We Are The World: How Human


by Charlotte Mabry

Yes, it is true, the dedicated yogi scrolls and watches Netflix! I love the lyrics of music, movies, art, theatre, poetry, books, etc. I find yoga in art. I find yoga everywhere, by simply accepting my humanness and living life. I found yoga in the movie, “The Greatest Night in Pop.”

This is a story about the labor and birth of the song “We are the World”, written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson. In 1985, Harry Belafonte called Lionel Ritchie to ask for his help to raise money for famine relief in Africa; he requested that Lionel write a song. Lionel called Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder to help him compose this work. Lionel and Michael began work right away as they were given a short deadline. Lionel called Stevie Wonder numerous times for his help and received no response. He was beyond frustrated. Lionel was hosting the American Music Awards that year, where 46 world-renowned performers would be present in one place at one time. Lionel used this as an opportunity to get as many people on board as possible.

That night, Ray Charles, Tina Turner, Bruce Springsteen, Smokey Robinson, Huey Lewis, Cindy Lauper, Kim Carnes, Stevie Wonder, Al Jarreau, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Waylon Jennings, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Kenny Rogers, Bette Midler, Steve Perry, and Diana Ross all agreed to be featured in the recording.

Quincy Jones agreed to conduct as Lionel led, guiding the human emotional side of the group to produce an outcome of LOVE. Lionel posted a sign at the entrance of the recording room: “Check your ego at the door.” The group started recording at 10:30 pm and completed it at 8:00 am the next morning. This project was under an intense time crunch, where conflicts were endured, and emotional fights erupted. Waylon Jennings walked out; artistic creativity was a clash of chaos. So human!

The artists reminded me that we are each a precious human being, magnificent, perfectly imperfect, and individual. We are made up of ego, creativity, imagination, visions of where we want to go and what we want to do. We are a collective. As we all are ONE, we come together as individuals to create ONENESS and address our own experiences of duality. This is real. This is how life happens from my perspective. Simple humanness.

This movie clearly exhibited what happens in group dynamics. I saw fear, nervousness, insecurity. I saw the problem makers. I saw the non-communicator, the obstacle creator. I saw the frustration of wanting to create with Stevie Wonder as Stevie “stonewalled, avoided communication.” Stevie’s not answering created anxiety and tension. I saw escape with alcohol. I saw exhaustion, hunger, irritability. I saw passive behavior and control. I saw ego.

I saw these artists without their managers and entourage, no one was protecting them. They were emotionally naked in that recording room. What struck me the most was Bob Dylan’s interaction with the group. He was so nervous. He swayed, rocking from side to side, avoiding eye contact with everyone. He kept biting his lip. It was clear that he was uneasy, outwardly insecure. You could feel his fear of not being good enough among his peers.

When it was his turn to record, Dylan froze. Have you been there, frozen with insecurity? I have. Some of the other artists brought him to the side, lovingly coaching and encouraging him to sing out and trust in HIS voice. When it came time for another “take” he did it. When he completed his recorded part, he immediately said, “That wasn’t any good!” There it is. The famous Bob Dylan cutting his amazing self down. How human.

We all do it! It is human. Huey Lewis even said, “I was nervous out of my brain.” Wow! The great Huey Lewis. These celebrities of greatness were intimidated by each other. I saw goodness, grace, and courageous LEADERSHIP in Lionel Ritchie. Lionel had the emotional intelligence of a yogi. He was able to read the room, put egoic emotional fires out, and keep the project on track. Lionel reminded the group of the purpose of this recording. “There are literally 15 bags of flour/28,000 people in Africa. We are fighting hunger!” Lionel’s acceptance of every performer’s quirk of egoic creativity brought the group to its highest potential.

What do the Yogis, Mystics, and Teachers Say?

Yoga Sutras
What does the movie, “The Greatest Night in Pop” have to do with yoga? The Yoga Sutras are a collection of texts written by the sage Patanjali around 400 C.E. Many lessons from the Yoga Sutras can be seen in this movie and in the process of creating the music video!

Yoga Sutra 1.3
Tada Drastuh Svarupe Vasthanam, “The Seer Abides in Its Own True Nature” I think that Quincy and Lionel were true yogis. They had a talent for “seeing,” directing, and understanding with patience so many different personalities. Since Quincy and Lionel clearly knew themselves, that enabled them to understand the artists. They were able to both see the BIG picture and communicate to the artists that they were respected and important. We are ALL talented and able to offer our gifts for a higher purpose.

From my perspective, I think those of us who decide to show up on our mats are committed in our own unique way to become “our best Selves.” My father used to tell me when I was a little girl, “You got your 3 D’s: Discipline, Desire, and Determination”. Well, that is a good motto. However, I think my practice is learning to access balance and ease within mySelf. I don’t have to work so hard. I can just rest and BE in my wonderful self. Charlotte.

