Music has always been one of my fundamental joy practices. In these joy practice posts, I share some of the songs, artists, and musical experiences that have impacted my life and my Daily Practice of Joy.
From Santa Fe, New Mexico: THIS is the song of this blog. Enough said. Listen and sing, all ye joy journeyers!!!
From the middle of Missouri: Sometimes I hear a song and it feels as though it was written from me to me — from my higher self to my still struggling self. This new song by one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Glen Hansard, came through just as I set out on the road again — ready to face down some very old demons even as I begin a new journey. Another Road Trip to My Truest Self. This is a heartachingly beautiful “breakup” song — hopeful and healing, as all times of transition and transformation always are. Over the past seven years on the Way of Being Lost, I have found that, over and over again, we have to be willing to break up with our false selves in order to give our true selves the opportunity to set forth anew. We are always on a road trip with, to, and as our truest selves. Setting forth.
From I-80 Somewhere in Pennsylvania on Christmas Eve (going the other direction): This morning on this empty Interstate on Christmas Eve, I started playing radio roulette. It's one of my road trip practices, scrolling through stations to hear whatever it is I need to hear. I have spent the last four days in solitary retreat, deep prayer, soul connection, and I was curious what would come up. So when I heard, "Listen to this one", I listened -- even though it seemed odd that the choice would be Kenny Loggins as this morning's mouthpiece. (But there have been odder choices -- who woulda thunk Billy Ocean could have given me just the wisdom I needed to shift something huge that needed healing?!?) So, Kenny Loggins it was. Within thirty second tears were streaming down my face.
Living on the road with no home for almost two years now, I have learned to see life differently from the edge of the inside. But I have made a conscious choice to do this -- where others have not. I may not have a permanent home, but I have always felt homed in love, even as I have always felt free to roam. I know so many people do not feel either of these things. I was praying for them this morning when this song came on.
But I was also praying for someone who passed yesterday. I had just gotten off the phone with my friend Karen, who was talking about her. Rev. Joyce Liechenstein, a diminutive woman whose spiritual stature and grace touched so many -- including me. I wrote about her in my upcoming book, and was grateful to be able to share what I wrote with her. Karen said to me, "I have known many people in my life. I knew Joyce 19 years. And I don't think I can say this about anyone else I've known: I never heard Joyce say a bad word about anyone."
Her words went in so deeply. I am the daughter of someone who is regarded as one of the nicer people to have ever walked this planet, but he certainly had a negative opinion or two about people (granted they were mostly conservative vituperative political commentators or politicians, but. . .) To have walked this earth in such kindness is an extraordinary legacy to leave behind. This morning, hearing that, I vowed to up my own game. Like my dad, I am generally seen as a nice and kind individual. But to think only good in my heart about everything? That's a practice to which I now aspire.
So, as I was listening to this song and thinking about Joyce, the tears that came felt like a release. Even as all the people who love Joyce are releasing her, having surrounded her with love and prayers over the past few days, I FELT her being celebrated Home! Who wouldn't welcome someone who walked through this world with so much love in their heart back home to the Heart of Love?
The holidays are tough. When someone passes during the holidays, well, it's even tougher. When everyone is going "home", those who have no home in which they feel welcomed --let alone celebrated-- feel the absence of that safe haven even more keenly. These are the times when we all have to up our games. These are the times when it behooves us all to live a little more like Joyce. To hold everyone in the whole wide world -- no exceptions -- in the heart of love and celebrate us all home.
Let us all celebrate one another home this holiday season. May it be so.
In grateful memory of Rev. Joyce Liechenstein.
From I-80 Somewhere in Pennsylvania: This morning, as I looked out on a dusting of snow on some pumpkins on a lawn, the words of a song I've loved for a long long time came into my mind. Turns out, my life has come to look a lot like this song. So, for all my fellow wanderers, seekers, journeyers, and road trippers out there, who feel that the more we walk, the less we know about all the things we thought we wanted and were supposed to know -- and we like it that way -- this is for you.
