Hello, Team! I hope you all had a fabulous holiday, and are rested, refreshed, and ready to save the world in 2009. I’ll soon continue writing about ideas to help us do that, but this post is one of my Team Member Profiles.
Team Member Profile: J’Lein Liese
J’Lein Liese, December 2008
In the early years of the new millennium, the genocide in Rwanda had lost much of its steam. This was largely because almost every Tutsi in the country had been slaughtered by the Hutu militia, and the remaining refugees had vanished into the forests or neighboring countries.
Few Westerners had dared venture into Rwanda since the atrocities began. So a petite, polite, smiling young blond woman, traveling alone, was an unusual sight at the Rwandan border. Several hard-drinking Rwandan men hanging around the checkpoint were very, very interested. And not in a good way.
“I had to get out of the car,” J’Lein Liese tells me a few years later, over coffee. “And, well, I don’t want to sound paranoid, but the way they were looking at me was pretty unnerving.”
Paranoid? To me, J’Lein sounds almost suicidally brave. I’m terrified just hearing the story.
“They had that predatory look, and a lot of them began walking toward me, sort of circling me like a pack hunting. So I do the girl thing and look at my driver, as though he’s supposed to help.” J’Lein laughs, a deep, infectious laugh. I’m hoping that’s the only infectious thing she brought back from her adventures. “Of course the driver staring into the middle distance, pretending he’s never seen me in his life, and I don’t blame him.”
“My God,” I say. “What did you do?”
Anyone wanna spend some time here? Alone?
I’ve only just met J’Lein. Our meeting in this coffee shop was arranged by a mutual friend, South African Team member Judy Klipin. This is ironic, since we live just a few miles apart, in Phoenix. In person, she seems much too pretty and harmless to have survived an encounter with Hutu militia.
“Did you have a gun?” I ask. I’m not a gun person—quite the opposite—but if I were ever in the position J’Lein’s describing, I would probably go all Charlton Heston.
“Nope,” J’Lein shrugs. “So I had to use energy.”
“Energy,” I repeat. Girlfriend, please!
“Yeah, you learn to use energy a lot when you’re deal with horses—oh, at one point I was planning to train for the in Olympic equestrian events, except before I finished my Junior Years, for some reason one of my lungs collapsed. Which was fine, because it helped me realize that what I really wanted was to eradicate racism and prejudice from the planet. Anyway…”
I’m furiously taking mental notes, storing up questions. I have to hear how the Rwandan border incident unfolded, but every autobiographical detail J’Lein tosses out makes me want to shout, “What?”
Mental notes: ask J’Lein about her potential Olympic riding and her collapsed lung…
“So I gathered my energy together—“ J’Lein goes on.
“Wait,” I interject. “How?”
J’Lein’s brow furrows. “It’s hard to explain,” she says. “You just pull it all together…” She curls one hand into a fist and presses it to her abdomen just below her navel, at the point martial artists call the hara, or energy center. Then she runs out of words, because, as Lao Tzu said, “Those who know, don’t talk. Those who talk, don’t know.”
“Okay,” I say, impatient to hear the rest. “Then what?”
“Well, once I felt centered, I sent it out. I mean, nothing looked different—I kept smiling, kept walking, didn’t change my posture at all. Just sent out this blast of energy that said: ‘YOU. WILL.BACK. OFF’.”
I nod, aware that my academic training should make me roll my eyes in a dismissive fashion. But nowadays, I’m more and more aware that we’re all manipulating energy, and that we can communicate with it very powerfully. Anyway, J’Lein has a Ph.D. herself, and should be eye-rolling right along with me. But just as there are no atheists in foxholes, there’s no room for academic scorn in a lone woman at the Rwandan border.
“Well, what happened?” I ask.
“Nothing,” says J’Lein, shrugging. “Which is kind of huge, when you think about it.” She sips her coffee. “It was as if an invisible wall appeared around me. All the soldiers just lost focus and wandered off, like they’d forgotten I was there. Like a bunch of dogs who’d realized the squirrel they were chasing was only on TV.”
