Slaying Inner Demons
I've had two days to myself. Just me and Juna, my friend's 9 month old German shepherd mix. Hanging at Juna's house and on the land around here, Wild Cat Canyon. Drinking tea, taking walks and naps. As I come to the end of this delicious unstructured uncluttered weekend, I know that my body and mind are still tired. I could rest for many more days like this. Just to decompress from life. So full all the time with agendas, to dos, meetings, ideas, visions, plans.
I am putting on my EP release show in 5 days in San Francisco. It seems at these moments more than ever when there is a feeling of the anti-climactic nature of things. I've worked so damn hard on this music. It's taken everything I've got in me to raise the funds, sit in the studio and keep at it. Not because it's hard in the general sense of the word. It's not back breaking or uncomfortable by any means. But it does take a certain clarity and determined effort to believe in oneself for so many days, months and years in a row. It's almost like I have been waging a war inside all my life - against the demons. Against all the voices and stories that have led me to believe that I am not good enough. That my music and my voice do not matter enough. That someone else is better, smarter, prettier, sexier, more worthy. And this project has been a battle I have won. A battle against all the feelings of being two separate parts - a healer and a singer - broken hearted and whole. I thought many times that I couldn't put this music into one project. It didn't seems right to fuse the polarized edges of myself into one continuous piece of art. I have spent many years in two different worlds and struggled with how they fit together. I know that from the outside, to many people, it looks seamless. In my inner experience it has been the challenge of a lifetime and continues to be.
People's perceptions are an interesting thing. Just the other day a friend was telling me how established it seems I am in the music scene in the Bay Area. She sees me playing with a band, playing at certain venues that would probably gladly have me back. She sees the network of artists I have in my circles. And as she was saying these things I could feel a little part of my mind want to run away. My eyes wanted to glass over. I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to let those things she sees be true. But I made that little mind stay. I made myself look into my friend's eyes and listen to what she sees. I am acknowledging that these things are true - and I have worked so hard - slaying demons for years, maybe lifetimes - to be able to sit here and listen to her tell me that my hard work has paid off. It was a huge accomplishment for me to play music with other people. Most of my life I have been a solo musician. Playing and writing behind closed doors. I was very uncomfortable "jamming" and collaborating with anyone. When I did try, I would get very emotional and angry. I would easily get jealous, insecure and frustrated. But at a certain point in the last couple of years I recognized that I was not happy feeling so isolated. I had no choice but to fight out my own battle. Break down the walls between myself and other musicians. And honestly it had very little to do with becoming a better musician. It has everything to do with turning down the volume on all the nonsense in my head. That internal dialogue is so potent - it's poison. And yes, I am proud to have the choice now. I can play with other musicians. And apparently they are flattered to play with me... who knew?! I am constantly working on this internal conflict. Because I can see the results feel great. And I am not yet satisfied.
I am exhausted. But I am not satisfied. I am willing and ready to keep on slaying the dragons of my self doubt - but there's got to be a more efficient way. A way in which I can take a day off. Maybe even a week off. One where I don't have to be caring for a sick person (myself or another) in order to take a break. There is a way to find the optimal way to exert energy. A state of doing and non-doing that must co-exist. On a day to day basis I am driven much of the time by anxiety. The insecurity that I won't get things done. That I won't make rent. That I won't move forward in my career. That I am just treading water. This is not helpful. I want to learn the art of swimming. Which stroke will help me push the water behind me so that my body will just ease-fully float forward?
