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John Malloy: Insights from Ancient Traditions

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John Malloy: Living a Spirit Life

This past Saturday we were honored to have John Malloy as our featured guest. His deep wisdom, genuineness and compassion pervaded the entire call and even moved many of us to tears. John left us with so many insights from reminding us that we have two ears but only one mouth and thus focusing on the importance of listening, even as a form of activism. And we are glad we listened because John shared so many touching stories of his own transformation from losing his son to AIDS, to his experiences as a "volunteer cuddler" for neglected newborns, to doing a 500 mile spirit run for the last 34 years, and experiences of having counseled prisoners and troubled youth for over 3 decades of his life.

Our moderator Amit described John as "a towering man with a Herculean build and gentle eyes." Call participant and former featured guest speaker Pancho remarked that he could feel John’s wisdom and humility through the "texture of his voice!" I not only agree with both of them but feel those are understatements of John. John's every word seems to contain pearls of wisdom and even the smallest of stories he shares carries tremendous depth and learning…

Our tour of John's journey began at the Santa Clara County juvenile probation department when he was at the mere age of 21. What moved him to such a calling?  ” Intuition!” Having kids of his own early, the necessity to work, and having some personal experience around incarceration played a part in shaping this decision.

He worked in the  "Custody and Supervision" department counseling kids to make their amends, attempt to reconcile with their victims and with their families, together they created a therapeutic community that became known as “the Family.” Through his emphasis on providing love and attention, people who were afraid to work there started to petition to work there. He highlighted the importance of talking circles in the healing and transformation process. He said that "the power of a circle allows the heart to share with each other."

John believes that sharing leads to healing and pretty soon the racism and hatred between different cliques started softening. John humbly admits that those kids really taught him to trust his intuition. They were not criminals but were young men who didn't have the skills to make a good decision in a fifty second span and chose a disease that was taught on the street and dysfunctional families.

After 7 years with the county, it became clear that they needed a school in the community so that the judges would have an option for a softer sentence and this gave birth to  “The Foundry” in 1974. Like discarded metal that goes through a seven step process including being fired up, made into a mold, designed and shaped, the kids at “The Foundry” started going through a similar process under John’s attentive supervision and care. Thirty years later, John still continues to help direct the school and continues to contribute.

Connecting with Kids

John considers himself lucky to have come across people who introduced him to the natural world and knows that our body is not a machine but a lot more than that. He observed that Psychology did not work with kids but John’s instinct to be able to look at the goodness of the kids definitely worked.

In his beautiful words, I was never fooled by the personality of the kid -- it's a veil to the soul. I always went for the soul. It does not matter who you are, if you are authentic, you do that you will make a connection whether it is with an addict or a murderer or a person who is totally withdrawn. When you're in an institution you don't have anything but each other so the trust comes easier than on the street.“

John’s empathy with the kids is striking in his deep understanding of the situation from which these kids come from. He believes that people are put in difficult situations like being raised in broken families and they do the best they can.

He says, “I work with the urban wounded. Everyone starts out on the short end of the stick they are the victim and then too many become the perpetrator. They duplicate it and amplify it. I found the answers didn't lie in psychology it lay in mythological roots and cultural traditions and rituals and I had the nerve to try that in the institution.”

While talking about the world we live in and challenges we face, John brings the point home in his characteristic poetic style which is so truthful that it goes straight to the heart of the matter and touches the heart of the listener.

“Information and data has replaced insight. It is self-destructive to split the holy and the ordinary. Today there is no room for ritual and ceremony. It's been forgotten that life is a sacred adventure and spiritual people sometimes look at it as more esoteric...but as you go through life you practice and you develop your spirit.”

I push people to include the body -- don't overlook it -- and when that happens a lot of healing takes place. We have an innate capacity to heal. Today people stay in therapy forever. What we’ve been doing is teaching people to doctor themselves - learn to be a warrior, a teacher, a visionary -- take your pain and turn it into your medicine. No one can steal your spirit.“    

Importance of Rituals

John worked with a lot of Native American children whose dads have been incarcerated. He came to be known as a good trusted man in the indigenous community and thus one of the members of the community invited John to be part of a sacred run marking his entry back into the community after being incarcerated. What started as a single run, in 1978, has become a ritual for John since then over the past 34 years! 

John had recently returned from the Spiritual Marathon - a non-competitive relay where teams of runners participate by carrying a sacred staff.  When asked why they run, John said that they run for those that can't run, those who either have no legs, are struck down by disease or even those that are imprisoned. He says they also pray for the preservation of sacred Native American sites and Mother Earth. They run for 500 miles starting from the Oregon border to Sacramento. The run continues to become more meaningful since they discovered the California "trail of tears" - marked by the wiping out of 6 tribes. They run through these areas and heal them. It is more like a running prayer learn more visit run site

Thanks to the Spirit Run, rituals and ceremonies have come back and young native American children join their run during the day. The grandmothers of the community know that politics and economics will not be able to save the earth but ritual and prayer can. They believe that nature is to be respected. 

One of the immediate ripples of the call was Pancho's spontaneous declaration of becoming a vegan from this day forward after John shared both about his spirit run and encounters with Ceasar Chavez including Chavez's choice to be vegan as well. Amit expressed that he was vibrating from the energy of the call waaay after the call was over and I think he spoke for all of us who were on on the call real time and all those who will listen to the call in the future.

In John's own words, "No one can steal your spirit -- it's in you so use it -- live a spirit life. All ceremony will remind people that you have a spirit."

Here is a song from John's website that elegantly captures the beauty of his work and spirit:



We love you John! Thanks for being who you are!!              

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