Category Archives: Listen

Songs of Spring

It’s 75 and sunny here in Northern California today and the world has come alive.  You can just feel the energy in the air as that vitamin D hits people’s skin.  And the smell, ah the smell of Spring.  There is nothing like it.  To celebrate (and in an effort to provide those of you still buried in snow with some hope), I’m sharing some of my favorite Spring listening…

 

Gotta include an *explicit* tag with this next video…

 

 

 

 

And finally, no Spring playlist would be complete without some Aaron Copland.  This video is 11 minutes long, but totally worth it if you’ve got the time.

 

 

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Resurrection of the Soul

I’ve been knocked around pretty hard the past couple of weeks; the Universe’s way of telling me to be still, be silent, heal and gather energy for the coming rush of Spring.  So I spent most of last week curled up in bed, often with sinus pressure so agonizing that the only thing I could do was lay quietly, eyes closed, with only my thoughts for company.  Although I wouldn’t have said so in the moment, this was a good thing.  I was able to connect with some quieter, deeper parts of myself that have really gotten steam-rolled by all the intense energy of answering my Call and starting seminary.

And so, with a paper deadline looming and five days of missed work, in the midnight hours of Good Friday, I lay quietly and tuned in to the whispering of my heart.  I surrendered to the movement of Spirit through me, allowing my most sacred and inner of Soul-places to prepare for resurrection.

Upon waking on Saturday, my fever having broken in the night, I was filled with a dearly missed, but deeply familiar, surge of inspirational urgency.  I took some sinus drugs, downed some orange juice and dove into the pile of still-unpacked-moving boxes to find some of my music making gear.  I coaxed my almost-dead laptop awake, called my digital orchestra to attention and let the music flow.

I spent the day in bliss – composing, napping and hanging out with my love and our zoo.  I reveled in the feelings of making music again – something I have not really done in over a year.  It is indescribable, this rush of creativity inside that is uniquely me and yet so much more than “I”.  It is as if I am wide open.  In my mind’s eye, I see my chest and abdomen, the skin translucent, and inside is a golden field, full of sunlight, wildflowers, butterflies and bumblebees.  Gentle breezes brush through the tall grasses and this is the music, sweeping through me.  Where there was darkness and confusion and clutter and ‘noise’, now is freshness and light and breath.  Ah, I’ve missed this so.

So, while I continually reminded myself that I did NOT need to ask forgiveness of the professor who’s assignment I was going to turn in late, or the folks at work who would have to wait until Monday to talk to me, or the dishes in the kitchen that needed to be washed, I spent a beautiful Easter weekend resurrecting and reconnecting with an essential part of myself.  In a very real way, these past two weeks have been a cleansing and purging, culminating in the celebration of my renewed self, open and ready to rise up into my divinity, answering every call of my soul.

I have not yet finished the piece of music I’ve been working on all weekend, so I thought I’d share an old piece that fits well here.  The piece I am currently working on is called “Oh Rolling River” and is the 2nd piece in my American Plains Suite.  The 1st piece in that suite is “Dance of the Prairie Wind” and is as illustrative of what I am currently feeling as is possible.  It’s also perfectly appropriate for the day after Easter and the beginning of Spring.  Enjoy.


So Many Questions…

and so few answers these days.  So much heartache and comfort seems so far away.  We are told by retailers and advertisers that this is supposed to be a time of joy, but it can be difficult to get there.  I am struck by the contrast of watching news reels of tragedy interspersed by commercials for Target and Toys-R-Us full of good cheer; of reading a blog or article online, while around the perimeter of the page ads of grinning children and fancy toys flash.

Is it insensitive to celebrate the season in the face of such sorrow?  Or is it our duty to embrace life ardently in gratitude and memory of those who are gone?

I find myself thinking of the families who have lost precious loved ones, and how difficult the holidays will be for them next week, but then I think, good grief, the next minute is going to be difficult.  They’re probably not thinking about the holidays at all; they’re just struggling to make it through today.

And then there’s all the finger-pointing, trying to find someone, something to blame for these horrific acts.  But how do you find a single point of origin of something so, so broken?  We are so, so broken.

Here is a thoughtful, honest perspective from a woman’s first-hand experience of this brokenness.

