MANY HANDS Family Music For Haiti

 

Many hands make the load lighter” -Haitian Proverb

Simply put, Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti is the year’s best family music compilation and one of the year’s best kids music CDs, period. Buy two: one for your friend and one for your own family. Many families will thank you. Definitely recommended. –Stefan Shepherd, Zooglobble.com

After the January 12th, 2010 earthquake that destroyed much of the Haitian capital, family musician Dean Jones (Dog on Fleas) found himself feeling helpless and desperately wanting to help the people of Haiti. Having close friends in Haiti and feeling a deep love and respect for the music from the region, Jones felt the need to create something that could help the ongoing rebuilding effort.

The idea for Many Hands came to him in the middle of the night and the very next day several of his fellow family musicians signed on. “When I had the idea for the Many Hands CD, I knew without a doubt that I could count on the big-hearted kindie community.” said Jones. “The generosity and the amazing work of all the musicians and everyone involved definitely exceeded my initial expectations.”

“Artfully assembled and brimming with joy, Many Hands lives up to its title with noteworthy performances from many of the finest names in family music. Great music, worthy cause — what more could you ask for?” – Jeff Giles, PopDoseAlmost all of the tracks on the album are previously unreleased, most of them recorded especially for this release. The gathering of artists featured here is a strong assortment of the unique and special talents creating and performing for today’s all ages audiences, from the legendary Pete Seeger to family hip-hop star Secret Agent 23 Skidoo. In addition, everyone involved in the process of getting this album out into the world from replication to distribution has also either drastically discounted or donated their services. Proceeds from this release will benefit the Haitian People’s Support Project and their long-standing work to help the people of Haiti.

With a national release on August 10, Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti is the first release from Spare the Rock Records. This unique collection of songs is filled with uplifting messages from some of today’s very best family musicians.

Here is a link to a little clip of MC Fireworks and her Daddy, the Secret Agent, performing this benefit show for Haiti in Massachusetts this summer. Cds are still for sale…still trickling money to the people of Haiti. They make GREAT presents! I know they are available from ITunes and in Whole Foods Markets so grab one! Personally I am siked that our band is on the same album with Pete Seeger, a masterful songsmith storyteller, and whose daughter Peggy used to live right down the street from us, before our band was even conceived.

 

 

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Juniper

A funny thing about Plant medicine, is that as you delve into the world of the green allies, they begin to shout out to you to offer assistance. All ya gotta do is listen to hear whose calling and be discriminative with who you choose. Juniper was the loud one this morning, and I had such a great experience with it that I thought to share…Ahhh, Juniper.

This morning I woke up to a cold, dreary autumn day….feeling cold and dreary deep down into my bones. My sinuses have been congested for days & I know my body has been fighting off the many viruses that have been flying around our little Asheville community. So in my morning practice  I realized what a pain in the butt a stuffed up nose was going to be. But I was determined.

So I put 8 drops of Juniper into an aromatherapy diffuser and began meditating.  The past 5 days have been varied & intense with hosting herbal medicine making parties to performing with Secret Agent 23 Skidoo to shamanic breathwork to teaching advanced yoga practices with the Shanti collective…whew! and my body & nervous system was vibrating. Smelling Juniper and taking in its plant spirit, I felt an immediate sense of calm tranquility claim my spine. It carried me into realms of sensual earthiness, relaxing both my body and nervous system in a manner that was clarifying and stimulating. It helped me to assimilate the busyness and transformative energies of the past few days while clearing up my senses so that I could truly ‘see’. What an amazing plant to bring into meditation.

Juniperus communis, or Juniper, is a native to our big island America &  is a relative of the cypress family. It can be taken as a tincture or in tea (you would use the berries).  Since it is a native here, it is practically everywhere, often used as a plant to prevent erosion on the edges of properties and as a trustworthy ornamental in commercial landscaping. So if you happen to see some beautiful purple berries growing on your local juniper bush, grab a few and throw them into your tea! (make sure its not dog territory though!) They are warming and aromatic, and extremely useful for the kidneys-specifically water retention such as edema & uric acid buildup. They are also wonderful with uva ursi & marshmallow root for bladder infections after the heat of the initial infection is past. *Times to avoid this plant is when suffering from an acute inflammation because the plant is stimulating with its pungent & warming oils.**

Cascade Anderson Geller, at one of our local Gaia conferences claimed that sprigs of Juniper commonly used to be thrown into meat dishes to help with digestion. So not only does this awesome plant dry up mucus in the lungs and support exhausted kidneys, but it helps prevent (or dispel) gas.

On a side note, Monica Furlong wrote a series of books about a wise herbal woman named Juniper. These books have been my daughter’s and my favorite’s for years….we have read them over and over. So if you are interested in witchy ways & powerful herbal women..check them out! (I would read them even if I didn’t have a child!)

Honoring the Children

This past weekend my daughter and I experienced our first Kumari Puja.  In India, young girls are celebrated and honored as little vessels of the Divine feminine, or Goddesses, in these traditional ceremonies. Beautiful sanskrit prayers are chanted to the adorned children, while loving friends and family members offer gifts such as flowers, jewels and yummy foods.

