Category Archives: Brene Brown

Where We Belong

The advantages of being a bridge between communities

One of the advantages of being on the road a lot is getting to listen to audio books like Brene Brown’s latest, Braving the Wilderness: “The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.”

In the book, Brene describes her struggle with Maya Angelou’s quote, written above. Brene shares how her own life experiences and forged path kept her from belonging in any one place or to any one community. She finally realized, through vulnerability and honesty, that she belongs to herself, which allows her to belong everywhere.

Standing in a wilderness that is outside the borders of each established group, but within her own boundaries, allows Brene to “speak truth to bullshit” while remaining civil, to be courageously vulnerable, and to come close to hold hand with strangers, because “people are hard to hate close up.”

As The Levins, Julia and I have held the intention to be a musical bridge between communities. We feel so grateful to be able to celebrate with each group we sing with and encounter. There is depth and truth within all the communities we visit and yet, we don’t fully feel we belong to just one. We recognize and rejoice where truth overlaps in puddles that we can splash in and sing.

My roots are in Judaism, which I moved away from as a teenager. I explored various faiths and practices. Music brought me back to Judaism and I discovered that what I had found in my travels, was all within its depths, hidden away. It was not pointed out, but left for me to discover on my own.

I feel that Judaism is a part of me. It may even be in my DNA. Yet, I am grateful to sing for not one, but several Jewish communities of varying denominations, as well as the other spiritual, folk and Literary circles in which we are privileged to perform.

Each community and group throughout the globe face their own challenges. There are politics, inter-personal dynamics, and obstacles that must be sorted through to achieve harmony.

Brene talks about each group’s tendency to fall into the, “If you are not for me, then you are against me,” mentality.

It is all too easy to become subservient to our need to be accepted by our “home team”, whether that is the faith of our birth, our political party, family or whatever circle we would feel most lonesome to be outside of. To be brave enough to examine and speak from your heart-centered truth, will, at times, be at odds with your home team but will also strengthen and enrich that team; even if they cannot hear it at first.

Julia and I have found it can be helpful to have someone from outside the group periodically visit, to usher in a fresh perspective. When we are in the car and are stuck within ourselves or are feeling a strain between us, it is wonderful to listen to Brene, or Krista Tippet’s On Being, or even a fun game-show podcast. These, “visitors” from outside our group, open the window between us, so that we can shift our focus back to the love and good feeling we have for each other.

Being a musical bridge allows us to have a similar effect on the groups we sing for.

Brene refrences a concept by the sociologist, Emile Burkheim called Collective Effervescence. This is when a group of people come together for something, like a concert, and experience a temporal unity by being in the moment together and sharing the excitement and joy of what is taking place. The people experiencing this may belong to different groups that would not usually get along, but through this Collective Effervescence, they bond.

If you examine your life, you may find that you have many opportunities to be a bridge between communities. Between your family, your place of work, your friends, your spiritual practice, or book club, there is bound to be varying opinions and stances. Standing in our heart-centered truth, we can begin to see the beauty of the people who seem to be outside of our inner circle. We can look for moments to create or encourage Collective Effervescence.

Being brave enough to stand on our own, we can bring real honoring presence into each group we encounter and usher in a little light and understanding to close the gap between us.

 Julia and I have one week left of our Indiegogo Campaign for our upcoming new album, Caravan of Dawn. It is Harmony-Driven music for folks, like you, who usher in the light wherever they go. Please join us! https://igg.me/at/thelevins 

 

A Creative Reframing of Stress and Superpowers

Overcoming your fear of utilizing your creativity.

Frame: noun  – “a ridged structure that surrounds or encloses something.”

“Reframing…Your frame is the house you live in.  That which you tell yourself on a regular basis.

What you talk about, you make real. Words are magical incantations.

Create a home that works for you, that brings you peace, that makes you calm.

Frame something that makes you feel good, makes you more patient, more kind.

It’s not a destination, it’s a way of living.”- Drake Powe

One of the advantages of being a travelling musician is getting to listen to audio books and podcasts on the way to various gigs.  Two recent highlights have been Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful resource book about creativity called Big Magic and her follow-up podcast Magic Lessons.

In episode 12 of her podcast, she has a dialogue with author Brene Brown. During that discussion, Brene noted:

“Without (creativity) I am not OK and without having access to everyone else’s, we are not OK.

I absolutely understand, personally and professionally from the data, there are no such thing as non-creative people. There are just people who use their creativity and those that don’t, and unused creativity is not benign.”

Brene Brown

My friend Drake Powe is someone I think of whose living presence is an expression of creativity. Drake was the best man at my wedding. Each interaction I have with him, brings me fully into the present and shifts me back to what is vital in this moment.

Even before he had an outlet for his creativity, Drake’s canvas was interaction.

