Song Story: Shine

May 2, 2016

Welcome to today’s Song Story, “Shine“, track #6 on our album, “EARTH“.

As with many of the songs on the album, this one is a reminder of our place, as Earthlings, in this interdependent world, and the opportunity (responsibility?) we’ve been given to cultivate peace, joy, and love in ways that then afford us the possibility of contributing something positive to the world and other beings.

The song started out in my mind as a rhythmic, almost primal chant centering on the words:

Dance your love into the Earth
Dance your love into the Earth
Sing your love into the sky
Sing your love into the sky
Spread your love around the world
Spread your love around the world
Put your love into your life
Put your love into your life

The suggestion to “dance your love into the Eearth” is a somewhat mystical concept. But, in my experience, a child will have absolutely no problem believing it is possible or enacting it with her/his body. The direction to “dance your love into the Earth” speaks to long-forgotten rituals, Earth-based spirituality, and the practice of lovingkindness.

And the echo-response repeated after each line of the verse, “together, with each other”, is the reminder to do all of this together, with each other, in community — the time is now for us to break through isolation, separateness, and otherness and participate in healing work and practices, not only in our individual lives but also within our communities. It’s time to cultivate and strengthen our bonds of interbeing — together, with each other.

The verses go on to encourage the same actions (“dance, sing, spread, put”), first with our joy and then with our sense of peace, balance and equanimity. I practice lots of mindfulness with the kids and parents in my programs, and one of the most requested and favorite exercises is “sending love”. That’s really all we’re doing with this song!

And when it comes to children embodying these ideas, there’s a ready-made movement experience inherent here. All of our music has accompanying choreography, and this particular song appeared in my mind as a complete dance. I pictured the kids at our concerts and in my classes stomping, jumping, swaying and shining as they translated the words of the song into the visual dimension, literally dancing their love into the Earth.

The chorus gets to the heart of things — let’s shine our love, joy and peace EVERYWHERE, even (especially!) on the suffering in the world. For when we bring our suffering, or the suffering of another, into the light of our compassion, into the gentle yet fierce glow of our love, and begin to nurture, cradle, listen to and be present for it, true healing can begin:

Shine it on the mountains
Shine it on the sea
Shine it on the cities
And the trees and the green country, come on
Shine it on all beings
Those who walk and crawl and swim and fly
Shine it on the suffering
Bring it right into the light

And no one is left out or excluded from this shining love, this shining presence: Earth, cities, plants, people, animals, fish, birds, and any suffering that these beings might be experiencing — we send, share, and offer our love and presence to ALL, without exception. (Extra credit for catching the “Free to Be, You and Me” reference in the chorus ;-))

In the middle of the song there’s a mysterious, quiet bridge where we send the love in all directions (“to the East, West, North, South, Above, Below, Within, Without”), reminiscent of ancient rituals that honor and invite in the full dimensionality of the world. Shine it EVERYWHERE, in ALL directions, on ALL beings! The bridge builds into the “dance your peace into the Earth” verse, and finally arrives at the final chorus. We have undertaken a journey, through our love, joy and peace, through the earth, sky, world and very own hearts, arriving home to shine our best selves, our ever-present, enduring love and light, all around.

“Shine” is ultimately about what we have to offer to our world. Part of our job in this life is to cultivate positive qualities in ourselves — like peace, joy, and love — and then to reflect these outward, sharing our best selves with others and our planet. And, perhaps most importantly, to remember that suffering is also part of life, and that all beings suffer. When we remember this truth — that we all suffer, and we all wish to be free from suffering — we are then capable of true compassion.

For this truth blurs the lines between us, reminds us we’re connected, jolts us awake out of delusion and into awareness, shows us our sense of separation and “otherness” is false, snaps us out of judging, criticizing, comparative mind. And when we shine our love, our presence, on our own suffering or that of others, and hold and honor and witness this suffering, we are providing a healing service. Simply being present for another’s suffering (think “active listening”) is perhaps the greatest gift we can give another being. And the more we do this for each other, and for ourselves, the lighter we will all be.

