Category Archives: acceptance

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.


Shining out while standing within

Celebrate Everything

Throughout my life, I have been one to celebrate and go wild in appropriate and inappropriate moments.  Sometimes, despite everything going on around me, I am barely contained with an unreasonable joy.

There are other times when I have bullied myself into misery because I feel that my short comings, or lack of accomplishment on a social scale doesn’t measure up or that various aspects of my personality are, “Just not right”.

I have beaten myself up saying, “With all that you have read and for as long as you have practiced, you should know better, you should be better.”

I once heard something that explained the difference between should and could. Should is shaming, could opens the door to possibility.

Matt KhanMatt Khan has a long talk on celebration and listening to it opened a door for me this week.  He said that we usually wait to celebrate until we have accomplished something, or until things look different.

He suggested that by celebrating every aspect of ourselves, especially the parts we detest in our behavior, as a part of something divine, we can accept who we are on a deeper level with humor and lighten up.

What usually happens as I know so well is that we beat ourselves up for not being this or that and then we take a break to console ourselves by eating a carton of ice-cream, or drinking a bottle, or something equivalent and then feel shame and go back to the beatings (until morale improves ; )

Matt said that when you are eating the ice-cream, drinking, smoking, whatever it is, consciously celebrate it, enjoy the crap out of it because that pulls the plug on the shame which loves to point out that this makes us less than divine because we are indulging ourselves.

He suggested you sing out all of your bad thoughts and behaviors, “Here I am being passive aggressive!”  or “The person in front of me in line is wearing perfume…when will they die?”

Matt: “Celebrate with embellished honesty. Admit what is totally true about your worst qualities and crank up the enthusiasm until you laugh.”

Even doing simple things throughout the day, like opening the refrigerator door you can, “Anchor gratitude to increase your self-worth to bring forth higher energy for all.”

I know I am leaning heavily on this one video talk today but it really addresses something I have been struggling with for a long time. I compartmentalize myself.  I recognize where my inconsistencies are and disqualify myself from allowing this moment to be triumphant.

Matt: “Arrogance is thinking you are better than other people, confidence is celebrating the uniqueness of yourself.  Arrogance is a comparison.  The one thing we are looking for is confidence.

Confidence to accept everything as divinity whether you understand it or not and to celebrate yourself in all your imperfect perfection.

When you celebrate, life stops devastating you.

If you take the time to celebrate what you have a problem with, you will change the energy.

We are not denying people’s pain, we are certainly not laughing at people’s pain, we are liberating them from pain by cranking up the celebration in our own lives so that something different can arise within them.”

So my friends, let’s rock!  Let the wildly honest rumpus begin!

360 degrees around Harper Lee

Last week I finished reading Harper Lee’s prequel sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird which is called Go, Set a Watchman. (It is a sequel but was written before her famous, award winning novel.) For a good ten years, Julia and I religiously watched To Kill a Mockingbird to remind ourselves what it means to be human. For me, that is nearly a perfect movie and it stirs not only my emotions but my conscience. 
Julia and I went on the first day the new book was released and bought it from the local bookstore which is happily called Pickwick’s.  We remembered being at Pendragon books in Oakland, CA at midnight to get the last of the Harry Potter books.  Pendragon was packed and there was an excitement and comradery in the air.  There will be very few times in our lives now where being in bookstore for the release of a physical book will be an event.
There has been a lot of controversy and criticism of Harper Lee’s new book and I did my best not read or listen to it before I read it myself.  I was worried that Atticus Finch, who said,  “I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you,” would be dethroned as a literary God of justice and stalwart humanitarian. Harper Lee manages to find her own conviction as a young woman and upholds what Atticus has taught her.  But this book is about understanding what it means to be fully human. 
My father taught me when I was a child to walk three hundred and sixty degrees around a person’s point of view.  When I was a teenager, I would come home ranting as if I was a sixties radical and my father would sigh and do his best to help me walk around the additional hundred and eighty degrees. 
There is a way to protest injustice while remaining compassionate and being empathetic to our own shortcomings. 
Here is one of my favorite protests:
One man with a Sousaphone ruins an entire KKK march
by providing them with a silly soundtrack.
Here’s to the prankster that is able to lighten the load of our collective folly.
Here’s to merging our conviction with a loving heart.

a Red Clover at the center of the world

Getting along, along the Loxahatchee river

I hope your Thanksgiving weekend was wonderful and that you can breathe around the middle.
My family was invited up to Jupiter, Florida where a friend of my dad’s had purchased four houses along the Loxahatchee river and connected them via a boardwalk into a compound.  His friend passed away this year and his widow invited us up for Thanksgiving.  My folks extended her generosity and invited the extended family until there were 21 of us enjoying the hospitality and the incredible views off the docks.

