Category Archives: Gratitude

Grieving, Singing and Shifting

“Even if the whole universe is nothing but a bunch of jerks doing all kinds of jerk-type things, there is still liberation in simply not being a jerk.” – Eihei Dogen (1200-1253 C.E.) as rendered by Brad Warner in his book Don’t be a Jerk

7 stages of grief

Yesterday, I watched part of Matt Khan’s latest talk, The End of the Old Paradigm. This was recorded after last week’s election. Matt postulates that the universe is actively helping us to evolve by moving us from the dormant state of divinity, which is the darkness of judgement to the active state of divinity, which is the light of gratitude. Even if we are getting down on ourselves because in this moment we cannot feel any gratitude, we can let go of our self judgement about that. Matt suggested that we all have to go through the seven stages of grief to let go of the old paradigm. Namely, an ego-dominated state where we are rooted in judgement, fear and greed. The new paradigm where we recognize one another as equal despite our differences, leads us into a heightened state of benevolence.  We cannot rush our natural process. So, wherever we are with our reactions, we can love and honor ourselves right where we are.

This talk was helpful to me as I was walking on a treadmill at the gym.  It minimized my viewing of the seven TV screens reporting news that usually provokes my judgement, anger and sadness.

Matt caught my attention when he asked how reality could get our technologically advanced culture, living in denial, to look up from our cell phones.  Putting the “TV host of The Apprentice” in charge of the free world has certainly made us look up and around. Hopefully, it will cause us to reconnect with one another directly. It is time to stay aware, even if we are in stages of confusion, anger and sadness. It is vital to stand up for one another’s human rights while working through until we can enter into the advanced grieving stages of acceptance and hope.

While wrestling with our ability to deal with current events in a loving way, Julia and I visited an out of town friend.  He is a fellow musician who told us about singing for another friend’s father in hospice.  He started singing and was amazed that his friend’s father, who had advanced Alzheimer’s, knew and sang every word. I recalled singing for my uncle Si, who had such advanced dementia he could no longer even remember his wife. The night I sang for him was their anniversary.  As we gathered around in celebration, my uncle Si became lucid and sang every word with conviction and a passionate connection.  Singing opened a window in his memory and for that one night, he remembered my aunt and who he was.

This past weekend Julia and I were at a Folk Alliance conference. When we arrived, everyone was somewhat distraught. By the end of the weekend, everyone remembered who they were and the significance of what we do individually and together. Singing has a power to reconnect and realign us to who we are. We may not be able to force, or negotiate our way through our process of collective grieving in order to let go of or die to the old paradigm but perhaps we can sing our way through.  Even if you don’t think you have a good voice, you can still hum a few bars.

During the weekend, my friend Kirk Siee, a grand stand-up bass player, gave me his copy of Brad Warner’s Don’t Be a Jerk. This is Brad’s radical but reverent paraphrasing of Dogen’s Treasury of the True Dharma Eye, which says, “We touch the deepest experience of all human beings throughout history when we allow ourselves to be truly quiet.”

Don't be a Jerk

So, perhaps be silent and sing, sing quietly, sing in the silence, but don’t silence the singing of your being!

Alzheimers disease and Music Therapy

 

14 years of Wonder!

“In the place my wonder comes from, there I find you.  In your heart where the world comes from, there you will find me…When you be beside me, I am real.” – Bruce Cockburn/Love Song

This post was written on 8-18-16:

Wedding Photo

Fourteen years ago today I married Julia Ann Bordenaro in the Stephen Mather Redwood Grove and Amphitheater in Berkeley, CA.  It was an enchanted day and certainly the sweetest decision I have ever made.  Certainly the grove of trees provided the perfect sheltering atmosphere and the amphitheater held a theatrical flair that was open for us all to enjoy. The breeze, the music and love floating through us and our company of cherished family and friends was like the summation of a Shakespearean comedy.  Still, the decision I made was to become a soul mate.  Not to be completed by but to make the commitment to a partner who would not settle for less than my true authentic being.

Julia and I have formed a bond that is not conventional and yet feels like we are home, regardless of where we are.  Six years ago, we left our comfort zone in California and embarked on a quest to play music full time together.  We continue to succeed and manage to uplift one another, even while we spend most of our time together on and off the road.  Our policy of only one of us getting to go down the rabbit hole at a time has been very effective. That way one of us can hoist the other up out of the pit of doubts and other beasties the mind can concoct to throw us off course.

