Fleet Maull is an author, renowned meditation teacher, and executive coach, who spent 14 years in prison and now dedicates his life to facilitate deep transformation for individuals and organizations. In this episode, he shares with us his philosophy of radical responsibility, and how to create positive social transformation and a more sustainable global society.
“I spent a lot of time deeply involved in Buddhist practice and study and then I spent the other part being this kind of crazy person.”
Fleet Maull came of age in the 1960s and was very involved in the counterculture. To separate himself from American society, he moved to South America. Fleet became very spiritual and got a master’s degree in clinical psychotherapy. However, he lived a double life. He started a family and was deeply involved in Buddhist practices, while he was smuggling drugs on the side.
He received a 30-year prison sentence for that in 1985, at the age of 35. Eventually, due to good behavior, he spent 14 years incarcerated.
After the initial shock, Fleet turned his life around in prison. He did his spiritual practices for many hours a day, helped to start a hospice program, taught meditation to the prisoners, and lived a very disciplined and peaceful life.
“We don't take ownership for the stuff we should really own, and we blame ourselves for stuff that's really not our fault.”
Fleet developed the radical responsibility model while he was incarcerated. He saw very early on that the prison was an incredibly negative and toxic world with a lot of pain and suffering, and prisoners tended to armor themselves with anger, bitterness, and a victim mindset. Through that Fleet realized that his only way out without being overtaken by negativity was to embrace 100% ownership of the fact that he got himself into that situation.
He created the radical responsibility framework, to step out of the blame-game altogether, to not blame others but also not blame ourselves. The model is about taking full ownership as that is the only way we have any real power.
How To Reform The Criminal Justice System
“But it's not just the system. And from a radical responsibility perspective, I would say, there's never a them. It's us. We are the system.”
During his prison time, Fleet saw the lack of humanity on the prisoners’ side and on the guards’ side as well.
He established a mindfulness program for correction professionals as their suicide rate is three times higher than in the general population. The model is called Mindfulness-based Wellness and Resilience and it teaches correction professionals to navigate and manage their own physiology. This way they can be in the appropriate state whether they are responding to a crisis, being with their families, or doing paperwork in the office. They are able to transition.
If correction officers are more mindful and conscious, they are going to do a better job and break the cycle of retraumatization in the prison system.
According to Fleet, police violence is due to the officers being afraid in critical situations. This would change if law enforcement would be better trained, could regulate themselves better with mindfulness techniques, and would not get triggered in situations to make bad decisions. Fleet doesn’t think that defunding the police is the answer to the current situation, but transforming the whole system is necessary.
Palma’s Practice On Radical Responsibility
After listening to this episode, take a moment and reflect on it. Let's apply the framework of radical responsibility to your life. Fleet spoke about taking radical responsibility for each and every circumstance in our life. Those circumstances that we know we contributed to, and those that we feel just happened to us. Realize that our destiny is not defined by those circumstances, but by how we choose to respond to them.
I invite you to reflect or journal on the following questions:
Is there any situation in your life where you blame yourself, someone else, or outside circumstances?
What is your part in creating your situation and your future?
What choice can you make today to step out of the blame paradigm and take positive action?
If you find it hard to accept whatever circumstance that you find yourself in, then you might find my YouTube video on the power of acceptance helpful.
About Our Guest, Dr. Fleet Maull
Fleet Maull, Ph.D., CMT-P, is an author, meditation teacher, management consultant, trainer, and executive coach who facilitates deep transformation for individuals and organizations through his philosophy and program of Radical Responsibility©. He is a tireless and dedicated peacemaker and servant leader working for positive social transformation and a more just and sustainable global society.
Dr. Maull has been practicing mindfulness-awareness meditation for more than 45 years, training in the Tibetan, Zen, Vipassana Buddhist traditions.
Dr. Maull is also a pioneer and thought leader in the mainstream mindfulness movement who has developed cutting edge mindfulness-based and trauma-informed leadership trainings, transformational seminars, and consulting and coaching programs that he delivers in diverse business, nonprofit and government settings, including his pioneering work in developing mindfulness-based emotional intelligence (MBEI) and mindfulness-based wellness & resiliency (MBWR)® training programs. He is a certified professional mindfulness teacher and advisory board member with the International Mindfulness Teachers Association (IMTA) and a board member with the Institute for Organizational Mindfulness. He is also an advisory board member with the Frederick P. Lenz Foundation for American Buddhism.
Special thanks to Fleet Maull for taking the time to share his inspiring story with us.
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