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Song of the Month | SOTM Archive

We Are the Ones

"A lot of people are waiting for Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi to come back -- but they are gone. We are it. It is up to us. It is up to you." ~ Marian Wright Edelman

This is a song full of joy and insistence and celebration and inner and outer activism and peace. It attempts to tie many ideas together: mindfulness of thought, word and action; taking care of each other; taking care of our planet; speaking up when necessary; letting go when necessary; and remaining present here and now for what life is bringing us so we have the capacity to respond to our selves, our families, our communities, and the world with true love, care and intention.

The song explores the personal and the universal, the moment and the big picture, the process of maturing into real grown-ups and the challenge of returning, again and again, to beginner's mind.

And it introduces a set of what I'd like to believe are shared values (needs, even) for the members of this vast and diverse family we call the human race: lovingkindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, patience, understanding, generosity, community, intention, non-harming, gratitude, respect, mindfulness, waking up, truth, and peace.

I think We Are the Ones ended up being a song for everybody, and my hope is that it will speak to people of all ages and places. We absolutely must, every day, walk the path of peace with self and other, to the best of our ability, if we are to have any hope of healing the wounds of our time. That time is now, and we most definitely are the ones we've been waiting for.*

Value: Mindfulness
Mindfulness is simply the practice of paying attention to what is happening here and now, in this moment, and "showing up" for whatever life presents us with.

We can practice Mindfulness anywhere, at any time (and parenting certainly provides us with lots and lots of opportunities!)

The most effective method I've found for introducing Mindfulness to children is via Thich Nhat Hanh's incredible and beautiful Pebble Meditation practice. I have used it with my own children and in my camps, and the kids LOVE it.

Here are some resources to help you learn the practice so you can share it with your children and others:

BOOK: Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh, Chan Chau Nghiem and Wietske Vriezen
This is where I originally learned the Pebble Meditation technique, and there are so many additional awesome ideas in this book. It's a parenting resource well worth investing in. You can purchase it here.

BOOK: A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh and Wietske Vriezen
You can purchase it here.

VIDEO: Pebble for your pocket meditation
Here the technique is demonstrated by Thay Phap Huu from Plum Village in a beautiful, peaceful way.

BOOK: Mindfulness for Beginners: Reclaiming the Present Moment -- and Your Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
One of the classic intro-to-mindfulness texts (for grown-ups, because it all begins with you and me!).
Book * Kindle * Audiobook
--To learn the story behind the song and see the words, continue reading below.
--For a list of resources helpful in learning about the associated value, Mindfulness,
check out the table to the right.
--To listen, read the lyrics, and download and share the song, go here.

Song Story
I have spent a lot of time contemplating how outer and inner movements for and toward peace are intimately related, and how any real and lasting change in our societies and communities must necessarily be built on a foundation of true and lasting change within ourselves.

I have followed the Occupy movement closely over the past year, and whatever the criticisms of the movement may be, I, personally, am so inspired that people are standing up, rallying around issues that are, at their core, human rights issues, and speaking truth to power.

The word "occupy", when used in its most positive sense -- basically, being present and showing up for and engaging in the energy of whatever we're doing -- sounds an awful lot like Mindfulness. As John Kabat-Zinn defines it in Mindfulness for Beginners, Mindfulness is simply "awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a sustained and particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.".

The aspiration and responisility to occupy our minds, hearts, spirits, lives, communities, humanity, and sanity, and claim our healthy power in this life (We Are the Ones!) became the lyrical foundation for the chorus of the song. It speaks to our responsibility as human beings to remain aware, healthy and present, inside and out, in order to have the opportunity to gracefully face the challenges of our time.

*Some well-known and oft-repeated phrases came in handy here, and I'm grateful to the original voices for speaking these profound and true words. "We are the ones we've been waiting for" has been variously attributed to writer/activist Alice Walker, poet/activist June Jordan, and The Hopi Elders. And "We've gotta be the change we wanna see" is a paraphrase of Gandhi's "We must be the change we want to see in the world". 

The verses of the song evolved out of these bigger concepts, and get to the nitty gritty: doing our best to slow down, pay attention, meet each other with kindness, and generally be good people, and remembering that "There is a path that leads to peace and it all begins with you and me."

The bridge section was this jamming no-man's land that sounded really cool musically but had no idea what it wanted to say lyrically. Up to this point, I hadn't yet spelled out the actual values to which the album title was referring in any song on the album -- it was proving difficult to narrow down the long list of wonderful things to aspire to and practice! So it all kind of came together with the decision to experiment with putting The Values in the bridge as spoken word.

I've had a Buddhist-inspired meditation practice for the past six years which has really changed and improved my life, and much of the science and philosophy of Buddhism speaks deeply to me and the kind of person I want to be and the kind of people I want to bring up my children to be. So I did some research and honed in on sixteen values that felt especially relevant, and that I felt would resonate with anyone, no matter what their religion or culture.

Those values -- lovingkindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, patience, understanding, generosity, community, intention, non-harming, gratitude, respect, mindfulness, waking up, truth, and peace -- became the final list of sixteen. And we chose to also say the Pali words as a pre-echo of the English translation, in order to honor that tradition (and also because the words sound very, very beautiful and magical when spoken aloud ;-)

The most important characteristic the values share is that they are all inclusive, and speak to a vision of a peaceful, loving world. And who wouldn't want that for themselves or their children, or for any child, or for any human being, for that matter? It seemed like a list we could all aspire to, no matter our race, creed, politics or beliefs. That's why I like to call them "human family values".

The Lovingkindness practice says it all: "May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be safe. May all beings be at peace." I want to raise children have this kind of compassion for and generosity toward their fellows. I want to raise human beings that take responsibility for their lives, hearts and actions. I want to raise people who as adults know how to take care of and love themselves so they have the real capacity to take care of and love others. And I imagine that to be a universal desire among parents.

So, here is a song for you. I hope you like it. I hope it changes your life in some positive way, even if by only a molecule. I am grateful to have you to share it with. Please pass it on.

We Are the Ones
(a song for everybody)

do you take the time to notice
all the world as it goes by
do you ever stop and listen
to the flutter of a butterfly
have you ever paid attention
to where the rainbow ends
do you slow down, meander
are you mindful, my friend

occupy your mind
occupy your heart
occupy your spirit
we are the ones we've been waiting for
occupy your reality
occupy your community
occupy your serenity
we gotta be the change we wanna see

do you ever do a nice thing
for someone you don't know
can you sometimes drop your anger
let it be and let it go
can you listen to another
with no judgement in your heart
can you allow everybody
to be just who they are

occupy your mind
occupy your heart
occupy your spirit
we are the ones we've been waiting for
occupy your reality
occupy your community
occupy your humanity
we gotta be the change we wanna see

we gotta share the abundance
of this little earthy sphere
oh the people want equality
and it all begins right here and now
we gotta take care of each other
we're all one family
there is a path that leads to peace
and it all begins with you and me

waking up

occupy your mind
occupy your heart
occupy your spirit
we are the ones we've been waiting for

occupy your life
occupy your truth
occupy your body
we're gonna dance the revolution

occupy your reality
occupy your community
occupy your sanity
we gotta be the change we wanna see

occupy your mind
occupy your heart
occupy your spirit
we are the ones we've been waiting for

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