Hook, Line & Thinker

Navigating Through an Overload of Advice

“I’m all lost in the supermarket I can no longer shop happily I came in here for that special offer A guaranteed personality”- The Clash

Some days it seems the floodgates have opened and we are all but drowning in information tossed at us. We do our best to swim, but then it can seem like we are fish swimming through a gauntlet of hooks.

Even something that is supposed to bring you peace, like meditation, can ironically cause anxiety if it becomes an intellectual exercise. There are so many ways to meditate that vary from teacher to teacher.  Do I keep my palms up or down? Do I keep my eyes open or shut? Am I focused on my breath, the mantra, my heart or my “third eye”? Is walking in the woods or doing the dishes my form of meditation, or do I need to sit for ten minutes or three hours in order to calm my being?

The thing to remember when going through the mega-store of advice with the 5 ways to get this and the 10 ways successful people to that, is that you have an internal guidance system that allows you to choose what is right for you. This internal guidance system operates below the mind’s chatter.  Some call it intuition, some call it discernment. Whatever you call it, there is a calm part of you that offers to help you make the right choice moment to moment.

As someone who loves to investigate and splash around in various practices, I see the value in many things simultaneously. There is a comedic group called The Firesign Theatre that used to sing:

“How can you be in two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all?”

The book Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda, talks about a yogi who is said to have actually appeared in two places at once.

While that seems impossible, the truth is we just do not know what is possible because we become prisoners to our intellect, and our fear of missing out on what the other kids are doing, (the old FOMO). Perhaps that yogi just realized he was not confined to anywhere at all, so he could simulcast himself like a wandering hologram, or, to borrow from Firesign Theatre again, “a holy-gram.”

So, what am I getting at? I believe we each have something grounding that constantly streams through us. This stream is at once unique as a snowflake and universal as water.

We have an innate sense of peace when we encounter something that rings true for us. We feel the resonance. For example, you might not be a Buddhist but hearing the Dalai Lama laugh might make you feel, “Hey, this guy is alright!” That doesn’t mean your inspiration is telling you to become a monk, but you may agree with him that kindness is key to happiness. You file that notion away and it becomes a part of you.

When we begin to trust the natural flow within us we can navigate through the world without being paralyzed by advice.  Accessing our inner wisdom starts with making peace with all of ourselves. For example, the ego is a part our wholeness in the same way that a  two-year-old having a tantrum can be a beloved part of a family. You can cherish the two-year-old and still not let him drive the car to work.

Calming the part of us that is scared is key. We each can become susceptible to doubt and flop around like a fish out of water wondering if we are ‘doing it right’ (Whatever ‘it’ happens to be in this moment). We may have a good friend that has a practice that gives them great peace, insight, or allows them to travel around in the “astral plane”. We might want to jump on that magic carpet ride. However, if we rush in because we are afraid of not only missing out, but feel that if we don’t follow this particular path, we will remain forever incomplete, then we will not allow ourselves to become grounded enough for any practice to work. There are times when I am overwhelmed, consumed by doubt, and search around for an answer. Then, there are moments of clarity when I allow myself to be where I am and I feel open, flowing, connected to all there is.

I would like to suggest that there is always a part of us that is consciously observing. It watches us freak out, be “brilliant”, and everything in between.  It is open. There is no journey or time needed to access this part of ourselves.  When we are stumped, blocked, misguided by things like fear, depression, or rage, that part of us that is silently observing is still there. The slightest shift of perspective allows us to lovingly reassure our rampaging two-year-old that they are alright.

My uncle Jeff used to say that people and things will try and put their hooks in you but you can let them pass through. It is only in reacting that we get snagged.

By observing ourselves as we swim through a flood of advice, we can keep calm, remain in the flow and give ourselves good advice.

 

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.

 

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!

 

The Strength of Gentle-men

The need for a men’s movement for our collective humanity.

Looking at pictures from around the world for International Women’s Day, I am reminded of the hope I felt on January 21st as over 3 million people around the world marched in solidarity to peacefully demonstrate the love of freedom, the love of this planet, and the drive to not be satisfied with less than equality for all women.

I was grateful to be marching in New York and to support what felt like the beginning of humanity waking up to its beautifully diverse potential.  As one sign said, “Women’s rights are Human rights!”

