Mantra, Sound and Music

Let us venture into the mysterious and beautiful world of mantra, sound and music…

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Sound Life, Sound Existence

Let us venture into the mysterious and beautiful world of mantra, sound and music. At every moment we are surrounded by sound. It fills our ears and vibrates against and within our bodies. It comes from other human beings; it comes from animals and insects, from rivers and machines. From the six directions it manifests in wind and water, fire and earth. Our ears are filled at every moment with the music of existence and the mantra of being – but do we listen? Do we truly listen?

A koan is a Zen riddle or question that has, or seems to have, no answer. There is a famous koan: “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?” In other words, if not heard, can sound be said to exist?” The question can be extended to all phenomena: If unperceived, can anything be said to exist?” It can even be extended to our awareness of life: “If I fail to perceive the music that surrounds me, do I really exist?”

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When the earth’s music moves us deeply, it is because we have heard in it something more than a noise. A mother hears her baby cry in the night… is it just a sound? No, to that mother it her very own life crying out voice of her child. Love, passion, joy and sorrow, consciousness and delight are all present in life and in life a constant symphony. We know this, but do we really hear it this way, when we walk down a city street or listen to a friend? Do you hear your life in the music of this world?

Music, sound and mantra can be employed in our spiritual practice to develop and expand our awareness. It has been so used for thousands of years. When our awareness is deepened we can become intimate with the inmost consciousness of our being. In that being we discover we really do exist and that there is not the thinnest membrane between ourselves and the universe! Now close your eyes and listen to the sound of these Tibetan bells. Listen with your whole awareness to the perfectly clear presence within the sound. Listen to it as it fills the room. Listen to the presence of sound as it slowly fades away. When you are listening, think of nothing else but listening, let the sound fill you as it does the room. As it fills you, it fills infinity, the earth and sky, the heavens and the cosmos beyond, but who is listening?

AUM Life, AUM Existence

We are not always fortunate enough to have Tibetan bells or a beautiful instrument to listen to… Do you believe that? You should never believe that, because you are the most beautiful instrument in the entire universe and its most celestial tone is always vibrating within you. This tone-sound is the mantra AUM. You are the manifestation of this mantra; you are nothing but the celestial sound AUM.

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Now watch and listen to the video of “AUM” chanting. Now, chant with the video or on your own. Listen to the sacred sound of your own being. When the first vibration of AUM begins to form within us, we experience our being as it originally was coming into being. As the sound of AUM rises to its full pitch, we will feel our existence as fully established in the world. When we feel the sound of AUM fade to silence, we will feel ourselves fading, fading into the unmanifest and intangible root of our eternal being – the perfect silence that abides in the core of AUM. This is the high and wide, the deep and universal, seed sound of our existence. In truth all sounds are but an echo of AUM, all beings but the physical manifestation of AUM.

We can end our chanting, but we are always vibrating with the energy of AUM at a subtle level. Never stop listening to the music of your inmost existence. If you hear AUM within yourself, you will become refreshed, you will recover your clarity of mind, peace and harmony will returned to you, and a new confidence will magically energize your life. This is the power of AUM, the beauty of AUM, the divinity of AUM, and it is your power, your beauty and your divinity as well, for you are nothing but the celestial music of AUM manifesting in this world.

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My Journey of the Heart to Weight Loss

Difficulty is an opportunity for a depth of growth that is not present when everything is flowing easily. Difficulties have the ability to show us our inner reserves…

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By Nagesh

Personal Growth Through Weight Loss

 Difficulty is an opportunity for a depth of growth that is not present when everything is flowing easily. Difficulties have the ability to show us our inner reserves-depths, which we have yet to tap into. Not that I go looking for difficulties, mind you, but life does have a way of giving us ‘opportunities for growth.’

In June of 2014, I was offered such an opportunity. My profession is a tennis teaching professional in San Francisco. Early in that month, I sustained 3 unrelated injuries, though all related to tennis. I tore the rotator cuff in my left shoulder, tore the meniscus in my right knee, and fractured my right hand. I needed to make it through the summer before I would have the surgeries, so I grinded my way until the end of August.

Nagesh still 3

Before

Unwanted Weight

During this time, partly because of these injuries, a general depression set in and I put on weight. This was all new territory for me as I had always prided myself on being in great shape, spending many years as a competitive tennis player. I played 3 years of college tennis followed by many years of semi-professional tournaments in California and Europe, driven to become the best tennis player I could be.

