This past month, two themes seemed to
have emerged very poignantly in my travels. The first is an
increasing sense of isolation people are feeling while increasingly
"hooked up" technologically. The second, and more hopeful theme, is
individual people who have created inspired projects that allow them to
reach out to others and be "part of the solution" rather than simply
feeling powerless amidst society's challenges.
Having traveled to Indiana in July
with my 11-year-
old son Alex, to visit my best friend, Brenda, it was very interesting
hearing many of the same themes that have emerged in Boston
conversations. I had the opportunity to watch Michael Moore's new
movie, "Sicko" in Indianapolis as well as Boston, and watch the
parallel audience response in both cities.
So, it is no surprise I have chosen
to include articles in this newsletter that build on these themes. Bridging
the Isolation: Making Face-to-Face Connections in Our Technological
World looks at the deeper hunger so many of us have to sit across
the lunch table from a dear friend or even a new friend-to-be, instead
of just reaching out and tapping the keyboard for hours on end. Part
of the Solution: People Making A Difference highlights three local
innovators who are creatively addressing social challenges. And
finally, Health Care For All: America's Broken Social Infrastructure
looks at how Michael Moore's new movie, "Sicko" actually touches on
more than just our health care problems.
In future issues, I hope to highlight
other people and projects that are making a difference and helping to
create a more healthful, heartful world for all. Your comments and
contributions are welcome, as always.
The Tuesday night EKP Body
Psychotherapy Group is actively seeking new members for
If you would like the opportunity to do deep, healing, heartfelt work
in a safe committed group, this is a wonderful place to do it. The
group meets from 7:15 - 9:45 pm in Newton. An interview and one EKP
session are required to apply. Please contact me at (617)965-7846 or
The Thursday night group also has
room for new members of both genders.
The EKP Cape Retreat November 16 -18
promises to be a nourishing experience for all. For more information,
contact Gretchen Stecher at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And finally, if you are interested in
being part of a HeartSmarts emotional literacy workshop for
kids or parents and kids, let me know at LSMHEART@aol.com.
| Bridging the Isolation
Making Face-to-Face Contact in Our Technological World
Perhaps it is just a fact of modern life that so many of us
spend so many hours each day alone, sitting in front of computers,
talking on cellphones or listening to iPods in the intimate comfort of
our own personal space. Since I am self-employed and work out of a home
office, having contact with people other than my clients and my son's
friends often requires a Herculean scheduling effort.
As someone who has always been a "hub of the network" type
person, an organizer, a community-
builder, it has been very humbling to realize how "out of touch" I
often feel, in spite of the massive number of e-
mails that go in and out of my AOL account each day.
Yet what has been even more striking is how prevalent this
feeling of isolation seems to be. In the past several weeks, I have had
the good fortune of sitting across the luncheon table first, with a
term colleague and then, with a long-term friend. I
traveled to Indiana and shared 24-7 time with my son and best
friend--and met her family and network of friends. Upon returning to
Boston, I attended a gathering of people all interested in meaningful
connections with other people. In all of these different venues, there
has been a common conversational thread: very warm, connective,
intelligent people expressing how isolated they feel, and how much they
miss the face-to-face connection that used to be more common in past
Recently, I had lunch with a body psychotherapy colleague,
who I used to work closely with in the late 1980's and early 1990's. We
met as we grew the nation's first state body psychotherapy
professional association. We spent hours together with some other
wonderful, dedicated colleagues doing ground-breaking work, including
writing a very thoughtful Code of Ethics, and gathering together our
colleagues into a community body. It was quite sobering to realize how
few of those colleagues we had actually been in touch with over the
past 10 years.
So, we hatched an idea: why not try to find a handful of our
colleagues, and invite them to get together to connect and reconnect
over a potluck lunch--even once. And maybe, with a bit of luck, we
might have the beginnings of a quarterly lunch group that could meet
for conversations, connection and community.
