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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Love or Violence

I heard Stan Dale once say, “There is either love or violence.  And even violence is a cry for love.”  I heard him say that, but what the heck does it mean?  What was he talking about?

You have to understand, this guy was my mentor, my guru.  The things he did and said, the workshops he created, the experiences he fed me… they changed my life.  I am content and calm in my old age because he showed me how.

By the same token this was a guy who would put his foot in his mouth.  He messed up often and when he was called on it he’d always own up: a humble man who had no compunctions about eating humble pie when called for.  But he made no apologies for saying there is either love or violence, and even violence is a cry for love.  

I cannot wrap my head around it.  What is love?  And for that matter what is violence?  Interestingly, the workshops Stan created about love don’t tell what it is.  Instead they offer a series of exercises so I can explore what love is for me.  Thanks a lot.

And regarding violence… the workshops don’t explore that at all.

So here I am in this place of confusion.  My head says this is ridiculous.  Whatever love is, whatever violence is, there must be more to human existence than just these two.  And violence as a cry for love?  What about rape?  What about war?  What about hate?  What about greed?  How can it all be reduced down to love like some kind of binomial equation?

I don’t know the answer to that.  But my problem is this guy was not some naive airhead.  His life experiences took him to profound places.  I’m not going to dismiss him just because my head says this is absurd.  Instead my plan is to create space to notice who am I and what happens in my life?  My life… not other lives on the other side of the world; not who’s killing each other in the Middle East and why?  (By now, who knows why?) 

What is violence for me?  What is love for me?  Is there anything else?  I just want to open my heart and see what shows up.

I’ll keep you posted.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

HAI Beliefs

HAI Beliefs

Sometimes when I get mad I'm criticized for being unHAI-like.  And I respond, “Who says?”  Where is it written that HAI tells me not to be angry?  And I’m left with the question, what in fact does HAI tell me to do or not do, believe or not believe, be or not be?

Stan Dale, HAI's founder used to boast that HAI is without Dogma. defines “Dogma” as an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc.  So Stan was saying HAI isn't going to tell you what to believe in… God, atheism, chakras, an intelligent universe, the law of attraction, etc. etc.  HAI doesn't care.  And it’s true that at workshops I've mingled with Catholics, Buddhists, gays, lesbians, trans, polys, monos, what have you.  And HAI had nothing to tell any of them about how they needed to change. 

So what does HAI believe?  What are its basic tenets/rules?  There’s no Bible to refer to and I’m no more an expert than the next guy, but I’d like to put down some ideas I think HAI believes in.[1]  And I’d like this blog to be a sounding board for others.  Write and tell me what you think HAI principles are.

Y    CHOICE.  At some point in every workshop you’ll hear a facilitator ask, “What is this workshop about?” and the group will answer, “Choice.”  HAI believes we are at choice.  Some folks take this idea to an extreme, saying that everything you do or happens to you is a choice… miss a bus, get hit by a falling piano, be gay… your choice.  That’s not a HAI belief.  But HAI does believe at least some of what we do is automatic, actions without thought, old learned habits that might no longer serve us.  And HAI offers us tools to help identify why we do what we do, and ways to expand on the number of choices we have.

Y    LOVE.  I think it’s a HAI tenet that we are born in love, born as love, and that love is our natural condition.  But what is love?  It’s HAI's practice to let each person discover and decide.  Love, Intimacy, Sexuality… it’s not for HAI to dictate, but rather to provide ways to improve our path of self discovery.  Stan Dale once told me there is either love or violence, and even violence is a cry for love.  Wow.  Is that true?  How do I wrap my head around that possibility?

Y    SELF DISCOVERY.  HAI believes that the person in charge of your path of personal growth is you.  HAI doesn't say you need to align your chakras, balance your energy or integrate your id with your ego.  Your goals are up to you.  HAI does have a lot to suggest about how to get there, wherever ‘there’ is.  Noticing is one of those powerful helping tools… noticing guilt, shame, where you’re loving yourself and where not, noticing your old stories… lots of skills to help turn the path of growth into a more and more exciting adventure.   

