Category Archives: community

Rallying for love in a world-wide blizzard

Finding ways to bond together in an age of “hyper-individualism ”

People dare to be comfortable with uncertainty if they are in solidarity with each other.”

– Joanna Macy speaking of the Work that Reconnects

My father told me a wonderful story about being in Chicago, on business, during a blizzard. He was staying in a hotel and, because everything was shut down and there was no electricity, people bonded who otherwise would not have had anything to do with each other. Beds and portable lights were set up in the ballroom of the hotel.  Meals and drinks were shared.  By laughing, joking and singing, strangers broke down that invisible wall to befriend one another.  When the snow let up and airport connections could be made, people went back to not knowing one another and went about their business. It confounded my dad, who was sure that the group intimacy they had shared would linger. Convention and profit margins magnetized the folks he had met back into being strangers as they scrambled to catch their taxis and flights.

Currently, it feels like we are in the midst of a worldwide, social blizzard. While one group is pitted against another, and commercial tactics and fear are breeding what Joanna Macy calls hyper-individualism, good folks are magnetized into becoming strangers, even to themselves.

We are in need of scenarios in which we come together to laugh, joke, sing and brake down that invisible wall to befriend one another.

With this aim in mind, my wife Julia and I started hosting a rally for LOVE in various places throughout the country. So far, we have held events in NY and CA. At both of these rallies, the intention was to bring various communities together to illuminate resources that allows us to stay connected as the world situation becomes overwhelming.

On the East Coast, there was a wide range of groups represented from an ethical culture society, a temple, a unity church, a wholeness center, Centers for Spiritual Living, The Interfaith Council, Science of Spirituality meditation centers, musicians, life coaches and even the Penguin Plungers, who brave the waters of the Hudson River in winter.

On the West Coast, the music was interspersed with acts from a network of circus performers who knew how to lighten our hearts. In the audience, there were teachers, authors, upcyclers, counselors, musicians, filmmakers, healers, potters, caretakers, and implementers of what Joanna Macy calls the Work that Reconnects.

The spirit of this rally was exemplified by Jaime Coventry, who was the M.C. for the night. In setting up the space just before the show, Jaime broke his pinky toe. He was so focused on the aim of the night, I had no idea he had injured himself. All he radiated was a gracious, gregarious and humorous benevolence.

Coventry & Kaluza

The success of both of these rallies was that the individuals who attended have continued to bond together after the event.

When asked why she does the work she does, Joanna Macy replied:             “I’m doing this work so that when things fall apart, we will not turn on each other.” To do this, she advises: “…little study groups, and book groups, make a garden together. Keep your ear to the ground. Inform each other. We have to develop the skill of finding that it is more fun to be waking up together, Sarvodaya [Sanskrit term meaning ‘universal uplift’ or ‘progress of all’], than a single lone star on the stage.”

When the daily news prompts you to run and hide, remember we are all on this stage together. We can still rally for LOVE!

 

Lumpy crossings going up the hill of harmony

Finding where we connect with those who seem so different

I have believed the best of every man. And find that to believe is enough to make a bad man show him at his best, or even a good man swings his lantern higher.”- William Butler Yeats

This year to celebrate the Judaic-Celtic connection, instead of drinking green milkshakes and Irish whiskey, my love and I watched The Secret of Kels and listened to Krista Tippett’s On Being podcast with Pádraig Ó Tuama.  Mr. Ó Tuama is a poetic theological social healer.  He is the leader of Corrymeela, Northern Ireland’s oldest peace and reconciliation organization. It is a refuge for people around the world. It is a space for people to share cups of tea and listen to one another while learning how to ask themselves the right questions.

When Corrymeela was founded in 1965, they were told the name meant “hill of harmony.” It was 10 years before someone pointed out the Irish word roughly means, “a place of lumpy crossings.” Once we are able to stay centered in an uncomfortable interaction, harmony will arise.  This is a role model we could really benefit from in America right now.

Mr. Ó Tuama illustrated how two groups, seemingly at odds, sat for two days within the heart of Corrymeela before this kind of breakthrough occurred.  A man that considered himself a “fundamentalist” Christian asked those he referred to in the room as “homosexuals” if his words had bruised them. He was told they had.

“Are you telling me that it’s painful for you to be around me?”  the man asked.

He was told that it was.

Mr. Ó Tuama noted that this man “chaplained himself”. That is, he was the one that brought himself to ask that question and was transformed by the answer. No one else could have pointed this out, it was something he had to come to on his own.

