Conversation in the Garden

June 2020:
Coming soon!
After having been on hiatus for a while,
we are getting ready to begin again
by holding space for conversations

among friends around the world
committed to the work of inner and outer transformation,
and cultivating connection among our communities for the greater good.

Stay tuned!


Recent OWL News:

A Note to the OWL Community

First of all I want to apologize for not communicating for so long. With all the absolutely crazy events going on here in the U.S. and in Europe — and how friends in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Central America have been experiencing far worse — I’ve really been at a loss about how to respond. I feel like I’ve been wandering in a dark forest.

And I’m very grateful to have met some wise and inspiring people in that forest — people in OWL and ServiceSpace — whose words and actions are helping me find my way. To name a few:

Scilla Elworthy
Visionary Peacebuilder, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, Global Changemaker

Chad Harper
Singer, Songwriter, Storyteller

Rev. Charles Gibbs
Episcopal Priest, Interfaith Visionary, Global Peace Activist, Poet

Paula Green
Psychologist, Peace Educator, Mentor in Intergroup Relations & Conflict Resolution

Sister Lucy
The Mother Teresa of Pune

Terry Patten
Philosopher, Teacher, Activist, Consultant, Social Entrepreneur, Author

Dimple Parmar
Love Warrior, Healer, Social Entrepreneur

Deborah Roberts
Beekeeper, International Honeybee Educator, Speaker, Advocate, Artist, Writer

Rev. Heng Sure
Dharma Master, Director of the Berkeley Buddhist Monastery

There’s so much to be said about the wisdom they’re each bringing, so I invite you to follow any of these links to explore in detail. But in brief, here’s a common thread that’s coming through to me:

  1. A new time requires a new “we.”
    We can’t meet tomorrow’s challenges by doing what we did yesterday. We’re being called now to reach higher and further.
  2. The bigger the front, the bigger the back.
    Yes, we’re living at a time of instability and danger as the old order unravels. On the other hand, friends and teachers such as those above are pointing out that this is also a rare moment where a positive evolutionary step for humanity is possible. In Terry Patten’s words:

    “This is game time on the planet… Wow! What a privilege to be here. Somehow our souls called us to be here. Now… This is our time. This crazy, very wild time. … And what happens in our lifetimes will have impacts on all the forms of life on the planet… What a privilege,… what an opportunity and [what a] responsibility!”

  3. Communities of communities.
    For those of us committed to both the inner work, transforming ourselves, as well as the outer work, transforming the world — I believe it’s time to focus on cultivating stronger connections among us and among our communities.

We’ll soon be scheduling our our first 2019 OWL Wisdom Circle, with a couple of surprise first speakers, The agenda: initiating a new, ongoing OWL conversation to explore interconnecting our communities.

To help us all to prepare, please give us your input on the 2019 OWL Flight Path Check-in on these questions:
* Personal check-in. On both a personal and a community level, what’s up for you now?
* Interconnecting our communities. Your reflections on what this might look like for you and your community. How could you benefit? What could you offer?
* Other priorities. What other priorities would be especially relevant for you and your community?

I believe that our only way forward as an OWL community is with involvement, creative action, and leadership from all of us!

So I invite you to get your responses back to us right away. All of us in the upcoming circle will have the chance to benefit by seeing each other’s responses, as we explore where we go from here.

Looking forward to reconnecting and exploring paths together!

In gratitude.

Three Weeks

It is written that King Solomon built the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 10th century BCE. It stood for about four centuries before being destroyed by the Babylonians in 587 BCE. After the Hebrew exiles returned from Babylon in 539 BCE, they built the Second Temple, which lasted over 500 years before being destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE. According to tradition both were destroyed at this time of the year, called the Three Weeks (17 Tammuz – 9 Av on the Hebrew calendar). Every year we observe the Three Weeks as a time of mourning and solemn reflection.

In ancient times the rabbis reflected on the question: what are we to learn from the destruction of the Temples? Their inquiry took them to two themes: what we value, and how we treat each other.

