“I think one of the biggest things that I think our culture needs to learn to do is say, I don’t know and then listen. Because we are a very yang oriented culture, we’re about achievement, success, movement, activity. And part of the roots of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism are this environmental destruction, ecocide. The destruction of indigenous cultures is rooted in this suppression repression of yin, this repression of the feminine. And that I just think that’s I mean, at one of the most basic levels, a lot of a massive cultural pathologies are rooted in this. And so on the individual level, that can look like always having to have an answer. And this is a classic representation, a classic characteristic of whiteness as well. It’s like always having an answer and having to be perfect and having to figure it out and be the one to do it. And I think when we do that, we are stepping past our role in that moment. I think we have to always be able to listen, which means be present with what’s here. Without being so overly involved that we need to change it. Fix it. Control it. But also not so distant that we’ve become disconnected or disassociated. And I think we tend to as a culture like by we I mean the general culture of Western society today, tends to get in too much. And so if we can all just say, I don’t know, I’m listening. I’m learning, I’m listening to other perspectives. I’m waiting while taking the best action. I think it’s an important shift.” – Guest, Leo Bierman
On this episode of Meditation Happy Hour, Spiritual Healer, Interfaith Minister, and Activist Leo Bierman and Karuna talk about how these times of crisis, as challenging as they are, are also sacred opportunities for change. Leo provides much insight into the process of using crisis as a catalyst to serve this aching world.
Don’t have a lot of time? At minute 12:06, Leo talks about his upcoming 4-week course “Finding Your Purpose and Path During Times of Crisis” that kicks off on 1 July on Mind Oasis.
If you are committed to serving the world, and are looking to step definitively onto your soul’s path during this time, this course is for you. Leo is also the co-author of Purpose to the People: A Handbook for Radical Transformation.
Karuna: Hi, I’m Karuna, I am the Founder and Executive Director for Mind Oasis. And today I have a guest on Meditation, Happy Hour, Tea Talk and Truth with Karuna, and my guest is Leo. Leo, how are you?
Leo: Pretty good. Pretty good. Thank you.
Karuna: Yeah, tell me about your day so far.
Leo: My day. Well, I just came from watering the garden. I’m here in Brooklyn, New York, and have a very fortunate I have a garden growing some food. Was watering before that. I was in a course that a friend was putting on for heart centered entrepreneurs who see.
Leo: Yes. Using systemic constellations. I don’t know if you know about the modality, family and systemic constellations.
Leo: It’s really cool.
Karuna: Make sure that we get better later in the interview because I want to hear all about it.
Leo: And before that, I think I ate breakfast and did some meditation and woke up kind of late today. That’s basically my day.
Karuna: Very cool. Very good.
Karuna: So what I always try to do in these interviews is to get to all three of the parts. So Tea which I’m actually doing coffee today.
Leo: I have water.
Karuna: OK. There you go and Talk. Which we’ll have no problem with and then Truth. And we’ll get there at the end. So. You are in Brooklyn and this is the time of Covid and this is the time of Black Lives Matter. So can you tell me and us, the listeners a little bit about your experience with where you are right now?
Leo: Sure. Yeah. Well, it’s been changing every day. And the past three months. Honestly feel like a lot longer than that. So it’s hard to it’s hard to summarize. I would say it’s been a journey. Covid has been quite a journey here because that’s definitely thrown my life for quite a loop in very positive ways. But also, it’s meant I can’t work because I’m an acupuncturist by trade. And that’s something I wasn’t able to do until just recently, which now I’m starting to figure out how to go back to it a little bit. But I’ve been spending a lot of time here. Once everybody was safe and once once we kind of had our protocols in place, I started spending a lot of time on my practice and a lot of time listening to how my life is moving right now and how I can be of more service in this next phase of my life. So that’s been a big part of it.
