My Favorite Videos

Do you know what I love? I love watching those videos of soldiers returning home. You know the ones I mean. You’ve seen them pop up in your news feed. It is usually a football game, or a graduation, or maybe a birthday party. A marine or soldier in uniform sneaks in and surprises the unsuspecting youngster. The cheerleader at the halftime show had no idea their dad had been released early. The boy who is curious about the huge mysterious box in the backyard is overjoyed when his big brother pops out of it. And we are all brought to tears when mom, fresh from deployment, scoops up her tots.

Now that North and South Korea are reaching a peace agreement I am looking forward to even more of these videos! South Korea won’t need the U.S. forces there. Our military can close the bases and start bringing the approximately 30 thousand troops back stateside. We can have many more scenes of soldiers coming home and reuniting with their loved ones.

You know what? Maybe they could make a whole TV show out of it. Every week we can watch dozens of new homecomings! Keep your tissues handy because this is going to be drippy snot face love city! It will be so popular we will want to close more bases around the world. Everyday there can be an hour of troops coming home and hugging their families.  Never to be deployed for invasion and occupation of foreign lands ever again!

Let’s close all the bases and bring them all home. With over 200,000 forces in about 180 countries around the world, that should be enough to keep us celebrating for quite some time. We can have the video playing non-stop for a year. More hugging, more love, more crying tears of joy. Of course the military profiteers won’t like it. They will be crying tears of anger and despair. But there will be far less need to tax our incomes to pay for the bloated military. All those men and women returning home can spend their incomes here. The overall economy will thrive.

And without the U.S. military getting involved in civil wars of foreign states, and without the perpetual bombings and killing of people’s loved ones, there will gradually be fewer and fewer worldwide enemies of Americans. We will be vastly safer. There will be even more reason to celebrate. Once all the troops are home and all the reunions have been shown, let’s not make the mistakes of the past and send them abroad again. Let’s keep them here, and just watch reruns of them returning home!


Ridicule On the Road to Victory

First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. Then they fight you. Then you win.

I have two new pieces of evidence that we are in the “ridicule you” or “fight you” stage. Last week I came across a video entitled “The Religion of Libertarians” by a youtube channel called Newsbroke. It’s snarky, not completely inaccurate, and I would even say witty. Yes, it is chock full of mischaracterizations of libertarians and Straw Man arguments against our philosophy, but it does portray the basic principles of Libertarianism. That being self ownership, nonaggression, and freedom – for All, socially AND economically. Many people who are leaning our way will be inclined to look into the Libertarian Party after watching that video. So thanks for the promo! But the main point is that someone took the time to make that video in the first place. They must be getting scared. We are being taken seriously. When you are enough of a threat that they don’t just ignore you, but they (attempt to) make fun of and attack you, then you are doing something right!

Ridicule to Victory

The other recent attack comes from Robert Reich in a video he published  on April 19th. He asks, “Should You Vote for a Third Party?” ** SPOILER ALERT ** His answer is NO. This longtime friend/advisor to the Clintons, and champion of BIG government, BIG banks, and BIG cronyism, is scared of the little third parties. Enough so that he’s decided to lecture us against the folly of trying to go outside the prescribed two party box. He blames people who voted third party for the loss of Hillary Clinton and the disastrous election of Donald Trump in 2016. Even though the biggest third party vote total was by far for Libertarian Gary Johnson. And most of those voters certainly would not have chosen Clinton as their second choice. In other words, third party candidates “stole” more votes from Trump. Although instead of saying it that way, I describe it as the exact opposite. The Democrats and Republicans actually tend to “steal” votes from the Libertarian, Green, and other parties. Those candidates, such as Jill Stein of the Green Party would be many voters’ first choice. But because they are afraid of wasting their vote they are often shamed into voting for the establishment status quo candidate whom they really don’t want but fear slightly less than the other establishment status quo candidate. Thus the establishment LOVES keeping the Red Team Vs Blue team animosity at full boil.

Which is why it shocked me to hear Robert Reich endorsing something new. In that “Should You Vote for a Third Party” video he advocated for ranked-choice voting. Instead of voting for a single candidate, ranked-choice voting has you put the candidates in order of your preference. If there is no clear winner from the first choice votes the other preferred choices get factored in. As Reich says this allows you to vote your conscience. (So I guess he realizes voting for R’s and D’s goes AGAINST your conscience.) What I don’t get is how he could possibly think ranked-choice voting would be good for the Democratic Party and the system he has fought so consistently to defend.