I can cultivate an ease to be able to “see” my emotional wounds, warts, and talents too. Acceptance of myself with compassion allows transformation and change. Living my yoga from the inside out takes discipline, desire, and determination. We can “see” when we practice a yogic “work in” vs. a “work out”.

Do we become our best selves and then that’s it? No. We don’t live life perfectly “off of the mat.” We must continually show up in life, learning, growing, becoming more aware. The sacred texts teach us that this is a gradual process, and it is possible to change and evolve. If I can “see” myself clearly, I can really “see” those I am in relationship with. This is the practice of yoga. I can abide in my own true nature of grace, goodness, and peace.

Yoga Sutra 2.1
Tapah Svadhyayesvarapranidhanani kriya yogah
“Self-discipline is help for purification, self-study to elevate the mind, and surrender to the Supreme Being will constitute yoga in practice.”

The Sanskrit words of tapas, svadhyaya, and Isvara Pranidhana can be seen in action in this effort to address hunger. Tapas means discipline, to “show up.” These artists all showed up to record under time constraints and tiring conditions. There was commitment to get this job done. Svadhyaya, means self-study. Because Lionel and Quincy knew and understood themselves, they could “see” the other performers. They guided and directed them to their highest excellence. Isvara Pranidhana means surrendering and dedicating the fruits of this production to God and/or humanity. The artists came together in unity to create something that would help those who suffered and bear fruit to the world. We can create things that we believe will help the world. Then we “Let Go”. It is released. The song continues to be sung, “WE are the World.” Tat Sat. Amen!

Other Teachers
In his book The Practice is the Path, Tias Little defines The Path as “The Way.” “It is a path that opens the lungs, fires the spirit, and awakens faith. It is a path of pilgrimage, leading into your heart of being.” Truly abiding in our true nature, the essence of ourselves with ease; that is yoga. This happens slowly over time. It is simply the act of practicing that brings joy. We know and accept that the obstacles we encounter teach us.

In BKS Iyengar’s books, Light on Yoga and Light on the Yoga Sutras, he teaches that “Yoga is a true union of our will with the will of God. “The yogi does not renounce action and is fully awake to his duty. He believes it is his privilege to do his duty without attachment and has no right to their outcomes. He dedicates their fruits either to the Lord or to humanity.”

Iyengar says, “Yoga means communion.” He quotes Mahadev Desai in the introduction to The Gita According to Gandhi, “Yoga is the yoking of all the powers of body, mind, and soul to God. Yoga means the discipline of the intellect, the mind, the emotions, and the will. Yoga is a poise of the soul which enables one to look at life and all its aspects evenly.”

In the movie, you can see Lionel evenly working his way through the performers, gently guiding them. He sets an expectation to sing “We are the World”, in harmony. He is not thinking about the outcome of the recording. He was present, intensely focused, “in it” while recording. Lionel and Quincy together abiding in their true natures.

Yogis welcome a path of full engagement in life. The more we practice, the more secure and aware we are of ourselves, behaviors, imperfections, etc. We grow, change, transcend, make hard decisions, forgive ourselves. We are courageous and “sing out.”

We believe in our greatness. Yoga unifies us inwardly, aligning with our “inner Beingness.” We are silent. We listen. We get past our human mess. Accept. In forgiving ourselves, we can become “The Seer”. We see what is underneath our words and actions. The yogi gains a secure gait to walk on. We are aware of the negative story we tell ourselves and flip it; instead choose to live a positive, fulfilled life. YS. 1.3 teaches inner healing, acceptance, giving myself rest.

Was Bob Dylan caught in his own “story” like I am sometimes? Bob thinking he was not good enough. Negative thoughts sometimes become mixed up in my mind. I isolate and control. The key is recognizing with awareness when the “stinking thinking” swirls in my head, just like Bob.

In the film, Stevie Wonder was a source of conflict with the group. He refused to communicate with Lionel and Quincy unless it was on his terms. A lack of communication, or in this case zero communication, causes tension, confusion, and frustration. But Lionel and Quincy continued to act for the greater good of the project, despite their frustrations. They worked with Stevie, set boundaries, and ultimately got him to participate, ensuring that his talented and necessary voice was included too.

Conflict is a human condition. When conflict arises, yoga teaches me to look within myself and abide in my true self. I don’t have to bring my attention to the person I perceive is causing conflict. Because it may be me? I ask myself hard questions. These questions can be “tools for peace.” Am I judging the person? Do I have all the pieces to the story? An example, the artist Prince was invited to record with the group and did not participate. He did not respond to the invitation nor show up. Can his decision be respected without judgment? We don’t know what his circumstances were as to why he did not participate.

