundreds of millions of years. Habits, with a capital H.

We can perhaps most readily relate to this phenomenon through personal experience with our very own ‘triune’ brains. The reptilian brain has been around for some 500 million years, the mammalian brain for 200 million; the neocortical brain is the baby of the family, at around 1 million years. Not surprisingly, given hierarchy of age, the primordial reflexes governed by the older brain systems have far more influence on the neocortical brain than it has on them. How many times a day, in our stress-filled daily lives, are we drenched in adrenaline and cortisol as our instinctive fight-flight mechanism is triggered by a minor irritation or momentary overwhelm, even when there is no real danger in sight, and hasn’t been for years? Have you ever been swimming in the sea, glimpsed a shadow beneath you, and been instantly engulfed in primal terror of being devoured by a leviathan from the deep (and it was only a patch of seaweed…)?  You were experiencing the millions-of-years-old programming of predator and prey. To quote Anne Baring:

Because these archaic instincts function at a deeply unconscious level we, who see ourselves as the summit of creation, may nevertheless be influenced, even controlled by habits formed during pre-human or early human phases of evolution. Fear of becoming prey can swiftly transform us into predators.[5]

While the neocortex has given us the capacity to reflect when we are confronted with a perceived threat, to allow ourselves time to decide how to respond, it is very rare that we actually do so. The reptilian brain springs into action so much faster than the neocortex! For all our amazing achievements as a species, we remain woefully clueless—as individuals and in most of the world’s surviving cultures—about our own psychology. As we go about our daily lives, we are for the most part blissfully unaware of the projections, assumptions, judgements, and inflations that we continually overlay on everything our senses encounter that we experience as ‘not me.’ The ramifications of this in the collective arena offer special cause for concern. As a result of our rather bloody history since the dawn of aforementioned self-reflective awareness (that history itself a reflection of this mechanism), the drive to conquer and control others before they conquer and control us has become embedded in instinctive patterns of response (a.k.a., habits) that, if we only stop to look, we can see everywhere around us in our modern society—especially and, most alarmingly, in our politics, economy, religion, and armed forces. What Jung prophesied has indeed come to pass, and we are not even aware of it. Mass insanity didn’t just break out during the World Wars, in Stalin’s Russia, in Rwanda, in Bosnia… It is happening all around us here and now. What else can explain our indifference to the starvation of children and our incapacity to care enough about the despoliation of our beautiful planetary home to come to our collective senses and stop it? Our species has effectively been collectively possessed by the will to power of the more shadowy aspects of what Jung named the collective unconscious.

So here we are. On the one hand, we have the intellectual understanding, backed up by compelling scientific evidence, of the sublime oneness of creation, and the potential that this opens up for an enlightened human culture and civilization. On the other, we are literally surrounded by the bleak evidence of the power of the instinctual trauma that has our entire civilization so thoroughly in its grip that we are careening toward destruction without any capacity to engage our conscious will and change course. Many are the voices that proclaim impending salvation—sometimes for the chosen few (the ‘rapture’) and sometimes for all humanity (our comfortable conviction that technology will save us at the eleventh hour). And yet here we still are, contending with ever more extreme polarization, violent conflict, and existential threat, all amped up by the machinations of power-hungry politicians and profit-hungry corporations, and the fear-mongering of the mainstream media channels that so firmly anchor the collective attention on the worst in human nature. To deaden the pain of such horror, the current mainstream practice is to seek distraction in addiction, be it to mind and mood altering substances, to work, to entertainment, to the acquisition and consumption of material goods…our addictions are legion!

Please note my choice, in the previous sentence, of the word practice. If salvation there be for the human race, I believe it lies in the humble notion of practice. The Oxford English dictionary offers three definitions of the term:

(1) the actual application or use of an idea, belief, or method, as opposed to theories relating to it (synonyms: application, use)
(2) the customary, habitual, or expected procedure or way of doing of something (synonym: custom)
(3) repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it (synonym: training)

In the sentence at hand, the operative definition is (2). Revisiting my assessment of the peril and the promise that beset us in these days, the unconscious trance state currently driving us over the cliff is maintained through the cultural, social, and economic customs of Western civilization as they spread across the globe.

The bridge to the “More Beautiful World our hearts know is possible”[6] lies in actually applying the best of human knowledge- all that we know to be true about depth psychology, healthy living, wise governance, nurturing and empowering education, regenerative farming, and so on (definition 1); through persistent, repeated, intentional individual and collective exercise in the requisite methods until we acquire proficiency in them (definition 3). This is how old habits (definition 2) are broken and new ones instilled. This is how we move from our current preconscious state toward becoming a species composed of awake, aware, responsive and responsible, self-actualized, and unique individuals who also have developed a capacity to participate in the collective consciousness that, too, is part of our potential as humans.[7]

I see practice, then, as a royal road to manifesting a balanced and healthy new paradigm in our culture- a bridge to liberation from so much of what ails us. When we first come to practice, or are invited to experience the practices of others, these often feel unfamiliar, uncomfortable and unnatural. That’s not surprising: their whole purpose is to break old habits and instill new ones that help us to experience and embody a very different evolutionary trajectory for homo sapiens—beyond mere dreams of peaceful coexistence—as healthy and generative participants in the dance of life on Earth.

This focus on practice is one of the hallmarks of the emergent exemplars of what I call Aquarian Patterns (patterns underlying the embryonic new civilization). It is an immensely rich and complex domain and, in this article, I must content myself with giving a preliminary overview. As I sense into these patterns in my own life and experience (something I have been doing for over 20 years now), the framework that has given me the broadest and most explicit practical overview of the potential offered by intentional practice is the ‘Fourfold Practice’ that describes the DNA of the Art of Hosting Conversations that Matter.[8] I feel that this is a particularly fruitful domain to offer as an example of practice because it concerns the art of being together in a generative and co-creative way, one which can hold us well in our interactions as we apply all the other practices needed to build the ark of a new civilization where all life can thrive.