Fitness was always a huge part of ‘my game’ because I came to tennis very late in life and I was always competing against players far more experienced than me. Being super fit gave me a key advantage that helped me overcome my lack of tennis experience. When my body began to break down and my weight ballooned up to 225 lbs. (my playing weight was always around 170-175lbs), it is not difficult to understand how depression began to take hold of my psyche.

I had my first surgery in August 2014 (shoulder) and waited until December to have my knee done-Surgery was not needed for my hand. From the end of August until April I was off work. Though I was very happy to have my shoulder and knee repaired, the weight remained, as I was not able to do much but sit around.

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Trip to San Diego

For months, I had been ‘knowing’ that it was time to “lose it” and get my body back to a more normal weight for me, however, it wasn’t until my trip to San Diego, to perform a music concert at the Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio, that the vehicle to embody my ‘knowing’ formulated. While in San Diego, someone mentioned the Atkins diet to me. After some research on the philosophy behind the diet, I decided to give it a try. On April 1st 2015 I jumped head first into my new way of eating, inspired that I had found my ‘way’ to embody my ‘knowing’ to ‘lose it’.

Meet the Atkins Diet

As per the instructions of the Atkins plan, I brought my carbs down to about 20 grams per day, increased my fat intake (up to about 60-70%), along with a moderate amount of protein. This flew in the face of everything I had learned about nutrition up to this point. The conventional wisdom was that a low fat, high carb diet was the best and healthiest. The results of my low carb, high fat diet, however, countered this conventional wisdom. I started to drop pounds immediately (about 4-5 pounds per week). Not only that but I began to feel much better. Gone were the energy spikes and mood swings and, in their place, was a steady energy level all day long-with no hunger cravings!

Nagesh After

After

This fascinated me and had me studying everything I could find about this way of eating, often referred to High Fat Low Carb (also known as HFLC), because I wanted to understand how this could be happening to me and if this was also happening for others as well. What I discovered was that, ‘Yes, it IS happening for others’, but also, that Atkins was not the only one recommending this way (HFLC) of eating.

It’s so awesome to, once again, be reminded that difficulties do indeed offer us ‘opportunities for growth’, along with opportunities for incredible life changes!

In upcoming posts I’ll explore some of the other HFLC plans out there and the wonderful world of weight loss that is available to everyone willing to put in the effort.

 

Nagesh is a musician and tennis professional living in San Francisco. He writes and performs original kirtan and bhajans inspired by his spiritual studies and journeys to India. You can find his music on Google Play Music store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ajeet Kaur…on Love and Forgiveness

Art and music have served as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life. Whether it is journaling, writing music, playing music or visual art,…

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by Ajeet Kaur

Art and music have served as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life. Whether it is journaling, writing music, playing music or visual art, my art brings me closer and closer to the core of my being, to the real essence of who I am. As I see it, the only parts of ourselves that keep us from truly loving and forgiving are the places of fear within us. Art allows us to explore those more vulnerable parts of ourselves, to really go deep into the vast world within, and then to express from a place of real truth when we touch it. Art that doesn’t come from that place of truth doesn’t hold much power. For me, art comes from a place where love and forgiveness are natural and come with ease, and that’s why I like to visit that space as much as possible.

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Art and music represent unity

Art and music represent unity. They are languages that communicate through feeling, emotion, and devotion. As a world with so many different traditions, languages, and ways of living, we need art to remind us to live openly. By sharing our messages of hope and love through art and music we put them into a universal language. Art is a reminder of how beautiful it is to do things differently, to be individual. If every song or every painting was the same they would lose their magic. If every person or every culture was the same, the world would lose its beauty as well.

Let My Heart Be My Compass

My creative life changes me every day. BEING CREATIVE REQUIRES US TO BE REAL WITH OURSELVES FIRST. IF I AM LIVING IN A WAY THAT ISN’T TRUE FOR ME, THAT ISN’T ALIGNED, THEN THE
music I create carries that vibration. My CREATIVE LIFE INSPIRES ME TO KEEP OPENING MYSELF, KEEP EXPLORING MY DEPTHS, AND AS I CHANGE SO DOES WHAT I CREATE. AS I EMBRACE A MORE CREATIVE LIFE WITH ART AT THE CENTER OF IT, I HAVE JUST WATCHED THOSE PRESSURES FALL AWAY. NOW THE MOST IMPORTANT GOAL IN MY LIFE IS TO LIVE IN A WAY THAT FEELS TOTALLY TRUE AND TO LET MY HEART BE MY COMPASS. MY PRAYER IS THAT BY BEING TRUE TO MYSELF IT WILL HELP OTHERS DO THE SAME. UPLIFTING EACH OTHER IS THE BEST GIFT.