Leo: And now that this uprisings come about, it’s brought another level of listening in for me and also more challenges, honestly, because with this listening there’s a lot of voices, there’s a lot of voices I’m listening to and even though listening around social justice and social movements has been something I’ve been doing for years now, as someone who’s been very involved in what we call sacred activism, which is basically trying to integrate spirituality and social change. And I co-ran a center for a number of years in Brooklyn called the Brooklyn Center for Sacred Activism. These are questions I’ve been sitting with for a long time, but that are still very much questions for me every single day. So, for example, Black Lives Matter. I’ve been observing my hermit nature that I’ve sort of gone deeper into the past few months and trying to figure out what to do with that. When the times are calling for so much more of the warrior archetype. And that’s been a struggle for me because there are times when I’m very much in the warrior. But I’ve been having to figure out what does that mean for me right now? And also, how can I not only try and respond right now in a way that supports racial justice, that supports the specific movement, the way it’s being led and where it’s headed, while also looking at my work and seeing how can I shift what I’m doing in the way I’m doing it? Do I need to shift it? And how can I shift it in such a way that is supportive of this movement over the years? So these are very much open questions for me, and I would probably have to say that. I’ve been less action focused recently than a lot of my internal voices would like me to be, parts of myself would like you to be and more internally focused with small actions here or there. That’s where I’ve been at.
Karuna: Yeah, for some of us, this is a time of reflection, and for others it’s a time of full on action. And then I suppose there’s something right there in between. I find it to actually be a pretty personal conversation that those of us who care about spiritual practices, care about what’s happening in our world — inner and outer have to grapple with. And I’m not convinced it’s a one size fits all. And yet, I’m a bit of a hermit myself, even though I’m an extrovert, even though I’m the face of Mind Oasis. Right? Even though I’m the founder. Even though I teach almost every day. The truth of the matter is, apart from that, I live in the mountains and I’m pretty inclusive, reclusive almost. And so I grew up in a town between Chicago and Milwaukee, called Racine, Wisconsin. And, you know, and a lot of my friends I see out there, you know, really putting themselves on the line for a cause that’s really important. Right? The racial injustice of this country is abominable and is falling. Right? And yet here I am in the mountains. And so, I think those of us who have a spiritual practice and contemplate are our contemplating our role and how we can best support.
Leo: I think that certainly within the realm of activism and any kind of social change and also just that this is something that’s going to come up in the course a lot I think is in discerning our calling and vocation at any given moment there. You know, I think the ecosystem metaphor is really appropriate. The ecosystem of change that, you know, just like any natural system, in order for change to be deep, long lasting, thorough, there are so many aspects of that of that ecosystem of transformation and change that need to be addressed. And everybody is already situated within that ecosystem and in a particular way. Everyone already has their niche, their role, their skills, their callings, their wounds. I really do believe that it’s super important for us to be able to listen to where our niche is; part of the dance, though, and this is this is the dance that I personally am always playing with and trying to find a more healthy balance in, is the dance of yin and yang; the dance of passivity, of inward contemplatives time and also activity. Because I think, you know, one of the shadows for spiritual people, and I include myself in this category, can be that we spend a lot of time contemplating without doing anything about it.
Leo: Whereas on the other side. One of the shadows of the activist community can sometimes be acting without developing the internal container to do that in a way that might create healthier, like a healthier culture and a healthier change ecosystem. So, I feel both. And I’m aware of where I sit on that spectrum and I’m constantly adjusting that and also with with particularly with this movement now with racial justice. Another piece of that that I’m watching is white privilege tends to use this more yin approach of avoidance and passivity and disconnection in such a way that reinforces white supremacy. And so I’m also observing that in and how it informs a lot of our spiritual cultures, like modern Western spiritual culture, including myself, and how what really is white privilege tends to make it easy for us to step back and wait and watch and listen for a long time. And so I’m only naming that because I think I’m personally dealing with it right now. And I deal with it often.
