Sunday, August 28, 2011

Eating Raw: A Very Surprising Revelation

It's funny how some things wind up being so different than you thought they'd be. I've just had a major eye-opening experience that really caught me by surprise. July 10th, 2011 was the first day of the Rawsome Yoga Retreat that I organized and on that day, I started eating only "raw" foods. My diet was already pretty clean. I've been mostly free of dairy, glutens, sweeteners other than Stevia (occasional agave or honey) for many years. Because of this I really thought it would be no big deal transitioning into an only "raw" diet. But I was very wrong. The first 3 days were torture. I felt terrible and I was HUNGRY all the time. I was craving protein like crazy and always felt unsatisfied. I usually start my day with 2 eggs and then eat a fair amount of fish or chicken protein daily and I was really missing it. I was also in kinda of a bad mood and very irritable. We were doing yoga over 3.5 hours each day and meditating morning and evenings, but still, I wasn't feeling too good.

We were eating high quality raw cuisine made from nut and flax based recipes with highly spiced vegetables in imitation of popular everyday foods. Like raw pizzas, enchiladas, meatloafs etc. all made from raw nuts, fresh vegetables, herbs, spices and dehydrated fruits and veggies. After about the 4 day I started to feel a lot better and by the end of the week I felt great. Plus I was craving more and more plain and simple fresh veggies and fruits. Immediately after the Raw Retreat I had to go to Hollywood, CA for a week of recording with vocalist Snatam Kaur. I decided to try and keep up the raw diet while traveling there and even though it was a little challenging I managed to do it without too much effort. I made daily trips to the healthfood store to stock up on some prepared raw type foods and had lots of avocados and Kombucha handy. Also, I felt good about augmenting my diet with some sashimi or sushi when I felt I needed it.

To make a long story shorter, I've been on this "raw" diet now for almost 2 months and it seems that the longer I do it, the easier and more natural it feels. To be clear, it's really about 90 - 95% raw because I do make exceptions with some fish proteins when I feel I need it. I'm not trying to prove anything or make any kind of statement. I'm just exploring, trying to find out what REALLY works for my body. And at this point I'm amazed at what is working AND what isn't working.

I'm a Type O Positive blood type and was pretty convinced that if I didn't start out my day with solid protein I'd feel unbalanced the whole rest of the day. For the last 10 years or more I've been eating 2 eggs every morning for breakfast. But even with doing this I've always had blood sugar problems. If I didn't eat immediately when I was hungry and if I didn't get plenty of protein I'd have some pretty major blood sugar swings and crash pretty heavily at times. About 3 weeks into my "raw" diet I was feeling pretty good and thinking about slowly transitioning into a more "normal" diet. So one morning I had 2 eggs for breakfast to see how it felt. To my surprise I felt terrible after eating the eggs! My body definitely didn't like it. I was REALLY surprised! I went back to totally raw for a week or so and then tried the eggs again. Same thing. My body was definitely telling me to stay away from eggs so I continued with my raw diet.

A week later I was at a restaurant and ordered a salad and the when the salad came it had little crumbles of goat cheese on it. I was hungry and thought I'd eat the goat cheese cause, after all, it wasn't cow cheese so it was much easier to digest and I've really enjoyed goat cheese in the past and thought it would be fine. WRONG!!! My body crashed energetically big time right afterwards. Everything in the salad was raw so it had to be the goat cheese. Again, I was really surprised. A few weeks later I picked up a veggie wrap from Whole Foods and instead of the usual accompanying soy sauce there was this peanut sauce that came with it. I thought I'd try it for something different. WRONG again! My body hated it. I had no idea that my body was reactive to eggs, goat cheese AND peanuts! And just a few days days ago I made an amazing looking raw salad. It was so beautiful that I took pictures of it and posted it on Facebook. I added some King Crab legs to the salad, thinking I was giving my self a little treat. I thought it would be fine because my body reacted very favorably to the raw tuna sashimi and other sushi I had tried. However after eating the salad I started to sweat profusely and my energy and clarity totally crashed. I realized, unfortunately, that my body does not like crab meat. BUT . . . the beauty in this is that my body is clean and clear enough to tell me very specifically what it likes and doesn't like because it's not being overwhelmed and burdened by processing a ton of foods that are more challenging to integrate.

At this point my food choices are extremely intuitive and often surprising to me. I start off my day with some green tea and whatever calls me. Sometimes some cucumber or avocado, sometimes an apple or a few strawberries and occasionally some kind of smoothie or raw protein shake. I often get in some good exercise in the mornings like yoga or swimming or just some long walks and for lunch I'm usually ready for something more substantial and often with some added protein like some raw fish. I was at the grocery store one afternoon and the salmon totally caught my eye and I wondered if my body was needing some of the essential Omega 3 fatty acids that salmon has so abundantly. I cooked it for lunch (not crazy about raw salmon) and I felt GREAT afterwards. After I had the salmon my body absorbed whatever it was needing from it and I wasn't drawn to eat salmon again until a couple weeks or later.

