About Sharon and Mike
"Irthlingz" was born when Sharon Abreu and Mike Hurwicz met at the People's Voice coffeehouse in Greenwich Village in 1998. Soon, the activist-singing-songwriting-goofing-around duo was appearing with legendary folk singer Pete Seeger in concerts to benefit the Ships to Save the Waters conference, the Delaware Bay Schooner Project and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater’s New Boat Fund.
They also created "Turn the World Upside Down," a fun, educational 45-minute interactive musical show about water conservation, keeping the water clean, and recycling, for grades 1-5. Satisfying New York State academic standards for science – as well as kids' standards for being silly – they performed in a number of public schools and at the New York Aquarium in Brooklyn, NY, with Emmy-winner Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” under the auspices of the Brooklyn Arts Council.
From these seeds grew years of singing, songwriting, celebration and advocacy, focusing on peace, the environment and sustainability. In 2001, a generous grant from the Celebration Foundation enabled them to form a 501(c)(3) non-profit, Irthlingz, (http://www.irthlingz.org). This funding allowed them, among other adventures, to travel to the Centro Ecologico Akumal (CEA), in Akumal, Mexico; to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa; and to Cambridge University in England. They learned as they went how to educate, entertain and inspire through music.
While these globe-trotting times were fun, fulfilling and very educational, Sharon and Mike also began to feel an increasing sense of frustration and bewilderment.
"I began asking myself," says Sharon, "why I had to twist myself into a pretzel to convince people to protect the natural systems we depend on for things like water, air, and food."
"It seemed strange," says Mike, "that so many people were willing to vote against clean air and water for their kids and grandkids."
The first hint of an answer for Mike and Sharon came in 2003, through Rabbi Michael Lerner (author of The Left Hand of God), who talked about the "spiritual crisis" in America – a pervasive and largely unsatisfied hunger for meaning and higher purpose – and how progressives, by focusing exclusively on "the issues" and "the facts," were failing to address that deeply felt need.
"Michael Lerner basically said we needed to take our heads out of the sand and address the spiritual aspect of things, both in ourselves and in society," says Sharon.
"That really hit home for us," says Mike. "I guess in part because, in our work at least, we ourselves had been focusing so much on issues and facts. Trying to get people to act in loving, ethical, balanced ways, but not thinking about how we and others could develop the inner qualities that those kinds of actions spring from."
Strongly drawn to Rabbi Lerner's vision, Mike and Sharon attended – and performed for – conferences held by the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), which Rabbi Lerner founded to build a spiritually grounded progressive movement.
In 2004, while working with a progressive political campaign, Sharon met Pushkara Sally Ashford. They kept in touch, and in 2009 Pushkara introduced Sharon and Mike to SingPeace!.
SingPeace! evolved as the celebratory component of BePeace, a group dedicated to teaching practical techniques for feeling peace and speaking peace, and ultimately teaching peace. The techniques for "feeling peace" were developed by the HeartMath Institute, while those for "speaking peace" are based on Nonviolent Communication (NVC).
In August, 2011, Mike and Sharon took the four-day BePeace Foundations Course with BePeace founder, Rita Marie Johnson, at the Whidbey Institute in Washington State. They also provided music at various key points during the workshop.
In April, 2012, they facilitated the BePeace Foundations Course taught by Rita Marie, for international Masters degree students, at the United Nations University for Peace in Costa Rica. They also provided music for that workshop and gave a special concert at the University.
In August, they attended a weekend training/ certification workshop in Kansas City, Kansas, where they were certified to teach BePeace!
"The BePeace practice is pretty simple and down-to-earth," says Mike, "and it's working for us. We feel we're taking another step towards being able to work for peace in a peaceful way, and for balance in a balanced way. In other words, we're trying to address both the inner and the outer."
"And we're seeing more and more how music can help with that," adds Sharon, "by bringing groups together around the core heart feelings – like appreciation, compassion and forgiveness – that are the basis of BePeace."
Now Sharon and Mike are looking forward to using the skills they've acquired to teach others and in their own lives. They also want to help create "hubs" where school children and community members can learn the methods of BePeace and build a culture of peace through the BePeace practice and through singing.
copyright © 2011 by Michael Hurwicz and Sharon Abreu