Category Archives: Herb Cooper-Levy

Not Fade Away


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My friend Angie sent me this link to a talk by Mooji, a master teacher she really connects with.

I found a moment to listen while I was sorting socks on my bed. Tuning into what he was saying, I put the socks away and lay on the bed.

“What if for a moment, you cease trying? No effort, but take it seriously. No identity, no reference to past, no intention about the future, no definition about anything. Let’s try it and see. Your mind will say, “I want to “do” nothing.” I’m not talking to him now. You are not waiting, leave everything. Not concentrating, no effort. You’re not in any gear, you don’t touch name, you don’t touch gender. No waiting, no expectation. No imagination, no time is there, no interpretation. Not suppressing, stay as you are. Nothing to manage, nothing to heal, nothing to fix. Be conscious of your consciousness.”

I had a saxophone teacher named Saffron who taught me music theory. She would say, you have to learn all this but when you are playing you can’t think of it, you just have to be there. My recent meditation practice has been so structured, with so many things to think about, this invitation to not think, to not imagine, or hold onto identity clicked into an expansive consciousness that has always been present. It was all around me, I was a part of it and expanded without effort into a heightened state of being. Mooji continued,

“You do not wish to bring in any corrupt state or belief into this. You are determining your reality. You are determining whether a thought is going to distract you so that you forget your Self , so to speak and enter into fluctuating states again. And even if that happens are you able to bring yourself back to your Self again, as it were, In a flash?

…When you identify “I” as a person, you welcome the whole family. “I” will bring the cousins, the uncles, the aunties, and the drunk friends. Thoughts will not have the potency, the virility, the audacity to confront you, they cannot intimidate the pure Self, they can only intimidate the idea you have of who you are, your self- image. The whole thing is spectacularly fantastic.”

What he was saying went deeper than words and it was spectacularly fantastic. It was clear, it was freeing and quite a tremendous rush.

“Can it fade? Is it merely a feeling? If it’s a feeling it will come and go, it’s not really a feeling…

Is it belief? Belief changes us.

Is it something you have to keep up?

Is this true? Ask this not from the outer place but from the inner place.”

The next day I got up and was still in it. I felt I had woke- in. I went to Brooklyn and sang for a preschool and we had the best time. I took the train back and was still in it. My heart was singing and I thought, “This could be it. I may have this now forever.”

By that evening “Mr. Mind” had taken back over and I was so disappointed that my thoughts took the elevator down to the basement.

The next morning while driving to NJ, Julia and I listened to Terry Pratchett and I reveled in the unique liberated fun he offered us. Then I was able to see the snow as we drove along in its intended splendor. I was singing for families that morning. They were so joyous and danced; everything was sweet and rich again. I was aware of how grateful I was for my life.

So, I hadn’t become enlightened but I was still connected and had access. I had just let my thoughts bite me.

“The thoughts will try and bite you but your real self is unbiteable.

There is an idea that in order to live in this world I cannot stay in my heart, and that is not true.

Look not just with your mind but with your fullness. It is closer than intimacy, there is no distance.

Don’t talk about the self, be the self.

Why this loyalty to that which does not serve you?

You are determining your reality. If a thought is going to distract you and enter into fluctuating states again.

You have to be willing to burn this forest down, the forest of misconceptions, false identity. Why this loyalty to that which does not serve you?” – Mooji

May our training allow for a sincere letting go, so that we are able to experience the love that as the song says will, “Not Fade Away!”

Gigging towards the mapless land

Magnify what you need into a grand spilling over; a monarch splashing of your finest.  Perpetrate the crime of the millennium and steal suffering and exchange it for universal happiness at the unseen change station.  Then, spend it all in one place. Be as still as you can and fountain happiness until everyone becomes so saturated we make time and space cry uncle while we all let go; free.


IMG_3376 Julia and I are fortunate enough to be in my aunt Jan’s monastery by the Wissahickon river. Once we are inside, whatever troubles we were wrestling with fall away like the leaves outside.

We started the weekend in Virginia where we got to stay with our amazing friend Cindy Koch who teaches 5th grade versions of Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory.  During the weekend, we got to play with a Jewish Reconstructionist service, for the Focus folk music series, and a Center for Spiritual Living.

A beautiful man named Herb Cooper-Levy lead the reconstructionist service and helps to run the Focus music series.  It was a gift to meet him.  He was a laughing deep running river and turned us onto new twists to familiar things.  In the Jewish service there are prayers and stories that I know by route but don’t always appreciate.  For example, Mah Tovu, notes how beautiful the tents of the Israelites are as they camp in the desert. Herb’s translation was: “How beautiful is your temporariness…And the places where Eternity dwells within you…”

He also turned us to Rami Shapiro’s commentary on a piece called Lech Lecha. Lech Lecha is the story of Abraham leaving the land of his fathers and going to a new land where he doesn’t know anyone.

“If there is a single map of the spiritual journey, this is it. The Hebrew Lech Lecha, translated here as    GO FORTH, literally means WALK INWARDLY.  This journey is not an external trek from point A to point B, but an inner transformation from ignorance to truth.  It is a matter of knowing rather than of going.

This is what it means when Torah says Lech Lecha:

Free yourself from the conditioning of YOUR NATIVE LAND; free yourself from the bias of culture and religion.

Free yourself from the conditioning of YOUR RELATIVES; free yourself from your tribe and all the jingoism and xenophobia that comes with tribal politics.

Free yourself from the conditioning of YOUR FATHER’S HOUSE; free yourself from the prejudices that formed the world of your childhood and color the way you see the world as an adult.

Without the conditioning of culture, tribe, and family you are left with no map just the territory. This mapless territory is the LAND THAT I WILL SHOW YOU.  This is the LAND that is only visible when the map is tossed aside.

How shall we do this? We are not talking about improving the map or replacing it with a better one. We are talking about living without maps altogether.  How can this be done?  By noticing where you are conditioned.

Pay attention to the thoughts and feelings that arise within you in different situations. If they are constricted and fearful, ask yourself where they come from? See if they reflect an honest assessment of the situation in which you find yourself, or if they simply reflect a mindset that is at odds with the truth.

As you become more aware of your conditioning the conditioning has less and less of a hold on you.  When you see that you have been taught to think one way or another, you begin to wonder if those thoughts are true or just a matter of habit and conditioning.  If you allow this wondering to grow within you, you will find it harder and harder to maintain your prejudices with any passion and conviction.  They will drop away of their own accord. You will be in the mapless land. And this is the LAND God wants to show you.”- Rami Shapiro

rami shapiro

May the people you meet this week give you unexpected treasures of perspective.