Blog: I’ve got peace on my mind

Blog: I’ve got peace on my mind

July 2012

I’ve got peace on my mind.

I woke up with the opening melody and lyrics going through my head to the song “Age of Aquarius.” What was I dreaming about? Wish I could remember!

When the Moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then Peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

I am thrilled to have attended the 12th World Nobel Peace Summit in Chicago a few weeks ago, the first time ever that this event was hosted in North America.

I am now peace-filled, vibed out, and bursting with nonviolent consciousness-energy. I was invited at the last minute to go and jumped at the once in a lifetime chance to attend this amazing gathering of world leaders discussing PEACE! The three-day event culminated with a presentation including His Holiness the Dali Lama, President Mikhail Gorbachev, Sean Penn, Professor Muhammad Yunus, Professor Jody Williams and Dr. Shirin Ebadi. Attending a Peace Summit is uplifting by it’s very nature. Hundreds of individuals thinking and speaking peace in one place. How can a space like that not be vibrating peace? Music vibrates peace in this way.

Being a creative artist gives one an opportunity to create a moment of peace for anyone listening. Of course you can create chaos as well, but the ability to draw an emotional response from a listener and mold an environment for this response is why everyone listens to music. I like having this power available to me as a musician. It’s so amazingly fulfilling to know that the sounds you are creating can invoke such high-powered human emotional responses not only in yourself but also in others.

What would the world be like if we all listened daily to music inspired by peace?  What does peace sound like?

It just might take us all down a notch or two. What the mind is thinking about all the time and what one is doing with one’s daily activities is who you are. If you have a thought, the body has to make a chemical response to that thought. Scientist Candace Pert discusses this in depth in her amazing book, “Molecules of Emotion.” So if you are surrounded by negativity, and think mean thoughts all the time, then the ability of the brain to understand and know peace is very limited. Or to know tolerance. Or to know compassion. Or to know love. So in order to live in peace, we must think and speak in peace. It becomes a daily language and part of the universal ideas of peace. It’s powerful because if you are thinking and acting in peace, then others may see it or sense it in you and begin to realize the capacity for peace in themselves, just like they can respond to the music of peace. Words are the music of speech.  Music and the language of peace don’t have to be “new agey” either, or ever out dated. I heard the Fifth Dimension was pretty cool in 1969 when they recorded “Age of Aquarius.”(At least that’s what I am told, I was too young!)

What does this have to do with harp playing? Plenty.

There is no room in life to ever play anything that does not resonate with you or to ever play just to “get it over with.” Every time you sit down to play, has to be the next best experience of life. To illuminate your audience and lift them up you have to set your intention to do just that. And in so doing you will illuminate and up lift yourself as well. There are times you have to just learn the notes and dig in to the work of learning. But when you perform, be power filled by your intensions.

This July I am embarking on a life-long dream of presenting a music workshop, festival and retreat all in one. I have called it The Creative Harp Collective International and it takes place in Tobermory, Ontario, Canada.

It’s for all ages and all levels of musicians because we are all creative artists. My desire is to create a space that stimulates creativity, creative thinking, creative performance, composition and improvisation and at the same time provide an environment of peace and tranquility, stillness and yet, energy.

For awhile, as this venture was unfolding, I didn’t have any idea as to what type of theme could unify all the events, but after the Summit it’s clear to me that to be the best creative artist and thus, a person engaged on this planet, peace has to be on our minds. One must ALLOW peace to enter the human experience and nurture it there. Then, the business of uniting each other in a global peace consciousness is achieved and can be sustained.

Towards the end of the final presentation of the Nobel Peace Summit titled “World Peace and Nonviolence: Never Give Up,” His Holiness the Dali Lama, was sitting next to His Excellency Mikhail Gorbachev. They were actually leaning against each other when His Holiness was asked:  “How can we not give up in our quest for nonviolence, compassion, human rights and tolerance when all around us is the opposite?” The Dali Lama placed his finger alongside President Gorbachev’s temple and replied, “It’s all in the human mind. We must change the way we think.”

May all your planets line up, your love steer the stars and may this new age dawn with the dialogue of peace.

Always, always, Love.


