Category Archives: Reflection

Myth, Ritual and the Holidays

An end of the year reflection

In this interim between the winter holidays and New Year’s, there is an opportunity to reflect. We may have a moment or two between social obligations to consider who we are, where we are, what we are grateful for, why we are here and how we are going to get where we want to go.

If we look at the rituals and myths we have set up as markers to navigate time, it will give us a greater understanding and insight to these questions.

The intensity of Christmas, for instance, is marked not only by the celebration, but an utter clinging to the myth of Santa Claus. This Christmas Eve, the weatherman on the evening news, had a radar screen that showed where St. Nick’s sled currently was. There is almost a militant adherence to the upholding of this myth. At the heart of it, is not an avarice or anticipation of material gain, but a cheerful magic that comes to remind us of our own benevolent nature and capacity for giving love.

The lighting of candles on Hanukkah at this time of year is a ritual that is based on a myth. The candles represent one can of oil, meant to last one day that burned for eight nights. The significance of this ritual and myth symbolize the courage of the human spirit as it stands up to the seeming dominance of tyranny. Every night of the holiday, more candles are added to increase the light. Each kindled flame represents the presence of a collective determination to uphold personal freedom. The honor of lighting these candles is a personal reminder to uphold the freedom of our collective humanity.

The ball that falls in Times Square at midnight at the end of the year, is an illuminated symbol of our collective adherence to linear time with all of its nostalgia and unknown possibility.  The ritual of celebrating with friends and even strangers, in a friendly, spill over the side of our comfort zone manner, goes beyond the tiny bubbles in our glass. It is an anticipated prolonged moment that makes us consciously aware of the present. In its own way, it offers us a portal to transcend time, our body, our routine and environment to recognize that we can change our hard-wired reality into something we equate with hope.

We can fly through the years on automatic pilot, and celebrate holidays and rituals perfunctorily, or we can use them to usher us into the present, savor our interactions and enter into a space where the person we long to be and the world we hope to belong to, raise a glass to us.

Happy New Years!

“We’ll take a cup of kindness yet”- Robert Burns

The Floating Dock- a week’s reflection

“Climb back singing. Climb praising as you return to connection. Here among the disappearing, in the realm of the transient, be a ringing glass that shatters as it rings. Be. And know as well the need to not be: let that ground of all that changes bring you to completion now.” – Rilke-Sonnets to Orpheus,( II, 13 h)/ A Year with Rilke /Translated and Edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows
“Push will wear you out. When you’re pushing to do something, you only got so much willpower. But when you’re pulled, when there’s something larger than yourself that you’re here to serve and that you believe you’re made for, that brings energy.”- Tony Robbins
 FullSizeRender (4)– photo: Julia Bordenaro Levin
Last night Julia and I were driving out to a nearby lake and I pondered what I would write about today for the stream.  I felt I had nothing to offer today and it bothered me. We started our walk around the lake and Julia immediately started taking pictures. The poetry of her surroundings is always calling out to her. As we were in motion, the week started coming back to me. We had a marathon of gigs last weekend, including two commemorative healing concerts for 9/11 with our friend Judy Kass. There is a group of folks from a marvelous collective called Peace through Play who came to one of our shows and danced and danced.  Getting to play music that inspires and provokes dancing or seeming stillness is an honor that completes and generates concentric joy.  We got home from this eighth concert in four days and instead of turning on the tube and tuning out, we picked up on a suggestion we got from our beloved clowns, Coventry and Kaluza, and watched a documentary about Tony Robbins called,  I Am Not Your Guru.  Watching the first part of it, energized us and cut through our mental and emotional fatigue.  Here is someone who has been gathering people from around the world for over twenty years to reach them where they are to raise them up to their own potential.  Authenticity, Joy and Honesty are the pillars that Tony stands on like a giant tiger and he is not afraid to face down anything.
Watching this show ramped us up for the week.  We got to jam with an amazing rhythm section as we prepare to begin our next recording.  We have continued a 30-day cleansing where we are eating only whole and natural foods. So instead of keeping ourselves awake with popcorn, snacks or something easy to grab while coming back from Long Island late at night, we stopped at a grocery store and felt like we were riding together with Coventry- Kaluza as we laughingly binged on bananas, raisins, sunflower seeds and almonds.  The nutritional shift has restored a clarity of thought.
One of my mom’s friends from the theater passed away this week. She had been a major force for getting my mom into the theater.  She was a tremendous inspiration and motivation for me as well.  I was practically a member of her family. In fact, her son and I were tremendous friends.  I called him and although we haven’t talked in a while it stoked the fire between us.  His mom had dementia, so he recognized the blessing of her passing.  We all remember her for the firebrand she was and is within us.  I realized that with the intensity of our schedules, it would have been easy to allow myself to think that his mom’s passing was sad without taking the time to reach out, touch base, reflect and rejoice in what her life offered us and so many people. 
Walking last night brought the turning back to me.  I could feel the curve of the year pulling me towards the change rising, blossoming within me.  What we are capable of is intertwined with the delight we take in connection.  As Rilke said, “All becoming has needed me. My looking ripens things and they come toward me, to meet and be met.”*
So much happens in a week, we take so much in but the simple act of walking around a lake can not only bring it all back but remind us to allow what we have gathered to germinate so that what we have to offer is something we were born to give.
*The Book of Hours I, I/ A Year with Rilke/ Translated and Edited by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows
 The photo on top is a picture Julia took along the lake yesterday of the “floating dock”.

