Charlie has an in-depth understanding of the world he inhabits and he articulates his knowledge/wisdom naturally and extremely well. It is always a pleasure for me to experience the expressions of those who have mastered their art forms. Charlie has mastered a form many of us know little about, yet this article would capture the interest of anyone. – Jerry
By Charlie Hess
In our world today, there is ever-present evidence of man’s energy powerfully exerted and influencing our experiences. In cases big and small, the influences of man’s energy in this dance are very sweet and welcoming. When there is daily action which emanates from the perception that “everyone is Buddha,” openness, acceptance, joy manifest in the world.
In many, the human will moves from a place of scarcity and seeks to create what it feels is lacking in itself. The effects of this energy are varied and numerous. These range from the gross manifestations of difficulty (often atrocious) imposed on fellow humans, to the more subtle effects of personal fear, greed, anxiety, confusion creating a closedness, a contraction of energy which prevents us from personally experiencing Spirit’s energy. We have the capability to contribute a level of energy to the “dance” which helps Spirit’s grace to fully manifest.
I want to share with you an experience – somewhat dramatic – which I had recently on a plane while traveling from New York to Los Angeles. It was an evening flight from JFK airport and although the weather seemed fine outside, because of storms moving through the east coast, flights were prevented from leaving and we crept on the tarmac to hopefully reach the head of the take-off line. At one point the pilot said we would be sitting for a bit while air traffic control held us on the ground (it’s always air traffic control’s fault). He allowed that we could get out of our seats while we stopped on the tarmac.
I was sitting on an aisle seat and suddenly from behind me appeared a young bearded Orthodox Jew holding a royal blue prayer satchel. I later learned he was a rabbi from a west coast seminary. He said to me, “are you Jewish?” I immediately recoiled. Although I had been brought up in a Jewish family, I had never associated with the Jewish tribe in any religious sense. In fact, although I had been bar mitzvahed, I hadn’t connected to that ceremony in any meaningful way. I sense that my energy had not connected to those rituals or prayers. He then asked me “have you been bar mitzvahed?” I said, “No,” because in fact I felt that although I went through the ceremony, I truly had not. He then said, “Would you like to pray with me?” At that moment, I knew that although my body was recoiling in fear and embarrassment, in the middle of this packed airplane, that something important was being offered to me. My energy shifted, I felt myself open and I said, “Yes”.
At that he smiled, opened his prayer satchel and proceeded to explain that we were to do a prayer which would connect my heart with my mind. He unwound the leather straps that attached to a small black box containing prayers from the Torah. Placing the box on my left bicep, he wound the straps around my forearm and through my fingers and lastly around my wrist. He explained, “These are connected to the energy in your heart, very important acupressure points.” He then unwrapped another small box and strapped it to my forehead. We then recited a series of prayers, “Blessed Art Though …”
“There,” he said, “Now you’re bar mitzvahed.” At that, the plane’s engines started up again and we laughed to each other, recognizing that the place had offered just enough time for our ceremony, before he had to go back to his seat. Although this Bar Mitzvah took place on a stalled plane, sitting on a black tarmac, in the presence of a plane full of strangers, I felt that a great initiation had taken place. And yes, the ceremony was a Jewish one and the words were Hebrew – which I had not previously felt connected to. I feel that the initiation was wholly a surrender to the union with Spirit.
To me, this was an example – a rather dramatic one – of setting the conditions for Grace to arise. For when the rabbi asked, “Do you want to pray with me?” my reaction, my ultimate opening, allowed Grace to flow. I asked him after we were through why he came up to me and he said, “I just recognized you.” I like to think that he could recognize that I was prepared to move beyond years of fear and to surrender.
This personal experience is a universal one. The opportunities for we humans to move beyond our well developed “muscle memory” of will, control and a curious assumption of power, are presented throughout every day – usually in much less dramatic, but very real circumstances. The energy we contribute to the dance can either result in twisted ankles, stubbed toes or a beautifully orchestrated graceful dance, filled with Grace.
To further illustrate how Grace seems to work, I later learned that at around the same time that I was on this plane, my son Justin was in LA on a darshan line, waiting for his blessed hug from Amma, an Indian Hindu saint. Just before he was to reach Amma for his hug the announcement was made that she was going to switch from Sanskrit and start doing her chants/prayers in Hebrew! When Justin made his way up to her she held him especially long in her embrace and continued uttering her Hebrew prayers in his ear.
It seems that in order to move beyond the strong muscle memory of years of habit, models can be very helpful. Various religious “saints” from a multitude of denominations are offered as historic models of a way of being. The support which Stay Inspired is designed to offer, is another way of providing everyday models. The open, giving offerings which inspired endeavors manifest provide ways for people to experience the characteristics of how others are setting the conditions for Grace to arise. And the ripple effect from those models can have a deep effect on how humanity engages in this wonderful dance.