The Creative Harp Collective International
Tobermory, Ontario, Canada

For Pedal and Lever Harpist, For All Ages, For All Things Harp, and For People that Play, Enjoy, and Listen to the Harp. Click here to learn more information.


Blog: Something Old + Something Old = Something New

Blog: Something Old + Something Old = Something New

May 1, 2012

Inventive Math

I have been practicing something really old and I have been practicing something else really old and together something new is emerging. It’s called the Creative Harp Collective International and takes place in Tobermory, Ontario, Canada. It’s an exciting adventure with my friend and colleague Anita Leschied from Windsor, Canada.

The first old thing is the harp itself.

The harp is an ancient instrument. It’s possible that it could be more than 5,000 years old. It gives me chills to even ponder it’s history! As soon as there was a bow and arrow for hunting, there was probably a harp that came from that invention. Clearly there’s a reason why this instrument has been used and recognized in ceremonies and healing practices, in salons and care facilities and in orchestras and chamber ensembles. There is something about the sound of the plucked string, the direct contact of the physical body to touch and move a medium into vibration that produces a mystical, magical response.

The second old thing is yoga.

Now that’s REALLY old too. The first known writings of civilization, the Hymns of the Vedas, contain the basis of Tantric (yogic) spiritual practices and the healing arts of Ayurvedic Medicine from 4500 – 2500 BCE. The practice of yoga postures that we are familiar with in the west today are only about 150 years old. We are just beginning to experience the life affirming practice of yoga in all its variations.

Three Days.

For three days these two seemingly disconnected forces will merge into all things harp. Together, Anita and I will give attendees a new prospective on the instrument, changing how you think about playing, what motivates the practice, how to bring out the best creative aspect of yourself, the connection to technique and the connection to Self.

Nurture and Connect

I am thinking of this adventure as appealing to all harpists. It’s for youths, adults, kids. It’s for experienced performers, teachers, and those that have recognized or would like to experience the healing benefits of the harp. It’s for pedal harpists and lever harpists and it’s for beginners that have never played and always wanted to play. Advanced harpists with or without physical problems could use this experience in the collective as a way to improve their performance level, concentration, technical skills and prevent the physical body from injury. In other words … to nurture the body-mind connection. So to this end, you can chose what classes you want to attend. You can go to a harp therapeutic session, or attend a technique and performance class. Perhaps theory and improve is intriguing to you or yoga and creativity.


Definition of COLLECTIVE
1. Assembled into or viewed as a whole.
2. Of, relating to, characteristic of, or made by a number of people acting as a group: a collective decision.


Our musical experiences are enhanced by life experiences too, so we have added an excursion to the breath-taking islands of the Fathom Five National Park and plenty of time for reflection and practice, all with woods and water, sun and moon steps away. Our Collective will have evenings of harp music making featuring our special guest, World Renown Jazz harpist Christa Grix performing in an historic Anglican Church setting and a final concert of all our Collective participants. The sweet village of Tobermory offers good restaurants and galleries, pizza and shopping and people watching by the beautiful sailboats and yachts.

I’ve always wanted to have a place where harpists could practice and study in an inspired setting. Nurturing a kind of synthesis with the instrument and one’s surroundings. Getting back to that primordial practice if you will. The Creative Harp Collective is a place of considered learning, without competition, in a totally supported environment. Our musical journey in our lives can be enhanced and nurtured within ourselves so that we can fully express our music through ourselves, to others, being creative, joyful, healing, and having lot’s of fun.

Practicing love, always, always, love.


Click here for more information and join Anita and I, whether you play the harp or not, in Tobermory.


Blog: Stay The Course

Blog: Stay The Course

April 1, 2012

Sometimes it’s hard to keep practicing.

Whatever it is you’re practicing. In order to be proficient at something you have to do it daily and over and over again.

Artists practice the art everyday. Athletes practice their game everyday. Lawyers and Doctors open up a “practice.” This is so that the object of practice becomes habit forming. It’s done daily because then it enters your lifestyle, habits and even how you think of the world in which you “practice.” Only then will it become a part of you, a calling.

But it’s really difficult to become proficient at something. Usually the reason that there is a practice to begin with is because there is a desire already imbedded within somewhere. We start the journey with excitement and anticipation and even love. There’s a fullness realized, an immense power that propels the learning forward making it easy, productive and joyful again and again and again and again and then … brick wall number one! Followed by number two, three … ninety-three.

