Category Archives: Hafiz of Shiraz

Life is your Valentine

The Seed Cracked Open

It used to be

That when I would wake in the morning

I could with confidence say,

“What am ‘I’ going to


That was before the seed

Cracked open.

Now Hafiz is certain:

There are two of us housed

In this body,

Doing the shopping together in the market and

Tickling each other

While fixing the evening’s food.

Now when I awake

All the internal instruments play the same music:

“God, what love-mischief can ‘We’ do

For the world


–          Hafiz rendered by Daniel Ladinsky from The Gift

Good afternoon Sweet Hearts,

Today is named after a Roman saint who defied an emperor’s ban on marriage and united scores of young lovers in matrimony. He was executed for this on February 14th. “Valentine’s Day” then supplanted Lupercalia, a Roman fertility festival.

Later, Shakespeare and Chaucer weaved Valentine’s day into their work and exchanging romantic handmade paper cards became popular in Brittan during the Middle Ages. This gave way to big business in our modern Hallmark age. But Valentine’s is also a day for true love to flourish like flowers coming out of the February snow. Love is certainly not restricted to couples, or even a traditional love affair with God, which is why I chose the Hafiz poem above. Making life our Valentine allows for a sweetness that lingers longer than an everlasting gobstopper.

“The waters of life are right there…wherever you are- if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”  -Joseph Campbell

Since you are a beautiful vase filled with the waters of life, let me offer you these-


Everyone now and again wonders about

those questions that have no ready

answers: first cause, God’s existence,

what happens when the curtain goes

down and nothing stops it, not kissing,

not going to the mall, not the Super


“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning.

“Do you have the answers? And if you do,

would you tell me?”

“The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,”

they said.  “But as you can see, we are

just now entirely busy being roses.”

-Mary Oliver

However you spend today, know that you are loved!

Cherish your current beautiful manifestation.

Come Dance with Me

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

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”

~ Rumi

Dance Sweet Hafiz

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul”

~ Martha Graham

“Life is the dancer and you are the dance.”

~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

Calvin and Hobbes

This past Sunday, Julia and I joined some friends at The Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County where Stephanie Miner-Berger of another group called Peace Forest Sanctuary led a guided dance celebration for a multi-generational community with the help of DJ K.  She picked very specific songs that would appeal to the range of folks there.  It was done with such a purity of intention, it engaged people without having them feel self-conscious or instilling a need to demonstrate ego or prowess. It brought me back to all the weekly parties my friends and I would throw during high school and college. We were able to almost fuse our hearts together as a group because our love for one another was able to dance freely.  There is a freedom in dancing that takes you out of your intellectual grasp of reality and opens you up in ways you are not even aware of.

During the cool down yesterday, we were asked to make eye contact and sing “Lean on Me” to various people in the circle. My friend Michelle was next to me and there was such a generous earnestness in her connection with me that even before we got to the line, “no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show,” I was so chocked up that I could no longer sing or look at anyone. I have certainly sung “Lean on Me” hundreds of times but there was something about the intention of this community dance combined with the direct contact with an honest friendship that broke me open.  It made me realize that we hold on to so much. We may not be a stiff-upper lip society but even if we do express ourselves and have people to talk to, we are taking on what is being broadcast all around us as well as our mind’s minute to minute updates.  We are inundated with information and suffering that we have no way of fully processing or understanding. Even with the desire to heal and be healed, there is no way to do that intellectually.  This is of course one of the best reasons to take up meditation but there is also something about dancing that puts you in the seat of Being where the internal meets the external.

Shiva dancing

Someone reminded us after the dance of the Hindu myth where Shiva dances the universe into creation. Buckminster Fuller said that “God is a verb, not a noun.” When we are dancing, even if we were not able to physically move a muscle, we open ourselves to being a part of that same verb.  This of course reminds me of Daniel Ladinsky’s rendition of Hafiz’s poem “The God Who Only Knows Four Words” and The Levins’ lyrical take on it called “Every Child”:

Every Child– Hafiz/Ladinsky/Levin © 2013

Every child has known God. 