Yoga teaches me that my body is an instrument. Yoga teaches me to listen to my deep sensory experience. I close my eyes. I listen to the silence. Yoga teaches me to join the universal sound of OM to open my practice. I invite in a deep belly breath and ride the exhale into vocal vibration. It teaches me to open up the channels of sensation and awareness so that there is a constant movement of vibration through my being. Yoga teaches me how to experience music on the deepest level. It teaches me to open up to what I don't know and let the music arise out of the moment. For me yoga and music are a way of life. They fit seamlessly together as my spiritual practice. One thing is certain - we are all here on this earth for a limited time. And we need to make choices. We need to decide what our priorities are. From moment to moment we can spend our time, energy and resources in one way or another. We all have songs inside of us. Yoga has asked me to set aside time to allow those songs to come forth. When I sit down to play and sing during yoga class, I never know what is going to unfold. It's just like getting on the mat. I get curious about what this very moment is. What does my body feel like? What is being called forth from my spirit? What is the energy in the room? What song will be born right now? And I set forth an intention - just like getting on the mat. Sometimes it's "pulse" or "let go" or "connect" or "flow". But it's also always to be a channel. My intention is to best support the class as whole. I am so honored to be creating a soundscape for yoga practitioners. I do not take lightly the fact that all of these people will be subject to my musical whims for the next 90 minutes. I enter the space gently and with a lot of respect for that. I have a strong sense of duty. I have trained my hands, heart and mind for many years to be able to show up now in this way. As a musical presence. A musical force. It has been a long journey for me to get to the place I am today - where I have the confident inner knowing that this is my calling. Even though I am no where near perfect.
When I was playing for Ai Kubo's class at Yoga Tree Telegraph last month, she opened class with a quote by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, "It is better to perform one's own duties imperfectly than to master the duties of another. By fulfilling the obligations he is born with, a person never comes to grief." I could spend many lifetimes running from this truth - telling myself the story that music is not a real profession. Or that I am not good enough. I would also spend those lifetimes trapped in delusion and unhappiness. I am so glad that yoga teachings are here to remind me that no matter what, I am on the right path. And I get to see that reflected in each yoga teacher and student who enjoy my music during practice. I see it in each shiny person who comes out to hear my band. These reflections grow my sense of well being and connection.
Yoga teaches me about community and support. It teaches me that my inner knowing, my truth, is much more valuable than my day job. That together we strengthen each other on the path of self study, morality, and union. It teaches me that I have purpose. And by listening closely to my self and the support of the community I know deeply that I was born to sit here and strum this guitar and sing. And that this is enough. That nothing more in the world is required of me. But that doing this is absolutely necessary. In Hebrew we have a saying, "Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor v'lo ata ben horin lehibatel mimena". Rabbi Tarfon Says: It is not your responsibility to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it (Pirkei Avot 2:21). This quote which I learned as a child points to the community we live in - that there are many people working toward the same goals so none of us has to shoulder the entire burden alone. But in the same vein, we each have a clear responsibility to one another, an accountability not only to myself but to others as well. I am committed to do my part so that you can do yours. Whatever it is. Whatever is being called forth from you - do it. It is vital that we each answer the call of duty. With grace and poise. With pleasure and purpose. Answer the call with persistence. It is so rewarding.
So my worlds come together - Yogic text, Jewish text, "avodah" which is the Hebrew word for work and also for worship. Om. Peace. Amen.
Daybreak off to the press!!
Wow it's been a long time since I've gotten on here. I've been consumed by the work in the studio finishing up the EP and then went right into working of design of the artwork and all the other pieces to get in place for the release party and everything. I am SO proud of this project. It is the best work I've created up until this point in my artistic life. I feel like it's totally aligned with the esthetic and message I want to share with the world. I have put my heart and soul into this music. In the process I changed the title of the album from Wild Heart to Daybreak. This recording is like that moment when the first little glimpse of the sun peeks over the hill. It has happened every day for millions of years but it's so exciting to see that little ball of light for the first time again. And to watch it grow into it's fullness, rise into it's glow.
These four songs are a journey of breaking through the dark of night. The mastered tracks have been send to manufacturing and I am now having a press release sent out to 50+ blogs in the yoga world to try to gather more fans and more exposure. I believe in this music. I want it to spread.
Now that it's done, I am working on how to strategically position myself for the coming months and years. I want to be ready and available for the opportunities that are coming my way. I want to be a part of the community in whatever ways I am asked.
A beautiful couple recently wrote me and asked me to sing at their wedding ceremony and reception. I am so thrilled to have music to share at this milestone in people's lives. I love playing in yoga classes and being a part of people's spiritual practice. But most of all, I envision myself on stage with my full band bringing my new music. Unwritten songs are here - inside me - so close to the surface - just waiting for their turn. They are at my fingertips every time I reach for my guitar. The lyrics are flowing so freely out of me almost immediately when I ask for them to show up. I am really amazed at that and it's a great feeling to have that kind of access to the juicy creative flow. But that creative flow needs a place to go - it needs a structure and way to be communicated to other musicians. It needs an audience to flow into. The audience is the container for this musical elixer that I have been gifted with. The experience of creating this album with the funds from a waiting audience was the most motivating thing I could do. Because throughout the process I knew that someone was on the receiving end - waiting to catch the ball I am about to throw. Waiting for the sun to hit the horizon, waiting for the day to break.