Y    RESPONSIBILITY.  Some folks say it means, ‘ability to respond’.  Very cute but I don’t think that describes HAI's relationship with responsibility.  I think it’s very important to HAI that I know what belongs to me and what belongs to you.  If my father tells me I’ll never amount to anything, HAI wants me to know that that’s what he thinks, and I can choose to take it on or not.  If I think anal sex is disgusting, HAI wants me to know that judgment belongs to me, and its major value is to inform me a bit about who I am, not who the other person is.  Sometimes we use the word, ‘responsibility’ to mean blame or fault.  That’s not what HAI is talking about.  Who am I?  How am I influenced by others?  How does that serve me?  That’s what HAI means by responsibility.

Wow.  This got a lot longer than I planned.  I hope it was interesting to you.  Those are four tenets I can think of at the moment, and I hope you’ll comment and suggest additional ones.  Be in touch and I hope I see you at a workshop soon.  I’ll send a schedule out and some suggestions about attending.

[1] I realize I’m treating HAI as if it were a person with thoughts and beliefs.  HAI is really a collection of people and ideas with a history.  We’re all a part of HAI.  We all contribute to its form and function.   

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

“Tales” is evolving.

When I conceived of “Tales from the Attic” I thought it would centre on the many musicians I've jammed with, reminiscences of the tumultuous Greenwich Village in the '60s, on the road with Sharon, Lois and Bram … the folkie stories.

There is some of that, but three of the stories are about Bosnia and Kosovo at war.  Another is about a dark journey into Cocaine; another about anger and sexual repression; and I’m developing one about jealousy.

There are stories about love, connection, and how music creates a harmony not only of chords, but of hearts.  And scattered among these tales are humorous misadventures.

Themes of conflict are emerging, personal, interpersonal and social; some loving conflicts and some not. 

Taking shape for me out of the exploration of these tales is the discovery that there is either love or violence, and even violence is a cry for love.  The first time I heard this from my mentor, Stan Dale, I found it a very hard saying.  How could it be true?  Rape, murder, war… is the Universe driven by two opposite forces or just one?  I question it to this day.  And yet the more I revisit the memories of war torn Bosnia and Kosovo, or the conflict of love and hate in Mississippi… the deeper I dig into the guts of my own soul, the more I find it to be true.

And other themes are emerging as I develop this show… meta themes.  When I was a teenager music was about impressing, getting girls, being admired... in other words, a way of masking the insecurities that lay within.  Now my music is less about putting up a front and more about sharing what’s inside.  I seek out my inner vulnerabilities and wear them, inviting my audience to experience the deeper me, even though I know there will be judgment.  We tend to spend our lives comparing our insides to other people’s outsides.  I don’t want to continue showing up that way.  I rest in the faith that the deeper we look into each others’ eyes, the more we see ourselves. 

Stay tuned for the next installment of discovering who I am and what I’m doing here.  I think “Tales from the Attic” will soon be coming to Shelburne, Ontario, and after that, Toronto.



Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A night on Cocaine

A night on Cocaine

Each object is painted in ritual. The little square of note paper, crisply folded into an origami pocket for the gram.  The gram, sifted, strained ... a scant teaspoonful, but from the paper pocket dreams and desires float on a line of white powder into my brain.

And the ritual of the straw.  Is it a twenty rolled up and held with a rubber band, or the barrel of a Bic pen, or perhaps it’s that little glass tube hiding in an odd sock in the back of my dresser drawer.

I place the mirror out on the bedside table, and the straw, and the gram, ... and the razor blade, old fashioned kind, single edged with the metal lip that fits comfortably between my finger and thumb.

Each object is painted in ritual, infused with magic.  Cocaine, the magic powder through which some take a spiritual journey, seeking the goddess, or messages from the elders.

And we use it for sex.  I chop four fine lines, each an inch long which we snort up each nostril… snort… there is no romantic word to substitute.  You don’t inhale a waft of cocaine, like fanning the misty aroma of a fine brandy.  You snort it up your nose.

And then we crawl into bed.  And presently her beauty unfolds like a time lapse Easter flower.  Every inch of her body electrifies my senses.  Our inhibitions drop away and sex, riding down a line of cocaine blends with my heart, my guts, my soul.  Sex becomes the language of our love, the connection we make, like cream sliding into a glass of tea, we become one.