Karuna: Yeah. So let’s just for a second here and I want to come right back there. But you are bringing a course to Mind Oasis, and it’s called Finding Your Purpose and Path During Times of Crisis. One of the things I find interesting about that is that originally I think we were sort of thinking about this in response to the coronavirus the current epidemic. And here we are with an extra added layer and perhaps by the end of the year, even we’ll have another layer yet. So what to do? And it’s on Wednesdays and it’s all throughout the month of July. And you can find more at MindOasis.org.
Karuna: But why don’t you tell us a little bit about what you envision for the course and also maybe who is your audience, you know, who would benefit from from coming through this with you?
Leo: Well, that’s a great question. So the people that I think this course is for is anyone who is sitting in this time of change feeling a strong call. Where they have a sense of what they’re here to do, and they have a sense that there is maybe some distance between where they’re at and where they feel called. If these people are determined to bridge that distance, to step into why they’re here and are ready to take some bold steps to get a little bit uncomfortable and to create some radical change in their life right now at this moment of opportunity. And that’s really what this course is for. One reason I’m doing this course is because literally doing this course now is part of my own process of taking those steps and letting the flow of my talents and gifts actually move even when it’s uncomfortable for me. So even though this is work I’ve been doing for quite some time. This course is one of my own steps to make sure that what I have actually makes it into the hearts, minds, hands of people. And I hope that this course can help other people to do the exact same thing within the course of a month – or to at least take some very big steps.
Karuna: Awesome. And tell us a little bit about the structure of the course or what you’re thinking and also maybe a little bit about your background so folks can understand why you’re qualified to help us go on this journey.
Leo: Great. So the structure is pretty simple. Basically it takes one rhythm and sort of repeats it and goes deeper each time. So that rhythm is first, discerning the call that’s happening right now. So discerning both the long term call: Where is my life headed? Sort of like the larger map or Google Earth view. And then getting down to the street view of what’s around me right now and where is the path in this moment. So getting really clear about that. And oftentimes, I think people aren’t taking steps because they just don’t an opportunity to take the time to really identify what’s here and where am I going. It’s not that hard. And then seeing what obstacles arise for us, there’s a lot of typical obstacles that that can arise: doubts, practical concerns, and a lot of monkey mind. And then it’s basically us working through those obstacles, learning some principles for how to address obstacles and conflict and stuckness in general. And then also using what’s arising in people’s process throughout the month to actually go through the process together and then re-evaluating before we take big steps. So figuring out, OK, based on where I’m trying to go, what is it that I need to do right now? Supporting each other in that process? Doing it, coming back and readjusting our compass and see how we’re doing. And this is the very simple, basic structure that then is fleshed out by practices, journaling, practices to develop your intuition, dialogue practices, some embodied practices to learn how to discern the difference between some of these voices that we encounter and also how to embody what we’re trying to become and not just have it up here, but literally learn what is it like in my tissues to be in this and how do I stay rooted in that?
Leo: The last thing I’ll say about the structure of the course is just that I don’t know how a lot of the other courses are taught. One of things that’s important to me whenever I teach a course is to have a lot of dynamic involvement from all the participants. So basically, this is not just there’s a bunch of stuff I can teach you about how to do this and then you can go and do it. The most valuable thing that I find with this type of process is actually seeing how your path arises and having a community to examine that path, help you take those steps and to stay with you. So I’m gonna be asking for people’s participation. We might be having breakout groups. There’s gonna be a significant amount of work that you have to do between each week to really move your life in the direction you want. So that’s the basic description.
Leo: And as for myself, I would say the most relevant pieces of information about myself are I have a few different pieces. First of all, professionally, I’m a healer. So I’m an acupuncturist, a Chinese medicine practitioner. And I have a clinic, a private clinic and a community clinic in New York that I have been practicing in for years. And so with that background, I’ve actually learned a lot about how change happens, a lot about how transformation occurs, a lot about how to move energy and what wholeness looks like.
