Love Like There IS a Tomorrow

January 8, 2017

lovetreeI was recently reminded of Rilke’s wise words from Letters to a Young Poet: “It is also good to love: because love is difficult. For one human being to love another human being: that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is merely preparation.” ~7th Letter

Of late, I have been riding the roller coaster of optimism, negativity, hope, fear, joy, sadness, awakened heart, numbness, and everything in between. We are faced with a powerful and unmatched challenge with this new administration. As if the planet weren’t already in peril. As if human rights weren’t already stomped on in many parts of the world (including our own) on a regular basis. As if animals and plants weren’t already dying off at alarming rates (6th mass extinction). As if the human condition wasn’t already in a hot mess as a result of our proclivities for the poisons of greed, hatred and delusion and the many disguises they wear.

As trite as it might sound, the place I land, again and again, is that all that is left for us to do is Love, in whatever form that takes. Working hard on bringing authenticity and understanding to our relationships. Doubling down in our efforts to own our part, see the other side, refrain from judgment, forgive. Expanding our heart’s capacity to feel the suffering of the world so we may proportionally super-charge our compassion and understand deeply the necessity of our awakening, involvement and action. Opening our minds to include everyone. Loving others as we wish to be loved.

Love IS often difficult. But so are many other challenges we take on, difficulties we surmount, obstacles we hurdle, lessons we integrate, traumas we survive, shit storms we recover from. So couldn’t we commit, this year, to take on Love as our simplest, most basic intention? The kind of unconditional love Martin Luther King, Jr, and so many other of our spiritual and human rights leaders spoke and speak of so eloquently, consistently, and urgently? The kind of Revolutionary Love that stands strong in the face of violence and hatred and negativity and has the power, the will and the mandate to transform, heal and evolve us all?

I hope to share some time and space with you this year, with this as our common intention: To love like our lives depend on it. Because they do. And to love like there IS a tomorrow. Because there is.


Song Story: Sing a Summer Song

May 3, 2016

Today’s Song Story is for “Sing a Summer Song“, track #7 on our album, “EARTH“.

We frequently bring our music and dance program to the Mountain View Public Library. Their summer concert series for families — called “Sing a Summer Song” — is a really beautiful event. The shows happen outside on the back lawn, underneath an oak tree who must be over 100 years old. The tree alone is worth the visit! Don’t forget to hug the tree! I wrote this song originally as a theme for their concert series, and it expanded into a singalong about summer, about Earth, about love!

In its simplest interpretation, it’s an ode to the summers of my childhood, and the way our magical Earth spoke to me through her smells, sounds, textures, tastes, and beauty. I reference things like june bugs, fireflies, wiggly worms and other hallmarks of a Midwestern (south-central Wisconsin, to be specific) Summer. And the long days, the “tiny nights”, the warming air, the summer smells, the fresh sounds, bare feet running (my favorite!) and, most of all, my Mom’s garden and all the hot, sweaty, dirty memories of digging, picking, looking, wondering, eating.

The chorus is a sing-along — belt it out!

Sing a summer song
Sing a summer song
Sing a summer song for you and me
Sing a summer song
Sing a summer song
The way we love the world is everything

The line “the way we love the world is everything” expresses one of the themes on the EARTH album — that our job is to work on accessing our innate love, compassion, kindness and generosity so we can bring it out into the world and be THAT person, as often as possible.

It is also the reminder that when we connect with Mother Earth deeply, when we immerse ourselves “in” nature, we have no choice but to remember our interbeing, to love her, and to care for her. The more time we spend outside in nature, appreciating the offerings and the ways in which we are symbiotic with Earth and the ways in which we depend on each other, the more we will come from a place of gratitude and appreciation, and also humility. This is a solid, grounded, authentic place that gives us the capacity and strength and focus to act on her behalf with compassion, wisdom and the fierce love a mother has for her child. Yes…it’s time for us to Mother the Mother!

There are also some secret lyrics hiding in the last go-around of the chorus. Listen closely and see if you can hear them:

Sing…for Earth
Sing…for Love
Sing…for Peace
Sing…for All

ACTIVITY IDEAS:

  • Sing along! Consider the song a call and response, and mimic the lines in the verse with your response. Join in for the chorus!
  • Discuss ways in which the Earth changes during the transition from Spring to Summer.
  • Make a “seasons” poster. Divide a piece of paper into four sections, label them “Summer”, “Spring”, “Winter” and “Fall”, and paint or draw things in each section that go along with each season.
  • Help your kids make a list of things they love and appreciate. Then use this list to sing your own version of the song. For example, “Sing it for the polar bears, Sing it for the horses, Sing it for the skateboards, Sing it for the ocean, Sing it for my sister, Sing it for my best friend, Sing it for mangos, Sing it for my bicycle…” No need to worry about rhyming!

I hope you enjoy “Sing a Summer Song“, this summer and all year ’round. Because the way we love the world is everything!