That’s quite a claim.

For they don’t know God

as a ‘God of Names’,  

as a ‘God of Don’ts’,  

a ‘God of Shame’,

of stormy moods or any strange behavior. 

Not a king or a queen, a giant, tyrant or savior.

But every child knows God.  Not as someone you can see,

But the God who only knows four words:

Come Dance with me!  Come Dance with me!

Come Dance!  Come Dance!  Come Dance!      

 —with me.  Oh, Come Dance with me!

(Listen here)

Come Dance with Me

May your stillness give way to a peace that cannot help but trip the light fantastic.

Break the glass!

“A light must B light to C light and feel D light.” – Dr. Andrew Vidich

Dr. Andrew Vidich

While this week has felt like a marathon for Julia and I, we recognize the universe has been accelerating  to  help us manifest what we have been asking for.  Sometimes there is a conspiracy on our behalf.

Thursday night we were asked to sing two songs for a meditation class Dr. Andrew Vidich was offering at the Center for Remembering and Sharing in NYC. We have been reading a book he co-authored called Let There Be Light, which explores how the internal light that is present and transforms the individual is found within all major faiths and paths of wisdom.

Julia and I had a full and rewarding day but coming back into the city for the second time, we felt overbooked, exhausted and almost wished we hadn’t committed ourselves.

We arrived early and were there when Dr. Vidich arrived.  He was wearing a fez and a scarf, as if he was a bearded Dr. Who ready to take us out of ourselves into the expanded continuous adventure.  His smile steals over you and the twinkle in his eye makes you feel as if he might just disappear if you blink. Even his beard fans out evenly, curling out to greet you.

His talk before the meditation was about being humble. He said the poet Hafiz used to put a pebble inside a bowl every time his thoughts or actions were less than loving.  At the end of the day he would reflect and realize how full the bowl was. This was not to shame himself but to recognize that his ego was not as trustworthy as his love was.

Dr. Vidich told a wonderful story from a classic poem about Layla and Majnun. Layla was a princess and Majnun was madly in love with her. Because of the gulf in their social standing, they were not allowed to consummate their affection but their love for one another was boundless.

One day Layla announced she wanted to bestow a blessing on all of her servants. Majnun dressed as a servant and stood at the end of the line as Laila filled each of the glasses they were all given with milk. When she saw Majnun, she knocked the glass out of his hand.  Everyone felt sorry for him but Majnun was in ecstacy.  He explained to the other servants that the blessing she wanted to give him could not be contained in the small glass, so she broke it.  Layla is God or divine nature and Majun is the soul, madly in love with its source.


This reminded me of the Jewish mystic legend of the supernal light of ‘being’ filling the ten glass vessels of physical form. The glass vessels couldn’t take all that love and so they shattered. This corresponds to the Big Bang. The legend goes on to say that illuminated shards are scattered throughout the world and that we can search for them within ourselves and in each other.  This is called Tikkun Olam, which means repairing the world. The custom of breaking the glass at the end of a Jewish wedding ceremony, symbolizes the launching and formation of the expanding universe, which is just starting for the couple and a sign that their love cannot be contained in any vessel.  It is also an invitation for them to search for illumination within themselves and in those around them.

In the café downstairs after the session, Dr. Vidich said “Mysticism is everyone’s birthright.”  Mysticism  is just having a direct experience of your true nature.

He said religions were intended to help us graduate. Many organizations can become more interested in our tuition and like to keep us enrolled.  While we can enjoy the sweetness of the communities each path provides, we can also let go of all that is exclusive and promotes division.

Surely, Dr. V is not the first to talk of universal spirituality and understanding but he reminded us that the shift is really taking place. I used to feel so isolated years ago when I was attracted to the thread that runs through all the great teachings.  More and more people are opening up to some form of spirituality. There is a recognition that what unites us is a common humanity that  goes beyond our personal heritage. This is why there is such dramatic, violent fundamental clinging to politics and organized religion. We are collectively turning towards a more expansive view of ourselves and one another.