Leo: So those tools are always coming into my work and really inform underpinning of change. Then there’s also my spiritual cultivation history. So the core of my life since I was pretty young has always been spiritual cultivation. And I practice a lot different traditions. I studied comparative religion in college and then I went to an interfaith seminary to become interfaith minister and my current practices; I have three main practices, I practice in a kriya yoga lineage, Tibetan Mahamudra and Bon Dzogchen tradition, and also a Taoist Tradition. All of these are constantly informing what I’m doing as well. And also they help me to facilitate the connection between your soul and how it’s expressing itself inside of you. And then in your life. And part of that also, as I’m trained in spiritual directions. I’m a spiritual director and I help people navigate, especially people who don’t sit in only one tradition or experience themself as within one tradition, but also wider than it. I help them to navigate their internal landscape. And then also navigate their experience of life while integrating their spiritual life. So that’s probably one of the most relevant tools that I’m bringing here. And finally, there’s a social change piece. So this comes from my years co-running the Brooklyn Center for Sacred Activism and writing and co-writing this manual, which we’ll probably use a little bit of, it’s called “Purpose of the People: A Handbook for Radical Transformation.” And this manual is all about how to go from I don’t know how to help but desperately want to, to taking effective action that’s rooted in your spiritual values.
Karuna: Are we able to get the book?
Leo: Yes, it’s free. It’s a PDF.
Karuna: Tell us, where do we find it?
Leo: You can go to Sacred Activism.NYC and you just scroll down a small amount and you’ll see the cover. And you can click on the link and you can download it and use it.
Karuna: Yay! Thank you. I was sitting here thinking I’m going to offer your course to our community meditation teachers. I think that it will be so helpful. Community Meditation on Mind Oasis is something that we offer daily. These are just 30 minute sessions and we offer them depending – four times a day or so. And, you know, a lot of people come together for online group meditation for many different reasons. And I think that our teachers are always looking for resources to hold the container in ever more safe and productive ways. And as you’re describing kind of the personal journey of your course it got me really fired up to get those guys involved. So thank you. I’d be so much fun.
Karuna: Yeah. And and what a cool way. I mean, I’m just thinking through for our listeners, you know, if you have a family, like if you have a family that’s encountering the social change opportunity that we have, that you could come on as a family or if you’re in a small organization like us. I think it’s so needed, and I would just echo that in my own personal life I oftentimes feel like I do not know what the hell I’m doing right now. Yeah, that’s just being honest. I mean, that is really hard. You know, I think in this moment. But necessary. Right?
Leo: Absolutely. I think one of the biggest things that I think our culture needs to learn to do is say, I don’t know and then listen. Because we are a very yang oriented culture, we’re about achievement, success, movement, activity. And part of the roots of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism are this environmental destruction, ecocide. The destruction of indigenous cultures is rooted in this suppression repression of yin, this repression of the feminine. And that I just think that’s I mean, at one of the most basic levels, a lot of a massive cultural pathologies are rooted in this. And so on the individual level, that can look like always having to have an answer. And this is a classic representation, a classic characteristic of whiteness as well. It’s like always haven’t have an answer and having to be perfect and having to figure it out and be the one to do it. And I think when we do that, we are stepping past our role in that moment. I think we have to always be able to listen, which means be present with what’s here. Without being so overly involved that we need to change it. Fix it. Control it. But also not so distant that we’ve become disconnected or disassociated. And I think we tend to as a culture like by we I mean the general culture of Western society today, tends to get in too much. And so if we can all just say, I don’t know, I’m listening. I’m learning, I’m listening to other perspectives. I’m waiting while taking the best action. I think it’s an important shift.
