November, 2012

At some point in our lives, most can agree in conversation that nothing happens by accident, that there is a purpose for everything in life.  When trauma strikes the person who has not yet developed or has not been taught helpful coping skills, addiction can take over their personality.  Anything that alters this person’s mood, feelings, emotions is subject to abuse.  Each person finds what works best for them; and once they do, any hope of developing the proper coping mechanism is lost.

People with an addictive personality will stop at nothing to achieve and maintain the high that keeps them from experiencing life in its natural state.  This is where the root of addiction lives, the refusal to accept life on life’s terms, arguing with what is so, fighting to be right, crashing into the brick wall over and over again.  Sometimes there is a brief moment where there appears to be surrender.  The addict appears broken, ready, and willing to give up.  They seem willing to face the fact that the high that once kept them from having to feel is no longer working.  Then a little time goes by, the apologies come, the endless talk of “I will never do _______ again” starts,  everyone thinks things are “looking up,” and then WHAM, they find themselves getting high again.

This can be very frustrating for the loved ones in the addict’s life.  They cannot understand what happened, “You said you weren’t going to drink anymore, you stopped for a whole week and talked about how committed you were.  What happened? Why???”   The co-dependent’s hopes and expectations get crushed over and over again by the disease of addiction.  Now they begin to be at odds with life themselves.  The whole family is under the control of addiction; life has become completely reactionary for everyone involved.

What the family and friends are not aware of is that inside the addictive person’s brain is the obsession to use.  The addict is thinking about getting high all the time, even when they have “quit.”  This thinking can come in the form of glamorizing their past usage, things that may have been exciting, dangerous, or peaceful.  We tell “war stories” of our using, many times embellishing the fun while rarely speaking of the pain or destruction that has resulted.  It is this obsession to use that must be dealt with, and that is what recovery is all about.

The process of recovery must first start with the cessation of all mood- and mind-altering chemicals. This is why many treatment facilities recommend a 28-day in-patient treatment program.  The time away, in a safe environment, allows for many opportunities to dig into the root of the problem.  Even in a person with the most sincere desire to stop using, doing so on their own is virtually impossible.  The disease voice in our head is so much louder than the voice of reason, unless we have a program in place to counter it.

Being housed with other addicts in early recovery gives us the opportunity to face the reality that life truly had become unmanageable.  We can easily see where our abuse has brought us.  Most, if not all, people hit recovery facing financial ruin, relationship loss, unemployment, or possibly severe legal issues.  It is rare, indeed, for the person who has none of the above issues to find themselves in treatment.  This is why it is so important for friends and family to allow alcoholic or drug addict to suffer the consequences of their using.  How is a person ever going to “hit bottom” when there is always a safety net in place for them when they fall?

The process of recovery for the co-dependent must start with the refusal to accept further abuse.  This is delivered in a beautifully clear way in Conversations with God.

“As a practical matter—again leaving esoterics aside—if you look to what is best for you in these situations where you are being abused, at the very least what you will do is stop the abuse.  And that will be good for both you and your abuser, for even an abuser is abused when his abuse is allowed to continue.”

We are not so different in the end, the addict and the co-dependent.  We are each disempowering the other from experiencing our life to the fullest.  We must all have faith that by doing right for our self, we are then doing what is best for everyone.  We can no longer afford to keep up the facade that everything is fine. We must expose the darkness so that the light can shine though.

This is part 1 in a series on co-dependency and recovery.  Next week we will look  into why it is our fault and what we can do about it.  Stay tuned!

(Kevin McCormack is a Conversations with God Life Coach, a Spiritual helper on, Addictions recovery advisor.  To connect with Kevin please email him at

What will you be most thankful for between now and this same day in 2013?

Thanksgiving Day, of course, is one of the biggest family holidays of the year in the United States. But I have an idea about this holiday that is different from most Americans. I think that the holiday should be abolished.

I don’t think that Thanksgiving should be a holiday at all. I think it should be a holy day, and placed on the calendar of all sacred days and events.

