Unraveling Religion: Our Human Life Examined

"They arise spontaneously, the principles of all things. Water need not think to offer itself as a home for clear moonlight." ~Sogi

These mystical and practical discussions are explorations, recorded talks, of spirituality and its relation to religion and psychology, with questions always:

"What is spirituality," "contemplation," "meditation," and "introspection?"

Beyond a specific religion or spiritual practice; what do we share, what do we have in common?

These talks are a work in progress evolving our rich inner life, including refections on religious texts, poems, art, and what is common in our human experience enhancing understanding of our relationships: with ourselves, with one another, and with the world we share.

"I'd rather live with a good question than a bad answer” ~Frimer

Comments, interest, or suggestions: Joel's email joel.lesses[at]gmail.com

3/29/21 Interview with Vicki Ross
Vicki and Joel discuss her evolution in spirituality and as an activist, including the struggles of many different people and populations, the power of indigenous life-ways and the importance of connection to Nature and humility, the prison system and war and restricting pipeline access by Water Protectors. In Vicki's path as an activist, her upbringing and family influences were explored, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other examples and literature, conversations that influenced her and her deep principles rooted in Spirit.
To listen (33:52) click here.....for direct link click here
Reposting from 8/12/09: Science, Secular Humanism and Religion: An Examined Existence with Graham Sears
Graham Sears was born in Buffalo, New York in 1953. His education includes The Nichols School and Liberal Arts at Hobart College, then the University of Buffalo. In 1984 and 1985 studied at the School of Fine Arts in Paris and have been working artist for 25 years. His work is shown in New York City (Robert Steele) and museums across the United States. Graham is a serious student of philosophy, science the history of ideas and the history of expression. Personally, Graham rejected utterly his Christian upbringing beginning around age of 12. He writes "Haunted by great poetry, music and literature. Life is beautiful, people are beautiful, love is beautiful. Religion is a tragic sexist delusion more responsible for human misfortune than any other single cause, it is niether the source of truth about man, origins or morality nor is it justifiable as a source of comfort despite its' factual absurdity it is in short completely unneccesary and dehumanizing..."
Part 1: To listen (33:49) click here.....for direct link click here
Part 2: To listen (31:33) click here.....for direct link click here
Reposting from 7/27/13 A Very Special Edition of Unraveling Religion: Capturing the Nature of Intimate Conversation, A Treasured Friendship Revealed (with Lisa Carley Hotaling)
Into the deep of night, armed with Mike's Hard Lemonaid, American Spirits, Pringles, Eckhart Tolle and Rumi, in Lisa's 2001 Black Hundai Elantra in the parking lot of Allentown Trading Company Gas station, at the corner of Buffalo's Allen Streen and Delaware Avenue, Lisa Carley Hotaling and Joel Lesses explore the nature of the existential condition and its relation to identity and reveal an enduring friendship. Using psychological, poetic and spiritual lenses, Lisa and Joel laugh, talk, drink, and smoke their way through a terrain that is both deeply personal and exploratory, introspective and hilarious. Lisa is a Psy. D. student in Clinical Psychology with a Masters in Existential Humanist Psychology, poet, mother, student of Philosophy and English and artistian. Lisa and Joel have been best friends since meeting in a Graduate Class at the Unversity of Buffalo, Multicultural Counseling.
Part 1: To listen (56:13) or click here.....for direct link click here
Part 2: To listen (56:11) or click here.....for direct link click here
Part 3: To listen (20:24) or click here.....for direct link click here
9/2/18 Celebrating Life, Celebrating Death With Jim Pray
In this episode, Jim and Joel talk about the very recent death of his father, and the passing of his mother and sister. Jim remembers his father and together Jim and Joel look at different peoples views on mourning. Grief and how our culture deals with loss are explored. Jim speaks lovingly of the lessons and hard work his father gave during his life as Joel listens and offers some thoughts. Joel reads Jim's poem "I Wish..." and shares a poem from his mother, "I Oppose Knowledge of the Rose and Time" as Jim and Joel's friendship deepens in sharing this sacred time. What happens when we die? How can we best deal with the passing of important people in our life? How do we honor the memory of the people who have passed? How do we prepare for it ourselves? Listen...
To listen (60:00) or click here.....for direct link click here
7/22/17 Personal and Universal Dream Meaning and Integration, Waking
Wadud and Joel explore dreams Jung Sufism and what dreams teach, "The Interpretation of Dreams," unconscious, "accidents," "symptoms/neurosis" and the balance of our actions as tipping scales to what is good. What is God? We choose what we imagine and create, free will. Also, lucid dreaming and how the Dalai Lama is found.
