Bobby Klein was a multi-modal spiritual elder who integrated clinical psychology, Jungian analysis, Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese medicine, and many indigenous traditions. He died a year ago; this episode honors his legacy.
Bobby died suddenly a year ago last week. I was fortunate to become very close to him in the final year of his life. I feel such extraordinary gratitude for the relationship we had and to have had the chance to bring his wisdom to this community.
In this episode we discuss the importance of service, the value of community, finding one’s purpose, the need for ceremony and ritual, how to really listen, and much more.
“Bobby Klein (BK): The thing that I found missing with a lot of people who were successful, that they were wealthy, they were unhappy, they were successful and they were – is they had no service in their life. No place to be of service. Not giving money to something. But hands-on service. Because we're meant to do that. If we talk about community and tribalism, everybody in the tribe did service for the rest of the tribe. And we've lost that. And that means we've lost a big part of who it is that we are.”
[00:00:33] Jenny Stefanotti (JS): That's Bobby Klein. An incredible, eclectic elder who we sadly lost just a year ago. And this is the Denizen podcast. I'm your host and curator, Jenny Stefanotti.
In this episode, we're talking about change from within with Bobby Klein. He was an incredibly wise elder who has an incredible life story. He was a photographer for The Doors. Really a child of that counter-cultural movement in the 1960s. And he had a problem with his eyes. But the doctors couldn't figure it out. And they wanted to do surgery.
And instead, Bobby knocked on the door of an acupuncturist in West Hollywood who, at first, refused to treat him and then quickly cured him in 15 minutes. And Bobby wanted to learn all about acupuncture and Chinese medicine. He was ultimately instrumental in bringing it to the U.S.
He also studied clinical psychology with an emphasis on Jungian analysis and Tibetan Buddhism. He is a student of many indigenous traditions. And along the way, with all these learnings, Bobby came to understand and develop his own psychic capacities.
I started working with him in 2021 and really soaked up his wisdom integrated across many different spiritual traditions. I wanted to release this conversation on the anniversary of his death. He's such a wise, incredible human and I miss him so dearly.
In the conversation, we talk about a lot of things. Talk about how to tap into our internal wisdom. And what are the significant things that we all get wrong? He talks about the importance of listening and how to listen. And the importance of community and so much more.
As with so many of these conversations with our elders, I feel like I just want to listen to it a couple times over to just soak up all the little nuggets of wisdom. This one is in memory of Bobby Klein. I hope you enjoy it.
[00:02:32] BK: I come out of the period of time in the 60s.
[00:02:34] JS: Oh, I know.
[00:02:34] BK: What I call before everything changed. It was around protesting in the Vietnam War. And we saw the Summer of Love end pretty quickly. And it ended for me in Century City when we were protesting the war and I got hit with a club in my camera lens. But that was indicative of what was happening. The time of peace, love and brown rice changed pretty rapidly.
Well, things did change. And it was the time of love-ins and be-ins and when we really gathered together. And it wasn't said that we were gathering together to make change. But we gathered together to see what was possible.
As a teacher, I usually start my lectures with I feel it's my responsibility to teach what I learned in that time. What we loosely call the Summer of Love. We saw that we could live together peacefully. That it didn't matter how much money you had. What your position in the world was. What sex you were. It didn't matter. Whatever was there, we were in this loose community where people looked out for each other.
I just remember one story at a – I had a human be-in like they had in Griffith Park in L.A. where I had a big load of cameras. I was a working photographer. And I left them down by a tree and I got up on top of a camper to take some photographs. And I was up there for – I left my cameras for about an hour down by a tree. And when I went down, they were still there. And that was – if I did that today in a park and I left ten grand worth of cameras on the floor, they'd probably be gone. But that was a different time. We saw a possible way to live.
I talked to my ex-wife a couple of years ago and we figured that – I was in Laurel Canyon. We figured we fed maybe 2,000 people during those couple of years, '67, '68. And people would trade. They would come by with something to trade. They'd help work in the house. But people came through and they were travelers and we all came together.
And the talk was about – it was some talk about drugs. But lots of talk about politics. About just what was happening and what was happening in that time for all of us. Feeling under the gun in many ways. The hippie generation. We are being stopped on the street to be searched and for what that was. And we had our protest that was called the Sunset Strip riots. And that was something that placed us pretty well in society.