ACTIVITY IDEAS:

    • Make up a family dance to the song!
    • Teach your dance to a friend or family member.
    • Practice listening meditation with the song. Lie down in a comfortable place and just listen to the words, to the music. Visualize yourself full of love, full of joy, full of peace. Pay attention to any feelings that come up. Sense yourself as part of the Earth. Believe in your ability to send love all around.
    • Can you remember a time when you felt sad or mad? Imagine sending some love and care to the sad or mad feelings or parts inside of you.
    • Do you know someone else who is sad or mad about something? Imagine sending some love and care to the person who is suffering
  • When someone in your life is having trouble, make them a Compassion Card. Simply draw a picture that shows you love them and are there for them, and/or write (or get help writing) a few words like, “I hear you. I see you. I love you.” And offer this to the person who is having trouble.
  • Enjoy our “Peace Breath” meditation to practice cultivating the energy of peace in your mind, body and heart.

I hope you enjoy the song, “Shine“. And scroll down if you’d like to listen to our entire EARTH album!

Namaste (the light in me bows to the light in you, for it is the same light!)

Love,
Charity


Song Story: Keep a Green Tree in Your Heart

April 29, 2016

In honor of Arbor Day, today’s song is the first song on our EARTH album, “Keep a Green Tree in Your Heart”.

The inspiration for this song came originally from a project I worked on a few years ago with author Andrea Alban and artist Lisa Bossi. I had already put one of their children’s books to music (“January’s Child“), and we were at it again. Their new book was called “The Happiness Tree”, a gorgeous picture-book celebration of one of Earth’s most precious resources — Trees! The book embraces the beauty of trees and brings them to life with attributes like peace, generosity, love, and happiness. It also includes a detailed index of state trees.

The Chinese proverb that prefaces the book, “Keep a green tree in your heart, and perhaps a singing bird will come,” became the seed for the chorus of the song. I wanted to describe the life cycle of a tree, so the verses grew into a poem that tells the story of a tree from tiny seed in the ground, to growing sprout, to loving home for forest creatures, to wise old tree that falls back down to the earth to replenish the soil and start everything all over again.

And the chorus of the song is a reminder that when we stay connected to nature (“keep a green tree in your heart”), wisdom and joy and other awesome things (the metaphor of the “singing bird”) will come! For nature is our greatest teacher…everything we need to know is inherent in her rhythms, cycles, balance and innate wisdom, of which we are an inextricable “part”. There it is again — interbeing!

For the instrumentation, we used lots of woodsy strings — mountain dulcimer, mandolin, a 12-string guitar — and some tambourines and shakers. It has a very wooden, organic feel — just like a tree! I hope you will find yourself singing along…and perhaps feel inspired to go outside and hug a tree some time very soon, prepared to LISTEN to what that tree might have to tell you. And when you’re still and quiet and patient and open and present — the singing bird WILL come.

ACTIVITY IDEAS:

  • Participate in a tree-planting day with your local Friends of the Urban Forest or other similar organization.
  • Go on a “Tree Walk”…wander your neighborhood in search of trees to look at, smell, touch, listen to. Greet each tree like a friend, offering your attention and presence just as you would to a person or animal.
  • Make up a story about a day in the life of a tree, or a year in the life of a tree.
  • Make tree art: Draw or paint a picture of trees, sculpt a tree from clay, or use fallen branches, leaves and bark from the trees in your yard or neighborhood to create a tree collage.
  • Spend time just sitting near a tree, watching your breath move in and out, watching the leaves and branches blow in the wind, even imagining yourself as still and quiet as a tree. What would it feel like to be a tree?

To learn more about the music and message of Charity and the JAMband, visit www.jamjamjam.com. And listen to the whole EARTH album below!

Love,
Charity


Song Story: I Am the Earth

April 27, 2016

Today’s song story digs into “I Am the Earth”, track #5 on our new “EARTH” album.

I’ve been a practitioner of Insight Meditation (Vipassana) for the last decade. I love this practice partly because meditation helps me manage stress, calm down, stay healthy (emotionally, mentally and physically), and put less toxicity into the world, and partly because I adore and am fascinated by the “insights” at the foundation of the practice — the truth of impermanence, the explanation of the causes of and antidotes for suffering, and the truth of interbeing.

