Tag Archives: perspective

Being Bigger Than the “Veil”

Shifting Our Perspective to Seek Solutions for Racial Equality

“I’m on my knees looking for the answer. Are we human, or are we dancer*?”

-from the song Human/The Killers

I saw a moving, one-man play written by Alexa Kelly, and performed by Brian Richardson, at my local library about the life of W.E. DuBois. It was called A Man for All Times .

Poet, author, editor, activist, Dr. W.E. Du Bois believed that literacy and education were tools to help us lift the veil. The “veil” was what he called the racial divide in our country. W.E. DuBois helped found the NAACP and his newspaper, The Crisis, was a vital catalyst, support and contributor, as well as critic, of the Harlem Renaissance. He was a complicated man who quested for world peace, convinced it was the key to equal rights for all people.

He strived to bring his fellow countrymen and those around the world, their basic inalienable human rights. He was a civil rights leader who died the night before Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream speech.”

Hearing this fact about the timing of his death, I started to cry. There is a torch that is passed in clear daylight that remains invisible to the eye that is “veiled.”

Watching the documentary, “I Am Not Your Negro,” based on James Baldwin’s writings, it became apparent that what Mr. Baldwin, an eloquent, beautiful and courageously observant author had to say in 1965 is just as pertinent today. Essentially, the veil over our eyes prevents us from really looking at the inequality that is perpetuated consistently on a vital portion of our population.

When we look at the human condition, greed and privilege are too tempting for those who already have what they perceive as power. It is hard to resist and, unless we shift perspective, we won’t be willing to give our “privilege” up, even if it means moral bankruptcy.

In the documentary, James Baldwin also suggests that there is a gap between what we want to be seen as and what we are. This causes problems in the home, which spurns us to create scapegoats outside of ourselves, to blame our unhappiness on, to put someone else down in order to build ourselves up to where we think we ought to be.

The problem comes from the belief in a “me”. My ego will never be appeased, it will always think it should have more. Ironically, what we are is actually more than what we conceive ourselves to be.

“We look at life from a viewpoint of seventy or eighty years. But if the reference point were seventy or eighty billion light years, what would our reference point be then?”

- Sailor Bob Adams/author/teacher of non-dualistic perception

What if the question to the answer we are seeking is, “Who are we beyond the veil?”

What if we woke up, not just to realize that the world isn’t white, or black, but that we are, “DANCER”*? It is an investigation.

Are we just these temporal bodies or are we something that dances within everything? What if the awareness inside of us in this present moment is something that is looking out from everyone’s eyes simultaneously? Our seeming separation from one another and the planet we live on, causes us to strike out, to attempt to dominate everything. But if we are everything, we do not need to go to all that trouble or to make that much trouble for everyone else.

Martin Luther King understood that retaliation escalates hostility. What may have woken America up, momentarily, during the Civil Rights Movement was seeing people, men, women and children being attacked and not striking back. There was an alignment with a love that is vaster than ignorance and hatred.

I remember a friend telling me about being in a restaurant where a huge, tattooed biker stood outside the window watching him with venomous hatred. He had gone outside and said something like, “I know you hate my guts and that you probably wish I was dead. I am not challenging your beliefs.  I just want to know how you came to have them.”  The man had been braced for a fight but found himself telling my friend his story.  At one point, he said the man’s eyes went out of focus and, when they came back, he seemed to be in shock.  Here he was getting to talk about his pain. He was talking to my friend, oblivious or despite the color of his skin color, telling him something he may never have gotten to share with anyone, even himself.  After he finished, he actually said, “Thank you.”  This was a form of empathetic martial arts.  My friend said he doesn’t know if it changed that man’s life but it changed his. He had grown up with violence and had been all about conflict up until that point.  Now, he realized that being able to shift the conflict, staying centered in peace was a path he could take.

The mind tends to divide. The heart can unify.  What we are goes beyond the veil.  By each of us meditating on being bigger than a body confined to a timeline, we can connect to solutions that will allow us to see one another clearly, finding a way to prosperity that does not require someone else to pay a price that we would never be willing to pay.

Being “Vintage” in our Disposable Culture.

Keeping things real in and out of business.

This week, my wife, Julia, and I took our laptop to the Apple store to get a new battery for it. We were told that all models before 2012 are considered “vintage” and Apple no longer works on them.