I also think we should change the way that Thanksgiving is celebrated. Forget about sitting down to a big meal and offering thanks to God for all the bounty that has been received during the past year. Instead, create a new ritual. Sit down together and thank God for all the goodness that is to come.

Do not go around the table and have each guest tell what he or she has to be thankful for. Rather, go around the table and have each guest say what they are going to be thankful for in the coming year — and then have everyone give thanks right then and there, ahead of time. For that matter, repeat the ritual every day for the next year. Sincerely believe and be grateful for receiving the gifts that you just know will shower down upon you from God’s limitless bounty.

In Conversations with God the message about gratitude is clear. It is the most powerful form of prayer. Gratitude in advance, not gratitude after the fact.

This is because to thank God in advance for something is the highest form of faith. It is a statement of supreme confidence. It is the Ultimate Knowing.

When we come from this Place of Knowing, we move into an energy that creates miracles.

The most powerful prayer that I ever heard is only 17 words long:

Thank you, God, for helping me to understand that this problem has already been solved for me.

So, while it is well and good to say “thanks” for things past, especially with other human beings to whom we owe a word of gratitude, it is extremely empowering to thank God ahead of time for all the goodness that will flow to you in the coming year. It is even more powerful to decide ahead of time what that goodness will be.

Make a list. Check it twice. Write down all that you choose to have happen between Thanksgiving 2012 and Thanksgiving 2013. Read your list out loud at dinner. Encourage others to do the same. Share and Declare. There are few things more inspiring and powerful than public declaration.

Suddenly, Thanksgiving 2012 will have a new meaning. It will now be about Sharing and Declaring. It will be about Knowing and Growing. We grow into what we know.

So I think that Thanksgiving should not be a mere holiday. It should be elevated to a Holy Day. It should be the holiest day of the year. The day on which we say “thanks be to God” for all the wonder, all the abundance, and all the joys of life we anticipate and that we know in our hearts God is sending us in the coming year.

It should be the holiest day of the year because gratitude is the most sacred tool in the Creator’s Toolbox. With it anything can be produced, anything can be created, anything can be experienced!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

So this is the Thanksgiving weekend holiday in the United States, and I hope that all people around the world stop for a moment and send thoughts of gratitude and love to our wonderful God for the breathtaking world that has been created by us for us. Then I hope that we will, each of us, renew our commitment to do whatever it takes to make this a better world.

I want to learn to share more. We all share, I know, and so do I…but I want to learn to share more. To share more of all the bounty with which I have been blessed. And I do not mean merely physical abundance. I do mean that, yes, but I also mean the love that resides deep inside of me, and all the gifts of the heart and soul that are mine to give.

I promise to bring forgiveness to my world, to bring compassion and understanding and a deeper caring and a higher love, to every moment.

I am clear that this must happen in the day-to-day of my experience. It takes place with every exchange I have with any other human being. It’s about how I talk, how I act. I want to be gentle, I want to be caring, I want to be accepting and tolerant and understanding and forgiving. Most of all, I want to be connected. I want to feel that I am genuinely a part of every other person, one with every other soul, and one with God.

The opportunity, the chance, to do this is what I am most grateful for today. The chance to be Who I Really Am is what I treasure in my life. Each morning is a Starting Over. Each day is a new day. Transformation begins with Forgiveness and Unconditional Love — for the Self, and for all others.

It’s the Self part that I have the most trouble with. I have done so many hurtful things in my life. I rationalize all this most of the time, telling myself that it is all part of being human. None of us is perfect, etc. But at some point I have to begin taking responsibility for my actions, so that the past does not repeat itself in the present.

So part of self forgiveness — and what makes it possible, I think — is self discipline and self awareness; a determination to become something Other than what I have been in the past.

I am grateful for this chance. Life is so incredibly wonderful. Each day it gives me a chance to recreate myself anew.

This is Thanksgiving weekend  in my country, and at this time of year I want to express gratitude in advance for all the wonderful moments yet to come, for all the wonderful experiences yet to be created, and for all the wonderful expressions of Who I Really Am yet to be placed into the world.

Thank you, God. Thank you, Life. Thank you, every one of you, for being part of my world, and bringing me the daily opportunity to become a grander version of myself through my interaction with the wonder of you, and to work together with you to create a grander version of our world.