My friend Angie is a mental health and relationship counselor. We talked recently and she told me she has been talking to her male clients about the need for a men’s movement. The women’s movement has risen out of necessity. For women, bonding together to strengthen what has been suppressed goes beyond the right to education and equality. The patriarchy we have clung to as our collective ‘bottom-line’ has created an imbalance that has oppressed the human spirit. Men are conditioned to be bread winners, the top dog, the invading conqueror. Men have been compelled to play a role that equates strength with brute force.

“A mentor can guide a young man through various disciplines, helping to bring him out of boyhood into manhood; and that in turn is associated not with body building, but with building an emotional body capable of containing more than one sort of ecstasy.”

Robert Bly, Iron John

Angie pointed out our former president George W. Bush’s comment, “We need an independent media to hold people like me to account…Power can be very addictive, and it can be corrosive.” Angie was impressed that Mr. Bush was able to include himself in that equation.

I do feel we are on the cusp of collectively being able to relinquish our death grip on the privileged-based hierarchy that undermines our true nature.

Lao Tzu, a contemporary of Confucius, and the author of the Tao Te Ching, talked about four virtues that “are not an external standard or dogma, but attributes of one’s true nature.”

“The first is unconditional natural piety. Natural piety means love and respect for one’s being, both the internal aspects and the external manifestations.; a state of profound reverence toward natural life.

The second virtue is natural sincerity. To be genuine, earnest, honest and whole-hearted. It also means being free of all self-deception.

The third virtue is gentleness. When one is rough, one tends to be aggressive, inconsiderate and unkind to others. This behavior inevitably rebounds on oneself.

The fourth virtue is being naturally supportive. To serve without expecting anything big in return. Through serving others, one can find dignity and the true meaning of life.”

Lao Tzu

This fourth virtue is referred to by Jewish Mystics as “the will to bestow.”

Tony Robbins, a motivational and financial giant, who exceeds anyone’s definition of what it means to be a man’s man has this to say: “I became obsessed with ways to do more for others than anyone else was doing, in less time. I (decided) I would never stop growing, never stop giving, never stop trying to expand my influence or my capacity to give and do good. And as a result, over the years, I’ve become more valuable in the market place.”

Tony is what Joss Whedon, (awesome TV/Screen writer/director) would say was “among the rare men who understood that recognizing someone else’s power doesn’t diminish your own.”

I have a close friend named Eric Reisman who has started a men’s movement called:

The Gentle-man.  He is a mentor who quests to strengthen men’s ability to see that being gentle is not a sign of weakness but that our empathy leads us to our full potential.

Another hub of men’s groups is the mankind project.

My friend Angie’s desire for there to be a unifying Men’s movement is not to emphasize and increase the distinction between men and women. When men are not fueled by insecurity and the need to dominate, there is a freedom that is offered to everyone.

It may be that the men’s movement we need will arise from those men supporting the women’s movement. Being able to be comfortable with who we are, we can begin to identify ourselves beyond form. Then, we will appreciate the need for everyone’s right to be free of labels and social constraint.

“May all be happy in the knowing that we are one family of being with one common heart, a Heart of imageless perfection.”- Mooji

 

Oscar- panning for the Gold-en rule

Looking beyond the flubs to the treasures the Academy Awards offer us as a unique marker of time.

  ©A.M.P.A.S

There’s a lot of love in this room, and let’s use it to create and champion bold and diverse work, work that inspires us towards joy, towards hope and towards empathy.”

Jordan Horowitz, producer, La La Land

 “Tonight is proof that art has no borders, no single language and does not belong to a single faith…The power of art is that it transcends all these things. That is the magic of the movies and that is what we celebrate tonight.”

-Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs

***

I wonder what my grandmother would have thought about Twitter? It seems to have enough power to wreak political havoc or cause the biggest snafu in Oscar history. It is interesting that this year’s awards may only be remembered for what appeared to be Bonnie and Clyde trying to steal the Moonlight.  As with most things, where we put our attention yields up pyrite or gold.  There was also a vein of nuggets throughout the night such as Viola Davis’ speech that escalated this year’s awards for me.

The Oscars are such a unique marker of time. When I was 14, the Oscars were a holiday for me. The movies were a Shangri-La where my dreams and inner being were kept eternally young and whole.  I looked forward to the Oscars, like New Year’s, like Hanukah. It was a mecca for me. Not that I knew what a mecca was, but it was a pilgrimage to honor that which shined bright in my firmament.  Not just the current gathering of stars, but the art that they represented: the chance to simultaneously overcome and uphold the human condition.

