084. Thomas Droge and Brenda Kahn: Story, history, and self-perception

Highlight [0:00]

Chapter’s show notes…

Thomas: Yeah, it’s funny when I’m working with people I’ll often break out my Boston accent just to totally mess with their perception of everything because they think they’re bringing in this super high-end guy to [inaudible 00:00:16] and then I’ll just be like, “Hey, you guys, are you going out for beers after we meet up here today because we’re doing some spiritual things and we’re going to have some emotional conversations. They can tend to really rock you, and I think it’s important that you have a way to process it with your community afterwards. So, if you want to go get a couple Budweisers and throw some darts maybe after, I could go with you, even? Although, that’s not always normal but I could do that for you guys.” They laugh and they’re like, “Oh, okay. We just have no idea what’s happening here.” Yeah.

Brenda: Who you are… Yeah, exactly.

Thomas: Which is what I’m trying to do. I want to get them off balance enough so they can open up.


Introduction [0:58]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig: Hello, I’m Craig Constantine. Welcome to the Movers Mindset Podcast where I talk with movement enthusiasts to learn who they are, what they do, and why they do it. This is episode number 84, Thomas Droge and Brenda Kahn. Story, history and self-perception. If you want to know someone, have a conversation with them, but if you want to know who they really are have a conversation with their partner. Thomas Droge and Brenda Kahn share their story and how they’ve changed over the years. They explore the idea of our internal narratives and self perceptions, finding your own way, and the human experience of time. Brenda and Thomas discuss ways to change the world and the importance of investigating your history. Thomas Droge is a healer, teacher, and author. A lifelong student of Tai chi and Qigong and embodied movement. His study of consciousness, awakening practices, and Daoism have shaped his path and philosophy. Thomas’ life work is to share these transformative teachings and practices with others to help them walk their unique path.

Craig: Brenda Kahn is a musician, writer, teacher and mother. She is a former Columbia Records recording artist with seven albums and two decades touring Europe and North America, sharing stages with Bob Dylan, Chrissie Hynde, and Jeff Buckley. She is the author of the irreverent poetry book about motherhood, Ode to Chores: The Good, The Bad, and The Laundry. Brenda is currently raising her two boys, teaching high school history and working on a memoir of her time in the music industry.

Craig: I don’t normally talk about the episode numbers, like what’s the number of this episode that I’m currently recording because sometimes we move them, but in general, I’m going to say, we just released before this, episode 83.

Thomas: Wow.

Craig: Thomas was actually the guest for episode three, which would have been three or four years ago?

Brenda: Wow.

Craig: How many years ago was that? 20…

Thomas: Many.

Craig: Yeah.

Thomas: Some number of years.

Craig: I feel like I have noticeably more gray hairs. You look exactly as young as you did the last time I saw you.

Thomas: 56 years young.

Craig: There’s a couple reasons and then, of course, Brenda is also here. We, the three of us, have known each other maybe five or six years or seven or eight years depending on… Because we would have first met at…

Thomas: At Aikido.

Craig: Right, at the Aikido school.

Brenda: Right. Before [crosstalk 00:03:35]. Right, right.

Craig: Brenda’s like “Oh my God. Right, it’s true.”

Brenda: And the boys were like… little. 10?

Craig: Like 10, half the size they are now.

Thomas: Yeah.

Brenda: Seven or something like that.

Thomas: I don’t know. I’m not good at…

Brenda: I just remember them being so little that they had to sit and meditate and it was so cute.

Thomas: Dylan couldn’t do it. He was like, ahh.

Brenda: Yeah, he was all over the place.

Craig: So, I wanted to talk to Thomas again because I think your interest, your work, your research, your project. However we want to put that, into pathfinding and looking at people’s journeys. I’m like, Oh, I feel like I’m stomping through the woods and every time I look over to the right… Oh, you’re stomping through the woods on a parallel path. Like, “Hey, how are you doing? We should sit down and record a Podcast at some point.”

Craig: But also, you have the experience in radio going back, but you’ve done some radio shows and now you’ve been doing some recorded videos. So there’s a lot of common interests there on… I don’t know about you, but for me, I think we’ve always hit it off and had fun. I’ve always enjoyed coming into the city. I kind of shed a little tear when you closed the Manhattan studio, but things change.

Craig: I’m actually getting better at that whole, there will be a last episode that we get to record. That’s going to happen, and maybe that’s just part of growing up. But anyway, let’s bring Brenda in to the conversation. We’re just automatically talking and your interest and the work that you’ve done, I haven’t listened, but the things that you’ve done with music peaks my interest from the gearhead, I love… I’m an audiophile. So, I think there’s going to be a neat mix here of tech and passion and journey.


Meeting, Growing, Transitioning [5:15]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig: I have a bunch of questions we can start with, but I think a fun one to start would be, did you guys meet… Was movement and training a part of it in the way that you met?

Brenda: In some ways, I mean, that’s not the way we met.

Thomas: We were word movers when we met. She was a singer and I was a poet.

Craig: No.

Thomas: And we would hang out in places where people danced and sang and did poetry. So, I think we met at the L Cafe originally.

Brenda: Yeah, we met in a coffee shop.

Thomas: And her dog introduced us.

Brenda: That’s right.

Thomas: Her dog. Not that one.

Brenda: Not this dog.

Thomas: Not Bailey.

Brenda: No. Barley.

Thomas: Not Tika. Barley, sorry.

Brenda: Tika. Tika was our…

Thomas: Tika jumped up on the bar of the counter where I was the coffee jock in the back.

Craig: Oh.

Thomas: I was like, “Oh, nice dog.”.

Brenda: Oh, he likes dogs. That’s so cute.

Thomas: And then I used my deadly pickup line of that time, which is, I’ve just entered into the priesthood and I’m celibate.

Brenda: Oh my God. It’s true though.

Craig: When did you become that…

Brenda: That lasted very short amount of time.

Thomas: I was swearing off women at the time and needed a break from relationships because I’d come out of one, but then…

Brenda: We were both kind of in a, not interested in relationships, kind of vibe actually when we met. Actually, it was really funny when we met, because we were both almost the same. We were kind of like, yeah, this person, they’re not going to get me and they’re not going to understand my…

Craig: Turns out you’re actually kindred spirits.

Brenda: My intellect is so great.

Thomas: I don’t think… I didn’t say that. That wasn’t me. That was her.

Brenda: Oh right. Okay. Okay.

Thomas: I had much simpler tests. I would call her at three o’clock in the morning to see if she was awake. Because if she wasn’t awake at three o’clock in the morning, I couldn’t possibly date her because I didn’t sleep.

Craig: I never thought of that. That’s brilliant.

Thomas: And she picked up the phone like…

Brenda: Oh yeah. Hey, Thomas.

Craig: Oh, you’re already in. You’re already in the role…

Thomas: She’s playing guitar.

Craig: I almost said Rolodex. You’re already in the phone and caller ID. So she knew it was you.

Thomas: Except it’s all before phones.

Brenda: No, I just recognized his voice.

Craig: Yes. That’s right. You guys are my generation, sorry. He looks so young. I’m like, Oh, look at these young kids.

Thomas: Yeah we were '94, we met.

Brenda: No '93.

Craig: '93. You wore red.

Brenda: Before.

Craig: You’re going to get the ticket.

Brenda: Oh, you wore blue.

Thomas: Ah, yes. I remember it well.

Craig: Nobody’s going to get that, which is good. Go look it up people. It’s a reference to a song. Yeah. So, I get this look, it looks like this. It’s not anything crashing. It’s just my brain. I always say, I feel like I’m walking down a street in a big city and we’re having a conversation and we’re just walking past side streets and people who listen, not that anybody listens, people who listen, I’ve said this a million times. It’s like, Oh, there’s so many places to go. That look is me going.

Thomas: You should do a photo of that look so that you can put it up with the Podcasts. So, people can know what you’re talking about. This Craig’s look. Because it really, it looks disturbing when you see it, you’re like what’s wrong with him? Is he having an aneurysm? What’s going on?

Brenda: But I think that’s true about our relationship because we’ve been together for so long and we’ve lived so many different kinds of parts of our lives together. That it is hard to know which direction we could talk about almost anything I think at this point. But you know what? I had a memory since you were talking about music, the first time that I came across… But the first time that I ever really saw Tai Chi was I had this big loft space in Brooklyn and Thomas, we were just dating. I didn’t know you that well, but he came over and was talking about Tai Chi and I was like, what is the Tai Chi? You know? I mean, I think I’d probably seen it on TV or something.

Craig: Well, in '93 you certainly didn’t Google it.

Brenda: Not a lot of it. Yeah, right. Exactly, and so he showed me the Tai Chi form he was working on. I thought, Oh, this dude is…

Craig: What have I gotten myself into?

Brenda: Poquito loco. But it was cool because then he brought me to his Tai Chi class and I was all dark musician, dark bars, I didn’t exercise or anything like that. That wasn’t popular in the '90s. But it changed my life in a lot of ways. In a lot of ways.

Craig: So you’re saying Tai-Chi or are you saying Thomas? I mean, I’m assuming Thomas changed your life.

Brenda: Both. No, Tai-Chi but him too.

Craig: Do you remember what it was like in here? We were talking about this before. How does it work on Craig’s podcast? And here’s how it works. Do you remember what it was like to make the transition from, I’m going to say the dark musician persona to, I don’t want to say discover, because I won’t put words in your mouth, but what was it like to make the transition to the sunny side of the street?

Brenda: Yeah. I mean, was it the sunny side? I’m not sure. Yeah, I definitely do remember this shift because I was coming out of a very dynamic up and down part of my life and Tai-Chi in so many ways was, and Thomas, his whole path was a completely different direction. So, the idea of Tai-Chi was so fascinating to me, this idea of maintaining your center as you move through space. I was so uncentered that, to me, that was like, Whoa, that’s a thing you can… And I was getting stronger. I got a lot stronger. The Tai-Chi class we did, well then it was like Shinji and we were…

Thomas: Plus somehow I always found teachers who were…

Brenda: Hardcore.

Thomas: Hardcore and direct line lineages, but more than that, they loved to have my wife around as a student and to then constantly mess with me and be nice to her.

Thomas: In a joking way, but they loved it. So they liked the duo of us quite a bit and then they’d push me to the edge and then they’d tell her it was perfect.

Brenda: That’s kind of true.