Part One - To listen (40:32) or click here.....for direct link click here
Part Two - To listen (40:00) or click here.....for direct link click here
10/14/17 Memory Identity Truth and the Varieties of Religious Experiences
In this collaborative episode of I and Thou (audio only) and Unraveling Religion; Richard and Joel discuss in deep kinship: our planet, our president, problems and solutions, and delve into memory, poetry, writings, and life. Spiritual versus biological lenses are used to explore in this episode respectfully sharing differences as the others truth.
To listen (59:18) or click here.....for direct link click here
8/9/17 Richard and Joel Talk During A Night Walk
Two friends find meaning in discussing life and reveal kindness as the lasting binding element; is it Plato or Aristotle? It is only how we define love that matters, because only love endures forever. Richard shares Sartre's "The Wall" Joel shares a Chasidic Tale "The Rabbi's Gift" each finds newness in understanding because this evening we were not alone, we shared an evening walk.
To listen (25:27) or click here.....for direct link click here
5/7/2017 Feeding The Wolf of Light: Talk Regarding Change
In discussions with Jim Pray, beginnings and endings are examined as difficult to accept. What we think should be, is not always, what "Is." Jim and Joel, in this episode of friendship, deconstruct relationship, death, meaning, various challenging conditions and how to respond to difficult circumstance. Cultivating inner awareness and responsiveness to change and challenging events and friendships as a opportunity to overcome life's sorrows and disappointment. Jim poses common everyday questions of dilemmas we all face. In letting go of expectations, we may the present as the gift to free us to grow away from hurt and harm, toward health happiness and wholeness. Jim asks Joel about his trip to Nepal, where human warmth and connection is easier to find, Joel shares teaching is found in perspective travel offers and blessings ensue.
To listen (57:53) or click here.....for direct link click here
4/19/2017 We Shall Not Hate, The Meaning of Sa'lam, Shalom, and Peace: Dr. Izzdelin Abuelaish Speaks On Peace and Understanding Differences Among People
In this special episode of Unraveling Religion, Joel travels to Toronto to meet Dr. Abuelaish and together engage in a Sacred conversation regarding life, understanding, and reaching beyond tolerance into respect and love for our human differences found in countries, religions, cultures, and people. As a medical doctor and healer, Dr. Abuelaish's life is a tireless effort to broaden our human understanding that the differences between people are much smaller than the similarity (See TED talk, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZR-6x3gXYGs). Joel and Dr. Abuelaish find common ground in exploring ethics and respect in common understanding, found in all the world's spiritual traditions and all faiths including Islam, Judaism, and Christianity revealed in this episode. Izzeldin Abuelaish, is a Canadian-Palestinian medical doctor and author. He was born in Gaza, and was the first Palestinian doctor to work in an Israeli hospital. He is active in promoting Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation, He founded the "Daughters for Life Foundation" (www.daughtersforlife.com) in memory of three of his daughters, who were killed by Israeli tank fire during the Gaza War. The organisation provides scholarship awards to encourage young women to pursue their studies at universities in Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Syria.  He was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. He received his elementary, preparatory and secondary education in the refugee camp schools. His book entitled, "I Shall Not Hate." (https://www.amazon.com/Shall-Not-Hate-Doctors-Journey/dp/0802779492) It is a great honor to know a man of this level of character, quality, intelligence, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. It is an honor to call him, "friend." Please, listen.
To listen (51:16) or click here.....for direct link click here
7/31/16 Grounding Philosophy, Plans into Action: Exploring Self, Identity, and Ownership
In the second installment, Richard and Joel explore practical scenarios and studies investigating the power of words and the questions of phenomenology, including embodying forgiveness and deconstructing moral dilemmas (i.e., starting with Richard's discussion of The Iceman Cometh). Tying together these broad existential questions, and their relation of the practical (i.e., plans into action), Joel and Richard start to delve into the personal meaning of these topics and how they guide, including the potential and freedom to express words thought action and intention in any form. Joel and Richard's also explore a shared desire to elevate words and giving to their highest potential (and the humanness in our failure to always do so), words as a vow. The show ends with Joy Harjo's Eagle Poem, an honoring of this time and place and the connection shared. If you prefer to watch this show on Youtube, it is in two parts:
part 1: https://youtu.be/BfhbWm8YK1A
part 2: https://youtu.be/3R2tZ_nKUHE
To listen (60:00) or click here.....for direct link click here