Our computer is a great product and, with a new battery, it will last a few more years. We surmised that Apple doesn’t work on “vintage” products because they want us to buy a new computer every few years, even though we don’t need to.

Before I ever considered buying a Mac, I remember their “Think Different” campaign.  They had posters of people like Albert Einstein, Jim Henson, Jane Goodall, Jackie Robinson, Pablo Picasso, Amelia Earhart and the like. They had a commercial that said:

Here’s to the crazy ones

The ones who see things differently…

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

I just read a book called Mutant Message Down Under about some “crazy ones” who call themselves, the Real People. They are a small Outback nation of Aborigines, who have been around for fifty thousand years. In all that time, “they have destroyed no forests, polluted no water, endangered no species, caused no contamination, and all the while they have received abundant food and shelter. They have laughed a lot and cried very little. They live long, productive, healthy lives and leave spiritually confident.”*

They are “crazy” enough not to even want to change the world but to recognize how wonderful the world is, as it is.  They live with and honor the land, which provides all of their needs, for free. They honor each individual among them in a way that we reserve for the people on Apple’s Think Different posters.

One of these Real People noted:

“Your businesses were started so people could get better items collectively than they could get by themselves… But now the goal of business is to stay in business. It seems strange to us because we see the product as a real thing, and people as real things, but business isn’t real. A business is only an idea, only an agreement, yet the goal of business is to stay in business regardless.”*

Julia and I are grateful for our Mac and various technologies. They are powerful tools that help us create and share ideas. Still, we strive to be the “crazy ones” who will find another store to replace our computer’s battery. Being “vintage” ourselves, we believe that we are not living life to just buy new things. We are living life to generate as much love as we can.  We believe that we can recharge and even replace one another’s batteries with the way we honor one another.

We do not need to live in the Outback to appreciate the value of life. Even though living in the city makes it harder to see the stars at night, we can see them if we persistently look up.

*- Quotes from Mutant Message Down Under by- Marlo Morgan

Change your Story, Change your life

Do I live in a friendly or hostile universe?

I was riding the train into Manhattan when a man sitting opposite hailed me.  He showed me his purple heart metal and said he had two of them.  Apparently,  he wasn’t being given enough common courtesy from the woman taking the tickets. His father came to the US from Italy and, as soon as he had landed, signed up and fought in the Second World War.  He, himself, had served in Vietnam but ruminated that, with the people coming into the country now and the way folks acted, he wouldn’t do it again.  I said there were a lot of good people. His opinion was that there are only a handful. We agreed that a little common courtesy went a long way. Just talking with him seemed to sway his view that this society was no longer worth serving. He boarded the train with a story in his head that he was verifying. That story was capable of being shifted.

When I got home, I found a letter from a close friend. She said someone had given her an unexpected sum of money and she was sharing it with Julia and I because she believed in who we were and what we were doing. This kindness and consideration blew us away. Even though our friend could have certainly used this money for herself, she felt she could afford to offer a portion of it to us. She believed sending us this gift would enrich her being. Knowing this friend, I can say that she does feel that this society is worth serving.  It is another story that can be verified.

One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein:

“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.”

I do have to remind myself often that I live in a friendly universe.

However, I have demonstrated the validity of this decision to myself innumerable times. When I find that my mind is taking me down a rabbit hole, and I am becoming anxious about the state of the world and what might happen if this or that occurs, I declare that I live in a friendly universe. I can actually feel the story I am telling myself start to shift. The outcome, for me so far, is that I continue to live in a friendly universe. For that, I am immensely grateful.

I believe the mythologist, Joseph Campbell, would have agreed with Albert that our beliefs and reactions to the world around us reflect the stories that we subscribe to.  Each religion, spiritual practice and culture revolves around a set of stories.

People in power with vested interests, and salesmen in the media, often try to convince us that we live in a hostile universe. This belief leads to fear of others whose stories are different from our own. It can also lead us to take our own stories literally and become ridged in our thinking. Once our hearts are closed off, we often find that we do, indeed, live in a hostile universe.

I also believe we can get to a place where we are able to share our stories to mutually benefit one another.