Thomas: Even my medicine apprenticeship, because she studied Shinji, she knew with the…

Brenda: Yeah, I got grandfathered into those…

Thomas: With my Shinji teacher who was part of the bone medicine and the herbal medicine that I did and he would torture me and then he’d ask a medicine question when we were hanging out with Brenda and she’d say something and he’d be like, “How does she know that and you don’t know that? That’s exactly right.”.

Thomas: She could do no wrong.

Brenda: He showed me how to do flying needle technique and stuff like that. I wasn’t in Chinese medicine school or anything.

Thomas: And I tended to find those kinds of teachers back then. When you met me I was still a fighter. I looked for teachers who could fight.

Craig: Where was this?

Thomas: In New York at that point. I was in Boulder first training for my first seven years out there and then came to New York and I have to say to the sunny side of the street question, martial arts teachers in New York also are wearing all black and are pretty dark people in a lot of ways or working through their own stories. So, isn’t that monastic environment or beams of sunshine. Yeah. I feel like that came later for everyone who entered into that process. We all entered in through the dark and then at some point, if we call self-acceptance the sort of light you’re talking about, that was the thing that we did eventually arrive at.

Thomas: And my teachers were all pretty young. So, they’re around my age. They weren’t way older than me and so I’ve watched them evolve also, and they’ve all gone through the same sort of journey in different ways. But I think the material, if you stay with it, forces you to come to terms with all these things that you are resisting and identifying as somehow not you or against you or for you, and some point all that’s left is you. And then you get that choice to say, okay, I’m going to be me now, and that’s that sunny side of the street.

Brenda: Yeah. I think it’s a really… Right. I think it’s just a really long, long process.

Thomas: At least for us it is. [crosstalk 00:14:28]

Craig: What if every two feet there’s a side street where I could [inaudible 00:14:32] while Tracy and I… I’m skipping all those. Let’s talk about you guys. But do you think that there are shortcuts to that?

Thomas: Oh yeah.

Brenda: Oh my goodness. I hope so.

Craig: So, over the long run, you’re thinking you took the circuitous…

Brenda: Route.

Craig: … Path. Would it have been better if you’d taken the shortcuts? What’s an example of a shortcut you should have taken?

Thomas: I mean, you’re doing the thing I do right now with people where I say, Oh, which finger would you like to cut off? Which part of yourself do you not want to have in order to make it faster because you have to give up everything that you learned along that way. So, for me I don’t think I would change anything, but it’s interesting to see the challenges that were created early on in my life before I had executional power over what was happening to me in my developmental years, generated. Like [inaudible 00:15:38] fans, right? That’s one of the laws of Karma. So, if your brain develops certain kinds of neurological patterns based on the experiences that you have, that then creates a worldview, then you populate the worldview with your challenges, right? So the challenges that I ended up populating my worldview with… Yeah, I’d switch some of those around.

Brenda: Right. I think we both had a lot of that. A lot of breaking down of what we had learned to do, and could we have done it faster, I don’t know. I think mentors… If there’s anything, I think mentors are the things that push you forward faster.

Craig: Oh, I love that topic, sorry, of mentors. My personal two cents, I don’t have children, my personal two cents is mentorship is one of the things that’s missing in America. I’m not going to try to solve all of the world’s problems but one of the things that we’re missing here is the people, was it Seneca who said that if old men don’t teach, young men can’t know. There’s a 2000 year old and it’s got to have been longer than that since like [inaudible 00:16:55] must have said it too, about one has a responsibility to not just live life, but then to also play the other… I don’t want to say Yin and Yang, but there’s two parts to that role and I don’t think it’s fair to blame kids these days or millennials or people, or my generation. You can’t blame people if there was no other role present. Like, well you did a good job considering half the piece was missing.

Thomas: Right.

Craig: So when you mentioned mentorship, that’s where my brain just went and I’m wondering, are there any mentors that leap out when I say mentors?

Thomas: I mean, I have a straight up list.

Brenda: Right, and this is a really classic thing for men and women. Women tend to not have mentors.

Thomas: In our culture.

Brenda: In our culture.

Craig: I was going to say, wait, you mean in our culture? Okay. Because why not? Would be the thing that I would want to say, but you mean in our culture.

Brenda: Right. It’s hard to find them and women aren’t taught to mentor their younger people, and they’re often… It is starting to shift, but women are also often not in a leadership role. So then they don’t take on the next woman in their job or whatever. So it’s just been a lot on my mind lately, too. I feel like if I had had those people along the way, I may have gotten where I wanted to go faster, and there were people, it’s not like I didn’t have any, but I definitely, it wasn’t something I was looking for.

Craig: So what do you do if you… I always laugh. Like, what do you do if you’re listening to this podcast, oh, hi mom. What do you do if you’re listening to the podcast and you decide that you want to like, Oh, I think I should find a mentor. How do you do that? Because I actually, I’m going on 49, I have no idea how to go find a mentor if I wanted to find one. They tend to fall in your lap.

Brenda: I mean, it depends what you want to do and I think getting into whatever it is you want to do and then reaching out and saying, hey, I’m really looking for help in this world. Can I help you? Can I learn from you? I think it’s probably… I don’t know.

Thomas: I mean, it’s interesting in the virtual world that we’re in now because the number of mentors available online is quite a bit more than ever was before.

Craig: Is it the same. I think that…

Brenda: If you’re not in person.

Craig: Yeah, I think virtual doesn’t even come close. I would argue that I can’t learn Qigong from you via video. If I had access to you and I had a little bit of granted, but I’m just like, I’m sorry, you can’t do the energy work through the computer post recorded, but I’m not criticizing the work you’re doing, because we’re not. I’m just saying like…

Thomas: I don’t think anyone can learn from the recordings. If they’ve been in the live class with me in that moment, there seems to be a certain level of transmission. So I have a discussion group once a week.

Thomas: That’s like our sangha to sort of talk about things. So in that class or that conversation, our little Pathfinder sangha, we’re talking about this form we’re doing, and we’re moving through the five phases and they’re like, “Oh, the fire phase, I can completely feel it. I totally got it.”. And then we went into the water phase and we do this thing where we suck in the whole front of the body and round the back and it stretches open the entire yang section of the body in a way that we don’t normally think of to do, and they were like, “I really couldn’t feel that.”. And I was like, “Oh yeah.”. Because in that practice, when you do that, what happens is the energy rises up through the center really fast and it comes out and it comes out through the arms.

Thomas: But when I teach that in real life, I just showed them the martial application and if you’re not hooked up, it doesn’t work and if you are hooked up it’s effortless and you can figure out by making contact with another human being where you’re disconnected. And so that whole piece of the reality of the practice that we always had in contact with each other, that’s gone at the moment. And that seems like something you can’t do virtually at all, but I’m surprised how much work I’ve done virtually. Maybe I’ve had to squish it into the section to make it fit, right. Like it doesn’t quite deliver, but I’m surprised at how much connection you are able to get. Even meditating with groups of people online and practicing. There’s a moment in class where everybody drops in, you know that feeling and everyone’s in sync. That happens when we’re online.

Brenda: But think about even in the old days if you’re on the phone with somebody and you’re in a moment and you’re having a late night conversation. There’s a lot of transmission that happens. Yeah.

Thomas: I bet we’re building neurological material in our visual quadrants in ways that we never have before right now. In order to build much greater imaginative worlds to fill in the 2D screen we’re looking at.

Craig: That’s a good point about having to bring your imagination to bear.

Craig: Yeah. It is amazing how much you can pick up. If you’ve been in 400 zoom calls. Zoom has now become a thing. It’s like, just make me a Xerox, right? Xerox was a brand name. But anyway, Zoom has now become a verb and a noun and a meaningful thing, but you can totally tell whether people are distracted or focused. Glasses are a dead giveaway for reflections, but you can tell whether… I’ve told, in many of these episodes of the podcast, I tell stories about eye contact and for obvious reasons humans are really good at detecting eye contact. I’ve always wondered what is it that you can actually see? Because I’m at beyond 15 feet you really can’t see pupils anymore but your brain can tell. Yeah, you’re looking at me, that’s weird.

Thomas: Yeah, why did that thing just changed from head-on to 45 degrees and narrow its target field?

Thomas: Why does it have one leg back and one leg forward? What’s going on here?

Craig: What’s going on there? Hey, why did my legs just move too?

Thomas: Yeah, we had a bear in our yard a few weeks ago and I wasn’t there, but Bren was there and…

Brenda: The dog went running after it. It was crazy and then my thought was, “No, run the other way.”.

Craig: The dog is like, I can take that.

Thomas: Until the dog realized what she’d come up against and then she was like, let me rethink that. You make the first move. I’m not going to do it. They’re in a total standoff.

Brenda: It sort of got up for a second and then it just went down and left and was just like, ah, this is way more trouble than it’s worth. I’m looking for trash, dude. Raspberries or whatever. Just garbage to knock over, I’m not trying to rumble with a dog, right?

Thomas: He wasn’t super hungry.

Brenda: Right, exactly.

Craig: Not highly motivated.

Brenda: One took the neighbors chicken from my neighbor’s yard.

Craig: Yeah, they get hungry.

Craig: They are. They are opportunists.

Thomas: On the road, right here. Just grabbed it.

Craig: I once lost a trio of hikers on the Appalachian Trail. I haven’t told this story before. I used to volunteer for the Appalachian Mountain Club. Appalachian Mountain Council, AMC, leading astronomy weekends, teaching astronomy in Northern New Jersey at what used to be a boy scout camp. And I led a hike out on the rocks during the day and when I came back I didn’t have an assistant to follow the group and the people in the back just dropped three people off the back of like 20 some people. So at the end, they’re coming in, 1, 2, 3, 22, 24, 25… I had 28. Missing three people and now if you turn right you can go to Maine.

Craig: If you turn left, that’s what we did. So fortunately, these are all people from the city in sneakers, so I was able to basically trail run back to the tee and they had, in fact, turned the wrong way on the Appalachian Trail and they were heading for Maine. So in my trucking through the woods, this is related to a bear. I’m running through the woods as fast as I can looking at the rocks and I hear this rustling on a converging shuffle course and a black bear and I are going the same basic direction. [inaudible 00:25:28], they stopped. Bear comes lumbering out of the bushes, 15 feet in front of me. It’s just a black bear, not a huge deal. They’re not really aggressive. And looks at me and I’m like, ru-oh Raggy. The bear looked at me like, yeah, that’s too much trouble and went in the bushes.