People we meet along the way

I hope this finds you having a wonderful start to your holiday season!

Last weekend was a wild ride, Julia and I had 7 gigs in 3 days. One of the beautiful things about the work we do is the people we meet.

On Saturday, we had a pre-show dinner next to Richard Zayback, who had been an optometrist, until he had a stroke that left no sensation on the left side of his body.  Eight years ago, he lost his wife and yet the gentleman who sat next to us had a real smile and earnest glow.  He said that life gives you blows but it is all about what you do with yourself after that.  He had lobbied in Washington on behalf of the disabled.  He is helping a young man now start a business to help post-high school students with disabilities have full productive lives. He told us a story of a little girl who was a patient of his when he was still an optometrist.  She told him she was going to be just like him when she grew up.  She told him the same thing the next year and he told her he was going to put her to work.  With her parent’s permission, he had her showing young patients how to put in their contacts in and helping around the office to see if she would like it.  She not only became an optometrist, but when he had the stroke, she purchased the business from him.  Now her folks invite him to every holiday and gathering, considering him to be a part of the family.

Yesterday, we had a photo session down on the Wissahickon river. Our photographer, Nathan Joseph Dodson was one of those people you feel fortunate to have met, like Richard Zayback.  Nathan was home schooled, the second of eight children.  When he was 12, he traded stocks on line.  His mom gave him and his brother $400 to start with.  They made $23,000.  He got bored and sold antique books on line.  He was a professional gymnast.  He was offered a scholarship to Harvard and turned it down.  At 18, he became a self taught photographer.  At 19, he was at an international photography symposium with groups like Sports Illustrated. His class was one of the most attended, despite the fact that he was improvising. Now, he is sent around the globe to talk at colleges and conventions about photography.

He has just invested in a medical facility just before it won a Nobel Prize.  He has 2 percent invested in a baseball team that is being sold.  He has this great air of confidence without arrogance.  We got the feeling he could make 20 million dollars and still would choose to continue to be a photographer, because he loves it.  He was so positive with us, so into the process itself.  He put us at our ease and made us aware of the moment, of the light of being able to capture something we were all sharing and would get to share with others.

There are so many amazing people around us all the time and when we meet folks who are so committed to utilizing what they have, it makes us pull back and recognize the rarified air we are breathing, the capacity we have for expanding our lives.

So here is to the light, to the freedom we have to be ourselves as we choose and the heroes that help us along the way!