This same “fundamentalist” mentioned that he loved a political show on the BBC. Mr. Ó Tuama told him “My partner produces that.” That opened up amazement, curiosity and the capacity to ask the question mentioned above.

This exchange changed not only the “fundamentalist” but Mr. Ó Tuama who said he wanted to see the ways “in which I’m the perpetrator of real hostility and lack of understanding and lazy thinking. I want to be someone like him, who says, ‘Tell me what it’s like to hear the way I talk because I need to be changed.’ ”

This podcast went along splendidly with the animated masterpiece, The Secret of Kels.  The film is a mythical legend about the creation of the Book of Kels, a book that is the most prized treasure in Ireland. It is a Gospel whose illuminating illustrations were started in Scotland and finished in Ireland while the Vikings were ransacking villages for gold. The film suggests that the boy monk who becomes one of the book’s illustrators, is helped by a girl who is the spirit of the forest. The girl is the feminine. She is what would be considered pagan. She is the Goddess, she is the earth and life itself.  Within in this tale, the boy of faith and the girl of nature are able to steal one of the eyes of the serpent of darkness. The eye is a crystal that allows the illustrator to see the miraculous in the ordinary.

This symbol suggested to me that when face our inherited fear and see through the eyes of our ‘enemy’, we can gain a perspective brings light to the darkness of our hearts.

There was a art historian named Sister Wendy Beckett who talked about cultivating the “Gaze of Love”.  That is, placing your love into your eyes and seeing the world that way.

At a time when we are in a place of lumpy crossings with one another, perhaps we can cultivate this “Gaze of Love” to see those whose political, religious, cultural, philosophical and orientation are different from our own. We might even be able to join in a conversation over a cup of coffee or a mug of tea.

“Are there human connection points where quietly you can say to people, ‘Can you help me understand this?’” And maybe then you’ll participate in this fantastic argument of being alive in such a dynamic way that it’s great fun or really enlivening. And you can have a really robust disagreement. And that is the opposite of being frightened of fear because you can create that.” – Pádraig Ó Tuama

We can help one another up the hill, even if we disagree.

 

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.

Jonah Maccabee and saying yes to the butterfly process

This weekend we were privileged to be a part of the Jonah Maccabee concert, which our friends put on annually in honor of their son who died six years ago.  It is a celebration that raises money to send campers to summer camps for parents who cannot afford it. We were asked to not only share the bill with our friend Billy Jonas but to learn each other’s songs and perform them together.  
It was a journey to pull it off but we were fortunate enough to get to work with a bass player who works on Broadway and an incredibly talented and tasteful violin player.  Billy Jonas is hard-wired into the heart of the universe and his music and ours come from the same desire to celebrate the beauty in every path that leads to love. 
 
It was interesting to see myself resist the work we were putting into this show and worry that it wouldn’t come together. Despite all of my concerns, everything fell into place. 
While we were playing, I kept pulling back and realizing what a gift we had been granted. We played as a unified whole and were fully present.  It was a full house and was certainly one of the best shows we have been a part of. Nearly everyone we talked to afterwards told us how moving the night was. 
 
Yesterday, we heard a talk by Dr. Rima Bonario.
She talked about how when the caterpillar goes into chysalis it starts forming imaginal cells that have the butterfly code in them. The caterpillar’s immune system actually tries to kill these cells off, it resists change and its own evolution but eventually these cells become too numerous to fight off and the process takes place.
I found this significant, noticing my own resistance to the process at times.
Here are five steps she suggested for our individual evolutionary process: 
 
1. Accept where you are.  Resistance makes persistence.  Bless everything in your life.
2.Become aware of the stories/lies you are believing. What keeps you stuck? What are the things you say to yourself like, “That’s what you get.” or “That’s life.”  What have we settled for? We can change the stress and dis-ease. Be honest about whether you want to heal and be successful or if you would rather stay stuck to  reap the benefits of sympathy and pity assistance from others. Am I ready to be done with this?
3.Compassion for ourselves.  No matter what is going on, be kind to yourself.  (She recommended this book: What to say when you talk to yourself- Shad Helmstetter)                   Being insulting to ourselves is not motivating.  What do I need? Self love? Safety?  Give it to yourself. 
4. Shift your focus to the truth. Pivot and see the truth. (I am a butterfly in training.)  What is right about you? She referenced a text study on Positive Psychology called Strength psychologywhich focuses on our strengths so we can lead with them, rather than reinforcing our negative traits and weaknesses. Step forward with strength.
5. Practice and proove the butterfly reality to yourself.  Begin to convince yourself.  Practice whatever your freeing truth is. Be commited. String together butterfly moments. How many of these moments will you create today, this week?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  Rima E. Bonario, Th.D., is an author, workshop leader and transformative relationship mentor who is passionate about accelerating personal, professional and plane…
 
