Category Archives: Heart

Cup o’ Kindness

Friendship and the joy of generosity

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to min’? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And days o’ lang syne? For auld lang syne, my jo, For auld lang syne, We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, For auld lang syne.”

–          Robert Burns

 

A fine friendship transcends the most expensive wine.  When you are with someone who is not self-conscious in your company but laughs with the abandon of a lifetime, treasures are imparted within the flow of the exchange.

This week, my friend Oz offered me this gem over dinner:

When he was living in Queens, he couldn’t make his rent.  Not knowing what else to do, he took his trumpet over to a friend’s house and offered to sell it to him. His friend thought he could resell Oz’s trumpet to one of his music students. Another of Oz’s friends was on hand and asked him what he had paid for the trumpet. Oz told him he had paid $800. He was then asked how much he was selling the trumpet for. Oz said he was selling it for $300. This inquiring friend took out his checkbook and wrote Oz a check for $800. He explained that when he was a kid he always wanted to play the trumpet but that his family could not afford to even rent one for him. There was a transcendent joy in his eyes as handed Oz the check because now he could afford to buy a trumpet for himself.  “Here’s the thing,” he said to Oz, “I am so busy now, I won’t be able to play it. Would you do me a favor and play it for me?” With that, he handed Oz his newly acquired trumpet.

Oz is still playing that trumpet and Oz’s daughter plays trumpet professionally, occasionally with Stephen Colbert’s Late Show band.

I have been reading Tony Robbin’s book Money, Master the Game. In it Tony talks about a stranger coming to his family’s house when he was eleven with grocery bags filled for a Thanksgiving feast. Because this one person cared for his impoverished family, Tony became motivated to care about other people. Today Tony feeds 100 million families annually. He makes the point that richness comes from the joy of giving.

tony robbins

“If you want to be rich, start rich.”- Tony Robbins

Julia and I are fortunate enough to be celebrating the end and the start of the year with my loving family. Almost an anomaly, my family has the warmth and compassion of good friends.  Seeing my parents retain their joy of giving and the fullness of the light that they have bestowed on us, and the river of friends embraced along the way, gives me hope for the New Year.

The actress Elaine Stritch said she wasn’t old, she was older, that we are all going that way. Love offers to suppliant fear on this journey we are all taking.  Each New Year’s is a portal that we pass through, quite often with a hangover, but we go though, individually bearing the life that is within us.  Whatever stage we begin to appreciate the value of that particular gem, is when what we have to bestow becomes priceless.

So, “Raise your glass, raise your hope, raise your courage up high.  All that we share will not be forgotten.  We’ll see you again by and by. Time to go. Time to go on our Way.” – The Levins

Raise your glass

May your way be filled with the joy of what you have to give in earnest.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

Friends for Life

This weekend Julia and I are fortunate enough to be hosting the illustrious Jordan Anderson, musician, composer, writer, videographer and tremendous friend.  I have known Jordan since he was three and we have never stopped being friends, even through his teens.  This morning I read an interesting article from the New York Times called: What Are Friends For? A Longer Life. The piece talks of studies showing how having a circle of good friends helps your brain activity as well as preventing and treating such ailments as heart attacks, breast cancer and even the common cold.  I

I believe this to be true.  Many a time, especially in California, when I was down, I would think of Jordan Anderson and knew remaining blue just would not do, that I needed to be there for him. He has certainly been there for me, not out of obligation but naturally. My core group of friends from High School and college, which I call the C.C. (there is a range of things the C’s stand for ; ) has been a well of centering strength that I continue to draw from. Even though many of us live in different places and don’t always get to see one another, just thinking of them comforts and vitalizes me.

The dancing balance is recognizing and befriending all the facets of our lives. When we practice our craft, whatever that is, we are befriending our ability to give and share, when we read and study, we are befriending our intellect, when we do things like meditate, or do yoga, we are befriending our Self.

For me, being able to be friends with my family is an amazing gift that I know not many have.  Wayne Dyer has often said that friends are God’s way of apologizing for your family, but earnestly cultivating true friendships increases our family size and the circumference of our hearts.