I should be packing right now. But instead I am nervously trying to find distractions to the fact that I am leaving on a flight to Israel tomorrow afternoon. Writing seems to be the perfect way to stay in the present right now.
In the present I am between worlds. And though I have spent many years in Israel over the course of my life, being based in temperate, laid-back California is quite far from the middle-eastern hot-headed Israeli society. I am not simply traveling over oceans. I am traveling to a different part of my being.
I am going to the me that speaks a gutteral ancient language. The part of me that knows how to push in line. I am going to the part of me that isn't sure whether she belongs. The part of me who is learning to grieve my father's mental deterioration. I am going to the part of me that is being born for the first time in the eyes of old friends who haven't seen me in over a year. I am going to the part of me that wants to prove how far I've come. I am heading to the part of me who looks and sounds like all the rest, but feels so very different. I am going to another part of me that is loved by dear friends with whom I grew up and knew me as a soldier. I will be visiting a part of me that is deeply connected to the land and stories of the bible. The part of me who is living my own mythical life in the modern age of wireless internet access and instant global communication. The one who feels so close, but is so far. (I re-read that line and realized it's a line from a song I wrote about my father back in 2008 or so: Listen to it here. Wow, listening to this song, I can really hear how far I've come!!)
As small as the world feels right now, it is still vast. The space and time it takes to get from one side of the globe to the other on an airplane is nothing compared to the immense movement that happens inside. It will take my spirit some time to catch up with the 500 MPH of the plane.
And then I will be on stages on the other side of the world singing the same songs. My songs will have taken on wings - they will have new meaning for each new person that listens. And new meaning for me. Feels good to be releasing the first single of the new album this month - really stepping into the next phase of my musical expression.
That's a picture Jillian took at sunrise a few weeks ago. The adventure of this life, the mystery, the magic and the toil is all here in this picture. We had hiked up early in the morning to capture something. And I feel like what we were capturing was how long and steep the path is, and that freedom is not somewhere at the top - it's in every arduous step of the way.
Jillian was worried about the light for the photos and we were later that we had hoped. She was worried we would miss the soft white light and it would get brighter and yellower and harsher. She kept saying "ugh - there's our moment!" as if it were slipping away with every millimeter the sun rose higher into the horizon. Then it was starting to peep up and we dropped everything right where we were and quickly arranged my outfit. It wasn't the ideal spot we had planned for and my hair wasn't perfect, I was dripping sweat and freezing cold all at once. But we took advantage of everything we had in that moment. Our friendship, the fresh crisp air, the body heat, the sun slipping up into the day - and we went for it. Then we left it all strewn in that spot and made a mad dash to find another spot higher up the hill before the sun hit up there. Running, sprinting, toward the sunrise - and dancing and spinning and caring SO much that I look like it was totally carefree!
Tonight I will celebrate Passover. And I am reflecting on the story of the Exodus. The Jews' mad dash out of Egypt - out of bondage - to liberation. They also dropped everything as their moment came near. They took everything they could carry in their hands, didn't wait for their bread to rise. They took their families and their spiritual fervor - and ran. When they reached the Red Sea, they simply continued forward. The water did not part until they had gotten in waist deep. (Or maybe even neck deep - Jews are short!) They were willing to walk to their death by drowning rather that continue to be slaves in Egypt.
We are all living and re-living this story in our lives every day. The Israelites' were led by Moses. I am being led by my own inner calling with the same radical passion and fearless determination. Let's take each other's hands and step into the Red Sea. Maybe we will drown in the overwhelm, the intensity of this modern pace of living. But maybe our path will be shown by enormous walls of water lifting up from under foot. Maybe we will be protected by a force of nature. Miracles do happen.
I have so much stirring inside, so much I want to be able to do with this short life on earth. Sometimes the water washes over me, sometimes it beats me down, sometimes it lifts me up, and sometimes it parts just as I take a step into it.
