Tag Archives: The Levins music

Rallying for love in a world-wide blizzard

Finding ways to bond together in an age of “hyper-individualism ”

People dare to be comfortable with uncertainty if they are in solidarity with each other.”

– Joanna Macy speaking of the Work that Reconnects

My father told me a wonderful story about being in Chicago, on business, during a blizzard. He was staying in a hotel and, because everything was shut down and there was no electricity, people bonded who otherwise would not have had anything to do with each other. Beds and portable lights were set up in the ballroom of the hotel.  Meals and drinks were shared.  By laughing, joking and singing, strangers broke down that invisible wall to befriend one another.  When the snow let up and airport connections could be made, people went back to not knowing one another and went about their business. It confounded my dad, who was sure that the group intimacy they had shared would linger. Convention and profit margins magnetized the folks he had met back into being strangers as they scrambled to catch their taxis and flights.

Currently, it feels like we are in the midst of a worldwide, social blizzard. While one group is pitted against another, and commercial tactics and fear are breeding what Joanna Macy calls hyper-individualism, good folks are magnetized into becoming strangers, even to themselves.

We are in need of scenarios in which we come together to laugh, joke, sing and brake down that invisible wall to befriend one another.

With this aim in mind, my wife Julia and I started hosting a rally for LOVE in various places throughout the country. So far, we have held events in NY and CA. At both of these rallies, the intention was to bring various communities together to illuminate resources that allows us to stay connected as the world situation becomes overwhelming.

On the East Coast, there was a wide range of groups represented from an ethical culture society, a temple, a unity church, a wholeness center, Centers for Spiritual Living, The Interfaith Council, Science of Spirituality meditation centers, musicians, life coaches and even the Penguin Plungers, who brave the waters of the Hudson River in winter.

On the West Coast, the music was interspersed with acts from a network of circus performers who knew how to lighten our hearts. In the audience, there were teachers, authors, upcyclers, counselors, musicians, filmmakers, healers, potters, caretakers, and implementers of what Joanna Macy calls the Work that Reconnects.

The spirit of this rally was exemplified by Jaime Coventry, who was the M.C. for the night. In setting up the space just before the show, Jaime broke his pinky toe. He was so focused on the aim of the night, I had no idea he had injured himself. All he radiated was a gracious, gregarious and humorous benevolence.

Coventry & Kaluza

The success of both of these rallies was that the individuals who attended have continued to bond together after the event.

When asked why she does the work she does, Joanna Macy replied:             “I’m doing this work so that when things fall apart, we will not turn on each other.” To do this, she advises: “…little study groups, and book groups, make a garden together. Keep your ear to the ground. Inform each other. We have to develop the skill of finding that it is more fun to be waking up together, Sarvodaya [Sanskrit term meaning ‘universal uplift’ or ‘progress of all’], than a single lone star on the stage.”

When the daily news prompts you to run and hide, remember we are all on this stage together. We can still rally for LOVE!

 

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.

 

Cup o’ Kindness

Friendship and the joy of generosity

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And never brought to min’? Should auld acquaintance be forgot, And days o’ lang syne? For auld lang syne, my jo, For auld lang syne, We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet, For auld lang syne.”

–          Robert Burns

 

A fine friendship transcends the most expensive wine.  When you are with someone who is not self-conscious in your company but laughs with the abandon of a lifetime, treasures are imparted within the flow of the exchange.

This week, my friend Oz offered me this gem over dinner:

When he was living in Queens, he couldn’t make his rent.  Not knowing what else to do, he took his trumpet over to a friend’s house and offered to sell it to him. His friend thought he could resell Oz’s trumpet to one of his music students. Another of Oz’s friends was on hand and asked him what he had paid for the trumpet. Oz told him he had paid $800. He was then asked how much he was selling the trumpet for. Oz said he was selling it for $300. This inquiring friend took out his checkbook and wrote Oz a check for $800. He explained that when he was a kid he always wanted to play the trumpet but that his family could not afford to even rent one for him. There was a transcendent joy in his eyes as handed Oz the check because now he could afford to buy a trumpet for himself.  “Here’s the thing,” he said to Oz, “I am so busy now, I won’t be able to play it. Would you do me a favor and play it for me?” With that, he handed Oz his newly acquired trumpet.

Oz is still playing that trumpet and Oz’s daughter plays trumpet professionally, occasionally with Stephen Colbert’s Late Show band.