I opened a restaurant about that time. And it was the first organic restaurant in L.A. Jack Nicholson was my financial partner. And so, the crowd that we got was an incredible crowd. And the people who came in, it was the likes of Tim Leary and Governor Brown and that. And it was a way of – really, it was a way of teaching and about what was possible. We didn't charge a lot of money. We had great food. But it was a business in a different way. Everybody there was a part owner.
And we had a good few years. And as I transitioned out of there, I had some trouble with my eyes. And I was under a lot of stress. Smoking too much dope. And my eyes were red, and achy and I was losing my vision. Nobody could fix it. But somebody told me about an acupuncturist in Chinatown. And I went up the back stairway in Chinatown. And the light – there was the light bulb hanging from a wire in the hallway. And I knocked on the door and he opened the door and he saw me.
In those days, my hair was down in the middle of my back. And I was wearing moccasins, and beads and feathers. And he slammed the door. He said, "No doctor here." But I was insistent. And he finally let me in. Fixed me in fifteen minutes. And then I convinced him to teach me. And so, I spent about three years with him. And then we opened a clinic that's now the East-West Medicine Clinic.
As we saw, again, it was possible, we were teaching doctors. I started a research facility at University of California at Davis for dogs, cats and horses. And it was really to prove that acupuncture worked. That it wasn't all in your mind. Because you can't convince a horse he's going to get better by putting a few needles in his back.
And that led me to being interested in indigenous information, indigenous people. And that's where I felt a lot of the – because I was studying with old men for me at that time. I'm now one of the old men. But the guys who were about my age, as I am now, to study with them. And that led me to travel through parts of South America, East Asia and studied with some masters. I was taken in. I've been very fortunate to have great teachers in my life.
And we talk about change from within. That really is what my practice is about. I consult with corporations. I consult with big companies. And that's where I want to teach. I want to lecture to big groups who are active in the middle of things, in the middle of business, in the middle of politics. So that we can make change from within.
And by going into the indigenous teachers, the elders, to bring the elders' information out now. It was very interesting, the planet and its wisdom. Now people are living to be older and older. And I think because of this great change that we're going through right now, that the planet's wisdom is having more elders on the planet. Because in that change, we need the wisdom of the elders. And I believe the elders will start to be respected. The indigenous elders will start to be heard. And we see that more and more.
I'm one of the few white elders teaching. It is what I teach. And it's led me to do things where I'm bringing elders from different communities and bringing teachers in. And allowing people to see what it's like to live in a community of wisdom and what that does for you.
And sometimes it's the wisdom that you pick up. But it's the wisdom of the community. And that we get the wisdom of the community moving, we then begin to open.
[00:08:39] JS: You've studied so many different wisdom traditions. What are the things that are bubbling up for you that are the most pertinent and relevant right now? I know there's not one. But I'm just curious. What are the things that are top of mind?
[00:08:54] BK: It's a time of compassion. And I have a lot of trouble when people say that forgiveness is where we should be in the world and society. Forgiveness is not really an action. But compassion is an action. And by having compassion for the people that we know works with even the ones that wronged us, it allows us to move forward and to be free.
[00:09:18] JS: Are you familiar with Adrienne Maree Brown's work?
[00:09:21] BK: No.
[00:09:21] JS: I was just reading her work last night. She's phenomenal. So resonant. And she just wrote this little teeny pamphlet, essentially, I was reading on the plane, around transformative justice. And it was really interesting, she distinguished between punitive justice – you talked about forgiveness, which made me think of it – which is the norm, versus restorative justice, which is a more prominent conversation. Versus transformational justice.
And what she really points her finger at is how essential it is for the movements themselves to embody the modality of being a just society and future and not replicate the harms that have been done onto them, unto others for punitive purposes or as an attempt for their own healing. And I find her work so fascinating.
[00:10:03] BK: Yeah. Yeah. It just brought me to mind, I was speaking about the elders. The elders are not normal people. They're weird people actually. And I believe all of us, all of us that are trying to make change are weird. And if we come back to the origin of the word weird, it talks about us following our song line. Following our song line through our lifetime.
And that is how we make change by being present and by being in our truth. And the things that are going to make the difference now is people – one, is finding their truth and finding the ways not to repeat the patterns that they've been stuck in. The ones that they got from parents, from school, from the government and everything that was laid upon us. That's where the elders, that's where the indigenous elders and that's where actual process comes in. People can talk a lot about what we can do and what we need to do. But what I found lacking is process. And that's what I teach.