May our bonds be strong and comradery ripple beyond the borders of our ambition.

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 9-23-14 / Sweet Can Productions & The Levins World Folk Ensemble present: My Friend Hafiz

There are moments and days in our lives that we recognize as almost perfect.  Beautiful heavenly days.  While you can not hold onto them, you can draw from them and recall the serenity they provide to bring this moment into sharper focus.  Being grateful and recognizing what is sublime in our lives opens the door to more of the same.  There are always things within us that we can be grateful for.  By being in the state of conscious gratitude, not only do we recognize what is around us but we generate things to be grateful for and illuminate them for those around us.
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“In the artistic community, we always talk about the transformative power of theater, music, and art, but I got to witness it first hand on the deepest level this weekend. Last night, a woman rushed down to Kerri Kresinski and me, and said, “That’s it. You did it. I’m going to quit my job. Life is too short to be miserable.” Ira Scott Levin said this show was the most important thing he’d ever done in his life. 
It seems like every show I’m in, becomes a part of the fabric of my being. What a marvelous piece to weave into my soul.” –
Natasha Kaluza
 
We were on the move again yesterday and today I can finally sit and reflect on what occurred this weekend.  We had a full week of rehearsals and only got everyone all in the same room to fully run our production of My Friend Hafiz by Sweet Can Productions with The Levins World Folk Ensemble on Thursday night. On Friday night as we opened, I stood there playing the songs and cried.
Somethings embrace synergy to such a high level that what emerges has always existed and always will.   I talk about time being spherical a lot, but it occurred to me that the reason the songs had come through and that we had recorded the album was for this very performance.  As the weekend progressed, we honed the show and the circle of musicians and the circle of circus performers  overlapped and spiraled up.  The thrust of the standing ovations was not just because the performers were so incredibly talented and that the clowns were so funny and that dances were so perfectly matched to bring the music and poetry forward but I believe the essence of what Hafiz achieved in his being somehow spilled over in a lighthearted pageantry of beauty and “benevolent thought, benevolent sound, benevolent movement around and around!”
Tomorrow is the Jewish New Year -may the circular nature of everything within you and around you be Sweet so that you know you Can shine out in the way you hope to.

 

Stream of Light 8/20/14

What is in our mind’s eye is there as a token of what we need to learn to let go of.  All concepts are a barrier to being with the present and with our true reality.  Still, it is ok to be where we are.  Thinking is a tool, a means but not the end.  What is known in the heart when you look at the blossoms of Spring is something that goes beyond thought.  To hold all extremes in our frame and become balenced within is to know wisdom.  Getting snagged on the pettiness of one emotion or thought is to be snared and mired.  Let yourself flow in the stream of being while your dark thoughts, fears and the ageold need for revenge become funeral pyres, ashes in the stream.

Allowing stress to become ashes in the stream

 
This week I allowed myself to get overtly stressed out and my wife remarked that I couldn’t hold onto too tightly to the anxiety or it would be bad for my heart.  We all feel various levels of stress but it is the letting go that is essential.
The breathing in and expanding the heart, especially in moments where we want to make it into a fist, out of frustration, is vital to health and well being on all levels. 
 
I noticed when I got caught up this week there would be a point where I would say, “I don’t care, whatever; let it be what it is going to be.” It is easy to confuse not caring with our innate need to not hold onto something that is toxic to us. I always seem to forget that things do work out. 
The stream is always flowing through us, through our hearts and knowing we can allow negative thoughts and emotions to become as ashes in the stream flowing out and away from us, promotes centered tranquility.
We can care deeply about what we are doing and it is healthy to want to succeed but  no matter how hard we work towards our goal we have to trust in the process, in ourselves, in those around us and the invisible “weave between seen and unseen, pulsing light into winter until white becomes green.”*
 
*(- a lyric from Lines in the Land/ The Levins)
Here is a lovely article from the Huffington Post about giving our hearts a good compassionate work out:
 
 
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How To ‘Work Out’ Your Heart: A Guide To Building Emo…

It’s time to be intentional and make working out your heart as important as working out your body, not just for the health benefits but also to be your best self an…
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May your heart be strong and expand out past your problems