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It’s actually happening. The finishing touches are finally being put on the new chant recording. A very brief post about it yesterday caused a little ripple on Facebook; in a way it served as a first bit of encouragement from outside the project. While working on This., I felt much more in a vacuum than during other recordings; I am not being coy to say the response was an honest wake-up moment about the coming of interaction with others again around the music. Soon I’ll be touring my way down to Florida and back. I’ll be inviting more people than I ever have to take part in helping the music to be heard. Possibly the most exciting and daunting part for me is that I’ll be working on the second half of the follow-up project, .. and everything else.
Back when I became completely immersed in kirtan, I spent almost a year listening to nothing else. Life was a constant meditation on the drone of harmonium or tampura. I absorbed mantras and melodies and the stories of Hindu deities at such a rate that when people asked me where I learned this or that, I truly had no idea. During that time I wasn’t sure I’d ever write another song. It only seemed relevant to talk about the totality of things. Life stuff was happening, but Om was the only relevant response.
Somewhere it became clearer to me that my path continued to be one of staying engaged in the day-to-day and writing down the stories. But by then I’d been through a kind of vortex that made it a strange exercise. I was frustrated over this for a while, but now I am giving myself a break over the times I wasn’t writing. Yes, some of that time away has probably been about avoiding pain or focusing on the minutiae rather than any larger project at hand. I suspect most of us do those things. But even more than that, I’ve been in a relearning pattern. Life feels a little different having been through this particular spiritual vein, and I am ultimately grateful for the shift. While grasping onto stories is still not as easy, they do feel rich and relevant. Lately, I’ve been in a primordial soup of happenings:
My home ashram has been steadily coming into fruition; there was an intense weekend with visiting Tantra teachers (Ran Baron and Monique Darling, with Edie Weinstein on Cuddle Party duties) and more and different events are in the works. Friends have been around sunbathing, picnicking, and enjoying the space. Some old friends seem to have left my life unequivocally, while others remain stuck in uncomfortable balance or misunderstanding. Other old friends have been reappearing in wild, wonderful, wacky, sexy ways. There are stories to fill a volume or two in these changes alone. I’m startled at how physical I want daily life to be these days – I can groove on hours of yard work with pruning, hauling branches, mowing, then swimming or running or tennis or hiking – it’s nearly all I really want to do. That is, if it weren’t for booking the upcoming tour, hopefully through D.C., Raleigh, Asheville, Atlanta, Miami, and back again. Meanwhile I have kept an eye out to see if there’s any way in the universe I can get to the UK for Robin Gibb’s memorial service, and I have met online friends who get why this continues to mean so much to me. I was sad to learn that I will be in FL on the day of a plaque dedication, but there may be another time to gather. I’ve been true to my promise to self to not let summer fun pass me by. Rocking out (well, blue grassing out, anyway) with The Mutant Mountain Boys in oppressively hot Southern Ohio on the 4th of July was a blast, as was rediscovering my love for the strangely wise absurdity of the Church of the SubGenius. I have had some joyful days at Gunnison Beach and a good peaceful time at this year’s Northeast Naturist Festival. Oh, and my friend LauraLynn Jansen and I are planning to co-lead a chant and yoga retreat in Nicaragua, January 2013.
At first, I thought it was ironic that the chant CD is on its way as I feel itchy for a full band, wanting so much to step back into the role of rocker chick. Really, it’s just typical artist stuff, I think. Project done and my being is moving onto the next, to be painted in singer/songwriter/rock sounds and maybe some spoken word. I do ultimately trust that when it’s time to be in the midst of any of these expressions, I’ll show up and be present. I hope This… and everything else together will tell more of the story as an exploration of life – or at least as extrapolated from this particular life – in something close to 360o.
One of the things I have been doing over the last few years when not writing, touring someplace, or off on some other adventure is working as a figure model. When I mentioned to a friend that I was looking for an interesting sideline, she made the suggestion and I felt that it fit very well into my life. I always want to spend more time where art is created. I am also a longtime nudist, so there is nothing strange to me about posing for an art class. It seemed like a fun and fairly perfect thing to check out.
Though I am comfortable without clothes, it is more common a situation in my life that everyone is nude – on my favorite beach, camping in clothing-optional space, or at some other naturist event. Being the only one who’s nude in the room did take a little getting used to in the beginning, but is no big deal at all now. Most art class’ protocol is strange and a bit frustrating. Students are generally not to speak to the model. That feels cold to me at times, and can be the least appealing aspect of the job. I’d rather be spoken to like anyone else in the room. When there’s an opportunity, I try to ask someone a question, show some sense of humor, and just keep an easy-going energy flowing as much as possible.
I feel my Zen sensibilities more strongly while holding a pose than in most other circumstances. In sitting or standing still for long periods, I find meditation. 20 minutes of posing divided by short breaks leads me to settle into stillness, to follow the breath. Posing is a time to experience my current reality. It is a profound opportunity to release the habit of hiding. It is like saying “Here is all of me, World, with my bundle of irrational fears, body image issues, joys, aspirations, ideas, boredom, peacefulness…” Whatever is going on that day and in that moment, there I am. Exposing the body combined with time to watch the mind is a powerful exercise.
I often simply notice and release thoughts in meditation mode. Sometimes I follow the seemingly significant ones. Here are some of the random thoughts that float through my brain while modeling:
Oh! Here come some titles for the dual CDs that I am working on this season. Need to write them down on break… The hypothetical book I mentioned in The Steve Forbert Chronicles really does want to be written… and it wants to be fiction. Research road trip? … How will I manifest time to create all that the muse is pouring through me? … Grateful to have the ideas flowing… Hmm, a sexy thought – Wow, if I were a guy that thought might have just become a lot more obvious! … Will I wear the gold sparkly spaghetti strap shirt out dancing on Friday? … Sad memory of an ex – We used to meet after my Philly modeling gigs sometimes… I really want to finish painting the basement… There is only this moment, right now. Sat Nam… Why the heck did I dream about playing pool and going boating with Hall & Oates?! …
I sometimes wish I were learning to draw, too, but listening in on classes has helped me to at least see so much more. I notice the light and the shadow and the planes that make up people’s faces. I am starting to imagine drawing without outlining, but finding the shapes that make up the figure. I get how it is important to see more deeply into how the body works and the structure beneath the skin in order to render something realistic. I take so many things as metaphor anyway, and these are useful additions to ways to find life lessons.
Lately, I’ve been learning quite a bit posing in Moe Brooker’s class @ Moore College of Art and Design. I can’t say that I would enjoy being in his class as a student. He dishes out some intense critique and hardly gives students a moment’s rest. If he wants someone to add the face to the drawing or redo the knees or a make the feet bigger, he means pronto. The door generally gets shut on you if you are a minute late. He doesn’t particularly care whether or not students like him, but he cares deeply that they become better artists. I suspect that even though it’s fairly clear some students can’t stand dealing with his class, they’ll be incredible artists one day and will thank him. I have the easy job in the class; I just get to stand there and observe the varying mix of intensity and comedy.
Moe Brooker often says that there’s no point in being almost anything. If you want to be an artist, be an artist. Don’t be an almost artist. In the past, I have resolved to stop almosting. I am inspired to revisit this, find my inner hard-ass, ferret out the almosts, and achieve.