I have been reading Tony Robbin’s book Money, Master the Game. In it Tony talks about a stranger coming to his family’s house when he was eleven with grocery bags filled for a Thanksgiving feast. Because this one person cared for his impoverished family, Tony became motivated to care about other people. Today Tony feeds 100 million families annually. He makes the point that richness comes from the joy of giving.

tony robbins

“If you want to be rich, start rich.”- Tony Robbins

Julia and I are fortunate enough to be celebrating the end and the start of the year with my loving family. Almost an anomaly, my family has the warmth and compassion of good friends.  Seeing my parents retain their joy of giving and the fullness of the light that they have bestowed on us, and the river of friends embraced along the way, gives me hope for the New Year.

The actress Elaine Stritch said she wasn’t old, she was older, that we are all going that way. Love offers to suppliant fear on this journey we are all taking.  Each New Year’s is a portal that we pass through, quite often with a hangover, but we go though, individually bearing the life that is within us.  Whatever stage we begin to appreciate the value of that particular gem, is when what we have to bestow becomes priceless.

So, “Raise your glass, raise your hope, raise your courage up high.  All that we share will not be forgotten.  We’ll see you again by and by. Time to go. Time to go on our Way.” – The Levins

Raise your glass

May your way be filled with the joy of what you have to give in earnest.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year

Come Dance with Me

“You’ve got to move to change the state you’re in.”- The Levins

“Dance, when you’re broken open. Dance, if you’ve torn the bandage off. Dance in the middle of the fighting. Dance in your blood. Dance when you’re perfectly free.”

~ Rumi

Dance Sweet Hafiz

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul”

~ Martha Graham

“Life is the dancer and you are the dance.”

~ Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

Calvin and Hobbes

This past Sunday, Julia and I joined some friends at The Ethical Culture Society of Bergen County where Stephanie Miner-Berger of another group called Peace Forest Sanctuary led a guided dance celebration for a multi-generational community with the help of DJ K.  She picked very specific songs that would appeal to the range of folks there.  It was done with such a purity of intention, it engaged people without having them feel self-conscious or instilling a need to demonstrate ego or prowess. It brought me back to all the weekly parties my friends and I would throw during high school and college. We were able to almost fuse our hearts together as a group because our love for one another was able to dance freely.  There is a freedom in dancing that takes you out of your intellectual grasp of reality and opens you up in ways you are not even aware of.

During the cool down yesterday, we were asked to make eye contact and sing “Lean on Me” to various people in the circle. My friend Michelle was next to me and there was such a generous earnestness in her connection with me that even before we got to the line, “no one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show,” I was so chocked up that I could no longer sing or look at anyone. I have certainly sung “Lean on Me” hundreds of times but there was something about the intention of this community dance combined with the direct contact with an honest friendship that broke me open.  It made me realize that we hold on to so much. We may not be a stiff-upper lip society but even if we do express ourselves and have people to talk to, we are taking on what is being broadcast all around us as well as our mind’s minute to minute updates.  We are inundated with information and suffering that we have no way of fully processing or understanding. Even with the desire to heal and be healed, there is no way to do that intellectually.  This is of course one of the best reasons to take up meditation but there is also something about dancing that puts you in the seat of Being where the internal meets the external.

Shiva dancing

Someone reminded us after the dance of the Hindu myth where Shiva dances the universe into creation. Buckminster Fuller said that “God is a verb, not a noun.” When we are dancing, even if we were not able to physically move a muscle, we open ourselves to being a part of that same verb.  This of course reminds me of Daniel Ladinsky’s rendition of Hafiz’s poem “The God Who Only Knows Four Words” and The Levins’ lyrical take on it called “Every Child”:

Every Child– Hafiz/Ladinsky/Levin © 2013

Every child has known God. 

That’s quite a claim.

For they don’t know God

as a ‘God of Names’,  

as a ‘God of Don’ts’,  

a ‘God of Shame’,

of stormy moods or any strange behavior. 

Not a king or a queen, a giant, tyrant or savior.

But every child knows God.  Not as someone you can see,

But the God who only knows four words:

Come Dance with me!  Come Dance with me!

Come Dance!  Come Dance!  Come Dance!      

 —with me.  Oh, Come Dance with me!

(Listen here)

Come Dance with Me

May your stillness give way to a peace that cannot help but trip the light fantastic.

14 years of Wonder!

“In the place my wonder comes from, there I find you.  In your heart where the world comes from, there you will find me…When you be beside me, I am real.” – Bruce Cockburn/Love Song

This post was written on 8-18-16:

Wedding Photo

Fourteen years ago today I married Julia Ann Bordenaro in the Stephen Mather Redwood Grove and Amphitheater in Berkeley, CA.  It was an enchanted day and certainly the sweetest decision I have ever made.  Certainly the grove of trees provided the perfect sheltering atmosphere and the amphitheater held a theatrical flair that was open for us all to enjoy. The breeze, the music and love floating through us and our company of cherished family and friends was like the summation of a Shakespearean comedy.  Still, the decision I made was to become a soul mate.  Not to be completed by but to make the commitment to a partner who would not settle for less than my true authentic being.

