Category Archives: Wonder

The Halloween Hypothesis

Exploring the Celebration of Being

Halloween is, for many, their favorite holiday. I must admit, it still has a magical allure for me as well. The masquerade, the merriment, the comradery of children going from house to house, the sweetness of doors being opened; confections being proffered, the prospect of manageable mischief and dancing amid a riot of fall colors, roasted pumpkin seeds, and monster movies…    It is a holiday that, in our lifetime, has been inextricably linked to childhood, with all of its abandonment and wonder.

Perhaps, our fascination with this celebration goes much deeper on a subconscious level. Halloween beckons to us to enter into our imaginations with the purpose of exploring aspects of ourselves that we may keep hidden away.

During the year, we become so fully engaged in the business of propagating ourselves and worrying about our various concerns, that we may not even take the time to have fun with who we are capable of being. We also tend to define ourselves by our affiliations. We identify with our religious or philosophical beliefs, our political parties, our businesses, our careers, our accomplishments. All of these, contain aspects, but by no means are, the totality of our Being.

As a child, or even as an adult, we long to know what it feels like to be more than we perceive ourselves to be. The chance to be royalty, a superhero, or a ninja, builds up our self-esteem in unique ways.

The darker aspect of Halloween playfully allows us to explore the shadow parts of ourselves with an air of acceptance. It is as if we are saying to ourselves, “Can you love me as a villain, a ghoul, or… a hot dog?”

Surely, we are all capable of being scary, ugly, mean and horrible. Maybe, the social permission to represent ourselves in a no holds barred fashion, could act as a repression release so that, even on a subconscious level, we can air out the forbidden attic to dance freely with all of ourselves.

Even the worst aspects of ourselves are only slivers of who we are. The truth is, all of us are a nexus of a universe expanding internally and externally. We are unique interlinking particles and waves vibrating across 11 dimensions and more. If we really had any real inkling of the vastness of our true Being, we would not have to consign ourselves to the pigeon holes we might place ourselves into on a daily basis.

The pointy hat, I am trying to uphold here, is that we are more than we allow ourselves to be and getting the chance to play is liberating.

So, whether you celebrate, shun, are indifferent, or ignore this holiday, I hope you find a way to trick yourself into the treat of the fullness of your Being.

“Well, if you want to sing out, sing out. And if you want to be free, be free. ‘Cause there’s a million things to be You know that there are.”- Cat Stevens

The High-Wire Act Between Wisdom and Delusion

Recognizing how narcissism blocks the uniqueness of our Being.

Recently, the theme of narcissism has foisted itself into our collective conversation.  According to Webster, it is defined as: “Excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance.”  We can perhaps come closer to understanding the term by delving into its synonyms: self-absorption, self-love, self-obsession, self-centeredness, conceit, egoic … But we can’t stop there, because, wrestling with narcissism is part of the human condition.

There is an in-depth book about “Transformations of Narcissism in Self Realization” by A.H. Almaas called “The Point of Existence.”  In it, Mr. Almaas discusses narcissism as identifying with a part of our experience and not being able to connect to the fullness of Being.

Mr. Almaas points out that there is a spectrum of narcissism that ranges from what is deemed healthy to pathological, and that being human, we are pretty much all subject to being on that spectrum.  So, it’s possible that, at any given point throughout our day, we can over-identify with the thoughts we are having, with our social status, with our current emotion, with our body image or a pain that we are experiencing.

Narcissism can make life, “all about me” and in doing so, it ironically robs us of experiencing who we really are, as well as diminishing the richness we are offered in each moment.

Over the weekend, my wife Julia witnessed an interview with a young man who had just written a book and given a TED talk. In the interview he was trying to explain that “he did not believe in” and “wasn’t looking for” inspiration.  He stated that he was his own source of inspiration.  He explained that everything essentially originated with him, that things weren’t interesting in themselves but it was the way that he looked at them that made them interesting.

Julia and I discussed this last declaration, turning it over and over, examining what drives us to feel we are the source of everything we see. Life is often a game of semantics. For example, inspiration and intuition are concepts that can be intertwined. If we are creatively prompted from within, our ego will often want to take credit for everything. Could all of us find ourselves, at times, doing a high-wire act between wisdom and delusion?

The paradox, for me, is that wisdom can be found both by going within and trusting our intuition, as well as being able to listen and honestly observe what is taking place around us. Thinking that we, as separate individuals, have it “going on” above everybody else, is a form of delusion, whether we acknowledge it or not.

I wasn’t there to hear the above-mentioned interview, and cannot presume to know what is in the artist’s heart.  I can certainly relate to artists who are so tuned into the process of creating, that everything around them becomes interesting because they have an internal commitment to wonder.

I believe that we each have a unique perception of the life-force that flows thorough all things. If we lose sight of the fact that we are that life-force, currently inhabiting a body, then it becomes very easy to become convinced that we are separate from everything else. Because we are aware of the life-force that is connected to all things, our ego can convince us that we alone are the source of everything we see. When that happens, our unique take on things usually gets blocked by our need to be “special.”

We recently enjoyed an interview with the world renown cellist Yoyo Ma, who refers to himself as a Citizen Artist. He told host, Krista Tippet, that playing music wasn’t a competition but an opportunity to share and create a moment between the artist and the audience with the objective of making that moment special.

Most people would agree that Yoyo Ma is successful and at the top of his field. Yet, Yoyo Ma considers the moments shared by him and his audience to be the real goal. In fact, making those moments as special as possible, for him, is the point of playing music in the first place.

I would say, beyond his incredible dedication to his craft, it is Yoyo Ma’s ability to be present as presence that makes him both unique and universally appealing.

Perhaps inspiration comes to us as we let go of our over-identification with our experience or our need to be special.  Perhaps, it is in allowing ourselves to be here fully, and be fully with what is, that what we are able to share becomes worth sharing.