Oh, My Goodness, the Team Is Real!
When she gave me J’Lein’s number, Judy told me I’d be meeting another Team member, and boy, was she right. The first Team member profile I posted on this blog, you may recall, was son Adam—someone whose life appears unusually tame (but is actually very exciting). J’Lein, by contrast, is living a version of Team life so exciting that I, for one, would prefer something several sizes tamer.
There’s a kind of unfolding wonder that happens when you meet another Team person, a blend of certainty (“Wow! This person has all the markers of a Team member, the personal history, the sense of mission, everything!”) and incredulity (“Oh, my God! This person has all the markers of a Team member, the personal history, the sense of mission, everything!”)
The Shaman’s Checklist
Let me just run down the checklist, so you can see what I mean. Remember, I believe Team members share the archetype of the shaman.
Shaman figurine (if this is yours, please call the Lost and Found in Middle Earth)
In all cultures, shamans are typified by characteristics including (but are certainly not limited to) those on the list below. I’ll pop in illustrations from J’Lein’s life, to show you how distinctively she fits the markers. These aren’t fortune-cookie characteristics. They’re rare. But not for Team members.
1. Difficult childhood and adolescence:
As a young child, J’Lein took on more than her share of responsibility for helping her single mom. Her home life was so stressful, and her sense of destiny so strong, that she left home permanently at the tender age of 13, to spend much of her adolescence under the supervision of a riding trainer who had become exceedingly successful because of the exacting, stringent demands she placed on the riders she trained. J’Lein’s drive to work with the young and the dispossessed stems, she believes, from this emotionally wrenching youth.
2. Strong connection with animals (three examples from J’Lein):
“I was the one they’d get to ride horses no one could handle,” J’Lein tells me. “I’d do it no matter what—which meant I got bucked off, stepped on, kicked, bitten, you name it. But I learned how to use my energy from those horses.
“I went to Rwanda partly because I had to see the gorillas…. We were told not to approach or touch them, but the gorillas apparently hadn’t gotten that memo, because the babies came up, poked me, played with my funny hair.
“The day Obama was elected, I was on a tiger safari in Nepal. No one—not even the trackers—had seen a tiger for months. But I was thrilled about the election, and I swear, animals love hanging out with that energy. That morning not one, not two, but three tigers came out of the jungle and hung out a few feet from us for half an hour.”
3. Unexplained illness that pulls the person off a “normal” life course:
“No one really knows why I had a collapsed lung,” J’Lein recalls. “I was devastated—it took me out of the running for the Olympic trials—but looking back, it’s obvious my health was part of what guided me into my life’s work.”
4. Sense of mission:
“I’ve never had an actual job,” J’Lein says, sounding a little baffled by this. “I’ve always just jumped in wherever I thought I could help, and money shows up one way or another. I have a company called the Foundation for Global Leadership. I take groups of First-World people who are looking for meaningful experience, and lead them into areas of the world that need their help.” (You should check out the company website at.)
J’Lein’s good works are spread through her Foundation for Global Leadership
J’Lein has led dozens of groups into sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, where they are benefiting orphans, AIDS patients, women and children forced into the sex trade, suriviors of genocide (she was scouting out a site during that Rwandan border-crossing incident—er, non-incident).
5. High level of woo-woo talents, apparently genetic:
You’d have to be dead not to notice the high level of energy J’Lein brings into a room. That’s why I have no trouble believing any of her stories about a non-physical communication with animals and humans. But in case I needed a reminder, I’ll get one later from J’Lein’s four-year-old son Ethan, when they drop by my house over the holiday break. Ethan asks for a tour, and then says, “Why do you have two pianos?”
I almost say, “We don’t,” because I’ve forgotten all about the tiny, rickety upright in my piano-playing daughter’s bedroom. Ethan hasn’t seen the room, no one’s playing either piano, and J’Lein couldn’t know about piano number two.
“Ethan,” I say, “how did you know we have two pianos?”
He spreads his small arms wide and says, with some impatience, “I just KNEW.”
See, it tends to run in families.