Preview by Yahoo
 
 
 
Here’s to gaining and maintaining the light

 

Speeches of Acceptance – worth the gold

After a successful weekend in Kansas City at the Folk Alliance International with amazing musicians from around the world, Julia and I got to watch the Academy Awards.  What struck us were some of the acceptance speeches. JK Simmons started by telling children to call their parents.  Then, without anger or histrionics, an actor, a writer and musicians stood up, not for themselves alone but for their particular portion of humanity.  Beyond the nit-picking of behavior and evaluating performances and dresses, people from around the globe were treated to earnest concern and bravery.  With the overlapping of these speeches alone, the bridge towards our collective humanity gets a boost in production.
That was worth the price of watching.
********************************
 “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s time to have wage equality once and for all. And equal rights for women in the United States of America.” – P.A.
http://youtu.be/OteoFQvQczc
We stand in solidarity with Commons, John Legend, MLK and all of those who long to see this truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave.
“…the same bridge that Dr. King and the people of the Civil Rights movement marched on, 50 years ago. This bridge was once a landmark of a divided nation, but now it’s a symbol for change. The spirit of this bridge transcends race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and social status. The spirit of this bridge connects a kid from the South Side of Chicago dreaming of a better life to those in France standing up for their freedom of expression to the people in Hong Kong protesting for democracy. This bridge was built on hope, welded with compassion, and elevated by love for all human beings.
Thank you. Nina Simone said it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the times in which we live. We wrote this song for a film that was based on events that were 50 years ago, but we say Selma is now, because the struggle for justice is right now. We know that the voting rights, the act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850. When people are marching with our song, we want to tell you that we are with you, we see you, we love you, and march on.
“-
from Commons and John Legend’s acceptance speech at the Oscar’s.
 
“I tried to commit suicide at 16 and now I’m standing here,” he said. “I would like for this moment to be for that kid out there who feels like she doesn’t fit in anywhere. You do. Stay weird. Stay different, and then when it’s your turn and you are standing on this stage please pass the same message along.” – Graham Moore
 “Call your mom. Call your dad. If you are lucky enough to have a parent or two alive on this planet, call them. Don’t text, don’t email, call them on the phone. Tell them you love them and thank them and listen to them as long as they want to talk to you.”- JK Simmons

Finding each other’s capacity for brilliance

I watched Finding Forrester

 
last night. It reminded me of how we have allowed ourselves to embrace fear and the mediocrity of our stereotyped perception of one another to determine our collective course of action. 
 
This latest tragedy of the Grand Jury pardoning the homicide of Eric Garner in Staten Island is a symptom of how we perceive ourselves in the spectrum of the sream. 
 
Others can perceive us as ignorant or undeserving and pride can make us dig our heels into a chain reaction, but how we truly see ourselves can allow a break in the chain. We can transcend our guilt and avoidance by recognizing each other’s capacity for brilliance.
 
We just celebrated Thanksgiving, which for many has become a tradition of stuffing ourselves to the point of falling asleep because we have a hard time acknowledging that we repaid the courtesy the Native Americans showed to the pilgrims with genocide and reservations.
 
We downplay the brilliance and creative genius of Blacks in America because we are ashamed of slavery and inner city poverty. White people tend to have a homicidal chip on their shoulders. This may be because white is the abscence of color and we somehow don’t feel we fit into the spectrum of colors. So, we insist that we are beyond and above it; not a part of- but separate. 
 
The truth is we are all a part of the natural expanding universe, a part of the stream. While all ethnicity, races, cultures and religions have some natural spice to contribute to the overall flavor of life, all of us have access to the elementary beauty of what makes us move. To be alive is to surprise even ourselves.  Our stereotypes for each other may stem from our fear of the universe having no boundaries. We are a part of that. Surrender ignorance and you risk having your mind blown. If we can handle the pain of compassion we can choose to expand our hearts into the love that also has no boundaries.
 
May your week yield insight beyond annoyance.

 

Empowerment on the road and in the ‘field’.