This particular year, my mother and I were watching the awards alone when the phone rang in the kitchen. My mom went to answer it and instinctively, I followed her.  I knew by her body language that something irreversible had happened.  I watched grief come through the receiver as laughter and applause rang out behind us, worlds away.  I watched before I understood what had happened; my mother bore herself up to be the bearer of what she instinctively knew would be unbearable for my father. My grandmother had passed away. This burden was momentarily buoyed up in her by the recognition that my grandma had escaped a drawn-out illness. She had bowed out before having to play the role of a patient, which she would not have enjoyed.

My grandmother Ida was the penultimate caretaker. She had cared for my grandfather for years before he died, she took great care of everyone around her. All of her grandchildren were convinced that they were her favorite. It was obviously me. My grandmother didn’t need an Oscar, her conviction was so complete, each of us can lay full claim to being her favorite. There was no measuring the love she showered us with every time we saw her.  For me, the proof was there in the soft golden gingerbread men with their raisin eyes and buttons, the hours she spent in front of her TV set wrestling with reception so I could enjoy my beloved Creature Features, her slipping me money for a party I was ‘secretly’ planning to throw for my friends.  My grandmother was a movie star in my eyes. She always wore sunglasses.  She was the grand poker player. That is, even in great pain, her grandchildren only saw her smile.  We never knew of her troubled childhood, of her mother and siblings having to move into a new apartment every time the rent was due. She held herself up regally. Ida was a matriarch, a magician, a master baker and chef, a conspirator, the delta of our heritage. For me, my grandma Ida was gentle, radiant, the personification of unconditional love.

My father came home.  I stood in the hallway, peeking around the corner as my mother told him. He put his hand on the waist-high stereo console for support but it did not console him. He crumbled. “She was my strength,” he said. I had never known anything but strength from my father. It was harrowing to see him in a seemingly helpless state. I couldn’t bring myself to go to him. I longed to. I didn’t believe I had the strength within myself to cross that distance or that I would be able to offer him what I wanted to give him if I could.

Here was the drama.

How many film makers try to issue the relief that I longed to pour into my father, to fill him; to make him stand again?

My father doubted his ability to move on successfully without my grandmother.  His vulnerability is something that has allowed me to take up my role with strength.  My grandmother lives fully within my father, as does his father. He remains one of the strongest, most tuned in and genuinely caring people I have had the good fortune to meet.

My grandmother was a star. She was strong and had a full life.  She didn’t need a movie to tell her story but she was worthy of one. She didn’t need a lot of words to convey to each of us how special we were to her.  She may have been a queen on Twitter.

During her acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress, Viola Davis said:

 “You know, there’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered. One place and that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies. Exhume those stories. The stories of the people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition. People who fell in love and lost. I became an artist—and thank God I did—because we are the only profession that celebrates what it means to live a life.

So, here’s to August Wilson, who exhumed and exalted the ordinary people. And to … the cheerleaders for (making) a movie that is about people. And words. And life and forgiveness and grace….

…And the people who taught me good or bad, how to fail, how to love, how to hold an award, how to lose. My parents…Thank you.”

As life’s actors, we get to take up our various perspectives: child, parent, sibling, friend, enemy, lover, loveless, confident, fragile, sung, unsung, free, indentured, addicted, connected, intuitive, automated…

“A sky full of souls, you play all the roles. You are the Great Constellation, not just one soul in isolation.” – The Levins/ Great Constellation

This year, the Oscars reminded me to have hope in humanity, even as reports of Jewish cemeteries being desecrated, bomb threats in nursery schools and good citizens being deported rise up to separate us.

“Film-makers can turn their cameras to capture shared human qualities and break stereotypes of various nationalities and religions. They create empathy between us and others.” – Asghar Farhadi, director, Best Foreign Film- The Salesman

Keep dreaming, because the dreams we dream today will provide the love, the compassion, and the humanity that will narrate the stories of our lives tomorrow.”

Marc Platt, producer, La La Land

May the gold we seek to be awarded be the golden rule upheld in our hearts.

 

The Spherical Wonder of Intuition

Going beyond a linear understanding of our human nature.