[00:11:06] JS: I think also – well, there's – gosh, there's so much. Okay. And this is what you talk about finding your true self. And I'm so interested in this. How have we internalized these narratives? Systemic oppression. What success looks like. What worthiness is about. And how hard is it to parse that out from what's true?
And I'm actually really curious about – and a lot of what I talk about often is – how we use our heads. And we're so intellectual. We're especially intellectual here. But how do we leverage our other sources of knowledge? Donella Meadows is an extraordinary thinker who has talked about the urgency and complexity of the moment and the need to bring our whole of humanity. And how envisioning comes from something intuitive and deep, and not intellect.
I'm really curious about when we talk about finding one's truth and the patterns that are stuck inside. What do you think about the elders and what they have to teach us? And our bodies, and our intuition and what it has to teach us in sloughing off what we've internalized and finding our true selves?
[00:12:10] BK: In my practice and in groups, what I hear is I want to know what my purpose is in life. Why am I here? And that's the existential question. Why am I here? And why was I born? And what I find is, is that's where this indigenous wisdom comes from. I mean, I live in Tulum, which is in the Mayan territory. And in the Mayan culture, it's ceremonial. And that's one of the things that Western Society has lost, has lost ceremony. Right now, we're in a ceremony. We're in a community and we're doing a ceremony. And that's what people lose and don't have that process.
[00:12:50] JS: This is so fascinating. Are you familiar with the book Braiding Sweetgrass?
[00:12:54] BK: Yes. Yes, of course.
[00:12:55] JS: Yeah, of course. She had some really interesting things to say about ceremony. She talked about how in Western cultures, they took ceremonies and they focused on the ceremony of the self. The birthdays and the life moments. And they lost what a lot of the indigenous cultures had, where the ceremony was in of our connection to nature, to the land, ceremony around solstices and things like that.
And she talked about how cultures have to find their own new traditions. You can't import the traditions that other cultures had before them. Oh, sorry. The ceremonies themselves. I'm curious just what your thinking is around when you talk about ceremony? The need for ceremony? How do those new ceremonies get established?
[00:13:38] BK: I don't think it is. They're not new. But I believe that ceremony is a creative form. And that we might have some things we might use. We might use fire. We might use incense. We might use salt. We might use water. And doing a dogmatic ceremony, like in the Catholic Church, goes over and over in the same way. And it's a good way to focus. I've got no problem with it.
But as far as some place where you can grow. Someplace where you can find out more about yourself and find your passion. And pretty much, you want to make change. Find your passion. And then your change is going to come. And then you're going to be – I mean, I make kind of a joke and I say that ritual is so important with the Mayans, that if they had a good breakfast, they have a ritual for it.
But in some ways, it's true. And that knowing that you have a ceremonial life, that there's a ceremony to what you're doing. And it's important for us to find that and the simple things like our morning cup of tea or cup of coffee as the ceremony. It has a ritual. And then with our children, to have rituals with their children. So that they can understand just what that opening is.
I remember a story with my son. My son's now almost 50. But when we were living together he would say to me, "Dad, when I have my friends over, could you kind of put the incense and candles away so I could be there?" Yeah. I said, "Sure.”
And then about six, eight months later, I didn't know where he was. I thought he was in his room. I went down to his room. Door was closed. And I said, "Are you okay?" "Yeah, yeah, I'm fine. I'm fine." I said, "What are you doing?" What are you doing?" "Nothing. Nothing." And I opened the doors, he had set up his own altar, his own place to pray.
And that's what we need. We need a place of focus. And that's what I found – when I was in L.A., I worked with the big utility companies, the boards of directors. Bringing them to a place where they could understand that this coming together as a board of directors, it's a ritual. And that by allowing yourself to be in your truth, that a lot could get done and a lot could get changed.
[00:15:39] JS: Robin Wall Kimmerer talks about this too. She talks about the same actions done with intention, and focus, and presence, becoming ceremony, that would be just everyday things. You talked about that with the tea.
[00:15:51] BK: Right. With beautiful tea ceremonies. Well, I work for the prison system at Lompoc. I was a lecturer. And bringing ritual and ceremony in for the prisoners. The feedback I got, it became a more peaceful place. That there was some place that you could focus and some place that you could be quiet.