Saki and her friends were perfect in their unique individuality, feeling the immense love in the room supporting & honoring them for who they are. They were funny and appreciative and filled with reverence. Since it was their first time, they were nervous before the ceremony, but once in it they just shined.

It is my hope that this ceremony has helped my daughter respect herself to the ‘ummph’ degree. Being 9 years old can be tough, especially with the world and the human race facing such challenging times right now. It is up to us as parents to find ways that support and nurture our children into becoming who they are meant to become. Oftentimes it means just sitting on our hands, like the granny midwives, and observing what unfolds. Sometimes it is taking their hands and guiding them through the rough patches. It is a special time however, when we can be a part of something (other than a birthday) that truly shows how much we respect them for who they are. Honoring the children in ceremony, no matter what religion or tradition suits you, is an awesome time for self discovery, transformation and sustained healing power. Om Shanti!

Navaratri

Today, October 8th, begins the celebrated Vedic tradition of connection to the Divine, in the feminine aspect or Goddess. For 9 days, a portal opens, where intentions for transformation and growth are magnified. During these 9 days it is encouraged to devote your time and energy to a practice that connects you deeper to Source.

This tradition comes from the Vedas, where Source is seen as the Goddess, the Divine Mother. In each third of the 9 days a particular aspect of the Divine feminine is recognized-from the destroyer of fears & suffering (Durga) to the bringer of wealth and vitality (Maha Lakshmi) to knowledge and creativity (Saraswati)- and is honored.

For yoga practitioners, reading vedic scriptures and learning about the aspects of the Divine not only support internal transformation but deepen one’s perspective, or understanding of the nature of cosmic energy. Yoga is ‘hot’ these days, contorting the body to get all sweaty and look good…but the true yoga is when the blockages are cleared and the nature of our Self is revealed. This self is connected to the Divine, is Divine…and through practice (sadhana) this is discovered.

Yoga is the path, or the practice of becoming one with the Divine.

If you have a mantra practice or a perhaps meditation/asana & kriya that you already do, continue what you are doing but perhaps with more reverence & inspiration. Offer your practice to the Divine energies that support your transformation in releasing fears & suffering so that health, wealth and creativity can flow in.

If you do not already have a practice–no worries! Create one that feels good. Here is an example:

1. Go to a field or look around your yard for some wildflowers to offer to the Divine Mother ( or divine energies/aspects that you wish to cultivate in you.) Yellow goldenrod is growing everywhere now..& is also a flower that protects one from ragweed pollen (which may be up your nose right now causing ‘head cold’ symptoms). Marigolds, roses and mums are also everywhere.

2. After offering some flowers or fruits (apples are also in season!!) Light a candle…set an intention. This could be for more ease in your life–less stress and worry.

3. Perhaps open the body with some asana, or poses that both stretch and vitalize you.

4. Sit. Be aware of your breath. Now is the time to do some Pranayama (breath control) and this can be as simple as letting the belly soften to fill as you inhale, and then gently drawing the belly in as you exhale (abdominal breathing).

5. Add Mantra: So Hum is a beautiful beginning mantra. The ancient yogis seated in caves of the Himalayas heard the breath as So Hum…Inhaling ‘so’ Exhaling ‘hum’. This breath means ‘I am That’ (loosely defined) I am that infinite source, or fabric of consciousness that creates, connects and transforms all things. I am Divine.

Or be creative. Yoga is a process, a union…and today is just a beginning..Happy Navaratri! Happy New Moon!

The Mind: Wise Elder vs. Grown Child

In yoga psychology, there is this idea of a higher mind (the wise elder so to speak) and the lower mind (who is kind of like a grown child.)  At any given moment, either one or the other is in charge, delegating where you focus your attention, directing you through the fuzz of life’s complexities and even defining how you perceive that ‘fuzz.’

These aspects of the mind kind of lead you on this journey of life. Each moment (as you know) is an opportunity for choice–either good or bad. Not being stuck in the past or daydreaming about the future, brings us to right now!..where the choices for our lives are made. No matter how busy, or how much you may  feel life sucks right now, you have every right to carve out a good living by making choices that support you. Even if you have a desk job that you hate, or are surrounded by a rowdy family that brings chaos like a hailstorm.. by seeing with the right part of the mind, this ‘elder,’ you can change things. By allowing the childlike ‘lower mind’  to guide us, we are often led to do the same things over and over again because it is so easy, so comfortable. This is just not cool. We are swimming in stagnant ponds of repetition and comfortability, creating a lot of inner ‘blah’ because life just isn’t what we want it to be.

The trick? Wake up the elder, that higher aspect of mind that is unafraid to jump into the deep end, to get on stage and tell jokes, or to practice and get good at playing an instrument, home alone, instead of bar hopping. The elder is not afraid to be a rebel, to mess up and have to start over. The wise elder of the highest aspect of your self (otherwise known as ‘witness consciousness’, or the ‘observer’) knows that we are all alike, just trying to live this dream with passion and flavor, unafraid to BE.

