Begin Within: Inner Healing, Social Transformation 

Martin Luther King, Jr said “All meaningful and lasting change begins on the inside.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist teacher of mine, said, “Our purpose in life is to wake up from the illusion of separateness.”

These two quotes are the inspiration for the offerings on this site. The site focuses on the interplay of inner personal development and outer social  transformation. 

When we survey the state of the world today, there is ample evidence that we are simultaneously teetering on the edge of collapse and poised for a great positive breakthrough. To carry us safely through these challenging times, it seems increasingly clear to me that there is a need to integrate social justice, emotional healing, and spiritual practice. One without the other two is not sufficient. This point of view is woven throughout this site. If you are interested, you may like to read “A Personal Journey…” in the “Articles” section for an elaboration of how I came to this perspective.

The thinking, reflections, and resources are culled from the learnings of my life as a social activist, director of national youth leadership programs, teacher of elementary through college, practicing counselor and therapist, ordained Buddhist teacher, published author, diversity trainer, international consultant, parent of two children, grandparent, and spouse for almost five decades.

In the “Articles” section are pieces I have written over the years on social change, leadership, diversity, emotional healing, Buddhism, personal reflections and experiences. Included are articles on working with young people that come primarily from my three decades of work with a program called YouthBuild (www.youthbuild.org). These may be useful for youth workers, teachers, and parents. Note: These are not scholarly articles. There are no footnotes. Although the ideas are informed by innumerable sources and experiences, they are only my personal views.

The “Quotes,” collected over the years, that have provided me with guidance, inspiration, and humor. Perhaps you will find value in some of them.

The “YouthBuild’s North Star” page contains downloadable chapters from my book about YouthBuild, and various other resources useful for YouthBuild directors, staff and graduates, and others in the youth development field.

If you would like to receive announcements of new blogs as I share them, please send me an email at jbellminder@gmail.com.

May this site serve our common good.

peace,  John Bell


About John Bell

John Bell most recently was Vice President at YouthBuild USA (www.youthbuild.org) for Leadership Development and Graduate Leadership, an international youth development and leadership program. He has over forty years of experience in the youth field as teacher, counselor, community organizer, program developer, leadership trainer, director, and parent. He was a founding staff member of three youth organizations: Youth Action Program (in 1978) in East Harlem, the original YouthBuild; Children of War (in 1984), an international youth leadership organization; and of YouthBuild USA (in 1988). He is a nationally known trainer and consultant in the areas of youth leadership development, peer counseling and healing, and diversity. John has done training and consulting work for the Peace Corps in Africa and South America. He is the author of numerous published articles and handbooks on youth leadership, including YouthBuild’s North Star. He is a steadfast advocate for including young people as partners in community development. He is also a trained peer-counseling teacher and an ordained Buddhist Dharma Teacher in the tradition of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. In all his work, he aims to integrate social justice, emotional healing, and spiritual practice. He holds a BA and MA from Stanford University. He is a happy spouse, father, and grandfather.