Because the truth is, about meditation or about praying, is coming to quiet, coming to silence and listening. And one of the big things that we've lost in our world, our busy world, is listening. People sit – I mean, how many times you sat in a conversation and you realize, "Oh, shit. I didn't hear what the last five minutes was about, what that person said." Because you're not there. You're not present. It is to learn how to listen. Because listening is a skill.
And when we get to that place – and that's what blows relationships apart. People don't listen to each other. And they don't hear. I make the analogy, little Johnny goes to school. And he comes home and says, "Mommy, Mommy, Stephen kicked me. Pushed me down the stairs. Took my lunch money and hurt my arm." And mommy said, "Well, I'm going to go to school. I'm going to talk to that teacher, the kid's parents." That's not what Johnny wanted. Johnny wanted her mother just to listen and to hold him and say, "Oh, honey, that must be really hard."
Because then as it goes farther, Johnny doesn't get what he wants, and then mommy says, "I don't know what it is. Johnny doesn't talk to me anymore." And that's the same with couples. That's the same with couples who do not come to the place where they are hearing each other, where they're listening to each other.
[00:17:24] JS: Bobby works with both individuals and couples. You've seen a lot of this play out over the years, I am sure. Well, I don't want to interrupt you. I do have some questions. But I want to let you keep talking and then I'll go back to a couple of key things.
[00:17:38] BK: I was just making the point about wisdom, about listening. And do you think that Palestine and Israel could listen to each other? Why doesn't that happen? Why isn't there listening? And I think that that's what we see in politics. I see it in corporations. And I see it with the clients that I work with.
And we talk about indigenous wisdom. But it's the old stuff. It's back where we come from. If we all go far enough back in our history, in our ancestry, we will get back to an indigenous culture. And if we can bring forward that indigenous culture into this time and place, then we're miles ahead, miles ahead.
What questions do you have?
[00:18:19] JS: Yeah. I want to ask something more specific. And then I'm actually really interested in your choice of working with businesses in particular. And I want to see how that ties into what we've been talking about here. And just the broader theory of change. How do you think about the theory of change? From change from within?
But I want to start with a more focused question that I'm really interested in. You mentioned the collective and the community wisdom. I'm just really interested to hear a little bit more from you. When you say collective wisdom, how do you see that emerging or coming into being?
[00:18:51] BK: Jung coined the word synergy, and that's what it is. It's the synergistic coming together of people, it's this combination or this mixing, if you will, of different cultures. But people at different places, operating at different harmonics, different frequencies. We are all frequencies. I mean, we know that that's true.
When I studied acupuncture, I had to learn a song in Chinese that was the name of 365 main acupuncture points. I didn't know what it meant but I learned to sing it. I was a good student. When I learned to translate Chinese, which I did for the I Ching book that I have that I learned to – I saw that the names of the acupuncture points were the names of the planets and stars. How do we get electricity to move our arms to have our heart beat? It's cosmic energy that comes into us. And acupuncture points are just a name we've given to receptors. We are all transmitters and receptors. And when we come together in community, then we double it, we triple it, we quadruple it.
And it's like Terence McKenna talked about the I Ching and about how the wisdom of the I Ching, it comes through ones and zeros. And that one we're coming together as a community. We come together with different frequencies and different energies. We become better receivers and better transmitters.
And then comes the time that we can share that part of our life that we're living. And then we come back to what I was talking about, it's coming back to your passion and coming back to what's your purpose. What's your purpose in life?
The thing that I found missing with a lot of people who were successful, that they were wealthy, they were unhappy, they were successful and they were – is they had no service in their life. No place to be of service. Not giving money to something. But hands-on service. Because we're meant to do that. If we talk about community and tribalism, everybody in the tribe did service for the rest of the tribe. And we've lost that. And that means we've lost a big part of who it is that we are.
[00:20:52] JS: Oh, gosh. And I just find that really fascinating. And I loved – and I actually wrote down the word harmonics and synergy. And obviously, synergy is something that's come up a lot in Buckminster Fuller, who we talk about quite a bit here as well.
[00:21:04] BK: I was part of Westwood University with Bucky. When Bucky was first doing his university classes, I was just coming into my own. And acupuncture had a lot of interest. And Buckminster Fuller had Western University, which talked a lot about government architecture. It was the idea of, how do we fix planet earth? You know, Spaceship Earth?