The Stance of the Practitioner

My rather intense engagement with the practices of the Art of Hosting and its community of practitioners over the past 12 years has brought me to recognize the power and potential of the ‘stance of the practitioner:’ practice is not a boring chore, but a sacred troth—a commitment to ourselves, to those we serve by hosting them, to each other as a community of practice, to the world at large, and to the practices themselves. Stepping from the autopilot of everyday consciousness into practice is like stepping into the dojo of the martial arts. We leave our shoes (and socks!) at the door and as we step onto the mat, we bow to the practice, to the teachers, and to our fellow practitioners. Whatever the field of practice, this is Sacred Space and we are in Sacred Work together.

The Fourfold Practice[9] is so named for its four ‘domains’ of practice: the inner practices of ‘hosting the self into presence’; the relational practices of ‘participating and being hosted’; the leadership practices of ‘hosting others in conversations that invite presence’; and the collective practices of ‘co-creating in community.’ All four of these domains of practice are based on the core practice of ‘holding space’—an active, energetic process of deep presence, listening, and mindfulness that is at the heart of intentional manifestation. All four also are firmly rooted in the ground of continual learning, both individual and collective. There is no end to what becomes possible if we stay open and humble enough to keep learning!

Unpacking each of these domains, we can see that there is such a great variety of practices that no one need go hungry. Living a healthy and balanced life means adopting a variety of practices in each of these domains. The idea is not to bolt these practices onto our daily lives as extra things to do (the last thing we need is more busyness!), but rather to shift our lives gradually until we live them through our practices.

Hosting the Self into Presence

Living well in a participatory universe is the art of being. Being requires presence—that quality of authenticity, vulnerability, confidence, and courage, which comes from deep personal work that cannot be done in isolation. Presence is a holistic, emergent quality incorporating physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual dimensions. Presence is what allows us to stand in the midst of intense emotion, to tolerate chaos without rushing to fix anything, to be comfortable with the silence and stillness of non-doing, to work in service of a purpose bigger than personal ego.

Hosting self is the practice domain of holding space for the emergence of presence. On a physical level, it involves listening to your body, nourishing it with pure, clean, natural food and water, getting adequate rest and exercise, and managing stress. On a mental level, it cultivates an open mind free of habitual patterns of thinking and unconscious beliefs and assumptions. On an emotional level, it learns to recognize what triggers habitual emotional reactions, heal the underlying trauma and develop new ways of embodying and expressing emotion in general. It also helps us to own our expectations and projections and to cope with anxiety and uncertainty. It nurtures self-compassion and a willingness to take risks, and it enables us to be comfortable with so-called mistakes and failures and learn from them. On a spiritual level, hosting oneself connects us with the unseen world of energy and spirit, reduces attachment to ego, and frees us to work through the heart with compassion and without the need to be in control. It supports us in embracing solitude and silence and a connection to the natural world. Presence cannot be manufactured or forced, or even developed. It is the natural emergent quality available when we gently recognize and remove barriers in a self-reinforcing cycle of holding space for presence which allows for deeper holding of space and deeper presence.

There is no set of specific approved or recommended practices for hosting oneself. Every practitioner must find his/her own practices for letting go of control and holding space for presence to emerge. These practices could include yoga, dance, martial arts, meditation, contemplative writing, prayer, psychotherapy, time in nature, solitude, tantric sex, art, music… the list is endless. The importance is finding a set of practices that increase your personal capacity for presence and then to commit to regular practice. We have found it most helpful to ground any and all practice in an inner state of gratitude, awe, curiosity, and love.

Participating and Being Hosted

With the presence which arises from hosting the self, we are ready to participate.  On one level, this means engaging in activities with others and allowing yourself to be led. As your practice of participating deepens, it can evolve into a participation with all of life. At that level, participation becomes an intense immersion in what is, without expectations and without a desire to attain any particular outcome. It is about showing up with your full self and your own interests and predilections whilst sensing what wants to happen and discerning how to align yourself and your interests in service of a larger purpose. Participating fully requires trust and letting go of control. It invites a depth of communion in which silence is a welcome participant and in which connection and communication transcend spoken words and include nonverbal and energetic components. Participation is an invitation into the unknown, an opening to being changed, a willingness to step into the field from which emergence is possible.

In human society, participation frequently manifests through conversation[10], and conversation is an art. It is not just talk. It demands the presence to listen carefully to one another, to nature, and to the unseen. It demands silence as well as words. It demands that we offer what we can in service of the whole, speaking with deep intention while listening with rapt attention. Life-affirming participation flows from a mood of curiosity, recognising that curiosity and judgment cannot live together in the same space. If we are judging what we are hearing we cannot be curious about the outcome, and it will be difficult for the conversation to move beyond defending preconceived positions. Skillful participation in conversation requires an open mind, open heart, and open will. It calls for mindfulness and the ability to slow a conversation down to allow deeper listening and clarity to arise.

Practices within the domain of participation include active listening; dialogue; asking powerful questions; owning one’s own projections, expectations and assumptions; clarifying intentions; cultivating a mood of curiosity and openness and listening to nature. It is clear at a glance that many of these practices are a complex world in themselves- there is no danger of getting bored!

Hosting Others into Presence

As we transition from the prevailing paradigm of the ‘leader as hero’ to the emerging ‘peer-to-peer’ paradigm, the conversational ‘leader as host’[11] creates and holds a container in which people can do their best work together. This holding of space involves sensing the conditions that will allow a group to settle into collective presence, holding that space through chaos so that new order and clarity can emerge. Such conversations do not just happen, they are the product of clear intentions, a powerful calling question, a compelling invitation, good design, skillful framing of the context and the holding of space in which the work can be done, and, most of all, the presence to hold space for emergence. All of these are practices and skills of hosting conversations.

Initially, hosting is likely to consist of mastering a set of core methodologies.[12] In time, the practice calls for increasing depth of presence to be able to hold space for deeper or more challenging conversation. As our capacity deepens, the practice also includes more subtle aspects including preparation of the physical space; invitation and welcoming; and working with the energy of the group. While much of the attention of hosting is focused on the external work—the actions—an equally important aspect of hosting practice is to attend to one’s inner state and learning. Hosting inevitably challenges us at our growing edge, whether that lies in relinquishing control, feeling competent and adequate as a member of a hosting team (hosts are admonished never to work alone!), finding the right language to invite deeper participation, or accessing the courage to touch in on the collective wounds often festering under the surface. A practitioner of hosting is engaged in both the internal and external practices. While very few practices are best done alone (even meditation benefits from a collective field), it is particularly important to work in a team when hosting.