Personally, I love exploring new possibilities such as ranked-choice voting, and also proportional representation as another alternative. In proportional representation the legislature is made up of candidates from ALL parties in proportion to the vote total they received. If the House is made up of 50 representatives and the Green Party got 10% of the vote total in an election then the Green Party would have five representatives in the House.

I applaud any new system which allows for more choice and enables people to break free from old paradigms. I also encourage you on your journey (be it your political, spiritual, artistic journey, or all of the above) NOT to fear criticisms of your beliefs. Welcome those criticisms, explore and play with them. If someone goes to the trouble of trying to keep you down then you are probably on your way up!

Flake’s Not So Daring Move

“It is clear at this moment that a traditional conservative who believes in limited government and free markets, who is devoted to free trade, who is pro-immigration has a narrower and narrower path to nomination in the Republican Party.”

Senator Jeff Flake announced yesterday he will not seek reelection in 2018. The above quote was the only important line from his entire speech.


jflakeFlake focused on President Trump’s tweets and indecency of behavior. He accused Trump of being undignified and of having mercurial behavior. Really? Who cares. Everyone knows Trump is a boisterous undignified jerk. Even his supporters don’t try to dispute that. There is nothing brave or edgy about calling the current president indecent, even for a lame duck Republican.

It WOULD have been brave and provocative to criticize Trump for his overreach in executive powers, for unconstitutional use of spying and the Patriot Act, for his failure to keep his campaign promises to end foreign wars, and for escalating the drone-killing of hundreds and perhaps thousands of innocents.

But those exact criticisms could equally have been made about a recent far more popular, dignified, and “decent” president. That is why it is easier for Republicans and Democrats alike to criticize President Trump for his mercurial disrespectful behavior rather than for his deadly immoral destructive policy.

Wishing you love, liberty, and peace – Ned Kelley 10/25/2017

Love and Tolerance

It is never wrong to try to see all sides. It is called empathy, and empathy is not equivalent to condoning immorality. On September 11th, 2001 I was one of many people asking, “Why did they do this?” And I continue to ask that question. What would drive a terrorist to that level of hatred, to fly a plane into a building, to kill thousands? I seek to understand their story, their history, how they came to their view. That does not mean I approve of their tactics. What they did was evil. But let us strive to understand in order to help heal and prevent it from happening again. Likewise there is nothing wrong with attempting to understand the mindset of people who would march in the name of “White Nationalism.” Empathy is neither a sign of weakness nor indifference. It is the courage to listen to that which you abhor.  To see all sides does not mean you endorse, agree, or condone their actions. It only means you are attempting to reveal the elements which have brought them to their current level of fear. And make no mistake, it is fear which drives their vitriol, violence, and intolerance.

NonTol QstnWe must not tolerate intolerance! On the face of that statement, I agree. Yet what does that mean? What is an act of “not tolerating” intolerance? Speaking up when someone makes an offensive remark? Good. Refusing to invite a homophobic couple over for dinner? I would not want them at my house either. Boycotting a business run by self-proclaimed Nazis? Indeed, you have every right to do business, or not, with anyone you choose. You even have the right to show up and counter-protest. Although that seems counterproductive to me. Loud counter-protests only bring more attention and energy to the demonstration in the first place. Which is what they want. The best strategy I can think of is to either ignore that Alt-Right rally, Klan march, etc. Or find a creative positive manner of counter protest without seeking a direct confrontation. Direct and violent confrontation is what the Antifa movement tends to do, regardless of whether they have a right to show up seeking a fight, it is not a productive method.

