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November 1, 2013


Wow … I’ve realized something big, I think.

My personal life just got dragged through the gutter. Not my family … everything is okay there, but I just sold a house. A BIG house. An amazing work of art house. A beloved place of many years filled with love, laughter, friends and family. Big celebrations occurred there, dozens and dozens of concerts in the home and hundreds of ensemble rehearsals and private lessons, not to mention the music that was birthed and created there. Music reverberates throughout this house, the walls vibrate, the air vibrates and the neighbors are probably vibrating too! Every conceivable instrument has been played in this house. Besides all sizes of harps, my husband’s Baldwin Concert grand piano, cellos, violas, violins, lot’s and lot’s of flutes, basses, drums, all woodwinds, and even shakuhachi, bandoneon, vibraphone, all kinds of drums and percussion instruments and even singing bowls, bells, trombones, saxophones, French horns and trumpets. Then of course I can’t leave out the singers … soprano, alto, tenor and bass, singing art songs, classical and baroque, opera, pop and jazz. I mean, really, this house is so connected to the universe it’s floating!

So imagine, when I go to sell it, people come out of the atmosphere all wanting a piece of it somehow. We had many offers, too many signed purchase agreements, and much bad advice. Mean advice. So there was suddenly dis-chord, arguments and harsh words about us, our home and even about who we were as people. It got ugly. Not the pleasant harmony of music making that had been here for 22 years. How gut wrenching, disappointing and extremely upsetting.

Still, in the middle of all of that I tried to maintain two things, my personal practice of both harp and yoga, and my personal relationship with my husband. Both crucial when going through such angst-ridden days. Everyday, we asked ourselves, why. What happened, what did we do wrong? I still am not sure, but one lesson learned is a lesson of the heart. We did not follow our hearts, we did not follow what we felt to be our truth. We allowed ourselves to be swayed and talked into things by others, that at a gut level we knew weren’t right. We weren’t sure of ourselves, our path and so thought what we were doing was the correct thing, only to find out in almost every case, it was wrong. What we had felt, we did not follow.

But this is hard to do when emotions are high and one has attachments. Exactly the thing yoga tells us to avoid. So the message of the heart is lost and difficult to hear. The vibrations are distant and sometimes not there at all. But practicing and teaching everyday, both harp and yoga kept me on track. Having to dig deep to continue to teach daily while all around was chaos allowed me to find the ultimate message of the heart. When all else falls away, there is only one message, one truth. It is me … I am the truth. It resides within me and I can access it through experience and seeking. Life itself is the practice. I actually did nothing wrong in this situation … it was still me doing the best that I knew how and who knows, without the many teachings of yoga and the depth of my musical practice during this time, it might have been a lot worse.

And the best part of all of this … ?

I get to walk away from all the trappings a big beautiful home brings with it … the attachments of things, of owning stuff, and maintaining stuff … as I move to a small apartment in another beautiful neighborhood with nature all around me.

And the real truth? The big realization? It’s that the music goes with me, is still in me and will vibrate as me forever …

 

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Blog: The Month of Light

December 2012

The Month of Light

For me the month of December is a month of celebrating light.

Really, you ask? In the northern hemisphere of the planet, the month of December is the darkest month. The days are their shortest all year, and the winter solstice occurs late in December, this year it’s on the 21st. So how can this dark month be light-filled? The dark days in December are a reminder of light. We can celebrate that light is coming and that we have passed through the deepest, darkest cycle of the planet’s shift away from light. It is a reminder of the promise of light. There is no doubt that the sun will reappear. All the various religious practices that occur during the dark days of November/December have deep in their rituals and myths a celebration of light, the coming of light, and the promise of the coming of light.

This past week I taught a master class with all of my harp students. I had been noticing that as the majority of my class is maturing, going into their teens or early 20’s, they are struggling with nerves, anxieties, tensions, apprehensions about playing, that they didn’t have before. (Probably about growing up in general as well). With the very first student who performed, it was clear to me that it was time to address this issue openly and with all of them. They were ready. As a start, I worked with them to help them discover what they were thinking and physically doing just before they began to play. It’s the old “fight or flight” response. There were two very basic ways in which to begin to play: exhale, … then—inhale.

In my practice and study of Anusara yoga, there are 5 Universal Principals of Alignment that are applied to the body/mind as it moves through postures in space. The very first principal is “Open to Grace.” “Grace” can mean whatever you need it to mean for you. God, a Higher Power, a Universal Energy, light, possibility, relaxing… and all of those things. It’s a softening to that which is about to manifest. An opening and acknowledgement of something that is universally within you. It can sometimes be just a physical action that you may not even be aware that you are doing. For instance, exhaling.

Slow it Down.

When an athlete is about to perform his or her task they sometimes back away from it.

Slowing down time. They take a breath and step out of the batters box for a minute, say, or relax shoulders before the golf swing, or even in a fast paced game like hockey, feel the puck on the stick, then shoot. Mentally and physically, they are allowing the body to open, soften, letting it feel what it’s going to do before it does what it has been trained to do. When we’re about to perform, we can do the same thing. (After you have checked and re-checked that the harp pedals are correctly set and your bench height is right).