Co-creating in Community

It is one thing to learn new skills and practices in an environment specifically designed to be conducive to learning. But what then? In order to be able apply our learning in our daily lives, to sustain our learning and keep our practice alive and growing, we need to stay connected to other practitioners. The traditional way of addressing such challenges is to create an organisation or association and to follow the wisdom of the experts. But in a context of emergent social transformation, this approach doesn’t work. The shared knowledge springs from collaboration and conversation, and is not in the possession of an expert. There are no rules, no formulae, no formal requirements for doing this work. Life is inviting us to innovate, to collaborate, to discover new models and processes that can serve humanity in our collective journey into the unknown future. Yet there also is a need to recognize and protect the essential DNA of any novel body of work that develops a community of practitioners—there is a constant danger that the practice will be sucked into the miasma of old habits and warped out of shape by prevailing thought forms. Each one of us can benefit from learning from practitioners with more experience and deeper realization. What guidelines and agreements can help a community of practitioners to participate together?

The Art of Hosting community can be illustrative of how such communities can emerge. Over a span of 20 years, it has grown from a few friends sharing ideas together, to a globe-spanning self-organising network with over ten thousand members and a steadily evolving core body of practice accessible to all. This has unfolded, quite deliberately, without any licensing or copyrighting, without any organisational structure, staff or headquarters, without any specific financial expectations or agreements, and without any explicit governance. Over time, a group of more experienced practitioners has emerged who are recognized as stewarding the DNA of these practices, and practitioners come together periodically at open gatherings (one of our guidelines is “whoever shows up are the right people”[13]) to sense into the needs of the community and make any necessary collective decisions. Newer practitioners are encouraged to apprentice to the more experienced and one of the few ‘rules’ within the community of practice is that there needs to be a ‘steward’ involved in any Art of Hosting training. This has provided a framework in which practitioners can learn and develop their capacity while also protecting the deeper patterns and essence of our shared practice. What has also emerged is an online platform for communicating and for collecting and disseminating learning, models, materials, and other artifacts of our learning.

This community of practice pattern has emerged regionally throughout the world in response to local needs and circumstances, and while it doesn’t look the same everywhere, there are many shared elements. The beauty of this fourth domain of practice is that we are all learning together to hold the space for learning together, and for the ongoing emergence of our practices in response to the needs of our changing world. Like so much within the Art of Hosting, this is fractal. The success of our community lies in our systematic engagement with our practices in all four domains. As we learn together, we also are confronted with our blind spots and those parts of our practice that are less skillful or conscious. This provides an opportunity for us individually and collectively to increase our capacity through hosting ourselves. Thus, the Fourfold Practice is an iterative cycle leading to deeper practice and ever-increasing capacity.

In conclusion, my sense is that the practices which will best help us navigate the growing complexity of these transitional times are grounded in the heart. It is the instinctive intelligence of the heart that most thoroughly connects us to ourselves, each other, and all that is. Let us share the core practice of inhabiting the gentle energy of heart-centred awareness as we step into the dojo of our lives. Let us do so in the understanding that this is not the culmination of our journey; rather, it is simply the work that is needed to reach the starting point for the next great adventure: developing our capacity to consciously and intentionally participate in the cosmic processes of co-creative manifestation. This calls for clearing away the debris and drama of our  collective ‘story so far,’ learning through heartfelt practice to process and, hence, traverse our existential fears, thereby restoring for ourselves a soul space in which to choose other ways of being, other paths into a future of utterly astonishing potential.

Images | The Book of Life: The Spiritual and Physical Constitution of Man, 1898, Dr Alesha Sivartha

Sivartha’s enigmatic 1898 work expounds his unique blend of blend of science, sociology, mysticism and religion…The ideas these curious images express are difficult to sum up succinctly but broadly touch on the main tenants of theosophy. In the words of Sivartha himself:

“The human race has been marching upward from the first ages of history. Under what law has that mighty procession of the ages taken place? Science and history both answer that man has advanced, step by step, from the ignorant and selfish rule of his lower brain organs uptoward the beneficent dominion of his higher faculties. The laws which have controlled that vast upward movement are still in force. They are fixed in the very constitution of man. And they are of supreme importance at the present time, for they determine what new institutions and what social changes are now required to meet that higher growth of man.”

As for the author himself, not a lot is known for certain, other than Sivartha appears to be the pen-name for a Kansas doctor named Arthur E. Merton (1834?-1915?), who is listed as the author of an earlier 1876 version of The Book of Life. (Source: The Public Domain Review)

About Helen Titchen Beeth

Helen Titchen Beeth lives in the countryside in Flanders (Belgium). She is a lover of wild nature and mother of twins.

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[1] This understanding/interpretation is based on the ‘mainstream’ assumptions about the history of homo sapiens. Less widely-known evidence suggests that an earlier global high civilization was wiped out by a cataclysm some 11, 500 years ago, which imprinted massive trauma into our species memory. Barbara Hand Clow, Awakening the Planetary Mind (2011).

[2] With the strong exception of the mystical strands of those religions!

[3] Adapted from The Dream of the Cosmos, by Anne Baring. Archive Publishing, 2013.

[4] The Cosmic Hologram, Jude Currivan. Inner Traditions, 2017.

[5] The Dream of the Cosmos, Anne Baring.

[6] Grateful to Charles Eisenstein for this powerfully evocative phrase.

[7] See also the series of Kosmos articles (2012-13) on Collective Presencing co-authored with Ria Baeck.

[8] See my article in the 2016 spring/summer edition of Kosmos Journal.

[9] This section on the Fourfold Practice is adapted from the Companion Guide to the Art of Hosting compiled by Steve Ryman and myself in early 2016. My gratitude to Steve, who was the main author of that section. [Where is the Companion Guide published (book, article, website…)?]It isn’t openly available to the public.