Karuna: It’s interesting, I was reading an Osho book this morning. I think it’s called The Tantric Experience or something like that. And that’s exactly what he was talking about, is the suppression of the yin and suppression of the divine feminine. And I find that really interesting. I mean, I find that interesting in general, but I find it interesting because part of what I’ve been wondering is….and I kind of see it metaphorically in the toppling of statues right now, if there isn’t an opportunity here for the feminine to come back into the picture in a potent way. And what would our world look like that held like, for example, Gaia, Mother Earth and things like that as sacred? And and really, folks starting to turn instead of trying to find the sacred outward, whether it’s an outward God or or the outward god of money, what is the sacred that lives within all of us? And that’s without exception. So even the folks that we don’t agree with. Right? And that’s where the rubber hits the road. It’s rough, but it’s also the call of the warrior. And, you know, as you know. But for our listeners, you know, there’s an archetype, let’s say in Buddhism of the Bodhisattva, which is the warrior of compassion. If the world doesn’t need a warrior of compassion right now, I’m not entirely sure what it does need.
Leo: Yes, yes, yes. You know, that makes me think of it makes me think of how much we need indigenous wisdom, indigenous leaders. And this is something I don’t know what to do about. I don’t understand how to step into being led more by indigenous wisdom, indigenous cultures. But I know it’s something we need. And one reason I’m thinking about this is because when you were describing what you just did. It reminded me of the very short time I spent at Standing Rock and how that was the most potent and full expression that I’ve personally experienced of what a deeply sacred and honoring of yin activism looks and feels like, where the entire camp was consecrated ground, where ceremony was going on regularly, where community was key, where literally when we were being welcomed through the front gates into camp as a male-bodied person, I was told it is your job to protect the women that you’re coming with. And you know, for me, what that says in the most sort of metaphorical sense in terms of this yin and yang is basically just this honoring in this protecting of yin, which has not happened in much of our colonizing culture. And there was also so deeply embodied of a combining of seeing the sacred in everything. I mean, this was my personal experience just as a short term witnesser, and mild participator.
Leo: Just my personal experience and also the warrior quality, I witnessed bravery there that was uncanny for me. So that’s one thing that makes me think of is you know, we’re in some of these problems because we’ve just destroyed that wisdom. We’ve destroyed those cultures.
Karuna: I would have to agree with that.
Karuna: So one of my new questions that I’m asking guests… So I always start by asking what what folks days have been like, because it’s really interesting to see the similarities and the differences of how we start our days and how sometimes they’re full and sometimes you get to sleep in. Right? So the question that I’ve started asking, and it’s truly however you wish to answer. Is what is your truth? What is Leo Bierman’s truth?
Leo: What is my truth?
Leo: Well, my truth, the first thing that comes to mind is that, you know, some of the things I know fundamentally at the very core of my being, which is that this world is going through a very important and sacred transition. That I’m here on this earth to help that process. And that it is my role to help other people who are also here with that call. To become vessels of sacred transformation so that we can birth a new world because everything is sacred, because everything is one infinite consciousness. And my truth is that that is shining constantly. And anything we can do to polish the mirrors for that light in everything around us and everything within us, is deeply worth doing. And that’s certainly why I feel I’m here.
Karuna: Very cool. So, Leo, you’ll be bringing your course to Mind Oasis on Wednesdays in July. Yes, it starts next week. Finding your purpose and path during times of crisis. Holy cats. I can’t think of a more aptly timed four-week series. And we’re really excited to host you. So thank you.
Leo: Thank you very much. I’m looking forward to it. Thank you for giving me the chance.
Karuna: Yeah. Is there anything else you want to add? Is there anything else that you’d like listeners to know about you or about the chorus or about life in general?
Well, first I’d say they can e-mail me with any questions. Happy to answer any questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, yeah, I would just say that I’m looking forward to this course a lot. I’m really looking forward to helping other people take some steps. I would just say that if you’re feeling like that’s what you need, I would just invite you to to join us because I think it will be exciting.
Karuna: Ok, good. Well, you will find you can find any information about the course at MindOasis.org. And Leo is email@example.com. And Leo, thank you so much. Have a great rest of your day! Take good care.
Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of Meditation Happy Hour is the audio record.