Newsletter

Be Kind

Posted by on May 1, 2019 in newsletter | 0 comments

“Use your mind to be kind, be smart-use your heart, intend to be a friend, then do it all over again…”
 
These wise words came out of a collaboration between myself and 4th graders at Wines Elementary School in Ann Arbor a couple of years ago. The song we wrote has a simple but important message that is so needed in our world today: be kind. While many people in positions of leadership in this country, namely our current President, model divisiveness, hateful speech, and bullying behavior, these young people remind us of the importance of kindness, respect, and friendship.
 
I was honored to be part of this collaboration and to invite many friends to help the song grow into a single and a music video. Big thanks to Brian Woodring, Charlie Steen, Jamie Rusling, Chris Good, John Driscoll, Alice Sun, and of course to the students, teachers, and parents at Wines Elementary School for helping bring this vision of kindness to the world. Please enjoy and share!
 
Yours in kindness,

Joe

A Glimpse of Spring

Posted by on Feb 11, 2019 in newsletter | 0 comments

We just saw a few glimpses of spring here in Michigan, where the early February temperatures increased, the sun shone, and the snow melted. Now we are back to cold, snow, and ice, and I am challenged to look more deeply at the reality of this season in order to see the hope of spring in the frozen resting.
 
Winter can feel so barren and desolate, terrifying really. It reminds me how vulnerable I am as a human being, and how much I depend upon others for warmth, food, clothing, transportation, and community. What a blessing it is to be alive and to have the support I need to survive another winter. I reflect on the many people in our society and in our world who do not have adequate resources, the ones who are cold, hungry, alone, scared.
 
How can I share my privileges of comfort with those in need?
 
It feels that we are also continuing to experience a frozen political “winter” in this country in which many of our elected leaders, namely the one who currently holds the title of President, appeal to our worst natures, exploiting fear, anger, racism, sexism, and xenophobia as a way to gain power and control over others. They point to immigrants, migrants, and refugees and tell us to fear them, and that the only way to avoid our fear is to build a wall to keep them out of our country. How do we find hope in such hostility?
 
I recognize this fear, this deep insecurity. It is as old as this country itself. It has driven colonization and domination of the land and of Indigenous, African, and many other communities of people for centuries. I make the conscious choice to look beyond this fear and to not allow it to dictate my actions. I strive, imperfectly, to take each step in a kind of love that has the power to transform, just as our Mother Earth is able to bring forth new life and beautiful blossoms from the depths of her frozen womb. I practice to sing each note in awareness of my deep interconnections with others, this sacred interdependence in which I know that, no matter our culture or country of origin, we are all related.
 
In this way I can see immigrants, migrants, and refugees as my brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles – as my relatives. In fact many of my ancestors were immigrants themselves. And many immigrants and migrants from the Americas are Indigenous to this land. And many Americans have blood relatives on both sides of the border. I do not want to build walls around our relatives. Rather I want to welcome them home and help give them the safety and security for which all humans strive.
 
The awareness of interconnection brings me back to a serenity that helps me transform and transcend the fear that is being promoted, so that I may somehow be available to reach out to my relatives in need, to be one more glimpse of spring in the winter.
 
The season of awakening is already among us, right here and now! When we are present with our interconnectedness, especially with those whom our society deems as “other,” we can touch that hope of new life and growth, of transforming love, and allow it to help us see the reality of our interbeing.
 
May we live in such a way that helps us to recognize relatives among strangers and spring in the depths of winter,
 
Joe

Waging Love

Posted by on Nov 5, 2018 in newsletter | 0 comments

Waging Love

I see you appear
Weighed down by your money and your fear
Ignorance and insecurity
Trying so desperately to be happy and free
By clinging on to power and control over your sisters and brothers
Threatening the life of our very Earth Mother
Exploiting her as you do her daughters
Polluting and selling and controlling our waters

I see you and you’re breaking my heart
Tearing families apart
Because of where they were born
Leaving poor families torn
Or by the color of their skin
Locking up our children

I see you-you’re as old as the country itself
Compromising our emotional health
You were there in the slave trade
The very fabric from which this country was made

You never learned the lessons
From your Smith and Wessons
And your fire hoses
Your fear exposes
Your vulnerabilities
You were there in manifest destiny
And you’re still trying so hard to be free
Locked in the prison of your hatred and insanity

You were there in the boarding schools
You were the criminally cruel policies
Stealing children from their families
With the stroke of a pen
We always knew we would see you again
And you’ve never really been that well hidden

Trying the same old tricks to no avail
Racist confusion will always fail
You are a sickness, an old disease
Let us help you with your suffering please

Its time for us to heal
To let go and release
To recognize our common humanity
To awaken to the reality
Of our shared existence
Our interdependence
So let’s stop pretending

Let’s turn towards our hearts rather than our screens
Let’s listen to the joys and also the screams
Let’s grow compassion in our democracy
Every one is essential for us to be free
Everyone’s essential for us to be free

How do we wage love in the face of hatred and violence? How do we reach courage and understanding, compassion and bravery in ourselves and in our communities while surrounded by the distracted confusion of fear and ignorance?

I ask these questions after yet another senseless act of hatred and violence has ripped through the hearts of our country. I recognize the seeds of grief, fear, and anger that are touched within me. I hold them gently with mindfulness, allowing these energies to transform into compassion. I invite the energy of compassion to guide my actions into working towards the solution, towards peace. I am reminded that “there is no way to peace, peace is the way.” Lord, help me walk the way of peace.

I know that in order to do this I need to continue to allow the anger, fear, and ignorance in my own heart and mind to be transformed by the guiding light of mindfulness, wisdom, and insight. I need to sing love and invite the Holy Spirit to help me awaken to the reality of my shared interbeing with all my relations.

I turn my heart towards gratitude for the many blessings in my life. For my beautiful wife Allison and the gift of our relationship. For the healing power of music and for the many people and communities with whom we are blessed to share songs. For the previous generations who have gone before and who make a way of peace for me now. For the water that flows and gives us all life. For the laughter and playfulness of children. For this breath.

Breathing in, I recognize anger
Breathing out, I embrace anger with mindfulness
Recognizing anger, embracing with mindfulness

Breathing in, I recognize fear
Breathing out, I embrace fear with compassion
Recognizing fear, embracing with compassion

Breathing in, I feel grief
Breathing out, I hold the grief gently
Feeling grief, holding gently

Breathing in, I recognize compassion
Breathing out, I offer compassion to myself and others
Compassion for myself, compassion for others

Breathing with you,
Joe