[10] In essence, our entire cultural manifestation is a conversation, one which has become ever more global, intense, and polarized through our use of information technologies—hence, the importance and potential of developing our conversational capacity!

[11] See also

[12] Such methodologies include Circle, Open Space Technology, The World Café, Appreciative Inquiry, etc.

[13] Borrowed from the practice of Open Space Technology.

Dynamic Governance

Article Sociocracy

Dynamic Governance

Dynamic Governance offers new processes for structuring successful 21st-century organizations and networks. Pamela Boyce Simms summarizes a brief history of traditional top-down, hierarchical organizations (implicit governance) and critiques their inability to sustain success in our current decentralized society. She then details how the egalitarian and interdependent cornerstones of dynamic governance redistribute authority to all participants in an organization, allowing for holistically informed decision-making that is flexible and comprehensive.

The 21st century is witnessing hundreds of millions of people caught up in cascading systemic transformation. Global society has crossed a threshold. We’ve entered the time of the Great Transition—a time when we hospice outworn ways of living that no longer serve us and the Earth, and give birth to an emergent, more compassionate, and resilient future.

Successful navigation of the uncharted climate change and sociopolitical territory before us requires that we embrace uncertainty, unlearn much of what we think we already know about our world, and embody the understanding of non-dual reality.

We all make meaning and find purpose using whatever tools and information are available. Global society is on an ecologically self-sabotaging course because the meaning we’ve made of the world is distorted by the illusion of disconnection. Our beliefs, behaviors, and the choices we’ve made proceed from the lenses of separation through which we’ve been trained to see for generations.

Western society, in particular, is built on the flawed cognitive foundation of duality. We’re educated to focus on analysis of atomized parts to the exclusion of their interdependence with all other parts of the larger system. This is the worldview in which hierarchical dominance, power-and-control dynamics, competition, hyper-individualism, compartmentalized approaches, and lack of communication prevails in organizations and isolates individuals.

The organizations that we generate inherently reflect the quality of our own consciousness in the moment. Organizations that want to be relevant vehicles for our work in social change during these kaleidoscopic times need to “unlearn” linear, disconnected, and static approaches to governance. They must commit to ongoing transformation in sync with incessant societal shifts. Therefore, we—and the organizations that serve us—are poised by existential necessity to deliberately take the next evolutionary step in consciousness.  We stand at the proverbial evolve or die precipice.

Come to the edge, he said.

They said, We are afraid.

Come to the edge, he said.

He pushed them… and they flew.

─Christopher Logue

We have the capacity to leave the familiar nest of predict-and-control, top-down organizational structures—and fly. Among a new generation of governance processes grounded in evolutionary culture-building, ‘dynamic governance’ (also known as sociocracy or governance by the socios: i.e., those who associate together) creates safe space for innovative self-expression, emergence of the unexpected, and universally equivalent agency. These are the hallmarks of 21st-century organizational relevance.

Conventional hierarchical organizational structures are not designed to deal with our current complex, multifaceted, existential challenges. The top-down structure is an inherited carry-over from a simpler, more static industrial-age environment. Organizations now are pointlessly scrambling to adapt rigid hierarchical structures to rapidly shifting circumstances and unpredictable disruptions. Out of step with the speed of incessant change in today’s world, they lurch from crisis to crisis. We are witnessing, firsthand, the crumbling of old organizing principles that no longer meet society’s needs.

Organizations that strategically plan in static frameworks in these increasingly uncertain times perpetuate lumbering structures that are maladapted to emergent, dynamic, creative tensions. They avoid conflict that inevitably emerges and ignore most feedback-dissonance that contradicts “the established plan” in which they feel invested. Such organizations are then compelled to repeatedly and disruptively reorganize when it’s realized that the prevailing lines of force can change in a nanosecond.

The Rise of Implicit Governance

When hierarchically-controlled organizations “message” egalitarianism and go through the motions of collaboration without explicit feedback and accountability mechanisms in place, an implicit power structure emerges. Culturally “understood” social norms that protect centered power behind the scenes develop. An implicit system centers power in one person or a small set of persons. Although “invisible,” the implicit power brokerage is keenly felt, highly political, and resists change.

Organizations that are up to 21st-century challenges mimic complex, adaptive living systems and decentralize authority. Their interconnected constituent elements self-organize and change relationships among themselves fluidly in order to easily adapt to environmental changes. Participants don’t execute decisions made by superiors in a hierarchical chain of command. They tap into their own creativity, adapt, and make adjustments that further the organization’s purpose.

Dynamic Governance

Dynamic governance is a social technology for governing and operating organizations and networks. It distributes policymaking throughout all levels of the organization and establishes equivalence among its members within their domain of responsibility. It maximizes:

  • Equivalence through egalitarian distribution of authority and the universal power to influence.
  • Transparency through flow of information and collective values.
  • Efficacy through continuous evolution and adaptation to changing contexts.
  • Productivity by making tensions explicit and establishing processes that use them as fuel for innovation and evolutionary change.
  • Commitment and buy-in by affirming and applying the collective genius that proceeds from a confluence of varied vantage points.
  • Harmony through unity.

Dynamic governance incorporates the principles of Quaker process; whole systems and applied complexity theories; nature systems dynamics (biomimicry); and evolutionary culture-design. Nonhierarchical egalitarianism that mirrors the interconnectedness of nature organically guides organizations toward maximizing their potential.


  • Provide sustainable, accountable, and adaptable governance that is effective regardless of the financial state of an organization or network.
  • Address and diffuse multiple “ism” inequities and power imbalances.
  • Thrive in complex, uncertain, and unstable times.

Dynamic governance anticipates and accommodates complex, multilayered, and interconnected 21st-century challenges and ever-emerging, ever-shortening timeframes. The governance process increases capacity to effectively handle accelerated uncertainty.

Organizations that have implemented dynamic governance become adaptive organisms that foster innovation. Tensions that emerge are viewed as valued, important sensors of the human consciousness which are harnessed for creative change and evolution. Channels are established to process insights as they emerge.