Taking the long-view with relationships

My uncle Si passed away this week after a long bout of dementia, so while I am sad to say goodbye, I am grateful that he is not suffering.  Being officially uncle-less, brings up feelings of the temporal reality we are engaging in.  We are all going along as we can and even though we may not see our family or the friends that we have adopted as family along the way, we are still connected to each other. We do develop the means to carry on in various ways and some moments crop up to remind us that we aren’t alone in this spiral race within the labyrinth.
I remember my uncle Si, pulling me aside when I had moved to Boulder on my way to LA to become an actor. He gave me a hundred dollars and told me to take a day off and go sit by myself and ask myself what would make me the most happy and fulfilled.  He encouraged me to pursue my dreams in a way that would be profitable and sustaining.  We don’t have to reach out to one another and although it may have been awkward for him, he cared enough about me to do that.
There is a certain aspect of relationships that allow us to take the long-view with those we love.  We may get into it, we may wince when they react or act in certain ways, we may get tired and not want to be bothered, but beyond our survival mode and cynical crust, we can see one another in our heart’s eye and find a way to continue to connect.  We can look along the line of moments we have gathered together and find the sweet ones.  We can be present to their entirety, even if they are no longer here and know that whatever short comings they have, there is more to them then we will ever know.
I may be uncle-less but I am still an uncle to my niece and nephew and to lots of kids who know me as their Uncle Eye!  So here’s to being caught in the Web of Life with you!
Web of Life
Help me I’m caught in this web of life, run to the kitchen 
and get me a knife, cut right there… ok I’m free…
wait, now you’re unraveling me!
We’re all connected, we’re all connected! 
Every single thing you see, shares the same source of energy!
Web of life.  *
Without the plants we could not breathe,
without them we would have to leave. 
With all that we claim to achieve, next to plants we are naïve.
Every rock has a secret, every blade of grass sings…
There is a purpose for every living thing… 
– Uncle Eye
Here’s to connecting!

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:
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…
Preview by Yahoo
May your heart be strong and expand out past your problems

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.

Fireflies, salt, water, sound and Dandelion Wine

Last night as I was taking out the trash, the fireflies reminded me it was a sweet summer night.  The darkness was filled with flashing pinpoints of light that drew forth the holiest of words from me, the ‘Wow’ that removes years and time, bridges childhood to now and reconnects us to wonder.  I stood outside and watched them silently as the lightning flashed softly through the trees, noticing the seeming pattern the fireflies created as if it were a natural Fibonacci sequence or a morse code.

I had been thinking of sharing two videos showing how frequency affects physical matter and the relationship between vibration and manifestation, (In the salt experiment, the higher the frequency the more complex and beautiful the geometric patterns become*) and here I was standing in the garden being taken back to summer nights at the top of my tree in the backyard, back to reading to Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine where he is out in nature and realizes he is alive:

“I’m really alive! he thought. I never knew it before, or if I did I don’t remember!…” “The world, like a great iris of an even more gigantic eye, which has also just opened and stretched out to encompass everything, stared back at him.” ― Ray Bradbury,                                                    Dandelion Wine Quotes by Ray Bradbury

Stepping outside is one of the surest ways of being able to step inside.

 Here are the two videos I wanted to share with you.  They are amazing and give me faith in the tickling creativity that winks in the darkness:

*-Salt and Sound:

Amazing Water and sound experiment:

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”  –Nikola Tesla

May you have a full experience unexpectedly.

Celebrating Love formally – a weekend’s reflection

Over the weekend, we celebrated magnetic points of attraction.  On Saturday our friend’s parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary under a tent in their backyard with their family and friends.  His parent’s are Catholic and while organized faith can stifle a good party, the blessings that were said were so heartfelt and liberating, they only augmented the singing, dancing and drinking.  It struck me that my friend’s parents were among the few that actually embody their faith, not as a political or judgmental mantle but as an open tent that allowed us all in affectionately. At one point we formed a rough ring around them and with this ring of loved ones, they renewed their vows. My friend’s dad told him that it really was all about unconditional love and knowing how wild my friend is, his dad was being sincere.
On Sunday, we went to a Jewish wedding of the daughter of two more dear friends.  Our friends lost their first born son unexpectedly a few years back and yet they continue to be not only pillars but the beating heart of their community.  This wedding was, professionally speaking, top of the mark.  The rabbi and cantor were among the best of their field, the temple was stellar, the catering choice, the band remarkable but what made it so beautiful was the realization that everyone there was a true extension of the love this family has for one another.  To be granted a day of such immense happiness without the shadow of grief coloring it was a sincere healing that everyone got to take home with them.
These bright moments punctuate our reality, not just as the social obligations we get to indulge in but as a privilege we get to imbibe in to make us sing in tipsy chorus: “Life is a choice and we choose to be here with love in our hearts that spills over onto the sidewalk so that paper boats of poetry can sail sweetly along.”
May you command the crow’s nest of one of these boats as your week commences.