Category Archives: benevolence

A Creative Reframing of Stress and Superpowers

Overcoming your fear of utilizing your creativity.

Frame: noun  – “a ridged structure that surrounds or encloses something.”

“Reframing…Your frame is the house you live in.  That which you tell yourself on a regular basis.

What you talk about, you make real. Words are magical incantations.

Create a home that works for you, that brings you peace, that makes you calm.

Frame something that makes you feel good, makes you more patient, more kind.

It’s not a destination, it’s a way of living.”- Drake Powe

One of the advantages of being a travelling musician is getting to listen to audio books and podcasts on the way to various gigs.  Two recent highlights have been Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful resource book about creativity called Big Magic and her follow-up podcast Magic Lessons.

In episode 12 of her podcast, she has a dialogue with author Brene Brown. During that discussion, Brene noted:

“Without (creativity) I am not OK and without having access to everyone else’s, we are not OK.

I absolutely understand, personally and professionally from the data, there are no such thing as non-creative people. There are just people who use their creativity and those that don’t, and unused creativity is not benign.”

Brene Brown

My friend Drake Powe is someone I think of whose living presence is an expression of creativity. Drake was the best man at my wedding. Each interaction I have with him, brings me fully into the present and shifts me back to what is vital in this moment.

Even before he had an outlet for his creativity, Drake’s canvas was interaction.

Drake is a big persona. He is not only larger than life in personality but also in stature.  You might be surprised that despite being over six feet tall with a barrel chest that houses his immense heart,  Drake has wrestled with a fear of being attacked. This might stem from growing up in a rough neighborhood, however, fear of being vulnerable extends to being criticized as well.  Anyone with a presence on line, risks being attacked by mean spirited individuals with a lot of time on their hands.  Both Elizabeth Gilbert and Brene Brown talk of having to deal with trolls who antagonize them for being powerful women who choose to demonstrate their creativity in an empowering way.  Drake has pushed past his fears and the stress of being an empowering black man in his community. As a yoga instructor, he has felt comfortable dealing with individuals and small groups but recently he has challenged himself to begin speaking in public.

In one of these presentations, he talks of accessing his inner superhero whose power is being calm and optimistic in stressful situations. He has managed to reframe his story, (fears of attack) by applying this superpower. He has recognized that very thing that stresses him out, simultaneously has the power of fueling his gift.

“Conflict is our opportunity when we realize how powerful we are… We are stressed because we feel vulnerable…You are not what you are stressed about…our true state is calm and loving…

Change the size of your framing, make yourself big, make yourself magnificent, because that’s who you are.”- Drake Powe

When I think of what super power I want to have, it is the ability to step outside of time, to be able to experience and bestow a state of timelessness. What pushes my buttons and causes me stress are, most often, fear based time-related issues, such as deadlines and ‘to do’ lists, even if they are self-imposed. When I react from a time-stressed center, my frame becomes small and, as my wife would say, “I am not my best self.” I have experienced that my creativity is heightened when I activate my superpower. Timelessness brings me back to benevolence. Benevolence extends the frame of my being beyond space. The music that flows from that, reduces stress and dances without constraint.

I wonder if each of us has a superpower that is restrained by stress, fear, or not fully utilizing our creativity.

Just for this moment, allow yourself to step out of time, reframe. Go beyond the self you know.

There really is no frame to what we actually are.  Being able to sit within our natural state of being gives us access to our creativity, our ability to be Faster than a speeding negative thought- More powerful than criticism -Able to leap stress at a single bound!


Goodnight Sweet Gene

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to eye.”

Gene Wilder as the Fox in Antoine de-Saint-Exupery’s The Little PrinceGene as fox

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Gene Wilder.  So often life is a cavalcade and we are riding through with all of our baggage, chores, hopes and dreams jostling us as we try and keep an eye on the terrain. When a celebrity dies, we may feel bad but rarely want to pull over and stoke up the campfire to sit and reflect on what they offered us.

Yesterday I read something by Mooji that said, “The way is not really a way. It is a depth. It is not a distance. It is a deepening into… the bliss of the unknowable.”*  Gene’s work had that depth. You could feel it right from the start when he appeared in Bonnie and Clyde.

The first word that comes right up to the top when I think of Gene is ‘sweet’.   He showed generations what being a sweet human being looked like.  He was able to display the full gambit of being human from our neurotic angst and furious madness to our capacity for playful romance and pure loving kindness.

At the end of Willy Wonka when the chocolatier becomes a monster to test Charlie and Charlie returns the gobstopper that he might have sold for untold wealth, all we see is Gene’s hand slowly close around the candy.  His voice, off screen has made me cry every time. “So shines a good deed, in a weary world.” I feel that Gene’s dedication and the work he gave us personifies this line.  When the camera showed us Gene’s face as he called after Charlie, the love and benevolence beaming out of his eyes seemed to redeem all of humanity.Gene as WIlly

We watched Blazing Saddles the other night and it struck me that his work with Cleavon Little and Richard Pryor, in movies like Silver Streak, was a movement in itself.  The natural ease and delight of these larger than life friendships were heroic. The comedy was perhaps the intention and certainly was the result but there is a lingering bolstered hope imprinted on our hearts after watching these films. While society is still trying to sweat itself up the mountain of equality, Gene and Cleavon and then Gene and Richard, (who helped write Blazing Saddles) were “deepening into the bliss of the unknowable.”