Julia and I have formed a bond that is not conventional and yet feels like we are home, regardless of where we are.  Six years ago, we left our comfort zone in California and embarked on a quest to play music full time together.  We continue to succeed and manage to uplift one another, even while we spend most of our time together on and off the road.  Our policy of only one of us getting to go down the rabbit hole at a time has been very effective. That way one of us can hoist the other up out of the pit of doubts and other beasties the mind can concoct to throw us off course.

We continue to see each other, regardless of how we may be seeing or not seeing ourselves from day to day.  The journey has weaved us in and out of various circles with many beautiful people assisting and joining us as we strive to be the bridge between communities.

To commemorate our time together I will share snippets of some of our lyrics with you:

“You’ve got to move to change the state you’re in.”

“Hold my hand, and I will lead you to a quiet stream. Together we will understand the meaning of this dream.”

“I can see you are me in disguise.”

“I am one of many, I’m not one alone.”

“There’s an intricate weave between seen and unseen, pulsing life into winter until white becomes green”

“When I step out of the story, then I get the chance to see…there’s a bigger picture here, something more than me.”

“Hope brings motion, motion brings change, change is your friend when the going gets strange.”

“I can bench press the world by just letting go.”

“I’m all things at once and I’m nothing at all.”

“Be the particle and the wave.”

“A smile is forgiving.”

“Hey, let’s be big today, we’ll travel all around chasing troubles away.”

“I am here and I am needed, I will stand up and be greeted by what comes my way. I will fill my day with love.” – The Levins

The Levins on Couch poster

I am so grateful to continue to have Julia in my life.

May your bonds be fulfilling and invite you to be a soul mate to yourself, wholly committed to life and spilling over the side; barely contained ; )

“With love, with love, with love”

 

Help get ‘Trust’ out into the world!

Click here to help get Trust out into the world : )

The Levins are a harmony-driven acoustic duo that took a leap of faith and moved to NY  (from CA) to play music full-time with a desire to uplift audiences!

They are hosting their first fundraiser for their new album – TRUST .  

The songs on Trust strike a universal chord that is inclusive and focuses on what we share as people on this planet.  The Levins’ songs offer strength, introspection and encouragement without pushing an agenda, religion or dogma. They simply celebrate the peace that comes from being in motion and remaining open to life.

By contributing to their IndieGoGo campaign, you will be doing much more than aiding in completing the recording, packaging, replication, and distribution.

“We will be making an album TOGETHER and we hope that the ripple we make will spread out concentrically until people are able to smile, despite the weather or nightly news!”- The Levins

Click here to help get Trust out into the world : )

“You’ve got to move to change the state you’re in – you’ve got to roll to strike all the pins, you’ve got to get on if you’re driving the bus – the race has begun and we must TRUST…”   Trust, The Levins

Mike Robbins and the Power of Authenticity

A few years ago, The Levins* played at the Unity in Berkeley and the speaker that day was   Mike Robbins, who was giving a talk from his new book, “Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken.” We really loved what he had to say (The essence of it was, when someone compliments you, say “Thank you” and complete the circuit of gratitude.) Mike has a new book called, “Nothing Changes Until You Do.” and this morning we watched his TED talk about the Power of Authenticity. He says that Authenticity is on the other side of honesty, not just expressing your opinion as fact but being courageous enough to be vulnerable. It is great, you can see how authentic he really is as he talks. At one point he describes an exercise in which you lower the water level on your iceberg to reveal more of your true self by saying: “If you really knew me,” and you say what you are feeling in the moment. As I watched his video, I admit part of me was thinking, “He is so good at this, I could never be this courageous.”

I have been actually going through the daily streams with the intention of publishing them into a book. It scares me because when I think of giving talks, I don’t know that I have the ability to be that resourceful. But that is the point, the stream is always flowing through us. When I think of doing things that have scared me in the past, I realize when I said “Yes” and showed up and was prepared and present, it always has worked out beyond what I could have anticipated.

My favorite moments singing with Julia are not the big “we are here to wow you” moments but our moments of vulnerability when we are being authentic and allowing the people around us to be authentic.

May you be the conduit of your week.

*- The Levins are a harmony-driven acoustic duo dedicated to making the world a happier place.  www.TheLevinsMusic.com