Interbeing is basically the concept that everything is connected, and that there really is no such thing as a separate self. When we remember and then embody this fundamental truth of existence, we naturally cause no harm, because everything and everyone (people, creatures, plants, ecosystems, Earth) is inter-related, interdependent, interconnected — we “inter-are”.

When thinking about Earth and how we frame ourselves in relationship to her, and how we must shift from a power-over to a caring-for dynamic, the acceptance of the truth of interbeing is fundamental. For when we remember that we are literally part of Earth, that she absolutely is our body and we are simply an extension of her body, it is insanity to harm her, or her beings, or her ecosystems. For we are only harming our own bodies, hearts and minds in the process. Even our language becomes limited when we discuss interbeing — there’s no longer really any her, him, you, them, me, I…just, us!

When we in the womb, we literally do not know we are separate from our Mother’s body. Instead, we know that we are one with her. Then we come out, and the convincing sense of separation begins. It takes time, training, lots of experiences, and the development of the brain and senses to create the sense of “otherness” from our Mother and our surroundings that we characterize as reality. In some ways, growing up is the process of unlearning the fundamental truth of connection we are born knowing. But before all of that, we are immersed in and one with our world, not plagued by the fear, isolation, discrimination, and despair that eventually comes once we learn and decide we are separate.

But this separation is at some level an illusion. We truly are all interconnected. The air, the water, the soil, the sunlight…all of it is in us. We wouldn’t be alive without it. We are literally made of earth. The Five Mindfulness Trainings, in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh and Plum Village, represent a vision for a global spirituality and ethic that really resonates with me. The first one, Reverence for Life, goes like this:

Reverence For Life
Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating the insight of interbeing and compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, or in my way of life. Seeing that harmful actions arise from anger, fear, greed, and intolerance, which in turn come from dualistic and discriminative thinking, I will cultivate openness, non-discrimination, and non-attachment to views in order to transform violence, fanaticism, and dogmatism in myself and in the world.

Wow, do I love that! If we are seeing things clearly and accurately (Right View, or Wise View) we have the Insight of Interbeing, or the understanding of the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. And when we remember and embody the truth of interbeing, it is an obvious choice not to harm other beings, or the Earth. All ethical behavior flows from this understanding. All unethical behavior — and our own suffering, too — is a result of forgetting this truth.

So this song, “I Am the Earth”, is a deep exploration of the truth interbeing, through a simple, repetitive chant exploring all the ways in which we ARE the Earth and all her aspects, and the Earth is also us!

I am the Earth and the Earth is me…

I am the rain and the rain is me…

I am the people, the people are me…

I am the love, the love is me…

The chorus underscores the theme:

It’s the truth of interbeing
All things near and all things far
All things seen and all things unseen
We all inter-are

The music for this song is basically just an electronic drum beat and piano…simple! We were originally going to add more piano, and harmonies, and maybe other instruments. But it ended up being very mesmerizing like this, so we decided to leave it straightforward and trimmed down.

ACTIVITY IDEAS:

    • Listen to the song and sing along in call-and-response format, by echoing each line after it’s sung. And make up a dance move to represent each aspect of Earth as you sing along!
    • Draw a picture of yourself “as” Earth.
    • Make up your own version: e.g., “I am the flower and the flower is me.”
    • Teach the song to someone you love.
    • Lie down on your back somewhere on the Earth (outside if possible, but inside on the floor is fine, too), put one hand on your heart and one hand on your belly, close your eyes if that feels comfortable, and listen to the song, imagining yourself as one with the Earth, your body as part of her body. And relax into that embrace.
  • Consider an item in your home, and explore its path from Earth to your living room. What is it made of? Who made it? How did it get here? Did the sun, rain, air, soil, animals, plants have any part in it? What about the people that invented, built, shipped it to you? What about the people who designed and constructed the roads it traveled on, or made lunch for the person in the factory who built it? Notice the almost endless chain of connection.
  • Listen to our “Meditation for Non-Harming” with your family and think about how it relates to the “Reverence for Life” Mindfulness Training.
  • Practice non-harming in your everyday life!

I hope you enjoy the song, “I Am the Earth”! You can listen to and download (“Name Your Price”) the whole album, “EARTH”, below. And remember…WE ALL INTER-ARE!