Dynamic governance distributes authority among all constituents through a process and explicit organizational agreements which cultivate the whole. Authority shifts from “veterans,” personality-cults, or “resourced” leadership to egalitarian organizational processes. The circle configuration and decision-making process ensures and safeguards everyone’s agency.

Decision-making Principles

 Decision-making principles revolve around:

  • Consent: policy decisions are made with the consent of those who are most directly affected. Consent is defined as “no objections,” “good enough for now,” and “safe enough to try,” which creates space for change. Policies facilitate day-to-day tasks and resolve issues to achieve organizational aims.
  • Circles: policy decisions are delegated to circles composed of all members of a decision-making body. In meetings, all members function as equals and elect their own officers: a convener, a facilitator, a delegate (an elected representative), and a recording secretary. Day-to-day operational decisions are made by the convener and/or facilitator within the policies established by the circle and the larger organization. Conveners, facilitators, and delegates are equal members of the circle.



  • Double Linking: the convener and a delegate participate in other issue-related circles. Circles are arranged according to scope of decision-making. The General Discernment Circle, for example, is composed of linked representatives of circles dealing with more specific aims and issues. Double links create overlapping participation in decision-making by members of various circles. This establishes communications and feedback loops.


Following are common dynamic governance practices:

  • Nominations and elections are conducted exclusively by consent after discussion (not a majority-vote election). All circle members participate in assigning roles and responsibilities.
  • Rounds invite each person to speak in turn and are used to maintain equivalence in a meeting. They balance the discussion giving each person the opportunity to speak and to ensure that everyone participates in decisions.
  • Evaluations are conducted as each policy decision is reviewed periodically. Evaluations include feedback on member work and emergent role needs.
  • Transparency is essential when all members are expected to exercise agency in their own development and that of their circle. Information must flow continually and be readily available for effective and informed decision-making.

What Is Possible?

Dynamic governance offers an opportunity to translate the unlearning of antiquated worldviews directly into governance of organizations that serve social transformation. We start by fully accepting that the old system no longer serves us in these tumultuous times.

We can resist the temptation to look at, and work on, local, national, and global problems in isolation. We can withstand the siren song of the old paradigm, calling us to reflexively try and find “the right part to fix.” We can cease trying to strategically tinker with our organizations or reshuffle their elements expecting a result beyond mediocrity. We can accept the reality that comprehensive, holistic transformation that creates space for evolution will lead to efficacy and sustain relevance.

Culture-building that accompanies an organization’s adoption of dynamic governance expects participants to enthusiastically do the introspective work that shifts their worldview toward serving the aims of the whole. By embracing dynamic governance, we willingly step into increased autonomy, personal responsibility, and opportunities to grow. We contribute to authentically collaborative workplaces and community relationships. Dynamic governance provides a pathway for those whose organizations and networks are ready to stand in the epicenter of social transformation and offers an evolutionary response to society’s multitiered, existential challenges.

About Pamela Boyce Simms

Pamela Boyce Simms is an evolutionary culture designer who coordinates Quaker, Buddhist, and African Diaspora Earthcare networks, which relocalize plant medicine-based selfcare sovereignty scaled from hyper-local to supranational at the United Nations. Pamela convenes the Community Supported Enlightenment (CSE) Network, an international community of practitioners who combine ancient contemplative practices sharpened by cutting edge neuroscience in a quantum science framework for self-transformation in service to social change.

Pamela Boyce Simms holds degrees from Georgetown University’s Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, the L’Université de Dakar, in Sénégal, West Africa, and is certified as a Leadership Coach and Neurolinguistics Master Practitioner. Pamela is a frequent guest speaker for the Swarthmore College Office of Sustainability, as well as the Environmental Studies and Theology Departments. She is also a Contributing Author at Kosmos Journal for Global Transformation, the Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) Editorial Collective, and, a project of The Post Carbon Institute.

For more:

  • 3-minute video – Overview of the Plant Medicine Project: Woodstock Timebank & Singularity Botanicals.
  • “Our Story”  – Intersection of Singularity Botanicals work in Chester and the Community Supported Enlightenment (CSE) Network.

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In these awe-filled days of fire and flood
We watch and wait and wonder
When that fierce hand
Might reach at last for us.

Those of us not yet touched by calamity
Quake, knowing in our bones
That though we may be spared
This time, time will level us all.

No magic amulets, no prayers,
Good deeds or good looks
Can promise protection
From our terminal condition.

And those who have watched a child
Swept forever from our arms
Or fled the flames that swallowed
Our hopes and our memories

Or hid from the bombs
Or the predator’s gaze
Know that nothing now will ever be the same –
As if anything ever were.

For all of us are falling
Like ashes, like rain,
Like petals or leaves;
But we all are falling together.

And if we knew, in truth,
There was nowhere to land,
Tell me: could we know the difference
Between falling and flying?

About Larry Robinson

Larry Robinson is a retired ecopsychologist and former Mayor of Sebastopol, California. He is the founder and producer of Rumi’s Caravan, an ensemble of poets and musicians dedicated to restoring the oral tradition of poetry. Larry currently serves on the board of directors of the Center for Climate Protection and on the board of trustees for Meridian University.

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In the checkout line at the supermarket
I spot a man I recognize from years ago
when I was in my twenties. Back then
he was the boyfriend of a girl I knew.
They used to skate together at the local mall,
she in one of those red velvet dresses
you’d see in the Ice Capades, her leggings
white and studded with sequins, a tiara
in her tied-back black hair. He wore
ordinary street clothes: bluejeans
and some unremarkable sweater,
which let her stand out even more,
as though she were a woman
a man like him could only
dream into being.

Today he’s stooped and gray.
His raincoat so large, it drapes
over his shoulders making him look
like an afterthought beneath it.
In his shopping cart only milk, eggs.
On the ice he was the one I’d watch,
so unlike other boys, other men.
How unobtrusively he’d glide,
maneuver his partner as though his job
was to appear to disappear beside her.
I wish I could remember his name.