The Anarchist Soccer Mom:  Thinking the Unthinkable

I recently watched a movie called We Need to Talk About Kevin, starring Tilda Swinton, John C. Reilly and Ezra Miller.  It was one of those films that has stayed with me long after the viewing, and prompted lots of contemplation.  The plot is so very, very relevant to current events, and while it’s not an easy movie to watch, it deals very directly with the issues facing the Anarchist Soccer Mom and so many other families in our society.

And once again, I am brought to the idea of “blame.”  Proponents of gun control are rallying forth.  The religious are calling for a return of “God” to our schools and institutions.  The “socialists” point to a broken healthcare system and inadequate facilities and services for the mentally ill.  Of course, you have to pick one side or another – any middle ground is long gone.

The film looks critically at Nature vs. Nurture, another argument used by some – bad parenting, poor family life, etc., but, as evidenced by our Soccer Mom, it’s just not ever that simple.  There is no one factor that caused any certain behavior or event.  Each and every moment we live is a result of all the millions of moments that have come before – all of them.

So really, we’re nowhere closer to answers than we were when we began this.  I honestly don’t know if there are any answers, and even if there are, this doesn’t feel like the right time to go searching for them, or the right time to argue for one side or the other.  For me, this feels like the time to embrace life, in all its joy and sorrow, to be grateful for and celebrate all that I have, and to hold in compassion and prayer all those who are struggling to make it through today in whatever challenging, lonely, painful, angry place they find themselves.

But if you are wanting a mindful, insightful quest for answers, and comfort, too, I highly recommend Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People.


‘Tis the Season of Transformation

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The season is upon us; a time of change, rebirth, transition, transformation.  Everywhere I look, I am reminded of this.  My partner and I have just moved into a new house.  I am starting grad school in two months.  My spiritual community is going through a major transition.  The world is preparing for a global shift in consciousness, as well as the solstice shift from more darkness to more light. The Christian community is preparing for a renewed celebration of the birth of their Christ.  Businesses are finishing up fiscal years, the media is creating “Best of 2012” lists, and we are all beginning to convince ourselves that next year we will truly commit to our New Year’s resolutions.

‘Tis the season of change.  Ding dong merrily on high.

I generally approach change and transition in my life as an adventure, but right now I’m feeling a little changed out, so I felt the need to remind myself of why change is good and that with Faith, it doesn’t even have to be scary.

To me, the best definition of change is “to transform”. This inherently feels positive, as a moving ahead to something better. It also implies, for me, that change is something we SEEK OUT and ENCOURAGE in ourselves and others.

In the natural world, all around us, there are millions of transformations taking place every second of every day – butterflies emerging from cacoons, leaves turning brown and falling, landmasses shifting, volcanoes erupting, water carving through rock. From minute transformations to everyday miracles like birth, we are surrounded by the positive process and result of change. Even in death and destruction – an animal of prey feeds a predator which in turn feeds another animal, dead plants fall to the earth and compost into fertilizer allowing more growth. I’m guessing that most of us would be hard pressed to come up with any change in nature that doesn’t have some sort of positive result, but when the change is personal, when it affects US intimately, it is much, much harder to see the positives.

Saying Yes To Change

In a book called Saying Yes to Change: Essential Wisdom for Your Journey, Joan Borysenko and Gordon Dveirin describe the three stages of transformation.

Separation: The Journey Begins – When change occurs, both big and small, we are separated from “what was”. The human response to this is fear. At a deeper level, however, a spiritual process is beginning to unfold. The shell of the ego cracks, and its habitual way of constructing the world falters. Deprived of familiar frameworks, we are invited to enter the ritual process of transformation.

Dwelling at the Threshold: Surrendering to the Unknown – This is the “time between no longer and not yet”. We have died to who we were, but are not yet reborn to who we might become. We all go through narrow places where we’re challenged to let go of old beliefs and habit patterns that limit us. This is the great unknown where ordeals are faced, allies appear, and the gifts of trusting in and surrendering to a larger divine reality are claimed.

The Return: Transformation and Rebirth – Our spiritual transformation entails dying to the false-self with its fears, attachments, and need to control. With the rebirth to our true nature, or God-self, we are in alignment with a larger whole and truly support the inner freedom and well-being of all. The strengths discovered in the second phase of our transformation are powerful gifts that we bring with us for the good of family, community, and the world. With each small change that we embrace and surrender to, a transformation takes place, leading us closer and closer to this re-birth of our God-self.