But you see, I think that that's what we're doing now. I mean, we're building a new manual. Now what you're doing is making a new manual. Because we need to have some place to go. And that's what's been lacking. No place to go. No place to go for information.
[00:21:41] JS: Yeah. I mean, it's actually been really fascinating. We had a conversation about stakeholder capitalism. And that's this kind of, I would say, all the rage in talking about what the state of business should be today. And I really challenged it and said, "I don't think that's the end goal. And this is why." And people have said that was the most visionary, and clear and informative conversations I've heard about this topic in years. And I think that we know that something's wrong and we're trying to fix it. And we're not taking the time to step back and actually say, "Wait, wait, wait, wait. Where are we actually going?" People are putting one foot in front of the other.
And people aren't really taking the time to step back and say, "What is the end goal? And how do we get there?" With respect to capitalism, where we've spent so much of our time, very few people, as far as I can tell, have really stepped back and said, "Well, wait a minute. When we add up all these things, what do we get?" Is that sustainable over the long haul?
It's taken me a year to get here. But I have a sense for it now. But I do think that the way that we architect our lives doesn't really give time and space for that. And then once you know where you're going-ish, then the path to get there becomes part of the question.
You were talking about how you work with businesses in your work today. And it sounds like you see that as a real leverage point. Obviously, businesses have become more centered around overall employee experience, and well-being and mindfulness. And you're starting to see meditation rooms. Show up in offices – when there were offices.
I'm curious, what is your take on this rise of corporate wellness culture if you would call it that? Sounds like it feels like an opportunity. I feel like business looks at it as a business opportunity. I'm curious, what's your take on that trend?
[00:23:33] BK: I think again, it's about communication. It's about witnessing and being able to trust somebody in your business. To trust someone that you're with to come into a place where you can be heard. Because again, people don't hear each other. And I think it's about communication. And that's what I work on when I work with either small groups as small as a boardroom. But as large as a group of employees putting them together so that they can find what their truth is.
And so, having a place for meditation is incredible. Or a place for yoga. But what it is above that is, it's people coming together with something in common that is not business.
[00:24:15] JS: Yeah.
[00:24:16] BK: You mentioned a goal. And what is the goal? And I'm just reminded about tribes. And I lived with the Hopi and some of the other – I visited a number of other tribes. But part of the tribes, there were runners that would run. And they would run from over the mountains. They would run to other towns, other tribes. And they would run through the mountains on the path, through the forest. And they would just run and run and run and run. But they had no goal. They had no goal. It wasn't about getting somewhere on time. It wasn't about to cross the finish line. But they were running.
And then what the community did is the community would have great celebrations where they would have great feasts. The runners were not at the feast. But the feasts fed the runners while they were running. And that's the way the community worked. And so, it was moving.
And we are the runners. We're all running. And if we take that into mind that all the celebration that happens and all that can feed us as runners. That we're moving. And it doesn't mean that you're a frantic runner, but you're on the road. And not to look at what – it's an old song where you say, "It's not the goal. It's the journey." But that really is true. And what happens in corporations is we understand we're sharing the journey. Corporations are recognized as an entity but as an entity without a soul.
[00:25:38] JS: Right.
[00:25:39] BK: And that's where the problems come.
[00:25:40] JS: That is a quote for us to hold on to for posterity. I'm going to bookmark that. Well, I also think it's so interesting. Actually, for me, I used to be really into working out. I went to the gym. And I went to boot camp. And then I discovered Bikram yoga. And Bikram yoga was their very athletic yoga. It gave me a good workout. And then that led to Vinyasa yoga, which led to Ashtanga yoga, which led to a daily meditation practice, right?
And so, it's interesting these Western cultural back doors to the spiritual practices in the same way that the corporate spiritual culture, the corporate wellness culture that I mentioned earlier kind of brings people in. But then once you start sitting, and once you start turning inwards, once you start, as you mentioned, focusing and being quiet, you start to be able to hear. And it happens whether that's your intention or not eventually. I mean, that's one of the things I love about yoga.
[00:26:36] BK: We talk about making change from within. And that's what it's about. Because we can touch one person. It's the pebble in the pond.
