To make a revolution, people must not only struggle against existing institutions. They must make a philosophical/spiritual leap and become more ‘human’ human beings. In order to change/transform the world, they must change/transform themselves.
From Zone 8 to Cell Block to Urban Network Bookstore
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
“My mama became my hero and my father became my mentor.”
Hunkered down in a WDET motor city hoodie and a down sleeping bag listening to KAXE in northern Minnesota, I caught the first episode of The Listening Post, a documentary series from the BBC that “invites close, unhurried listening to the stories of individuals.” And wouldn’t you know it, the first profile tells the story of a Detroit native.
Yusef Shakur, who now runs a bookstore and community center in Zone 8, grew up in the same neighborhood and became a gangster as a teenager. At the age of 19 in 1992, he began serving a nine-year prison sentence. While there, he reaches out to his father who’s also serving time — a man he’s never met and considers “a sperm donor.” His father’s reply changes the course of his life:
“Son, let your past mistakes become your teacher because your mistakes can become our greatest education. … You must use this time to prepare yourself to leave better than what you came in as. Turn your cell into a university by rebuilding yourself from the inside out. … P.S. You misspelled knowledge, religion, envelope, address, message and religious. If you don’t have a dictionary, you need to get one. Words are powerful because they convey who we are. Use your mind to free yourself or somebody will use your mind to keep you a slave.”
It’s a story about the power of a lost father’s love, hope and resurrection, and a tale of the meaning of time and attention in the most dire of circumstances.
Lovingkindness (Metta) Meditation with Sylvia Boorstein
by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
In mid-February, we partnered with WDET to hold a live event in a quaint suburban village outside of Detroit. The topic: raising children in complex times.
Krista’s conversation with Sylvia Boorstein was rolling along quite nicely — stories were being told, approaches to child-rearing were being shared — when somewhat unexpectedly, Boorstein (a Jewish Buddhist teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in northern California) offered to lead a lovingkindness, or metta, meditation for a crowd of more than 300 folks.
With that size of a crowd who hadn’t necessarily attended for a mindfulness retreat, I wasn’t sure what to expect. What resulted was a magical experience in which the audience fully participated in this impromptu moment of reflection.
If you’re game, we’d like you to use this as a guided meditation. As a producer, one’s never certain if an impromptu experience like this works because it was part of a particular time or if it translates into a fruitful experience for others online. What do you think?
Photo by Trent Gilliss
Correction (June 11, 2011): This post mistakenly referred to Ms. Boorstein teaching at Split Rock Meditation Center, and has now been revised to Spirit Rock Meditation Center.
The Unasked Questions for Sylvia Boorstein
by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer
“How can I catch my angry self before it catches me!?”
This is one of many anonymous questions posed by the 300 people who came out to hear Krista interview Sylvia Boorstein at a live event in Birmingham, Michigan last month. The theme of their conversation: “Raising Children in Complex Times.” Now in her 70’s, Boorstein is best known as a Buddhist meditation teacher and author. She’s quick to define herself as both a mother and grandmother.
We came away from this event with a big stack of question cards, many of which didn’t get posed because of time. Here’s a sampler:
“Sometimes my husband will say - we need to toughen these kids up; they have to live in a tough world. How do we balance teaching them kindness/gentleness versus being tough.”
“What words of comfort can we say to our children (22 yrs) when faced with health issues. (Can be major or minor).”
“In a time of overbearing parenting and institutionalized narcisism [sic], how do we cultivate caring?”
“Spiritual principles for a 6 yr old. My daughter is 6 — she asks many questions about ‘God.’ Other than modeling behavior do you have other suggestions on how to discuss spirituality when my spirituality is so abstract?”
“Growing up in an alcoholic family, and with anxiety as an adult, how does one manage anxiety with parenting?”
Looking at the anonymous cards, each one with its distinctive handwriting, I imagine a person on the other side with a longing for their question to be answered.
Which of these questions speak to you? And what responses would you offer?
Sharing Love with a Woman I Hardly Know
by Destiny Dorozan, guest contributor
“The Platform of Surrender” (photo: Anna Gay/Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
While going through the process of divorcing my husband, living as a single mother with my daughter, working full time in a classroom for severely physically and cognitively disabled children, and going to college full time in the evenings, I began to ponder what true love is. It was during this time that I had the following experience with a wonderful lady, Ms. Fran.
Ms. Fran comes every day to our class, to help us feed one of our students at lunchtime. Her hands gnarled with age, she folds his fingers around the spoon, helping him grip it. Suddenly one day, she turned, leaned into me, and said, “I was very blessed. I had an excellent husband. Fifty-two years, and he died nine years ago. He was a loving husband, an excellent father, and a friend.”
She smiled on that last bit, knowing that everything else grew out of that friendship.
“He treated me like a princess, always brought me flowers for no reason. One time I asked him why he brought them: Did he do something wrong he was trying to make up for?”
He scoffed at her. He told her she deserved the flowers “because you’re a good girl.”
Ms. Fran apologized to her husband for the doubt and explained, “I never asked why again when he brought me flowers. He just kept bringing them, and I kept accepting them for 52 years.”
Today, we celebrated Fran’s birthday in class. We got her a bouquet of flowers and a cake. I was the first to sign the card, and I wrote, “Because you’re a good girl.”
I wrote it good and big across the top. When she read it, her eyes watered, her fingers shook, and she stopped to give me a second hug before she continued reading. She said, “That brings back memories. God bless you.”
After lunch was over, she leaned toward me again and said, “I’ll remember that forever. Thank you.”
This morning, I kept thinking ‘I just want to be special to someone, to share some special relationship, each recognizing the universal love in each other and sharing in it together.’ I had been thinking of how lucky she was to have had the beautiful relationship with her husband and, of course, couldn’t help but wish that I will find that for myself.
Having this experience made me realize that it is not just an experience between two sweethearts. It happens any time two people recognize in each other the love of the universe manifest — become connected by it, share mutually in it. That is what true love is, not the desires of the ego.
Today, I had the experience of sharing love with a woman I hardly know, celebrating her 79th birthday. Life continues to be more surprising, inspiring, and fulfilling than I could ever have imagined. Contented sighs and prayers of gratitude follow.
Destiny Dorozan is a student of Clinical Psychology at the University of Detroit Mercy, mother to a beautiful flower, Lily, and a published poet. Her poetry can be found in the online journals Rogue Poetry Review and The Ambassador Poetry Project.
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