I also find it unproductive to tell someone they should or shouldn’t see both sides. There are many more than just two sides. (Which is why I started from the top with ALL sides.) Claiming that if you don’t want to ban racist speech you must therefore be a racist is a false dichotomy. This is a form of gas-lighting, trying to force someone to choose between either YOUR opinion or a blatant evil. It is similar to the topic of Global-Warming. You either agree with their prescription or you are a climate-change denier. The issue is more complex and there are many questions to explore. What are the causes? What can be done about it? What role, if any, should government play? What can I personally or my community do? Rather than trying to make it a simplistic binary. Those same questions can and should be examined when it comes to topics such as confederate statues and hate speech.

punch chartSo, WHY HATE? Why do people denounce hate with as much vitriol as the haters? I would guess part of the reason is tribal identity. Saying you want to punch Nazis distances you from those bad/fringe/intolerant people, and helps confirm your identity with the acceptable/enlightened/in-crowd. But when one uses the opinions and thoughts of others (not actual violent acts) to justify their own initiation of violence, that is extreme tribalism. It is exactly what those violent and intolerant groups do. And it only leads to more of the same.



Support these works on Patreon. Thank you!

Building Bridges – Cooks in the Kitchen

A few weeks ago I was asked to join a team of people working on a project toward political diversity and understanding. The project will entail creating and facilitating a workshop(s) fostering listening, compassion, and communication between people of opposing political beliefs. It is quite an honor to be invited into this leadership team. And while the development of that workshop is fascinating, that is not the subject of this blog. There will be more to come about that project down the road.

Too many Cooks (2)

Today’s topic is the process of working with the leadership group as we are planning the workshop to come. The team consists of 8 (at least) people. Yes, that is quite a lot of leaders and I do worry too many cooks could spoil the broth. But since we are working on a seminar with the goal of communication and harmony, it is a good test for us to see if we can effectively communicate and create together. So far we have passed that test well. No fights have broken out in our efforts to create peace in our world!

Of course there are a variety of work methods and creativity types in the group. Surprisingly I find myself to be the most structure-oriented creator among us. I am the one writing outlines, seeking meeting minutes, and asking for clarification on the purpose of each activity as we go. I say this is surprising, at least at first glance, because I am the “Improv guy” of the bunch. I am the only one with a background in training and performing improv comedy. There are no scripts and no planning in the art of Make-em-up on stage! Shouldn’t I be the one wanting to just go with the flow. All we need is the crux of an idea. Then we can get out of the way and let the magic happen. Nope. I want details! I want all the roles assigned in advance. And I want lists of materials and tasks to come.

The more I think about this though, the less surprising it is. Of course the Improv guy wants more structure. Improv is scary as hell. To perform it you need a solid basis of agreement to stand upon. There are rules and expectations we all understand. This is even true when  players are improvising together for the first time. There is (hopefully) an immediate level of trust established. If I throw you the ball I know you will pick it up, though I have no idea what you will do with it. If you create something in our universe you know I will see it there. The trust agreement is even stronger among players who have a history of working together. There are rules and boundaries, spoken and unspoken, about how we will play together. One of my favorites is to perform with my long-form team, The Other. (For those in Improv, we do what is known as a Harold.) We have a precise format laid out with an opening, three rounds of scenes starting along three storylines, palate cleansers between rounds, and some-sorta-somehow closing. We stumble and make mistakes. Occasionally it all comes together and gets tied up in a bow. Often it looks like some contorted neo-abstract impressionism. My teammate Patrick lovingly said, “It feels like we’re making fun of a Harold.” In other words we don’t care about what the end results are. Yet we DO care about each other and the agreements we have. We CAN get out of the way and allow the magic to happen because there is a strong platform for it to dance on.

So now I find myself on a new team striving to build bridges across the political spectrum. Naturally I desire to find some firm footing to play on. I must remember why it feels scary not having an established set of rules. We are figuring out the rules. I must trust in the process and trust each of them as we build our foundation. Undeniably I already have a solid respect for each of my fellow cooks in the kitchen. I look forward to tasting what we cook up.

Thank you for reading! You can support this blog and these works at

Let it Be Vs Let it Go – Life After Silent Unity


“Forgiveness is giving up all hope of a better past.” “Holding a grudge is like gripping a hot coal.” And as the song says, “Let it go!” These are profound words of wisdom. But it is never that simple. Even when you want to let it go. When you know you should let it go. After reciting mantras about forgiveness, dropping it into the burning bowl, and seeing the Christ light in all others… Sometimes it still comes back. The anger, the pain, the injustice! Even after declaring that you are no longer holding on to some painful incident from the past, IT still has a hold of YOU. If there was a switch you could flick and have it all be gone I am sure we would gladly flick it away! But there is no such switch. And if you are like me (human) the act of forgiveness is not so easy as simply saying, “I choose to let it go.”  Rather than trying to let it go I believe we need to let it be. I will tell you why in a moment, but first let me share a very personal example.

