“Israeli Anonymous” ūüėÄ Community in Sebastopol

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” ūüėÄ, 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.

The Challenge, Excitement & Courage of ‘Beginning Again’

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.

Dying Well: Forethought, Consciousness, Planning, Joy & More

Alongside the question of ‘what is next in my life?’, I ponder¬†‘how do I want to die?’. I know that I neither want to die ‘erect’ (i.e. in my prime) as my mother did, nor do I wish to go through the lengthy, painfully slow journey that my father took in the final period of his life. My young son,¬†Ilan, insightfully said one day “Aba (dad), you will not die on top of Kilimanjaro nor on the glacier in Alaska nor among the sharks in the deep ocean. You are mostly likely to die slipping on a banana in the local Safeway.” When it comes to death, I love the scene of¬†Little Big Man¬†where Chief Dan George announces “Today is a good day to die” and wanders off into the woods. The “Right to Die” law that was passed in California in 2016 gives me some choices or control regarding the way I may choose to die, which is a relief. I found appealing the¬†story of a terminally ill California woman¬†who invited friends from all over the country to a ‘farewell party’ – a jubilant celebration of her life and relationships. After two days of partying she retired to a room where, with her doctor and a few close people, she took the drugs that ended her life. Personally, I also wish to die among my family and friends but I am also resign to not knowing how I will spend the last days or last minutes of my life.

Crewing for My Son Through the Majestic Panama Canal

In 2019 I had the golden opportunity to fulfill a dream I have had since I was a 21-year-old Israeli merchant marine wishing to sail through the majestic and iconic¬†Panama Canal. I was thrilled to be invited to crew for my son,¬†Eitan¬†(who lives on his beautiful 36-ft. sailboat in San Diego),¬†who was hired to transport a 47ft sailboat from Baltimore to San Francisco. The Panama Canal certainly deserves its impressive rating as one of the top ‘Wonders of the World’. Eitan, a¬†competent captain, led us through the 50 miles long perfectly designed three locks going up from the Atlantic Ocean side to the impressive and enormous man-made lake at the top, and then through three impeccably constructed locks down toward the Pacific Ocean side. This was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience in many ways.

Father-Son Now Man-to-Man: Sailing the Rhode Island Coast

Not too long after crewing for Eitan on the majestic Panama Canal in 2019, he and I joined up for another fantastic nautical journey, this one off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island. On this three-day trip I enjoyed the great pleasure of crewing for him on a 44-ft. catamaran headed to Martha’s Vineyard, passing along neighboring islands off the coast of Rhode Island.

Sailing with Eitan, just the two of us together on the magnificent Atlantic, opened a special door to our hearts, as it reminded us of the many adventures we have taken together, including kayaking 17 miles along the Na Pali Coast off of magical Kauai, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and many more. The meaningful connection and deep conversations we had into the night were precious beyond words. What was at one time a father to child relationship has now morphed into that of man and man.

Almost 70, Still ‘Twisting the Throttle’ as Evel Knievel

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!

Confirming Israel’s Moral Amnesia

On my 2019 return trip to Israel, observing its political-moral scene was a painful reminder of why I left the country 40 years prior. Back then, I knew¬†I had to leave, as it was clear to me that staying in Israel and bearing witness to the immoral occupation would corrupt me as well. This was a consequence I refused to pay. As¬†Dissonance Theory¬†explains, when there is an inconsistency or discrepancy in people’s minds between attitudes and behaviors it is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate the behavior. People tend to adjust their ideology to their behavior and not vice versa. Sadly enough, this is, indeed, what seems to take place in Israel today.

A tragic example is of an Israeli teenager girl who was brutally murdered in August 2019 by a homemade bomb that exploded at a natural spring. She was visiting this spring not far from her home in a settlement in the West Bank. Government officials declared it an act of terrorism. A local rabbi, declared her “a martyr,” calling on God “to avenge her death.” There was barely any mention of the greater context. The fact that the young woman was part of the occupation, living in a settlement built on military-conquered Palestinian land in the occupied territory of the West bank was barely uttered.

I decided to conduct an experiment, asking people first what they thought about “the girl who was recently murdered in the West Bank” and asking others (a second group in the ‘experiment’) for their thoughts about “the settler-girl who was recently murdered in the West Bank”. Almost unanimously, people in the second group objected to my referring to her as a settler, accusing me of “justifying her murder.” I definitely did not justify the murder; all I was doing was simply putting the murder in¬†context. I think that sadly enough, most Israelis, even the ones that lean to the left, after 50 years of occupation (as predicted by the dissonance theory) have lost track of the context‚ÄĒthe oppressive, inhuman, murderous immoral occupation of the West Bank.

Evacuation Wonders: What I wish to be burned away or give ‘fire’ to

Evacuation orders were inching in. The cellphone text alerts gradually progressed from “Evacuation Advisory” to “Evacuation Mandatory.” In between, there was enough time to consciously or unconsciously, wittingly or unwittingly contemplate the evacuation ‘wonders,’ considerations and choices:

The first set of questions were obvious:

Q:¬†What do I take? ‚ÄĒ What is dear to my heart?
A: Our dog & cats, cell phone, laptop, passport, etc.