Craig: I don’t know if this is good or bad because now I can’t see it again. So then he’s kind of going the way I’m going, so I run down the trail and I go like another 50 yards and I find three really pissed off New Yorkers were there for a nice weekend who are now, they’re hot and grumpy. At least they had sat down and then my next thought is, “Do I tell them about the bear?”. I decided, nope, do not mention the bear. Just go back on my way. So, I have seen a few bears. That was too close.

Brenda: Well, Thomas’s last retreat that he did, me and one of the other people who are participants.

Thomas: Retreaters.

Brenda: Well, he had just written this whole blog post about being lost in the woods and how you can’t really ever really pathfind until you’re truly lost in the woods and then we all did this up to this beautiful waterfall where everyone was going to meditate and listen to flute and this other woman and I totally did exactly that and got completely lost in the woods. And all we have is our cell phones got no service, but it could still tell us where we were. Yeah. So we were kind of like, hmm, I feel like these dots…

Thomas: It was hysterical.

Brenda: Oh my God, we were so lost and finally we got through to Thomas and he came in and found us.

Craig: Just for anybody who’s listening, if you get lost in the wilderness, you’re supposed to sit down. Stop hiking. Unless you’re an eminent danger, stop. Yes, that’s the first thing you’re supposed to do is don’t just keep…

Speaker 1: I wish I knew that because we got really tired and hot.

Craig: I’m going to say it in the Podcast. The first rule of being lost in the wilderness, if you’re not in eminent, danger is stop walking because you may actually be able to figure out where you are and the people who were with you are going to go, oh my God, where’d they go? And you are currently not very far from where you were a moment ago.

Brenda: Right? Right.

Craig: Wait there. Yes.

Brenda: That is so good.

Thomas: That’s good advice.

Craig: Now, if you’re bit by a snake or, you know, there are reasons when, well, we need to make a decision, but generally kids, if you’re listening, just stop and wait.

Thomas: And don’t run from bears.

Craig: Oh yeah. No, that…

Craig: Stop and wait.

Thomas: Don’t run from bears.

Craig: Oh, yeah. No, that… Oh, I love that game.

Thomas: Or bring a slow friend.

Craig: Yeah. I was going to tell the joke about the two hikers and that I was… [inaudible 00:28:14]. I don’t know whatever lesson, but people probably do. Before we start recording, we have a little discussion. We’re like, “Well, what do you want to talk about, Craig?” The answer is I, five, six years ago, start having cool conversations, and it all originally began related to me studying parkour. Then I realized we were actually studying art du deplacement I just enjoyed the conversation so much that this became an excuse for me. Like I’m going to just call you guys up randomly like, “I haven’t seen you guys in three years, two years?”

Thomas: Somewhere…

Craig: “I haven’t seen you in seven or eight years. Do you guys mind if I come over on a Sunday, just for two hours? I was want come over and talk to you.” You’re like, [inaudible 00:28:54].

Brenda: Great.

Craig: I think more people should do that, but podcasting is just an excuse for me to just-

Thomas: Go.

Craig: There’s also something about the Headspace, being mics. Describe that a lot for people who are listening to a lot of episodes, but there’s something about being literally in each other’s ears.

Thomas: Yeah, I like that.


Mentorship and view of self [29:15]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig: We’ve gone a couple of different places. Mentorship is something I’m interested in, but I feel like there’s an opportunity here to talk about finding your path. I’m not trying to make a wordplay, but…

Thomas: Sure.

Craig: There’s something about that, that I think you and I touched on 80 episodes ago, but also there’s a chance to have Brenda with us in the conversation.

Brenda: I could see ways to put both of those things into the conversation.

Thomas: I feel like I have to say one more thing about mentors.

Craig: Go. Go, man, go.

Thomas: I work a lot with leadership teams and bring all these tools to them now and show them how to connect and communicate. There’s this one group I work with where the CEO of the fund tends to just throw me into situations. He likes to throw everybody into situations, and he sees their potential and what they could do, and then he likes to just see what happens. He called me up, and he was like, “Hey, we hired a new CEO of the fund. He’s going to be in New York, and he’s going to meet with all the engineering team and sales team. None of those guys know him. I’m wondering if you could be at that meeting and get them all to be really connected?” I was like, “Sure, I’ll meet you there.” He’s like, “Great.” Then 20 minutes before the meeting, he calls me and he says, “Hey, man, I’m not going to make it to the meeting. The CEO will be there. The whole team will be there…”

Craig: Play on.

Thomas: “… rip it up.” I get there, and of course, there’s no movement space or anything like that, so we have to sit around a conference table, and we worked basically. I sit down with these guys, and it all worked out great, and it was amazing. The guy’s name’s Jack Swift, he’s an interesting guy because he’s an ex-army ranger turned businessman, and has a lot of those converted ranger lessons like, “Officers always eat last.”

Craig: Right.

Thomas: His greatest compliment is probably… What is it? R-A-L-W, Ranger’s always lead the way. We’re sitting down, and we’re going through discussions about who we are, and we’re all icebreaking. Mentorship came up, and he said something that I’d never heard anyone say before. It literally 180’d my brain on mentorship. I had been talking about the value of mentors and what a mentor he could be for this team because he’s older than them. He said, “For me, one of the things that I think people always miss in mentorship is that you need mentors who are younger than you to share with you what’s changing in the world and keep you connected to what’s happening. Mentorship’s really a two way street of the younger generation connecting you with the world and what’s happening and showing you what’s changing from their point of view to teach you so that you don’t get stuck in your static view of the world.”

Thomas: The second he said it, I was just like, “Oh, right.” I’m sure this discreetly and naturally happens all the time, but to actually overtly look for younger mentors who are going to keep you connected to the changing world around you that you may be dismissing. The way children do it for parents all the time. They’re constantly telling us how ridiculous we are. “Well, what do you guys do?” Then they’ll tell us so we can sneak it in there, but to actually look out like, “Oh, I’d like to stay connected to the ever-changing technology of this world.” Find a younger mentor. You want to know what millennials are really doing? Go be a mentee to some, learn from them. Change your perspective. I’d never heard anyone say that before, especially not at his CEO level. It was not only refreshing, but it changed my whole viewpoint. So dual arrows for mentors.

Brenda: I definitely feel that way as a musician coming back to music after having kids and then trying to figure out how to get back into this world that was my world for so long. Just the way everything’s made is completely different. It’s all changed in 15 years. All my albums were made on magnetic tape, on reel to reel machines.

Craig: I know what those are, we had one.

Brenda: Right? The edits were made by hand, like…

Craig: There’s a reason they call it, “cutting it together.”

Brenda: Cutting it together.

Craig: On the floor-

Brenda: That’s right.

Craig: … that’s where it went.

Brenda: That’s where the tape fell. On the cutting floor.

Thomas: On my first radio show ever in Colorado, we did that in our interviews. We just do it in the room.

Brenda: Yeah.

Craig: I mean to cut you off.

Brenda: No, no. It’s cool. What was I saying?

Craig: That’s what I was afraid of when I cut you off. You were saying that so much had changed-

Brenda: Oh, right, right. You really literally have to find somebody who’s younger than you to really roll out the technology-

Craig: It’s not just that either.

Brenda: … for someone who’s been with it through the whole time.

Thomas: When I got to parkour with you guys, I was the oldest guy in the room by a lot, except for you. You were closing in on me a little bit.

Craig: I’m pretty sure we’re still the same age difference.

Thomas: Yeah, we are.

Brenda: Yes. You’re closing in.

Craig: I’m not closing in.

Thomas: The older we get the distance of years becomes less large, right? From youth to old age, so in the end, when you’re 84, and I’m 89, we’re the same age.

Craig: See, for a brief moment, I thought that you had figured something out, and I’m like, “Stop the presses. I want to know what that secret is.”

Thomas: Let me talk to you about time for a minute because I don’t think it is what you think it is. I mean, we could talk about the horizon of the black hole and its entire room, but we’re not going to do that.

Craig: We’re now and do that.

Thomas: When I went to parkour, the thing that I was able to learn from all the younger people was, "Oh, yeah. How do you get back to abandon to courage to pushing past limits that you’d grown comfortable with? Where are all these places where you’ve decided you can’t do that anymore? There was a lot of that for me, and it was really interesting to move through it and be like, “Oh, I guess I can do that still. Or I guess I can learn how to do that, even though I’m 50 or whatever.” It did really open me up and just seeing kids… They’ll just launch themselves into the air, and you’re like, “Wow, that could kill you for sure.” They’re like-

Craig: Or shatter your forearm.

Thomas: Right. They would do it. You can draft off that. You can find that in yourself and then start to push into it at your speed. You don’t want to try to do that. You want to find your growth edge and push it a little further, and being around people who were so much younger, they don’t have any of the fears that I’ve put into my head through experience, and so-

Craig: They don’t tell the same stories. For me, I had a story of who I was, and a story of how I was supposed to be in a story of how people saw me. Whether or not any of those stories were true. I have no idea. They’re probably pretty wrong, but I brought all that baggage with me. It was all in my head. I’ve said many times people ask me like, “What’s parkour like?” I’m like, "Well, tell you what, if you find a gang of people who are half your age, especially if they’re pleasant and joyful and able to run around and play outside, all you got to do is go try to keep them inside. Don’t do anything else. Just [inaudible 00:36:59] they’re running again. They’re over there, "How’d they get up there? Just do that, and you can’t help, but get your attitude just to get your straightened out. Get a suntan, get more vitamin D move around. It’s good every which if you’re with the right group?

Brenda: That’s cool. This reminded me, I’ve been writing a memoir, and I had a really fascinating experience with it because I got all the way through it and realize that everything that I told myself about myself was totally not true. It was like, “What?” I mean, it was a good thing because I was telling myself a lot of negative stories along the way, but it was mind-blowing. The stories we tell ourselves literally inform our lives in a way that have real consequences in the real world. When you take a step back and look at yourself and decide, “Wait a second. I actually did a lot of really cool things. This was amazing.” I had to start the whole thing over again from this whole different slant.

Thomas: Respect it.

Brenda: It was-

Thomas: I remember that day.

Brenda: … brilliant though. It was-

Thomas: No, the day you had that realization where she was-

Craig: With the memoir.

Brenda: Yeah.

Thomas: Yeah. I was like, “Oh, the entire narrative…” The facts didn’t change, but the experience of the facts changed completely, so her mind shifted from like, “Oh, these are all negative stories to these are all pivotal transformational shifts in my life that have brought me through it.”

Brenda: I traveled all over the world, I climbed a pyramid in Egypt. I did these things and then writing about them. I was like, “Damn, I did those things.” You know what I mean?