To listen to the whole EARTH album, scroll down or visit it here.

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


Sit Breath Love: Guided Meditations for Children and their Grown-Ups

January 3, 2015

SBL_9_600Dear friends,

In conjunction with the birth of the new year, we are very excited to announce the birth of a new JAM project:

Sit Breathe Love:
Guided Meditations for Children and their Grown-Ups

Listen + Download Here

Our intention is to share every month or so a new guided meditation you can listen to and practice with the children in your family or classroom. Click the “Follow” button on the download page to be notified when we add new ones.

These meditations will be in the mindfulness vein, and will touch on such areas as awareness of breath, cultivation of lovingkindness and non-harming, mindful listening, body scans, gratitude, joy, difficult feelings, and beyond.

Our January offering is called “Ball of Light Meditation”. You can use this guided meditation with your children when you’d like to cultivate a little peace and love. Try it at bedtime, or perhaps in the morning before leaving the house, to plant seeds of presence, calm and kindness. Listen, relax, and enjoy!

I use these meditations in my JAMcamps with children aged 4-10, but you can try with younger and older children, too, and see what happens.

Perhaps the most important thing is to model for your children your commitment to cultivating your own mindfulness. So do the practices with them as often as you can! You will show them, via embodiment, that it is important to you, too, and that you have faith in its value.

We would love to hear about how, where and when you use these practices, and how your children respond to them. So stay in touch!

May you be happy, healthy, safe and at peace in the new year and always 😉

Take care,
Charity


All I Want for Mother’s Day Is a Limitless Heart

May 11, 2013

Limitless HeartThere is a concept often communicated in Buddhism that goes like this: “We have all been everybody’s mother before.” Whether your views lean toward reincarnation or not, there is much value in this phrase as a metaphor for how to be in the world. I like to reframe it in my mind as, “We are all everybody’s mother RIGHT NOW.”

People do horrible things. People do unconscious things. People hurt people, and animals, and ecosystems, and the planet. We ALL behave badly and unethically at times, whether on a grand scale (like the decision-makers at Exxon Mobil or the US Senators opposed to commonsense gun laws) or a teeny-tiny scale (think about the last time you gossiped about someone, or lashed out in anger and said something hurtful). We are all steeping in various depths of ignorance, delusion, greed and hatred, and our actions are proof of this reality of human suffering.

Given that this is how the world goes ‘round, who are we to judge, really, who is worthy of our love, goodwill and kindness?

Can you imagine extending the same goodwill you naturally feel toward your own children to every single person on the planet — all 7.1 billion and counting fast — no matter what their behavior or your beliefs about said behavior? Can you feel, in your heart, compassion even for those your mind has decided are evil, or not deserving of love, or beyond hope? Can you embrace the possibility that every single human being is worthy of kindness, and of your kindness in particular? And even the possibility that those who commit the most atrocious deeds are the most worthy — and the most in need — of our benevolence?

The Metta Sutta (Discourse on Lovingkindness) is the Buddha’s central teaching on this idea. There is a line in it that goes like this:

“As a mother would risk her life to protect her child, her only child, even so should one cultivate a limitless heart with regard to all beings.”Ref.

The idea is that we could (and should) choose to generate and develop an attitude of goodwill toward every single being. And that we could (and should) protect this attitude, and commit to it, as fiercely as a mother would protect her own womb’s child.

This fierce protection of what is so deeply beloved is at the core of the radical and compassionate Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation, which birthed the very first Mother’s Day in 1870. Her proclamation is a call to end war and violence as a means to solve differences, an end to throwing our children into battle, and, at its core, the acknowledgment that every child — no matter which “side” he or she is on — is a child worthy of our love and protection. Every child is OUR child, and we must behave as such if we want peace in our hearts and in the world.

Here is the full text of the proclamation:

Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or tears!

Say firmly: “We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, ‘Disarm, Disarm!’

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood not wipe out dishonor, nor violence indicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of counsel. Let them meet first, as women, to bewail & commemorate the dead. Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesars but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.Ref.

Though 143 years have passed since Julia’s grand and passionate intention, it’s pretty astonishing how relevant her words are today. We are still living in a world where violence and hatred and their side-effects and outgrowths often seem to dominate our existence, so there is obviously still work to be done. Serious work.

So, on this weekend where lenses and psyches are turned toward mothers and mothering in observance of Mother’s Day — thanking, pampering, honoring, acknowledging, gifting, missing, processing, letting go, wondering, loving, remembering, cherishing, all of it — let’s also devote a little piece of our hearts to practicing an even bigger, more encompassing kind of love: an intention to begin a conscious practice of directing kindness and goodwill toward all beings, no matter what, unconditionally, for real.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said, “Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”

We are ALL the Beloved Community. The Beloved Community is not a clique or a popularity club. It is not invitation-only. There are no dues or fees. There are no entry requirements and no one is excluded. We need only wake up to our power as lovers in order to see the Beloved Community all around us, within us, everywhere.