“Art and music serve as the greatest healers, teachers, and therapists in my life.”
– Ajeet Kaur, Sacred Chant Artist, Flutist & Spiritual Teacher

AJEET KAUR is a sacred chant artist, flutist, and spiritual teacher based in Peterborough, New Hampshire. She released her debut album of meditation music, “Sacred Waters” in the Spring of 2013 and is now working on her second album, “At the Temple Door”. She is now traveling the world to offer music and yoga with Snatam Kaur and on her own. Inspired by the musical and spiritual atmosphere of her upbringing Ajeet began singing at a young age. Her love of music has lead her around the world to study traditional Indian and Irish music, along with folk traditions and western musical styles. Ajeet Kaur’s music is available from Spirit Voyage Records.

Website: www.ajeetkaurmusic.com
Photo: Spirit Voyage Recordsebook_cover_3D-fixed

Love Live Forgive features interviews with a diverse range of artists who reveal and explore the transformative power oflove, forgiveness, and the creative spirit. While featuring a wide-ranging demographic, the contributors to this project represent a dynamic spectrum of artistic, cultural, and faith-based backgrounds. Individually they offer their unique perspective on the human experience. Collectively they embrace a shared passion for art and its ability to transform our lives and the world around us.  Get a free book download.

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Review: Matthew Schoening: Narrow Path

Narrow Path is the fifth solo electric cello album from Matthew Schoening, a true master of his instrument…

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by Kathy Parsons

Narrow Path is the fifth solo electric cello album from Matthew Schoening (Shay-ning), a true master of his instrument. His 2011 release, Elements, was named Best Instrumental Album for that year by Zone Music Reporter. Although the music is performed on solo electric cello, the sound is that of a full band or even a symphony orchestra complete with percussion and ambient sounds that are accomplished through a complex process of live looping.

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Layers of Cello Loops

Using the technology as a compositional tool, Schoening creates layers of loops that play back instantly as he performs and become part of the pieces. His two compositional rules are that his music must be able to be performed live, with no pre-recorded sounds; and that every sound must come from the electric cello through blowing, strumming, percussive and pizzicato (plucked strings) techniques, and his proficiency with effects pedals. Narrow Path consists of nine original compositions, one of which is a 15-minute meditation, that represent what it means to Schoening to walk his path.

A Musical Journey of Adventure

Narrow Path opens with “Writing on the Walls,” an upbeat, high-energy piece that exudes excitement and anticipation as we begin our journey. “Odyssey” is a favorite. It conveys a sense of adventure, but is quieter and more subtle than the first track, taking time to observe and experience along the path. Sounding more like a cello ensemble that adds players as the piece evolves, it’s soulful, peaceful and very beautiful. I also love “Structure,” with its jazzy, intoxicating rhythms and swirling vitality. The first part of “Faith” is much more ambient, but a gorgeous melody line enters later, evolving into a layered cello ensemble that expresses peace and gentleness. “Frolik” is my favorite. The juxtaposition of the lively, percussive rhythm and a Baroque-like cello opening are infectious and compelling. As the piece unfolds, the melody becomes more contemporary with the classical sound continuing in the background and the percussive effects propelling it forward. (There is a wonderful video of this piece and others on YouTube.) I keep pressing the “repeat” button on this one! As its title suggests, “Surrender (Float)” is ambient and very tranquil. Here, the cello sounds more like a guitar with strings and ambient washes of sound in the background. “Breathe” is a fifteen-minute meditation that would be wonderful for its intended purpose. Very atmospheric and silky-smooth, it provides a peaceful respite from the chaos of daily life. For active listening, it’s very interesting, but a little long.

One-of-a-Kind Artist

Matthew Schoening is truly a one-of-a-kind artist who deserves a much bigger audience for his music. Narrow Path is available for download from www.SoloElectricCello.com and on physical CDs from Amazon. Recommended!

Matthew’s Website     Amazon

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Review: Shambhu: Sacred Love

Let’s skip the name dropping and talk about this very impressive solo debut that contrary…

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by Michael Debbage

According to Shambhu’s website this guitarist has previously performed with Carlos Santana, Narada Michael Walden and Whitney Houston to name a few. But let’s skip the name dropping and talk about this very impressive solo debut that contrary to its album cover is not flowery and light but actually a very expressive recording that fuses organic contemporary instrumental music with light elements of jazz and world themes. Of course it does not hurt to have the Will Ackerman team, however this does not take away from the creative juices that flow from this new solo artist who co-produced and wrote eleven of the twelve impressive songs.