Craig: I want to be that person. Wait, I am that person.

Brenda: It was kind of like that. It was just like, "Wait a second. Why was I only focusing on the fact that I was, I don’t know, unhappy in this one weird way-

Craig: Woman alone in the '80s in Egypt, drop the mic.

Brenda: See [inaudible 00:11:16].

Thomas: Found some guy, climbs a pyramid. There’s no negatives in it. It’s just an interesting story. Who does that?

Craig: Brenda.

Thomas: She did that.

Craig: Right.

Brenda: Well, yeah. It’s a whole book of those things where I was just-

Craig: [crosstalk 00:39:33].

Brenda: … go on the road or-

Craig: The thread that I want to pull on is, I don’t want to dig for dirt, but I don’t want to go, “Okay. How do I do that…” I mean, Craig should probably do that, but just generally, how does one do that if you’ve suddenly having heard that story go, “Oh, shit. That probably applies to me.” Do you know the metaphor of, "If you try to take a barn down, you can do it with a hammer, or you can do it with a crowbar? If you try it with a hammer, you just get exhausted. If you put the crowbar in and-

Brenda: Right spot.

Craig: … pry off a board you can get started. Where do I put the crowbar if I want to try and do what you did because you did it inadvertently

Brenda: I know how to do it. This is what you do.

Thomas: Me, too. Me, too.

Brenda: Really?

Thomas: You go first.

Brenda: Okay.

Craig: One, two… You want to rock, paper, scissors?

Brenda: I mean, I don’t think you have to write 60,000 words to get there, but if you took a pivotal regret, maybe, or moment that could have gone one way, but it went this other way, and really wrote that story as if you were telling it to somebody, and then step back and look at those decisions that you made, and say like, “Well, here’s the situation you were in and what did you do, and how did you do it?” I bet you’ll find that you did some courageous things, even though you’re seeing the hard truth of it. I went out with a guy who was a drug addict, and I didn’t care for myself… This is before Thomas. BT.

Thomas: Thanks for clarifying.

Brenda: BT. That’s all I could focus on. At the same time, I dropped everything in New York. I moved to Minneapolis, I toured around the country. It was like my past, my vision of myself wasn’t healthy enough to allow me to say, “No, this is a dangerous situation.” I was just like, “Oh, that’s probably where I belong.” There was a lot of that. A lot of me making that ultimately wrong decision because I just felt like that’s was what my life was supposed to look like. When I looked back and saw all these other things that I did, I was like, I was trying the whole time to… It was like two people… I was trying to find my way out, but I didn’t know how to get the perspective because I was too young.

Brenda: I think having that perspective and looking back and retelling your story with compassion and love… When I figured all this out, I wrote a new intro to the whole thing, and I dedicated it to my younger self and said… I wanted her to know that she was awesome. She was strong. She was this light in the world, and this other stuff happened along the way. It wasn’t that she was this other stuff. Does that make sense?

Thomas: I think it makes sense.

Brenda: All right.

Thomas: That totally makes sense.

Brenda: What’s your…

Craig: Yeah. Top of that. Go.

Thomas: The word scripture, text, sutra, and jing is the Chinese word for scripture. All those words come from a root, and in each one of those languages, the root relates to either sewing like sutra and suture or text is textiles and cloth. Jing, scripture is about thread single line of thread. They all relate to this idea of the thread of reality being woven together through our perceptions and expressed in words. Scriptures, when people go to them, are hidden tools that are designed to peel back the confusion of reality and display the thread between heaven and earth, the reality as it’s woven together. I think the goal of studying any scriptures is that it should deliver this clearer sense of reality. We could talk about dependent origination and how that affected her view of reality, and then changing the originating thought of how she perceived shifted that.

Thomas: The idea that you could write a story of a moment, or that you could do a meditation where you visualize yourself being 85, 90 years old, and coming back to tell yourself what you need to know right now about who you are, bringing in that future wisdom, right? To write down in some way, the story you’re looking at, or the facts that you’re looking at, or the way that you’re perceiving it and try and strip it down is… She wrote a scripture of her life in order to become aware of her life. She exposed it in this way that she couldn’t hold on to the emotional content that kept her in the limited view of it when it’s just snapshotting through in her mind. Instead, she laid it all out. Once it’s all laid out, you’re like, "Oh, those are just Lego parts. I could build a boat or I could build a cannon. I could build a hot air balloon or I could build pain and suffering.

Thomas: This is what all the major teachings teach us. I think it’s what you learn through movement practices, and why we use moving practices is because you eliminate the language piece, right? You take the symbol out of it, and you start to just find yourself relating in nature, which is one of the best ways to understand yourself and the movements like, “Oh, okay, what’s the story here? Let’s toss the story. Now, what’s left?” Eventually, you’re just left with you at this very deep visceral metaphorical level… It’s a metaphor for your imagination, it’s actually reality.

Thomas: You’re like, “Oh, right. I’m me. This is me right now. Tomorrow’s a different me. A minute from now is a different me, but this is me right now.” Then I go back to the, what finger would you cut off? What part of you are you willing to remove from you in order to not have gone through that, but still somehow get the lesson, though you’re not going to get the information like you’re cultivating this path. We definitely were on trajectories of… I mean, I grew up believing this, and I think you did too. That suffering was required for revelation and for genius. I wanted to be a genius of some kind. I didn’t know what kind.

Brenda: A genius of suffering.

Thomas: I mean, I made that my art form for a while, but I think-

Brenda: Yeah, we definitely both did.

Thomas: The idea that those things are connected you eventually… Or at least I eventually realized, they’re not true at all. In our tradition, in the Tianji Longmen, which is the Dragon Gate Complete Reality School. It’s not a pretentious name at all. The spark of it enlightenment exists deep inside your mind? All you have to do is remove everything and you’ll suddenly be enlightened. Of the two kinds of enlightenment that are out there, the Subitism Enlightenment School is based on that. At the moment at which you remove all obstruction, single snap of the fingers. I’m not claiming enlightenment, but with each level of suffering that I’ve tossed aside, it’s been like that. It’s like this in parkour.

Thomas: You’re trying to get that front flip and trying to get that front flip and trying to get that front flip. Maybe you’re at it for six months, and then all of a sudden, one day you just go and do it. That last step is just one step that like all of a sudden you’re there, but the process leading up to it, that’s shifting and changing, that journey is the persistence piece that gets you to that revelation. Your body could basically do the flip the whole time. Your brain just had to learn how to take away every fear and obstruction around not being able to do it and explore how to reprogram to do it right. Then once you can do it, you can just do it. You’re just there. That revealing the data… Brenda’s whole life didn’t disappear when she reorganized it in this new way were opening up for Bob Dylan, and Luxembourg was pretty fucking cool, right? She was like, “Oh, yeah, I did that.”

Brenda: That was always-

Thomas: I name-dropped that shit.

Brenda: … cool. That was always cool.

Thomas: Her whole story turned into the hero’s journey, the origin story of happiness, all of the things that you want it to be when you’re coming from this place of like, “Oh, I’d like to enjoy my experience here,” which is really the choice that she in that moment. “Oh, my whole story leads up to me, enjoying my life.” That’s a long way of saying…

Brenda: It’s a journey.

Thomas: Just that at any moment, if you want to step over to the right or the left or forward and back, and suddenly change the perception of the story that you’ve been telling. You don’t have to change all the facts. You don’t have to become somebody else.


Time [49:10]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig: Yeah. The facts that have happened in the past, you’re not going to change those, but changing the facts of what’s about to happen in the future? That’s really hard. If you have a lease, and a thing, cat and your family is ill. If you want to make changes there, that’s really going to be challenging. In a way that’s easier?

Brenda: Yeah. No, I think that…

Craig: Like, “Oh, I have a mortgage.” Well, I got to fix that. You either have to give the bank the deed or the money. It’s really straightforward. Do one of those two things.

Thomas: We did that.

Craig: That’s not where I was going, but, yes. Those facts seem easier.

Brenda: Right. Also, if you have a mortgage you have a house, so great. It’s all perception. It’s all perception.

Thomas: What you’re saying is that the-

Brenda: You’re saying [crosstalk 00:50:01] stuff.

Thomas: … potential change of the future versus the difficult perceived fixed changing of the past-

Craig: Yeah.

Thomas: … is much more difficult.

Craig: Fixing the past is actually really easy, but it feels like it’s really hard.

Thomas: Yeah. It seems set, right?

Craig: Yeah. That’s because-

Brenda: I think it was hard for me.

Craig: … of time. Here we go. That’s because of time. We don’t have a sensory organ built experience time directly, so we understand everything through that linear structure and sanity’s based on your linear structural memory that will allow you to place yourself in time. Our memory is our fixed time scenario that we orient ourselves in life. If you go around messing with that, I think there’s a “Careful don’t check under the hood too much, unless you really know what you’re doing thing,” built into our brains that says, “No, don’t erase that. We need that data to make sure we don’t fall off the cliff and to know where we are in time and space.”

Brenda: I mean, time is pretty much a cultural construct, right? I mean like 500 years ago, you wouldn’t go to a peasant in a village and say, “What year is it?”

Thomas: What time is it?

Brenda: They’d be like, I don’t-

Thomas: [crosstalk 00:51:17].

Brenda: … know what year it is. They would just be like, "Oh, the time-

Craig: I feel like I need to go home because it’s going to get…

Brenda: … to go to sleep and-

Craig: … dark soon, I didn’t bring a torch.

Brenda: Right.

Craig: They have a concept.

Thomas: I don’t think that’s any different. I think we’re just more precise now, but that feels like the same thing to me. Right.

Brenda: I think it’s-

Craig: I don’t want to argue on radio, but-

Brenda: It’s very-

Thomas: Well, you’re arguing on a podcast.

Brenda: There’s much more circular… I feel like our modern linear concept of time has really messed us up a little bit.

Craig: I would agree with that. I think it comes from technology, but I don’t mean mechanical things. I just mean the idea of using tools in any format. I’ve definitely crawled-

Brenda: Yes.

Craig: … down this rabbit hole very far about processes and organizing and structure. If you’re going to use those tools, you can only tackle certain kinds of problems. I wish I could say, “Society and culture,” because I’m just one person, but I think that’s an easy path to… I don’t know, it’s lined with good intentions and you’re like, “Oh, well, I could actually get better sleep, which would be good for my physical health, so I probably should set alarm to get up at 7:30, and I should go to bed at…” You just realize that if you organize things, things get a little better. It’s like the quest for local maximum versus absolute max. If you want to get to the really good stuff, you got to go down to the dip to find the mountain to climb on the other side.