We continue to see each other, regardless of how we may be seeing or not seeing ourselves from day to day.  The journey has weaved us in and out of various circles with many beautiful people assisting and joining us as we strive to be the bridge between communities.

To commemorate our time together I will share snippets of some of our lyrics with you:

“You’ve got to move to change the state you’re in.”

“Hold my hand, and I will lead you to a quiet stream. Together we will understand the meaning of this dream.”

“I can see you are me in disguise.”

“I am one of many, I’m not one alone.”

“There’s an intricate weave between seen and unseen, pulsing life into winter until white becomes green”

“When I step out of the story, then I get the chance to see…there’s a bigger picture here, something more than me.”

“Hope brings motion, motion brings change, change is your friend when the going gets strange.”

“I can bench press the world by just letting go.”

“I’m all things at once and I’m nothing at all.”

“Be the particle and the wave.”

“A smile is forgiving.”

“Hey, let’s be big today, we’ll travel all around chasing troubles away.”

“I am here and I am needed, I will stand up and be greeted by what comes my way. I will fill my day with love.” – The Levins

The Levins on Couch poster

I am so grateful to continue to have Julia in my life.

May your bonds be fulfilling and invite you to be a soul mate to yourself, wholly committed to life and spilling over the side; barely contained ; )

“With love, with love, with love”

 

Elie Wiesel- Independent but never alone

“Self-confidence is knowing that we have the capacity to do something good and firmly decide not to give up.”

The Dalai Lama

“Self-confidence is not a feeling of superiority, but of independence.”                                      — Lama Yeshe

Even if only one free individual is left, he is proof that the dictator is powerless against freedom. But a free man is never alone; the dictator is alone. The free man is the one who, even in prison, gives to the other prisoners their thirst for, their memory of, freedom.        —Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel

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Happy Independence day.

July 4, 1776

What we celebrate today is the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The draft of this famous document was submitted to the Continental Congress on July 2nd and they were able to agree on the changes by July 4th.  Then the real work began.

It is significant that Elie Wiesel, Holocaust Survivor, Nobel Laureate, Humanitarian and American citizen, passed away on July 2nd.  His life and passing are inextricably linked to American Independence and what that truly means.

Here are some excerpts from Mr. Wiesel’s essay entitled The America I Love:

“The day I received American citizenship was a turning point in my life. I had ceased to be stateless. Until then, unprotected by any government and unwanted by any society, the Jew in me was overcome by a feeling of pride mixed with gratitude.

From that day on, I felt privileged to belong to a country which, for two centuries, has stood as a living symbol of all that is charitable and decent to victims of injustice everywhere—a country in which every person is entitled to dream of happiness, peace and liberty; where those who have are taught to give back. That day I encountered the first American soldiers in the Buchenwald concentration camp. I remember them well. Bewildered, disbelieving, they walked around the place, hell on earth, where our destiny had been played out. They looked at us, just liberated, and did not know what to do or say. Survivors snatched from the dark throes of death, we were empty of all hope—too weak, too emaciated to hug them or even speak to them. Like lost children, the American soldiers wept and wept with rage and sadness. And we received their tears as if they were heartrending offerings from a wounded and generous humanity.

In America, compassion for the refugee and respect for the other still have biblical connotations.

Ever since that encounter, I cannot repress my emotion before the flag and the uniform—anything that represents American heroism in battle. That is especially true on July Fourth. I reread the Declaration of Independence, a document sanctified by the passion of a nation’s thirst for justice and sovereignty, forever admiring both its moral content and majestic intonation. Opposition to oppression in all its forms, defense of all human liberties, celebration of what is right in social intercourse: All this and much more is in that text, which today has special meaning.

Granted, U.S. history has gone through severe trials, of which anti-black racism was the most scandalous and depressing. I happened to witness it in the late Fifties, as I traveled through the South. What did I feel? Shame. Yes, shame for being white. What made it worse was the realization that, at that time, racism was the law, thus making the law itself immoral and unjust.

Still, my generation was lucky to see the downfall of prejudice in many of its forms. True, it took much pain and protest for that law to be changed, but it was.

America understands that a nation is great not because its economy is flourishing or its army invincible but because its ideals are loftier. Hence America’s desire to help those who have lost their freedom to conquer it again. America’s credo might read as follows: For an individual, as for a nation, to be free is an admirable duty—but to help others become free is even more admirable.

Some skeptics may object: But what about Vietnam? And Cambodia? And the support some administrations gave to corrupt regimes in Africa or the Middle East? And the occupation of Iraq? Did we go wrong—and if so, where?