“Intuition binds us together. Without it we lose our sense of purpose and belonging.”

-Malidoma Patrice Somé, a West African elder, spiritual leader and author

“In order to create something new human beings need to go into the unknown”

Marina Abramović, the “grandmother of performance art”

“Drink in the beauty and wonder at the meaning of what you see.”

Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

My wife Julia and I are a musical bridge between communities.  As The Levins, we bring Harmony-Driven Transformational Folk Grooves (TFG) into various settings to promote love and goodwill. One of the main benefits of this for us are the wonderful people we get to interact with. Recently, we played for a meditation retreat up in Hudson, NY.  One of our friends there talked of her upcoming trip to Sedona, Arizona. She said she was excited about immersing herself in nature for eight days because in nature there is no mirror. There is an opportunity to connect purely to your being without having to uphold a manicured image.

Nature is linked to our inner nature which invites and allows us to go beyond our linear rational confinement.

There is a insightful documentary called Innsaei, which explores our inner nature. Innsaei is an Icelandic term for Intuition. The word can also be translated as The Sea Within, or To See from Within. In the film, it is pointed out that approximately 2% of our brain is used for logical, fact and figure, linear thinking.  The rest of it is perhaps an aperture into what is unknown to us and yet constantly surrounds us.

The film noted that for eight generations Polynesians would travel hundreds of miles on the Pacific Ocean without navigational tools. They were able to use their intuition to read the depth of what was all around them.

“For most of us, knowledge of our world comes largely through sight, yet we look about with such unseeing eyes that we are partially blind. One way to open your eyes to unnoticed beauty is to ask yourself, “What if I had never seen this before? What if I knew I would never see it again?”

Rachel Carson, The Sense of Wonder

Another movie which delves into going beyond our linear perspective of the world is Arrival, based on the book “Story of Your Life” by Ted Chiang.

In this film, space ships arrive on earth and a linguist is brought in to communicate with them to discover why they are there. The discovery and study of this new language is a wonderful metaphor for us dealing with our unknown nature. We see it as alien, but using intuition we can learn something  that rewires our brains so that we can experience time as spherical.  The solution, described as in Arrival  as a ‘Non-Zero Sum Game’, requires us to share what we have with those that we see as our enemies or competitors to both come away with something that benefits us. The result is a win-win game.

Our capacity to trust our intuition and redevelop our sense of wonder allows us to go beyond the linear constructs of our lives with empathy and an optimistic savoring.

The lead character in Arrival, Dr. Louise Banks remembers the future and concludes:

“Despite knowing the journey and where it leads… I embrace it. And I welcome every moment of it.”

The melody of our lives reaches out in tendrils to harmonize intuitively with everything we intersect.

Thank you for the fullness of our intersections.

 

 

Life is your Valentine

The Seed Cracked Open

It used to be

That when I would wake in the morning

I could with confidence say,

“What am ‘I’ going to

Do?

That was before the seed

Cracked open.

Now Hafiz is certain:

There are two of us housed

In this body,

Doing the shopping together in the market and

Tickling each other

While fixing the evening’s food.

Now when I awake

All the internal instruments play the same music:

“God, what love-mischief can ‘We’ do

For the world

Today?”

–          Hafiz rendered by Daniel Ladinsky from The Gift

Good afternoon Sweet Hearts,

Today is named after a Roman saint who defied an emperor’s ban on marriage and united scores of young lovers in matrimony. He was executed for this on February 14th. “Valentine’s Day” then supplanted Lupercalia, a Roman fertility festival.

Later, Shakespeare and Chaucer weaved Valentine’s day into their work and exchanging romantic handmade paper cards became popular in Brittan during the Middle Ages. This gave way to big business in our modern Hallmark age. But Valentine’s is also a day for true love to flourish like flowers coming out of the February snow. Love is certainly not restricted to couples, or even a traditional love affair with God, which is why I chose the Hafiz poem above. Making life our Valentine allows for a sweetness that lingers longer than an everlasting gobstopper.

“The waters of life are right there…wherever you are- if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time.”  -Joseph Campbell

Since you are a beautiful vase filled with the waters of life, let me offer you these-

Roses

Everyone now and again wonders about

those questions that have no ready

answers: first cause, God’s existence,

what happens when the curtain goes

down and nothing stops it, not kissing,

not going to the mall, not the Super

Bowl.

“Wild roses,” I said to them one morning.