This year it is hard not to be dismayed at the murdering that goes on between Israel and Palestine, and the suffering of both Israelis and Palestinians. This Thanksgiving some of us commit ourselves to doing all we can to stop the conflict and to start the process of non-violent open-hearted reconciliation and peace.

We reject the advice of the “political realists” who tell us that this struggle will go on forever, at untold levels of human suffering. Instead, we’ve urged our own government to work with others to impose a cease-fire (which is now apparently holding), and then to convene an international conference of the most powerful and spiritually responsible countries that can act together to build the new consciousness our planet so badly needs.

Some of us. whether or not we believe in God or Goddess or Spirit, are Spiritual Progressives—that is, people who want the world to be reorganized in ways that promote love, kindness, generosity, ethical and ecological sensitivity, and awe, wonder and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of all that is.

We spiritual progressives believe that the real source of strength for any country or people will come from the degree to which its neighbors and the people of the world see that country as a source of generous love, social justice, peace, non-violence and generosity toward all and environmental sanity toward the earth.

So on this Thanksgiving we call upon the world to actively involve itself with bringing peace and prosperity to all places where violence and wars continue to be waged.

We call upon the advanced industrial countries to launch a domestic and global Marshall Plan by dedicating 1-2% of the GDP of the economically advanced industrial countries of the world, the G-20, to be used to eliminate poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, inadequate health care, and to repair the global environment—to be paid for by the trillions of dollars that will otherwise be spent on militarism and attempts to dominate and control the world.

We know that this approach will require major political changes, and that is why we support the Network of Spiritual Progressives’ “Money out of Politics” campaign that goes way beyond affirming that corporations are not people and money is not speech. The ESRA also bans all private and corporate monies from national and state elections (check it out at

And we affirm the Unity of All Being, the oneness of all with all, and the fundamental interdependence of us who are celebrating Thanksgiving with all other people on the planet, and we commit ourselves to save this planet from environmental destruction.

And in the spirit of Thanksgiving, we affirm our dedication to being unrealistic for peace, social justice, environmental sanity, and a world based on love, caring, kindness and generosity.  In so doing, we will make realistic what at first seemed to be unrealistic. And so it is. Amen.

(Rabbi Michael Lerner is editor of the Jewish and interfaith quarterly Tikkun magazine [in print by subscription and on line at], chair of the interfaith [and atheist-welcoming] Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of  Beyt Tikkun synagogue in Berkeley and San Francisco California

He is the author of 11 books, including The Politics of Meaning,  Spirit Matters, Jews and Blacks: Let the Healing Begin (with Cornel West), The Left Hand of God: Takiing Back our Country from the Religious Right, Jewish Renewal: A Path to Healing and Transformation, and most recently, Embracing Israel/Palestine (North Atlantic Books, 2012). RabbiLerner welcomes your feedback at

We all know what Thanksgiving day is suppose to represent; gratitude for our abundance and good fortune. But how often does it actually become an excuse for gluttonous behavior that leads to guilt? Making healthy choices can be challenging this time of year, given that the tradition itself is built around an abundance of food and drink. And if you happen to be an addict, a dis-ease that can make any holiday more challenging, this particular one can represent disaster…if you allow it.

But is that what this day is for? How does gluttonous behavior represent gratitude for an abundant crop? How does behavior that leads to guilt fulfill that which this day is meant to represent? Of course neither does and only conscious choices and decisions today will create a day of Thanksgiving, rather than the alternative g’s which could be had at your expense.

Perhaps a reminder of Thanksgiving’s beginning will help set the stage for the grateful G to be experienced today.

As the Thanksgiving story goes…the pilgrims crossed the Atlantic in the year 1620 in the famous sailing vessel Mayflower. Around a 100 souls traveled for nearly two months through extreme difficulties, and after the long sea journey of 66 days, the pilgrims reached the shores of Massachusetts at Plymouth rock on December 11, 1620. 46 of them died due to extreme cold that first winter in their new world, but in the spring of 1621, native Indians taught the pilgrims how to grow foods like corn, beans and pumpkins which helped them to survive. And in the autumn of 1621, they held a grand celebration and feast to thank God for their abundant harvest…and the communal dinner, that is now popularly known as The Thanksgiving Day Feast, was born. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln, weary from Civil War, asked all Americans to set aside the last Thursday in November as a day of Thanksgiving…and a tradition was built that has lasted the test of time.

