Category Archives: Meditation

Being Bigger Than the “Veil”

Shifting Our Perspective to Seek Solutions for Racial Equality

“I’m on my knees looking for the answer. Are we human, or are we dancer*?”

-from the song Human/The Killers

I saw a moving, one-man play written by Alexa Kelly, and performed by Brian Richardson, at my local library about the life of W.E. DuBois. It was called A Man for All Times .

Poet, author, editor, activist, Dr. W.E. Du Bois believed that literacy and education were tools to help us lift the veil. The “veil” was what he called the racial divide in our country. W.E. DuBois helped found the NAACP and his newspaper, The Crisis, was a vital catalyst, support and contributor, as well as critic, of the Harlem Renaissance. He was a complicated man who quested for world peace, convinced it was the key to equal rights for all people.

He strived to bring his fellow countrymen and those around the world, their basic inalienable human rights. He was a civil rights leader who died the night before Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream speech.”

Hearing this fact about the timing of his death, I started to cry. There is a torch that is passed in clear daylight that remains invisible to the eye that is “veiled.”

Watching the documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro,” based on James Baldwin’s writings, it became apparent that what Mr. Baldwin, an eloquent, beautiful and courageously observant author had to say in 1965 is just as pertinent today. Essentially, the veil over our eyes prevents us from really looking at the inequality that is perpetuated consistently on a vital portion of our population.

When we look at the human condition, greed and privilege are too tempting for those who already have what they perceive as power. It is hard to resist and, unless we shift perspective, we won’t be willing to give our “privilege” up, even if it means moral bankruptcy.

In the documentary, James Baldwin also suggests that there is a gap between what we want to be seen as and what we are. This causes problems in the home, which spurns us to create scapegoats outside of ourselves, to blame our unhappiness on, to put someone else down in order to build ourselves up to where we think we ought to be.

The problem comes from the belief in a “me”. My ego will never be appeased, it will always think it should have more. Ironically, what we are is actually more than what we conceive ourselves to be.

“We look at life from a viewpoint of seventy or eighty years. But if the reference point were seventy or eighty billion light years, what would our reference point be then?”

- Sailor Bob Adams/author/teacher of non-dualistic perception

What if the question to the answer we are seeking is, “Who are we beyond the veil?”

What if we woke up, not just to realize that the world isn’t white, or black, but that we are, “DANCER”*? It is an investigation.

Are we just these temporal bodies or are we something that dances within everything? What if the awareness inside of us in this present moment is something that is looking out from everyone’s eyes simultaneously? Our seeming separation from one another and the planet we live on, causes us to strike out, to attempt to dominate everything. But if we are everything, we do not need to go to all that trouble or to make that much trouble for everyone else.

Martin Luther King understood that retaliation escalates hostility. What may have woken America up, momentarily, during the Civil Rights Movement was seeing people, men, women and children being attacked and not striking back. There was an alignment with a love that is vaster than ignorance and hatred.

I remember a friend telling me about being in a restaurant where a huge, tattooed biker stood outside the window watching him with venomous hatred. He had gone outside and said something like, “I know you hate my guts and that you probably wish I was dead. I am not challenging your beliefs.  I just want to know how you came to have them.”  The man had been braced for a fight but found himself telling my friend his story.  At one point, he said the man’s eyes went out of focus and, when they came back, he seemed to be in shock.  Here he was getting to talk about his pain. He was talking to my friend, oblivious or despite the color of his skin color, telling him something he may never have gotten to share with anyone, even himself.  After he finished, he actually said, “Thank you.”  This was a form of empathetic martial arts.  My friend said he doesn’t know if it changed that man’s life but it changed his. He had grown up with violence and had been all about conflict up until that point.  Now, he realized that being able to shift the conflict, staying centered in peace was a path he could take.

The mind tends to divide. The heart can unify.  What we are goes beyond the veil.  By each of us meditating on being bigger than a body confined to a timeline, we can connect to solutions that will allow us to see one another clearly, finding a way to prosperity that does not require someone else to pay a price that we would never be willing to pay.

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

 

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.

Awake to Awake- Yogananda holds up (more than time)

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.

Stream of Light 8-13-14

 Smile.  In an instant we can shift out of so many thoughts that serve to damage our momentum, like pot holes in the road.  Sickness is something that results from being disconnected from our source on some level.  It may bring those around us closer or it may bring us a calmer or deeper perspective but it is not the intended state of being.  Being at peace with where we are sometimes means recognizing that we are not our sickness, it does not define us.Knowing that we are light years away from the image we hold of ourselves while we are sick is the same as the smallest particle of energy being animated as if by remote control.  We are here and we are also safe and whole within and without.  The seeming paradox is explained by knowing that all things are connected and that seperation is an illusion. Focus on your blood rushing through your veins and your cells dancing and your heart beating and fathom the intricate balence of everything that occurs within a single breath.  Be at peace and smile.  This is not a denial of what is but a means to return.

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:
 
 
image
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

Stream of Light 7-16-14

For the periods of time when life bears down on us as if an unforgiving force, recognize that we are life itself.  Becoming cognizant of where we are responsible for our own misery can make the difference between loving the process and resigning ourselves to fate.   The sweetness of existence is the recognition of love bestowing love.

Stream of Light 7-4-14

Remember that we are not here to systematically destroy ourselves and the planet but to recognize the vibration inherent in all creation.  We sing the songs of our family, countries, planet and those sing back to us as we have understood them to be.  We sing of things not yet manifested; we sing of newer hopes that complete an eon of frustrated ignorance as we slip into one where solutions are unspoken but taken up as yielded fruit.

Stream of Light 6-30-14

Where there is concentration and faith beyond dogmatic fear, there is the chance to rest within pure capacity.  We fit into destiny’s shoes where our dance augments the love that dares assert itself in the midst of danger and entertains a new thought: “I don’t have to give up my inner peace even with the threat of death’s short stint or in the midst of ignorance and fear’s bluff.”  Contemplate where we meet.  Relief is behind the excuse to hold onto self pity.