So, if you are in the midst of an unwanted change, rather than thinking of yourself as an unwilling victim, think of yourself as an initiate on a journey of the soul, which will bring you solace and wisdom. The challenge on this journey is to pay attention, heal what needs healing and grieve what we’ve lost as testimony to how precious it has been – but to NOT let these things stop us from moving forward.

Warriors of the Heart

In a book called Warriors of the Heart, Danaan Parry describes life as a series of trapeze swings, where she’s either hanging onto a trapeze bar, swinging along or, at times of change, she’s hurtling across space inbetween trapeze bars. I think most of us spend the majority of our lives hanging on for dear life to the trapeze bar of the moment, swinging along steadily and comfortably.

But every once in awhile, you happen to glance up and notice, way out in the distance ahead of you, an empty bar swinging. We know, of course, somewhere in our God-selves, that the empty bar has our name on it, and we know too, somewhere deep inside, that in order to grow we need to let go of our current bar and move to the new one.

Danaan says, each time this happens she prays she won’t have to let go of her old bar completely before being able to grab the new one. Stretching…..sigh, but of course the trapeze doesn’t work that way, and you MUST release your grasp and hurtle across space before you can grab onto the new bar. And of course, this is terrifying! It doesn’t matter that in all our previous jumps we have made it. Each time we are desperately afraid of the black emptiness below us, of the unknown ahead of us. But by this time, we are aware enough to know that staying where we are is no longer an option. And so, we jump, and, as Danaan says, “for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, we soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.”

And this is the second phase of Transformation; the transition, the surrendering to the unknown. And it is here, I believe, that real change occurs. REAL change – not pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time someone pushes my buttons. As I mentioned earlier, this phase is where we discover our true gifts and can come into direct contact with the Christ within ourselves.

Danaan Parry says, “In our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing”, a non-place between places. The old trapeze bar is real, and we hope to God the new one is real as well, but the void in between is just a scary, confusing nowhere that must be gotten through as quickly as possible.

But wait! No! What a wasted opportunity! What if the transition zone is the only REAL thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change and growth occurs for us? Whether or not this is true, what IS true is that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places that should be honored, even savored. Even with all the fear and pain, these transitions are still the most alive, growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives. And so, we must begin with transforming our need to grab the new bar, and allow ourselves to dwell in the place inbetween. Danaan says, “It can be frightening, but it can also be enlightening in the truest sense of the word. Who knows, hurtling through the void, we may just learn how to fly.”

The most important thing about all of this talk of change is Faith and believing in the certainty that LOVE is all there is and Spirit is everywhere. In fact, I feel pretty safe saying that while we are hurtling through that void, even though it may look like a bottomless black hole, I’m thinking there is a safety net down there and it’s Spirit. Spirit IS in every change – and if we remind ourselves of that, there can be no fear. Because, remember, wherever we are, Spirit is, and all is well.

 


Ministry of Presence

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I’ve become a bit of a podcast junkie, listening whenever I’m in the car.  I especially enjoy the storytelling shows and one of the best is UnFictional from KCRW.  A recent episode showcased the memories of a man who was a chaplain for 95 death row inmates in Texas.  It is very, very powerful.  Give it a go, but this is not light listening.  Be prepared.

 

Ministry of Presence – UnFictional on KCRW.

 

In this past November’s election, here in California we voted on a proposition to remove the death penalty that in the end was defeated.  Amidst celebrations for other election results, I was saddened by this defeat of Prop 34.  I could list all the reasons why I believe we should repeal the death penalty, but I think it’s more convincing to hear from those who have had direct contact with it.  Here’s a story from another of my favorite podcasts – Snap Judgment.  There’s a bit of music before the story starts, so be patient.

 

 

I realize I’ve laid a lot of heavy stuff out there already, but I have one more story on this topic.  Not quite as intense as the first two, but still very moving.

 

 

I don’t have any easy alternatives to the death penalty, but I have to believe that there are some out there.  If these three stories haven’t changed any minds, I hope that they at least have shown that the power of presence, faith and forgiveness prove that sometimes it is possible for people to change and each of us can make a difference in one person’s life, no matter how hopeless that life may seem.


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