With Charles J. Hess of
Charles J. Hess founder of Inferential Focus can see the big picture. He has spent 25 years creating research based on the careful reading of hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles. This approach helped him alert clients to the financial meltdown later known as the "Asian Flu," the realities of terrorism and the pricing shifts in the oil industry.
"In working with [Mr. Hess] over many, many years, I would say his gift is his ability to see the order in what appears to be chaos," said Kevin J. Bannon, chief investment officer of The Bank of New York Co. Inc.
Q. What is your edge in gathering useful intelligence for investors?
A. The method actually goes back to low-tech ways of getting information. I think there's a big change in the investment business that's impacting a lot of our clients. Getting some intelligence or a bit of information before the competition and being able to move on that - it's been effectively weeded out of the environment. So we do what people have done for a long, long time and that is try to get information you can rely on, and for us, those are events, and put those together in such a way that you get a picture of what is developing before it's well recognized.
Q. So what is an "event?"
A. An event is something like, Russia announces that they're going to do military exercises with the Chinese for the first time since 1958 this summer.
Another event might be, within the same context, that India changes their parliamentary restrictions and allows their oil minister to negotiate with Iran without restrictions. Those are two events, for example. And we try to accumulate a lot of little observations and put them in the right configuration to get us a picture of what's developing.
Q. How do you identify these events, and how do you determine which ones merit attention?
A. We read 353 journals and newspapers and, in a very disciplined way, we extract all of the opinions, all the commentary from the writers.
Every couple of weeks, we'll get together, the six of us who do the reading, and we'll have a stack of five or six inches of paper among us. We'll eliminate almost all of it and maybe come out with something to comment on.
Q. How do your reports differ from those of your competitors?
A. A lot of research organizations ask people things, and they respond to the responses. So they'll do polls, they'll do surveys, they'll go to corporate management, ask them what's going on, what their earnings projects are, and work off of that. That, to us, is processed information.
So we go back to the raw information, which is something that we can rely on. Actions speak louder than words.
Q. Then I guess you face the irony of having to turn around and process information. So how do financial companies use your expertise, and of what does it consist?
A.They use it to recognize a new situation. I was alluding to something we've written about recently, the very aggressive actions on the part of China, Russia and India getting together and creating what we call a "triumvirate." That's typically not what a China expert, what an India expert, what a Russia expert or a management investment strategist would be talking about. So we try to see out in the world what's occurring early and then migrate it to what it means for investors, for corporations, for the government. Those are our three basic client groups. We bring them whatever we find.
They don't tell us, 'we're interested in natural gas; go tell us what you know about natural gas.' We just discover what we discover.
Q. What have been some of your good discoveries in the past that have defined your success?
A. It's a long list. We started the firm in 1980, so it goes back a long way. Some of the most notable ones [include] the Asian flu, which surprised the financial markets in 1997 and 1998. We really had been warning about that for six months before Thailand devalued, and then we helped clients manage it as it progressed.
Q. Any more recent than that?
A. We saw something we called "World War III." And in September 2000, a year before 9/11, we wrote about the terrorist threat that we inferred was out there, that was not being recognized by the intelligence organizations. And with that, World War III to us was the dangers of permeable borders. Terrorism, physical incursion on borders was an obvious one, but it included everything from the record industry, the audio industry, not being able to protect their copyright borders of their records. So World War III became a very big context.
What that created, which became very important just as a timing issue for the investment world, was fear. As this developed, and of course as 9/11 occurred, the reality of borders not being able to be protected created an increase in fear, which we tracked through the end of 2002 and suggested - actually coming into 2003 - that the fear had peaked.
With that decline in fear, what we suggested was risk premiums collapse, the stock market in fact does a lot better, earnings do a lot better. The beginning of 2003 for investors was an important time to be invested, when there was a lot of fear out there.
Q. When I spoke to you two years ago, you predicted that the housing boom would continue. You were right. But I understand that your view has shifted and evolved to encompass global implications. What's changed?
A. Speculators, or they're called "investors" by the realtors, are able to use new instruments - interest-only mortgages, 100%-plus financing in some cases. The Realtors Association says [that] last year 23% of all purchases of homes were by investors. That's a new variable.
Q. But you say that housing depreciation might be the least of our worries?
A. The real important part of the housing industry was the effect on the economy.
Some figures will say $660 billion was pulled directly out of the home in home equity loans and cash-out refinancing. Money literally came out of the increased equity value of the home in the last two-and-a-half years, a significant amount. That, we think, explains the anomaly of consumer spending right through very low growth in their income.
We think that, in fact, real estate is actually driving the economy. And we're suggesting to clients that it's not only key to our economy but key to foreign economies.
