As I approach my 66th year of life and the next stage of the journey, it is a time not only for renewed reflection, but for igniting new flames, burnishing dreams in progress, and stirring old embers. Sebastopol has become the home of my heart and it affords me opportunities to do all this. I have joined a group of local Israelis that we jokingly call, “Israelis Anonymous”. I am a member of a stimulating, creative writing group where I can channel my lifelong pleasure in writing by Writing from the Heart. I’ve joined a men’s group whose impressive members enjoy the pleasures of thoughtful discussion, as I do. I am, once again, exploring unfamiliar territory, engaging in new activities, interacting with new people, and, of course, finding and crossing new boundaries on the way.
While continuing to manage the Zur Institute and its 150 online continuing education courses, I have also put down strong roots in my town, Sebastopol, where I am active in groups such as “Israelis Anonymous” 😀, Depth Psychology discussion group, Carl Jung’s discussion groups, a Hebrew book club, a writing group, and more. I have re-immersed myself in the practice of meditation, as well. Daily sitting-meditation seems to have a profound impact on my psyche, opening me to a deep appreciation of the “Now”; and thus, empowered, I strive to be present, as if each day (or each moment) were my last one on earth.
As I turned 66, one of the questions that naturally emerged was ‘how do I want to live my remaining years?’ Summiting mountains on foot or on a motorcycle, diving to extreme depths, fighting wars, jumping out of planes, teaching all over the world, backpacking on a glacier, authoring cutting-edge books, fighting irrational dogmas, implacably seeking justice and peace, were all achievements and enriching challenges of the past. Now the question is, What’s next? When I consider the possibilities, I can’t help but feel that surge of excitement that always precedes the new and unknown. I will intensify my meditations on a range of subjects, some old, some new. I will resume reading classic literature. I will write from the heart, for I still have so much to say. Perhaps I will travel to new parts of the world, visit new museums, libraries, or ancient sites, or. . .??? The ideas flood my mind as I go through the process of figuring out this new phase or how to begin again. Well, I do know that I am not going to take up golf. What is certain is that I will continue to nuture my close bonds with my precious family, friends and community, to engage in meaningful activities, and always promote peace and justice. While I know that life is going to move at a slower and more contemplative pace, I am yet not sure about its focus or form.
My 2019 trip to Israel had a different flavor than previous ones, as this time I traveled alone. This afforded me the chance to spend quality time with my sister, and to fulfill a yearning to revisit and re-experience the Negev desert via off-road motorcycle. My body and psyche clearly remembered the long and exciting days that I had spent as a young man navigating and exploring the dirt roads, creeks, springs, and craters of that awesome landscape. To start the adventure, my nephews Tal, Shay, Leor and young Ely had planned an exciting day along the steep slopes of Jerusalem, so that I could prepare for the desert ride. I rented a Yamaha WR250 dual-sport off-road motorcycle and headed with them to the Jerusalem hills. It turned out I was indeed in need of this ‘prep’ trip, as I flew off the bike at least half a dozen times, landing on my shoulders, my recently replaced knees, my back and, yes, even on my head (again). I ended up in ‘urgent care,’ where they put me on antibiotics via an IV drip. Miraculously, I sustained no broken bones and no damage to my ‘new’ knees, although who knows what it did to my head! A couple of days later the five of us headed south to our ‘real’ destination, the stunningly powerful Negev Desert, with three dirt bikes and a 4×4 pickup truck trailing us with food, water, tents, etc. The ride, the awesome landscape, the challenges, the comradery, and the conversations with these generous and capable young men was immensely gratifying.
It has been interesting for me to contemplate this adventure at this point in my life, now pushing 70. My friend Garry Cooper describes this part of my character as “Roaring toward the precipice, twisting the throttle wide open to either soar over the abyss or crash in a blaze of adrenaline and glory.” “Twisting the throttle wide open” had a different feel to it this time. Now, death did not seem so remote or abstract. Looking it in the eyes I still felt a sense of calm, but gone was the former strain of defiance or romance. Stripped bare through the hard cast of age, death is simply an objectively possible outcome!