I could not have asked for a more perfect response to the voice workshop than the inspired piece of writing one of my students shared with me this week. This has been a very touching process. I am learning from my students just as much as they are from me.
"I want to sing more. I want to sing. Not the lyrical sweet birds cooing pretty songs kind of singing that wakes lovers just as the sunrays peek over the hill kind of singing; or the belt it out, wailing wild like the wind, through desolate tumbleweed landscape, lost her man gritty bellowing heartbreak kind of singing; but the releasing sound consciously from a place deep within, way down from the core of Mama Earth through the root, fill the belly, breath, open the throat, don't really give a damn how it sounds kind of singing. The throw down & throw in & let out the first words that come to mind come out your body so you find out, with certainty, what's in there kind of singing. No, I want to do that reach down reach out & surprise yourself like you've just been reborn kind of singing; the you'd-never-believe-who-I-authentically-am kind of singing; the letting go of old stories that you tell yourself about yourself kind of singing that knocks your own self over kind of singing. The warbling I gotta cry because you'll never hurt me anymore kind of singing; the groaning your NO & learning to ring out your YES! kind of singing. That's the kind of singing I wanna do. That's why I want to sing."
All the many details
Today is February 5th. I am writing this just a few hours before the show at the Utah. So much has been happening in the past few weeks, it's hard to track it all. But I do want to share. Because I want to remember and to remind that this project, this lifestyle, this creative process takes lots of WORK and determination. It takes a lot of forethought. I am also going to work with Jordan in the studio this afternoon so I don't have much time but I will jot down some points:
The process in the studio is tedious, long hours and small little details to think about. It is the most fun tedious thing there is to do. It's like painting an audio picture. So many possible textures, lines, colors and shades to add.
I have met Starita at Bay Area Music Collective and feel SO happy to have the opportunity to work with this organization that is pretty much exactly what I was looking for. I went in for a meeting yesterday and before I had paid them a penny, he had a long spreadsheet of more than 30 blogs and contacts for media promo and even possible gigging opportunities. Ah, the usefulness of college interns at it's best! Talking with him and planning the marketing aspect of the album is making the timeline really clear. Working backwards from the release date and when we need to start bugging people to publish a story.
All the while I am also thinking about booking and traveling to Israel to visit my dad. I played for him this morning over Skype. He seems to be able to hear me but can't get any kind of message across except for a simple yes or no and sometimes he even says, "nice!" He was trying to play along on the harmonica a bit. It's not much of anything but at least he can hold it in his hand and blow air into it.
I feel a strong sense of living out my purpose at this time in my life. Every day is centered around that and it is so rewarding, even if overwhelming. I am teaching some beautiful voice workshops and discovering my gifts each day anew. I will share more about that soon. Feels like I'm stepping into a world of wonder that was waiting for me all my life.
We are entering a new era. I can feel the great shifting of consciousness in my community that I believe is spearheading a shift on the planet. At this moment in history, we have more access to wisdom teachings from traditions around the world. This means we have access to the paths to raise our awareness and learn about how to make best use of being human. And how to use all of our experiences for personal growth and community harmony.
My world right now, January 2nd, 2013 is a very complex mix of joy and grief. Today is my dad's 60th birthday. He is struggling in the hospital in Israel and I am not there to comfort him. I have been talking with him and his wife daily and sometimes I get to play guitar and sing for him over Skype. This is so soothing - I think for both of us. He is having trouble with communication, coordination and movement and had some seizures due to a change in his medication. This is why he is back in the hospital and most likely will be transferred to an assisted living facility in the next weeks. At the same time that all of this is happening - I have been raising money for my next album, playing lots of music and getting focused on where I want my career to go. And feeling hugely supported by amazing friends and family.
I have raised over $2,000 toward my album and I am so excited and nervous to start working on it. I play a bunch of different types of music and I need to make some concrete decisions about the direction I want to take. I feel drawn to continue playing for yoga practitioners during classes and in other ways, perhaps at festivals and events. I am also drawn to create music that is more mainstream and will work in traditional venues such as bars, cafes and auditoriums. It's important to me to have a variety of songs that will reach many different types of people. It's important to me to be able to inspire people of all walks of life and connect with them and their experiences.