For seven years I worked at the prayer center known as Silent Unity. Those were some of the most rewarding and yet frustrating times of my life. Rewarding because of my amazing fellow Prayer Associates and because of the opportunity to pray (via phone or internet) with people all over the world! Frustrating because instead of a ministry it is managed as a call center. It has such a beautiful legacy and yet it is wasting away.

I am not a complainer. I am a solution seeker. I suggested ways to create team-building and spiritual support for the associates. Officially, meetings were in place for such a purpose. In reality, we met about once every two to three months to cover announcements and policy updates. My other “radical” suggestion was to have ongoing training and skills development. Again, officially, we had monthly meetings with a supervisor to review our prayer. In reality, we met perhaps five or six times throughout the year to get feedback about format or technicalities. There IS an initial training program. The majority of the training hours are spent on how to choose an appropriate prayer category from the book and how to complete the records in the computer system after each call.

I encouraged ways to restore the ministry and shift from HEAD to HEART. I offered detailed opportunities to anyone who would listen. Perhaps I was naïve. I did not realize how threatened people would feel by any call for change. Management can perceive suggestions as a message that they are not doing a good enough job. It became clear that not only were my ideas not welcome in this corporation, neither was I. “You’ve got a big target on your back,” one coworker told me. I left before it got too bad. And it was one of the saddest things I’ve ever done.

It has been 13 months now. I would say each day gets a little easier, but it does not progress continually. Some days, weeks, or months are great! I don’t even think about missing the ministry I so cherished. And then I get triggered. It all comes rushing back and I am fully hurt again – for myself as well as dear members still there. Helpless to what is being done and what has been taken.

I try to let it all go. I remind myself I am a spiritual being. The anger, the hurt, and resentment serve no purpose so I should just be done with them. I know I SHOULD, but that does not change what IS.

Now instead of trying to let it all go, I let it all be. I feel the feels. I notice and acknowledge the thoughts in my head. Thoughts of fear, betrayal, and judgments – so many judgments… Judgment of others, judgment of the system, and judgment of myself for having such judgments! And I let it be. I give myself permission to think the thoughts and feel the feelings. This is not to dwell in the past nor to focus on the negative. This is to fully live in reality. I gently offer my own heart a touch of compassion.

It is not a matter of getting rid of the aspects of myself I do not want. It is a matter of loving them. And that is when the shift occurs. If I am honest with myself I could have handled things differently. Could I have been more tactful? More patient? Yes, of course I could. Yet I cannot change the past. I cannot erase it from memory. I can let it be. I can find some peace in the present moment.

And only from there can I approach the actions of others with compassion. From that place of equanimity, swimming in and out of fear/love, I can offer empathy. I can try to imagine what they may have been going through. Empathy and compassion lead to  liberation from the bonds of right vs. wrong, good vs. evil. Only from a place of acceptance of self can one offer acceptance of others, acceptance of the past, and hence forgiveness.

I have let go of “letting go.” And now I embrace letting it be.


If you have found these words valuable please pledge a dollar or more at Patreon and support ongoing blogs, interviews, and videos!

If You Meet Del Close on the Road, Kill Him.

If you meet Del Close on the road, kill him.

What the hell does that mean? And why would I say such a thing? Especially about a man who has been dead 17 years!

For non-Buddhists I will first need to fill you in on an old adage. For non-improvisers I will need to explain who Del Close is. And for everyone including non-Buddhist non-improvisers I hope to show you how this all applies to you!

There is an old saying, “If you meet the Buddha on the road kill him.” It has been puzzling students of the Dharma for centuries. I will not claim to know exactly what it means. (Those who say, do not know.) But I will share what it means for me personally. There is no authority outside yourself greater than your own experience for gaining wisdom. You can be guided by a teacher, supported by a spiritual community, or inspired by a web series. (Such as Buddha Brunch!) But nothing can take the place of your first-hand practice and inner journey. So, if you come across the Buddha, or someone or something which tempts you as the ultimate authority, kill it! WAIT – Do not actually kill anybody or anything. But do relinquish the belief that you should put it above your own powers of Wisdom and Understanding.