As we are reminded in this childhood history lesson, there was great cost and sacrifice given by those who sought religious freedom, and perhaps just freedom itself, as they were willing to risk it all to take the journey into the unknown with faith and hope as their guide. As anyone who has sacrificed for a cause or dream will attest, gratitude for reaping those kinds of rewards are deeply felt, especially given the price paid for having them realized.

Speaking of cost and sacrifice, the stories of gratitude around those who are fortunate enough to have a dinner table this year will be plenty. I am thinking of my friends on the East Coast for example. My office is located on Long Island New York, which you may have noticed has been in the news a great deal of late. A unfriendly miss named Sandy arrived uninvited a couple of weeks back, and she decided to wreak havoc in millions of lives. Sandy packed a double wallop for many, not only by stripping some of everything they owned, but over a hundred paid the ultimate cost with their lives. No one was left untouched by her aftermath, even if they made it through without a scratch.

New Yorkers are no strangers to dealing painful events and they once again have risen to meet the challenges left behind from the unwanted changes visited upon them by that uncaring bitch – of a storm. Grief stricken as so many still are, dealing with the shock of what has happened, yet still getting up everyday and attempting to return life to some kind of normal. I know Thanksgiving will take on a deeper meaning for most East Coasters this year, as it can for each of us that bore witness to the human spirit which shone through the survivors.

Marcus Aurelius said: “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive, to breath, to think, to enjoy, to love”. Yes that is what this day of Thanksgiving can represent for you. If that is what you choose to focus on today the gratitude will flow at will.

I was reflecting on past Thanksgivings and the struggle I have had, even in the best of times, when it comes to making good food choices at these holiday feasts. I am not sure what it is about special occasions that makes it more challenging than other days to be healthy, besides the simple abundance of those tempting offerings that adorn holiday tables everywhere. These days for me planning ahead makes all the difference when it comes to making healthy food and drink choices that leave me feeling fulfilled rather than stuffed like that turkey. So with my decision in place to be grateful today, a choice that benefits me everyday I make it, the practical side of me offers a healthy treat recipe that can make your day sweet without the guilt attached with some of the other food choices that may be presented at your feast. Here then I offer my guiltless goodie…


1/4 cup Grade B Maple Syrup

1/2 cup Coconut oil

1 tsp Vanilla

2 Eggs

1/2 cup Oat Bran

1/4 cup ground Flax Seed

1/2 cup Dark Cocoa Powder

1/2 tsp Baking Powder (note–>not baking soda)

1 pinch Sea Salt (for balance)

2 shakes cinnamon

1/2 cup Unsweetened Applesauce

1/4 cup Unsalted Almond butter

1/2 cup Organic Raisins, Walnuts or/and Coconut flakes

1 cup dark chocolate or carob chips


Note: can add 1 ripe banana for extra moist brownies

Heat oven to 350

Mix Maple Syrup, Butter Spread, Vanilla, Eggs, Peanut Butter & Applesauce together. Then toss in the raisins/walnuts & 1/2 cup of the carob chips.

In separate bowl, mix dry ingredients; oat bran, baking powder, salt, cocoa, cinnamon, flax, etc.

Then, as guessed, mix dry ingredients into the wet bowl and spread into greased square pan (Trader Joes has a great spray olive oil) 8x8x2 inch pan, if possible.

Bake for 22 minutes, then turn oven off and add the 2nd half of the carob chips (1/2 cup, although I usually add more) on top of cooked brownies. Close oven and let warm for 1 minute.

Be sure to not leave in too long with chips on top or it will ruin the spread-factor (no fun).

Take out and spread melted carob or dark chocolate chips on top to make icing. Cover to keep moist, then eat when even the slightest bit ready and enjoy!!

