Newsletter

The Hope of Spring

Posted by on Apr 9, 2018 in newsletter | 0 comments

Winter has been hanging on here in Michigan, even though we are already into the first few weeks of spring. Cold temperatures and even some April snow showers have cast a shadow on our optimism and hope. Do we really believe this season will spring forth with new life? Will the ice finally melt and the water flow freely? Will we walk outside again in short sleeves and feel warm?

At the same time, the “winter” of racism, violence, xenophobia, sexism, and hatred continues to persist in our national psyche. These various forms of fear are conditioned into our very beings as Americans, and are currently being reinforced by our president and other elected leaders. It takes true courage and creativity to help awaken the light of healing justice in such a climate and to act from a place of love for all humanity.

We all want to be free. We long for love, connection, safety, security, and community. We are in need of balance in our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with our Mother Earth. How do we live our lives during these cold wintery days with the warm hope of spring in our hearts?

I have been inspired by the courageous students who led the nation and the world in the March For Our Lives, inviting us to transform our culture of gun violence into a more sane and safe reality. I am encouraged by the Poor Peoples’ Campaign, a national call for moral revival and a continuation of the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent struggle for justice. I am enlivened by the many young people with whom I have the privilege to sing, letting the music reach our hearts in a way that casts aside fear and discrimination.

I am grateful for many opportunities to sing for all people, for healing justice, and for our Mother Earth. I am excited to offer a special weeklong mindfulness and songwriting camp for kids this summer at Oz’s Music in Ann Arbor. Most of all, I am humbled, grateful, and so happy to marry Allison this summer. With the support of our family, friends, and communities, we can allow our love to help us grow, to overcome fear, and to more fully embrace hope.

I invite you to cultivate and share the hope that is in your heart, for brighter and warmer days, for more just and inclusive communities, and for safe places for all children to sing, play, and grow.

Yours in the music,

Joe

Being Peace

Posted by on Jan 10, 2018 in newsletter | 0 comments

Let your heart open wide
Let your heart open wide
Pour out all the love inside
That you’ve tried to hide
And let your heart open wide

Snow covers the Michigan landscape like a peaceful blanket, reminding me of the beauty of stillness and the importance of slowing my pace. Although there is always an endless list of things to do, winter invites me to focus more on being rather than doing. How can I be safe and warm? How can I be as peaceful as the snow? How can I be in alignment with the Great Mystery of transformation? How can I be an artist and activist for social justice? How can I be a good friend, fiance, brother, son, and neighbor?

As I contemplate these winter reflections, I notice the layer of icy fear that has begun to form around my heart. Will I be okay? Am I good enough? Is there any hope left for peace in our world? I breathe in and out mindfully, allowing the warmth of compassion and love to thaw the anxiety. Breathing, smiling, letting go, I return to the deep peace that lives below the fear.

It is from this place of peace that I seek to live. This is where the music flows, like water beneath the ice. This is where I rest in knowing that I am an intimate part of all life. This is where I can inter-be with all my relations. This is where I can act for justice with kindness and compassion.

As we move through this season of freezing and thawing, let us help one another to melt the ice, clearing a path to the love and joy that lives in our hearts. Let us be healing light and warmth for one another, let us sing together, let us be peace.

Singing with you,
Joe

Snowy Branches Filtered

Return to Love

Posted by on Aug 23, 2017 in newsletter | 0 comments

“As a nation, we need to gather our collective courage and face our society’s lovelessness as a wound. As we allow ourselves to acknowledge the pain of this wound when it pierces our flesh and we feel in the depths of our soul a profound anguish of spirit, we come face to face with the possibility of conversion, of having a change of heart. In this way, recognition of the wound is a blessing because we are able to rend it, to care for the soul in ways that make us ready to receive the love that is promised.”

~Bell Hooks, All About Love

How do we love in the midst of hatred and violence? How do we recover from the historical traumas of racism and oppression that continue to inflict suffering in our communities today? How do we live as Buddha, Christ, and other spiritual teachers instruct, with love and forgiveness, compassion and courage?

The recent demonstrations of racism and hatred in Charlottesville have left me in shock, horror, and disbelief. How could this happen in 2017? How could the president of this country go on to defend and minimize the actions and ideologies of white supremacists and neo-nazis? The foundations of our country that were built on genocide, slavery, and dispossession of Native lands and cultures have once again shown their presence as a chronic disease in our society. We have another opportunity to choose to respond not out of our woundedness but out of our healing resilience with love, understanding, and peace.

We can respond with love through actions that call us to see our fellow humans as brothers and sisters, to understand our interdependence and to work to lift one another up, especially those most marginalized in our society by systematic racism and inequality. We can sing together across lines of race, class, gender, age, religion, nationality, and ability.

The generational terror carried out by the KKK, Nazis, and other hate groups that target people of color, Jews and Muslims, immigrants, people in the LGBTQ communities, people with disabilities, those who fight for women’s rights, and others, has been triggered by the recent demonstrations. Unlike the “innocent protests” president Trump described them as, these gatherings were designed to inflict harm on minority groups while inciting violence, fear, anger, and hatred.

The Buddha taught us that “Hatreds never cease through hatred in this world; through love alone they cease.”  The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. echoed this sentiment when he said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

I know that I cannot proceed alone on this journey towards light and love. I can only move forward with the wisdom and support of diverse communities who are working for justice and understanding; communities of the heart. I ask the ancestors and the Great Spirit to grant me the courage and strength to be part of the light and the love, to sing justice and peace, and to help heal the chronic diseases of racism and violence that continue to plague our country.

I am grateful to have a wonderful loving partner, friends, and family with whom to share this journey. I am happy to reunite with my brothers Will and Brian of the Long Hairz Collective and with Ojibwe singer songwriter and activist Annie Humphrey as part of Annie’s “The Beast and the Garden” Tour in September, as we travel the Great Lakes and sing together for the water, the people, and our Mother Earth. With your help, we will proceed in healing peace.

Yours in the Music and the Love,
Joe