The Nonduality Highlights
This marks the 100th issue since our last milestone issue of #5000. Happy Thanksgiving and Chanukah greetings to our US and Jewish readers. I hope that none of you were affected by the various shootings, stabbings and assaults that occurred throughout the US at Black Friday retail events.
This 1985 performance by Whoopi Goldberg might have been one of the first “one-woman shows” to have been performed on one of Broadway’s main stages. In this production, she portrays several different characters: a drug dealer named Fontaine who has her world view rocked by a visit to the Anne Frank Museum; an apparently vapid Valley Girl whose waters run deeper than they first appear; a woman with a severe physical disability who finds love and a sexual partner; and a young black girl with a painful yearning to look like a Caucasian girl with long, straight blonde hair.
By inviting us into the souls and minds of these disparate characters, we learn of a commonality to our human experience that we might not have previously acknowledged. It’s fun to imagine experiencing this show nearly 30 years ago, too.
I’ve also always been totally tickled by Goldberg’s stage name. Born Caryn Johnson, she apparently she chose the name “Whoopi Goldberg” because she was told that “Johnson” wasn’t a Jewish-enough name for show business.
Fair warning: this video does contain a fair bit of swearing and other explicit language. It’s what the kids would call NSFW (Not Safe For Work):
On a slightly related note, a Florida school made the news this week when it threatened a 12-year-old African-American girl with expulsion if she didn’t tame her natural Afro. An initial read of the story reveals that the school is citing concerns about the transmission of lice, although sadly, I strongly suspect the decision has some sort of racist underpinning.
Several of my artistic friends and I enjoyed this comic strip from Doodle Alley about self-judgment, discernment, taste, and mastery in the context of practicing visual arts:
This was one of the biggest take-home messages for me:
some artists are so averse to failure they would rather repeat one method they know works again and again than try something new
I’m often moved emotionally by pieces that recognize how hard we often are on ourselves and which try to get us to recognize all that is good in ourselves instead of only what’s bad. I felt something click when I read the following section from a recent book by Jeff Foster that Jerry excerpted earlier this week:
as we awaken from our dream of separation, we encounter not just the bliss of existence, but its pain too
I find myself choosing, over and over each day, to look at the events in my life from a positive perspective. It’s purely arbitrary, and I have the enormous luxury of living a comfortable life without any major suffering to speak of. But I do like acknowledging that everything is perfect, just as it is. I’ve been told that this might be just a form of denial about all that is wrong with the world, but it seems to be working for me okay.
Another video on enlightenment topics with Russell Brand has emerged. It’s a fast-cutting series of carefully-curated clips of his speaking in a huge variety of contexts:
The video has an almost assaultive editing style, spraying deep wisdom at us with the force of a firehose. I haven’t been able to handle watching more than 1 minute of it at one time, but I wonder if its ripping fast pace is more in line with the attention span of younger viewers these days.
Parenting coach and author Susan Stiffelman wrote a guest post on Eckhart Tolle’s website this week:
From that piece, I’d like to highlight the following passage:
As Eckhart Tolle says in A New Earth,
“while the child is having a painbody attack, there isn’t much you can do except to stay present so that you are not drawn into an emotional reaction. The child’s painbody would only feed on it. Painbodies can be extremely dramatic. Don’t buy into the drama. Don’t take it too seriously. If the painbody was triggered by thwarted wanting, don’t give in now to its demands. Otherwise, the child will learn: ‘The more unhappy I become, the more likely I am to get what I want’” (page 106).
This idea is what is powerful. When we argue or negotiate with a child while he or she is caught up in an emotional hurricane, we only make the winds blow more fiercely. Instead, parents can stay quiet and still, listening with a loving and open heart, without having an agenda for making things different than they are.
Powerful ideas, indeed. With extensive experience, I now realize that trying to win an argument with a 5-year-old boy is a fool’s errand. I’ve also learned that powerful things can happen when I learn how to meet my son on his own level in that moment, without imposing my own stringent set of expectations on how I think he should be behaving right now.
Teaching us how to relinquish our desire for things to be other than how they are is perhaps the greatest contribution to our spiritual practice that raising children can give us.
Since meeting her in person this past summer, I’ve worked up a healthy crush on a francophone jazz pianist and composer out of Quebec named Marianne Trudel. She has an unorthodox but delightful trio named Trifolia that I’d like to share with you. The video is shot and edited by a visionary Montreal producer named Randy Cole, who has made dozens of superlative-quality films of several of Canada’s top jazz artists in the recent past.
Trudel is one of those rare artists who can write music that directly evokes the experience of being outside in nature. Her music may or may not be to your personal taste, but I hope that her connection with nature and her commitment to her own authentic artistic vision is evident to you, a careful viewer and listener. Plus, it’s always fun to listen people speak such beautiful French.
I wrote a short review of a performance she gave here in Halifax, Nova Scotia, at the 2013 jazz festival:
At the time, I remember feeling like what her group was playing was a form of direct nondual expression in action; she and her music had such profound, poetic qualities. I had trouble expressing that sentiment to a broader audience, however. This is how I described it:
This trio is indeed an integrated, whole group. They don’t just run through tunes, pass around solos, or trade with the drums. Each song Trifolia plays is a piece of truly collaborative musical expression. To my delight, it was also evident that each member was fully absorbed: they responded immediately and tastefully to whatever was unfolding at that very moment, at all times.
It’s perhaps that last bit that makes me feel that Trifolia represents the best of what jazz has to offer: totally spontaneous, improvised interplay between performers which yields a musical result that connects authentically with its audience. It’s music that makes you feel something when you hear it played live. And in Marianne Trudel’s case, it’s music that invites you to stop, look inward, and feel grateful that you are there at that moment to experience it.
I may be overstating it, but I’ve also long thought that what we’re trying to do here with the Nonduality Highlights is akin to playing jazz. Instead of exchanging musical riffs or phrases between band members, we play ideas off each other and off of what’s arising in the environment and culture around us. If done well, we find unique and rhythmic ways to express our own true reality to each other that hopefully incite interest, insight and realization.
Thank you for being a part of our band!