If there is a “Buddha” of the Improv world  it is probably the famous coach and innovator Del Close. Many great comedians and actors have studied under him including a slew of SNL cast members. If you are an improviser you have probably directly or indirectly been influenced by his teachings. When I meet someone who has studied under him, my ears perk up and I hold them in a special reverence. Yet, just as in Buddhism, there is no instructor, no class, and no book which can take the place of your own practice. All of those things can assist you, but you must DO it and ultimately trust your instincts.

So, what is YOUR art form? And who or what is your Buddha?  Is there a classic technique you have been aspiring to? It may actually be keeping you from finding your own natural technique. If you work in the art of prayer you may be trying to adhere to a particular format. While that format can help at first, eventually it will stifle your true prayer voice. (Watch the Light for the Lightkeepers series for more on this.) Do you have a role-model? Great! Let them inspire you. Let them describe the path they have traveled. But remember they can only point to the road, you must journey your own.


Cocreate and support these works on Patreon!

Comfort the Afflicted… We’re ALL Afflicted


The role of the spiritual leader is to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.

I first heard that adage fifteen years ago from Rev Gary Simmons at a conference on ministry models. Maybe because I am a natural born smartass, “afflicting the comfortable” particularly resonated with me. I seem to have mastered the art of shaking things up; pulling the rug out from under people; and just generally pissing people off. If you are sitting complacently in your boat, I will rock it. If you show me a loose thread, I will gladly tug at it.

Unequivocally there is an important place in the world for upheaval, especially in our outmoded institutions and organizations. There are some boats which desperately need to be rocked, and many a thread is begging to be yanked clean out. But I have learned (and am still learning) not to capsize everyone I see. They might not be ready to swim.

Recently a friend confided in me that at periods in her life her biggest aspiration was to make it through the day without seriously contemplating suicide. I thought to myself, it’s a good thing she didn’t happen to run into me on a day when I was in an “afflicting” mood.

No matter what level of comfort anyone appears to have, no matter how cozy they seem to be in their old belief system, they too are afflicted in one way or another. If nothing else we are all carrying around this condition known as Human. And we all need some comforting along the way.

In my journey of Unity Consciousness my intention is to break down the boundaries between “me” and “not me”. In doing so, I find myself increasingly prone toward compassion. Oneness consciousness naturally leads to the desire to be kind and loving – for it is kindness to one’s own being. (How selfish!) And conversely, the practice of compassion increases Oneness Consciousness. Every act of kindness dissolves the illusion of separation.

I turn to my niece Samantha for inspiration. She too is a smartass born from a line of smartasses. At a very young age she is already demonstrating an affinity to rock the boat. She can find your buttons and push them with a devilish grin. Yet she balances that with unconditional love. There is a deep wisdom, acceptance, and caring for all beings which shines through.

As it turns out, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” was originally referring to the newspaper business. At the end of the 19th century Finley Peter Dunne coined the phrase about the role of reporters. I am rather keen on that. In my current ministry I am writing blogs, making videos, and interviewing a variety of characters about spirituality and creativity. Via the Buddha Brunch and Spiritual-Improv I am part investigative reporter, part teacher, and part entertainer. In YOUR ministry (yes I know you have a ministry) do you need to do more smoothing things out? Or perhaps for you it’s time to do more shaking things up. I invite you to join me in seeking the balance between afflicting and comforting. Yes let us pull the rug out from one another, AND remember to wrap each other in a soft blanket.

You can support these blogs and videos at by pledging just a dollar or more. Thank you!


Go Vote, But Love Thy Enemy

I’m glad to see so many of my friends excited and involved in the presidential campaign this year. They believe in their candidate and they believe they are making a difference. That’s great! This shows they do not want the status quo and they want transformation/evolution for our society.

Get out there. Donate, go door-to-door, make the phone calls, and collect the signatures. And of course, go vote. I’ve done it all. It felt good. Just try to remember a few things.