Q: What is OK to leave?
A: The remainder of my physical possessions

Q: What do I wish I could take but forego for lack of space in my car?
A: Photo albums, some nostalgic old clothing, and a unique collection war propaganda.

The second set of questions were more complex:

Q: What did I wish the fire would burn away?
A: I wished to toss into the fire my petty desires for comfort, my impatience, my attachment to being someone who changes the world, and my ego identification in my accomplishments. Then, also my huge collection of hard copy academic articles and books (so that my study could transform to a sacred meditation space).

Q: What was the most ridiculously absurd thing I took with me?
A:¬†Alas, my attachments to my ego’s accomplishments. I recognize that without an ego at all, one can’t do much in life. So I suppose I needed my ego to navigate the evacuation journey!

Q: What would I like for the fires to give energy to or fuel growth in?
A:¬†Many things! I would like to add energy to the fires of my desire to continue to learn and grow, to ‘do good,’ and to serve social justice. I’d like to fuel my passion to serve the greater good in psychological health through fighting the unnecessary dogmas of the therapy profession; and for my mission to¬†challenge unexamined beliefs and myths. I’d like to energize my empathetic caring for family members, friends, colleagues and strangers in need; my capacity to focus on what gives me meaning and joy; and my ability to contemplate and meditate.

Zur Institute: A Dream Fully Realized

Dr. Zur is well known for having the vision to introduce ideas well head of their time: When almost no one spoke of¬†HIPPA¬†or¬†Clinical Form¬†he was already touring the country giving presentations about it. He was one of the pioneer leader the Private Practice Outside Managed Care movement in the 90’s. When almost no one contemplated the complexities of¬†Dual Relationships or the¬†Risk of Risk Management,¬†he was already writing and publishing¬†books¬†and¬†articles¬†about it. When almost no one cared to invest in¬†Telemental Health education¬†he was already envisioning and focusing on creating courses and resources about it.

In 1997 Dr. Zur developed a vision that was also ahead of its time, the¬†Zur Institute: The creation of a successful model of online education that would provide CE credits for Mental Health practitioners. When asked, ‚ÄúWho do you think you are? Do you think you are going to compete with UC Berkeley?‚ÄĚ Dr. Zur, simply, responded, ‚ÄúWhat a great idea.‚ÄĚ Indeed, Zur Institute, Inc. has since served dozens of thousands of individuals, becoming one of the most successful and biggest online CE programs in the world. After 25 years of passionately devoting himself to developing and upholding the highest educational standards for Zur Institute, in April 2020 Dr. Zur left his role as its Director/owner. He then devoted his energy and time to the non-profit he created:¬†Project Insights.

Sailing the Gorgeous Bahamas with Eitan as the Coronavirus panic-pandemic broke out

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.

Project Insights: Launching a New Community Platform to Share Personal Stories and Gain Life-Changing Insights

My new adventure as of mid 2020,¬†Project Insights,¬†is an online forum in which I invite you to reflect and share about an ‚ÄėAha‚Äô 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.

Rethinking Coronavirus

My view of the coronavirus was met by strong, even aggressive, responses from friends and community members in the US and elsewhere. The reality surrounding Covid-19 clearly touched a nerve worldwide. The anthropologist in me has found people’s responses to the corona virus fascinating. On a personal level, however, I have found myself often quite isolated in my point of view. Sometimes even downright lonely.

It is intriguing to me that the whole world appears to have been relating to the coronavirus and the responses to it with such uniformity across cultures, languages and generations: the virus appearing as a threat, an invisible, deadly and ferocious invader that needs to be stopped through the use of masks, social distancing, shelter-in-place etc.

In my vision, if the coronavirus had a voice it would speak to us about our selfish attitudes going rampant while the planet is exploding with overpopulation. It would speak about our inability to see beyond instant gratifications, which blinds us to see how current actions (i.e. excessive use of fossil fuels) create reactions (i.e. global climate change). And it would also speak about death not being a failure. If the coronavirus had a voice and if we were wise enough to listen, we would have been able to learn something about the great eternal cycle of Life and Death.

One of the basic facts related to Covid 19 that to my amazement has not been prominently presented is that while generally speaking the coronavirus mostly kills medically vulnerable people, on the whole, it is deadly to medically frail elderly people. Modern day western culture holds a problematic attitude toward death and dying. It is perceived as a failure that should be avoided at all costs. Literally. Sadly, most old people in the US and other western nations die in hospitals or senior homes after the medical “industry” ferociously fought to prolong their life by all available means, without improving the quality of their life. And all this while profiting greatly.

As I traveled the world, I have been fascinated by the way in which indigenous cultures hold their elders with reverie for their wisdom, experience and guidance while at the same time they have various rituals that allow older people to die naturally, with dignity, in the comfort of their communities. This attitude is vital for the place the elderly take within the culture and is essential for the survival of the tribe.

I strongly believe that it is important for us to continue to respect and honor older people as we welcome their wisdom, guidance and leadership. I also believe that we should let the elderly who are highly frail, those who are intensely suffering and severely ill, die in peace and with dignity within their community. Hopefully, in the arms of their loved ones. It is time for us to grow up and accept death as part of life, as a transition to be honored and, yes, as a time to be celebrated!

Flying High – Next Phase in Life

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 ‚Äėnew‚Äô.¬†¬†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.

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