Let me just draw a couple of implications. Housing stock would obviously be hit if housing started declining. But the less apparent implications are things like basic materials and basic industries in China slowing down. Because we think the link is now very firm between the housing market and the U.S. economy, which still is the major economy for China, even though they're trying to diversify.
Q. Who are your customers?
A.They range from very large, like Citigroup and Bank of America [Corp.], to smaller companies like - I just met with a client up in San Rafael, [Calif.] called Eastbourne [Capital Management LLC]. They manage about $2 billion for, in some cases, some small high-net-worth managers, investment advisers. There's one up in South Burlington, Vt., Paul Financial Services Inc. [with $50 million under management] that we work with. It's another money manager. It ranges from the biggest to the smallest.
Q. So are you finding a growing market for the types of intelligence that you sell?
A. I think there's an inflection point toward recognizing that they need to do something differently than they've done for the past 50 years or so, which is basically rely on processed information. You see it in a marketplace, where hedge funds are taking greater risks because they can't get the performance that they expected or that the clients expected. And that's partly because of the efficiency of the market. They're not getting the advance warnings that they could play as easily.
Q. Can you share any concrete investing themes based on events you observe?
A. It's not, per se, the oil prices. It's really the shipping of oil. Turkey has changed the rules for ships going through the Bosporus and Dardanelle straits. And that's something that's started to spread, and it's related to security, and not just terrorism, but just security in shipping. And so they changed the rule that mandated that all hazardous materials be shipped only during daylight hours. They spread the distance between the ships that go through the straits. What had been a 12-day round-trip from the Mediterranean to the Black Sea is now up to 44 days.
That's not going to go away if oil prices go down. So we'll need more ships, and the time to ship is going to be longer, so the costs will go up for the shippers. But it's good for the shipbuilders. And again, whether we go down to $35 or $30 a barrel, that security issue is not going to go away with lower prices.
From: Charles Hess
Sent: Tuesday, June 10, 2008 7:16 AM
To: Unmasking the Mask
I finally got a chance to read “Unmasking the Mask.” The thought process you describe is very similar to that which I experience in my mindmap process. The silence and listening for direction, even the act of creating a piece of art, are all a part of my process. I don’t know what it is but when I have faith and surrender to an unknown source, the result is unassailable, unfailing. When fear and uncertainty creeps in, things don’t flow. The sence of unknowing I enter the process with is also key. I’m just present and available for what is presented when I sit to do the mindmap.
No air conditioning in the office yesterday in 98 degree heat so your “stay perspired” envelope definitely was appropriate! Cheers, Charlie (Hess)
Unmasking the Mask
I had a nice connection with Lindsey. A year earlier she had told me how she had been sexually abused as a child by a neighbor, so I knew something of her personal history. I wanted to help. However, not knowing anything about anorexia, I felt a little out of my element. My intuitive understanding of anorexia is that the conscious allure of emptiness is lived-out as the slow and unconscious elimination of the body. In other words, our natural inclination to trust the renewal we know exists in surrender (metaphoric death) becomes an unconscious collusion with the physical demise of the body (literal death.)
After seeing the hopefulness in her mother’s eyes and hearing about the suffering Lindsey had endured in recent months, my feelings of compassion over-rode the initial hesitation I felt. I knew I needed to trust whatever it was her parents trusted in bringing her to me in the first place. Determined to help, I suggested to her mother that she bring Lindsey over and leave her with me the following day.
The next day, Lindsey and her mother arrived on schedule. Her mother nervously dropped Lindsey off, thanked me and quickly drove away. Lindsey was cheerful enough on her arrival – at least on the surface. After a cup of tea and a little conversation, the bottomless pit of her sadness slowly began to emerge. Lindsey looked very unhealthy – thin, gaunt, dark circles under her eyes, discolored teeth from self-imposed vomiting.
When sharing some of the more intense details of her struggle, she would occasionally switch back into a more cheerful voice and counter what she had said. At one point she countered the details of her laxative use with, “I am really not that bad – I only bought 6 boxes this week – I mean there was a girl in rehab who would buy 20 at a time-- you should have seen her!” Quietly and prayerfully I went inward and asked to be given what I needed to help this sad young woman.
“Lets make a mask!” I suggested. She looked at me quizzically and hesitantly said, “Okay.” I had made masks with individuals and groups before, using a simple procedure where plaster bandage was used to mold the general shape of the face. I happened to have a box of the plaster bandage, on hand, that a friend had sent me just a week before. Once we were prepared and ready to begin I had Lindsey lie down on a blanket, covered her face with Vaseline (to keep the plaster bandage from sticking,) and then covered her face with the warm, dampened plaster bandage. After giving the plaster a few minutes to harden, I removed the mask from her face and we were ready for the next step in the process. I had plenty of art supplies in my studio so we set off to paint and decorate the mask. I was still feeling somewhat inadequate in terms of the deeper issue of Lindsey’s anorexia, however she seemed absorbed in the process of making the mask. I was simply trusting where our creative exploration might take us.