Let’s start now, with this day, to make our love a little wider, a little bigger, a little stronger. Let’s practice sending goodwill to someone difficult to love. Let’s open our hearts, our minds, our molecules to embrace the possibility (probability) that we are all one, even if we might not intellectually or scientifically understand what that means. We are all everybody’s mother (and father and son and daughter) RIGHT NOW.

We can begin with this simple paraphrase of the Metta Sutta:

May all beings be happy.
May all beings be healthy.
May all beings be safe.
May all beings be at peace.

I will leave you with a poem/song I wrote for my children, from my mother’s heart. It is also for all children, and all grown-ups, and all beings. Put it on and dance, cry, receive, transmit, observe, meet, understand, and welcome your kindness, your goodwill, your love. Start with a place you know deeply: your love for your own children. And expand from there. This is how we save the world.

comes and goes another year
like the light that flies ‘tween us dear
listen to the dry leaf fallin’
through the air what do you hear
bodies earthy like trees growing
minds like ocean water flowing
hearts of love like fire burning
spirits breathing shining learning

we are stardust
we are shiny
we are huge and
we are tiny
we are ancient
we are new
we are me and
we are you
we are mother
we are father
we are son and
we are daughter
we are newborn
we are olden
we are stardust
we are golden

shine your soul upon your shadows
ask them in for conversation
hold it all in just this moment
can you watch it fly away
what is my love for you darlin’
sun or moon or ray of starshine
now the flower hears the mornin’
singing’ love songs to the dew

Happy Mothers’ Day! I love you all.

All content copyright 2013 Charity Kahn.


A Valentine for Everyone

February 13, 2013

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.
Without them, humanity cannot survive.”
~ the 14th Dalai Lama

rocketshiplove_180Valentine’s Day is almost here. It’s impossible not to be aware of this, given the proliferation of chocolate and landfill-bound plastic heart trinkets that began showing up as early as January 1.

But despite all the commercialization surrounding it, at the heart of this holiday is a sacred act: communicating your love for someone via a card or letter. Creating and offering a valentine is an act of compassion. And receiving one is heart-opening like nothing else. From that perspective, Valentine’s Day is the best holiday of the year, for its truest purpose is to encourage us to celebrate, share, and receive love!

So in honor of the intention of this holiday, here is a video for our Valentine song created with 34 of those sacred acts: a collection of homemade valentines from children all across the country (Freya, in Alaska, was the farthest away!) and all ages (1.5-9). Watch it here:

Each valentine is completely unique, of course. Each sings with the personality of the child who made it and opens a door onto a singular interpretation of love. Each was made with love on the brain and in the heart. Huge gratitude goes to these children and their families for sharing their love with the world!

Valentine — The Song
I wrote the Valentine song in an attempt to communicate my unfathomably infinite love for my children and how that love vibrates in all the simple little acts we share and is returned and applauded by the universe. And how that one-on-one love — happening everywhere all the time — can expand to create a world where everyone really does love each other and act that way. A world where we let our prejudices and judgements and fears go, where separation is an illusion, and where we wake up to remember we are actually one big valentine loving itself. A world where we support each other in this love and reflect it back magnified, until everyone and everything is singing “la la la love you!” at the top of its lungs.

This is a world our children can envision. Why not us?

When our littlest citizens put their fingers and hands, minds and hearts to work and make a valentine, magic happens, every time. Please allow yourself to experience this magic and make a valentine today. For someone close, or someone far away. For someone easy to love, or someone a little harder to love from whom you’ve distanced yourself. Or make one for yourself, if that’s who needs it most right now.

And as a project with your children, make a valentine for the world. What would that look like? What kinds of intention would you pour into it? What conversations would it bring up? What seeds of compassion might it plant in their hearts and your own? After all, “you’re in love, and love is in you”. That’s just true.

Happy Valentine’s Day, my friends. I hope you enjoy the song, and the video, made with love, from my heart to yours.

Watch the video: YouTube
Download the song: iTunes
Buy the album: CD Baby

I love you!
Charity

VALENTINE
VERSE 1
darling, let’s be valentines
I’ll be yours and you can be mine
right here is the place
where we belong

we can show the world our love
earth below and sky above
and all the birdies in the trees
will sing our song

CHORUS
la la la love you
la la la love you
la la la love you
la la la love you
la la la love you
la la la love you
love you

VERSE 2
darling, let’s be valentines
I’ll be yours and you can be mine
we’ll hold hands
and walk around the world

we will smile at everyone
hug the moon and shine with the sun
and all the stars up in the sky
will sing our song

CHORUS

VERSE 3
darling, we’re all valentines
all the world and all of the time
and all that’s in our hearts
was meant to share

find your kindness know it’s true
you’re in love, and love is in you
and all the valentines are singing
can you hear them now?

CHORUS