The moment our practice becomes one of results is the moment that the joy, love and anticipation begins to fade. There are other walls to scale too, like the wall that says “you can’t do this” or the most famous one that says, “what do you think you’re doing?” followed by, “who do you think you are?” This mind speak are forms of desiring a certain result. We want it perfect and we think that by being perfect great rewards will be bestowed on us. (This is another topic for another blog-post, more on that later…).

Stay the Course

So how to “Stay the Course” when all around you there are critics? (The critics are all you, and they’re everywhere). You take a break or a few breaths and then get up and practice again. This time remembering the goal or original purpose of the journey helps to re-focus the mind away from practicing for results. Connecting back into the source of your expressive power takes you more deeply into your practice. Place yourself into your circle of excellence and DO IT AGAIN. Each time the practice is repeated, there is a shifting of experience that happens somewhere in the body-mind. You will know that it’s right, that you are on your chosen course and you will get better at practicing your practice. It takes courage to keep placing yourself on the path of greater knowledge and excellence, and to keep climbing that new wall that’s placed in the pathway now and then.

Oh yeah, and stop thinking, just practice.

I love this quote from Stephen King. When he was asked how he could write such great literature again and again, he replied “Writing equals ass in chair.” It’s impossible to become proficient from the living room couch. I keep trying it but I only fall asleep. OK then. Ass on harp bench, ass on yoga mat, again and again and again.

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.”
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

I wish you many hours of beautiful practice and always, always, love.

Blog: Ecco la Primavera :: Here is the Spring!

Blog: Ecco la Primavera :: Here is the Spring!

March 1, 2012

Even though it’s been one of the mildest Michigan winter’s I have ever experienced, I still feel the effects of the colder, darker winter months.

It’s March and I am getting CABIN FEVER, along with my cats, who have taken to sleeping more than their normal 16 hours a day. They have become “mobile decorative objects,” moving from couch to couch and that’s me too, often moving like a zombie from task to task in a fog of winter blues. Only, I’m not cute and fuzzy. A trip to Florida is not in the cards either.

But March indeed has arrived and with it, no matter what the actual weather is, the Spring Equinox, or the Vernal Equinox, (spring equal nights), or La Primavera! Printemps!  Der Frühling! Haru! Vår! Vesna! Chuen! First Green!

Cleaning House

The first order of business to cool the fever is to begin the spring-cleaning, NOW. Cleaning house in all different ways and means. I’ve already started in the home office. Started, is the key here. I’ve just begun to clear the debris in the room…..next would be the closets and drawers. Really dumping the mind-boggling amounts of papers, music and harp related paraphernalia. How did it get this way? Do I really need that Sony Walkman from high school? I don’t even have any tapes to play on it anymore! But it was a graduation present and a really big deal to me … then. Definitely time to purge. When the grass begins to green and the shoots are rising, nature is cleaning house.  All the death of winter absorbs into the earth and nourishes the new. Hmmmmm … throw something out and something new arises. I like that idea.

I have two closets of music. Big closets. They contain big files of music that I never look at. I could get rid of half of it and never know anything’s missing. But it would feel monumental.  Like a great weight lifted. I really don’t have to play all those notes in my lifetime. I remind myself that the music isn’t the art. I mean, the actual pages. It’s what I bring to it, the personality, the life experiences that becomes the music and the art. If I didn’t have any music, I could still play my instrument.  I want to play the harp…I mean really play it, not just look at notes. I want myself to be the conduit through which the music comes and then the harp speaks. Time to play my own music. Write my own notes down. Find my own voice. Oh brother, all this stuff comes up just from starting to clean!

Growing as Musicians

Speaking about spring, there comes a time when we grow as musicians. Times when there are growth spurts and we take leaps forward in our abilities and know-how. This happens even as adults. One should never stop growing musically, mentally or spiritually. Just as we clean house each spring, cleaning out old musical habits and ways of looking at our practicing can be monumental. We re-think what we’re trying to say. Even in a piece we might have played for years. How can I look at this differently? I am a different person right now, is there a way to express myself in this new way? And how about working on some new music? Not just music I have to learn for this or that, but something that I’ve always wanted to play? Something that excites the new me and the new place where I am right now.