Love,
Charity


Song Story: Share Your Love

April 26, 2016

Today’s Song Story (and free download!) is for the song, “Share Your Love”, track 2 on our new album, “EARTH“.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about what exactly “Love” is. Of course this word has different meanings in different contexts and relationships and for different people, but I’ve come to the conclusion that in its most distilled form, Love is Presence, and this presence leads to all the other qualities we strive to practice in life, and that we hope we can model for and pass on to our children — things like respect, truthfulness, generosity, gratitude, kindness, compassion, awakening, joy, open-heartedness, and, ultimately, happiness (or, at the very least, peace of mind!)

I have a daily mindfulness meditation practice that has informed my songwriting and my work with children and families for some time now. One of my favorite and most beloved mindfulness teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, expresses the sentiment “Mindfulness is Love” often in his teachings. This has stuck with me through the years. When we provide our listening presence to another (or to ourselves, for that matter), this is the purest, most distilled form of Love we can offer. So this song is a celebration of all the various aspects of “Love”, and (as so many sages, poets, and songwriters have proclaimed through the years) the idea that sharing our love is the answer to everything!

The verse lyric starts out with an exploration of a child’s magical world, referencing imagined (real to them?) superpowers like flying around the sun, and running as fast as the breeze. It then segues into an announcement about the most powerful, astonishing, amazing, and NECESSARY power of all, one we all possess, already living naturally inside of us, our birthright, if you will — and that is Love!

The music in the first part of the song is cute and bouncy. Then everything shifts, and the chorus follows, as a command, literally, to Share Your Love. The rock’n’roll energy and driving groove in this part of the song felt necessary and important — I really wanted to Testify to the importance of this practice of sharing love — learning how to be present for ourselves and others as a path to true happiness.

We really rocked this one out with a pretty classic power trio vibe, some scorching vocals, and also gave a nod to the very first JAM song ever (“jam, jam, jam, oh yeah, I say, jam, jam, jam”) with the “love, love, love, oh yeah, I say, share your love!” refrain in the breakdown.

How does all this fit in with the Earth theme of the album? I believe we are at a crossroads in human history, where we have the choice to either turn toward each other and work in community with open hearts, ears and minds, or turn away from each other in ever-deepening fear and isolation and separation. Because of the climate shift the Earth is experiencing, of which human activity is the cause, and all the catastrophic and cascading side effects this environmental catastrophe is creating for ALL life, we absolutely MUST call on our superpowers of Love, Presence, Mindfulness, Compassion, Generosity, etc in order to transform our collective consciousness and move things in a direction of healing rather than more harm.

So we need to apply this practice of sharing love with our beautiful planet and all of her ecosystems, as much as with each other and all beings. And while it is not always possible to discus the details of difficult topics like climate change and environmental or social crises with young children, we certainly can encourage and model and teach and cultivate qualities of compassion, kindness, generosity as we “raise” them. This is our biggest and most important job as parents and teachers and grown-ups in this precious time.

I hope that this song will provide a danceable, celebratory soundtrack for the reminder and practice that Love is Here, we have access to it, and it is time (NOW, and in every moment possible) to Share it! Because, as the song testifies…

Love is Mindfulness
Love is Heartfulness
Love is Wakefulness
Love is Generous
Love is Truthfulness
Love is Patience
Love is Joyfulness
and Love is Endless…
Love is Kindness
Love is Showin’ Respect
Love is Happiness
Share Your Love!
Share Your Love!
Share Your Love!

ACTIVITY IDEA: Listen to the song with your kids and dance around! Then come together for conversation and contemplation. Here are some guiding questions:

    • Can you feel love in your body?
    • Where do you feel it?
    • What does it feel like?
    • What are some examples of ways you could share your love with another person or being (family member, pet, tree, flower, etc?)
    • What does it feel like when you share your love?
    • What does it feel like when you receive love from someone or something else?
  • Image that your love is a superpower that helps you go through your life sharing kindness and generosity, helping others, and also taking care of yourself. Draw a picture of yourself as a LOVEHERO doing something loving in the world.
  • Listen to our Ball of Light Meditation with your family, and feel the love arise and grow!

