Chameli and I just got back this week from the Transformational Leadership Council meeting, which this time was in Bermuda. We attend these meetings twice a year, they are usually in very exotic, beautiful places. It is a group put together by Jack Canfield a few years ago for writers, teachers, and seminar leaders to get together to relax together, network, support and inspire one other.
Before we go on I have to confess to you that the TLC meetings are simultaneously both the most inspiring and the most challenging event of my entire year. Normally I get to be the king in my own tiny little world. I’m in the habit of traveling somewhere, being met at the airport, giving a seminar, and being the center of attention. The TLC meetings throw me back all the way to being a new boy at school. Everybody in the group is extremely accomplished in their field. Jack Canfield, as you know, has sold hundreds millions of books with Chicken Soup for the Soul. John Grey is one of the bestselling self-help authors of all time with his Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus series. The movie The Secret, whether you agree with its philosophies or not, has sold millions of copies and was filmed at a TLC meeting in Vale, Colorado. So, when I show up I feel truly like a nobody. And I don’t mean this in the “awakened” way: check in-there is nobody here-there is only space. I mean it in the I want to crawl under the table and disappear sort of way. The TLC meetings really bring to the surface whatever feelings of inadequacy or not being good enough that are still lurking to be met.
One of the really high points this time was meeting Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith, who had not been able to attend for several meetings prior. As you may or may not know, Michael has been in the limelight recently: appearing regularly on Oprah as well the author of Spiritual Liberation and the subject of a new movie. If anyone might have reason to feel special or exclusive, you could say it’s Michael.
I don’t know about you, but whenever I see people on national television talking about great and lofty ideals I am always curious to know, how are they off-camera? Are they really living what they are talking about? I brought that same curiosity to meeting Michael, and I am thrilled to send you my report. Here is an extraordinary, open, humorous, humble and generous human being – remarkably so, in fact.
Being around him for a few days, I saw that he makes no distinction between how much attention or interest to give to different people. What is the opposite of a snob? That’s what I’m talking about. He was living the same quality of friendly good-humor with a long-time friend, with a New York Times bestseller, with a Hollywood actress, with the hotel staff, and– I am delighted to say–with Chameli and myself.
There is one moment that really stands out in my mind from that meeting. The entire Transformational Leadership Council was getting on a bus, which would take us to a ferry for dinner at another place on the island. It was an antique bus, dating back to the first vehicles on Bermuda: open windows and wooden bench seats. Chameli and I were among the first on, we sat at the front. Slowly the bus filled up with the assembled writers, speakers and teachers. When Michael got on, he sat on the seat next to us on the other side of the center isle, leaving a space open next to him. Right at the end, a young man boarded the bus who was working in the kitchen at the hotel. Like Michael, he had dreadlocks, must have been about 20, and wore a baseball cap backwards on his head. Michael right away struck up a conversation with this young man, with just as much interest, curiosity and openness he had brought to every meeting and presentation at the conference. By the time the bus dropped us at the ferry station, they were laughing together and had become friends.
On the ferry ride itself Chameli and I got to spend our own time with Michael. He shared with me the remarkable story of his life, characterized by profound spiritual openings in his early twenties which led him to create the Agape Spiritual Community in the early eighties. He became a father very young, his children have left home now. But he told me that his house in LA is always full. He and his wife love to take care of people, to share all they have and to constantly create community.
This is a very authentic man, who has touched my heart very deeply. I recommend you to listen to his words and imbibe his spirit. Next time you are watching Oprah and wondering if it’s all just make-up and showbiz, rest assured this is a man who walks his talk through and through and through.