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

10/12/18 Voices, Madness, and Our Future: Thoughtful Explorations into Jungian Shadow and Life With Will Hall
"Madness Radio" Host, Jungian Therapist, and Activist Will Hall [http://willhall.net/about/] and Joel connect about "psychosis", what does being pulled from convention teach? The valuing of non-violent, loving activism; genuineness, authenticity, and congruence for people; addressing the psyche and psychology within oneself, while addressing the issues of the world. Also, the Shadow element; a need to reckon with our own Jung "shadow," moral righteousness and superiority, inherent wiring toward biological responses and existential experiences, "they" versus "us," Tribalism, projection of the Shadow, antipsychotics and psychological projections. Will Hall is Founder of the Freedom Center [http://www.freedom-center.org], former coorindator with Icarus Project [https://theicarusproject.net] and Host of Madness Radio [http://www.madnessradio.net] whose "Voices And Visions from Outside Mental Health explores 'madness' from beyond conventional perspectives and mainstream treatments, featuring survivors, authors, advocates, professionals, and artists."

To listen (59:54) 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
10/12/16 Poet Tim Staley, author of Lost on My Own Street, Dianne Borsenik, and Joel Lesses read at Mac's Backs Books on Coventry in Cleveland, Ohio
Tim lives in Las Cruces, New Mexico and is the publisher of Grandma Moses Press. His work has been published in Abyss & Apex, The Beatlick News, Blue Pepper, Bluegrass Accolades, Border Senses, Brickplight, burntdistrict, Cacti Fur, Canary, Chaffey Review, Chiron Review, Circumference, Coe Review, Crab Fat, Dingleberry Peak Anthology, The FUN Journal, Indiana Voice Journal, The Ink Spot, Jokes Review, Lummox Journal, Lunarosity, Malpais Review, Magnapoets, North of Center, Owl Eye Review, Plumb Tree Tavern, Poesies, Poetry Pacific, the Rag, Red Fez, RHINO: The Poetry Forum, San Pedro River Review, Sediments Literary-Arts Journal, Sin Fronteras, Spark Wheel Press, Spilt Ink, Star 82 Review, Verse-Virtual, Wild Violet Magazine and Zen Baby. A chapbook, The Most Honest Syllable is Shhh is forthcoming from NightBallet Press in 2017.
Dianne Borsenik, from Elyria, Ohio, is the Publisher and Editor of NightBallet Press, an indepedent small press, interested in the musicality of language and the originality of expression, with a committement to excellence (see http://nightballetpress.com). As a poet, Dianne has been writing and been published in various journals, magazines, and newspaers since the 80's (see http://dianneborenik.com)
Joel Lesses is the founder of the Ground and Sky Reading Series in Western New York (i.e., currently in Buffalo and Rochester). A poet interested in the confluence of religion and creativity, Joel does the Unraveling Religion podcast. Joel received Buffalo's best poet award in 2014 sponsored by ArtVoice and has facilitated numerous writing workshops in western NY.
Part One: To listen (47:59) 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
7/23/16 Healing and Inclusion at Richard Wicka's Home of the Future: A Place to Hold Sorrows, Space and People Together
Richard and Joel sit and explore being, life, and perspectives: existentialism, rationality, and beyond. Thought and language, feeling and music, and cutting into the depths of philosophy and life, the meeting place of these two things. At a point, the Truckdriver joins the conversation, together we explore in the spirit of humanness and brotherhood, searching how we might understand and evolve. Our attempts to do it better for each other; poetry and music, philosophy and being: delving into these things, revealing meaning, why this unfolding is important. If you prefer to watch this show on Youtube, it is in two parts:
part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAQXh9ibyKc
part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vIOmJBeanfU
To listen (59:44) or click here.....for direct link click here
4/17/16 Good Luck? An Examination of Fortune, Chance and Orchestration
How and why do we derive meaning? Does luck exist? Is there an Orchestrator? How do we reconcile Predetermination versus Free Will? Time travel, is it possible? Why do bad things happen?The persistent question remains, What is God? Jim Pray and Joel Lesses deconstruct the meaning and reason of luck and why we believe it. Jim Pray asks common sense questions from a common sense perspective as together Jim and Joel investigate in this spontaneous and casual conversation. The winding dialogue weaves together childhood memories, beliefs deconstructed, ascribing meaning and the need to blame God and plumming the depths of life, itself. The Ultimate Question is explored, stay tuned, and stay tuned in: there are events and there are our interpretation of events, the split gives need to making sense of this place through an interpretation. Jim and Joel also explore revising our personal narrative and history. Question and enjoy the questioning, the unfolding.
To listen (22:50) or click here.....for direct link click here
3/5/16 Finding Our Humanity, "How To Embody" Responses To Questions of Forgiveness and Other Teachings in Unity's Christianity: Reverend Mary Masters and Joel Dialogue
In this deep and sacred connection, Mary and Joel discuss the moderate, practical and mystical aspects of Unity. As fellow students together, shared wisdom insight and questions for one another are explored, deepening understanding of our humanness and humanity. Joel seeks to understand forgiveness and to resolve to do "non-harm." How do we embody: "Forgiveness?" "Presence?" "Faith?" And ultimately "how do we embody Love?" While bearing a cross and burdens is a part of our reality; the everyday acts of compassion and kindness transform these suffering into beauty, happiness and devotion. Many teachers are discussed, including Paul. The importance of our Creator is also explored. An reverent and important conversation on a vital topic, please listen and open to what is present before you.
To listen (49:14) or click here.....for direct link click here
2/5/2016 A Gentle Opening into Everything: Wadud (Sufi Order of Rochester) and Joel Peel Back Into The Freshness of Now, A Dialogue on Spirit
Sacred musing in friendship in a very ordinary way. Wadud and Joel expand the boundaries of exploration into a Quantum dialogue and understanding of the intra- and inter- modalities of "spirit," the truth that the word represents. This dialogue marks a significant shift and departure from other former conversations; from spirit to spirit from Spirit; drop all preconceptions and open to this... just this, open into the unfolding moment as we allow, an expanse inclusive enough, open as sky into space. Wadud is student and teacher of the teachings and speaks of the Universal Worship found in the Sufi tradition, also an opening acknowledging what is found in other "traditions" and "teachings." Joel and Wadud discuss G-d as G-d listens, and we honor It as It honors us with the gift of friendship. If you want to learn more about the Sufi Order of Rochester or contact Wadud Henry Cretella, search their website at sufiorderofrochester.org.
To listen (59:50) or click here.....for direct link click here
9/17/15 Allen Street Poets Talk: Sam Floyd and Joel Reconnect
Sam Floyd, poet and previous guest, and Joel reconnect to investigate time, where it has taken us and poetry as the fabric of life. Listen as the two old friends share the meaning of what is it to be human in world today, and optimism as an articulation of the soul. There is great promise for our future. Please listen...
To listen (42:27) or click here.....for direct link click here