And stories that spring out of us, ageless fantasies that unite infant to child to youth to now in a way that there is no time. She is a goddess, a mother, a queen, a haughty domina, a bitch.  Her aggression blossoms, She cultivates her selfishness to an art. She takes everything she wants with a singular passion.  And I surrender to everything she takes.  I enfold her power lovingly.  I do this with ease because she is me.  We are each other.  We could switch roles in a flash because all we are doing is playing with the opposites that are one.  As if our souls were like silly putty that stretches when you pull gently, or breaks when you tug and slap it back together.

And when the crystal clarity clouds around the edges we lean over the bedside table and snort again, gliding the tube along the string of ghostly powder, careful to lick up any last tiny grain lest it be left lonely on the mirror…. The mirror, becoming cloudy now with drying saliva.        

And the fantasies, the puffy white clouds among which we soared are settling to the ground and turning dark.  The garden in which we rolled on thick beds of flowers is showing patches of hard earth.  The euphoria is now just out of reach and tinged with a nameless fear.  So we snort again… and again… and again... and we continue to play our games but they are now more desperate as the gram dwindles like watching an hour glass and knowing when the last grain slips away, this glass cannot be turned over. 

When the little paper pocket was full our souls lit up the night, but now our souls are empty and dark even as morning sun exposes us lying motionless among the crumpled bed covers, naked, with an aching need, an anxiety that will not go away.  Exhausted but unable to sleep, unable to calm our beating hearts, that we have betrayed and now must pay the penance of its incessant beating. 

And I wonder if this is how God came upon Adam and Eve after they’d eaten of the forbidden fruit.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Hi all, 

The first “Love is a Miracle” weekend workshop of the year is in one month: April 11-13, 2014.  There will be one other, August 22-24.

I don’t need a HAI workshop

Folks sometimes tell me, “A HAI workshop?  Thanks but I don't need one.”  I guess they see a HAI workshop as a means to curing them of a condition and they don’t need fixing.

But fixing people is rarely HAI's job.  Much more often I've watched a HAI facilitator pave the way for a person to discover that they don’t have to think of themselves as broken.

I’ll be the first to proclaim that I don’t need a HAI workshop.  I also don't need delicious food.  But why exist on bland and deny myself the gift?  Don’t I think I’m worth it? 

In fact exploring our thoughts and noticing how they affect us is one of many tools HAI offers along with exercises that provide an opportunity to practice new thoughts.

Here are some other benefits of a HAI workshop: 

HAI looks at fear, not to teach how to get over it but rather how to use it.  Fears often point to opportunities for growth.  HAI offers tools for us to notice our fears, how they are different… or similar… to excitement.  HAI offers me skills to notice when fear limits my choices. 

My father hated dogs.  Little ones were yappy ankle biters and big ones were dangerous.  He reacted to a bark with a raised hand and a raised voice.  Dogs usually responded in kind, validating his fear.  He once told me that as a child he’d been bitten by a dog.  And although he lived with that knowledge, he never changed his attitude.  He maneuvered around dogs when he could, and stayed in fear when he couldn't.  My father didn't need a HAI workshop to get from birth to death.  But if he had ever wanted to expand on his choices, if he had wanted to learn to be comfortable around dogs, if he had ever wanted to enjoy the company of a dog, then a HAI workshop would have helped.

HAI looks at choice, offering tools to notice my choices, see where they serve and where not, and how I can live in greater choice.  I don’t know anyone who would not benefit from expanding on the moment to moment choices of daily life. 

If I don’t need more choice in my life, I don’t need a HAI workshop.  I can manage very comfortably from now until I die.  But isn't comfort seductive?  It seems safer to hang back and not snatch at the risks life offers us.  As Stan Dale used to say, avoiding risk is like living in a plush-lined coffin. 

HAI doesn't require dogma. There is actually very little one needs to believe in order to benefit from HAI.  It is not about beliefs, but about skills.  Chakras, God, meridians, atheism, or extra terrestrials – your beliefs are none of HAI's business; and most importantly there is no need to follow the preaching of some guru.

HAI does hold some fundamental beliefs that match mine.  I believe all people are beautiful at their core.  I believe that there is only love or violence, and that even violence is a cry for love.  I believe that there are better ways to deal with conflict than guilt and blame.  I believe I am my perfect partner, that I am responsible for my behaviour and you are responsible for yours.