Craig: If you use these technology things, you’re going to be searching for, “Well, I don’t want to go that way. That’s downhill. I don’t want to go that way, that’s also downhill.” You’re not really looking, “Oh, yes. I need to go down over through the swamp, up and then over there.” I still do it, but I spent a lot of time looking for that local optimization, and 15, maybe 20 years ago, I was in a crappy place. The local optimizations were really good. I just like went, “Oh, this tool worked before, I can just do it again, and I can do it again. Change this, change that,” but it’s the same tool over and over. Now I’m finding, what you’re talking about. I’m standing on this timeline that I’ve built of who I am, and it might be time to pull the rug out. I just said, “Pull the rug.”

Thomas: I mean, it’s an interesting thing to do. I’m speaking at the quantum level, which is annoying because I’m not actually a scientist, so I’m all in hearsay anyway, but let’s say this, we can’t perceive time directly. Let’s break that down to something as simple as… The optimization piece that you’re talking about, the nature of time, and narrative that Brenda’s talking about. The quality of time that we experience it as is the same thing in the scriptural world as the duality, right? Optimizing living is about optimizing the opposing forces of night and day of good and bad of left and right. To get really good at living is to be in the most effective use of the resources of your life to optimize the experience you’re trying to have, and that’s amazing.

Thomas: That’s biohacking, that’s all of it, right? At the same time, the paradoxical piece is that there’s this wholeness or oneness that for some reason our consciousness is also built to connect to, so we experience the allness of it and the non-duality of it at times as well. All of these ancient practices are built on generating that state. But now we also know in science the whole quality of a flow state and the nature of being in this infinite moment and how gratifying and incredible that is, and how everyone’s seeking it right? They want that feeling of being connected to everything. The connected to everything tools are not the dual tools, so your Newtonian mechanics doesn’t work in the quantum world and vice versa. That management of, "Okay, I’m going to optimize my biohacking and like my qigong to keep my body, and my parkour to keep my balance and live a long time and eat well.

Thomas: At the same time, I’m going to sit down and meditate in whatever way works for me. Whether it’s upright posture or lying at the clouds, and let my mind go super wide and tap into the connection of all things and not be in my micromanaged or hugely efficient space. I’m going to move in and out of those two. That’s the thing that I-

Craig: A life well-lived.

Thomas: … teach people to do in the work I do. It’s incredibly satisfying for one thing, but really the coolest thing about-

Thomas: … it’s incredibly satisfying for one thing, but really the coolest thing about it is that at the moment that you’re in your big attachment to your incredibly efficient life that you’ve built, because the rug gets pulled out from under you, which it’s coming whether you know it or not, and fuck you, it’s coming.

Craig: Right.

Brenda: Because it’s just always-

Thomas: It’s going to happen.

Brenda: … it’s life.

Thomas: Yeah. So if you’re able to pop into the whole thing because you’ve also trained that, then you’re like, “Oh yeah, I can let go of this house. I can let go of my attachment to this. I can let go of my business in Tribeca. And I can see what’s next.” And because you can let it go, then you can see what is going to be possible. And it’s like, now you have all these possibilities versus just holding onto that perfectly scripted-

Craig: Optimism.

Thomas: … optimized life. Yeah. So to switch between the two is an interesting difficulty for people because if you’re just pouring all your energy into… I’m working with a client like this right now, she just poured all her energy into her life, into optimizing every piece of motherhood, health, family, competition, et cetera, great wife to her husband. Boom, she got Lyme disease, she can’t move. She’s like, “I don’t know what to do. None of my tools work. Because I’m only in optimization mode.” And I was like, “Oh great. You have an opportunity.” I don’t say that to people because it’s super annoying and nobody wants to hear it then. But I’m thinking it, like, Oh, you have an opportunity right now. You just won the lottery.

Thomas: And that’s the piece that I think is particularly interesting when people make that shift because you’re like, “Oh, I’m, in my hardcore optimization.” And then practice. I don’t know. This is why people do death meditation. This is why people do all of these kinds of experiences to break out of their optimization piece to see this bigger puzzle. That’s what Phineas, like one of my clients who showed up at my door was hardcore CEO, teaches at Wharton, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, walked through my door and he was like, “I want my mind to be free to just grab information anywhere at any time and not bother thinking about it linearly. Can you help me with that?” I was like-

Brenda: You were like, “I have an awesome job.”

Thomas: I was like, “Dude, you came to the right place.”

Craig: Yeah. And that will be up three flights of stairs if I remember correctly, right? It’s like-

Brenda: That’s so funny.

Thomas: But that is the magic dust and the hardest part for everybody. Because when you get really good at optimizing your life then that’s just your jam.

Craig: Yeah. How do you optimize optimization? We got to optimize the optimization of the optimization.

Thomas: Yeah. Or like, “Oh, I’m a gazillionaire. You’re telling me not being a gazillionaire is my path to freedom?” Practicing that, yeah. I don’t want to practice that. That might cause me to lose all my, okay, attachment. And then that’s where all the work always is. But it’s a fun game. And being in that dual versus whole realm is where the excitement is because that’s where people come up with like, “Oh, well, I don’t know. I’ll make a search engine.” That’s where that stuff comes from, right? It comes in those places where you scrap the linearity of the problem, like all the normal steps and you’re like, “Oh, what’s another way to get there?”

Brenda: Well, it’s funny because as you’re saying that I’m seeing too like that, you’re talking about it in very businessy terms, but going back to what we were saying before, like when you have a story and you connect yourself to that story instead of connecting yourself to your core self, you really just risk losing all your opportunity in freedom. Like coming back to, when I was making music in the nineties, my songs were dark, but I was always in a dark place. I was in a crazy city that was falling apart, and there was AIDS, and there was crack, and there was just all kinds of tough things to talk about. Then now I’ve been out of the city for so long, I’ve raised two boys, I’m mom, I’m all these other things now. But then going back to songwriting, I’m like, “Well, if I stay connected to that story of who I was.” Which I was kind of doing for a long time, I was like, “How am I supposed to write? What do I write about? This isn’t going to be interesting to anyone if it’s not coming from this place of desperation, and frustration, and all these other emotions driving it.” But that’s only because I’ve been telling myself that story, that that’s where all that comes from.

Craig: What is it about that noise? Hmm.

Thomas: Hmm.

Brenda: Hmm.

Thomas: It’s like a nonverbal hallelujah or amen. Here, here. To your husband, or to your-

Brenda: Yes, darling.

Thomas: That’s a natural import.

Brenda: Thank you, darling.

Thomas: Yeah. It’s funny. When I’m like working with people, I’ll often break out my Boston accent just to totally mess with their perception of everything because they think they’re bringing in this super high end guy to dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And then I’ll just be like, “Hey, you guys, are you going out for beers after we meet up here today? Because we’re doing some spiritual things and we’re going to have some emotional conversations that can tend to really rock you. And I think it’s important that you have a way to process it with your community afterwards. So if you want to go get like a couple Budweiser’s and throw some darts, maybe after. I could go with you even, although, that’s not always normal, but I could do that for you guys.” And it’s like, they laugh and they’re like, “Oh, okay. We just have no idea what’s happening here.”

Craig: Yeah. We have no idea who you are.

Brenda: Who you are, or… Yeah, exactly.

Thomas: Which is what I’m trying to do, I want to get them off balance enough so they can open up. And it’s same thing in parkour. I used stuff from parkour still all the time with people, because all of those practice tools around balance and contact, and relating to your environment are so useful at seeing what you’re bringing to the table in the moment of like all your preconceptions about falling, leaning, connecting, touching, moving, gravity, they’re all right there. You see like, “Oh, aggressive, submissive, doesn’t care.”

Craig: Deeply wounded.

Thomas: Needy, deeply wounded.

Brenda: Deeply wounded.

Thomas: All of it’s right there. And it’s just in the frequency. It doesn’t have any of the words or the judgment or the bullshit attached to it, you see their frequency and you’re like, “Oh, okay. You can work with that.”

Craig: Yeah. Then you start, “Here, you start there. You go there.”

Thomas: So good.


Changing the world [1:03:10]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig: You may not care. But sometimes people ask me what I think my role is here. What am I supposed to be doing? But I’m just going to presume that that might be interesting to you. And I’m often torn between following my own curiosity and then saying things like, “Well, what kind of music are you writing?” In response. What emotions are you drawing on now to write your music? Because obviously you’re either working on that or you’ve answered it already. And I’m torn between asking you things like, “Okay, so what’s it like to close up your school? And how do you”… that was an outlet. I’m going to bet that that was an outlet for energy for you. Where are you channeling that now? So I’m torn between asking those kinds of questions, which you can take a swing at, if you like.

Craig: And saying things like, “All right, how do we help people who are listening?” And there’s just so many places we can go with this. So my role, I feel my role is really just to push the stone so it starts rolling and then get out of the way and just hold the mic, so that’s kind of what I’m doing. So do you feel like you want to talk more about your personal journeys, or do you want to talk more about the kinds of change you would hope to create in the world? And we can talk about, hey, you’re running two really good experiments at creating change in the world already, or, right?

Thomas: Uh-oh.

Craig: I would hope you’re trying to create change in the world. So any of those ideas.

Thomas: A tiny bit worried about how we’re doing with that.

Brenda: Yeah. Those experiments are not going well. The lab blew up the other day.

Craig: It’s in vitro, it doesn’t really translate.

Thomas: No.

Brenda: Wow.

Thomas: I’m interested in what we’re doing to help change the world.

Brenda: Yeah. Well, yeah.

Thomas: I’m bored with my personal story anyway.

Brenda: And I haven’t quite got where I want to be as far as music goes, although I am getting there. And part of what I’m doing is helping me get there. So that’s been kind of interesting too. Because I got a job in February teaching history to high school students.

Thomas: One-on-one.

Brenda: One-on-one at a private school that does like one-on-one learning. And the minute I got the job, the whole world went virtual. So I’ve had to ramp up. I have a political science degree from college and haven’t used it since college pretty much. But I did a lot of teaching along the way, teaching guitar, teaching voice, teaching writing, teaching tutoring. So sort of those two things together kind of aligned me for this job because they needed a history/English teacher. But I didn’t have, in my mind, like the whole timeline of teaching history, world history and US history. I haven’t really, I had to brush up a lot. So it’s been really a lot to kind of learn well enough to then teach. And then in the whole like George Floyd, Black Lives Matter thing exploded. And then suddenly I was deep in the civil rights movement, teaching it, experiencing it in the every day. And so it’s an interesting question about, what are you doing to help in the world?

