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I’ve been getting ready for a show this Saturday at The Soma Center in Highland Park, NJ, very much in my old stomping grounds near Rutgers University. I really like how Jessica sounds on vocals and viola. I think we have a good combo in sound and personality. This past Friday we played a mini house concert that served as a good dressed rehearsal for this weekend’s show. I didn’t feel quite ready to play one of the songs from the new material I’ve been writing, but I definitely want to get “Everybody Does the Best They Can” on Saturday’s playlist. Songs always feel like works in progress for a while after I start letting them out into the world, anyway. I do think they have to be let out in order to grow into their strongest form.
Saturday will be a 2-for-1; after the concert will be Bhakti Dance! – an event I have been creating over the past year in Pennsylvania and in Ohio. I am hoping for a good “hometown” crowd for it this time. All this should feel more or less like part of the usual program; even better in a place where I am most at ease. It is actually a bit more complex at the moment, though thankfully not profoundly so – at least not anymore.
2014 has been a very weird year. I won’t write a book about it here, but suffice it to say that this year I found myself in close proximity with some practices and beliefs that were very off-putting (That would be somewhat of an understatement.). It was being called yoga, and it looked like yoga. I suppose it is yoga of a sort, but not one with which I care to interface. I can’t claim to know the inner life of anyone else, but it seemed to be a yoga of doctrine over discovery. It was clearly of mind over heart – a kind of academic belief in interconnectedness, but profoundly lacking in compassion. I could go on, but there is no need.
There has been so much more to the journey than this, but one of the effects of opening my intimate circle to this bizarre detour has been to have to question all, to move through a real, but thankfully temporary fear of yoga and spiritual practice in general. I have had to rediscover for myself what these things are and what parts of them, if any, I want in my life. It has generally not been a good feeling, but it surely is powerful to tear everything down (or to have it torn down) to rebuild what is good and what matters.
For a while, I wasn’t sure if I could go back to the part of my world that has been about facilitating kirtan and other yoga-related practices. Thanks to the help of genuine friends and my own journey through these months of decompression, reading, and sorting out what is helpful and for the highest good and what just isn’t, I have been teasing out and rediscovering all the elements of a contemplative, spiritual way of being that do resonate: Balance and integration are everything. Knowing and feeling the value of all beings is truth. The yoga that guides me and that is my daily way is doing the work of growth and finding the perfection in the messiness of real, everyday life, not in the aloof or abstract, but the embodied. Yoga is nothing if not about getting to the heart of love.
I am relieved and quietly joyful to get back to my own daily meditation practice and my writing. The concert and Bhakti Dance will be so much fun on Saturday. I am glad to say it will come from a genuine place of opening to joy and enjoyment, finally unafraid.
Saturday, December 6th 6:30pm
*concert and Bhakti Dance!
511 Raritan Ave, Highland Park, NJ 08904
w/ singer/violist Jessica Floresta
Concert performance 6:30-8pm
Bhakti Dance! 8:30-10pm
$12/either event, $20/the evening
Bhakti Dance! is a fun, transformative, alternative social event – Think of the high school dance only with great kirtan, mantra dance music, an uplifting party playlist, and none of the drama. Refreshments available.
I began this blog last night. It was going to be something very different. As I woke up on this warmish, misty Ostara morning, it was as though all the things I was poised to worry about in writing had put themselves in order. Whether coincidental or a function of syncing spirituality with the seasons, I do feel balance on this Equinox.
The making of the new chant CD has happened in about as opposite as fashion as the last one as possible. The kirtans and other spiritual songs on Live Devotion came quickly, jumping into my head as I worked, drove, or sang other songs—anytime, and when least expected. A few rehearsals, one long day in studio, and it had arrived. I already knew that what we were affectionately calling “Studio Devotion” would be a more traditional recording experience, but I didn’t think it would be a year in the making. Given that a lot of the year was pushing past emotional obstacles ad absurdum, I am happy to say that the gestation period for what will officially be called This seems just about over. I would like to release it well – with some traditional and innovative promotion and viable distribution. I’m open to suggestion from all quarters on how that may best happen. In the meantime, it is a wonderful feeling to be just about through with recording and mixing and to feel the emergence of new spiritsong on the first day of spring.