Lindsey seemed to get quite involved painting and decorating the mask and was pleased with the final results. Having no intuitive insights as to the meaning of her creation in relation to her current issue, I suggested we take a break. Mask in hand, Lindsey followed me upstairs for a cup of tea. As we sat with our tea and the mask in front of us, I asked a few questions about her experience of making the mask. Lindsey was not someone who was particularly articulate in expressing her feelings, nor did she have a general interest in pursuing the deeper or symbolic meaning of her experiences.
When she was younger, my wife Marilyn and I took her to see a movie we thought she might be interested in. On our drive home after the film, Marilyn and I naturally (natural to us,) discussed what we felt the deeper meaning of the film might have been. Eventually I turned to Lindsey and asked what she thought about the film. To my surprise she looked puzzled and said, “I don’t know -- do you always think about movies?” I said, “Yes, we usually do -- don’t you?” She said, “No, I just watch them.”
As Lindsey and I sat drinking our tea, I didn’t have a clue how making a mask might help her current situation. My confused state of unknowing and a deep desire to help this troubled young woman became a silent, passionate prayer for guidance. At that moment, my feelings of concern for her, and the silence we inhabited together created a particular kind of intimacy between us. I felt she trusted me completely and all of my compassionate attention, at that moment, was focused on concern for her. Perhaps the space we inhabited together was what the Bible assures is available to all of us,
"Where two or more are gathered in my name, there will I (God) be also."
As we sat in our long and diffuse silence with our hands resting closely on the table, I noticed a bit of paint on her hand. With one finger I reached over to rub the paint off. At once, Lindsey snapped to attention, looked at me wide-eyed and appeared to go into a completely altered state! As I watched, a part of her seemed to disappear right before my eyes.
Sensing what was going on for her, I picked up the mask, held it before her eyes and said, “You look just like your mask.” Seizing the moment, I quickly followed with, “You just left your body?” “That is why you don’t feed and take care of your body -- because of the sexual abuse, you learned to leave your body when things get difficult, and somewhere along the way you made the choice not to inhabit your body at all. When I touched your hand in that quiet moment you thought I was coming on to you and you left your body, just as I am sure you did when you were a little girl being abused. That was your way of surviving the experience. When you are afraid, or feel betrayed you leave your body behind and go somewhere else.” I continued relentlessly, suggesting she love and care for her body and never betray it the way others have. I told her she must never again abandon or abuse her body by systematically starving it to death. In my insistence I even gave her “homework!” As a counter-measure to the abuse/self-abuse, I suggested she occasionally produce beautiful, candlelight dinners for herself and consciously care for and feed her body as if it were the Beloved.
Lindsey sat quietly, deeply listening. I can’t remember all that I said that day. However, I felt something very important got through to her and that I had said all that came through for me to say. When I had nothing more to say we sat in a long silence. At about the time we expected her mother to arrive we heard her car come down the driveway and pull into the parking lot. Out of the silence, gratefulness and urgency of the day’s end Lindsey finally said, “You are the smartest person I have ever met.” It was a simplistic way of interpreting my small part in the magic of the day, and I felt anything but “smart.” However, I was grateful for the breakthrough we experienced and grateful for the help of unseen hands that gave us both what we needed.
I didn’t see Lindsey again until months later when she sought me out at a large gathering. It was a blessing to see her so plump and happy as she told me how well she was doing. I told her how wonderful she looked in her pretty red dress. She said, “Don’t tell anyone -- I got it on sale at Target. It was a formal occasion and everyone was well dressed. I said, “Well, you look as beautiful as anyone here.” She beamed a smile and told me she was getting married.
Her tears fall
on the beach
strewn with pebbles and small shells
while her cries mix
with the clacking of
the wild birds
It is not easy to
on a pile of stones
Commission for Christopher Dock Mennonite High School Rosenberger Academic Center
Banners by Juanita Yoder
Princeton Alumni Weekly Magazine
Jayadeva's Integral Yoga Institute in Princeton, NJ
Click on image to read
Between Brushstrokes by Joanie Brady
by Joanie Brady
“Joan B. Brady has invited us into the heart and soul of the private world that she shared with her mother. It is an elegant tribute to the best of our humanity, when it is inspired by love.”
Click on images to enlarge
A Blessing for Equilibrium by John O'Donohue (who has just passed away)
Contributed by Joanie Brady
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the music of laughter break through your soul.
As the wind wants to make everything dance,
May your gravity be lightened by grace.
Like the freedom of the monastery bell,
May clarity of mind make your eyes smile.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May a sense of irony give you perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May fear or worry never put you in chains.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
To hear in the distance the laughter of God.
~ John O'Donohue ~
The Inspired Heart: An Artist's Journey of Transformation