Connect with Change

When I teach both harp and yoga, I occasionally remind my students that we practice the same posture again and again, we practice the same phrase or piece again and again, but each time there are differences. To notice the subtleties in any practice is to be very connected into change. By taking notice of the new, we can begin the deeper work of making the new a part of ourselves, a part of our habits and a part of our very soul.   Clinging to old habits and old programming and forcing things to stay as they are, is not serving the creative spirit. When the old programming is released, the floodgates open and that creative musician, yogi, person breaks through. Learning a new piece, adjusting a technique, moving in a new way or trying a new posture are all ways in which we can give up the old and experience the new. Paying attention to the subtle growth, mentally, physically and spiritually, the greening of the playing field grows full, lush and nourished, no sign of the mud beneath.

OK, so that means the Sony Walkman’s gotta go and any old Bee Gee’s tapes with it. Now if I could just tackle the 55,000 family slides stored under the basement stairs …

Here is Spring and always, always love.

Blog: Feeling Free

Blog: Feeling Free

February 1, 2012

As February is the month of Valentines Day the obvious topic for this post is love.

However, it’s also President’s month: honoring our leaders might work. But I thought that taking a moment and reflecting on freedom sort of covered all the bases. February is also African American History month. It’s a perfect opportunity to reflect on freedoms and what we might have become had not the American Civil War been fought. It was a fight for freedoms for all people and a war to ensure the unity of the United States. It was a wretched, horrific war and I can’t imagine living through it. Thanks to those that fought this war, we all share commonly in the blessings that living in United States has given us. The cool thing is that we can continue to expand these freedoms through our new challenges as a nation. Not all is a “perfect union.” As we work to preserve these hard fought freedoms, our awareness of what freedoms others lack increases. Our goal as a nation and as humans is to continue this work of freedom consciousness and to the giving of freedoms to each other.

Reflecting on creative freedom, (since finding creativity is the purpose of this blog), as artists in the 21st century, we often take for granted the freedoms that allow us to perform what we want, compose what we want, write or paint in full self expression. There are laws that govern this freedom and allow us to do this, but what IS freedom? What is it about freedom that we are willing to die for it?

Freedom is one of those basic human rights. It is a feeling that allows us to experience human-ness, to retain dignities and human ideals. We respect freedom and the great power it has, and understand that each human contains this feeling of freedom within.

Swatantrya

In the Tantric Yoga tradition, freedom is a powerful step, a tool in the self-realization process. It’s right up there with breath. In Sanskrit, it is called Swatantrya. It’s basic definition means freedom. A deeper understanding may be described as an experience of expansion within, a removal of self-limiting boundaries, a feeling of extending the soul towards god or a divine spirituality, a realization of the whole and being connected to the universal spirit. It’s knowing that you are a free spiritual being with the capacity to extend this freeness out to others. (Remember how you felt when the bell rang on the last day of school before summer vacation)? This emotional freedom is far stronger and more powerful because it contains the laws of the universe innately. It is something that cannot be bound and controlled and forced from us. A society that tries to govern by universal laws is indeed powerful. Our feelings of freedom from within are so innate, so sacred, so universal that they are our very being and as a society we are willing to protect and perhaps die for the right to have and express them. We recognize them in each other; they are for all people.

Aha!

OK, big step further: a few weeks ago, a harp student came to her own realization that she hadn’t mastered her technique enough to allow her the freedom to work on more difficult music, music that she wanted to play and to play it evenly and with a full sound. We worked on gaining suppleness in her fingers, wrists, hands and arms. That was a break through moment in itself, but the “aha” moment came when we discussed how the technique was a tool to self expression. Once she knew she had the freedom to move her hands as needed within these boundaries (laws of technique if you will) she was able to express more fully what the music meant to her. Her self-limiting boundaries of tightness and forcing melted away. It was her connection to the universal, to the feeling of freedom that gave her music expansiveness. She came to subsequent lessons with an illuminated heart full of joy and ease. When I heard her play at her next lesson I had an overwhelming feeling of being grateful and humbled. In a very tiny way, I had guided someone in their realization that they themselves contain their own freedom. I couldn’t be more blessed or more full. Giving swatantrya, freedoms, to each other feels a bit like giving love….and isn’t that what February reminds us to do?