I hope you enjoy the song, “Share Your Love”! You can listen to and purchase (“Name Your Price”) the whole album, “EARTH”, below. Have a love-filled day!

Love,
Charity


Song Story: Earth Day

April 25, 2016

Today I’m kicking off two weeks of Song Stories, sharing the tales of the inspiration behind the music and lyrics on our newest album, EARTH. I’ll offer a free download of that song each day, too! You can have the song for free, or “Name Your Price” and support independent music if so moved.

I’d like to start with track number 3 on the album, “Earth Day”. Earth Day 2016 is now over, but that doesn’t mean we should shift our focus away from protecting, defending, caring for, cherishing, and honoring Mother Earth for another 364 days until Earth Day returns! The opposite is true.

At this stage of environmental and societal crisis in the world, our attention absolutely needs to turn toward caring for our planet and ALL her beings (humans, animals, plants) and ecosystems (air, water, land) in every action and intention, every thought and word. It goes beyond “every day should be Earth Day” at this point. For some time now, our refrain should have been, “every day MUST be Earth Day.”

This song is a singable testament to this truth. I love watching the children in my camps and classes and at my concerts sing along with these words. I imagine the words themselves, like a mantra, planting seeds of intention and compassion in their hearts. May this generation grow up KNOWING, deep in their bones and bodies, the necessity of treating Earth (and each other, and all beings) with love, kindness, care, and respect.

My own consciousness around these issues was broken open in middle school when I read the book “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson. That book — and Ms Carson’s insistent, poetic, and true rendering of the damage we were doing to our Earth (our own body), and the necessity of shifting away from this dynamic — brought up deep emotions (grief, anger, shock, sadness), inspired a turning point in my understanding of my place in the world, and became a beacon for me.

We never know where and when the possibility of transformation will manifest for our children. So the more we can expose them to books, art, music and experiences that underscore these truths, the higher the chance they will retain a sense of the interconnectedness of all things, from which will automatically flow a natural desire to care for others and care for the planet, because of the realization and deep understanding that they and it are literally a part of oneself.

So the reason I write music like this, and attempt to put these truths into language that will resonate (I hope) with children and families, is to provide a tool for helping this process along. Our kids already get so many messages to the contrary…why not provide some that contradict the current story that Earth is here for our plunder and abuse and consumption? Whatever we can do to counteract this pervasive energy, we must, as parents and teachers, be doing it. And we teach ourselves in the process. It’s a beautiful cycle.

With this song, I wanted to tell a magical, child-mind story with the lyrics…Earth as an old, wise being — “this old Earth’s been around awhile, she knows how to smile, she knows how to cry”. Earth as one who cares for us, and one who also relies on us to care for her — “she’s happiest when we care for the soil and the water and air that feed us all”. A sense of geologic time — “how long does it take for a mountain to grind all the way back down to a grain of sand and then become a mountain again”. Earth as home for the beasts and plants — “some take root, others walk, some even fly, some even talk”. Earth as our trusted vehicle through the universe. Earth as friend, home, mother. Earth as recipient and giver of love.

I also wanted to create in the song a statement that could serve as an intention we set every time we listen to and sing along with this song. This happens in the bridge:

Now is the moment to open our eyes
And our minds and our hearts and realize
The Earth is our friend, the Earth is our home
The Earth is our Mother, we are never alone
We must protect our only Earth
Every action and intention affirming her worth
Let’s do no harm and take good care
Of every life, everyone, every thing, everywhere…

And the chorus is a sweet little singalong….”Every Single Day Should Be Earth Day!!!”

Musically, we ended up with an acoustic feel, a cute but propulsive beat, and lots of awesome melodies in the bass. And some fun “la la la la” harmonies, a bright piano groove, and some percussion to round it all out. It has an overall happy vibe, but there is both joy and seriousness in the message.

ED_songcover_EARTHACTIVITY IDEA: Listen to the song with your children, watch the video, and sing and dance around! Then, with your family, start an Earth Day Journal. See if you can come up with an action or intention every single day that is a way of caring for Earth and her beings. Write or draw about this intention or action in your journal. These can be big things, or small things. Even just going outside to play under the trees can be an expression of our love and care for Earth. And don’t worry if you don’t complete an entry every single day…the idea is to have the intention to keep Earth in your consciousness as you go about life. And see what happens!