Shimmering Sitar and Guitar Work

The album is anchored in the mature opening track “Together” that features a conservative Charlie Bisharat on violin with the legendary bassist Tony Levin gently driving this mid tempo song. Similar results can be found on “Natural Moment” this time with Shambhu’s shimmering sitar and guitar work giving the grounded composition a unique folksy yet exotic feel. Shambhu also adds the vocal chants of Claytoven Richardson on “Maui Breeze” and “Hide And Seek” cloaking the music with a bossa nova edge to it.

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Simply brilliant!

In contrast, Shambhu also captures a more tender approach best illustrated by the poignant “Eyes Of A Child”, the sublime “Revelation” and even the subdued restrained passion of “Imagine.” On the latter,  Ackerman not only co-writes but also performs alongside Shambhu and veteran bassist Michael Manring who sounds like he is performing on a fretless bass, that only adds to the smooth silky sound. Shambhu takes an even more meditative approach on the likes of “Nirab Amare” and “Call To Spirit” and then seizes the opportunity to add a Western flavor on “Shiva Grove” by adding a jazz element courtesy of George Brooks’ saxophone as he intertwines with flutist Ravichandra Kulur. Simply brilliant!

An Album of Integrity and Maturity

Shambhu may have an unusual name and along with the meditative and very light artwork of the album cover, this may not be the smartest marketing decision as the meditative influence is nominal at best. However, this would certainly support the expression of don’t judge the “book” by its cover. Simply put, Scared Love is an album of integrity and maturity that is very capable of exploring several genres yet still creating a very cohesive and entertaining album making it the sleeper hit of 2010.

Shambhu’s Website     Amazon     iTunes      CD Baby

Michael Debbage writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  He is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Tonight: Kirtan Band Streaming Live!

Join us online for an evening of music, community and joyful fun! Every Thursday night Pilgrimage Yoga Online…

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Join us online for an evening of KIRTAN: music, community and joyful fun!

Every Thursday night the Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band streams Kirtan music live.  WATCH LIVE at 8:15pm (Pacific) using the FREE Stre.am app for iOS and Android. Download the app, sign in and search for pilgrimagekirtan to connect with us. Become part of our world-wide Kirtan community.

Kirtan is a music and chanting meditation practice with its origin in the bhakti tradition of yoga; the practice of devotion to the creator. By singing and chanting we vibrate our bodies and resonate with good energy.  And by occupying our minds with a ‘Mantra,” a meaningful devotional phrase, we are better able to focus our attention on devotion to our creator, creation and our place in it. At its very best kirtan is a deeply profound and moving meditation practice. At its least its a fun, entertaining hour.

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Pilgrimage Yoga Online Kirtan features chants from the major faith based systems, ancient, contemporary and original mantra and song.

Join us streaming live Thursday nights at 8:15-9:15pm (pacific)!

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Moby …on Love and Forgiveness

This post launches a new series of essays by artists on love and forgiveness. Our first post is by world-renowned DJ, musician, photographer, producer, and singer-songwriter Moby…

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by Moby

One of the reasons why music in particular is so ubiquitous and so universal with love is that it reaches people on a very profound emotional level. Often times, I feel like music can reach people on an almost softer, deeper, and more vulnerable level than people might normally experience on a day to day basis. I think to understand music’s ability to foster love and forgiveness, it sometimes helps to look at their opposites. To me, the opposite of love isn’t necessarily hate. The opposite of love is judgment, and the opposite of forgiveness is bitterness and resentment.

Music Can Open People Up

I feel like music in particular can open people up to a more honest, vulnerable, softer side, which is
really where love and forgiveness arise. A theory I have about human emotion, is that in a very broad sense, there are two emotional states that human beings have—there’s a state of defensiveness and a state of openness. You could use other adjectives—you could say there’s hard and there’s soft and there’s defensive and there’s vulnerable. I think that love and forgiveness, they come from that place of openness, softness, and vulnerability. The harder emotional states; anger, bitterness, defensiveness, and cynicism are usually masks for the softer states. My experience is that for the majority of people, myself included, it’s really easy to succumb to the harder emotional states—the anger, defence, bitterness, without looking at what’s underneath.

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True Forgiveness

I think that forgiveness—really true forgiveness—needs to come from the softer emotions that lie under the hard emotions, but most of us don’t have much training in looking behind the harder emotions. A lot of our culture reinforces these harder emotions. We have a culture that glorifies anger, bitterness, and retribution. One thing that art and music can do is enable people to access these softer emotional states from where true love and forgiveness arise.