Finally, I ask you to take a moment in reply here to offer what your gratitude will be on this Thanksgiving day. Writing is perhaps one of the greatest action tools there is in creating your life experience. Enrolling others in your vision will also help us all to create a Happy Thanksgiving day! And I do hope it is a happy one for you but hope is not required when choice is made. Remember your choice to BE grateful along with your actions today is what will create your reality. You are a powerful creator…choose wisely.

No matter what is happening in the circumstances area of your life, may you create this day as the most incredible Thanksgiving ever. And then perhaps, consider making that choice each and every day going forward, because everyday can be Thanksgiving day. Imagine then, a world where the greater number of us chose gratitude over guilt, love over fear, peace over war etc. etc. etc.

There is much to be grateful for today – how will you choose to express and fulfill that state of beingness? Holding you all in prayerful gratitude – JR

(J.R. Westen, D.D. is a Holistic Health & Spiritual Counselor who has worked and presented side-by-side with Neale Donald Walsch for over a decade. He is passionate about helping individuals move beyond their emotional and spiritual challenges, transforming breakdowns into breakthroughs. His coaching provides practical wisdom and guidance that can be immediately incorporated to shift one’s experience of life. As is true for most impactful teachers, J.R.’s own struggles and triumphs inspired him to find powerful ways of helping others. Sober since June 1, 1986, J.R.’s passion for helping individuals move through intense life challenges drove him to also specialize in Addiction and Grief Recovery. J.R. currently shares his gift of counseling & coaching with individuals from around the world through the Wellness Center, Simply Vibrant, located on Long Island N.Y.  In addition, he works with Escondido Sobering Services and serves on the Board of Directors for the Conversations with God Foundation. He can be contacted at, or to book an appointment, write

Each year, the fourth Thursday of November is set aside as a day of giving. As we give our dishes, give our time, and give our thoughts, we come together on this day to give our love to our closest family and friends. If only once a year, we become aware of just how significant these people have been in co-creating our life story.  By giving our love, we become grateful of the love that has been given to us.  For the essence of this day, Thanksgiving Day, is the expression of gratitude.

As we express our gratitude, we slowly begin to understand the Bigger Picture.  When we are grateful for all the little moments, with friends, with family, with ourselves, we begin to understand how each of these moments, occurring at exactly the same moment and instant of time, transformed our very definition of Who We Were into Who We Are.  By taking a single moment of gratitude for these moments, we are inspired by the incredible awe of how every decision, every occurrence, every conversation led us to become the very being we are today.  By taking an entire day of gratitude for these interactions, we are the source of ever-constant awareness that only seeks to expand love and compassion in everyone that crosses our path.  Within just this one day, we spread our gratitude into a world that needs further compassion.

Within understanding the feeling and energy behind gratitude, we can’t help but to wonder about our time frame for giving the gift of gratitude.  Why can’t we nationally recognize gratitude on more than just one day in the year?  Why can’t our thankfulness for our family, friends, and community last longer than the second course of the dinner?  We can extend our gratitude beyond the calendar day and into every day and continue to feel that awe and wonder in every breath of life.  Loving another, or even loving yourself, has NO limitations in its magnitude or its duration.  Within our generation of teens, the gift of gratitude is one that is felt far beyond one day, but extends itself into lifetimes.  We, as the new generation, will decide our choice of expression.  Live the word.  The Word of Gratitude.

(Lauren is a Feature Editor of The Global Conversation. She lives in Wood Dale, IL, and can be reached at

As we once again find ourselves on the threshold of the Thanksgiving holiday, the season of gratitude, I want to thank God for everything in my life that is wrong, for all the things in my life that I have either lost or never received, and for all the outcomes that did not turn out right.

…I want to thank God for the relationships that are no longer a part of my reality in the way they once comfortably were, for the friendships and lovers who transitioned out of my life and moved in new directions, and for the encounters with my Brothers and Sisters on Planet Earth that were less than pleasant and far from an experience of Oneness.

…I want to thank God for the money that is not in my bank account.  I feel especially grateful for having to give up some of the things in my life I truly enjoyed because I could no longer afford to pay for them.