Searching google to find these colleagues became an
interesting journey of its own. Many of my colleagues have welcomed the
invitation to gather with others they too have lost touch with.
I realized when a call was put out for classmates to join
the team to organize my 25th grad school reunion, I got excited. I
jumped at the opportunity to have contact with my classmates, many of
whom I spent special time with so many years ago. In my heart of
hearts, I hoped most everyone would attend our reunion. Alas, I learned
that with the passing of time and the busyness of people's lives, only
a fraction of my classmates could attend. When the reunion took place
in June, I was delighted that one of my favorite classmates had flown
in from Minnesota. Not only did we enjoy connecting at the dinner, but
also I was able to have him join me and my son for lunch the next day.
I realize how important it is to have the continuity of
connection with people who have been part of my life along the way. And
I hear again and again how everyone struggles with keeping up
connections, finding the time for face-to-face relating, while juggling
all of life's responsibilities.
Sometimes it amazes me how many times in a day, a week or a
month I hear people speak of their isolation, and their hopelessness
that they will ever come of out their personal wilderness and have the
kind of connections they really yearn for deep down inside. So many of
us become resigned to "the way it is" or that we "have to go it alone"
just because that is such a strong thread in modern day life.
So, I look for the small ways I can make a difference for
myself and for the people in my life--bringing people together, picking
up the phone, initiating a meeting or a gathering. And I am very
grateful when I received an invitation, a phone call, an outreach from
someone also trying to build a bridge across the great divide of our
more information, check-out www.healingheartpower.com
| Part of the Solution
People Making a Difference
So many of the issues we face today seem overwhelming and
out of our reach. I don't know anyone who supports the war in Iraq, yet
who has the power to stop it? The cost of homeownership, college
tuition, health insurance and health care, the likelihood that most
Americans will never reach a point of financial security to "retire,"
the growing gap between the "ruling class" and "everyone else".... This
list gets very long.
Living in an era better known for its leadership vacuum than
its visionary leaders, as I wrote about in the May HealingHeartPower
newsletter, I think it is particularly powerful to spotlight
individuals who are finding ways to be part of the solution to our
individual and collective challenges.
Keith Washington (whose Iraqi weedflower painting is
depicted above to the left), Glenn Koenig and Trish Blain are three
such individuals, who are making a difference through their visionary
Keith Washington, Painter as Peace Activist
In February 2005, Keith Washington, an assistant professor
of Studio Art Foundations at Massachusetts College of Art and a
Painter, journeyed to Iraq as part of the Christian Peacemaker Team.
"The Christian Peacemaker Team is a small non-government, Quaker
organization that is truly the vanguard for peace in conflict and war
zones throughout the world," comments Keith. "Individuals are willing
to, and often do, risk their lives for non-violent conflict
"The inspiration to go to Iraq came out of my personal
frustation with what I felt was the ineffectiveness of the anti-war
movement, but also feeling it wasnt enough for me to go down to
Government Center and protest the war. I felt it was important for me
to take my American privilege and put it on the line: to stand in
solidarity with the citizens of Iraq."
Keith had been thinking about the beauty and potential
meaning of flowers as a metaphor for both human beings as individuals
and for peace. "I was curious to see what the flowers were like. I
imagined that I would see flowers that had been trampled by boots or
were at the edge of bomb craters."
Keith came up with the name, "A Rose By Any Other Name:
Flowers of Conflict," for his project.
When Keith went to Iraq, spring had not yet broken. He
visited three mass graves that were from the aftermath of the George HW
Bush war. "I ended up documenting the weeds that were growing on top of
the three mass graves. Being there was very moving," reflects Keith.
After Keith got home and started working on the images, the
violence escalated. "After I had completed two or three dozen
paintings, they looked like pretty flowers. No apparent emotional
charge. And certainly not equivalent to the way Iraqi violence had
escalated," he notes.