I know someone whose basement was flooded one year just before Christmas. All of her families’ presents were destroyed. On Christmas day, her doorbell rang and when she answered it, instead of finding a person, she discovered a mountain of presents for her family. When people ask her if she has told her kids that Santa is not real, she says that he is. Someone used their story of a jolly man who brings presents and good cheer to others, to help this woman’s family; they became Santa Claus. Santa is a story that we can take to heart, that we share to mutually benefit one another.

There is a Jewish legend of the Lamid Vavniks, that predates Santa and describes 36 anonymous folks who are so pure of heart they keep the whole world in balance.  This story makes it a virtue to do something wonderful for someone else in secret.

How many other myths or stories outside of our comfort zone could benefit us in ways that we have not even considered?

Being willing to not only shift our own story but recognize something beautiful in someone else’s story, can help us to decide, on a daily basis, that we live in a friendly universe.

The Story I Can Hear

“If we see it all as literal, it might end up in a fight.

If we see it as a story, it might work out alright.

Let’s go out and meet the modern, willing to embrace-

See the gold inside the dust, be the change that’s taking place.

I long to tell the story I can hear.

One that fills my eyes and opens up the skies.

I long to tell the story I can hear.

One that fills the skies and opens up my eyes.

Not just for believers, or those who think its true,

but that holds me in its arms as it reaches out for you.

We’re busy telling stories. Meanwhile, life goes on.

It listens to our verses. It sings all of our songs.

One song. Our songs.

Not just for believers, or those who think its true,

but that holds me in its arms as it reaches out for you.”

The Levins  (inspired by Joseph Campbell)

May your story place you in the center of a friendly universe.

Promoting your Self (with a capital S)

A working artist’s guide to staying grounded in the grind.

 

Our world changes so fast, you have to be superhuman in order to stay ahead of the curve. Keeping up with trends is exhausting, especially if your livelihood depends on it. 

 As musicians, my wife, Julia, and I try to strike a balance between being grounded and soaring.  Accordingly, each morning we take time to activate our bodies, read books that soothe us, and we sit in silence to connect with non-duality and taste timelessness. Then, we get on Facebook, make phone calls and promote the heck out of ourselves.

Aye, there’s the rub, me hearties! Musicians must eat and pay the rent. Even if it is our intention to play music that helps others slow down so they recognize the beauty within and without, we are part of the fast-paced world and must sing for our supper. Self-promotion does not come naturally to either one of us. While we are grateful to have an agent, there is always more work to be done. We have learned to step up to the plate.  

It is fair to say that we dance with our ambition, which provokes the actions that secure gigs. Then, there is our mind’s daily “To Do” lists, along with the ego’s assertion that there is always an image to project, to brand, to define, to deliver, to uphold.

Fear pipes in and says that we’re not getting any younger. It paints anxious, detailed murals of the future trying to get us to be proactive.

While our minds, egos, and fears all vie for control of our vessel, we are aware there is another part of us that is merely observing, watching it all happen from moment to moment.

I remember having a lovely conversation with my father one night. As we were talking about getting older, he remarked that inside he didn’t feel any different in his later years than he did when he was a child. His wonder at this observation left a lingering impression.

When my dad said he didn’t feel different inside, he wasn’t addressing the physicality or realities of growing older. It wasn’t about the aches and pains that start to appear, the life knowledge he has acquired or even the wisdom he exudes. I marveled that without labeling it, he was recognizing and acknowledging his conscious awareness; the part of him that is observing unconditionally. His body is not the same, his cells are not the same, his thoughts and desires are not the same, but his inner awareness has been untouched, despite all of his experiences, good and bad. 

Pondering this further, I recognize that while our minds are constantly busy, labeling, judging and classifying every little thing, there is always a part of us that is silently witnessing.

While we are going through the rise and fall of one cycle after the next, our being regards us.  It watches us react, reminisce, regret and reach out for more, or in some cases, less. It behooves us not to identify ourselves with any of these things, (e.g., pain, regret or even success.) This thought was reinforced at a conference recently when I heard an esteemed musician say that “if we can’t handle a standing ovation or if we need the standing ovation, we are in trouble.”

It is with the slightest shift of perception that we can identify with our observing presence. This presence offers peace, a freedom that opens us up to understanding, even gratitude for everything that comes in.

So, even though I carry on with my goals and my daily practices, I don’t have to postpone expanding into the calm and stillness streaming through me.

I remember seeing the group Beirut at the Treasure Island Music Festival.