…I want to thank God for the moments in my life when I felt alone, as though nobody understood me or even cared, the moments where the silence in the room echoed loudly, the colors of life were drained of their vibrance, and time stood dreadfully still.

…I want to thank God for the professional promotions I did not receive, the career opportunities I was overlooked for, and the jobs I was matter-of-factly asked not to return to.

…I want to thank God for the aches and pains in my physical being, the nights where I am plagued with insomnia, the extra body weight I have had a difficult time shedding, and the way my mirror stares mockingly back at me some days.

…I want to thank God for the rattle in my car, the leaky faucet in my bathroom, the slowest line at the bank, the disproportionate number of red lights during my morning commute, last night’s quarrel with my spouse, the empty orange juice container, the paper cut, the stubbed toe, the neighbor who mows his yard at 6:00 a.m., and the one red shirt that mysteriously found its way into my washing machine along with a load of what is now formerly white clothes.

Yes, God, thank you.

The wonderful and lovely occurrences in life present us an obvious opportunity to experience and express gratitude.  Appreciation flows generously in moments of ease and abundance.  But how can we experience thankfulness in the midst of strife and turmoil?  How can we feel abundant when we feel as though we have nothing?  Is it possible that the events in life that reveal themselves to us under the guise of calamity hold within them the same opportunity for self-realization as those which seem to appear peacefully and effortlessly?

The people, places, and things which show up as “wrong” serve to illuminate that which is “right,” remembering that it is only within the human understanding of “wrong” or “right” that anything can be judged as so.  There is not a single occurrence which does not lead you to a higher experience of Who You Really Are, whether you are being invited to that remembrance through an experience of having or not having, losing or finding, propelling forward or retracting back, feeling frustrated or feeling overjoyed.

I will be expressing my deepest gratitude to God for the “nothings” in my life this Thanksgiving and thanking Her for the expanding awareness that continues to allow me to see the possibilities within what might otherwise appear to be “wrong.”

How about you?

(Lisa McCormack is the Managing Editor & Administrator of The Global Conversation.  She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at



I have a question about signs. I was in a relationship and always noticed my boyfriend’s first name everywhere…also the word “ring.” I kept thinking to myself why ring..I didn’t see him proposing?? Then I would see a wedding ring…odd. We broke up and I wish him the best, but just this week it started all over again. It has been a year!!!I feel like I am nuts. It doesn’t make sense. Is this a sign or something else?  Because I am confused.  ~T.

Dear T.,

If you think it is a sign, it is a sign. But a sign of what?

You could go into the creative, romantic side of you and think that it means he’s thinking of you, and that is certainly possible. It might, and I believe more probably, mean that you are thinking of him and haven’t yet resolved your issues around him and the ring.

Which leads me to a small discussion on preferences vs. expectations. Culturally, we are taught to expect the ring, so we go into a relationship with a very narrow focus of what it should look like…expectation. Only one way of fulfilling the vision. Preference, on the other hand, says that the ring would be nice, but that you know there are other ways of having a good relationship, and that you are open to any way that shows itself, and that is mutually agreeable.

Then, perhaps, these are signs that you should look at what is actually true about the relationship, based on what you actually experienced and witnessed, rather than the story you made up about those things. Just as a short example:

Fact: He left me.

Story: He broke my heart, he doesn’t love me, he thinks that I am the worst person in the world.  (I’m making this up, of course, because I know nothing about your breakup.)

T., it’s up to you to decide what the sign means. It could be as simple as you asking you to make up your mind about what you really feel. It could be he’s thinking of you. Or it could be something else entirely! I absolutely believe that God talks to us constantly, through little signs all day long. I also believe that if we “listen” through the body, via that old tummy test, we will actually know what the conversation is about!

Find a quiet place, sit down, think about the things you have just read, and see how they feel in your tummy.


(Therese Wilson is the administrator of the global website at, which offers spiritual assistance from a team of Spiritual Helpers responding to every post from readers within 24 hours or less, and offers insight, suggestions, and companionship during moments of unbidden, unexpected, unwelcome change on the journey of life. She may be contacted at

(If you would like a question considered for publication, please submit your request to, where our team is waiting to hear from you.)