So let the elder lead you through the next decision you have to make. You just may be surprised, that instead of fuzzy chaos, or repetitive steps that lead nowhere, the path become clear and it is though an invisible hand leads you straight to the right people, the perfect opportunities and ultimately–contentment.

** The picture is of Gentian, which when taken as a flower essence helps to shift mental focus to make right choices, especially when times are difficult. **

An Insight into Tapas…(a yoga concept not a yummy little plate of food)

“Don’t get too comfortable” is strangely enough, a common saying. Why? Well, to take it from the yogic perspective, we just get stuck in our habits. We become lazy, not growing or evolving. We get so stuck that we become bored, fearful or even anxious. We are not really living.  This is the modern, western society swamp that many of us get stuck in. So how do we get out?

Tapas! This is the sanskrit word for austerity & heat. It is noted in the yoga sutras that we need austere practices to burn away that ‘comfortability.’ It is this comfortability that creates the dullness and according to yogic philosophy, the heat of tapas will help remove that dullness.  But austere practices can be a little harsh, eh? The definition of austere is severe, or stern, having strict discipline. Well thats classical yoga. Lets take it from a Tantric perspective.

Tapas is the fire that illuminates….The heat of tapas removes the blocks that prevent your authentic self from shining. So think about that! Try doing things out of the box, out of the ordinary so that you can become unstuck from mundane habits.  No matter how perfect you think you are, unless you are Buddha or somebody pretty clearly enlightened, you can still do some personal work.  Tapas may be a little uncomfortable at first, but with practice and personal observation, you will see its worth it! You will begin to LIVE.

Here are some ideas:

  • Get out into the woods, climb a tree or stick your feet into an icy creek
  • Do a powerful, sweaty yoga practice that makes your liver cry tears of joy!
  • Be still for a change–and observe your mind.
  • Read from the Upanishads (absolutely awesome sacred spiritual texts)  instead of watching ‘So you think you can dance?!” on TV
  • Fast from an unconscious habit (cheesy poofs when you are sad, complaining, being too ‘adult’ with your child instead of playing)

Practice, and all is coming…-Pattabhi Jois

It’s funny when I see students, as I teach my yoga classes, picking their toes or playing with their feet, totally distracted from what they really should be doing in those forward folds (which is going inwards). I get it though, because I used to do it too. The poses would bore me or be too painful and so I would fidget, anything to stay distracted because it was just too uncomfortable to really feel.

But that has changed for me in a very dramatic way. I attribute it to a dedicated practice of yoga asana, the physical side of yoga & what westerners believe is the main chunk of what yoga is about. But really it is so much more that that. The poses are the gateway to a deeply transformative practice of how to be a spiritual human being, alive and free from pain, suffering and ignorance. The poses help to clear all the crap from the physical body (toxins, tension, pain, etc…) to then bring balance to the mind. Once this happens it becomes possible to move beyond the mind and body to an even better way of being…enlightened.

This is where the term ‘pratyahara’ comes in. It is sanskrit for “gathering inwards.” The yoga sutras, scriptures that guide us into the depths of this path, describe pratyahara as one of the steps of the 8 limbed path of yoga, or Ashtanga yoga. Its actually somewhere in the middle of the steps (which are more like branches of a tree and less like a ladder), meaning you can’t just jump into a pratyahara practice. You have to at first prepare the mind and the body so that the thoughts are not so turbulent and so that your emotions don’t create fireworks everywhere you go.

I have been thinking about this step, or stage of yoga a lot recently. In my classes I try to get people to turn inwards, to gather their attention by using tools such as the breath and even a little visualization to hop inside of themselves. It works for some people & not for others but I know it will just take time & practice.

If we observe our actions throughout the day, we may notice that we keep busy and entertained so that we do not have to spend time inside of ourselves, to even get to know ourselves. And this has become quite a problem. We are so unaware.  Our energy is scattered and our senses are scattered in all different directions. We have addictions to multitasking and it is taking us further away from be-ing, and living. Before ya know it, years have past with minimal life experiences.

With our energy continuously going outwards, and our minds scattered in 10+ directions at once, no wonder we can’t sit still. No wonder we have digestive disturbances! How can we digest all of this experience? We would need to be a fat ganesh or a big belly buddha to assimilate life in this way! Lack of confidence and self doubt are also symptoms of scattered, unfocused energy. I have felt this before, being so nervous in front of people that my face would turn red and I would “space out,” saying stupid things because my energy was vomiting out in all different directions.

My practice is devoted to bringing my own energy inwards. When we can heal ourselves of the pain to be in ourselves, then we are free. There is so much potential when we understand who we are without the distractions and onslaught of what is going on around us. Going inside gives us the power to be focused, confident and passionate humans. Pratyahara is a goal one should have either on or off of the mat. Find a good practice that works for you….walking your dog, sitting and focusing on your breath while driving in traffic, whatever. Just practice!