Their lead singer, Zach Condon, blew me away, not for his master showmanship or for his incredible prowess. It was his openness. It was as if the music was streaming through him. 

His happiness was like a tranquil breeze. Something that reached us without effort. He was fully content and radiating a quiet bliss without attachment.

 

I say he blew me away and that is accurate. I was swept into the music; there was a merging, not a ‘me’ confining and codifying the experience.

In the midst of our daily dance, the slightest shift of perspective can transform the rat race into smooth sailing. So, if you are tied up in the riggings of your mind, quietly start connecting to your inner awareness and know that you are the boat, the sea and beyond. It makes the journey much more interesting and the treasures easier to find.

Love’s Labor is never Lost!

Happy Labor Day!  Here’s to taking time to recognize that this holiday, started in 1894,
marks the courageous efforts of labor unions and leaders to decrease the average work week from 7 days to 5 days, the average workday from 12 hours to 8 hours,  to improving conditions in the workplace, and liberating children from having to work in factories.
Being grateful for what we have, allows us to focus on the peace and productivity we wish for ourselves and those around us. Being thankful for the efforts others have made on our behalf increases our internal fortitude and allows for the perspective that increases true wealth all around.
We got to hang out with a friend this weekend who told us of a tragic event in her past in which she narrowly escaped death and was severely shaken to the core.  A therapist told her she could shift her perspective from being a victim to being a survivor.
She said that one word changed her life.  Instead of being powerless and continuing to suffer on many levels, she realized she was a warrior and that seemingly daunting tasks and scenarios now seemed like nothing in comparison with what she had already endured.  She recognized, that even in the moments of the event, that she had instinctually done what she needed to and had come out of it alive.
She is now a font of creative expression and has known great success. She continues to remain open to life and infuses a thoughtful aesthetic into everything she does.
Last night, we finished Marianne Williamsons’ book “The Law of Divine Compensation” and she stated that when we are grateful for what we have, clean out what needs to be cleaned out and allow ourselves to want what we want (which when we are in touch with our true being will not hurt anyone, including ourselves.) we become a magnet for our greatest good and abundance will flow to us.
She also used a great metaphor using Cinderella as our soul, the evil stepmother as our ego thoughts (keeping us in subjugation with menial tasks while projecting an inferior status onto us.) and our fairy godmother as our Source, that transforms base materials into what we can utilize to bring about our greatest good.
How does this all tie into Labor Day?  If we can take this day to realize what we have been though, and how our egos have kept us in check, afraid to allow us to identify with our true Source, we can realize we are capable of turning our lives around and being the grand refreshment to our concentric circles.
Here’s to prosperity on every level!

Allowing stress to become ashes in the stream

 
This week I allowed myself to get overtly stressed out and my wife remarked that I couldn’t hold onto too tightly to the anxiety or it would be bad for my heart.  We all feel various levels of stress but it is the letting go that is essential.
The breathing in and expanding the heart, especially in moments where we want to make it into a fist, out of frustration, is vital to health and well being on all levels. 
 
I noticed when I got caught up this week there would be a point where I would say, “I don’t care, whatever; let it be what it is going to be.” It is easy to confuse not caring with our innate need to not hold onto something that is toxic to us. I always seem to forget that things do work out. 
The stream is always flowing through us, through our hearts and knowing we can allow negative thoughts and emotions to become as ashes in the stream flowing out and away from us, promotes centered tranquility.
We can care deeply about what we are doing and it is healthy to want to succeed but  no matter how hard we work towards our goal we have to trust in the process, in ourselves, in those around us and the invisible “weave between seen and unseen, pulsing light into winter until white becomes green.”*
 
*(- a lyric from Lines in the Land/ The Levins)
Here is a lovely article from the Huffington Post about giving our hearts a good compassionate work out:
 
 
image
How To ‘Work Out’ Your Heart: A Guide To Building Emo…

It’s time to be intentional and make working out your heart as important as working out your body, not just for the health benefits but also to be your best self an…
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May your heart be strong and expand out past your problems

Stream of Light 7-16-14

For the periods of time when life bears down on us as if an unforgiving force, recognize that we are life itself.  Becoming cognizant of where we are responsible for our own misery can make the difference between loving the process and resigning ourselves to fate.   The sweetness of existence is the recognition of love bestowing love.