[00:26:45] JS: Let me ask, is there anything else we need to know about your overarching theory of change? Obviously, you know the scope of the conversation here. What you do is very much part of it. We have a similar theory of change around embodying the future and understand that that deep internal work is very much part and parcel to that transformation. I feel like we've got a sense of the theory of change. I just want to make sure that there wasn't anything missing in terms of how you were thinking about it.
[00:27:11] BK: Well, certainly changing our patterns that we have in our lives and taking the time to see what the old patterns were. But the big one is to stop lying to ourselves.
[00:27:21] JS: Mm-hmm. Okay.
[00:27:23] BK: And to have a brave heart enough to really look at what the lies are that we're telling ourselves. And I do a lot of that in my group work, which is on witnessing each other where people are at a safe place to tell where they've been lying to themselves. And when you move away from the lies that you've been telling yourself, about your work, about your body, about your brain, about your intimacy, whatever it is, that you come to clarity.
[00:27:47] JS: And are the lies that are pervasive?
[00:27:50] BK: Well, yes, I believe so. Well, a lot of it is lies of trying to be like others or trying to change ourselves to fit into a certain group. We want to look one way. Or we want to act one way. We want to talk some way. And we lie to ourselves. We lie to ourselves. And the big one is I'm not good enough. That's the big lie. And when we get through that place – yeah, go ahead.
[00:28:15] JS: No. No. And when we get through to that place –
[00:28:18] BK: Well, we get through to that place where we stop those lies to ourselves and realize the truth is we can do anything. And that really is true. We can. And there's ways to get there.
And again, I say there's got to be places to go. There's got to be a new book, a new manual, a new bible. However, we're going to do it. But we got to have a place to go. And I believe that is why I was looking forward to talking to you. Because this is what's going to change the world. It will be people coming together in their truth.
[00:28:50] JS: One of the things that I found so fascinating, this is an insight from my personal experience and also something that Adrianne Maree Brown touches on, and I was reading her stuff yesterday, is this question of worthiness. And this question of what determines worthiness, right?
That I'm somehow more worthy than you because I went to Harvard, and because I have more followers, and because I have more money, or because I am more ambitious. And you're less worthy because you stay home with your kid. I mean, it's just – and where do these senses of worthiness, and stories and narratives come from?
And there's this amazing young man named Davion Ziere who just blows my mind away. He's 27-years-old. And he's like, "You're worthy by virtue of being." And that's just such a –
[00:29:34] BK: Amen. Amen.
[00:29:35] JS: Such an extraordinarily important message. And I'm so glad that you mentioned it in this conversation. We've talked about how the essence of what you do is helping people find that true self inside. And Bobby, as I've said, is just truly a living legend. And I want to soak up as much of you as I possibly can while I still can. And hopefully that will be for quite a good while.
[00:29:54] BK: We're going to dig into our soul. And that's getting to the basics of who we are. And we come into transformation. And transformation is where we go to revive this idea of a soul. And I was blessed to have a teacher, Joseph Campbell. And Mr. Campbell said that we are monads traveling, getting different costumes in different lifetimes. But it is our soul that we're traveling with.
It's about equanimity, about peace, about wisdom. But doing it through celebration and allowing ourselves to have that transformation. Again, some place to go. We talk about living in the light. And the light is what illuminates our life path. And coming to that place about – what is it? Is it yoga that helps? Is it meditation? Is it dancing? Is it coming around fires? Meeting the indigenous elders? Well, it's all of that.
[00:30:46] JS: I'd love to hear any reflections or questions you have for Bobby.
[00:30:49] Speaker 1: Sure. Thanks, Jenny. And Bobby, thank you for being here. And this is such a pleasure. I was really looking forward to today. I just wanted to mention one thing. The practice of things. I think a lot of people are looking for how to kind of get to their peace or kind of get through to what they're working toward. And I just find that most people look for something quick. And I'm wondering if you have any thoughts about how our society right now has that mindset of kind of looking for something quick in their approach to personal growth or healing?
[00:31:23] BK: Yeah, I think it's certainly not about the quick fix. I mean, that's obvious. It's not about the quick fix. And people who sell the quick fix, it fades away. But work that I do even in my practice – and I mean, my practice, I give lots of homework. There's a lot to do. And you bring this ceremony and ritual into your life and to get process. Just to be good, practical, uncomplicated.