Self Awareness

Forgiveness can really only be truly meaningful with self-awareness. Forgiveness should not involve judgement or retribution or bitterness. When I’m forgiving of someone, it’s because I’m looking at them and I’m hopefully filled with a true sense of compassion. I don’t see them as a completely separate other being, I see them as being a human similar to me and whatever that person has done, I see that I have probably done similar things as well. I can see that when I’ve done bad things it’s usually because I’ve been insecure or afraid. I can look at that other person and say, “Oh, they’re insecure and afraid as well,” and create a much deeper sense of forgiveness.

MOBY is a world-renowned DJ, musician, photographer, producer, and singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles, California. He has sold over twenty million albums worldwide, and is famous for his electronic music, vegan lifestyle, and support of animal rights. His best-selling albums “Play” (1999), “18” (2002), “Hotel” (2005), “Last Night” (2008), “Destroyed” (2011), and “Innocents” (2013) are all available from www.moby.com. Moby has also co-written, produced, and remixed music for Michael Jackson, David Bowie, Daft Punk, Brian Eno, Pet Shop Boys, Britney Spears, New Order, Public Enemy, Guns N’ Roses, Metallica, among many others.

Websites: www.moby.com and www.mobygratis.com
Photos: DEF Ltd & Little Idiot Records

From Love Live Forgive, featuring interviews with a diverse range of artists who reveal and explore the transformative power ofebook_cover_3D-fixedlove, forgiveness, and the creative spirit. While featuring a wide-ranging demographic, the contributors to this project represent a dynamic spectrum of artistic, cultural, and faith-based backgrounds. Individually they offer their unique perspective on the human experience. Collectively they embrace a shared passion for art and its ability to transform our lives and the world around us.  Get a free book download.

Thanks to Justin St. Vincent, the Director and Founder of Xtreme Music. He has self-published four books including a worldwide trilogy exploring The Spiritual Significance of Music (2009-2012), and free eBook Love Live Forgive: Insights from Artists (2014), all available from Xtreme Music:  www.XtremeMusic.org 

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Review: Halpern and Diamond: Ambient Alchemy

Ambient Alchemy is a fourteen-piece collaboration by new age “superstar” Steven Halpern and “rising star” Michael Diamond with special…

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by Kathy Parsons

Ambient Alchemy is a fourteen-piece collaboration by new age “superstar” Steven Halpern and “rising star” Michael Diamond with special guest Michael Manring who appears on six tracks.

Sound Healing

The Grammy-nominated Halpern has had a very long career in the field of sound healing and composed the music for four of the tracks; he plays Rhodes piano, keyboards, and crystal bowls on this album. Michael Diamond has also had a very impressive career thus far as a musician, producer, and music journalist; he composed the other ten tracks and plays guitar, guitar synth, and keyboards. Manring is widely considered to be the best fretless bass player on the planet.

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“Space Music”

Most of the music on Ambient Alchemy can be classified as “space music,” with ethereal, floating sounds and the feeling of vast openness. It is music that can provide an unobtrusive background for working or quiet activities, and yet is rich enough for active listening – especially for the healing arts and deep relaxation.

Outstanding Production Quality

The production quality is outstanding, with clear sound that is never too bright or jarring and that has tremendous depth. It is very easy to let go while listening to this album, allowing your mind take you on a journey limited only by your own imagination.

Pure Enjoyment

Very peaceful and transporting, Ambient Alchemy is music with a purpose that can also be savored for pure enjoyment. 

Steven’s Website     Michael’s Website     Amazon     iTunes

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Review: Kater and DeMaria: Heart of Silence

Heart of Silence is the first collaboration by pianist Peter Kater and Native American flutist Michael Brant DeMaria…

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by Kathy Parsons

Heart of Silence is the first collaboration by pianist Peter Kater and Native American flutist Michael Brant DeMaria. With fourteen Grammy nominations between them, this album seems very likely to place both artists firmly inside the Winners Circle for 2015. Both are widely-known for their deeply spiritual improvisations and the music for this album was created during meditative sessions. Each track is a free improvisation performed without any rehearsals or pre-planning. Kater and DeMaria chose which key they were going to play in and started recording. In turn, the intention is for the eight tracks to be listened to as meditations.

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A Masterpiece of Simplicity

The inspiration for Heart of Silence was DeMaria’s experience of having his mother die in his arms only to be revived by emergency cardiac surgery. Profoundly touched and changed by the experience, DeMaria wanted to find a way to express that experience musically – the mix of grief, connection, and love that was both ominous and comforting at the same time. He had three custom deep bass flutes made for this project, searching for the lowest sound he could find. The flute with the lowest tone used on this recording is five feet in length – a sub-bass A minor flute – and only one other such flute exists. It becomes a voice from the depths and a drone instrument to express the inexpressible. DeMaria says that his whole body vibrates when he plays this flute. Blended with Kater’s soulful piano, the duo has created a masterpiece of simplicity and profound meaning that should touch the spirit of anyone who experiences it.