Hope is the key word for men and women like myself, who found in America the strength to overcome cynicism and despair.

Well, one could say that no nation is composed of saints alone. None is sheltered from mistakes or misdeeds. All have their Cain and Abel. It takes vision and courage to undergo serious soul-searching and to favor moral conscience over political expediency. And America, in extreme situations, is endowed with both. America is always ready to learn from its mishaps. Self-criticism remains its second nature.

Hope is a key word in the vocabulary of men and women like myself and so many others who discovered in America the strength to overcome cynicism and despair. Remember the legendary Pandora’s box? It is filled with implacable, terrifying curses. But underneath, at the very bottom, there is hope. Now as before, now more than ever, it is waiting for us.” – Elie Wiesel

Elie Wiesel made his life about speaking out against indifference.  He believed in the Independence that does not stand alone but recognizes that caring for one another is at the heart of our freedom.

May his light kindle our own vigilance and courage to continue to stand up to injustice.  If we strive to “Make America Great Again,” let us remember what really makes us great is our generous spirit, our kindness and striving compassion to promote true freedom around the world.

Grateful for the Love Revolution

“Until we learn to love ourselves, we create space in our lives to manifest all these things to justify why we have no time to love ourselves. “ – Matt Khan

sharonsalzberg

Last week Julia and I went to see Sharon Salzberg, who talked about the power of meditation.  She said the key was “give yourself the compassion to start over a thousand times in one sitting when your mind wanders, to lovingly bring it back.”  She talked about focusing on your breath while directing loving-kindness towards yourself.  In her book Real Happiness, she uses Linda Stone’s term “Continuous Partial Attention”. This refers to our not wanting to miss out on anything…so we are on our phones, texting, checking Facebook, remaining busy which creates an “artificial sense of constant crisis, of living in a 24/7, always-on world.”

Taking time to check in and be with ourselves beyond the list of things that must be done allows for the inner space to merge with our external reality.

Julia and I were playing at the NY Center for Spiritual Living this weekend and the talk focused on “deciding to be grateful on the days we really don’t want to be.”  The prompt was to write down what is making us unwilling to be grateful, allowing it to be there and still finding things to be grateful for.

At the end of the service, a young woman, who was smiling and beaming at us while we sang, stood up with something to share. Months ago, she said she had purchased three of our CDs because she was pregnant and wanted to play something beautiful for her baby to hear.  Sadly, months into her pregnancy she had a miscarriage.  The music she initially bought for positive reinforcement suddenly became music that she turned to for healing.  The song she especially bonded with was a song from our Hafiz album, “The Sun Never Says” (The sun never says to the earth: “You owe me.”  Look what you can do with a love like that. It lights up the whole sky.”) She said that when she miscarried, she continued to play the song to nurture and remain connected to her child and to the beauty that surrounds her.

This woman was radiant in her gratitude as she stood in front of everyone and shared this …and it broke us open.  I thought that it was certainly Hafiz that had reached and sustained her but how many signs do we need on a daily basis to remind us to be grateful and loving?

My friend Angie turned me onto Matt Khan, who is the Jack Black of enlightenment.  Matt has a video called Love Revolution and he says:

“You are the one who can rewrite your brain chemistry and all you have to do is love your heart on a regular basis. Relentlessly.  When you love your own heart, you are loving all hearts simultaneously. Transform reality inside out.

We want heaven on earth we sit around waiting for, “Ok who’s going to do it? There’s billions of people on the planet, anyone want a crack at it? I’ll cheer you on.”  No, we’re going to build this thing together. Together but individually.

…Creating new patterns in your subconscious mind by making “I love you” the most popular thing you say to yourself.  And you become the safest person for you to be around. Because the magic is when you become the safest person for you to be around you will never feel unsafe around another person because you will always be there with you.”

Matt Khan- Love Revolution:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFS84Jp1qfc

Matt Khan Love that

Julia noted that the Love Revolution reminds us like Sharon Salzberg, that it comes round again and again so we can give ourselves the compassionate permission to start a thousand times in one sitting; to love ourselves again and again when we get drawn into “Continuous Partial Attention”.

Let me say sincerely that I am so grateful for you.  As hard as it is to bring back our attention to loving ourselves, may we all succeed and radiate our beauty fully.