So, the project went on hold. As Keith was looking through
his files of images, he can across one image of a group of three
flowers, that in his mind, does have the emotional charge. "I decided
to paint one image a hundred times, and incorporate it in a large
painting of one of the mass graves. This painting portrays the futility
of this particular human activity. Maybe flowers can represent an
Keith hopes to show his work in March 2008, the 5th
anniversary of the war, and to title it "May every flower be a
mediation for peace."
You can reach Keith at email@example.com
Glenn Koenig, Deciphering Massachusetts' New
Health Insurance Law
As a self-employed individual without health insurance,
Glenn Koenig, like many other Massachusetts residents, found himself in
a quandry when a new state law requiring health insurance for all
residents came into effect on July 1. A database consultant, who also
works as a filmmaker, Glenn decided he better research exactly what the
law meant, so he would know how to respond. He realized that the
information he was unearthing would be valuable to others as well, so
he made a DVD entitled, "Insurance, the Commonwealth and You."
As he opens his DVD, Glenn remarks that it feels a bit like
a 12-step meeting, where he could introduce himself by saying, "I'm
Glenn and I'm uninsured." He reflects that his house and its contents
are insured. So is his car. Yet, he has not had health insurance for
four years. And that perhaps the name "health insurance" is a misnomer.
Glenn feels "medical insurance" is a more accurate name for
this mandatory coverage, since "an insurance company can't insure I'll
be healthy." Too, he believes that health includes spiritual,
emotional, nutritional and physical dimensions, as well as medical, and
in reality "only a fraction of these are covered by medical insurance."
Glenn reflects, "An insurance company cannot insure I'll be
healthy. It can help pay for costs if I need treatment. My health is
ultimately my responsibility."
In his DVD, Glenn explores "what does this new law mean to a
wide variety of people?" Josh Tobin of the Insurance Partnership, a
government agency that helps small businesses and self-employed
individuals, and Kathy Bitetti of the Artists' Foundation, a
non-profit, join him in the dialogue, along with members of his studio
To dialogue with a real human being about the new law, your
personal insurance situation and your options, Glenn and his panelists
identify the Health Care For All Help-Line (800)272-4232, and website
www.hcfama.org, as useful resources.
All in all, this DVD provides a good overview of the new law,
its implications, language and complexities, and where to turn for help
in figuring out what to do about it.
You can reach Glenn at www.openeyesvideo.com or
Trish Blain, Growing Connections
A social entrepreneur who has owned seven businesses at the
forefront of social change, including an environmental products store
in 1989, Trish Blain always had an interest in creating places for
like-minded people to gather together. "When I ran the Whole Health
Expo, we created 'community badges' so people could connect based on
common interests and needs. The community badges were linked to a
website where an individual's information could be linked back to their
"While not everyone was ready to tap in to the technology
part, a lot of meaningful connections were made simply through the
badges and the information they contained."
Over time, Trish realized that "to effect change, we need
people of different specialties coming together to create
cross-pollination. This is moving beyond 'preaching to the converted.'"
When she moved to Boston from Northampton, a place where she
knew lots of people and met new people who came into her store, Trish
noticed how challenging it was to meet people. "When I lived in Ireland
for a year, you could just sit in a pub and meet people. In Europe,
people go to cafes to meet people. Here, I would go to Starbucks to be
among people, but everyone was on their own--at their own table,
working on their own computer. It was very different."
Realizing many people felt the same way, Trish began
envisioning a physical building that would serve as a kind of club--a
new kind of community social center with a restaurant, bar and cafe,
flexible office and meeting space and event facility. Her club is the
Connections center, and builds on her dual vision of providing a place
where people can meet face to face enhanced by the possibilities of
connecting using webtechnology.
"We are now working on building a team to bring the concept
into physical form," notes Trish. "We have a physical building. There
is a building development team, a business team working on structuring
investments and pursuing financing, a conference planning team and a
membership team. The Connections center will be open to the public, but
will also have a membership component, Members will be given priority
in renting the space, and will have a multi-faceted web presence for
themselves and their business."