I’m positive I wasn’t the first person to come up with the phrase “Every day should be Earth Day!”, but I’m happy there’s now a song for us to sing, every day, to help us remember the importance, the necessity, of this sentiment. I hope you enjoy the song, and find ways of sharing it with the children and also grown-ups in your lives! Please share your stories in the comments section below.

Love,
Charity

 


A New Album…for the Earth!

April 22, 2016

In honor of the 46th anniversary of Earth Day, we released our sixth album for families today, entitled, simply, “EARTH”.

This music is dedicated to our beautiful, precious Earth and all her beings and ecosystems, the air and light and water and soil that nourish us, and our deepest most tender hearts, which know wisdom and compassion, and will, I have chosen to believe, find a way to wake up and transform human society into one guided by healing, peace and love.

You can find the album here:
Bandcamp (physical OR digital)
iTunes (digital)
CD Baby (digital)
Spotify (streaming)

I created this collection of songs as a response to my own exploration of climate change in particular and environmental tragedy in general. It is my response to our current planetary crisis, and also an attempt to give parents and teachers a tool for communicating to children the reminder that we are not separate from the Earth, but rather that our very survival depends upon our taking care of and protecting her. She is not a “product” put here for us to consume and extract from and run rough shod over. She is our home, our lifeline, our very existence.

Given the amazing threats our species currently faces due to human-caused climate change, ongoing war, nuclear arsenal expansion, and the continuing rape and abuse of our “environment” (literally, our BODY) and other human and animal and plant beings, it is an often terrifying time to be alive. We have absolutely no idea what kind of world future generations will inhabit, especially if we remain with our heads in the sand, going on with business as usual, in our comfortable and addicted lives.

But I believe it is also a wonderful time to be a human being, a precious time! We have been given the opportunity to completely shift our consciousness…TOWARD Earth, community, generosity, presence, each other, all the animals and plants…and AWAY from self-centered, ego-driven, growth-mindset behaviors that ultimately destroy rather than create, separate rather than connect, encourage greed, hatred and delusion over generosity, love, and truth. It is time for the ultimate reframe!

EARTH_CD_back

It is no easy task to figure out how to talk to children about these matters. We can barely handle it all ourselves, as “mature”, “responsible” “grown-ups”. So when thinking about how to bring some of this to light with my music, I settled on the messages of interbeing (interconnectedness and interdependence), compassion, kindness, respect, mindfulness and LOVE, as a way to sing about the Earth and our relationship with her. Perhaps enjoying songs that teach and underscore these ethics and messages is one way to have “the conversation” with our kids, and one way to plant seeds in their hearts, bodies and minds for a healthier relationship with Earth and all beings going forward. For instance…

What if this generation of children grew up believing (knowing) that there really could be enough if we all share? That nature is not something to have power over but rather to commune with and be endlessly respectful of and grateful for? That every single aspect of who they are and what they eat, wear, and “own” comes, circuitously or not, from the Earth and the efforts of other beings? What if these truths informed the decision-making and habits and behaviors of a generation? Would not things be different?

And as we sing these truths to our children, we are reminding ourselves of the same. I believe that our kids actually know this stuff in their bones before society and culture (and, yes, our modeling and our parenting, for we have all bought deeply into this system and story) has its way with their beautiful brains. And we can’t get rid of this programming, unless we’re really ready to go completely off grid, off capitalism in every aspect, in 100% relationship with the land (and I commend any souls brave and resourceful enough who are returning to Earth in this way, creating as light a footprint as possible…I love and support and admire and hope to emulate you!)

So it’s our job, as parents and teachers and grown-ups, to SUPPLEMENT (and replace, where possible) the messages of our culture and our media and our institutions with the perhaps subversive but now absolutely necessary message of the truth of interbeing.