“Do you have the answers? And if you do,

would you tell me?”

“The roses laughed softly. “Forgive us,”

they said.  “But as you can see, we are

just now entirely busy being roses.”

-Mary Oliver

However you spend today, know that you are loved!

Cherish your current beautiful manifestation.

Paradox Parade

Making peace with that which seems to be contrary

“When I am in tatters and about to cave, in elementary matters: be the particle and the wave.”- The Levins 

This weekend, my wife Julia and I gathered within a wonderful community to see Joe Crookston, a master musician, songwriter and beloved cheerleader of humanity. Before the concert, I had a conversation with a friend who has a different political point of view. We agreed on many points but in the end, there was no swaying her from her stance. I had to say that I was grateful that we were willing to converse at all. Our beliefs can become a citadel from which we are unwilling to emerge. Recognizing that I care for someone who does not see or feel as I do, awakens the love from which all things become whole.

Of course, there is a process that takes place before love comes into the picture. There is a gambit of emotions that come into play that must be honored before I can authentically facilitate a greater understanding. Sometimes, however, I can find myself going down the rabbit hole with bad feelings and I have to remind myself that love is an option. That way I can manually shift gears.

We are the awareness that animates everything and yet we seem to be in a separate form from everything around us. What can bring us peace is quietly observing the drama of life as it unfolds without needing to over-identify with it.  Swirling around duality, our consciousness can silently become unified.

For a long time, there was a scientific argument about what light consisted of. There were proponents of the Particle theory who said that light was made of particles. There were proponents of the Wave theory who said light was made of waves. They were like two political parties attacking one another. Each side said they were right and that the other was wrong. Now we know that light is both a particle and a wave. It has both properties and depending on how you look at it, it may change from a particle to a wave. It may do the opposite.  All that time arguing may have been wasted, or it may have provided the breakthrough in understanding. It is a paradox.

Paradox comes from the Greek words para and dokein which mean “to seem contrary.”

We live in a world where there seems to be endless conflict without the hope of us reconciling our differences. Perhaps, if we can use the idea of the particle and the wave, we can learn to embrace the paradox and find a way to live in peace.

Here are some examples of paradox found throughout the world’s wisdom traditions:

In Judaism, a cherished practice started by Rabbi Bunim of P’shiskha, urged people to put these two statements in their front pockets. One on the left and one on the right:

“The world was created for me.” ( from the Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 37B) and

“I am but dust and ashes.” ( from Genesis 18:27)

Saul, a man who killed Christians then became Paul, Christianity’s chief proponent. He said:

“For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”- Romans 11:32

A mystic Sufi was executed for proclaiming, “I am the Truth.”  Paradoxically, some saw this as a man claiming divinity, while others saw it as a humble denial of the ego which allowed divinity to shine through him.

The Taoist Lao Tzu said: “Heaven and Earth are long-lasting. The reason why Heaven and Earth can last long is that they live not for themselves, and thus they are able to endure.”

The psychologist Carl Jung had this to say: “The paradox… reflects a higher level of intellect and, by not forcibly representing the unknowable as known, gives a more faithful picture of the real state of affairs.”

The poet, TS Elliot said: “Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

Mooji, a teacher of the Hindu Advaita Vedanta (which means “not-two”) says: “Paradoxically, the most powerful force in the universe is doing nothing at all.” And “Without the physical, the spiritual cannot be known or experienced. Go deep. Find and Be the Real!”

As a fitting last float in this Paradox Parade, here are the lyrics to one of Joe Crookston’s songs, which both did and did not revive the Buddhist poet and leader, Thich Nhat Hahn from a coma:

Fall down as Rain

When my life is over

And I have gone away

I’m gonna leave this big ole’ world

And the trouble and the pain

And if I get to heaven

I will not stay

I’ll turn myself around again

And fall down as the rain

Fall Down as the rain

Fall Down as the rain

And when I finally reach the ground

I’ll soak into the sod

I’ll turn myself around again

Come up as goldenrod

Come up as goldenrod

Come up as goldenrod

And then when I turn dry and brown

I’ll lay me down to rest

I’ll turn myself around again

As part of an eagles nest

Part of an eagles nest

Part of an eagles nest

And when that eagle learns to fly

I’ll flutter from that tree

I’ll turn myself around again

As part of the mystery

Part of the mystery

– Joe Crookston

We may never understand one another or ourselves and that in itself is a reason for rejoicing.