Julia and I went down to Baltimore for a couple of shows and had a showcase Monday night. Annalise Emerick was also featured.  She is a full time musician from Nashville and with the first word she sang, I knew she was great but felt comforted.  It made me feel we could open with something that had more depth rather than feeling we had to come out just ‘entertaining.’  Afterwards, we all had a great discussion with Jim Patton and Sherry Brokus who performed after us.  Annalise said (essentially) that she was tired of the paradigm where everyone elbowed each other out of the way to get closer to the top. She has decided that helping each other is healthier and provides more sanity and a richer experience on the road.  We agreed, we are out here making music as a way to uplift those around us and encourage more connection.  This lesson was accentuated by Jim and Sherry who offered us a showcase in the convention we are going to in February.  This may have been the reason why we went down to Baltimore and without this positive bonding interaction, we would have missed it.
The next morning over breakfast, one of our gracious hosts, Eric Reisman, talked about his desire to encourage empowerment over cynicism and overcome our social instinct to show we are strong by cutting each other down.  I told him our housemate George experienced this as a stand-up comedian going from an open mic where everyone was performing and no one was supporting anyone else to being in an improve troupe where there was empowerment and validation for succeeding.  This helped him go back to the open mic with a new open confidence that had the others coming up to him to validate that he had been successful that night and was improving. He in turn supported them and the isolation was dissipated.
On the way home yesterday, we listened to Daniel Ingram, who talked about enlightenment and how that entailed opening your mind beyond the thought that there is a central observer; that we are the point of causality but in fact are a part of a field of awareness that can become aware of itself. In Buddhism they call the first stage of enlightenment, “Stream entry” which I didn’t know before my friend Jenny Jennings Foerst turned me onto it a few days ago.  Daniel said once you have entered it is like you are a freshman in college;  yes, you are in college but you still have more to learn and see.  What I found fascinating was there are fetters to escape like greed and hate but there are goals that have no end point such as “How much kindness can you bestow?” “How much can you help to heal the world?” There is always room for improvement and refinement.
Overall, the weekend lifted us out of ourselves enough to cheer us on to the next chapter together.
May your week be enhanced by empowering those around you!
Love you, Ira

Stream of Light for 9/11

Where there is love, we can overcome lamentation.  Beyond the fortress of censure and confrontation, we are allowed a glimpse inside the inner workings of beauty.  Where is the beauty in the ashes? In the rising; in the life that continues.  Where we are today in the stream of our own lives intercepts with the lives of countless who have ventured beyond our sight.  In this moment of stillness, feel the lives of billions around the world, yearning for the same freedom we hope to attain. Count what you have that can be taken away. What remains? What can you keep?  Hold it up. Hold that up for all to see.
Extending the moment of silence into now, we can reach out in our hearts to all of those who were directly and indirectly effected by the attack on the world trade center thirteen years ago.  We can hold them in our embrace and be with them as they yearn for healing and justice.
Beyond the controversy and the outrage, today allow this silence to help us ponder the suffering of those around us that we never fully know of or understand, and of the rising life provides us daily.  There is anger, there is fear but life itself offers strength and a freedom beyond what can be attacked.  
Hatred breeds more fear and decreases what security we may already have.  Looking at the examples of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani school girl who stood up to the Taliban and others around the world who stand up, not just for themselves or their countries, religions, or cultures but for an individual’s right to freedom that can apply to all of humanity.  
The Vietnamese teacher/poet Thich Nhat Hanh toured America at the time of 9/11 in 2001 and was aware of how much fear there was within our shores.  “How do we calm down our fear?  In the Buddhist tradition, there is a practice called compassionate listening.  This can help people suffer less. We also have the practice of loving speech.”
Whatever tradition or practice we have that allows us to be there for those around us and lift them up on this day, and every day, may me remember we have access to it.
Let the grass grow, let our hearts become tender as we guard what is essential to us.
“Positive vibrations toward healing of the planet
and our beloved beings who inhabit its many shores.” 
– David Picarillo

 

Lifting poachers out of poverty

Here was an interesting story about conservationists coming into a region and seriously reducing the poaching of elephants, lions and other wildlife by teaching the poachers and women in the community farming, carpentry, metal working and how to raise bees.
It turns out that poachers get very little for the animals, a few blankets or some food.
COMACO (Community Markets for Conservation) has given the poachers and their families, a way out of poverty into a truer community. 
 
 
image
 
 
 
 
 
Win-Win! Reducing Human Poverty Eliminates Poaching …

Over a decade ago when conservationists in Zambia figured out the connection between poverty and poaching, when they learned the reason poachers hunted game w…
Preview by Yahoo
 
  This is yet another example of how education with an aim to eliminate poverty leads to peace on a wider scale.
These same principles can be applied to the continuous powder keg in the Middle East.  Age old differences may continue but helping people cover their basic needs reduces the need to constantly strike out.
 
May your week build you up and engender hope.