Mid-March 2020 was a perfect time to fly to the Bahamas for another long weekend of sailing with Eitan on a 40 ft catamaran, this time around the Bahamas Islands. It was an odd time on the planet, as the worries and concerns around coronavirus pandemic had not taken hold yet. Eitan got a few days off from his 1st mate position on a giant 130 ft. mega yacht that was docked at Nassau.
As we tend to do on such trips, we took our time sailing in the clear/shallow water all around the gorgeous Bahama islands while enjoying peaceful weather, great conversations, sweet long silent periods, and variety of colorful tropical fish and spring-time bird flocks.
Re-entering the world via flights to Florida and back home to California was like entering a war zone of Humanity vs. Coronavirus, or more accurately entering a brave new world where humans are forced to encounter the inevitable and most denied facts of life: Death (especially of old people) is part of life not necessary always to be feared, combated and avoided but also to be… celebrated.
My new adventure as of mid 2020, Project Insights, is an online forum in which I invite you to reflect and share about an ‘Aha’ moment you have encountered along the way and to read about insightful experiences of others. By sharing, reading, and contemplating these meaningful moments in our lives, I hope to support the deepening of our personal and social reflective practices as well as to promote intercultural dialogue about the subtexts that impact our choices and help define our human experience. Engaging with this virtual community, I hope, will help you examine your life choices, cultural assumptions, belief systems and biases.
The first topic explored on Project Insights involves experiences with the Corona Virus: If the Coronavirus could speak to you… what would it say? What would You say to it? What gift could Coronavirus offer you / the world? There are 12 different themes that are dear to my heart around which I will invite you to share your stories. These themes include: Regretting not doing the right thing; Looking at death straight in the eye; On being sane in an insane place. I hope you will join me.
Selling the Zur Institute, Inc. after a quarter century of intense, challenging and highly rewarding engagement, opened up a huge psychic space and time for the ‘new’. Then, launching Project Insights has been a creative challenge and exercise in the rare commodity of… patience.
I have been training for a potential dream-challenge of posting a stake in the South Pole as well as hike, kayak, camp there and hang out with the penguins for my 70th birthday. Obviously, with the current (mid 2020) COVID-19 hysteria it is hard to know when this plan will materialize.
Exploring boundaries has taken another dimension for me these days. This time, it is to the limitless expanse of the heavens and the incredible, awe inspiring view from far-above. I started taking pilot lessons as I am exploring getting a pilot license to fly small planes high and to exotic faraway places. Hard to know where it may lead.
In Sept. 2021 Jennifer and I joined Eitan and his friend, Amanda, for a fantastic sailing week on a 46ft catamaran on the Sea of Cortez (Mexico). It was a wonderful break from a tormented and hostile divided world around the complex coronavirus related issues of life-death-health-fear-trust-responsibility and much more. Sailing, swimming, snorkeling and some hikes in the powerful-arid-rocky landscape cleared my heads and refreshed my spirit as I was looking for ways to find meaning and joy in a tormented world.
2020 and 2021 years were distinct as they were the beginning of a new ‘Post Zur Institute’ (ZI) era (sale went through in Ap./2020) and a divided world struggling to comprehend and attend to the coronavirus threat. Free of ZI, I turned my professional focus to teaching ethics and consulting & expert witness forensic work.
I quickly and gradually more joyously, adjusted to the new ‘coved-19 reality’ and have been intensely teaching remotely via zoom. Teaching from my study at home (with running shorts and flip flops) was odd and freeing at the same time. I recall the moment when I cracked a joke in a live zoom webinar but had NO idea if any of the 600+ attendees laughed or grimaced. My two main focuses of teaching ethics at these times have been a. Debunking myths and commonly held beliefs in psychotherapy and b. 20+ ways to avoid being sanctioned or disciplined by mental health licensing boards.
My consulting & expert witness work has also flourished in the post ZI era. I have asked to provide expert opinions on highly complex, interesting and intriguing psychotherapy licensing boards and civil lawsuits cases in several states across the US. A couple of ethicists and attorneys have referred to the cases they retained me as an expert as “Even Dr. Zur”😋 reflecting on the informed-importance I place on context in standard of care matters rather than on “risk-management.” In June 2021 I had the honor of receiving an authorization from the Minnesota Supreme Court to prepare an amicus brief regarding the standard of care for psychotherapy and counseling.