The Dolly and the Mailbox

Mar 8 at 11:11 AM

Happy MLK Day! Wedging ourselves into the doorway of love

This weekend Julia and I had the pleasure of playing at a Folk Festival.  We were part of a songwriting competition.  We were grateful to be asked and got to play under a huge banyan tree, a living backdrop that made this the most amazing stage we have played on. We really allowed the songs we sang to not be about us exclusively and had a wondeful time. It was a pleasure to connect with so many beautiful songwriters and the people for whom music appreciation is not only a lifestyle but is life manifest.
The three judges announced their favorite three songwriters and we were happy for our friend who was among them.
Now, while I personally went though a sadness of not “winning” and noticed the thoughts that go with that dissappointment, I was keenly aware when one of the winners said to me, “You two (Julia and I) get to play together. Many of us have tried to make that work and weren’t able to. You are the real winners.”
The next day what stuck me was that it is great to win and to be recognized in a certain light, to be able to put things on your resume, but what is most vital is the ability to come back in with your love and delight, to honestly connect to the people around you, to see them, to build them up.  We all seemed to play from a relaxed place the next day and we got to hear some amazing songs from the heart.
All of this seems relavant today as I think of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and all of the men and women and children who persevered through doubt, sadness, humiliation and death to uphold their love and the belief that we can all be together, free to share the songs of our hearts.
Surely our troubles are very small compared to many who have plunged into the frey for freedom. Still, our struggles can seem insurmountable in the moment.  Here is to the bonds of friendship, family and even strangers who see our light and help us get back to a place of joyful strength.
My friend, the poet Ashby Lankford shared this MLK quote:
 
“I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the ‘isness’ of man’s present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal ‘oughtness’ that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.”
-MLK
While this is more pertinent today, it holds up and holds us up.
We may see ourselves as winners or loosers but beyond all labels or external acknowledgement, it is about wedging ourselves into the doorway of love, to let the light come through as long as we can.

Eulogy for a bold force of kindness

This week a woman Julia and I knew from a handful of gatherings, through a family that we are very close to, passed away. We were both moved by her passing as if we had known her our whole lives.  This was a woman who embodied the maternal. She did not apologize for being here.  She parted the waves of complacent ignorance.  Her laugh emptied you of fear and filled you with a support that encouraged your being to come forward.  She created an arena around her, a forum for whatever truth was present to be nourished. She was real in every sense of the word.  Her candor was so refreshing, not only did it put you at your ease but lightened you up so that you could laugh at your own pretense.
We went to her service and learned that when her children were being bullied in school she brought the bully to tears of contrition in the principal’s office by asking “What is hurting you so much inside that you have to make my children sad?” She was not only larger than life, she was larger than death.  When she had learned she had cancer, she refused to let it stop her from embracing the things and the people she loved.  She raised money for cancer treatment and continued to be a brash force of kindness.
The couple who introduced us to this wonderful woman, led her service.  They were strong in the way that everyone needed them to be, but not only did they put us at ease, they lifted us up to her level.  We would all be rich beyond compare to have someone lift us up after we have gone, with such good humor and earnest praise.  Certainly, she lifted herself up enough to be remembered in the best way but it takes a true friend to present us to those who didn’t know who we were and expand us to those who did.
It makes me feel very fortunate to have such amazing people in the fabric of my time here.
One of the last people to speak said that if she was there she would have said, “What were you thinking having these people get up at this hour of the morning?”
This was worth getting up early for.  It wasn’t a funeral, it was reminder to love fully, regardless of the rules; to live life on our own terms. To remember that we are all part of one delicious Self and then to be Self-ish and wrap our arms around life and not let go, even when we loose form.
For all of those who have shown us the secret value of being here, no hug is strong or long enough.

Stream of Light 12-31-14: The Caravan of Dawn- for Auld Lang Syne

Switch into loving this moment for what it offers simply.  There is a caravan of dawn that stretches from one end of the universe to the other and as we awake it calls out to us to join it’s splendor.  We are part of something so vast that we can easily forget that we have something to contribute.  The pageantry of being is so much grander than we are subdued into accepting.  Contemplate the truth behind your eyes.  Lifting up hope beyond what the mind dictates must be done for today’s tally sheet becomes the balancing act we have been asked to perform. 
Greatness becomes you.  This is not flattery but recognition.
 
 
 
Good Morning,
 
Here we are at the end of the beginning again. Cycles run through everything. We are a part of this fabulous ‘caravan of dawn’ and the part we play harmonizes with everything else.
Despite the discord and dissonance we occasionaly strike, in the movement, we manage to sip from the cup of kindness that Robert Burns sang about; especially when we are together.
 
