Tag Archives: Judaism

Where We Belong

The advantages of being a bridge between communities

One of the advantages of being on the road a lot is getting to listen to audio books like Brene Brown’s latest, Braving the Wilderness: “The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone.”

In the book, Brene describes her struggle with Maya Angelou’s quote, written above. Brene shares how her own life experiences and forged path kept her from belonging in any one place or to any one community. She finally realized, through vulnerability and honesty, that she belongs to herself, which allows her to belong everywhere.

Standing in a wilderness that is outside the borders of each established group, but within her own boundaries, allows Brene to “speak truth to bullshit” while remaining civil, to be courageously vulnerable, and to come close to hold hand with strangers, because “people are hard to hate close up.”

As The Levins, Julia and I have held the intention to be a musical bridge between communities. We feel so grateful to be able to celebrate with each group we sing with and encounter. There is depth and truth within all the communities we visit and yet, we don’t fully feel we belong to just one. We recognize and rejoice where truth overlaps in puddles that we can splash in and sing.

My roots are in Judaism, which I moved away from as a teenager. I explored various faiths and practices. Music brought me back to Judaism and I discovered that what I had found in my travels, was all within its depths, hidden away. It was not pointed out, but left for me to discover on my own.

I feel that Judaism is a part of me. It may even be in my DNA. Yet, I am grateful to sing for not one, but several Jewish communities of varying denominations, as well as the other spiritual, folk and Literary circles in which we are privileged to perform.

Each community and group throughout the globe face their own challenges. There are politics, inter-personal dynamics, and obstacles that must be sorted through to achieve harmony.

Brene talks about each group’s tendency to fall into the, “If you are not for me, then you are against me,” mentality.

It is all too easy to become subservient to our need to be accepted by our “home team”, whether that is the faith of our birth, our political party, family or whatever circle we would feel most lonesome to be outside of. To be brave enough to examine and speak from your heart-centered truth, will, at times, be at odds with your home team but will also strengthen and enrich that team; even if they cannot hear it at first.

Julia and I have often witnessed, when someone from outside the group periodically   visits, they can usher in a fresh perspective. When we are in the car and are stuck within “our own little group,” or are feeling a strain between us, it is wonderful to listen to an “outside voice,” such as  Brene, or Krista Tippet’s On Being, or even a fun game-show podcast. These, “visitors” from outside our group, open the window between us, so that we can shift our focus back to the love and good feeling we have for each other. Being a musical bridge allows us to have a similar effect when we visit and sing for a variety of communities.

Brene refrences a concept by the sociologist, Emile Burkheim called Collective Effervescence. This is when a group of people come together for something, like a concert, and experience a temporal unity by being in the moment together and sharing the excitement and joy of what is taking place. The people experiencing this may belong to different groups that would not usually get along, but through this Collective Effervescence, they bond.

If you examine your life, you may find that you have many opportunities to be a bridge between communities. Between your family, your place of work, your friends, your spiritual practice, or book club, there is bound to be varying opinions and stances. Standing in our heart-centered truth, we can begin to see the beauty of the people who seem to be outside of our inner circle. We can look for moments to create or encourage Collective Effervescence.

Being brave enough to stand on our own, we can bring real honoring presence into each group we encounter and usher in a little light and understanding to close the gap between us.

 Julia and I have one week left of our Indiegogo Campaign for our upcoming new album, Caravan of Dawn. It is Harmony-Driven music for folks, like you, who usher in the light wherever they go. Please join us! https://igg.me/at/thelevins 

 

Shining out while standing within

The benefits of sadness

Every hurt that is held collects within us. That part of us becomes cynical and critical of all help; suspicious of anything that is not known, that could fool us into further pain.  There is too much at stake to gamble on healing, so we keep a separate side to wait, to guard, to watch.  Still, we can bring ourselves vigilance and validate the protection we offer while slipping ourselves some nourishment and cheer.  Unification is not homogenization, but a balance.

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Julia and I made it home.  It was a successful trip seeing family and staying with friends including Matt Brady, multimedia producer, designer & artist, the perfect person to go see Pixar’s new film Inside Out with.  To say that we were emotionally moved is in line with the movie’s aim but our emotions experienced a paradigm shift. Not only were we grateful and proud of Pixar for making this intergenerational film but they have given us a tool for viewing ourselves in action. Without giving the plot away, we were amazed to see how they handled the relationship between joy and sadness and the role sadness plays in our lives.  h

I for one, as you know, am a huge advocate for joy.  One of the silent prayers I love to offer up calls for the end of all suffering. However, since we are all in the midst of great suffering both directly and indirectly, sadness plays a vital role in the release of our authentic tenderness and compassion.  It expands and connects us to one another.

In Judaism, when someone dies, we sit shiva, it is a period of up to seven days where the family does not go to work but stops the normal routine to open their home to friends and family to receive condolence calls. Traditionally, the person(s) sat on low stools or boxes, to be literally brought low so they could fully grieve the dead and receive relief from the love of the living.  Without this process, or one in which our sadness is validated and expressed, there can be a psychological and spiritual whiplash. This process also allows us to take stock in the community we may have forgotten and gives them the opportunity to be present with the love in their lives.

Ironically in Hinduism, Shiva is an aspect of God that is both the destroyer and transformer, which relates to our sadness destroying what we are holding on to too tightly so that we can transform this moment into bliss.

In Buddhism, bohicitta is the noble heart that breaks open with the recognition that you are not separate from those who are currently suffering. Toglen is the practice of breathing in their pain and breathing out relief for them as well as breathing in joy and sending it out to everyone.

Mother Teresa as well as the nuns that the show Call the Midwife, are based on, funneled their sadness into actively alleviating the suffering of others around them.

May our sadness be mingled with joy so that we are fully and most authentically here.

Love you, Ira