About Andrea Hollander

Andrea Hollander moved to Portland, Oregon in 2011 after many years in the Arkansas Ozarks, where she ran a bed & breakfast for 15 years and served as the writer-in-residence at Lyon College for 22 years. Hollander’s 5th full-length poetry collection, Blue Mistaken for Sky, is due from Autumn House Press in September 2018. Hollander’s many honors include two Pushcart Prizes and two fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts. Her website is

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Gallery Identity


Humanæ is a work in progress by the Brazilian artist, Angélica Dass.

Based in Madrid, Dass is documenting the range of human skin tones through her portraits.  To create her human mosaic, she paired each of nearly 4,000 portraits with specific PANTONE® ‘guides’—reference cards used by the world’s designers since the 1960s.


AngŽlica Dass speaks at TED2016 – Dream, February 15-19, 2016, Vancouver Convention Center, Vancouver, Canada. Photo: Bret Hartman / TED

Dass follows a system that intentionally strips away many of the decisions an artist might make. All participants are volunteers who hear about the project and agree to be photographed. There is no formal selection process. The background for each portrait is a PANTONE® color identical to a sample of 11 x 11 pixels taken from each face. Subjects are photographed without the cultural ‘markers’ of makeup, wardrobe, or jewelry and hair is worn naturally. All are framed the same relative distance from the camera, using the same lensing.


Copyright Juan Miguel Ponce. Valencia

Using the iconic aspect-ratio of the PANTONE® cards makes each photo a mirror of all the others in size and shape.

Thus, without fuss, with the extraordinary simplicity of this semantic metaphor, the artist makes an “innocent” displacement of the socio-political context of the racial problem to a safe medium—the (PANTONE®) guides—where the primary colors have exactly the same importance as the mixed ones. It even dilutes the figure of power usually held by the photographer. — Alejandro Castellote



At present, more than 3700 images exist in the project. They have been taken in 28 cities, in 18 different countries: Madrid, Barcelona, Getxo, Bilbao and Valencia (Spain); Paris (France); Bergen (Norway); Chiasso (Switzerland); Groningen, The Hague (Netherlands); Dublin (Ireland); London (UK); Tyumen (Russia); Gibellina and Vita (Italy); Vancouver (Canada); Gambier, Pittsburgh and Chicago (USA); Quito (Ecuador); Valparaíso (Chile); Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro (Brazil); Córdoba (Argentina); New Delhi (India); Daegu (South Korea); and Addis Abeba (Ethiopia).

PANTONE® and other Pantone trademarks are the property of, and are used with the written permission of, Pantone LLC. PANTONE Color identification is solely for artistic purposes and not intended to be used for specification. All rights reserved.

About Angélica​ ​Dass

Angelica Dass is a Brazilian artist living and working in Madrid. She has been internationally acclaimed through her pivotal project, Humanæ which is a collection of portrait photos of people revealing the true beauty of human color. The project has been showcased in numerous exhibitions and talks across the continents, and through the TED Global in Vancouver in 2016, her issues and philosophies of the project have reached to the extended numbers of audiences around the world. Dass holds BA in Fine Arts at UFRJ, Brazil and MA in Photography at EFTI, Spain. In 2014 she was selected for Time Magazine as one of the Nine Brazilian Photographers You Need to Follow.

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Forgive: The new practice and mantra for Black Men

Conversation Book Discussion

Forgive: The new practice and mantra for Black Men

At the fragile age of 12, Ulysses Slaughter listened as his mother Clarice was shot to death by his father Ulysses Grant Slaughter Sr. Emerging from his bedroom, he watched as life flowed out of his mother. Stepping over her body that day was the first act in his amazing odyssey toward forgiveness.

Tamara Smiley Hamilton is a professional speaker dedicated to giving voice to the voiceless. She facilitates workplace conversations on conflict, race, and implicit bias. In this podcast, she and Ulysses discuss the meaning of true justice and explore the collective trauma Black men (and women) in particular face on the journey to reconciliation.

Forgive: the new mantra and practice for Black Men, Ulysses Butch Slaughter (Author), Eric K. Grimes (Foreword), Paperback, Create Space Independent Publishing; First Edition 2016


Ulysses Slaughter: …this year’s the 40th anniversary of the passing of my mother Clarice Slaughter. At the age of 12, growing up in Chicago, I listened as my father shot and killed my mother. I was in the apartment when it happened. I wound up being the lead witness in the criminal trial against my father and literally had to step over my mother’s body to get out of my room the morning that she was shot and killed. And Tamara, I use the term “killed” just to make a connection with people who understand that kind of language. I always tell people that my mother is alive and well, and one of the reasons why I’m here today is because she is alive and well. Her messages to me have made me the man that I am.

When I was 12, it was a profound awakening for me and, oftentimes, I think of that moment and I can see it in my mind’s eye right now. I think in that moment where I was confronted with a visual that always seemed it would be the logical conclusion to years of domestic violence that I witnessed as a child in our home. And so coming into June 25, 1978, I have to say I was not as shocked that my mother would wind up being shot and killed. What was more shocking to me was that 33 years later… that I would get an opportunity to forgive my father was more shocking than what actually happened on June 25, 1978. The only way that I could change that was to create a powerful counterbalance to that moment, and forgiving became that counterbalance.

Tamara Hamilton: I would just like to take a little moment to hold a space in honor of your mother, in a brief moment of silence, because it is the 40th anniversary and because she is Clarice Slaughter, the woman who always taught you to be better. So I’m going to have our listeners also pause for just a few seconds as we honor your mother.


Thank you everyone around the world who took time to honor Clarice Slaughter. So when a young person witnesses such a horrific tragedy, you use the word madness, I know sadness is profound. Tell us, what did you have to unlearn about the reaction to what happened to you and what was happening to you as you say for years as a witness to domestic violence and to have your mother be killed in your home while you were there? What did you have to unlearn in order to move towards forgiveness?

Ulysses Slaughter:  I like the way that we’re using the word “unlearn” right now, because Tamara in many ways forgiving is about unlearning.

Forgiving is about transcending. Transcending the kind of everyday, common, usual approaches—social approaches—to what we see as infractions. To what we see as pain. So, it was important for me to unlearn, forgive those kind of preset ideas that I had been taught about what the normal response should be to something like that. You know, we’re brought up in a way that says, if this happens, this is the way you should respond to it. If that happens, this is the way you should respond to it. And the response, oftentimes, is a trap. So you have what we would call a tragedy, and then you have the trap. The potential trap that is the response. And the tragedy is not transformed through a trap.

