In my last blog post, I told you that I was working on an important project and that a big announcement was forthcoming. Then life took an unexpected turn! Although I am still working on that project with great excitement and hope to make an announcement soon, dealing with a pandemic has taken precedence. I have spent the past few weeks responding to the challenges at hand, as I am sure you have. My concern is for the welfare and safety of my family and community during this chaotic period.
As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, turning our lives and our world upside down, please remember that we are all in this together. You are not alone. If you are feeling scared or worried, I want you to know that I am here for you. And I will not forsake you.
With everything shutting down, the temptation is to shift into survival mode. But you and I can do much better than that. We can actually thrive in these challenging times. The secret lies in community. It always has. If we look out only for ourselves, we might be able to survive. But if we look out for each other, then we can flourish and make the best of this pandemic. With that in mind, here is what I would like to offer you:
1. Talk to me. I am happy to set aside a few minutes to touch base and listen to your concerns. You can email me here and we can set up a time for a telephone conversation. It will be my honor to listen to your concerns and to offer solace if you'd like. We can start with a 15-minute call and then schedule additional calls or longer sessions if you feel they are of benefit to you.
2. Come chant with me. I am starting up a Virtual Global Chant and welcome your participation. Starting on Wednesday, April 3, you can join the chant circle, hosted by FreeConferenceCall.com, in one of two ways:
a) By Phone (voice only): Call into this number, 978-990-5000, and then enter the following access code: 958340.
b) On the Web (which includes video capabilities): https://join.freeconferencecall.com/vastucson
Please note: You don't have to ascribe to any belief system or worship any deity to find benefit and enjoyment in these virtual chant circles. All of the chants we choose are focused on universal themes such as nature, love, beauty, peace, and harmony.
3. Take advantage of our online resources. Maria and I are sharing all kinds of free information in the days to come. She is in the process of preparing some wonderful online yoga classes, and we are putting together information about boosting your immune system, reducing inflammation, managing stress, nutrition, self-care, and other practical things you can do to stay healthy. She is also offering free 15-minute consultations on yoga therapy and ayurveda. You may want to check out Maria's blog for updates as well as this blog and my Facebook page. I will be sharing things that are inspiring me right now, such as this beautiful video by Riya Sokol:
I feel very aligned with her message about gratitude. Every morning when I say The Pledge, I recite these words, "I pledge to live without expectations so that I may consider everything that comes into my life, even that which challenges me the most, as a gift and as an opportunity to grow, to learn, and to serve." For me, this pandemic has been both a challenge and a gift. While I despair for those who have fallen ill and are struggling just to catch a breath, not to mention all the health care workers and first responders who are putting their lives at risk every day tending to the sick, I am also relieved to see empty streets and blue skies uncontaminated by carbon emissions; to know that families are coming together to share quality time with one another; to hear stories of people who are are finding positive ways to reconnect with nature, take care of their precious bodies, and alleviate stress; and discover all the wonderful resources that people are making available to their communities out of a spirit of compassion and generosity. As someone who has devoted himself to the quest for inspiration, I find such responses to be incredibly inspiring.
Last but not least, I want to offer you this:
4. Let me know what you need. Whatever your issue or concern, I may be able to help you, or at least to connect you with someone who can.
You and I have the capacity to really flourish and find deep happiness even in the midst of a major crisis like this one. Just keep the following in mind:
together we thrive!
Since the start of 2020, I have been returning to my roots. Having been born in Havana, my heart has always been drawn to Cuba and the Cuban spirit. I gravitate instantly to wonderfully loving and joyful Cubans like my beloved friend, spiritual brother, and high priest of Cubanismo, Jorge Porrata. In January, Jorge helped me conduct a survey of fellow Cubans on the nature of the Cuban spirit.
I discovered what it is that I find so compelling about my birthplace, its people and culture. The two factors that Cubans most commonly associated with the Cuban spirit are: 1) a deep connection with nature; and 2) the desire and ability to rejoice in life. Let's look a little more closely at each of these.
For many of the Cubans I have met and admired, nature isn't something apart from themselves. It lives in them, and in their bodies. They know how to feel and savor the rhythms of life; their connection to the elements; the natural beauty that surrounds them; sights and sounds; tastes and scents; plants and animals; forests, oceans, and rivers; sensuality and sexuality; romance and passion; friends, lovers and family.
Very closely linked to that is the capacity to rejoice wholeheartedly in life, including all of its cycles and phases--its ups and downs. The word gozar is an important part of the Cuban vocabulary. It comes from the Latin gaudium meaning "joy" or "delight." This is not mere enjoyment. If I ask you, "Did you enjoy that movie you saw the other day?" and you say, "Yeah, it was pretty good," that is not the kind of enjoyment that Cubans are describing. They mean rejoicing fully, which is enjoyment to the nth degree.
For me, these two factors are inseparable. I express my Cuban spirit when I REJOICE IN MY CONNECTION WITH NATURE! And I have come to realize that this is what my life has been about, including my passion for sacred music that led me to start Global Chant and write The Chanter's Guide; my powerful connection with play, which I described in The Way of Play and which led to the establishment of PlayHaven; the profound love I feel for the practice of Repose, which opens me up to nature on a consistent basis; my 30-year obsession with creative inspiration, as described in Deep Creativity and my TEDx talk, "The Art of Creative Inspiration"; and most importantly of all, my passionate love and adoration for my wife Maria, who inspires my Cuban spirit to sing, dance, and celebrate the blessings of this life on a daily basis!
At a time when chaos and despair are all around us, I see an obvious path to a brighter future. Humanity has to get back in touch with nature. More than at any other time in the history of our species, we humans have become disconnected from our own bodies; from human touch; from family and community; from sensuality; from the joys of tending a garden or walking in the wilderness; from the cycles of the sun, moon, and stars; from clean air and water; from pure, unprocessed foods; and from a sense of our place in the universe.
As we reconnect with nature more fully and take our cues from those who know how to rejoice wholeheartedly in that connection, we can begin to let nature show us how to heal ourselves and our world, how to become better stewards of this beautiful Earth, and how to integrate ourselves back into the web of life so that we can feed and nurture the incredible biodiversity of this planet.
I am about to unveil an exciting new project that I believe has the power to initiate the evolutionary shift that the current times demand of us. We have no choice now but to step up and assume our role as important members of the global ecosystem. Please stay tuned for a big announcement in the days ahead. Here and Now, Baby!
I want to hear from you! Please share your questions and comments. And sign up for my newsletter, where I will pass along the insights, ideas, and inspiration that come my way.