An old tradition at the end of New Year’s Eve was for friends to gather in a circle with their arms crossed in front holding hands, sing Auld Lang Syne, for old times sake, to remember the beauty of friendship. Then, everyone would come into center of the circle and unwind so they were facing out, still holding hands.
 
I think of this core of friends.  Many of us have shared, seen and felt what it means to truly be our best selves within each other’s company.  We have also seen the vulnerability and know the intervals from dissonance to harmony as we have walked along together. Our hearts have traveled across the land and the lines we have drawn, heart to heart to heart create patterns, much like the magnetic lines that run through the earth.  
 
When we forget, we look down the well but the caravan marches on and we can reconnect to the heart pulse that remembers, that rejoices!
 
May your New Year begin a stout new chapter in your book that you will look back on and smile fully throughout your whole being.
 
I am grateful we are together!
 
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Auld Lang Syne- Robert Burns 1788 
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and old lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear, for auld lang syne,
we’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup! and surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.
We two have run about the slopes, and picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot, since auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream, from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared since auld lang syne.
And there’s a hand my trusty friend! And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught, for auld lang syne.
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The Levins have reissued this video with the studio track from their upcoming album Trust.
I share it here because “On this New Year’s Night, it’s the land’s way of saying, ‘Hello!’.”
Traipsing the Michael-Mary
as the sky lanterns rise in an arc-aligned sign
over Glastonbury.
And we feel the power going into our hands
on this New Year’s night, it’s the land’s
way of saying hello.
“I’ve got so much to tell you, there’s so much to know.”
There’s a circle of stones in a green carpet field,
there is something inside us that is starting to yield.
Standing Over Us/  Watching Over us/ Standing Over us/ Watching over us.
The red and white springs rising. Tiny candles, they guard;
they are holding a space when our hearts becomes hard.
When our hopes become barren, the branches of trees
reach out to embrace us, before our souls freeze.
Go out past the ruins, come see what this means.
There’s an intricate weave between seen and unseen,
pulsing life into Winter until white becomes green.
Standing Over Us/ Watching Over us/ Standing Over us/ Watching over us.
There are lines in the land that are unmarred by time.
And they hum to us softly converging in rhyme.
Like the song that we sing at the start of the year,
it was penned in the past and it calls us to hear…
Standing Over Us…
There are lines in the land that are unmarred by time. 
Watching Over us…
And they hum to us softly converging in rhyme. 
Standing Over us…
Like the song that we sing at the start of the year,
Watching over us…
it was penned in the past and it calls us to hear… 
Standing Over Us/ Watching Over us/ Standing Over us/ Watching over us.
– The Levins

Stream of Light 12/1/2014

Getting along, along the Loxahatchee river

I hope your Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful and that you can breathe around the middle.
My family was invited up to Jupiter, Florida where a friend of my dad’s had purchased four houses along the Loxahatchee river and connected them via a boardwalk into a compound.  His friend passed away this year and his widow invited us up for Thanksgiving.  My folks extended her generosity and invited the extended family until there were 21 of us enjoying the hospitality and the incredible views off the docks.

A few of us, who are known for being a bit whoo whoo, sent up a treatment for a magical week with no drama.
I am happy to say it worked.  Sending up an intention is no guarantee, but it does help and increases our chances for success.
The hardest thing is to remember to see the people who have a history of not being our favorite differently.
My mom told us a story of another family reunion in which, among the guest list, there were these two cousins. Mostly everyone loved the one cousin and thought the other cousin was mean and bit crabby. As the ‘mean and crabby’ cousin was coming down the steps to the party, my mom’s sister waved at her thinking she was the cousin everyone loved.  Well, this “mean and crabby” cousin, seeing this mistaken reaction to her arrival, lit up and was absolutely delightful and lovely all weekend.
“The most important decision we ever make is whether we believe we live in a friendly universe or a hostile universe.”
-Albert Einstein
Our host for the week was an amazing woman who, once a month uses the houses to host wounded warriors and their families.  They get to fish and swim, are taken out on a boat, one night her and her team watch the kids so the Vet and his or her spouse can go out for a fancy meal alone.  Our host said their gratitude and appreciation makes the work worthwhile.  Yet she confessed to me that after a few days, even in this beautiful heavenly spot, this one is fighting with that one… “To see a family that seems to really like each other like yours,” she said, “is very refreshing.”

I give the credit to my folks who are so giving with such a generous spirit and amazing sense of humor that accepts you where you are while cheerleading your stronger self, most of my friends have asked if they can adopt themselves into the family.
May you be adopted into an open-armed existence that values you for what you are and nourishes what you have to give!