Cultivating mindfulness with Charity Kahn from Charity and the JamBand

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My routine of unwinding for the day usually involves looking at social media. It’s a habit, and I get sucked right into it.  The problem is that when I finally pull myself away from the screen, I still feel unsettled. I feel anxious and have a hard time falling to sleep. It’s a vicious cycle, and I see that it affects my daughter in the same way. If she is on the iPad for a certain amount she comes out of  it agitated and off-kilter. The rush has ended yet our brains are still seeking input.  To help with transitions, we’ve been winding down with softer music in the evenings, and a reading or drawing activity.
Charity Kahn, the lead vocalist for the Bay Area group Charity and the JAMband, has been working to introduce mindfulness as a reliable resource to help others find relaxation and peace. Below Charity talks about her own practice as well as her recent project, “Sit Breathe Love: Guided Meditations for Children and their Grown-Ups” which offers guided practices to families, children, and schools.

I have had a meditation practice for about eight years that has dramatically transformed and improved my life. About four years ago, I decided it was time to bring some of these principles and practices into my work with children and families. People of all ages are looking for relief from stress and way to calm down their bodies and minds, which mindfulness practice directly addresses. And children are incredibly receptive to the related concepts of kindness, gratitude, generosity and peace. No surprise there!
Our most recent project in this vein is Sit Breathe Love: Guided Meditations for Children and their Grown-Ups. We’ve so far released three guided practices for families or classrooms under this umbrella to enjoy together: “Ball of Light Meditation”, “Mindfulness Experiment”, and “Meditation on Non-Harming”. Our plan is to release one per month.
But it all started with the music. I had always integrated mindfulness themes like peace and love into my songwriting, but I took this intention more seriously as my practice deepened. Our most recent album, charityandthejamband3Family Values”, is built around sixteen mindfulness-related concepts: lovingkindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, patience, understanding, generosity, community, intention, non-harming, gratitude, respect, mindfulness, waking up, truth, and peace.
For example, there’s the “Lovingkindness” song — a sweet little singalong based on an ancient practice — that starts by sending goodwill to oneself (“may I be happy, healthy, safe and at peace”) and then extends these wishes for goodwill outward to others, and eventually to everyone, in all directions. Listen to the songView the dance video (filmed by Peace Is The Way Films).
There’s also the “Lemonade” song, a favorite at our concerts. This one is a rock epic that follows the adventures of a community of fairies living in a land called Lemonade. They are visited by an angry dragon who threatens to smite them and their land. Instead of resorting to fight, flight, or freeze, they end up using non-violence, compassion and generosity to solve the problem by making the dragon a special batch of their magical lemonade and bravely welcoming him into their community. Listen to the song.
And then there’s the funky little “Grateful”, which explores some of the life experiences for which we have gratitude: the sun, the rain, our home, our school, our friends, and our family. This song includes musical performances by my kids (on trumpet and trombone) and my partner’s kids (on voice and piano)…it’s a family affair! You can listen to the whole “Family Values” album here.
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Since all of our music has accompanying choreography, there are dances that go along with these songs,and we sing and dance these themes with children all over the place — at our “Charity and the JAMband” family concerts, at my solo shows at libraries and schools around the Bay Area, at my JAMcamps for school-aged children, and in my early childhood music and movement classes, JAMboodas.
I also practice mindfulness-inspired exercises with the children in my camps and classes, and with the families at my concerts. One of my favorites is Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Mindful Movements” — basically some simple yoga-like opening stretches that are done while staying connected with the breath. I’ve also written his Pebble Meditation practice into a song which has accompanying dance moves. I also share lovingkindness meditation, body scans, mindfulness of breathing, mindfulness of the body, mindfulness of emotions, mindful listening, mindful eating, mindful speech, and many other related practices as part of my programs.
In parallel, I teach weekly Mindfulness Meditation classes for adults, and offer periodic workshops exploring Mindfulness practice and its intersection with various topics like relationships, stress, parenting, and joy. Some of these workshops are for adults only, some are for parents, some are for families.
I have trained with Mindful Schools and combine their curriculum with my own to create a broad foundation of exposure for the children. I’ve also done retreats at Spirit Rock and the Insight Retreat Center, as well as training with Against the Stream, Insight SF, and IMC in Redwood City. For more information or if you’re interested in attending a concert, class, camp or other program, visit www.jamjamjam.com, or contact me at 415.425.0372 or charity@jamjamjam.com.

Learning about Passover with Shalom Sesame

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This weekend our family celebrated both Pesach (Passover) and Easter. As we transitioned from finding Easter eggs to finding the afikoman (matzah), I was reflecting back on my own childhood. I didn’t grow up in a religious household, but I was raised Jewish, and and we celebrated major holidays. Now that I am a parent, and still observe Jewish holidays with my relatives, I feel as though I want to give my daughter a little background about what it all means.

shalom-sesameAs I was reading about the story of Passover, I was also looking for some videos to help visually explain some of the details. While I was searching around, I found Shalom Sesame, a co-production of the American version. Shalom Sesame was created in an effort to introduce Israeli life and Jewish culture to American audiences. The episodes feature Hebrew and English words, which is nice for bilingual families. Monolingual families (like ours) can also benefit from these episodes since English translations of Jewish literature use the Hebrew form of certain words. For example, the afikoman is a piece of matzah that is broken in half and set aside to be eaten as dessert after the Passover seder (dinner).

Children will get to see certain American muppets in some of the episodes of Shalom Sesame, and meet new ones. Moishe Oofnik, for example, is Oscar the Grouch’s cousin. Naturally, Moishe also lives in a garbage can (in Israel).