From the Hudson Valley, New York: I've NEVER been a Bob Seger fan. In fact, he's one of those musicians whose songs I usually actively avoid. But as I was driving through the fall colors of the Hudson Valley yesterday, this song came on the radio -- and from the first note, I was transfixed. How had I gone this long without hearing what is clearly one of the anthems of this road trip of my life? I love it when my mind gets changed. . .And I love this song. For those of you who are trying to find a way to ride true to the rhythms of your soul, I think you will too! EnJOY!
From Austin, Texas: It's hard not to be deeply disheartened when we hear the news these days. As folks in Texas and Southeast Asia face the task of rebuilding their lives after massive destruction, as the world faces the crisis of North Korea, as the East Coast prepares for another hurricane, as our political system faces its greatest challenges, as the world struggles to come together, I find myself thinking of how music united a generation during the 1960s. We need that kind of music now. This song by Moon Taxi is a feel-good, come-together anthem. As you face your Monday morning on a Tuesday after a holiday weekend, sing this on your way to work and put 'em up two high and come together. This is not optional: We have to find a way to come together as people and as a planet right now. We have no other choice!
From Berkeley, California: This was one of my favorite songs growing up during the 1960s. I listened to it, and imagined helping to foster a world where we wouldn't need songs like this to remind us how to be human and to do what everyone was teaching us to do in Sunday School: Love one another. Writing this from the town that was a hotbed of social and political protest during my childhood, I am finding it heartbreaking that we still need to be reminded of the ONE THING we are here to do on this planet: Love one another. And yet we do need reminding. So, come on people, listen to this old song by the Youngbloods and remember to Smile on your brother, everybody get together and let's LOVE ONE ANOTHER RIGHT NOW!!!
From Austin, Texas: This song goes out to all the workaholics out there. To everyone who feels overwhelmed by everything they haven't done, only to realize that work is just another hat to hide behind. To everyone who wants to do more and wants to be true and has no clue how those two ideals can ever dance together. To everyone who wants to be of service and show up to live from their heart, but doesn't have the time to even remember where their heart resides. To everyone who works too hard and then realizes they haven't shown up to the things that matter. To everyone who has ever felt like they are running out of time: Lord have mercy, this song is for you!
From Austin, Texas: This song goes out to anyone else out there for whom music is the light that breaks through this darkness all around us.
This song was written in 2006, but it feels even truer now:
These wild wild wild days you live in
Yeah I know sometimes you all wanna give in
These are strange strange vein days of living
I know sometimes that you just don't fit in
Don't give in, don't give up, don't pack it up, stop cracking up
Let the song, carry you on and keep you strong
From Austin, Texas: For thirty or more years now, every summer I listen for The Song. That one tune that seems to symphonize this season each year. It began the year I graduated from college and John Waite's "I Ain't Missing You" was all over the airwaves. I could not listen to that song without feeling every aching word and chord. Even now, when I hear it I am transported back to Los Angeles in 1984 missing missing missing. . .
Every summer, I never have to look for the song. It just comes.
This summer's song came on Friday. I'd been thinking a lot about how extraordinary these times are -- the ratcheted up levels of fear and anger and hatred all around us. The us vs them mentality. The utterly disheartening level of boorishness and meanness from people we thought might know better. And yet, and yet. All around me I also see so many people opening their hearts and homes and pocketbooks and minds -- trying to show up to the Good and the Love.
As an interfaith/interspiritual minister, I have thought a lot about how to share more Love -- and because I live on the road, I have found that the best way to do it is to just show up to every single person in every single interaction with an expectancy of good and a heart full of love. To go out into the world with the message of this song: "For all the love you've left behind, you can have mine."
I like to believe that John Lennon would find immense hope and joy in this extension of his beautiful message of peace and love. Others may call it dreaming, but Love knows that it is always True.
So, when I saw this video, it absolutely melted my heart. It captured everything I hope my ministry of joy and intentional homelessness will and can be. Every detail is perfect, and it makes me cry. But it also gives me hope in what we all know deep down inside: Love Always Wins.