Ethan: born on the Team
So as far as I’m concerned, J’Lein is clearly, obviously, glaringly on the Team. During that first coffee conversation, we both talk as fast as we can for two hours—not two strangers, but two players for the same side, bringing one another up to speed and plotting a forward strategy. It seems logical to combine my obsession with taking people on life-transforming ecological adventures, and J’Lein’s life work of helping human populations in need.
When we’re not plotting a merger, we discuss the urgency we both feel about connecting Team members with one another, all over the world. There’s barely time any more for Team members to sit around marveling at all our common traits and interests. The game is already in progress. If we chat, we chat on the fly.
Your Turn to Make a Link In the Team Web
So, now it’s your turn. After you read this post, it’s your turn to meet ‘n’ greet a Team member for yourself. I’m not sure how thinly or thickly dispersed the Team is, but you probably know at least one or two others like yourself. As the time to save the world grows very short, the network of Team members seems to be tightening. More of us are talking to each other, more of the time. We’re getting close to the center of the web.
Within 7 days of reading this post, ask at least one of your Team friends if they’ve met other Team friends. Arrange a coffee-talk of your own. Meet in groups of two, three, or more, but make contact with a new Teamer. Connect. Then post an account of your own Team meeting. We’re all curious as hell, and the more we meet each other, the more fun we have
REMEMBER: THE MEASURE OF ALL TEAM SUCCESS IS HOW MUCH FUN WE’RE HAVING!
Never forget: your life should feel like this.
Having Fun With Fear
J’Lein and I are definitely having fun. For starters, we’re planning to take future groups of life-coaching clients into Nepal, to find their own sense of purpose and help repair some of the region’s devastated people, animals, and plants. In addition, J’Lein has her sites set on her favorite demographic group: at-risk adolescents.
“Here’s what I’ve been thinking,” she says. “A lot of the Tutsi women in Rwanda saw their children slaughtered, and then they were raped by soldiers. Some of them got pregnant, and it wasn’t like they had a choice to end the pregnancies. Those children are all about the same age—about 12, 13 years old right now. They’re products of war, with the genes of two mortal enemies. Their mothers are, well, ambivalent about them. That cohort of children will either be the most monstrous population the world’s ever seen, or the most saintly. No in-between for someone with that history. Now, those are kids I want to work with!” J’Lein beams.
“Um, yeah, okay, you bet,” I croak, gripping my coffee cup for strength. “I’d been thinking more about bored American Baby Boomers, but yeah, Rwandan rape orphans…why not? Ha ha!”
“Hey, you know some of those Baby Boomers are supposed to be helping out in Rwanda. It’s the Team, remember?”
I do remember, though clearly, I haven’t yet reached J’Lein’s level of courage or faith. Sitting across from me, all bubbly personality and bright green eyes, she doesn’t look like the sort of person you’d choose to rescue people from the darkest and most terrible pockets of human tragedy on the planet.
But then there’s that energy thing. The more J’Lein talks about her ideas, the more I feel saturated, right through my bones, with the hum of her energy. If I were to try doing what J’Lein does, I’d definitely be a fool rushing in where angels fear to tread. In her case, however, that can’t happen, because she clearly has a vanguard of angels that goes with her everywhere, like the Secret Service.
My watch beeps, reminding me to leave for my next appointment. Neither J’Lein nor I can believe we’ve been talking for over two hours. It’s great to catch up with an old friend, especially one you’ve never met.
“I’ll let you go,” J’Lein says, “but damn, woman! We’ve got a lot to do!”
“We move at dawn,” I agree, my head spinning with new plans and J’Lein’s soldier-stopping energy.
I leave wondering how many more Team members are connecting, right this minute, like strands of spider silk. The whole group grows stronger with the meeting of any two Team members. So accept the challenge this week—find someone. Link energy. Subtract one more number from the “degrees of separation” that make so many Team members believe they’re isolated individuals. And if this assignment happens to take you into war-torn chaos, who you gonna call? J’Lein Liese. I do believe she’s a match for any army on earth.
Now, go make your Team connection!