Drake is a big persona. He is not only larger than life in personality but also in stature.  You might be surprised that despite being over six feet tall with a barrel chest that houses his immense heart,  Drake has wrestled with a fear of being attacked. This might stem from growing up in a rough neighborhood, however, fear of being vulnerable extends to being criticized as well.  Anyone with a presence on line, risks being attacked by mean spirited individuals with a lot of time on their hands.  Both Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown talk of having to deal with trolls who antagonize them for being powerful women who choose to demonstrate their creativity in an empowering way.  Drake has pushed past his fears and the stress of being an empowering black man in his community. As a yoga instructor, he has felt comfortable dealing with individuals and small groups but recently he has challenged himself to begin speaking in public.

In one of these presentations, he talks of accessing his inner superhero whose power is being calm and optimistic in stressful situations. He has managed to reframe his story, (fears of attack) by applying this superpower. He has recognized that very thing that stresses him out, simultaneously has the power of fueling his gift.

“Conflict is our opportunity when we realize how powerful we are… We are stressed because we feel vulnerable…You are not what you are stressed about…our true state is calm and loving…

Change the size of your framing, make yourself big, make yourself magnificent, because that’s who you are.”- Drake Powe

When I think of what super power I want to have, it is the ability to step outside of time, to be able to experience and bestow a state of timelessness. What pushes my buttons and causes me stress are, most often, fear based time-related issues, such as deadlines and ‘to do’ lists, even if they are self-imposed. When I react from a time-stressed center, my frame becomes small and, as my wife would say, “I am not my best self.” I have experienced that my creativity is heightened when I activate my superpower. Timelessness brings me back to benevolence. Benevolence extends the frame of my being beyond space. The music that flows from that, reduces stress and dances without constraint.

I wonder if each of us has a superpower that is restrained by stress, fear, or not fully utilizing our creativity.

Just for this moment, allow yourself to step out of time, reframe. Go beyond the self you know.

There really is no frame to what we actually are.  Being able to sit within our natural state of being gives us access to our creativity, our ability to be Faster than a speeding negative thought- More powerful than criticism -Able to leap stress at a single bound!

 

Let’s Be Big!

Smile into this next choice.  We are confronted by an endless series of choices and this one is the most vital. Relativity transfers the universe into the seemingly insignificant.  Ponder how much goes by without our noticing.  We feel incrementally what importance we can place on our own self-worth and subsequently that transfers to those around us.  The dream we hold in our heart is guarded by fear of survival and being drawn into degradation.  Empowering the purity of our deepest connection with this life, we become bold and can make the right choices; that not only safeguards us but encourages those around us. 

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Change has come and complacency will not serve us. We may be afraid to see what will happen next but having courage in the face of fear will see us through.  Tony Robbins says we must divorce ourselves from the story that debilitates us. Mooji says we are not our wounded limited egos but limitless awareness. Each of us had leadership quality. While none of us may fully ready, now is the time for us to begin, as Brene Brown would say, Rising Strong. Playing it small, small minded, petty with blame-throwers in our hands will serve no one.  Embrace that which is endless in yourself and let us keep our hearts on the greater turning of humanity towards true liberty, equality and freedom. 

Let’s reach out to one another and start talking about manifesting our dreams in a way that will not only benefit ourselves but bolster those around us.

Albert Einstein peace quote

Let’s Be Big

“If Al were here, I’m sure he would agree, if you want to move around at light’s velocity 

You’ve got to be big, as infinity. 

So take the afternoon and come along with me. 

Chorus: 

Hey! Let’s be big today. We’ll travel all around chasing troubles away. They’ll never see us coming. They’ll wonder why they’re humming. Come on, what ya say?  Let’s be big today.

Sitting on a moving mountain of gold.  Riding out past everything that I’ve been told.

Internal navigation, blindsided by degrees.  The fear of not succeeding was defining me.

I’d rather think big. So I’m getting out of my way. Out into the open where it’s not so gray. 

Chorus.

Bigger than heart-ache, bigger than strife. Taking the cake, we’re larger than life.

When I am in tatters and about to cave, in elementary matters, 

be the particle and the wave.

When you’re scared and loose your way- be the particle and the wave.

Stand and be brave- be the particle and the wave.

Chorus.

Bigger than heart-ache, bigger than strife. Taking the cake, we’re larger than life.

Hey Let’s be big today. We’ll travel all around chasing troubles away.

Bigger than heart-ache, bigger than strife. Taking the cake, we’re larger than life.

They’ll never see us coming. They’ll wonder why they’re humming.

Come on, what ya say?  Let’s be big today.”                  – The Levins

Particle and wave

Rock the paradox, you are essential!