I can be still. I can be silent. The yogi listens. The thoughts will come, but I don’t have to believe them. If the other person does not want to untangle miscommunications and confusing behaviors, we accept. The yogi walks the path, stays the course. We walk on. We choose the path of yoga to build security abiding in our truest self.

The Great Spirit
There is a native American tribe in Michigan, the Ojibwa tribe, that tells the story of The Great Spirit: He was reflecting one day on how to connect all the pieces of creation. Everything that He had brought into existence. When a little worm inched its way over and looked up and said, “O Father, I can help.” The Great Spirit looked at the little worm, smiled and said, “Very well little worm, help us.” So, the little worm inched its way to the nearest branch and began to slowly spin barely seeable silk threads from its guts, weaving them through all the pieces of creation. When the worm was done, all of creation was connected. Like a spider web that might grow for months that you don’t see. You don’t see it until the sun shines just right. Then suddenly, it’s a golden web that’s visible. The Great Spirit with all his life leaned over creation and could see the golden silk threads that the worm had woven to connect everything.

The Great Spirit was pleased, he looked down at the little worm and said, “Little worm you have saved us. Not by being brilliant or great, but by being true to your own nature. Thank you, little worm. The Great Spirit said, I will let you live forever. Well, the little worm was taken aback. The Great Spirit could see this and said don’t you want to live forever?” The little worm looked up at the Great Spirit and said O Father I fear so many years if I couldn’t grow. The Great Spirit was pleased at the wisdom of one of his smallest creatures.

The Great Spirit looked at the little worm and said, “Very well little worm, I will give you the ability to spin these golden silk threads around yourself. When you are still and quiet enough to stop inching, squirming, and spinning; after a time, you will know the likeness of Being that I know. The little worm bowed, inched away, and went to the nearest branch and began to spin the very first cocoon. In time, it became the first butterfly. I love this story because it teaches me to live life from my gut. Trust it. Show compassion to myself, maintain an open heart to all of life. This is not the easiest path to walk. I choose it again. I stand on the “Souls” of my feet, and “See”, freely abiding in my own true nature of being Charlotte. I can be the butterfly, and you can too.

GONG in the Mandir
An observable effect of the gong on the chakras follows this basic rule: The faster the rhythm the higher the chakra affected. A slow rhythm resonates with the lower chakras, while a fast rhythm moves energy to the higher chakras. Simply put, the more the rhythm is increased, the higher the chakra that is affected. The Manipura (third) Chakra is played just below the center circle of the gong. The lower chakras are affected from the center of the gong and below. The upper chakras are affected from the center of the gong upward. Bring in vibration, centering, relaxation, and healing. Peace.
“We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones who make a brighter day. It’s true, we’ll make a better day, just you and me.” Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson

“The Path is the way. It is a path that opens the lungs, fires the spirit, and awakens faith. It is a path of pilgrimage, leading into the heart of your being.” Tias Little

“O how human of me.” Judith Hanson Lasater

“True inner work is not navel gazing. It is not self-centered, though we can be self- centered. It is not narcissistic, though we can be narcissistic. True, honest, inner work when we spin, process, digest, and internalize a golden thread, comes from our gut. We not only heal ourselves, but we also connect part of the universe. Self-work is universal work, as we all live in Our Human Divine Form.” Mark Nepo

“You gotta remember that the ego is built on fear. It’s not built on love; it’s built on fear. It’s built on the fear of non-survival, and so you build a structure in order to make you safe. And it’s a beautiful instrument, but if you are identified with it, you’re fearful all the time.” Ram Dass

“As you dissolve into love, your ego fades. You’re not thinking about loving, you are just being love, radiating like the sun.” Ram Dass

“Ego trip: A journey to nowhere.” Robert Half

“To be a warrior is to learn to be genuine in every moment of your life.” Chogym Trungpa

“Our hearts are restless until they rest in God. You have made us for yourself O Lord; our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Augustine

Manipura Chakra, the Gut of Self
Kapalabhati, Breath of Fire
Uddiyana Bandha, Upward Abdominal Lock
Virabhadrasana, Warrior I, II, and III
Ardha Chandrasana, Half-Moon
Phalakasana, Plank
Purvottanasana, Inclined Plane Pose
Salabhasana, Locost
Dhanurasana, Bow
Ardha Matsyendrasana, Seated Twist
Shavasana, Prone Face Down

“We are the World”

Netflix Trailor “The Greatest Night in Pop”

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Sri Swami Satchidananda
Light on Yoga, BKS Iyengar
Light on Yoga Sutras, BKS Iyengar
The Bhagavad Gita According to Ghandi, Mahatma Gandhi
The Practice is the Path, Tias Little
Flames that Light the Heart, Mark Nepo
Teaching Gong Yoga, Theory & Practice, Mehtab Benton
Chakra Yoga, Anodea Judith, Ph.D