Gene and CleavonGene and Richard

I heard that Gene didn’t want to tell the public that he was struggling with Alzheimer’s, because kids would say, “Look, there’s Willy Wonka!” It gave them such joy; he didn’t want to take that away from them. He couldn’t bear the idea of one less smile in the world.

Gene was singing, “Somewhere over the Rainbow” when he was taken from us.

May we all be capable of such sweetness and be remembered as fondly as Jerome Silberman, who, being inspired by Tomas Wolfe’s Look Homeward Angel and Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, became our Gene Wilder.

Gene Wilder

Gene as Willy Wonka


*- White Fire/Mooji © 2014

Humanity’s band of merry makers

gandhi_mlkThroughout our history, both individually and collectively, amid the chaos and tumultuous conflicts, there has been a quiet stream of interactions that have upheld the spirit of our humanity.  Sometimes we have gained shelter from a story, a book, a writer who provided us with the best we have to offer in the context of fantasy, fiction, history or by directly offering us another option.  Sometimes we gain what James Joyce calls aesthetic arrest from paintings or artwork, which act like portals that connect us to all of life instantly.  Sometimes a single melody can transport us purely into the center of being in which are and always will be free.

There have been leaders, such as MLK, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, who use their faith and dedication to bring relief to those around them, inspiring communities to bring about benevolent change.  Then there are those people who open the door for you, run down the street to retrieve something the wind has carried away, speak up for you in a hostile crowd or offer you unsolicited comfort.

This stream of merry makers in all their various forms call out to us to join them.  In all likelihood, we have been among them periodically and delight in their dance that mirrors the depths of love.

As this week of Thanksgiving marches on and we take in the news, encounter marketing ploys, calculated entertainment, holiday anxiety, we may get jostled and frazzled. Lean on whatever centers you and join the parade that is hidden in plain sight.


“In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery, and death. I see the world gradually being turned into a wilderness, I hear the ever approaching thunder, which will destroy us too, I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think that it will all come right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”

-Anne Frank

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

The Threshold Choir- Singing healing into dying.

Making peace with Mother’s Day

I would like to officially extend Mother’s Day into a life-long celebration.  This weekend was overflowing with Hallmark cards, flower arrangements, teddy bears and balloons sold on the side of the road, but the love of the ones who gave us life is a sacred bond that can be honored with external gratitude and internal reflection.

Mother’s Day, as we know it was started by Anna Jarvis for her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis, who started Mother’s Day Work clubs in the 1850’s to tend to the wounds of solders on both sides of the Civil War and to lower the infant mortality rate.  Later, these work days became Mother’s Friendship Day Picnics, where these same women would get together to promote peace by having a light feasts for former foes.

Anna Jarvis started Mother’s Day in West Virginia in honor of her mom, when she passed away.  Her original intention was to celebrate your own mother, not all mothers, (like Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.)  Her celebration soon became a national and international holiday.  Anna Jarvis, who could have capitalized on this, actually spend all of her money and sanity fighting the commercialization of what the day became.

In honor of her original intention, I would like to give a special thanks to Sally Lee Rubin Levin.  During an era of Mad Men, where women stayed at home in the kitchen, my mom found her own path of spirituality, became an actress and director, frequented nudist colonies and was outspoken, even when it made her shake.

She managed to do all this and remain kind, supportive and fun.  She has taught me that to be true to your craft, you have to be true to yourself and bring a light to whatever situation you are in.  She is a great light in so many lives and when you are with her, it is an invitation to be yourself, participate in the moment and live it up.

Beyond the commercialization, here is to all the moms we know and to those that live inside of us.

May we be nurtured and nurturing.


Nature — the Gentlest Mother is, Impatient of no Child — The feeblest — or the waywardest — Her Admonition mild — In Forest — and the Hill — By Traveller — be heard — Restraining Rampant Squirrel — Or too impetuous Bird — How fair Her Conversation — A Summer Afternoon — Her Household — Her Assembly — And when the Sun go down — Her Voice among the Aisles Incite the timid prayer Of the minutest Cricket — The most unworthy Flower — When all the Children sleep — She turns as long away As will suffice to light Her lamps — Then bending from the Sky — With infinite Affection — And infiniter Care — Her Golden finger on Her lip — Wills Silence — Everywhere —


To My Mother

Because I feel that, in the Heavens above,

The angels, whispering to one another,

Can find, among their burning terms of love,

None so devotional as that of “Mother,”

Therefore by that dear name I long have called you-

You who are more than mother unto me,

And fill my heart of hearts, where Death installed you,

In setting my Virginia’s spirit free.

My mother—my own mother, who died early,

Was but the mother of myself; but you

Are mother to the one I loved so dearly,

And thus are dearer than the mother I knew

by that infinity with which my wife

Was dearer to my soul than its soul-life.


by Edgar Allan Poe, addressed to his mother-in-law

Stream of Light 3-30-15

The purpose of religion, spiritual practice and meditation is to bestow the message that you are the one responsible for bringing your spirit, the way the stream flows though you, into the world.  People will try to thwart you, dominate and crush your spirit. But the way the stream shines through you is not only unique; it is refreshment and benevolence to those around you. 

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.