Break the glass and be open to the love that cannot be contained.

Break the glass

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


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:

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.

Treats for the Tricksters

Today is historically known as All Souls Day, so let’s play some Otis Redding, Nina Simone and Marvin Gaye to honor the dead baby!
I hope you had a happy Samhain (pronounced sow-en), or you may call it All Hallows Eve or the young Halloween, (as opposed to the ol’ Halloween).  Stemming from a Gaelic celebration marking the start of Winter, the holiday’s original treats were offerings for relatives who had died and whose ghosts might have enjoyed some wine, bread and other goodies.  Children started dressing up as the ghosts to mess with the adults and thus the pranksters created the tricks.
While Halloween is sometimes frowned upon as too dark, demonic or not wholesome, I personally think it is healthy to treat our inner trickster at least once a year.  The trickster is a vital part of our human psyche.  There has to be something within us that gets us to lighten up and tear down the walls we have built around our beliefs.  “Normalcy is a fallacy!”  is a battle cry my friends and I have often employed in our revels.
There are famous tricksters that we revere as being part of our established reality.  Ben Franklin, for example, used to slip articles under the door of his brother’s newspapers written by a window named Silence Dogood. He would also slip made up verses into his bible and read them to folks he thought were pompous. These folks would often pretend like they recognized the ‘scriptures’ he read.  
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
– Mark Twain
“Don’t take life too seriously. You’ll never get out alive.”Bugs Bunny
One of my favorite tricksters is Hafiz of Shiraz, who was always exasperating the fundamentalists of his day. Ironically, my favorite renditions of Hafiz poetry are written by Daniel Ladinsky, who is a trickster in that he published renditions that capture the essence of the poetry rather than direct translations. This exasperates ‘serious’ scholars.  Here are a few renditions for you:
Retire In The Alps
The great religions are the ships,
poets the lifeboats.
Every sane person I know has
jumped overboard!
Hafiz, it is good for business,
isn’t it? 
 but I would rather retire in the Alps!
I Had a Legitimate Excuse
I had a legitimate excuse for not going to the
mosque and temple to pray.
It was because love is so wild in me I might
break the fragile glass cage that all religions
are made of.
And… since Julia and I have been binging on audio books by Terry Pratchett as we gig along, (the ones narrated by Stephen Briggs are our favorites), let’s have a quote from Granny Weatherwax, a wise trickster and witch:
“…And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself. That’s what sin is.
“It’s a lot more complicated than that . . .”
“No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.”
– Granny Weatherwax from Carpe Jugulum
*   *   *
 Ben as prankster
Let us trick ourselves into being more humane and savoring the sweetness of life.

Distilled wisdom

I had a lovely conversation last night with a dear friend I have known since sixth grade. Through the years, he has been the one I can count on to take up a contrary position when discussing my point of view. He lovingly does this to represent the paradox and to remind me that the universe has no boundaries.  He is a lawyer with a family and many responsibilities who delights in taking his children on outings, playing music and looking up at the stars. When I told him I was working on a book of reflections he shared his belief that after all he has read from the great philosophers to the scriptures of religions around the world, that they could all be distilled down to two words: Be Nice.

I was about to bring up Rabbi Hillel’s quote but he did it for me. When Rabbi Hillel was asked if he could teach the whole of the Torah while standing on one foot, he replied:  “What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man.  That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary. “

Great leaders find different ways of conveying this. The Dalai Lama says his religion is kindness.

The poet Daniel Ladinsky renders this message from the 14th century mystic, “Hafiz has found two emerald words that restored me… Act Great.”

In the play American in Paris, the Gershwin character is trying to find the element that is missing from his ballet score.  He finally muses that life is filled with despair and that “if you have the ability to bring joy and happiness to people, why would you withhold that?”

With the barrage of obstacles we face each day and the amount of intuition we need to stay on track, it is refreshing to have something simple that invites us back into our center.

May your week be distilled into simple clarity for you moment by moment.

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.
“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.