EARTH_CD_insideleft

One of the first steps in retraining our brains toward a relationship “with” rather than “over” Earth is to spend more time in conscious communion with her. As an experiment, sit quietly for a few minutes and go back in time, remembering the experiences during childhood when you were the happiest and most grounded, or a time when you felt a sense of magic, or spirit, or felt yourself truly alive and connected to something greater. Chances are, you were outside somewhere in communion with Mother Earth.

THESE are the experiences that teach us what we need to know now, for the sake of our planet, our children, and all the future generations. And the more of these experiences we can cultivate in our lives and in our families and classrooms, the more we will AUTOMATICALLY care for, protect, defend and cherish Mother Earth. Acting from this wisdom and deep understanding will become obvious, inherent, ingrained…a fundamental, inseparable part of who we are.

My own happiest, most cherished memories of childhood all involve magical moments of communion with aspects of her body: creating universes with sticks and rocks and leaves underneath the protective branches of my favorite willow tree; watching chubby black ants wend their way purposefully among the mountainous world of a peony bush; walking down the hill to the local lake, sprawling out with my best friend on a rock to watch and listen to the gentle water lap the shore; riding my bike alone out onto the country roads, the wind and corn rustling in the breeze, golden light on golden Earth and in my golden, open childhood heart. Birds flew and clouds meandered and suns set. Magic happened. Love was there.

And thanks to some intrepid friends, boyfriends and a husband along the way (Annie, Elicia, Amy B, Chandra, Stevo, Charlie…so much gratitude), I became braver with my outdoor yearnings and adventures over time. It started with camping, then backpacking, and finally a year-long journey rock-climbing all around the U.S., exploring back-country granite, sandstone, basalt, streams, rivers, trees, flowers, wild animals, all forms of weather, the cleanest air imaginable, and a deepening presence with and appreciation for all Mother Earth is and offers. I lived and breathed for and on and with the ROCK that year, and my understanding of the lack of separation between this planet we call home and my very own body and heart and mind was solidified.

EARTH_disc_1500

I now live in a city (San Francisco), and it is more difficult (actually, impossible) to stay immersed in Earth the way I would like. So I go out into my wild and weedy back yard and meditate with the bees and the sour grass. Or I walk or run on the windswept expanse of our blessed Ocean Beach. Or I hug trees. It’s harder in this cement jungle, to stay present with Earth, with all the airplanes above and cell phone rays bouncing around everywhere, but it’s still possible.

So if there’s one thing we can do for Mother Earth, and for ourselves, and for our children, today, right now, it’s to spend more time with her. Sit at the base of a tree, lean on the rough bark and unimaginably strong trunk, absorb the energy of this quiet, wise being, so content to stay in one place for its whole life. Amazing. Or find a body of water or a stream or river and sit alongside watching the sun dance in the ripples, listening to the lapping or the babbling or the rushing, immersing part or all of your beautiful body in the cleansing life-blood of Mother Earth. Or dig into the dirt, the mud, the sand, surrounding your cells with her cells, merging, embodying the possibility of that truth. Or observe the bugs and worms and butterflies and squirrels and birds and other earthlings in their daily doings. Or lie on a grassy hill and watch the clouds and wind and blue or gray or pink or black sky and breathe. Just breathe.

So let’s remember, honor, and listen to Mother Earth with every move we make. And if this music can be a signpost for you along the way, I will be forever grateful. I am deliriously happy to be on this journey with you. Let’s wake up, rise up, join hands. The time is now.

And before I go, I must thank the players who make the music come alive. My partner in life and music, Daryn Roven, played electric guitar and many other instruments, helped edit my song lyrics, contributed invaluably to figuring out arrangements and instrumentation, and engineered and co-produced the whole thing with me. David Rokeach (drums) provided the driving grooves and heartbeats and backbone. Paul Lamb (bass) offered groove, so much melody, and an undeniable anchor. Laurie Pomeranz brings the most amazing light and energy to our live shows with her dancing and singing. They are all incredible parents and human beings, and I couldn’t make this music without their talent, support and commitment to this project. And to all the fans who sing and dance along…thank you for being HERE with me, for showing up, for understanding what I’m trying to do and say and discover…we are in each other’s hearts!

Finally, I will be publishing Song Stories over the next couple weeks, one for each song on the album. I’ll talk about the why and how and what of the music and how each song intertwines with and co-creates the themes of the album. Subscribe to my blog to receive notifications when these are up.