This is a moment to moment dance that we get to choose, both individually and collectively. As human beings, we wrestle with narcissism. Still, we all have immediate access to the presence within this present moment that invites us to be fully who we are, and which opens the door to an infinite variety of uniqueness within every interaction.

Recognizing that our ego is a part, but not the whole of our existence, we can begin to open up to the wonder this moment affords us, even on the high-wire.

Elul and the Hero’s Journey

Promise yourself that you will remember who you are and not marginalize yourself within circumstance.  There is prosperity within our wake as we push into and become absolved within our own stream.
 
“The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.”
Joseph Campbell/ Reflections on the Art of Living
The Hero's Journey

For many years at this time of year, Julia and I would be heading to California to see our community and help lead High Holiday services.  The Jewish High Holidays are called the days of Awe because they are an opportunity to return to our truest being, and enter once again into a state of wonder where we can see the world with fresh eyes.  It is also a time of internal inventory, forgiveness and making amends.

The month before these days of Awe is called Elul, it is a time of preparation and study. Yesterday, I started my preparation by clearing the accumulated sea of weeds that had taken over our backyard.

Thích Nhất Hạnh was once asked why he spent so much time gardening when people enjoyed his poems so much.  He said, I garden like this, so I can write poems like that.

After the yard was clear, I rehearsed and then sat with a stack of books to gather wisdom to weave into the services that I will gratefully get to lead for my family this year. In the midst of this gleaning, Julia and I had dinner and watched a movie called Still Life.

The day before, we had allowed ourselves to see Kubo, and the Two Strings, which is still in the theater. My friend Emmet insisted that, “masterpiece is an understatement,” when describing this film.

kubo-main_0

In contemplating both films, (which I highly recommend) as I went back to my preparations, I realized they offered me as much as the clearing of the weeds, studying and rehearsing. These films in opposite ways demonstrated the Hero’s Journey.  Kubo, was among the finest examples of this mythical cycle I have seen.  Joseph Campbell is smiling from beyond. It utilized artistic and cutting edge animation, magic, storytelling and high action to bring the hero to the brink and back and have him return with a valuable gift that allowed his village to expand within themselves.

It may, as Emmet predicts, win an Oscar, or it may go under the radar. Still Life, will most certainly go under most people’s radar.  It was not animated, it was minimalistic.  It did not utilize magic or high action. It was sparse, gracefully slow and so beautiful. It was not the film  we thought it was going to be. If it had been, we would have thought it was quaint and forgotten it.

It was profound.

The hero of Still Life, is a solitary man who brings dignity to those who die alone. He looks for family and friends and if none can be found, he researches and writes their eulogies, selects their music and attends their funerals.  He stands as a witness to their lives and upholds the beauty they held.

Still-Life-2

We can become so used to our need to be entertained, to fill in the spaces, it is refreshing to return to the grandeur of subtlety. We are being showered with gifts all around us every day that call us back to being.

I went back to my pile of books after the movie and Ram Dass had this to say to me:

“…You study the scriptures, you study with teachers, you read books, you collect knowledge.  None of that is wisdom, it is merely the vehicle that’s going to help you get there.  As we move toward wisdom, we move on a path from intellect to intuition, from knowing we know about something, to an intuitive sense of our interconnectedness with everything. Intuitive wisdom is an appreciation of something through becoming one with it.”

Whatever your Elul or journey is, may you return with something greater than yourself that you can share with the rest of us.

Stream of Light 9-23-14 / Sweet Can Productions & The Levins World Folk Ensemble present: My Friend Hafiz

There are moments and days in our lives that we recognize as almost perfect.  Beautiful heavenly days.  While you can not hold onto them, you can draw from them and recall the serenity they provide to bring this moment into sharper focus.  Being grateful and recognizing what is sublime in our lives opens the door to more of the same.  There are always things within us that we can be grateful for.  By being in the state of conscious gratitude, not only do we recognize what is around us but we generate things to be grateful for and illuminate them for those around us.
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“In the artistic community, we always talk about the transformative power of theater, music, and art, but I got to witness it first hand on the deepest level this weekend. Last night, a woman rushed down to Kerri Kresinski and me, and said, “That’s it. You did it. I’m going to quit my job. Life is too short to be miserable.” Ira Scott Levin said this show was the most important thing he’d ever done in his life. 
It seems like every show I’m in, becomes a part of the fabric of my being. What a marvelous piece to weave into my soul.” –
Natasha Kaluza
 
We were on the move again yesterday and today I can finally sit and reflect on what occurred this weekend.  We had a full week of rehearsals and only got everyone all in the same room to fully run our production of My Friend Hafiz by Sweet Can Productions with The Levins World Folk Ensemble on Thursday night. On Friday night as we opened, I stood there playing the songs and cried.
Somethings embrace synergy to such a high level that what emerges has always existed and always will.   I talk about time being spherical a lot, but it occurred to me that the reason the songs had come through and that we had recorded the album was for this very performance.  As the weekend progressed, we honed the show and the circle of musicians and the circle of circus performers  overlapped and spiraled up.  The thrust of the standing ovations was not just because the performers were so incredibly talented and that the clowns were so funny and that dances were so perfectly matched to bring the music and poetry forward but I believe the essence of what Hafiz achieved in his being somehow spilled over in a lighthearted pageantry of beauty and “benevolent thought, benevolent sound, benevolent movement around and around!”
Tomorrow is the Jewish New Year -may the circular nature of everything within you and around you be Sweet so that you know you Can shine out in the way you hope to.

 

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: http://youtu.be/rf3rfTMvyHQ

Amazing Water and sound experiment: http://youtu.be/uENITui5_jU

“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.