Open, Free and Deeply Emotional

The music itself is very open, free, and deeply emotional. The sound of the deep bass flute is dark but also very warm and comforting. The percussive quality of the piano contrasts beautifully with the more rounded tones of the bass flute. Kater has often recorded and performed with Native American flutists, so it is no surprise that this album works so well. However, this is far from a duplication of previous work – DeMaria has his own musical style and message to convey – and the duo has created an album that is  unique and very personal. Although there are short breaks between the tracks, the album plays as a cohesive one hour listening/meditating experience and yet each piece stands alone as well.

Sure to be one of my Favorites for 2015, Heart of Silence is available from SoundsTrue.com, Amazon and iTunes. Very highly recommended!

Sounds True     Peter’s Website     Michael’s Website     Amazon     iTunes

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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A Beat You Can Breathe To: Yoga and Music

Music Affects Our Emotions – We know intuitively that music affects our emotions. It hits us deeply, unconsciously…

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by JC Peters

Have you ever noticed the music yoga teachers play in class?

Music Affects Our Emotions

We know intuitively that music affects our emotions. It hits us deeply, unconsciously,  elevating us, calling forth an old memory, or even causing us to squeeze on the gas pedal a little harder. Neurologist Oliver Sacks, in his book Musicophilia, explains that the parts of our brains that understand music are intertwined with our limbic (emotional) and motor (movement) systems. Sacks writes, “Rhythm in this sense, the integration of sound and movement, can play a great role in coordinating and invigorating basic locomotor movement.” No wonder we can’t help tapping our toes when a certain song comes on the radio.

Your Breath

In Vinyasa or Flow yoga, we intend very clearly to connect with the rhythm of the breath. We breathe Ujjayi, a slowed down, smoothed out breath that sounds a bit like a whisper, and link every transitional movement to either an inhale or an exhale. Your breath becomes a dance partner, and when you are really in the zone, your breath leads the dance.

Classically, Ujjayi breath is a four count inhale and exhale. Some teachers count the breath out loud, but a good song in 4/4 time with a steady tempo can get everyone in the room breathing together effortlessly. The yoga playlist is an unsung art: if we listen with our bodies, a good groove can help, while an irregular beat can throw us off. What we need is a beat we can breathe to.

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Yoga Playlist

The yoga playlist can also set musical moods, from calm and contemplative to fiery and intense. Since we hear music both physically and emotionally, we must be mindful about using it in a practice with such physical and emotional resonances. Whether it’s Tibetan monks chanting or Avril Lavigne, we must acknowledge that the music we choose creates an emotional flavor for our slow dance with the breath.

Many of my students love my yoga playlists, but I’m also aware that some of them must really, deeply hate them. Everyone has their preferences, and some people like their yoga in silence, with the steady beat of the heart as their only metronome. It’s good to acknowledge that you can’t please all the people all the time, but in the end, the music isn’t for my students. It’s for me.

Entrainment

If you put a few pendulums in a room together, swinging at different phases, they somehow hear or feel each other and sync up. This is called entrainment, and it also happens in a yoga class. As the teacher, I need to be the pendulum whose rhythm everyone else matches up with. No matter what’s going on in my life, and even if no one else notices the actual tunes, I know my playlist will get me in sync with the tempo and mood I am trying to share.

In your teaching or home practice, explore how music affects your movement. Some songs even make me want to do backbends or inversions, while others make me crave deep, seated forward folds. There’s a secret language in the music that can accompany our dance with breath. As the poet Mary Oliver has said, “Rhythm is one of the most powerful of pleasures, and when we feel a pleasurable rhythm we hope it will continue. When it does, it grows sweeter.”

This post was originally published on Spirituality & Health. To view the original post, click here.