A recent blog by my friend LauraLynn Jansen inspired me to reflect on “What is yogic?” Today, I believe it is the practice of remembering, of coming back to center, and living a life that allows all sorts of activities and interactions to be the instrument of balance. Music, when I lose myself in it, does this work. Lately exercise – especially swimming and biking – are just as much music to me, just as much a journey toward Center. I am undertaking a sprint triathlon training, also inspired by LL. I keep finding more and more depth in meeting the challenges. I have considered the workout to be a form of meditation before, but it is new for me to think about fitness as art. The metaphor of Oneness meets the day-to-day.
April is coming, and that means NaPoWriMo. It may make me very busy, but springtime is emergence is yoga is staying in the flow of writing.
I am feeling like a fully erotic being again, after too long a hibernation.
A few years ago, I noticed that I occasionally had dreams and idle fantasies of throwing things away – nearly violent images of picking up old clothes, old papers, random electronics, and broken stuff—and tossing them all haphazardly and mercilessly out of an open window. Sometimes I’d break the window in the process. It felt great to care less. What a crazy, cathartic forced way to affect clarity, well beyond the fabled “letting go.” The fantasy may be a bit on the extreme side, but it speaks to things that need doing, and perhaps a bit to my Virgo Obsesso nature. My living space has been incongruent with the order that I long for inside and out. I am pleased to say that is changing.
These last two weeks have been the beginning of reclaiming my home as temple. I call my place the Arts Ashram of Atco. I am dedicating my current practice to continuing to move the energies closer in line with the name. This morning in the middle of working peacefully in my room near the main altar, cleaning the kitchen, and in brushing the light layers of snow from the car, I felt the yoga coming back into my home and my being. As of a few days ago, an area that was once jumbled storage space is now “The Yoga Nook.” Next— on to the office. It doesn’t have a clever name yet.
A lot of people seem to think that the best thing about being freelance is that you get to create your own hours. I find that what has actually been most beneficial so far is that I create my own days. If it is time to tour through to Detroit or Sarasota or Kansas City, I can plan the dates, pick up and go. The hours within a day of writing at home can be a lot trickier.
Creating one’s own hours can be a joy provided that it is actually done in a way that promotes order and balance. When I have been good at creating my own hours, I am up at least by 6:30am, meditating by 6:45, in the gym by 7:45, home and hitting the day’s work by 9:30. I think that what some people believe would be so great about creating one’s own hours would be having the liberty to stay in bed ‘til 10, and work most of the day in pajamas. I have sometimes taken that kind of liberty, but when it happens, it usually means that my mood is slipping.
When I’m happiest, I’m up and at ‘em. At the lab where I used to work, I was so much the morning person that I was forbidden to play Uz Jsme Doma, the then #1 on my personal playlist, until everyone else could handle it—usually after noon. I love all kinds of sounds, but right now in my realigning phase, #1 on my chart is The Eternal Om (but there’s always room near the top of the chart for Steely Dan and Gary Wilson).
I resonate with the evenness that a monastic-style schedule creates – there is the potential for quiet joy with little tribulation. Here in my own space once again, I am very much in the midst of the multitasking world, but I have decided to add a lot more structure- to make my own hours for waking, exercising, working, eating, creating, socializing, and sleeping. My friend Tom Limoncelli, activist and time management guru, advocates making your life “boring” through routine. I think it’s a good trick: Get basic life stuff done, time and mental space is available. Life is less worrisome, and in truth, not so boring. I am taking that advice to heart.
I believe in the Arts Ashram of Atco and what it can become, or not, as I choose. After this time of returning to center, I expect to invite in the kirtans, parties, retreats, and other gatherings I’ve wanted to host. Some will be reminiscent of events past and I have many visions of new ones making their way to fruition. So far, these visions don’t involve any SCTV moments, but I remain open-minded.