 

Drawing power from thin air

Staying connected during times of social upheaval

“Every once in a while, a salesman will enter your midst who knows how to influence you towards something that is important to him and inspire you to see him as the solution. It makes no difference who thinks they are in control of you, they aren’t.  Tap into the leverage of being connected to your own power.”- Ester Hicks

Listening to a  recent talk by author Ester Hicks, a pioneer of spiritual thought,  I was reminded how marvelous our internal resources are.  The stream that flows through us constantly offers us solutions to the problems that crop up in our midst. My wife, Julia, often reminds me not to take on the energy of injustice but to use my love to bring about the results I desire .

“When you connect to your own power you cannot feel fear at the same time. The only bad thing that can happen to you is that you temporarily use some bogus thing as your reason for not knowing your power. When you don’t know your power than you give it to someone else. There are plenty of others that will say, “I will take your power from you. I will let you believe that I am the most important thing in the world to you.” It doesn’t matter which group is in power, they are not ever the vortex through which your good comes but they are often the subject by which you deny your own vortex. You have a vibrational cache that you have access to at all times. The only disempowerment that can come to you is to use anything as an excuse not to tap into that.”- Ester Hicks

In the midst of social upheaval, there are always examples of those who are tapping into their stream, their ‘vortex’, or the energy that observes and is us.

Max Loughan, at thirteen, created a generator that pulls and converts electricity from the air for less than fifteen dollars.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dyRlbXUIscg

When interviewed, he said:

“I just want to invent a better future, I don’t care if I get money or credit, all I’m looking at is to make the world a better place, to advance it.”

This is a boy who knows that energy is not confined to his ego.

Connecting to what is ours to claim may seem selfish to some but our true power takes us beyond the tyranny of our ego’s need for validation and into a poetic state where…

“Everything that was broken has

Forgotten its brokenness…How can this be, but

it is. Every day has something in

it whose name is Forever.”

-Mary Oliver/ Everything that was broken

Going beyond the need for names to define our connection to what connects us, may your alignment give rise to the actions that bestow freedom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women marching in solidarity with all of life

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves.

Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.

Meanwhile the world goes on.

Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes,

over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers.

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again.

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -in the family of things.

-Mary Oliver

Julia and I were grateful to be a part of the Women’s March in NYC on Saturday. I hold the conviction that marching for something is always more powerful than marching against what you do not want.  This is spurred by the story of Mother Teresa saying she wouldn’t march against the war but would march for peace. However, what we experienced on Saturday was confirmed by everyone we talked to, in DC and around the world. The feeling on the street was not one of anger, hatred and rage.  Certainly people were protesting and expressing themselves fully but good will was the prevalent feeling.  In DC alone there was 1.2 million people and as my friend Ashby said, “everyone was so kind to one another.” People were considerate to the police and there were no arrests. Over 3 million people around the world marched in solidarity to peacefully demonstrate the love of freedom, the love of this planet, and the drive to not be satisfied with less than equality for all women. For, as one of the many signs said:

“Women’s rights are human rights.”

“People are realizing that our needs can be met without destroying our world. We have the technical knowledge, the communication tools, and material resources to grow enough food, ensure clean air and water, and meet rational energy needs. Future generations, if there is a livable world for them, will look back at the epochal transition we are making to a life-sustaining society. And they may well call this the time of the Great Turning. It is happening now.”

– Joanna Macy

I believe The Great Turning is happening and what we are experiencing now is a reactionary clinging to the old age.

We are being told to fear.

If we really want to combat terrorism around the world. Educate girls and honor all women.

Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot by the taliban for daring to stand up for a girl’s right to education, is still standing.

“The extremists are afraid of books and pens, the power of education frightens them. they are afraid of women.” – Malala Yousafzai

This country was founded by brave people who were willing to face down tyranny,

“…in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…”- Preamble to the Constitution

As Gloria Steinem said at the DC March on Saturday:

“The Constitution doesn’t begin with, ‘I, the president, it begins with, ‘We, the people.’

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

– Malala Yousafzai

You make the difference. We, the people, have the power to usher in the change we wish to be.

Mary Oliver asks: “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

I will sing in solidarity with all of life. Not just for its right to be here but in harmony with the love that it gives form to.

March on!