Men have been gathering in small groups for support and wisdom since the dawn of civilization. From the seasoned elders to the fired-up young warriors, circles of men have convened for millennia to express and explore, concerns and ideas which rejuvenate and replenish wholeness to themselves and the world.

I have been honored and privileged to be a part of a men’s group for the last two decades. The idea is to meet on a regular basis to tap into the collective gifts of the group–usually eight men at most.  Individuals’ issues come and go as regularly and predictably as the relationship between the Moon, the Earth and her sacred tides. When the room is attuned, when all are present, the singular clarity that any one man’s issue is the issue of every man becomes crystal clear. Marriage, family, career, health, creativity, loss, success, wonderings, longings; it’s all there waiting for the wake-up call. As the issues are triaged by the elders and the bantering quells, the listening begins, the judging stops, and men are heard and seen and held in the highest regard.

The container for what goes on in the group grows and becomes increasingly larger as trust is assured in this place where the agreement is to practice presence, compassion, and empathy for one another. The agreement is to foster the observer in each of us, to become better men.

In my tenure as a men’s group member, I have watched, participated and learned about life’s issues from the frank fear of living to the shadow of prejudice — whether it be racial, sexual or spiritual — to the underlying truth that we all care deeply about our lives, each other, and the world. We all come with a coat of armor and a story with a central grievance that is gently prodded, taken off, and put aside ever-so-slowly as safety and respect are established.

The presumed secrets of each man come tumbling out as the collective nod of, “Oh, we already knew that about you” never ceases to surprise and delight us all.

When men meet and sit in a group together on a regular basis, the truth emerges. Men will not, cannot lie to each other for long–we won’t stand for it. When men can stay for this awful, ecstatic truth about their lives to become finally and unavoidably explicit to themselves and the world, something fantastic happens. What happens is that living in a contracted and compromised way is no longer an option. What happens is when a man gets his life and transcends, lets go of, a story that may no longer be working or healthy, he goes out and gets his life with dignity, authenticity, passion and support.

Since the Industrial Revolution and more recently the Technological Revolution, men have had scarce little of this kind of training or support. Many of our fathers and father’s fathers were physically and/or emotionally absent as a result. Men have been asked to go out into a world that is antithetical to a deep, intimate understanding of what it’s like to live in another man’s mind, body and spirit.

Is it any wonder we can continue waging the atrocity of war with rational lies while conducting business like Wall Street’s infamous Gordon Gekko? Is it any wonder why we have become a country of consumer addicts and substance – from food to pharmaceuticals – abusers? Is it any wonder we can continue to poison the Earth and environment and abuse our companion species and forms (like water and minerals) as if we had another planet to live on when we’ve destroyed our home? Good planets are hard to find.

Without a small group of men meeting in every neighborhood with the intention of diving deep down into the biology of beliefs of the individual and collective, with willingness and openness to evolve and grow, men become isolated and laminated with facade and lifelessness. Without committing to a regular discipline of dropping the pretense of unhealthy competitiveness and greed and exploring our one short life together with other men, we cannot possibly tap into and deconstruct the unconscious, implicit memory and patterns that haunt our families and drive so much of what has gone dysfunctional in the world. Without a passionate desire to lose the act of supposing to know what to do in a world of bad actors and outcomes, men cannot possibly become the best fathers, sons, husbands, partners, brothers, providers, protectors, and citizens they were born to be.

When men awaken to the responsibility of consistent participation in a masculine community, isolation fades and the benefits of gathering are progressively revealed as deep wounds and truths are made consciously available for practical application.
Men adore, respect, and seek to be in the company of women. But men are empowered, genuinely empowered, by other men.

When men can stay and share their lives, hopes, aspirations and dreams with other men, something fantastic happens, and something fantastic needs to happen to save the world.

(Dr. Herby Bell is the director and owner of Recovery Health Care in Redwood City, California, where men’s groups form and are held on a regular basis. For more information contact: 650-474-2121 or