I am so glad I found something relatable to share with Em as we were preparing for our own celebration. Below are videos we enjoyed the most, but I would encourage any family interested in learning about other cultures to explore Shalom Sesame.

 

“Here Comes Peter Cottontail” – The Hipwaders

 

yearroundsounds.jpg.w300h275 Happy Easter weekend everybody! Today, I am reposting my favorite Easter song of all time, which is featured on The Hipwaders‘ most recent release, Year-Round Sounds.

*”Here Comes Peter Cottontail”

In this holiday single The Hipwaders deliver a swingin’ rendition of Gene Autry’s classic, “Peter Cottontail.” “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” is the perfect companion for your Easter related activities. This bouncy “tail” will make you want to kick off your shoes and do a little (sock) hopping of your own. Always upbeat, the Hipwaders deliver straight rockin’ grooves while introducing us to one of the coolest bunnies in town as he hip hip hoppa hippa hip hip hop’s down the bunny trail. Get your Easter baskets ready, kids!

You can listen to the song via the SoundCloud widget below.

*The original post, which featured “Here Comes Peter Cottontail” and “Gaia She Knows,” can be found here.

8 Excellent Ways to Kick Off Your Weekend – Song + Video Digest

BBSS_142_Beats_03 As you head out for the weekend, take these tasty beats with you! Indulge in this collection of eye (and ear) candy.

“Smile” by Andy Roo and the Rooniverse from Color Your World!


“The Way We Gets Down” – Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips


“Dog” – Big Block Singsong from Big Block Singsong Vol.1

Amazon | iTunes

“Beats” – Big Block Singsong from Big Block Singsong Vol.1

Amazon | iTunes

 


“Bicycle” – The Singing Lizard from Make Believe

Bandcamp | Amazon | iTunes


“Up All Night” – Caspar Babypants from Night Night!

CD Baby


“The National Tree of England” – Molly Ledford and Billy Kelly from Trees

iTunes | Amazon | Bandcamp | CD Baby


“Just for You” – Caspar Babypants from Night Night!

CD Baby

Watch This: “Heebie Jeebies” – Jazzy Ash

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Los Angeles-based musician Ashli Christoval, aka Jazzy Ash, brings us the first release from her forthcoming album, Bon Voyage. “Heebie Jeebies” was originally performed by Louis Armstrong, one of Ash’s idols.

Infused with her swinging New Orleans style, Ash revitalizes the ~90 year old song while honoring it’s original arrangement with the same big, brassy sounds. It’s delightful and I imagine Louis would be proud!

The video was filmed in The French Quarter of New Orleans. The black and white film sets the perfect scene for a rendition of such a classic song. Great stuff, and I am excited to hear more of what’s to come!

Support Jazzy Ash through her PledgeMusic Campaign! 4 days left and 97% funded!

“Interconnected” – Celebrating Rachel Carson by Jonathan Sprout

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“The more we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”  – Rachel Carson

Women’s History Month drew to a close earlier this week and now we look forward to spring holidays, and Earth Day. Today’s post celebrates a female hero, and her fight to maintain a healthier, greener planet for all living things.
Rachel Carson was a marine biologist who valiantly fought for conservation by calling out the hazardous effects of synthetic pesticides. Her book, Silent Spring, forced the banning of DDT, and made a revolutionary dent in the legislation governing the use of chemicals and other pesticides. Carson’s work and tireless efforts also inspired a grassroots movement which ultimate led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
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Jonathan Sprout, a Grammy nominated musician who has devoted 21 years or his career focusing on heroes from a variety of trades and professions, (science, politics, sports, medicine, entertainment, education) wrote a song in honor of Rachel Carson called “Interconnected.”

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Women’s History Month: “What Does Your Mama Do?” – Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer

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Every day when I pick Em up from school she asks me how my day was and what I did all day. As a mom working at home, my day consists of working on the computer combined with household duties. I explain this to her but as a 6-year-old, she comprehends it as me staying home and making sure I have the right snacks for her.

Until my daughter was born, I worked in an office. I left the corporate world to run my own business and have been doing that before she was born and every since. It’s a strange situation to be in because choosing to stay at home has its own set of responsibilities, as does the addition of working from home. The balance can be tricky but the explanation to my daughter feels trickier sometimes.

In 1984, Cathy Fink released a song called “What Does Your Mama Do?” from their album Grandma Slid Down the Mountain. According to Fink, the song was successful in terms of engaging kids to talk about what they knew about their moms did:

In the 1980’s this song really had a positive impact on giving kids a wide view of women at work, both in the home or outside of the home. We would include verses where kids told us what their own moms did and got some fun responses: 

She bags potato chips

She’s a lady wrestler

She’s an opera singer

I love hearing what my daughter comes up with as part of how she understands her world and the roles people play in it. When music can invoke thought and serve as a guide to raise awareness and encourage conversations, I am reminded of how powerful it is. 

As part of rounding out Women’s History Month, it is my pleasure to feature “What Does Your Mama Do?” for families.
Share this with your children and share their responses in the comments. I’d love to know all about it!

Learn more about Cathy Fink’s work, including her new album, Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs for ALL famililes, which features Marcy Marxer, at their official site. The album celebrates the diversity of families in today’s society and encourages togetherness and love.

“What Does Your Mama Do?” is available for purchase at Amazon, and you can buy the corresponding album, Grandma Slid Down the Mountain, through Cathy and Marcy’s store.