Category Archives: Daniel Ladinsky

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.

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.