Connections will be hosting some initial events over the
next few months. For more information, contact Trish at
firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the mailing list.
more articles...and a chance to add your thoughts...
| Health Care For All?
America's Broken Social Infrastructure
I have now seen Michael Moore's new movie, "Sicko," three
times. The first time, I went by myself, more than curious to see how
this courageous documentary filmmaker was tackling one of the most
important, yet broken systems in this country: the health care
industry. I was so moved by the messages in the film, that I returned
to see it again, first with my 11-year-old son Alex, and then with
Alex, my best friend Brenda and her friend Jene during our vacation in
Indiana. I would love to view it, yet again, with a group people,
followed by a deeper conversation about America's broken social
You see,while Michael Moore's film is not only a very
powerful and moving portrait of how broken the American health care
system is (it delivers neither health nor care, and is really the
"medical industry"), but also a clear depiction of how broken so many
other social systems are in our culture.
It is no wonder that Americans have shorter life spans than
Canadians, Brits, the French and Cubans--all of whose health care
systems and social services systems are presented in the film. The "me,
me, me" profit-motivated, ugly American way of life depletes the soul,
isolates us and kills us. I found myself in tears as I watched some of
the people the film chronicled, including three 9/11 "heroes" go to
Cuba to get the health care they could not attain or afford in this
country--and receive REAL help.
And because Moore's portrait delved more deeply into the way
people lived--from the cost of housing, maternity benefits and help
when a child is born, to education and social catchment systems for
people in crisis--it was clear that other countries have a much deeper
reaching sense of "community" and "we."
Moore's own Canadian relatives were afraid to set foot on
American soil without health insurance to protect them from the threat
of the liquidation of their life's assets in a heartbeat, should some
medical crisis happen. In contrast, the many Americans profiled who set
foot on foreign soil, were treated with respect--as valuable human
beings in need of health and care. And they were treated with no
personal financial risk. It was very powerful hearing foreign physician
after foreign physician assert they could not possibly put financial
considerations ahead of their patients' health and well-being.
An interview by Moore of a former member of Parliament was
very powerful. He talked about how American people are beaten down by
fear and disrespect. They become disspirited and powerless. People are
afraid of the government, since it exerts a power over them. In France,
the government is afraid of the people! While we preach the gospel of
"freedom" and "the American dream" we are actually prisoners of the
American nightmare. But as we stay isolated in our little cubicles,
trying to survive, we cannot see the forest from the trees, or more
likely, the bricks from the pavement.
In a culture where basics like education, healthcare and
housing are not birthrights, but instead expensive commodities that can
break one's financial back for life, people cave under the weight of
just trying to survive. In France, people are required to take at least
5 weeks of vacation and work 35 hours each week. If a person works more
hours, they are given more time off!
In America, too many people work 12 or even 16 hour days, 6
or 7 days per week. Vacation time sits unused. In fact, the work
culture says it is politically incorrect to take time off. Even unsafe.
It may reflect badly on your work ethic if you take a vacation.
After seeing the sincere sense of connection amongst the
French, the Canadians, the Brits and the Cubans, and the way they were
able to reach out and embrace their American visitors, I felt a longing
to live in a society that was built on a foundation of providing for
all of our most basic needs.
Dog Eat Dog Productions made the film. I am afraid, I don't
know many dogs that would be as heartless, cold and calculating as too
many human beings--
Americans in all fields of endeavor. Upholding a broken system asks
that you break or be broken. Doctors overseas respeatedly echoed the
message, "I would never want to work in a system in which I was
required to deny care to people in need."
We need more visionaries like Michael Moore and Al Gore, who
are not afraid to look a tough issues head on, and thoughtfully bring
the facts to the masses, so we have a prayer of crawling out of our
collective pot of boiling water alive.
The Boston Area Sexuality and
Spirituality Network is currently developing its programming for the
2007-2008 season. Visit www.sexspirit.net later this month for our new