Taking the BIG view

 “In the future, humanity will overemphasize the intellectual element of the mind. Instead of recognizing the wholeness of life, people will perceive life as having a worldly aspect and a spiritual aspect that are separate and unrelated to each other. People will also loose themselves  in isolated fragments of conceptual information and become victims rather than masters of their knowledge…Intuition knows the whole, intellect knows only fragments.”
– Lao Tzu
Sabine Bode
Yesterday on The New Yorker Radio Hour, Sabine Bode, a journalist, talked about interviewing elderly Germans, who were born at the end or after WWII. She wanted to see, if like her, they were traumatized by wondering to what extent their parents had gone to as Nazis. Many of the people she talked to had lived either in denial or were as wood. Sabine remarked that many people had little or no sympathy for the children of Nazis.  As she talked, her humanity flowed out through the radio and it endeared me to her.
This made me consider the reality behind all the groups that act reprehensively. For every terrorist, there are wives, children, parents, brothers, sisters, relatives and friends associated or attached to them. Many may not share their ideologies or beliefs but are hijacked into silence or coerced into action out of fear.  Surely some stand up or are die in resistance but many are swept up.
Last night, Julia and I continued to listen to Brene Brown’s book, Rising Strong. Brene interviewed hundreds of individuals to see if they thought that on the whole, people were doing the best they could with what they had to work with. She found that if people were compassionate they agreed that people were doing the best they could with what they had to work with. This included murderers and terrorists. Of course having compassion doesn’t mean that we condone their behavior. We can understand someone’s actions and know that the best thing is to make sure they don’t continue to cause harm.
Brene suggests “Living Big”, using Boundaries, Integrity and Generosity. Setting boundaries helps us define clearly and honestly which behaviors are ok and which aren’t. Integrity allows us to not just talk about our values but to go beyond what is easy to consider the whole picture and generosity allows us to see humanity not in black and white according to our current blanket judgments but with kindness and discernment.
Integrity
There is a musical group called My Favorite Enemy comprised of Israeili, Palestinian, Jordanian, American and Norwegian famous recording artists and songwriters.  They sing, “Too many stones have been thrown.”
What is flowing through us is so much grander than the defined concept we have of ourselves and one another. Surely things are always more complicated than we can understand but as we expand our hearts we can intuit what it is to be whole and help to untie these knots.
May our humanity allow us to flow beyond borders and definitions to heal those who have been swept up, including ourselves.

Healing our story architecturally

“Buildings are not simply expressive sculptures. They make visible our personal and collective aspirations as a society. Great architecture gives us hope. Great architecture can heal.”
-Michael Murphy
 
A few weeks ago I wrote about Bryan Stevenson. This week, Julia told me I had to watch an amazing TED talk she saw by Michael Murphy. It was about architecture that is built to heal.  Michael Murphy has done incredible work around the world. In Rwanda, not only did Michael design a hospital that would prevent unnecessary infections, promote healing, and lift patient’s morale, he was wise enough to work and learn from Bruce Nizeye. Bruce, a local engineer, taught him about Ubudehe, a practice and culture where the community works collectively to support one another and solve problems. Hundreds came out to excavate the site with hand tools.  Bruce started a guild where master craftsmen trained locals to make the furniture.  Fifteen years after the Rwandan genocide, Bruce advised Michael to hire workers from all backgrounds, half of them women.  This process initiated a healing for the community while the hospital was being built
This process is called Locally Fabricated or Lo-Fab and it’s four pillars are:
Hire Locally
Source Regionally
Train where you can
Invest, focus on how to bring dignity to the people that the building will serve.
Michael Murphy
A Lo-Fab hospital in Haiti saves lives from Cholera, a birthing center in Malawi seriously reduces the maternal and infant mortality rate.
Back here in the States, Michael saw that Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative were planning on building a memorial to those who were lynched in the South. Michael asked if he could design it.  The collaboration will be a moving open structure, reminding one of the Parthenon until you get close and realize that the columns are pillars hanging, suspended above the ground like so many were from public town squares.  The names of those who were unjustly taken will be inscribed on these pillars. In a field outside the building, there will be duplicate pillars waiting for each county where lynching took place to claim and display them. This is not to shame these counties but as Michael said, it will allow the nation to, “heal from over a century of silence.”  Michael also pointed out that countries like Germany, South Africa and Rwanda have built memorials to commemorate their atrocities in order to mend their wounded psyches.  America has yet to build this kind of memorial.
Memorial to Peace and Justice
Brene Brown says in her book Rising Strong, “Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.”
This applies to us in America.  When we look at our story, we were farmers who fought the most powerful army in the world to create the first nation without a king or emperor. We created a Republic for the people by the people and during the Second World War we made the world safe for democracy. The shadow part of our story that we have yet to reckon with is slavery, bigotry, the genocide and subjugation of Native Americans, institutional misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia and too many other phobias.  Because we are unwilling to rumble with this shadow, it sadly becomes necessary to have an organization in 2016 called Black Lives Matter. 
This is the Land of the brave.  If we are set on “Making America Great…” let us love ourselves in the process of owning our story head on.  Not through posturing, pride and insulting one another but through recognizing that we have people like Michael Murphy, Bryan Stevenson, Brene Brown and countless others who are not only resources but are cheering us on toward our real greatness.  Namely, standing for up for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all of our citizens.  Equality and harmony are what make us strong.
The third part of Brene Brown’s Rising Strong process is called The Revolution, “where we own our truth in order to write a new, more courageous ending which will transform who we are and how we engage with the world.”
Rising Strong
That is a modern revolution worth having.
As more of us are willing to do this kind of work on ourselves, connections and links are made to build, not a wall, but a structure that brings dignity to the people it serves. That is something we need now more than ever.