Category Archives: kindness

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!

 

With each other, for each other & for others

As Indian summer is dovetailing into winter here in NY,  Julia and I cleaned out our living space over the weekend, boxing up summer clothes and pulling out our coats and sweaters. We did this while preparing to go on the road, which we were finding a wee bit stressful. In the midst of cleaning Julia found an old birthday card she had given me:
 
“I don’t know exactly where our journey’s going to take us or what might happen along the way. But I do know who we’ll be when we get there…
Two cute little old people- still holding hands, still making each other laugh, still totally in love.”
 
Julia had written me a note in the card, part of which said: ” we promised each other that we’d guide each other and become the most beautiful people we can with each other, for each other and for others.”
 
There can be a stress placed on the bond of a partnership, especially when you live and work together. The “laundry reality” doesn’t end and piles up. I realized that the love we have for our partners isn’t about what they can do for us but for who they are. Feeling their being in our lives, not as a completion but an overlapping whole frees up space for soaring.
 
As we sang through our song inspired by King Lear last night it struck me again that as we strive for what we hope to see while the seasons change- if we love each other, not for services rendered but for who we are innately, we touch something eternal within ourselves.
 
” …the news is like the tide, with who looses and who wins. Packs and sects of great ones, who is out and who is in -ebbs and flows like moon while we’re wandering on the heath. Oh, that fickle changing loon with us playing underneath..
As we head off it occurs to me, there is still time to forgive. Like in King Lear Act V scene III- 
‘So we’ll live and pray and sing and tell old tales and laugh at gilded butterflies and take upon us the mystery of things, as if we were God’s spies.’ ” 
– Shakespeare/ The Levins
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Love, unshackled from expectation to you and yours.

The Threshold Choir- Singing healing into dying.

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.

Eulogy for a bold force of kindness

This week a woman Julia and I knew from a handful of gatherings, through a family that we are very close to, passed away. We were both moved by her passing as if we had known her our whole lives.  This was a woman who embodied the maternal. She did not apologize for being here.  She parted the waves of complacent ignorance.  Her laugh emptied you of fear and filled you with a support that encouraged your being to come forward.  She created an arena around her, a forum for whatever truth was present to be nourished. She was real in every sense of the word.  Her candor was so refreshing, not only did it put you at your ease but lightened you up so that you could laugh at your own pretense.
We went to her service and learned that when her children were being bullied in school she brought the bully to tears of contrition in the principal’s office by asking “What is hurting you so much inside that you have to make my children sad?” She was not only larger than life, she was larger than death.  When she had learned she had cancer, she refused to let it stop her from embracing the things and the people she loved.  She raised money for cancer treatment and continued to be a brash force of kindness.
The couple who introduced us to this wonderful woman, led her service.  They were strong in the way that everyone needed them to be, but not only did they put us at ease, they lifted us up to her level.  We would all be rich beyond compare to have someone lift us up after we have gone, with such good humor and earnest praise.  Certainly, she lifted herself up enough to be remembered in the best way but it takes a true friend to present us to those who didn’t know who we were and expand us to those who did.
It makes me feel very fortunate to have such amazing people in the fabric of my time here.
One of the last people to speak said that if she was there she would have said, “What were you thinking having these people get up at this hour of the morning?”
This was worth getting up early for.  It wasn’t a funeral, it was reminder to love fully, regardless of the rules; to live life on our own terms. To remember that we are all part of one delicious Self and then to be Self-ish and wrap our arms around life and not let go, even when we loose form.
For all of those who have shown us the secret value of being here, no hug is strong or long enough.