I’ll leave you with a lyric from track #3 on the album, “Earth Day”:

Now is the moment to open our eyes
And our minds and our hearts and realize
The Earth is our friend, the Earth is our home
The Earth is our Mother, we are never alone
We must protect our only Earth
Every action and intention affirming her worth
Let’s do no harm and take good care
Of every life, everyone, everything, everywhere
‘Cause every day should be Earth Day!

Love,
Charity


Embracing the Difficult as a Doorway to Love

October 21, 2015
Photo credit Mel Rabedeau

Photo credit Mel Rabedeau

Do you have difficult people or situations in your life? I can’t imagine a single human being answering “no” to that question. There’s no doubt that life presents us with challenges — some tiny and relatively inconsequential, some heartbreakingly large and overwhelming — in the form of people and circumstances.

There is a saying that goes, “experience is life’s greatest teacher.” And another one that goes, “relationships are life’s greatest teachers.” They are cliches because they’re true. We are handed, endlessly, opportunities to learn how to be more compassionate, how to set healthier boundaries, how to communicate more clearly, how to forgive and accept, how to stand up for our truth, how to do less harm, how to contribute rather than squander our gifts.

So life is clearly there just waiting to teach us. But what kind of students are we? How do we show up? How well do we listen? How much effort do we put in? How open are we to adapting or even letting go of our stories? How ready are we to wake up, shed old habits, and evolve emotionally?

It is not always obvious what path we should take in life when presented with complex scenarios and other people’s hearts, especially when we’re balancing taking care of ourselves with taking care of others. But if we set the intention that we will do what we can to be present, with an open mind and heart, for the lessons offered (in the guise of relationships and situations), we really can’t fail. As long as we are willing to show up and do the work, something powerful and valuable (no matter how small) will sink in, and we will grow, we will change, we will learn.

Sometimes these internal shifts (and their behavioral outgrowths) are so tiny as to be almost imperceptible and don’t become obvious until time has passed or many so-called “mistakes” have occurred. So we sometimes think we’re failing, or that it’s just too hard, or that it’s just not fair, and these stories we tell ourselves can become huge impediments to our ability to stay focused on the work of life, on the potential for integration and healing.

So we also need to cultivate, along with our willingness to show up, a sense of allowing ourselves to be imperfect, to learn in pieces or over time, to not interpret “set-backs” as failures, but rather as natural and normal parts of the growth process, which is almost never linear. And we need to embrace confusion as a stepping stone on the way to insight, rather than a debilitating energy that can provoke us to stick our heads back in the sand and simply run away from the challenge altogether.

Finally, we need self-compassion. Desperately. Thankfully, it is something we can cultivate and nurture in a very simple way. Sitting on the meditation cushion every day for 1, 3, 5, 10, 20 minutes is a deep form of self-compassion. When we commit that time and effort to a practice that is all about seeing what’s really happening, watching our thoughts arise and learning how to be less identified with them, exposing our self-destructive habits of mind, uncovering our deepest truths, and tending to our broken places, we begin to change, to wake up, to love and accept ourselves more fully. And we reap invaluable rewards.

We also have the opportunity to practice being compassionate with ourselves in every single moment — whether we’re walking, or washing dishes, or listening to our child or partner, or driving a car, or even paying our bills. As long as we are bringing in the energy, the power, of mindfulness — paying attention to what’s actually happening, in the present moment, on purpose, without judgment — we are doing the opposite of abandoning ourselves.

So, to truly transform, we have to care enough about the process to put in the effort, and we have to embrace the difficult and ugly stuff when it comes our way — welcome it as we would a friend, a teacher, a guide, a doorway to love. Maybe we can (on a good day😉 ) open to the possibility of feeling grateful for all the darkness and challenges and defeats and breakdowns and dysfunction that come our way or that we wittingly or unwittingly put into the world. And feel thankful for the opportunity, every day, every moment, to learn what we may have never learned in school or from our society or even from our ancestors: how to remain present; how to allow our intuition to speak and be heard; how to find our way through this crazy maze with compassion, wisdom, strength and joy; how to come home.

Let’s go!


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