And everything I teach is not complicated. It's really simple. My meditations are simple. My processes are simple. And I believe the more simple things are, the more they get inside of us and they become really a part of us. There is no quick fix. And like I said before, it's a never-ending path. It's a long and winding road.
[00:32:09] JS: And one of the things I love too is the idea that you commit to a practice. It's not that you have the answer and suddenly the problem is solved. Systemic racism is done. We sat in a workshop and it's done, right? It's that you commit to a practice.
Joe, it's great to see you. I'd love to hear any questions or reflections for Bobby.
[00:32:27] J: Hey, Jenny. Hey, Bobby. It's lovely to be here soaking in this conversation. The question that I have for you, what's coming up for me, I'd love to hear your thoughts around just the aspect of community. I'm discovering that to do my inner work, I'm requiring people close to me and sustain deep relationships to be able to hold each other. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how community plays into this kind of wider unfolding that we're talking about.
[00:32:51] BK: We're not alone. The loneliness that is happening in the world, people are so isolated and they're feeling alone. And it's that loneliness that eats away at your heart, eats away at your soul. But if we have a community of like-minded souls, ones that we can be with, who we can trust, then we're supported.
And it's what I talked about when I talked about synergy. But I also talked about how the word energy is so overused. But it is this energy. This etheric body that we have that we share. And it is that one plus one makes ten, or 20, or 50, or 100 when we come together. And that's what community is about.
And I believe the community is what will save the planet. Will the planet ever be taken out? I don't believe that'll happen. But I do believe that if we come together in community, that we come together to start a new way of governing, a new way of learning to re-establish the learning system, the educational system that's happened in our world.
I certainly taught when I lived in the United States with my kids, that the educational system, the kids were overwhelmed. But nobody gave them a thread to hold on to. I don't know what the figure was. This is a figure that was – I think it was in the times, about 25, 30 years ago, is that by the time a young person is out of second or third grade, they've gotten more information than the New York Times has been for the last 100 years. And the kids are overwhelmed by this. And that we've got to give them a thread. And the community can do that. Because the old need to teach the young.
I just sent a letter out to about mycelium that grows in a forest. Mycelium is that underground network of fungus. It really goes from the tree. If one tree is sick on one part of the forest, the strong trees send them healing. The hormones send them nutrients and that. And the older trees feed the younger trees.
And ideally, that's what we are in that kind of community, where we are feeding the young. We're feeding the sick. That we are joining together. And in that, we're doing something and we're doing something together. And that's where I come back to the idea of service. Community is about service.
[00:35:23] JS: I found it so interesting – also, I meant to mention this earlier when you talked about service, that made me think of Burning Man. It's a 70,000-person scale experiment of service and giving. And I find it so absolutely fascinating because you don't realize that there is something beyond these boundaries of human society that you just take as human nature. And when you see something happening at the scale, it's just fascinating when you realize there are other crayons in the crayon box that you didn't know existed.
Is it okay if we take one more question from Noah?
[00:35:53] BK: I'm fine.
[00:35:55] JS: Okay. Go ahead.
[00:35:56] N: Bobby, I want to ask about listening, especially listening as it relates to community and the unavoidable power dynamics that come in the middle of community. For myself, I'm an ensemble musician and a pastor. And so, listening is something that for me is – I spent a lot of time practicing listening in a lot of different ways.
But I think I want to use the example that you brought up a while ago, which was Israel-Palestine and the reality there. As just a way of focusing, what does listening look like in a power differential? Because that's really – in my experience, that's actually almost always how listening happens. There's some sort of power differential. And so, I'll just love to hear anything you have to say about what it is to be in community and to listen with an explicit awareness of power dynamics?
[00:36:52] BK: If we take it away from something as big as Israel and Palestine and take it to a smaller idea, smaller community. A community of 10, 50 and 100, whatever it is. But the idea of the old African talking stick. I don't know if you're familiar with that. Where the talking stick gets passed. And whoever has it, they can talk and nobody else can talk.
And I teach what I call the first five minutes. I do it with couples. I do it with partners in business. I do it with families. And what it is, is that if it's with two people, each person has five minutes to tell where they're at. What's going on with them? What are they feeling? What they're feeling about the other person? What do they feel about the world? Feeling about themselves? What's good? What's bad? And they cover that in five minutes.