Thinking only within that moment, pausing, relaxing the fingers on the strings, the arms, the shoulders and jaw, sort of a physical softening response to the exhale…or in other words, Opening to Grace. Slowing down the moments with breath. Letting the body feel the sensations of how it’s going to produce the music, the energy, the colors. We can even revel in that moment just before action begins. Realizing with joy and light that we can even have this experience of playing in this moment, and then doing so. What gifts we have! What light is about to be manifested! Remembering, too, that you are supported by everyone listening, by the composer who wrote the piece and by this promise of light. You are not going it alone. Every single student had a different performance experience when first they applied this simple principal of softening and opening only to what was just happening in that moment of beginning.

And speaking of light … back to my December. December is “Opening to Grace,” on a grand universal stage. It is the exhale. It is the softening. It’s the knowing that the inhale is coming and that the promise of light is just around the corner. December is a month of holidays, joy, food, celebration and spiritual renewal. On December 22, the days will begin to get longer and the promise is fulfilled. Now take the inhale and begin.

Always, Always Love.

 

Blog: Happy November!

November 2012

Lot’s happening in November.

A Presidential election, Thanksgiving, the Holiday harp gig extravaganza lurking around the corner at the end of the month and cold and cold and cold and dark and dark and dark! And I can’t wait! Nothing like being immersed in one’s duty to the nation, each other and one’s self! Each November event gives us an opportunity to churn the soil, to plant seeds in ourselves and nurture the dark, quiet moments inside. It’s a great time to practice, both music and yoga, to study, to read and to contemplate.

I find myself reflecting on a yogic principal called dharma this fall. It’s a principal that comes up again and again, both in classes and in texts and it’s a principal that is deeply embedded, in slightly different forms, in all our cultures and religions. It’s a Sanskrit word that means a moral, or regulatory order of the universe. It’s that which supports the natural laws of the universe. Also in yogic usage, it implies how one performs one’s duty and maintains harmony within one’s community. It’s a choice, or freedom that aligns one’s attitudes and behaviors. It’s a responsibility you have to life and by aligning yourself to your highest duty you become stronger and healthier, enhancing your community, family and self.

Dharma is civic duty, too.

One of our biggest duties and freedoms as citizens is to vote. Feeling a part of a community is essential to our nature of connecting to each other as human beings. Our dharma as members of society is to uphold the moral and civic laws of our society, to teach these ethics and orders to our children, and to enhance the beauty and safety of the places in which we live. Voting is a way of connecting to one’s dharma, one’s truth and aligning to a common good. By voting you participate in the betterment of your established community.

In this same way we can enjoy our common Thanksgiving holiday as a nation. Going through the rituals of the holiday in a mindful and dharmic way we are more aware of life’s abundance and the celebration that surrounds our experience of the ritual. It can take on even deeper meanings when we work in our communities to eradicate hunger and homelessness. There’s a great energy when we celebrate a ritual in which the entire nation takes part.

Embracing our dharma in these ways make sense.
But what about when we are doing our work as harpists?

Each one of us plays the harp following a unique dharma, following our own right way. In taking these individual paths, we uphold the whole of the beauty that is our instrument, and recognize our individuality makes it so. When we are aware that our playing affects all that are listening in a ‘right’ way, lifting the community of listeners to a higher consciousness, the everyday gig can turn into a ritual of deeper meaning, we are strengthened by our life’s purpose, our dharma. Now we can really understand what our gifts bring to the holiday season. Living our talents, they take on an important role, even at the holiday office party. This also supports the entire community of harpists, each upholding the practices that maintain the highest, the common good, and that sustain the art.

Coming into November, we can look forward to what the fall and winter brings us. Taking time to nurture ourselves, we can be healthy, peaceful and surrounded in light, even in the cold dark days of November. Practice deeply, completely, fully, thoughtfully and follow your own dharma.

Always, Always, Love.

Professional Harpist

Kerstin Allvin

Kerstin Allvin has won numerous awards and competitions throughout her career as a concert harpist and has performed across the U.S. Kerstin Allvin has received her Registered Yoga Teacher certification from National Yoga Alliance and has given lectures in breathing techniques, body awareness and yoga to music majors in universities and high schools throughout Metro Detroit. Read More

Jazz Quartet

Collins / Allvin Jazz

Truly unique and special! Penny whistle, harp, lap harp, Irish flute, saxophones, percussion and string bass fused in haunting and alluring compositions and played by a quartet of outstanding, multi-experienced musicians. The music is refreshing and innovative and draws from each musician’s varied backgrounds in jazz and classical music. Read More

Arianna Harp Duo

Arianna Harp Duo

Kerstin Allvin and Jung Wha Lee met as harp performance majors at Indiana University and became fast friends and concert performance partners. The two harpists have had international careers as soloists, as orchestra members, and have performed many times in the US and Europe as the Arianna Harp Duo. Read More

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flourish

Creative Chords, in Tune with Life.