From Austin, Texas: It's not just because I'm in Austin that today's Soundtrack is a Country song. I actually love Country music. And this song could be my personal anthem. Every lyric of this song of this song rings true for me: Driving is my moving meditation. The drivers seat is my pew. And, as St Francis said, a very very long time ago, "The world is my cloister." For anyone else who comes alive behind the wheel, watching the world roll by as you play the "Highway FM", this song is for you!! Can I get a Hallelujah?! Can I get an Amen!?!
From Indianapolis, Indiana: Today I gave a the Keynote Speech for the Prevent Child Abuse Indiana. My talk was called The Wildflowering Way. I felt so honored to be invited to share some ideas that I hoped would bring inspiration and hope to a group of people doing such important work -- being advocates for children and fighting against child abuse.
As always happens in the world, I ended up receiving so much more than I gave. . .
During the talk, I mentioned and quoted my dear friend Karen, whose work in Yonkers on behalf of kids in the foster care system inspires me so much. After the talk, a woman came up and said that she loved that I mentioned Yonkers, because she was from Yonkers. I asked her how she had ended up in Indianapolis. She said that she had gotten lost and then been found. Ending up right where she was meant to be. Well, of course, I loved that -- on my journey of writing and living The Way of Being Lost.
She told me that my ideas about wildflowering reminded me of her favorite song growing up -- a song she listened to over and over as a little girl. The song was so similar to my ideas that she was sure I I must know it. I didn't. So she pulled up her phone and played it.
I stood there with awed, blown away by the lyrics. As I thanked her for sharing it, she gave me a huge hug with the most beautiful powerful prayer about hope and healing, our journeys and work in the world. By the time she left, I was in tears.
I found out that her name is Isha Haley. The conference organizers told me that she has been instrumental in getting Indiana's Proposition 355 passed, requiring all public, charter and private schools to provide students in kindergarten through 12th grade with age-appropriate instruction on child abuse and child sexual abuse, as well as details on how to report suspected abuse.To read more about Isha Haley's work, click HERE.
And just click on the photo below to hear the song that Isha gifted me today. . .
From Cleveland, Ohio: I am on the home stretch with my upcoming book, so I am listening to a lot of music. Instrumental music while a write, and my favorite motivational inspiration music when I walk. These past few days I have been writing about learning to listen to the Voice of our Truest Selves. So it's no surprise that I have found myself gravitating to what I call my Songs from the Universe. These are songs that often have been written as romantic love songs, but which I have come to hear somewhat differently. I hear them sung to me by my Divine Self. Songs from Love, not love songs. And perhaps no song has sung to me more beautifully over the years than this version of this song by John Hiatt.
So, this song goes out to any of you who need to feel a little more faith that Someone is rooting for you, holding you in hope, and leading you home to your own heart.
From Cleveland, Ohio: Last night, I had the privilege of giving a talk at the amazing Cleveland Museum of Art about the vital importance of the arts in our society. My own arts advocacy was, of course, inspired by my dad's impassioned belief that "the arts keep you alive. They stimulate, encourage, and challenge. Most of all, they allow growth and even demand it.That is why art needs every encouragement." Like my dad, who lectured on the arts for thirty years (every year, 60 cities in 65 days talking about the arts!) I hope to inspire others to continue to create, advocate, support, and enjoy all of the arts. Of course, given that I was speaking at one of the best art museums in the country, I was preaching to the choir. Nonetheless, we all need to be encouraged and companioned in our advocacy and love of the arts. And I, of course, only speak what I need to hear -- to remind myself to be grateful for all of the ways that the arts have brought me joy and purpose and passion.
After the talk and some wonderful exchanges with audience members and friends, I walked five minutes up the road, through the beautiful Cleveland arts district, filled with glorious architecture, sculpture, and green spaces, to the stunning Severance Hall. In reposting some of the media pieces about my Cleveland events online, I had noticed an article about one of my oldest friends, who was going to be playing a concert with the Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra. When I read the piece, I was struck by the sheer joy that this musical collaboration seemed to elicit in my old friend.
Having come fresh out of a conversation about a passionate advocacy for the arts, I went straight into an immersive experience of it. The stage was filled with teenagers -- a full orchestra and a full chorus -- playing at an extraordinarily high level. The energy and the joy and the collaborative connection were palpable. It was an extraordinary evening.