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Review: Paul Avgerinos: “Bhakti”

Calming, Joyful, and Uplifting – Bhakti is Grammy-nominated/ award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist…

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Paul-Avgerinos

by Kathy Parsons

Calming, Joyful, and Uplifting

Bhakti is Grammy-nominated/ award-winning composer and multi-instrumentalist Paul Avgerinos’ nineteenth album to date. Best-known for his ambient music, Avgerinos goes in a different direction with Bhakti (a Sanskrit word that means love and devotion). Avgerinos has practiced yoga, meditation, chanting and devotional singing all of his life and became a student of a Bhakti yoga guru from India when he was sixteen. He has been very active in a small Christian church for the past twenty years although he was raised in the Greek Orthodox church. Using a combination of Eastern and Western musical traditions and instruments as well as chanting and singing, Avgerinos has brought all of those influences together into a musical celebration of love and devotion. Calling it a “must have for energizing any yoga practice,” Bhakti is very calming, joyful, and uplifting. Avgerinos sings several of the tracks – a first in almost ten years – and also plays bass, a variety of guitars, keyboards, and did the sound design. Guest artists appear on sarod, EWI, “angelic” vocals, sitar, and violin. All of this is backed by “Bollywood” beats and Christian Sanskrit mantras. Warm and accessible, this is music that should appeal to a broad audience for both its spiritual and musical offerings. Six of the eleven tracks are primarily instrumental although most of those have wordless vocals. All have a strong Indian influence.

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Ambient and Meditative

Appropriately, Bhakti begins with “Invocation,” a very peaceful opening that sets the spiritual tone of the album. “Shanti Om” is more of a chant sung by beautiful, ethereal voices with a simple but very rhythmic background that becomes more complex as the piece evolves. “Love and Devotion” combines Sanskrit and English lyrics in an upbeat, joyful song with jazz flute passages and a catchy beat. “Om Namah Christaya” is a favorite. Voices are layered (including Avgerinos’) in a very peaceful chant/song backed with a strong rhythm that gives the song a quality that is very serene as well as invigorating. “A Path with Heart” is my favorite of the instrumentals. A bit more Western in its approach, Eastern instrumentation combines beautifully with ambient keyboard sounds – very soothing. “Hare Jesu” again puts Avergerinos’ voice in the forefront in a chant that is both Christian and Hindu – fascinating! Although angelic voices are utilized, “Joy of Being” is primarily an instrumental that is sometimes melodic and sometimes ambient. “Forgiveness and Healing” is a 9-minute track that goes even more ambient and meditative. The closing track, “Peaceful Contentment” provides well over ten minutes of tranquility – gentle and blissful throughout.

Enlightening Listening Experience

Bhakti is quite an unusual but very enlightening listening experience. Paul Avgerinos is likely to garner a great deal of attention and probably another round of awards with this one! It is available from Amazon and iTunes.

Kathy Parsons writes music reviews and interviews artists for MainlyPiano.com.  She is a regular contributor to the Pilgrimage Yoga Online blog.

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Kirtan and Health

The numbers are astounding! – Singing, especially choral singing is one of the easiest and best things you can do for your health…

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The numbers are astounding!

Singing, especially choral singing is one of the easiest and best things you can do for your health and well-being.

“Group singing is cheaper than therapy, healthier than drinking, and certainly more fun than working out. It is the one thing in life where feeling better is pretty much guaranteed.”

I know this from experience. I’ve lead a weekly kirtan, a chanting and meditation practice, for over five years. At the end of the evening I am exhilarated. I feel good. I’m happy and at peace.

“Group singing, for those who have done it, is the most exhilarating and transformative of all.

“It takes something incredibly intimate, a sound that begins inside you, shares it with a roomful of people and it comes back as something even more thrilling: harmony.”

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Our Breaths and Hearts

When we sing our breaths and hearts come together, a process called entrainment. Vibrations sync up. And studies further suggest that group singing can be extremely beneficial for older folks who don’t exercise regularly.

“Deep breathing is a key to meditation and other relaxation techniques…”

A  Form of Pranayama

I’ve often described singing as a form of pranayama. Think about it. Precisely controlled breathing. Inhale a measured volume of air, pause, regulate and pressurize, exhale in a very conscious manner to produce a specific sound, continuing to refine the exhale to control and improve the sound or change notes… Repeat. All together, now…

Great for Everyone

A kirtan is great for anyone to find a safe, welcoming and easy place to find your voice. No auditions are required. No one cares what you sound like. And in fact, the benefits of singing are available even to the most average singers (of which I am one). Find a kirtan. Find your voice. Enliven your heart.

We’re here for you!

Join Us Live or Live Stream

The reality is, when you join in choral singing you become an integral component of something you can’t create by yourself. You recognize and appreciate both the necessity and the offerings of those around you. You become part of a larger whole, a community of ONE.

The Pilgrimage of the Heart Kirtan Band plays every Thursday evening at 8:15pm (Pacific) for FREE and streams the event LIVE. Join us in person if you are in San Diego. Download Stre.am (free app) on your mobile device and search for pilgrimagekirtan to connect with us worldwide.