A few of us, who are known for being a bit whoo whoo, sent up a treatment for a magical week with no drama.
I am happy to say it worked.  Sending up an intention is no guarantee, but it does help and increases our chances for success.
The hardest thing is to remember to see the people who have a history of not being our favorite differently.
My mom told us a story of another family reunion in which, among the guest list, there were these two cousins. Mostly everyone loved the one cousin and thought the other cousin was mean and bit crabby. As the ‘mean and crabby’ cousin was coming down the steps to the party, my mom’s sister waved at her thinking she was the cousin everyone loved.  Well, this “mean and crabby” cousin, seeing this mistaken reaction to her arrival, lit up and was absolutely delightful and lovely all weekend.
“The most important decision we ever make is whether we believe we live in a friendly universe or a hostile universe.”
-Albert Einstein
Our host for the week was an amazing woman who, once a month uses the houses to host wounded warriors and their families.  They get to fish and swim, are taken out on a boat, one night her and her team watch the kids so the Vet and his or her spouse can go out for a fancy meal alone.  Our host said their gratitude and appreciation makes the work worthwhile.  Yet she confessed to me that after a few days, even in this beautiful heavenly spot, this one is fighting with that one… “To see a family that seems to really like each other like yours,” she said, “is very refreshing.”

I give the credit to my folks who are so giving with such a generous spirit and amazing sense of humor that accepts you where you are while cheerleading your stronger self, most of my friends have asked if they can adopt themselves into the family.
May you be adopted into an open-armed existence that values you for what you are and nourishes what you have to give!

Stream of Light 10-22-14

If there is something that is bothering you, put your breath into the thought behind it.  We are all perfectly imperfect.  We partner up with various individuals to allow them to shine a light into our imperfections and we do the same for them.  This can be gentle or harsh but we are helping each other towards becoming whole. Wholeness isn’t perfection but understanding we do not ever fully know while being with our Selves fully; aware of where we segue into each other, holding the space in between as delightful illusion.  Who we are is emptying into the unseen which is filling us up simultaneously. 

Stream of Light 10-13

Bring what is yours to give to each situation.  We may not be able to ‘fix’ the situation or we may be intimidated by the surrounding knowledge or skill of those around us but what we have to bring is essential and can shift the dynamic in such a way as to facilitate lasting change or healing.  Each combination of people in any given place creates a unique opportunity for learning and an exchange of understanding.  We are all learning and there is too much to know for any of us to contain in one vessel.  What we know is relative to what is needed in the spheres we inhabit.  Being in a balanced state of confidence and humility allows us to bring what is needed in each situation we are in.

Happy Birthday America

It is the birthday of America, an idea of a nation not ruled by a king, where we are not confined to a caste system, locked into a station in life but free to move up and down the ladder, to align ourselves with whatever our moral compass points to. 
America stands for freedom that allows for choice; choice of religion, philosophy, expression, the gambit of experience.  We are a mirror pool of manifestation reflecting back every possibility and our manifest destiny is to move into the new frontier where we can hear and see ourselves as we truly are beyond centuries of prejudice, fear and doubt.  
We are our own forefathers and mothers declaring our independence from the tyranny of prideful ignorance.  A new nation reaching out beyond the borders of limited thought to embrace liberty as she bestows dignity to all who reach out for her.
Happy Birthday, blow out your candles and may your year be sweet.

Beautiful Place to Be- a lyric by The Levins

Moses, Jesus, Buddha and Krishna picked up Rumi on a slow boat to China-

Searching for Utopia, ended up in India, reading the Tao Te Ching…

In comes the waiter with tiny cups of china and fills them up as he begins to sing:

“All the world is contained in this tiny cup of tea.  There’s room for all, no matter how small and where we agree… it’s a beautiful place to be.”

Gathered at the table, I’m sure we can agree, if we’re willing then we’re able to –

Let each other simply be.

Seeing eye to eye is a mighty feat, put our differences aside

Come on, everybody’s here, let’s eat!

If you are a poet and you find yourself in chains,

make the tyrant laugh, find the sweet refrain.

Everyone has something valuable to say,

Let’s become a choir and sing our separateness away.

“All the world is contained in this tiny cup of tea.  There’s room for all, no matter how small and where we agree… it’s a beautiful place to be.”


The Levins are a harmony-driven acoustic duo dedicated to making the world a happier place.