Brenda: Because I’ve been engaged in teaching this next generation about where we come from and kind of giving them the opportunity to imagine where we’re going. And I talk a lot about global citizenry, which I think, I don’t know why that’s not in the paper everyday, like why that shift hasn’t really happened with the grownups. Because I think that kids are thinking that way. You’re thinking much more in terms of us as a world than us as a nation. I had a girl last week who I was teaching about the Vietnam War, and she said, “How come I’ve never learned about this before?” She’s in eighth grade. She’s like, “I didn’t know anything about this. It’s like a 20 year war?” And I was like, “Yep.” And she said, “Is that because we lost? Is that why I haven’t learned about it?” They’re really good questions. And even, and then my own edification, like going back, I’ve been watching documentaries nonstop.

Thomas: Nonstop.

Brenda: And like the whole history of African American publishing companies in America. I didn’t even know there were any, there were like 500 before the 1950s. And just this entirely other universe, everything, the Bobby Kennedy for president documentary is astounding.

Thomas: Which everyone should watch.

Brenda: Everyone should watch that. It’s on Netflix.

Craig: I haven’t seen it.

Brenda: It’s on Netflix. And it talks about the moment that George Wallace stood in the doorway not letting these young black students register for college. Bobby Kennedy was attorney general, he was the guy who was like-

Thomas: And they have footage of like the conversations-

Brenda: They have footage of-

Thomas: … and the thing happening, and they go back and forth between it. And you’re just like, “And we’re here again.”

Brenda: It’s unbelievable.

Thomas: It’s up to the surface again, where we can actually work at it. And watching those documentaries and seeing the number of people, like she was like, “Do you know how many people were assassinated in 1968?”

Brenda: It’s just crazy.

Thomas: She’s like, “1968 is like this year”-

Brenda: 1968, I’m obsessed with this year.

Thomas: All these things happened, but it was just, it’s been pretty amazing actually to have her be doing this. And she’s just walking around the house constantly sharing facts because she’s trying to cram all this information into her head to teach.

Craig: Try and weave it into a-

Thomas: And it’s amazing how much stuff is missing from history that she’s digging up. That’s it’s just like, “Oh, that. Nope, nobody ever said that. Nobody ever said that. Nobody ever said that. Nobody ever said that.”

Brenda: It’s just not being taught. And the women that are not being taught about, like everyone knows the name Cesar Chavez, for the grape strike, Delano Grape Strike, and this and that. And Delores Huerta is this woman who founded the United Farm Workers Union with him. And then she was literally standing next to Bobby Kennedy when he was shot. She’s still alive. She’s still doing civil rights work with Latino groups today. And I’d never heard of her, and she’s this like back page in the textbook that I found. And then when I was watching the documentary, she’s leading him through these crowds in 1968. It’s just mind blowing. Wilma Mankiller, she was the head of the… Oh, God. So you can look things up, right? I think she was the head of the Cherokee nation, but she became the Native American leader of the whole Native American leadership. And she was amazing. And she was good friends with Gloria Steinem, and informed Gloria Steinem’s thinking. And I’m just, it’s blowing my mind, like the amount of stuff that we just don’t know. And that as an educator, I feel like, “Wow. I should know all this stuff. And then let people know.”

Craig: The question I always have is, I have the standard high school history education-

Thomas: Right.

Craig: … here’s history in 17 bullet points, doop.

Brenda: Right.

Craig: And I never really went any further with history. And I’m wondering if the solution to, like we call that a problem, if the solution to the problem is to teach more history or to try to figure out how to teach people to be passionate about history.

Brenda: I think the second though.

Craig: Because obviously it has to be distilled, like you can’t-

Thomas: Right.

Craig: … what’s the TV series, MAS*H ran longer than the war did.

Brenda: Right.

Thomas: Right.

Brenda: Right.

Craig: And even then they didn’t tell the story of the war.

Thomas: Right.

Craig: That’s just a sit-com. So you have to have these experiences, which took exactly as long as they took. So if you’re going to share that with someone, they have two choices, you can go live through the Korean War, or we can give you a textbook which cooks it down. So as soon as you cook it down, you’re getting somebody’s viewpoint or a group of people’s viewpoint.

Brenda: Right.

Craig: And it feels to me like what’s worked so well for you was somewhere you’ve got a passion for history, it sounds like. Well, if you have a poli-science degree, you must have some passion for that a long time ago. And now this stream flowed into that-

Brenda: Right.

Craig: … and, woo, that little passion turned into a big passion. So I don’t think anybody could have ever taught you enough history. But somewhere along the way you picked up a passion, maybe many passions, and this is a small one, but you picked up a passion for history. And I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on how do we ignite passion in others, because not everybody’s going to learn a lot of history. But if a few people become really passionate about history then they act as stewards.

Brenda: Sure, yeah.

Craig: And then someone else becomes really passionate about physics and somebody else becomes really passionate about medicine. And I’m wondering what your thoughts are on, like how do you, and I think I know the answer. But how do you share or ignite that passion in people, because maybe we don’t need to talk about history but we talk about other things. But how do you share that? How do you share passion?

Brenda: Well, what I’ve been doing with my students is, because you have bullet points that you need to hit and that’s the common core curriculum and you have to say those things, and make sure they understand those touch points. Beyond that, so like for one of my students that I said, “So this is an honors class, you have to do an honors project. So I want you to pick something. It can be protests. It can be inventions through history. It can be women’s feminism. It could be Native American culture. The prison system.”

Craig: Grab a thread.

Brenda: “Whatever you are drawn to, whatever you want to think about. And then as we go through the decades, just pick two things.” Each class, “Research them, put them on a slide. And then the next week, that’ll be your homework.” Basically. So this kid picked protests, and he, by the end had 25 slides that were about protests that happened all throughout time. And I had him write an introduction and a conclusion, and so then in the end he had this, like we made it into like an ebook. It was a snapshot of history that he had discovered through something he was interested in. And that worked really well. Some of my other students, they struggled just to even get, I think it’s… But it’s mainly, I think because of the virtual thing. If they had been in the school they would have gone and done it and then gone home. But I think finding something that works for each person while you’re dealing with all the bullet points that you have to deal with is ideal.

Brenda: It worked great in that moment. Because he was like everything from Gandhi to like the gay sip-ins, to the sit-ins, to the, like he didn’t know anything about Tiananmen Square. He was just like, “Really? They just shot? They just shot their own people?” I was like, “Yeah. That’s what they did. That happened.” So we got to have a lot of interesting conversations because of information that he found. So I don’t know, I think actually connecting with people’s interests to kind of do separate projects is the way to do it. But it’s not easy in a big classroom. I’m working one-on-one with kids, so it’s-

Craig: Yeah, gives you an edge.

Brenda: But I still think you can do it. I still think you can say to everybody, “Okay.” But I think it’s also the scaffolding of it, like, “Do one slide, do one slide, do one slide. At the end, we’re going to put it all together.” But if you just give somebody a big project to do, it’s overwhelming. So I don’t-

Thomas: I think-

Brenda: Yeah, tell me, what do you think?

Thomas: I think you have to be able to find yourself in the thing you’re looking at.

Brenda: Yeah, exactly.

Thomas: And ideally you have to be able to find maybe who you want to be, or some part of who you want to be to really dive all the way in/ you have to be able to identify enough with it and then find the place you’re trying to go, that it looks like it has that information. And in history it’s interesting because you study where people have been in order to understand how to be here, right? And this kid, she left out some information about him that would explain why he chose the things that he chose. I happen to know his story a little bit. And you see immediately like, “Oh yeah, he saw himself in history in this course. And then he found a way to make meaning in it, and then see where he was going and express it through this.”

Thomas: And it’s funny, we were again in our Thursday night class this week, one of the students was like, “Dude, I can’t sit down and meditate.” She’s like, “I don’t want to. I don’t know. I don’t have the discipline.” And discipline was one of my trigger words for a long time. Because I don’t have the discipline either, air quotes. And I was like, “Well, first let’s talk about discipline for a second.” This word comes from the term disciple, which means to surrender completely unto. And if you’re doing something that’s for your own development, it’s really about surrendering completely unto you. So how would you want to do it if you were going to make it up? Because until you can put this into a scenario where instead of doing someone else’s thing someone else’s way, you find how to find yourself in it and then be yourself in it. I was like, “Meditate when there’s time, when you can relax. Do it in a way that you can relax. Just breathe into your belly, like do any of these things. Lie on the ground. Stare.” My biggest thing I teach people to do is stare at the clouds-

Craig: Clouds.

Thomas: … and breathe in their belly. Because if you do those two things, you’ll hit most of the major neurological triggers that’ll put you into the state that we’re trying to get you into. I put a Muse on my kid’s head the other day. Do you know what Muse is? Muse is this portable EEG that syncs up to an app and-

Craig: Oh, I have heard of this.

Thomas: … tracks your brainwave states and it’ll tell you which ones you’re in. And I was trying to teach him how to meditate. So I was like, “Wear the Muse, dude.” And he’s like listening to it and doing the Muse. And then he comes downstairs the other day, and this is how I know that we share genetic material, he was like dad, “Guess what?” And I was like, “What?” And he was like, “I put the Muse on and I played video games for 50 minutes, and I had the deepest meditative state in my brain that I’ve ever had.”

Craig: Right.

Thomas: And he shows me all the data on the app that tells you he’s in this much theta, this much delta, this much concentration. And I was like, “Okay. I’ve just lost the war on video games for sure.”

Craig: Right. Which-

Thomas: But I’m also really interested in what just happened and I want to know more now. But it was funny he found his way to be in that thing. Now the question I’m asking myself is-

Craig: Can I get a coin operated video game? Sorry, sorry.

Thomas: No, is the brain, is the neurological change that he’s experiencing during that video game experience of the same quality as the other meditative experience? And that’s a hypothesis I’m currently asking and building-

Brenda: Good question.

Thomas: … studies or experiments around because I want to know what that means. Because intuitively I don’t think it is.

Craig: The Muse, that device, there could be differences to exactly what it’s measuring. And having done a couple of meditating sessions you may be a little more subtly attuned to the quality of what you’re getting than the device is. But it is certainly, that’s a surprising result. I wasn’t expecting that.