 

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Kirtan for Weight Loss?

Kirtan for Weight loss! Wait, what… Really? If we’re talking about the ‘Weight of the World.’ Kirtan can help with that! Kirtan is a place…

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Kirtan for Weight loss! Wait, what… Really?

If we’re talking about the ‘Weight of the World.’

Kirtan can help with that! Kirtan is a place where the weight of the world is gone. It’s a place where we can shed our chains, where we can lift eyes to our maker. It’s a place of communal outpouring, chant upon chant about love and gratitude – for our miracle-lives! It’s a place to find our courage. Heavy can be life. We can all change the way we look at things in our worlds. Kirtan can be a good vehicle in helping us find the inner determination to take meaningful steps in our lives. Jai, jai Ganesha!

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Fear of Singing… 

Sometimes the way to propel yourself forward involves sticking your neck out a bit. Folks often have an aversion to singing. So, their initial response is, “I’m not good enough.” Don’t let this happen to you! You don’t have to audition. Just show up. When you are ready, join in. Singing is not heavy… It’s pure light, pure vibration. It feels good. We loosen up as we vibrate. We loosen the chains we’re holding onto so tightly. We can let go…

When we sing and vibrate together as a group, we are a Unity. It’s a concrete reminder of an abstract concept; that everything in the universe vibrates as a perfect Unity.

Kirtan. Shed the ‘Weigh of the World.’  Move lightly.

Want to know more?

Our San Diego community, Pilgrimage of the Heart members and participants are fortunate to have FREE Kirtan every Thursday evening at 8:15pm (Pacific). This event is now streamed LIVE! Download the FREE app for your mobile device and follow us at stre.am/pilgrimagekirtan.

Lose the ‘Weight of the World!’

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4 Keys to a Home Yoga Practice

Developing a home yoga practice can be incredibly rewarding! Keep the following tips in mind as you move forward in your yogic journey.

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Developing a home yoga practice can be incredibly rewarding! Keep the following tips in mind as you move forward in your yogic journey:

1. Gratitude

For many practitioners, the spiritual and cognitive aspects of yoga can be overshadowed by the desire for fitness. And with any fitness regimen, repetition for the sake of fitness can feel like a chore and become stale. It’s important to keep your at-home practice in perspective. It’s a gift, so anytime it feels labored to step on your mat, remember that not everyone has the knowledge of or access to this sacred practice.  Even the days when stepping on the mat seems impossible, take a breath of gratitude, remembering you are endowed with this physical body, this intellectual mind and this gift of yoga.

2. Making Time

Regardless of how busy your life seems, you have time for a personal yoga practice. But the busier your schedule, the more you must manage expectations. Don’t hold the standard of your at-home practice to the experience you receive in a studio class. There’s a different energy involved with a group practice, as opposed to being solitude on your mat. Depending on your schedule, your home practice might just be a quick 15-minute jump start to your day. Master Yoga Teacher Mark Whitwell even suggests committing to just 7-minutes per day as a positive step in developing a private practice. However long you find time to come into your practice, give yourself the gift of being fully present on your mat, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

3. Centering and Creating Intention

The best way to remain present in your practice is to take a few moments to calm your mind with deep breathing. This could be your favorite style of pranayama, or just repeating long breath cycles. Centering through deep breathing is our very best tool for unclogging some of the mind clutter, and this isn’t just yogic speak. When you use deep breathing, you tap into the body’s parasympathetic nervous system. You can think of this as the opposite of the fight or flight response, a moment when your body tells you that everything is ok, there’s nothing to worry about. And it comes from your breathing.

 Centering is also a great opportunity for setting an intention or dedication for your practice. This is simply adding mindfulness to your physical practice and an intention can be anything you’d like to give or receive during your time on the mat. Drawing a blank for your intention? Try finding a quote relative to a theme or word you’d like to use as a focal point. Try BrainyQuote.com or ThinkExist.com as a starting point for inspiration.

4. Music

When it comes to motivation, music can play a major role in keeping you moving on your mat, especially when aspiring to a longer at-home practice. Move to your favorite playlist, or better yet, create yoga specific playlists to suit your mood with online platforms like Spotify. With these programs, you can create playlists that not only reflect your energy or tempo, but also the amount of time you’d like to spend on the mat that day. Try making a 20-minute playlist, a 40-minute playlist and a one-hour playlist, and use them when it’s appropriate. And as long as the music is still going, so are you. No time for making playlists? Turn on Pandora to your favorite artist and let them handle it for you.

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