HAI creates community, bringing folks together with the common aim of replacing ignorance and fear with awareness and love; a community where folks can experience an expansion of intimacy instead of contraction; where we can create a space for our partner to be who they are, and for us to be who we are so we can spend more time with family, partners, workmates and friends in an atmosphere of safety and trust.
HAI creates miracles.  I’m ever amazed by how many have told me their lives have been changed by the “Love is a Miracle” workshop.  I've attended HAI for more than a dozen years and they still have a powerful impact.  Each one affords me an opportunity to put my learning into practice. 

But it isn't for everyone.  I have met those who've walked away from the workshop saying, “Nope.  Not for me.”  I don’t know what makes us different.  I can only speak for myself, and I think what creates this match is my curiosity about people, about myself in particular.  What makes me tick has been a guiding beacon for my path of growth.

For me it all boils down to this: if I’m not on a path of personal growth then a HAI workshop is wasted on me.  But if I am into moving, changing, exploring, then a HAI workshop is a perfect place to grow, to discover and incorporate new behaviours.

So if you decide that you don’t need one but might want to give yourself the gift of a HAI workshop, please get in touch


Monday, March 10, 2014



I grew up Jewish in a Catholic neighbourhood.  There were ways in which I was marginalized on my block, hanging out with friends who not quite accepted me.  My father telling us at the dinner table how walking past the parochial school one warm afternoon he heard the nun telling her students that the Jews killed Christ; and at other times in my life, as a conscientious objector in a time of war, as an atheist in a progressively fundamentalist society.  But you don’t see that when I walk down the street, or when I apply for a job, or chat someone up in a bar.  I can choose when to let people know the ways in which I have felt less than privileged.

For many years I kept my Jewishness to myself and when people told Jewish jokes or called someone a Hymie, I would laugh along or nod my head. 

My grandfather’s name was Hymie.

But as the times and my surroundings changed I'd sometimes use my Jewishness as a badge to show that I was marginalized too.  I could hide or flash chameleon-like depending on convenience.  Now when people point to my privilege I refrain from whipping out the Jewish card. 

In June 1966, slogging down Highway 51 under the blistering Mississippi sun, advocating for voting rights, I was shocked when a black marcher looked me in the eye and said, “We don’t want you here.  We don’t want integration.  We want separation: Black Power.”  What the hell was he talking about?  Weren't we all in this together?  Wasn't I no different from him?  (There were many others on that march who did appreciate my company but it was a time of upheaval within the black community).  I didn't want to see that he couldn't hide his heritage as I could mine.  I just thought he was an asshole.

Since then I've been married to a black woman, and seen how the marginalization she grew up with contributed to her damage and how she lost her valiant fight for privilege.  I've been lovers with a woman who was a boy inside, witnessed the struggle of accepting and then the more painful struggle of declaring the dichotomy.  Notice I use the word ‘the’ in the previous sentence rather than ‘her’ or ‘his’ because not even our language has a word to describe my friend’s gender.  Those and other experiences left me knowing that I can only witness and never fully experience the struggles of others.

I was at a meeting recently in which a group of us were exploring gender diversity and identification of sexuality.  I heard a lot of people say some of their best friends were diverse, that they have no trouble accepting folks who are different, as if that absolved them of responsibility.  I identified with them, remembering how at one time I led myself to believe that I understood being marginalized.

But I don’t.  I cannot step out of my shoes of privilege.  I am not Tiresias who became a seer by living seven years as a woman.  I see so much of the world through the blinders of privilege.  It’s not enough just to say some of my best friends are queer as if that were an excuse for inaction, as if that exonerated me from being part of the problem.  If I want to be less of the problem, I need to be diligent in seeking ways in which I stereotype, ways in which I judge and I need to speak out, to act, because it is we, the privileged who hold the power for change.

There is a conundrum for me.  I believe with all my heart what Stan Dale first told me and HAI reinforces every workshop, that the deeper I look in your eyes the more I see myself, that I know you, you are just like me.  I live by the mantra that all there is is love or a cry for love.  And yet I must not kid myself into believing that I know where you came from, that I know your struggle.

We are all identical at our human core, but humanity has a lot of digging to do before all of that core can fully shine in the light.

Thanks and love,