The rules are that the listener can't roll their eyes or make a comment. All they do is listen. And the rule is that the listener can never ever bring up what the speaker has said ever.
[00:37:51] JS: That's fascinating.
[00:37:52] BK: Then when the listener has the floor to speak, they can't refer to what they just heard in those five minutes. What it sets up is a time of safety. And what I find is that it spills over into the – sometimes into the corporate culture. But certainly, in the cultural relationships. That people then stop listening and stop trying to give advice. The big rule for me is working with people, and for myself in my life, is never give anyone advice unless they ask for it. Ever. Now if you have employees, certainly give them advice. And if you have children, you give them advice about health and safety. But you don't give advice unless it's asked for. Because if the advice works, the person ends up resenting you because they didn't figure it out themselves. And then, of course, if that doesn't work.
That this listening happens where people really start to hear each other and don't feel they have to make a comment. They can just hear it and not have to make a comment and not have to try to fix it. And men are built to be the fixers. They want to fix it.
And I've had it happen a few times where a woman will be – she's at work in her life and the guys are getting interested in her. But she's feeling uncomfortable. And it's not safe to mention that at home, right? Because I don't want to kill him – whatever that is, right?
But if it happens in a safe place, then she's heard. And then all the heat's gone off of it. Then it just fills into daily life, as people can just hear each other and not feel they have to comment. Nor do they have to feel that they have to be the wise one. That's where I feel that really listening really happens. And that's where listening can really work.
I mean, and certainly from the point of view of a musician, it's remembering that everything that we're doing right now, everything I teach, everything we're talking about is code. The Quran is code. Music is code. It's all code. And everybody hears the code differently. And if we allow ourselves the time to translate that code, right? It's like we all see a painting. Everybody sees it differently. We don't see it the same. We're seeing the code. Has that code affected us? What it triggers in us and what it opens? And that when you're given time to listen, that code can come through.
The Bible is code. The Quran is code. The Bhagavad Gita is code. And so, whether you're reading it, when you're praying you're doing that, you're encoding that into yourself, into your personality, into your soul, if you will. And that's where I feel real, real listening comes in.
The poet, Rilke, he wrote in a beautiful letter about relationships. He said, "The reason for choice or rejection is can I trust that person to protect my solitude? And will they in turn have us stand at the gate of theirs?" And that's beautiful. That's listening. That's being present. And I guess we could turn around to being present. Hey, look, old Ram Dass said it, man. He said “Be here now.” And that's it. That if we can really be present – and being present doesn't mean talking.
[00:40:59] JS: Oh, that's beautiful. I had some reflections. But that's where this conversation wants to end. And I will save the rest of them for next time. This has been amazing.
[00:41:08] BK: All right.
[00:41:09] JS: Bobby, this is perfect. I'm excited to send this out to everyone. And hopefully people will see or hear with their own ears how special you are and how lucky we are for every minute that we get to spend just learning from you. I'm so honored that you're here. I'm so honored to know you. You know this. And I just want to thank you so much for your time today.
[00:41:31] BK: Oh, yeah. You bet. This has been a real gift to be with you.
[00:41:35] JS: Thank you so much for listening. And thanks to Scott Hansen, also known as Tycho, for our musical signature. In addition to this podcast, you can find resources for each episode on our website, www.becomingdenizen.com, including transcripts and background materials.
For our most essential topics like universal basic income, decentralized social media and long-term capitalism. We also have posts summarizing our research, which make it easy for listeners to very quickly get an overview of these particularly important and foundational topics.
On our website, you can also sign up for our newsletter where we bring our weekly podcast to your inbox alongside other relevant Denizen information. Subscribers are invited to join our podcast recordings and engage with the Denizen community in our online home, The Den. We're partnered with some incredible organizations at the forefront of the change that we talk about. We share announcements from them in our newsletter as well.
Finally, this podcast is made possible by support from the Denizen community and listeners like you. Denizen's content will always be free. Offering Denizen as a gift models a relational rather than a transactional economy. Enabling Denizen to embody the change that we talk about on this podcast through the reciprocity of listeners like you that we are able to continue producing this content. You can support us or learn more about our gift model on our website. Again, that's www.becomingdenizen.com.
Thanks again for listening and I hope you'll join us next time.
Our weekly newsletter is the best way to stay abreast of our inquiry and ongoing events.
Denizen operates a gift model to foster generous, reciprocating relationships.