Your candidate is not a savior. And the other guy or gal is not the devil. If you lose it’s not the end of the world, or the country. And if you win it’s not going to be enough. Will it make a difference? Maybe, I do not really know for sure. I DO know for sure how you can make a difference…

Do something. Help someone. Create something. Go out and play. Go within and pray. Practice your art. Be a friend. Call your mom. (Yes Mama, I’ll talk with you soon.) Forgive someone. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Love your neighbor. And yes, love the candidates you are against. Send a blessing to them and each and every one of THEIR supporters. Do this to the point you are no longer “against” anyone.

It is easy to spread memes which vilify others. That does nothing to bring us closer together. It is easy to point out how hateful someone else is. That does not increase love and compassion in the world. True compassion means to behold those with whom you disagree, and hold space for them and try to see their point of view.

I can hear you responding, “But THAT man or woman is really bad.” I know. I believe you. I’ve been there. And I don’t think I’ve ever won over new supporters through memes or name-calling. Most of that stuff is just patting each other on the back with people already on the same team.

If you want to spread your message, and I just know that is a message of kindness and compassion, you must love the very one who seems to be your enemy. Yes, especially that one.

Backing Into It

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” This is a popular adage in Buddhism and often a theme for discussion at my Vipassana (Insight) meditation group. While experiences such as sadness, anger, and disappointment may be a natural part of life, we can free ourselves from the agony of resisting those experiences. We do this through mindfulness and equanimity. Sometimes the hand of fear and anxiety can be gripping my heart without my even knowing it. When I pause and take a moment to watch my breath and notice what I am feeling, only then do I become aware of the grip itself – and it loosens.

The intention of mindfulness practice is to liberate ourselves and to awaken. It is not to “cure” ourselves of those unwanted experiences. Yet, almost as a side effect, the practice tends to relieve those very uncomfortable feelings and experiences. By acknowledging a feeling of pain, not only does the resistance dissipate, often the pain itself is transformed. We are humans though, and along with this human journey comes a desire for pleasure and an aversion to pain. It is simply built-in as an evolutionary survival mechanism. The trick, it seems to me, is to strive for mindfulness and the rest follows. We must “back into it” so to speak. What a delicious paradox! If you try for it directly it will elude you.

I remember a phone conversation with a long-distance relationship of mine. We were planning a visit which would be our first face to face contact in over a year. There was a great deal of unspoken tension and trepidation. Without realizing it we were immersed in the heaviness of not knowing what was to come. At one point I heard myself say, “I’m scared.” One second of silence then the voice on the other end of the phone replied, “Whoa! I just felt a wave of peace wash over me. I’m scared too.” There it was. In the instant we named it the fear no longer had power over us. We felt joyful and excited… and without our trying the fear dissolved.

Where else in life does this phenomenon occur? What other treasures will hide when you pursue them head-on, but can be reached by letting them come upon you? Companionship is my first answer. Finding a loving relationship, whether it be friendship or romance, cannot be forced. We all have an innate urge to seek human connection. Yet, wouldn’t you agree, it can never be forced. Whenever I’ve tried to “get” someone it did not work. When I am curious about life and interested in the people on this planet I usually meet interesting people. When I am openhearted I make heart connections. When I am loving, love finds me. Not when I go looking for it.

And what is even more important than love? Comedy. (Yes, that is meant as a joke. Maybe.) I am an Improv Comedy actor, and obviously when performing I want to make people laugh. Once again though, the harder I chase after that laughter the more it runs away. “Do not try to be funny”, is an important rule for improvisers; and I include it in my Spiritual-Improv Covenant. When I go for the zany choice I might get a big laugh for the shock value. But at what cost if it does not support my scene partners and help move the plot forward? Rather, when I seek only to be true to the character and true to the situation, is when I have experienced the most brilliant, creative, and funny moments on stage. It cannot be forced, but the spirit of laughter can be invited.

Truly lasting pleasures in this world may not be attainable through striving. The real rewards of love, laughter and life itself can rise up through us when we are open and aware, willing and sincere. Perhaps this is the intent behind Matthew 6:33 NRV (Ned-Revised Version) But seek ye first the kingdom of God and its Truth, and all these other gifts will be realized as well.

Note featured image:  Foreground – Buddha statuette, anonymous.   Background – “The Journey Home” painting by Jenny Hahn

Support Ned’s blogs and videos at