Thomas: Yeah. So there’s a company out of Colorado that has a much more advanced version that has like 35 different tag points on it. But I’m playing around with making a study out of it. But it doesn’t matter. The point is he found his way into that practice and that I’m sure will lead him to see like, “What would happen if I did the Muse in front of the tree? Or how about lying down at the clouds?”

Craig: Staring at the clouds. Yes, yes, exactly.

Thomas: And so that process of finding your own way. I’m an unstructured person, I’m a non-linear person. I cannot operate in the linear realm, the linear way. And so for me, I have to operate in the present moment, no matter what I’m doing, using the kind of tools and skills that I have. And from everything from like, “Oh, where are my keys? What’s the most logical place your keys would be?” That’s how I try to find my keys. I don’t try to remember because I can’t access the data.

Craig: If I could remember I wouldn’t be looking for my keys.

Brenda: Exactly.

Thomas: But everything’s like that, and that requires a high level of trust to say like… I went to the flow state genome project, or the Flow Genome Project, whatever it’s called. And I did their flow questionnaire where you find out who you are. And they’re like, “Oh, you live in flow all the time.” That was their-

Craig: Thank you very much.

Thomas: … you’re a flow person. And I was like, “Thanks. That was helpful.”

Brenda: That’s 25 minutes I’ll never get back.

Thomas: Mistakes were made.

Thomas: But the process of understanding your operating system, right, and being able to be yourself that’s another piece of it. I was an F student, I was a terrible student in high school. I have advanced degrees. I was a horrible student because I tried to study and be in that way of being, and then I tried to teach in that way of teach… Now I show up and deliver this very particular thing that can only be derived in the alchemy of the moment of the people in the room and me. And yeah, I draw on all those tools. But the thing I’ve learned to do is just trust being-

Craig: Trust in the moment. Yeah.

Thomas: … and being me in it. I will find the thread.

Brenda: Wow, there is really a theme happening here.

Thomas: There is. I will find that primal thread.

Brenda: Be you.

Thomas: Be you. Not Boston University.

Brenda: No.

Thomas: If you want to sing out, sing out.

Craig: I don’t know this song.

Brenda: Really?

Thomas: It’s the theme to Harold and Maude.

Brenda: There’s a million ways to be, you know that there are. Have you not seen Harold and Maude?

Craig: I have seen so many movies, but I’m thinking maybe I haven’t seen Harold and Maude.

Thomas: It’s an old, long time ago.

Craig: That doesn’t slow me down. I’ve seen Roshomon Gate on purpose, not required viewing. I’ve seen, yeah.

Thomas: I just re-watched Casablanca this week.

Craig: Oh, you know what, sometimes when you go back to movies like that, it’s like, “Oh, that’s so great.” And you’re like, “Oh, my God, I like this movie.” Sometimes you feel bad when you watch movies like-

Thomas: Right. Well, the nineties movies are feeling a lot like that to me lately. I’ve been digging into them and I’m like, “Oh, oh.”

Craig: Oh, that’s a little tone deaf. Ouch. Yes.

Brenda: It is. Yeah, no, it’s weird. The nineties movies, they’re-

Brenda: Yeah, no, it’s weird the 90s movies, they’re nonstop, potty mouths.

Craig: But not just that.

Brenda: Cursy, cursy.

Thomas: That’s just Language.

Brenda: I’m just kidding around. I mean we were the worst curses. [crosstalk 01:24:13] But I feel we were all doing that then nobody even cares.

Craig: Next, you’re going to pick on 80s, neon, come on now. There’s got to be certain boundaries here on the show.

Thomas: We listened to what was it? Don’t stop believing, was my kitchen cleaning song this morning. I did it on Spotify. Don’t stop believing radio and then.

Brenda: We listened to it?

Thomas: Okay, I listened to it, and I fricking sang along with it too.

Craig: No, you got to own it, right?

Thomas: You got to own it.

Craig: You got to own it.

Thomas: You got to own it.

Craig: I don’t know what could happen. Let’s find out.

Thomas: Anyway-

Brenda: We got off track. We got off track.


Importance of history [1:24:50]

Chapter’s show notes…

Thomas: Also, for you and I know that as far as discovering yourself in your way of impacting the world, the song you’re writing right now is a song about-

Brenda: John Lewis.

Craig: It’s a political song about John Lewis’s life.

Brenda: It’s funny because my first album that came out in 1990 was all political songs. Because I was still in that sort of I went to school, learning all that stuff and then I think I just always wanted to understand the world. I just want to understand how things worked. So digging into the people, I was really interested in the people. I was interested in Mao and Stalin and how they created these revolutions and what was a revolution, anyway, and that kind of thing. So now I’m sort of, I was less interested in America oddly. It was all international relations. That was my major.

Brenda: But going back and seeing really the granular version of what happened here in America and especially in light of the protests and the real unveiling of the segregation in our country. It’s like I’m asking those same questions that I would ask back then. Well, why are we this segregated? Every student I had said, “There really wasn’t, maybe there was a couple minorities in my school.” Basically, we’re more segregated now than we were in the 70s. How is that possible? But it is. It’s not going in the other direction. It’s not like we’ve gotten more less, sorry, less segregated over these many years since slavery. We’ve gotten more segregated.

Craig: Right people have chosen like groups or of whatever drew their attention they go to that group. They moved there. They have with those people.

Brenda: And minorities have been literally kept out of white neighborhoods, white schools, white, it’s been, I mean, it’s weird because it’s not it was intentional, but it was intentional. Another thing that happened in 1968, which I think is amazing, I’m obsessed with 1968, is the Miss America contest of 1968. Black people were not allowed to be in the Miss America competition. So there was a Miss Black America competition that happened down the block in Atlantic City. And then on the boardwalk, there was a whole feminist group that was protesting. So they were burning bras while Black Miss America was happening in this hotel, White Miss America was happening in this hotel.

Brenda: And I had no idea. I just never learned about that. We have not taught the reality of segregation in our schools. We haven’t taught, really anything. All we teach is that in the 60s, the voting rights act got passed. Everybody can vote now, no poll taxes. And the other big, what is it 19… So the civil rights act and the voting rights act get passed, and they’re, okay, everybody’s good now. But nothing changes, nothing changes.

Thomas: I mean, do they even teach about… I was in desegregation. I was in middle school during desegregation and forced busing in Boston. I don’t feel that comes up in history books at all now, or it’s a glance over, but that’s also back to what Craig was saying, that’s the nature of history, is that it gets distilled-

Craig: It gets distilled.

Thomas: … who’s holding the pot, who cooked it down?

Brenda: Exactly.

Thomas: I get a perspective. And I think zooming out now because I don’t want to stop talking about this, but just to zoom out. What’s the fix for that? Well, the fix for that is to get people to be passionate about a thread or seven threads that they want to pull on, and then you pull on it, and then you become the next person who writes the better book for people who want to learn about that thread, whatever.

Thomas: So the student you were talking about he’d write a book, but he really pulled in that thread and actually took the time to go look into all those different events that for him were along that thread of thinking that thread of history.

Craig: And you can find that now, that’s one of the amazing things about this time.

Brenda: It’s really cool. [crosstalk 01:30:00].

Craig: Actually, I was listening to Radiolab yesterday, and they were going through all the news media information about the 1918 pandemic, and there’s almost none.

Brenda: Really.

Craig: It’s almost never in the headlines. They found the last page of paragraph from the New York times that said 6 million people have died from this pandemic or, but it just didn’t have any of the news coverage that it had now, and they were trying to understand why. And one of their theories was around the idea that they couldn’t visualize the disease in any way the way we can now, people are, oh, I know what the coronavirus looks like. And so it’s just this thing that’s happening that’s almost a ghost it’s almost a curse or something more than something they can tangibly [crosstalk 01:30:58] get hold of.

Brenda: Well, probably they also didn’t have the media to really get the word out to make any difference.

Craig: I think I always hate to do anecdotal. I think I read, but I believe I read that the average person consumes more media in a day than you would have in a year, a hundred years ago. So, I mean, I don’t know what the actual statistics are, but if you think about, I think about my grandparents and what media would they have consumed. And I saw my grandfather would read I don’t know if there was a New York Times. I think he would just read the local paper from his local city, which had an AP wire, inclusion, and they watched regular TV, which I don’t even recall them watching news. It would just be some soap, my grandmother watching the soap operas, and they’d watched Jack Benny and the police that kind of stuff.

Brenda: Such a good point.

Craig: That’s not a lot of media to consume, and I’m very, I’m fanatical about the media that I consume. But just the volume, I probably read more this morning in 45 minutes than they might’ve read it a month. My grandfather might have seen in the newspaper in a month.

Brenda: My grandfather just read a paper in Yiddish. Now that you’re saying that, I’m remembering because I remember looking at it and learning Hebrew in Hebrew school, but it didn’t have any vowels. And I was, well, how do you do it without-

Craig: What’s up with this?

Brenda: … Yeah. And I just remember them having it explained to me, oh, well, in Yiddish, they don’t use vowels they just know what the words are. Because the vowels in Hebrew are the dots and dashes that go under the words. They’re not really letters in the same way.

Craig: Like the phonetic piece of the consonant?

Brenda: Yeah. So anyway, but I don’t think they even read an English newspaper. I think they just had the Yiddish paper around.

Thomas: I’m thinking this seems to circle back in my mind, oh, well, if you, as a teacher, if you ignite a passion in someone, then they’re suddenly going to, without even realizing it, they’re going to become more mindful about what they’re consuming and they only have so many waking hours. So instead of, I don’t want to knock various social media, but instead of doing whatever they were doing, they’re going to spend their time on following their passion. I used to say to prospective martial arts students when they seem pretty into it. I would be okay; I would like you to explain to me the eight hours a week when you were sitting in seated meditation doing absolutely nothing. I want you to tell me where those eight hours lie because I’m going to stick eight hours of martial.

Thomas: It’s either you got to pack your bag. You got to do laundry once a week. You have to drive the [inaudible 01:33:32]. You have to go to class. You have to go to the hospital once in a while. You have to do, and people go well, no, my day is completely full. Okay. So please point to the eight hours of things every week that you are willing to give up to make the space to train. And it’s the same story in all martial arts. I said nothing. I didn’t come up with that idea. But it’s the same thing with media consumption in order for me to be as intentional as I am now about, I really want to consume media about podcasting, not listen to podcasts, but the technology in that, I had to figure out what I was chucking. And I decided to chuck reading non-fiction went under the bus 20 years ago.