Wishing you swatantrya and always, always love.

Blog: New Year, New You: Begin Anywhere

Blog: New Year, New You: Begin Anywhere

January 1, 2012

According to the Gregorian calendar, these are the first days of the New Year. We feel an obligation to begin again, to renew ourselves, make a resolution, resolving to be or to do something.

Somehow these early days of January represent a chance to start over in many aspects of our lives, with projects that may have begun and been abandoned, new work implementations in the fiscal year, or maybe a “new you” after the December month of excess.

In a musician’s life, December is so packed with unbelievable amounts of much appreciated work that you do believe in Santa Claus. The New Year however can yawn open with gaping mouth and razor teeth. The year stretches out in front of us, empty, cavernous, scary. Not much in the book, few contracts lined up, thoughts of mustering the creative energy for yet another year — fearsome.

Begin Anywhere.

Right next to the harp in my music studio I have posted a quote from the 20th century composer, John Cage. I see it and contemplate it everyday. He says, “Begin Anywhere.” Simple. A short pithy aphorism. A reminder that inspiration and creativity is available to us at anytime, anywhere and with any medium. What is beautiful about it’s simplicity is that we decide at any given moment, with our next breath perhaps, to be renewed. The human brain has this capacity to chemically put together the feeling of “renew.” It allows for a change of thought and a shift in outlook in an instant. A decision to be inspired can happen anywhere during the course of the day. A Roman calendar marking a day as “time to make a resolution” is not necessary. Certainly, it’s important to honor these special days and celebrate time passing with love, reverence and respect, but it can be incredibly freeing to know that you can “Begin Anywhere,” which in my mind, includes anytime.

Carrying daily “stuff” to our place of creative work makes it challenging to do that deep work. Past negative thoughts and feelings bubble up and we wallow in this darker place instead of rejoicing in the creative moment that we are given. By wiping the slate clean and realizing that right now I can begin to express myself as I am, as I have come to this moment – we feel lighter, connected, free and able to do our deeper work of creativity.

When I teach this theme in my yoga classes I include basic breathing techniques within the postures. Every breath is the renewal; every breath joins the body to the light and a closer relationship to the divine creativity. Every breath gives that promise that we can begin with a clean slate and make a closer connection to the creative Self. It’s possible then to begin right now; reading this blog, on your mat, in the car, cooking a meal and playing your instrument. Here’s the moment of creativity, fresh, new, joyous, and certainly different than the last. Open consciousness to thoughts of possibility, and seek the feeling of renewal. In an instant 2012 is no longer yawning open and empty, but rich with new opportunity, full with new possibility and promising endless moments of beginning anywhere.

Happy New Year!

I wish you days of freedom, possibility, renewal, and always, always, love.

Blog: Greetings Letter

Blog: Greetings Letter

March 6, 2011
Dear Community of Friends,

I am very excited to present to you my new website. Thank you so much for visiting. I invite you to browse the site and take a moment to join the discussion forum. My purpose is not only to provide information, but also to have a place for discussion of topics regarding music, the harp, teaching, yoga, philosophy; and, how to embody all these ancient and wonderful practices into our modern lives.

My life playing the harp continues to lead me to realize all aspects of creativity. I see again and again through my students, performing, practicing yoga and playing catch with my cats (yes, cats can catch!) that we each have this creative spark, this energy, this desire to break free, and to share these unique gifts with others. But how can we access this on a regular basis when we are drawn into the minutia of our daily lives and our creativity is covered in doubt and fear?

Humankind has been fascinated by the sound of the plucked string for millennia. Vibrating in confluence with the heart, it speaks to the human soul. Whether we are aware of this phenomenon or not, something aligns our spirits with our minds and bodies. If we can connect to these very physical and very real parts of our selves as we play our beloved instrument, then we can encounter the true self in our bodies and in our art. The harp becomes something even greater than we are, a voice that when heard, can offer great joy, peace, wonder and fulfillment, not just to the performer, but to everyone who listens…..

My hope with my website is to not only offer you my music, but to offer inspiration and a re-connection to the spirit by giving you a place to discuss these thoughts, learn about the harp, and discover your own unique gift. I can only offer what I have myself experienced and I give these teachings with an open heart and a sincere desire to also learn from you.

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