And so it became important for me to ask myself, “What do I want?” If I could have it my way, “What do I want?” There was no personal choice and no freedom in anyone telling me what I had to do… and the choice that I made was the liberation factor for me. That is where my freedom lies, in the choice to decide how I was going to be—that I did not have to deal with my father through a committee of people. We talk about justice, and I think that justice is a very intimate thing. And my father and I—the work that my father and I were able to do in the 18 months between us reconnecting and his passing away—the work that we were able to do, represented the real justice.

It was a cosmic kind of justice. It was not the kind of justice that people, you know, find in a court. People often ask me, “How long did your father spend in jail?” Well my father spent 39 months in prison. And they go, “Wow, 39 months, how could that happen?” And, “How come he didn’t get more time?” And there are a lot of reasons I now understand why he did not get more time. But in the end, it didn’t matter how much time he did. It didn’t matter how much time he did, because that was not going to be the healing factor in the reconciliation for us.

Read the full transcript.

Forget what you know about forgiving

by Ulysses Slaughter

Forget what you know about forgiving for a while. Just totally forget your past ideas.

Some people say forgiving is a response. Some say a reaction. Some people say forgiving is all about the past.

I disagree. I disagree deeply and strongly. I say forgiving is now.

Forgiving is a choice – a sustainable shift in perspective that will change the thoughts, feelings and actions you are living with right now. Forgiving can only be related to now and can only happen now because we can’t change what happened.

Forgiving is not about the past. Forgiving is not even about the future. Forgiving is about the present. Forgiving is the action of now.

Whenever anything happens it will arrive in a moment called now. When we seek to name the experience, to judge it, it is mostly to our own detriment. When we judge an experience as bad, it becomes bad. We enter into an experience, mix it, remix it and hold it in our minds. We commit to making even the worst moments last a lifetime. We are mesmerized by the moment. We won’t forgive the moments, so the moments don’t forgive us.

Some people insist that their feelings are the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. They feel that their truth is the one size truth that fits all. They can’t distinguish what they call truth from their feelings.

But feelings are like clothes. They come in different colors and different styles. We have a choice of what to wear from an unlimited internal wardrobe. But for some reason many of us like to wear the same feelings for a very long time. We like to wear our feelings no matter how much we’ve outgrown them. Imagine a full, grown man – six feet, 200 pounds – wearing clothes he wore at 14. He admits that he’s uncomfortable in the tight garments. He’s constricted. But he insists on wearing the clothes anyway.

People wear feelings too long sometimes. They think their feelings are the only ones available.

Forgiving is like taking off the clothes that you have outgrown.  Forgiving happens when we let go of our feelings about the clothes. You don’t judge the clothes because they are too small. You simply take them off now. You can’t take them off yesterday. It’s too late. But you can take them off now. You can say you’ll take them off tomorrow, but when you arrive in tomorrow the new day will be called “now.”

Forgiving is about now. Forgiving is a word that actually tells you what it is. Forgiving is “for giving.”

Consider this:  whatever you got in the past is for giving away right now. Whatever you got in the past is forgiven right now. It doesn’t matter the circumstance. Hand it over. Release it. Let it go and it will let you go now.

About Ulysses 'Butch' Slaughter

Ulysses “Butch” Slaughter is a social entrepreneur, author, and filmmaker. He is Founder of I Forgive University (IFU), an emerging human transformation project advocating forgiving as the “Ultimate Practice.” He recently completed his third book “Forgive: The new mantra and practice for Black Men.” Learn more.

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About Tamara S. Hamilton

Tamara Smiley Hamilton, a global professional speaker and conflict resolution coach, is called to facilitate difficult conversation on race and differences. As CEO of Audacious Coaching LLC, her mission is to use her unique gifts to help people find and shine their light as they stand in their own power.

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Music World Music


“Music, a myriad of styles and tastes, but it’s all branches on the same tree. One music, no prejudice.” 

James Yorkston – Guitar, Nyckelharpa, Vocals

Jon Thorne – Double Bass, Backing Vocals

Suhail Yusuf Khan – Sarangi, Vocals

This is how Jon Thorne, a member of the trio Yorkston/Thorne/Khan, describes the band’s fusion of musical traditions. On their first record, Everything Sacred, the trio perfectly embodies this spirit of open-minded, diverse, and organic sound. James Yorkston (guitar, nyckelharpa, vocals), Jon Thorne (double bass, backing vocals), and Suhail Yusuf Khan (sarangi, vocals) came together as if by chance when really, it was their open and experimental mindsets that let it happen. James Yorkston, a Scottish folk singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, was playing at a music festival when met Suhail Yusuf Khan. Born in Delhi, Khan comes from a long line of sarangi virtuosos and is also steeped in Sufi writings and tradition. The two struck up a conversation about instruments which led to informal jamming followed by Yorkston inviting Khan to accompany him onstage.

Soon after, Yorkston invited Jon Thorne to join them in the studio to record. As a British bass player well-versed in jazz improv, Thorne rounded out the trio’s musical and cultural texture. The idea was to capture their sound on record in a free, fluid, and collaborative way. The resulting album, Everything Sacred, was indeed a cultural masterpiece and solidified the brotherhood. They have now released their second record Neuk Wight Delhi Allstars. (They hail from Neuk, Scotland; The Isle of Wight, England; and New Delhi, India respectively.)

We caught up with the band of brothers as they are getting ready for summer gigs to promote the new record. They took time out to answer some questions for us.

What special qualities or perspectives do each of you bring to the musical mix?

Suhail Yusuf Khan (SYK) – Well, I am a sarangi player and a Hindustani music vocalist. The repertoire I carry is pretty diverse. Being a sarangi player, one ends up getting exposed to varied sub-genres of Indian music—folk, devotional, regional, aesthetic, and film music too. Hence, I bring all those influences and share it YTK.

