Wednesday, July 9, 2014
Through the joy of music, I'm excited to be able to share the experience and lessons I’ve learned about life and art through living with Parkinson’s disease.
With original songs, life vignettes, and poetry, I will take you on a journey through my particular approach to handling life’s challenges and joys.
It is my hope that you will have a great time, discover laughter, and leave the evening feeling lighter, happier, and with a sense of the unshakeable core we each have inside of us no matter what life throws our way.
To listen to samples of my music, click HERE and HERE!
Purchase Advance Tickets Here!
Ben Rivers' "Shakin' with Joy" - Berkeley - Event Flyer
Ben Rivers - Artist Statement
Ben Rivers - Bio
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
My name is Ben Rivers and I live in Berkeley, California.
Twelve years ago, my life changed in a major way when I, at age 30-31, got Young Onset Parkinson's disease (YOPD). In the space of nine months, I went from having a powerful, athletic body which I was very much in command of, to having pretty advanced YOPD symptoms, including: Significant loss of voluntary motor control in my upper body, along with involuntary hand and arm tremors, frozen facial muscles, fixed stare, difficulty speaking and loss of vocal volume.
Following this, I spent 2.5 years living in Southeast Asia. The entire time I was there (the first 1.5 years of which, determined as I was to be self-sufficient, I took care of and did everything myself--including working--without the benefit of meds or caregivers) I was living with a smorgasbord of YOPD symptoms, including: "freezing up," slow movements, tremors, speech difficulties, "frozen face", involuntary staring, weakness and fatigue.
It is this combined experience of navigating at the same time the inner and outer worlds of battling a major disease (and dealing with significant disability) while living in the context of Southeast Asian landscapes, infrastructure (or lack thereof), people and cultures that forms the heart of my story.
It is also the story of successfully persevering against very challenging and ongoing odds to live out one of my lifelong dreams—living in Southeast Asia for an extended period of time.
I learned many meaningful and humbling lessons from these experiences, including humor, humility and courage that I have chosen to use as an opportunity to deepen my connection with my own dignity. Along with this has come more respect for the dignity of all people.
If we can learn the lessons of being more aware — paying attention to attention itself, and the lack of it — this will serve us well our entire lives, and is actually a highly valuable — and useful — skill to have.
As Einstein famously said, the way of thinking — or, as Ken Wilber would say, the quality or level of of consciousness — that got us into this mess, is NOT the one that contains the answers to this mess. This is, actually, a major challenge for most of us — and, interestingly, one which is not the same as, nor bound up in, nor limited to, whatever current context, (or challenge, or suffering) we find ourselves in. If we don’t fundamentally become more aware of where/how our attention flows, and find a way to navigate the ship of our being into "new ways of thinking" — (Einstein), or "levels of consciousness with greater depth and span" (Wilber), the same issues will come back again, and again...on other stages, in other times, on other days. While this seems like a drag, it's actually a blessing from, and the way of, nature: It's evolution presenting us with opportunity after opportunity to "get it."
Monday, February 6, 2012
One big thing Parkinson's disease has taught me, and continues to teach me, is that no challenge is too hard to face. There are two facets to this: First, even the most minor tasks of daily life can present seemingly insurmountable difficulties. Second, I really do face certain health, logistical and financial issues that would be considered very difficult and intractable even for someone with normal body functioning. Yet, the fact of living carries me forward to face these challenges whether I wish to, or believe that I can, or not. By being forced to grapple with them, I oftentimes discover that my beliefs about what I'm capable of, even with the constraints the disease places upon my capacity to function, are not objectively real. If I can have an attitude of curiosity, exploration and discovery, it is easier (or at least more fun) to do even the difficult things. I make a lot of mistakes, but life seems to provide endless opportunities. So even when I mess it up, there's another chance.