I have had the privilege of seeing my friend perform literally all over the world -- most recently two months ago in her first time playing Carnegie Hall -- and I could tell how incredible it was for her to be sharing much youthful joy and energy by collaborating with these incredible young musicians. I could see their excitement at working with her, their incredible relationship with their conductor, and I watched from the back of the house, the immense joy of this Ohio audience feeling, hearing, experiencing the beautiful music and massive sound coming from the stage.
There was one particularly beautiful moment, when my friend sang the song she wrote a year ago after the Orlando Massacre. Audience members pulled colored pieces of paper from their programs and held them in front of their phones. The whole auditorium was lit up in rainbow lights as she sang,
Everybody's got a pain inside
Imaginary wounds they fight to hide
How can I hate them
When everybody's got a pulse
I dream in a world that wants my soul
That tells me if I hate I can control
But I don't believe it
I cannot conceive it
Because everybody's got a pulse
I am human, I am love
And my heart beats with my blood
Love will always win
Underneath the skin
Everybody's got a pulse
There we were in a place that many artists think of as a flyover state, the middle of Middle America, with an openly gay woman joining 150 teenagers and a packed concert hall singing about Love. I had goosebumps.
You know, every single day, we hear so much disheartening news about the hatred and anger and dissolution and violence. We hear that this country is filled with haters, people driven more by fear than love. But I spent last night here in Cleveland with two audiences united by their love of the arts, and all I felt was love and joy -- along with the fervent hope that this world will not just survive but thrive led by a younger generation that does not package people by class, caste, skin color, gender, religion or sexual orientation. A younger generation rooted and grounded in Love.
As the executive director of the orchestra led me upstairs to give my friend a quick hug and a huge smile of gratitude, I asked her if I could get one of the tshirts that the orchestra and my friend were wearing. They read:
I am human.
I am love.
Yes, we are. We are all human. We are all love. We all have a pulse, the same pulse. And if what I experienced last night here is any indication, I feel more assured than ever that truly LOVE WILL ALWAYS WIN.
Last night's concert with Melissa Etheridge and the Cleveland Contemporary Youth Orchestra was recorded. When it comes out, trust me, you want to hear it. The love, joy, energy, musicianship, and hope it emanates will blow you away!
Until then, here is my friend's remarkable song, Pulse, to remind us all to be more human, to express more love:
From London, England: I was raised to be a nomad by nomadic parents. But nomadic parents who also loved creating a home. I have often felt that split in me. In One Place by Everything But the Girl, has been one of my favorite songs since I first heard it over 25 years ago. On my first day walking through London, I put on my headphones, pressed play, and this was the first song that came on. . .It came on again last night at 11PM, as I walked home in the dark through the busy streets of Islington. It feels as true to me now as it ever has -- and it always sings to my heart. So, this one is for all my fellow travelers and nomads. May it sing to your heart, too.
From South Carolina: I am a self-admitted Blind Pilot groupie. I've never missed a tour since 2011. But this particular song, We Are The Tide, has been such a gift to me while living on the road. It's about all the people you meet, and recognizing that we truly ARE all one: We Are The Tide.
From Mississippi: I have loved Michael Franti's music for a long time now. But the true test of a song, as far as I'm concerned, is that whenever you hear it -- it sings to your heart. I have so many favorite Franti songs, but this one has kept me company on the road for a long time. But it is particularly meaningful to me during this journey of intentional homelessness. It is the reminder that I always need: I know I'm not alone.
From Santa Fe, New Mexico: I first heard this song in January 2017, and I listened to it obsessively for about two weeks. I had heard of Laura Marling, but really didn't become a fan until I heard this song. Then every song that came out in advance of her new album, Semper Femina, had the same effect on me.
The song is raw, ironic, candid, funny, true, and somehow captures all the vicissitudes of love and life. I have a hard time believing that Semper Femina will not remain my personal album of the year for 2017. But there's still nine months to go, so who knows?
Either way, take a listen to it. I think you will love it!