Performer, author, and storyteller Joél Leon returns to the Metta Hour Podcast for Episode 183.
Born and raised in the Bronx, Joél writes and tells stories for Black people. Specializing in moderating and leading conversations surrounding race, masculinity, mental health, creativity, and the performing arts, with love at the center of his work and purpose. He is the author of “Book About Things I Will Tell My Daughter” and “God Wears Durags, Too.” His TED talk on healthy co-parenting has been viewed over 1.5M times.
In this conversation, Joél and Sharon discuss:
- Joél’s new spoken word album, “Soundtrack To a Riot”
- Contemplations on death and aging
- Making space for multiple things to be true
- The necessity of communion and community
- Navigating mental health during COVID
- The role of teaching and seeing others
- The power of languaging
- The importance of inner and outer space
- The dissonance of systemic injustice and heartful living
- How context and nuance matter
- Sitting with not knowing
- Connecting to the awe in everyday life
- The need for repetition in learning
- Writing the story that scares you
The episode closes with Joél leading a guided reflection. To learn more about Joel’s work, you can visit his website or listen to his first appearance on the Metta Hour Podcast on August 24, 2020, released as part of the Real Change Series.
Capturing Energy into Spoken Word
Joél Leon and Sharon Salzberg begin by talking about Joél’s new spoken word album, Soundtrack to a Riot. Joél said that while most of his inspiration came from the recent turmoil in our country, the whole project really took him 38 years to complete. Writing and recording was a long practice of putting his thoughts into a poetic framework, feeling like he had a story, and wanting to actually tell his story. His goal with Soundtrack to a Riot was to capture the energy that precedes a riot, is within a riot, and the aftermath of a riot.
“No two people, no two experiences or stories are alike. When we leave room for our imaginations to play, we also leave room for those people, for those experiences, for those stories to not be pigeon-holed or bogged down by our expectations of what we think they should be.” – Joél Leon
For more on the importance of poetic arts tune into the Jack Kornfield podcast Ep. 20: Poetry and Beauty
Shifting into Openness (16:41)
Sharon and Joél discuss the pandemic and how it brought on depression and isolation for many. Joél shares his struggles throughout the pandemic before they move into discussing what qualities can open our hearts after such an isolating experience. For Joél, a key component to his healing was a sense of community. Community is a concept that we may not think of as integral to our health, but being able to connect with other humans is truly a necessary experience of survival. Sharon discusses empathy and inspiration. Inspiration is important because it reminds us that the world is beautiful and we are alive. Having an interest in other people’s stories and inspirations is empathy and from there we can have a shared experience.
“We feel trapped; we feel small; we feel incapable, and then something happens or we start to strengthen, like gratitude or something like that. And then we feel more open; we feel more connected, and we also have a sense of inner strength.” – Sharon Salzberg
Are you interested in learning more about how to overcome the separateness brought on by the pandemic? Check out Ep. 67 of Healing at the Edge: From Separation to Connection
A Reminder For Us All (46:50)
It is so easy to forget that every day we are blessed to be alive. No one knows how much time we have left. Joél feels that part of his mission is to remind people of this. When we are living with this knowledge in our hearts and at the forefront of our minds, we can appreciate each moment. Even the mundane can become beautiful when we remember we are alive and only for a limited time. We have to honor each moment of our journey in totality – then, everything becomes extraordinary. As Joél says:
“We are living, walking, breathing miracles”. – Joél Leon