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Life Practice
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Bo Lozoff

      . . . director and co-founder of the Human Kindness Foundation and its award-winning Prison Ashram Project. He has an honorary doctorate from the Chicago Theological Seminary and is a recipient of the prestigious Temple Award for Creative Altruism. Author of It's a Meaningful Life, It Just Takes Practice and We're All Doing Time, Mr. Lozoff and his wife, Sita -- with whom he shares his vision and his work -- have lectured in hundreds of prisons, universities, churches and spiritual centers around the world. They make their home with a community in North Carolina.

Excerpts3:43 secs

      Everyone wants to feel good, Bo Lozoff maintains, but we have lost track of what that means. We've been lured away by consumerism says a deeply critical Mr. Lozoff. We've lost our central core, he believes -- a sense that life has purpose and is profound, that it's about more than buying, getting, attaining, having, replacing, protecting and repairing. What have we gained from our dedication to material affluence? The nation's children are furious with us, becoming increasingly violent and bulging our prisons which already contain 25% of all the incarcerated people in the world.

      Perhaps that's why Bo Lozoff has spent almost 30 years working with prisoners. He and his wife, Sita, have had remarkable success helping prisoners turn their lives around -- both inside and outside the gates. They don't offer job training or drug counseling. Bo and Sita tell prisoners that they are deep philosophical beings. That they need a set of beliefs and values (the same absolutes and discerning judgments about right and wrong Bo says we all require.) That they are needed. That they can find what they're missing in simple ancient stories. And that they must "practice."

      Like Aldous Huxley and Joseph Campbell before him, Bo has gleaned his insights from the world's great Wisdom Traditions and religions. It is in action -- practice -- that we find our way. And in silence, a rare commodity in the noisy, frenetic life-style of most Americans. Meaning, Bo Lozoff believes, comes from being respected, loved and needed, not from the consumerist forces to which he believes we have become addicted.

      Bo contends consumerism has a two-fold goal: to reinforce in us a belief that we need things outside of ourselves to be happy and to avoid anything difficult or painful -- desire and fear. Both are natural and important, he says, but we get stunted. We remain perpetual adolescents lusting after the red car and metaphorical buxom blonde. It's only by facing hard things and doing them that we develop our best human qualities, he believes, urging us toward a mature, spiritually awake navigational system. "You can do hard," he advises us all.

      What's his lifetime working in prisons done for Bo Lozoff? Convinced him that he can make it too, helped him to believe in his own change and redemption. So he continues to practice, finding life's meaning in the challenge and offering the rest of us his answers to what may be life's biggest question.

Conversation 1

Bo Lozoff suggests to Paula Gordon and Bill Russell why the United States has an unprecedented degree of affluence but 25% of all of the earth's prisoners. He expands on Joseph Campbell's belief that America has completely lost touch with its central core. Mr. Lozoff declares what life is not about. He describes the two universals of all wisdom and religious traditions.


Conversation 2

The essence of religion or philosophy, Mr. Lozoff tells us, is simple, but it's not easy. He elaborates. He assures us that we can all "do hard." He suggests we need a balance between communion (inner) and community (outer) until we can live an undivided life.  He shows how practice is the way to make the transition. He suggests simple practices which make it possible for our desires and fears to be less dominant. He describes his Human Kindness Foundation.


Conversation 3

Americans are addicted to a frenetic, superficial life-style which Mr. Lozoff believes can be countered by quieting down. He describes the power of silence. He tells us why he believes we're P.T. Barnum's wildest fantasy come true. Mr. Lozoff describes the process of the spiritual journey -- what it is and how we do it. He explains why we would all do well to get beyond the current fad of "don't be judgmental" -- to accept responsibility and judge between right and wrong, particularly when dealing with children.  He urges adults to be "grown ups." He describes his own mistakes from which he's learned.


Conversation 4

Aldous Huxley's summary of the world's religions -- be a bit kinder -- leads Mr. Lozoff to describe the effects of decades of being habituated to consumerism's twin goals: to reinforce a belief that we need things outside of ourselves to be happy and to avoid anything difficult or painful. He links consumerism to desire and fear, describing what happens when we refuse to mature. He explains why we are actually meant to do hard things, in spite of conflicting cultural messages. He explains why. He expands on the idea that current cultural trends are genuinely dangerous. He bemoans what happens when life is simply about getting what you want and avoiding what you're afraid of. He decries the shift from acknowledging our "shadow side" to celebrating it.


Conversation 5

Evil is considered, building on the Greek Pandora's Box myth. Mr. Lozoff declares that we need to acknowledge our dark side but then choose not to go there. He describes what people really want. He categorizes today's self-esteem curriculum as "idiotic" and explains why. Mr. Lozoff describes three traditional cultural tasks in guiding children toward maturity and declares we are failing on all three counts. He tells why it is important that he is not a moral relativist, how powerfully that affects his work with prisoners, and how vital it is for prisoners to feel needed. He explains how working with prisoners benefits him. Discussion of the Greek Odyssey myth leads to a consideration of what happens when society shuts out youngsters and old people.


Conversation 6

Living a meaningful life has many components, Mr. Lozoff reminds us, all of them connected. He describes what happens when we confuse the purpose of life with materialism and careers. Concerned that we have dramatically compartmentalized life, he calls us to a broader view which includes sacred stories, naming a few. He reassures us that solutions to our cultural challenges will come as we become real human beings.


Acknowledgements

We're impressed with the clarity, urgency, simplicity and commitment Bo Lozoff brings to his vision of a better world. We thank him for sharing it with us.

Related Links:
Learn more about the Human Kindness Foundation at their website, from which you can also download their catalogue of like-minded books, audiotapes and videotapes.
It's a Meaningful Life: It Just Takes Practice is published byPenguin Putnam Books


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