Initially I was envisioning an EP of just 4 songs with a single focus and feel. The album that I am embarking on feels like it will be a good way to hone in on the intention I have for my live performances. I am starting to feel like it should have the variety and feel of everything I am doing. So I am starting to play with the different possibilities and thinking about what I can do to incorporate more songs.
If there was any way to get feedback from the people who listen to my music, I would like to do that. I am so curious about what people that hear me are most drawn to. Where do you feel I am bringing my essence and what would you like to take home with you? I make music for my own healing process and it also resonates on the outside and I want to make best use of my time in recording and sharing the sounds. In the end though, I am the creative fuel of this process so whatever I make - that is what will be heard. And whoever hears it - that is who it is meant for.
Today is Christmas Day. In the past few weeks I have actually been thinking about Jesus a lot. I spent most of my life as removed from Christian culture as I could. Dating a culturally Christian man for 6 years brought Christmas into my awareness again and I relunctantly spent the holiday with his family but I never felt comfortable doing so. Over the years, I have studied and begun to revere such important spiritual figures and deities in many traditions such as Buddha, Shiva, Ganesh, Shakti, Native American Ceremony, and more. But Jesus has been left out of the picture.
I grew up in a very Jewish home, went to Jewish school and spent 10 years in Israel. As a child, I have been conditioned to view Jesus and Christianity as almost "un-spiritual" - centered around materialism, prejudice and anti-Jewish sentiment. I had been conditioned to experience my own identity as Jewish first and foremost and everything else secondary: woman, human, American...
In this season, with the potent Winter Solstice of 2012 upon us, and my father in Israel in the hospital, I began to feel the need to connect with a masculine form of God. For the first time in my life, this included Jesus. I am coming to terms with this particular manifestation of the divine - and the reality that it has a powerful effect on our planet.
Being in denial of Jesus was almost a way of denying millions of people's spiritual life. And I feel ready to acknowledge my blindness in this realm. I feel ready to acknowledge and celebrate the spiritual life of all of those who hold close to their hearts the manifestation of God in Jesus and all other deities. I pray that the image of Jesus be carried with respect and humility, that people who follow the Christian path utilize it as a way to enlighten their soul's work on this planet and bring love and peace into their communities and homes and hearts.
My Dad - Right Now
My dad is in the hospital in Israel. Everything I am doing in the last few days has been with an undercurrent of knowing that. He was taken for a check up and they kept him overnight to change the dosage of his medication. It's unclear how long they will keep him but the truth is that his condition is so challenging that being in the hospital is much easier on his wife and caretaker. At this point he needs help with everything from walking to getting dressed, to going to the bathroom, to eating. He still has consciousness but it is unclear how he perceives himself or the world around him. He seems to be aware that he has two daughters. When I call to talk with him he just asks me over and over if I can come be with him. I tell him I'd like to come but I need to finish my album first and that will take a few months.
I have been deeply contemplating the masculine force these past couple weeks. I have been charging ahead with powerful drive to expose myself and my music and there is a kind of masculine energy that is required in order to do that. And also feeling that so much of this is related to wanting to sing for my dad. That the father I have had in this lifetime draws out of me that creative passion and yearning for expression. My heart has always ached for closeness to him. And he has always been far away and elusive. Now he is even further. And I can not reach him - even if I do go visit. His spirit is slowly leaving his body.
So what is left for me to do? I have been meditating and praying to the Holy Father, the manifestation of the masculine in God. Feeling the presence of His compassion and care soothes my spirit. I have been drawn to women, mother earth and feminine divine energy very strongly over the course of my life. I am comfortable and secure when I am with women. So even approaching the Divine Father is scary for me. I have been disappointed and hurt by men throughout my life. I do not trust them. I'm not sure I even trust the masculine in God. But in this time of great uncertainty, losing my father, and without a consistent male figure in my life, I just need to turn to something beyond this physical world.
It helps. And with His presence, I forge ahead with my music. I keep my heart clear and consistent with finding my truest expression. What is really alive for me that I can share with the world. Blues, groove, baring my soul, living my truth, singing my sorrow, and connecting with good people.
My life is my art and my music. My body is my vehicle. The deeper the sensing, the deeper the meaning.