Babylonian Talmud, Yoma 9B:

The First Temple, why was it destroyed? For three things within it: idol worship, sexual transgression, and bloodshed.

But the Second Temple, where they were immersed in Torah, mitzvot, and acts of lovingkindness, why was it destroyed? Because there was senseless hatred. This comes to teach that the weight of senseless hatred is equivalent [to the total of all the other three].
(Oral tradition committed to writing around 5th century CE)

This year with the Three Weeks falling on June 30 – July 21, I’ve been reflecting on events in the U.S. today. A national government that no longer represents the majority of its citizens, wantonly engaging in senseless hatred, cruelty, destructiveness.

In the U.S. our “holy temple” has been in the values and ideals of American democracy. Although we’ve been painfully slow to live up to these ideals, they’ve always served as the guiding light that unites us, and toward which we, the American people, aspire and progress. But today my heart is breaking as I stand by helplessly, forced to watch the daily destruction of our democracy.

Is this the “Three Weeks” for America? Am I exaggerating? Can we still save our country?

Soon I’ll be joining with thousands of Americans in California and across the country to do what we can to help save our democracy by helping people vote in the coming election. But for now I’m sitting quietly with the question: what can we learn from the Three Weeks about the right course of action for today?

Ibn Ezra commenting on Leviticus 19:17:

“Don’t hate your brother.”

This is the inverse of “love your neighbor as yourself.” Behold how these mitzvot, both of them, are planted in the heart. And those who cultivate them shall remain in the land. Because it was senseless hatred that destroyed the Second Temple.
(Spain, 12th century CE)

Rav Kook

Since we destroyed ourselves and the world through senseless hatred, then surely we can restore ourselves and the world through senseless love.
Orot Hakodesh (Holy Lights), Israel, 1938

Rabbi DovBer Pinson:
[The Three Weeks] is a harsh time to be sure, a time of Din / judgment, yet despite this, or perhaps because of this, it is also a time where we can more easily feel close to [God]…. It becomes clear that all of our sufferings are meant to wake us up to our higher self and purpose, if we but heed the call.
(The Months of Tammuz and Av, U.S., 2018)

Breslover Hassidim
Senseless love is good for the world!
(20th century)

Apr. 29 Global Wisdom Circle

Apr. 29 Global Wisdom Circle:
Paula Green

Sharing wisdom, experience and support
among global citizens everywhere.

Building Bridges Across the Hills

Paula Green, Ph.D. — psychologist, peace educator, facilitator, and mentor in the field of intergroup relations and conflict resolution — is co-creator, together with other residents of her hometown of Leverett MA, of Hands Across the Hills, a cultural exchange/dialogue between people in western Massachusetts and coal country in Kentucky.

After the 2016 presidential election, as the U.S. descended into a state of greater polaritzation, distrust, and animosity among Americans based on their political affiliation, Paula felt moved to increase her focus on restoring relations between Americans across the divides.

As they’ve discovered a sister community across the political divide, in another part of the U.S., where people are ready to join with them, Paula and her neighbors in Leverett are literally reaching out their Hands Across the Hills. Through this program, Paula now consults with and mentors other communities that hope to bridge divides in their own cities or elsewhere in the country.

Their partners in Letcher County, KY have come together under the auspices of the Letcher County Culture Hub, a network of community-led organizations that work together to build a culture and economy where people own what they make. Ben Fink, lead organizer for the group in Kentucky, also organizes projects for Appalshop, the Appalachian arts and culture institution that was recently featured on the PBS Hews Hour.

You can learn more about Paula, Ben, and their communities, at Hands Across the Hills.

Part 1 — Paula Green & Sharon Dunn: Group interview

Part 2 — Circle of reflection: Stewart Gill, Libby Traubman, Wendy Berk, Aryae, Stewart, Rita Karuna Cahn

Part 3 — Further comments & reflections: Sharon, Paula, Stewart, Aryae, Len Traubman