Thomas: And I think that’s the gateway drug for people is not to, I’m hypothesizing not to tell them what to learn, but to show them how to retool or how to be more specific about what they are learning. And I think you’re doing that by sparking passion people.

Brenda: [inaudible 01:34:20] One hopes.

Thomas: And I think the generation down from us, that’s what they do. Mason’s going to build a new PC. And he was, okay, I’ve been running tons of YouTube videos on how to build it. So when the parts get here, I know how to build it. And that’s, I feel we’ve all converted and learned how to do that.

Craig: We’re immigrants.

Thomas: But they’re growing. They grew up in that world and just do that they’re, oh, how do you do this? How do you do that?

Craig: I’m always reminded of the scene from the first matrix movie when they’re shopping for weapons, and it’s a blank empty white space, and then rows of stuff show up. Everything is just in time. The knowledge is available just in time, and that’s good. For me, the hardest part of doing podcasts is that I have to start somewhere. So let’s first. I want to have a chance to say, are there any stories that you guys would like to share either in a separate story or a story that sometimes couples tend to share the same story, whatever.


Storytime [1:35:16]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig: But when I say, is there a story that you’d like to share? Anything come to mind?

Thomas: So my grandmother came here from Greece, and she was 15,16. My grandfather came here when he was 11; after he stabilized himself here, he went back to Greece and married my grandmother, who, from the way the story tells it, was in love with someone else and her older brother wanted her dowery and my grandfather wasn’t looking for her dowery and, the older brother would financially make out in this deal. And women had much less agency in those days, and she was married to my grandfather, and they came to the US. So there’s this dark story of my grandmother.

Brenda: Wait, how old was he when he came back to Greece to get her?

Thomas: 19, 20, not old, and they moved to Poughkeepsie, New York, where all the Greeks were going at that time, and my mother was born there. And my experience with my grandmother. So I’m the youngest of five children, and my grandmother was already really quote-unquote old in those days. And my grandfather died before I have any memory of him, but I would meet with my grandmother at her house in Poughkeepsie when we’d go visit her. And because she didn’t speak any English, although my mother said, she just pretended not to speak English because she didn’t want to hear anything from anybody. And she would say, [foreign language 00:01:37:00], which means come here and I’d come into the kitchen in her house, and it was this little round bay window kitchen on the second floor of this two-family house in Poughkeepsie. And I’d sit down, and she’d just start feeding me.

Thomas: And I loved to eat. And we had this relationship of her Greek food and me receiving it and her delivering it. I never saw her where she wasn’t wearing an apron in my entire life except at Christmas. And she would just feed me and feed me and feed me, and we’d hang out in the kitchen. No one else would come in. We wouldn’t really talk, but we’d spend hours with me just eating in her kitchen and hanging out.

Thomas: And last night I made pasticcio, which is Greek lasagna basically. And it had just come up in one of our meal planning things. And I was, “Oh, let’s make pasticcio,” which I’ve only made once before in my life. And I found myself making this food last night. And I’m in the smells, and I started like being in my grandmother’s kitchen, and I feel this ancestral link through the food back to this whole line that I don’t really know. Because my mom was kicked out of the whole community when she married my dad, who was an Irish Catholic from Rhinebeck, and they moved us to Boston and then raised us as Episcopalians. So we were totally taken out of the realm.

Brenda: Greek Orthodox.

Thomas: So one of my linking points is food, and I’m cooking this food and then dinner I don’t know, it was 9:30 at night when the thing came out of the oven.

Brenda: It took forever.

Thomas: And I was, oh, we’re even on Greek time, post siesta afternoon, summer, evening dinner. And the kids came, and we had this amazing just eating festival. And we noticed lately the kids haven’t wanted to eat with us or do anything with us really. And now that I’ve been cooking these kinds of foods, they’re down to just show up when it’s ready and hang out. And all of a sudden, we’ve all been hanging out more than we have lately. And so this whole link to my grandmother and to food and to this whole family connection and just how important it is to offer nourishment to your children as a way to bring them into the experience together. And so then I take a picture of the pasticcio and text it to my sisters, to be like, guess what I made tonight. I so miss Yaya, and then they texted me back. I know, right, or, oh, I’ve never tried to make that. And all of a sudden, right now I’m out into this next layer of connection because of this woman cooking me food when I was a little kid.

Brenda: Do you remember what Dylan said last night?

Thomas: No, what did he say?

Brenda: He said, “Dad, you made the whole house smells like lamb and like what it is cheese, and you made the whole house smell amazing,” or something like that.

Thomas: He was just he was up in his room, and he, the smell came up and got him and brought him down. He’s, “Oh, you made the house smells so amazing.”

Brenda: It was so cute.

Thomas: And I never talk about grandparents because she’s the only one of the four I ever knew. My relationship with her is pretty much non-verbal. She used to also play this game, where she’d drum on my back and sing the song about love in Greek called [foreign language 00:16:44]. Our relationship was back to our thing about story; there was no language running it. It was just this raw experience, or pure experience and so when I come back to it, it’s just right there. But it was nice to have her in the house yesterday.

Brenda: It’s been really interesting because a couple of weeks ago, so it’s been a hard transition with the coronavirus shutdown because the kids were home, trying to learn from home. Thomas was pivoting with his business, and then I got this job suddenly. So I was teaching online, doing virtual classes. Then I have a five-minute break, run upstairs, get my son on his computer for his virtual class, run to the other room; are you doing your thing? Okay. Run back downstairs. Thomas is on with a client or whatever. It’s just been a madhouse and that shift where I was doing some different part-time jobs or, whatever. But suddenly I was working, and dinner just went away. Everything just went away. The house was a mess, and it was all the focus went to figuring out what happened in the last a hundred years of history.

Brenda: And so a couple of weeks ago, we were, all right, we’re halfway into summer, and we have no structure, and we’re still working. My kids are just waking up at two, and they can’t sleep at night. It was a mess. I said, “Well, let’s just have dinner. Let’s start there, 6:30 dinner. And that’s what we’ll do.” And we realized we were also spending a ridiculous amount of money on food because we were just like just get a lot, and then half of it was getting thrown away. We were just this isn’t working. So we decided we’re just going to cook meals and have dinner. That’s the only thing we start, and it’s working that is working. Somehow the boys are just so happy to eat.

Craig: Looks like your grandmother knew something? She had some information there.

Brenda: Grandma, had it going on?

Thomas: She was smart.

Brenda: She’s wicked smart.

Thomas: Wicked smart. My boy has wicked smart.

Brenda: So good.

Craig: Did you have a story about your grandparents?

Brenda: About my grandparents. So didn’t know my mom’s parents that well, they lived in LA, and my dad’s parents lived in New York. So I have this synchronicity with my grandmother because she was also a singer. And I think she also… And I also grew up with a lot of anxiety, and she grew up with anxiety. So she had this she was agoraphobic. And the only thing that got her out of the house was opera and the beauty parlor and that was it. And then she also had this very sort of, I think she also had a negative story that followed her through life, and it was also my parents’ story of her. Which is that she grew up, her mom died when she was 12, and she wanted to go to this school that she had been accepted to as a singer and her father wouldn’t let her, and she had to raise her brothers and then she ended up just sewing coats in this factory and, everything was poor grandma. And I think she just went with it. She let that story be her life.

Brenda: And Thomas brought up this that I opened for Bob Dylan in Paris, well in Luxembourg and Paris. Well, so-

Thomas: So this story is actually cooler than you’ve ever told.

Brenda: It’s part of the story because when I did that, so I played in Luxembourg, then the next show was in Paris. I had these two dates opening for him, and it was really a highlight of my career in a lot of ways. And my album was doing really well in France. It was playing on the radio. So it was this dream come true, sort of week I had there and ending in this show in Paris. And I had these flowers that the label had gotten me this huge bouquet of flowers and I was with my friend, and we were in the taxi going back to the hotel after this show, and I get to the hotel, and the concierge hands me this little envelope. And he says, “Oh, this is for you.” And it’s a message for my family, from my parents saying, your grandmother died you need to come home tomorrow and because you know we’re Jews. So they go, right and they get buried the next day.

Brenda: So I go from this dream where I’m literally just a flat-out rockstar. So North Bergen, New Jersey where I’m just, honey, do you want a little bun cake because there’s some left, how was the show? This ridiculous transition where my brain is just what is going on here? But I took these flowers that I had gotten from the label with me all the way back to the funeral. And when they at Jewish funerals, you shovel dirt and throw it onto the casket when they lower it down. And so I did that when it was my turn, and then I took these flowers, and I threw them also into the grave, and I thanked her, and it was this amazing sort of, this similar thing.

Brenda: It was, even though she never found her way, she did actually sing on the radio in the 40s, but nobody has a recording of it. There was no, I can only imagine her joy because everything I ever experienced was my dad complaining and that she was so overbearing and she was always so anxious and don’t do this and don’t do that. But I know that she had a whole life and, she had sort of this otherness and that came to me, I got that musical thing, whatever that was. And I had that connection with her, and I wanted to, I felt we both won a little bit in that moment.

Craig: It feels like a completion.

Brenda: Like we did it, and I could share that with her, and it was an amazing, amazing moment, me and my grandma.

Craig: What was her name?

Brenda: Rose.

Craig: Rose.


3 words [1:48:58]

Chapter’s show notes…

Craig: And of course the, final question, three words to describe your practice?

Brenda: You’d think I’d be thinking about it the whole time and had something really.

Thomas: He even prepared us in advance.

Brenda: You told us. [inaudible 01:49:11]

Thomas: Trust, joy, and danger.

Brenda: Wow.

Thomas: Now you’re in trouble.

Brenda: I’m only in trouble. You’re the one in danger.

Brenda: Watermelon. My favorite food.

Brenda: Inspiration. My favorite feeling, and 1968 my favorite year.

Craig: Well, Brenda, Thomas, thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure getting a chance to sit down. Thomas, double pleasure after all these years to do this again.

Brenda: Thank you.

Thomas: Super happy to be here.

Craig: Except that I’m here.

Thomas: Super happy you drove a zillion hours to come here and talk to us.

Craig: My pleasure. Absolutely, my pleasure and to Melissa for keeping everything happening.

Brenda: What a great conversation. This was awesome.

Craig: Super fun.

Speaker 2: This was episode 84. For more information, go to moversmindset.com/84.

Speaker 2: And I’ll leave you with a final quote from Albert Einstein. “Smoked like a chimney work like a horse eat without thinking, go for a walk only in really pleasant company.”

Speaker 2: Thanks for listening.