Jon Thorne – (JT)  – From my perspective, I am trying to provide supple support through outlining harmony, playing with sonorous depth and rhythmic propulsion and providing counter melodies and textures that integrate and enhance the others’ performances. Much of this for me comes from a mixture of playing a lot of improvised jazz in my career and also from having performed across a wide musical spectrum, being open, and responding spontaneously.

James has a unique blend of literary skill in his lyrics and punky energy and drive in his songs. He’s capable of great intricacy in his guitar playing also. He writes wonderful ballads too. An arch storyteller. Suhail’s skills as a devotional singer and improviser are extraordinary, as is his ability to take traditional Indian music and blend it seamlessly with anything contemporary that he hears.

James Yorkston – ( JY) – That’s kind of you, Jon. For me, both Suhail and Jon have a vast, studied knowledge of music that I happily lack. I enjoy them talking about scales and modes and such, but I just try to use my ears. Suhail and Jon are both masterful musicians and I feel as though I am exploring a vast, colourful world of unexpected musical delights when I am playing with them.

How do you describe the music you create, this fusion of Scottish/Indian/British, lyrical/mystical traditions?  Jon once referred to it as ‘indojazzspangle’.  Do you have a name for it?

SYK – Well, you could label it with anything really. Although, for me, it is our signature YTK sound.

JT – “Indojazzspangle” was meant partly in jest, though it does illustrate how difficult it is to label the music that we make in a sound bite. I’m happy to help make the music together and let people call it whatever they want to.

JY – It’s a funny thing, music. Sometimes it’s better just to let people hear it and come to their own conclusions. I think Jon’s description is accurate in that it also suggests the fun we have whilst making it. Plus, I like the idea that Suhail supplies the Indo, Jon supplies the Jazz and me, well, I supply the Spangle…

In what ways are intuition and improvisation integral to your approach?

SYK – Surprisingly they are both interconnected with each other in many ways. If musicians are not able to recognize or judge their intuitions, it becomes extremely difficult for them to take risks while improvising in order to make the improvisation sound creative.

JT – For me intuition and improvisation are essential and part of the foundations of what we do. All of us are listening intently to one another and reacting in the moment, we have the bones of each song/instrumental, but how they are fleshed out is different every night and can change in a moment.

JY – It is important not to care what happens and just to let loose with our playing and see where it goes. We’re not a pop band with people wanting accurate replications of our most recent 3-minute hit. We just get on stage and start exploring. Sometimes we try to trip each other up, but mostly we encourage each other forwards.

You seem to fall within certain contemplative, oral traditions.  What role does indigenous storytelling play in the music you make together?

SYK – Certainly. As I mentioned earlier, I am a trained Hindustani musician. In our tradition, musical knowledge is passed on from one generation to the other as an oral language. This age-old methodology of transferring knowledge is called guru-shishya parampara (teacher-student tradition). Hence, stories and thoughts behind tunes play a crucial part in our music making process.

JT – Both James and Suhail draw from and adapt Scottish and Indian traditional music respectively. All three of us bring in original material and we often blend all these elements within a song or instrumental. We never write within intentional parameters though. Literally anything could happen if someone has an idea that works.

JY – I guess my songs normally tell little stories, and the traditional tales I bring in also have strong narratives that have ensured they have been passed through the centuries. The stories provide narrative hooks for us to base the songs around; they suggest emotions and energies. But I don’t consider the stories indigenous, particularly. More so, they reflect the shared human experience.

What draws you to the songs that you cover?  How do you choose them?  Is it the artist that wrote them, the stories they tell, or is it something else?

SYK – It is a combination of everything that you mentioned. We try a tune during our practice sessions and try playing it at gigs too. If something is working or has potential, we keep trying it and then let the music do its magic.

JT – Each of us brings the sum of our influences with us when we write. James and Suhail usually suggest the cover versions. It may be the artist or the story, often the mood of the lyrics of one cover version will be matched by the mood of another seemingly unrelated song. Suhail has to translate his lyrics for us. It can be like assembling a new picture from entirely separate puzzle pieces. They both constantly introduce me to new things. That’s the fun.

JY – I take influence from everywhere, no strict genre, country or area of music. Anything that interests me, I follow, and sometimes I bring that interest to YTK. If it seems good to me, the guys are kind enough to at least give it a listen or two and usually we attempt the songs or tunes. Mostly the experiments work, but on occasion they don’t.

Can you reflect on your spiritual journey or path as individuals and as a group? Where is the edge for you in your practice?

SYK – I grew up in Delhi, a city where so many different cultures and traditions exist together. Delhi is also known for the Sufi legacy it holds. My mother used to take me to various Sufi shrines in Delhi when I was a kid. The shrines have the divine Sufi music being practiced there, the energy, the faith, the aura and charisma of these places is heavy even today. Hence, those visits and hours of Sufi music sessions at the shrines holds a huge impact on my life as an individual and as a musician too.

JY – I do believe there’s a Something Else—but I don’t believe for one moment any of usand this includes any holy-man in flashy breeksknow what that Something Else is. Religion just seems to be about ego, power, and control.

JT – My personal spiritual path has ultimately been one of finding my true place among, and seeking connection to, everyone and everything without adhering to any particular belief system. I chose music as it is the best vehicle for this for me. I’m still trying to come to terms with mortality, an ongoing struggle.

I distrust organised religions, especially where money and superstition are involved. I trust my instincts, and I don’t need other people to validate my beliefs. My feeling is that being loving and kind is as religious as I ever really need to get.

We all have our own subjective beliefs in the band, but the music unifies us regardless. There are certainly moments when we are playing together when I feel genuine elevation, a sense of ecstasy, and a deep feeling of connectivity. That’s magical and it’s a joy to experience. That’s the edge, not found in practice, but always sought in performance. Sometimes it happens, but you can’t force it. You just have to stay open to the possibility.

About Kari Auerbach

Kari Auerbach is Music Editor at Kosmos Quarterly. She grew up all over the world learning about music and working as a jewelry designer. Currently living in New York City, she is social media director for several recording artists and a jewelry instructor for the New York Institute of Art and Design. She enjoys her many roles as a teacher, artist, mother, mentor, as well as advocating for artists, children, and a better, cleaner world.

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