The most exciting thing about eating like this is that I really feel like I can tune into my body's needs and address them easily and directly. And once my body's needs are addressed there is balance. When I was eating a more "normal" diet I'd find that I ate the same kinds of things all the time as a habit. Two eggs in the morning, the same snacks throughout the day, rotating around the same entrees for lunch and dinner. But I often had that "never quite satisfied" feeling. Now that my body has had time to clean out, my cravings and patterns have ended as well. Finally I can hear what my body is asking for very clearly. And it's such a pleasure to give it what it needs. I'm satisfied most of the time. I don't crave anything consistently. I don't crave sweets or unnecessary carbs and I don't have ANY blood sugar swings AT ALL. I can get up in the morning and have a half a cucumber or avocado or apple (or nothing) and some green tea and go work-out for a while and do some errands etc. and if I can't get to lunch till the early or middle afternoon then I'm just pretty hungry. But I'm NOT crashing or "crazy hungry" and feeling desperate. It's a much smoother more balanced ride.

One of the best things about this diet, besides feeling extremely tuned into my body's needs, is that it is so very simple. I don't crave complicated raw cuisine that imitates "regular" good. I'm completely happy with the basics. I started to really enjoy eating a single vegetable or fruit for a meal or snack. I just found out (after doing it for a while) that this is called eating "mono meals". "Mono Meals" are when you eat just one type of food at a time as a meal and then wait at least a couple hours before eating something else. The advantages to this are (1) your body can digest your mono meal with greater ease and efficiency, (2) It's very clear if your body is reacting positively or negatively to the food you just ate, and (3) your body can give you a clear signal of when you've had enough of that particular food and it's specific vitamins and nutrients and you simply stop eating it. As simple as this may sound it is actually very profound. With the complexity of the food industry today and how much stress we place on our bodies to digest highly processed, modified and often toxic foods, it's no surprise that there's been such a major increase in cancers, auto- immune diseases and relatively recent developmental disorders such as Autism. The physical AND mental/emotional clarity derived from eating healthy raw foods and mono meals is very real, tangible, liberating and healing.

Just in case you're interested here's a list of what foods I'm currently enjoying pretty regularly (in no specific order):


Red Onion
Red Peppers
Yellow Peppers
Blue Berries
Apple Bananas
Pine Nuts
Almond Butter
Sunflower Seeds
Pumpkin Seeds
Peppermint leaves

Plus occasionally (once or twice over the last two months) I've had some slightly cooked green beans and beets, a salmon fillet and even had a little bit of humus. And as I already mentioned, I occasional enjoy some raw fish or sushi. There are also some great raw trail-mixes and granolas available using only raw sprouted grains and seeds with some raw cacao or raw cacao nibs and goji berries, mulberries and golden berries. Yum!!!!

Anyway, I wanted to share all this with you just because it has been so eye-opening to me and has really changed my life. I don't know how long I will do this for and don't really have a plan or agenda. I only hope to keep using my intuition to be able to provide my body with what it needs to stay healthy and balanced and I hope to become even more conscious of my relationship with my body and all that Mother Earth has to offer to heal it and give it balance.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to have learned everything I've learned recently and hope that you've benefited in some way from reading this. It's really been wonderful to simplify my diet and get closer to really understanding my body and to lose a little weight as well. But mostly, I find that eating this way has also brought me closer to my essential Self and made it more possible for me to be present in the moment in a clearer and cleaner way. Because I'm using less energy to process challenging foods and have been giving my body cleaner more vibrant fuel, my world and perception is cleaner and more vibrant as well. My mind is clearer. I feel more open and present emotionally. And I've got tons of energy. And that's VERY cool!!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Life IS a miracle!

We hear the term "miracle" used in a variety of contexts, mostly religious, spiritual or new thought. We often think of "miracles" as the "impossible" or the "unbelievable" or extremely "unlikely". But I believe and know, that when one is truly present, when we are free of (or can see between the cracks of) the layers of protection and numbness that's accumulated since we were children, that miracles exist all day, every day, and that true perception includes the awareness and experience of the miraculous with every breath, and every step, in every moment.

In the last year or two something unexpected has happened to me. A change in my awareness, in the way that I perceive and experience my life has been consistently and sometimes not so subtly unfolding. Most of it is based on (and seems to get amplified in) my experience of the Natural World or Nature. I just read today that Eckhart Tolle often says that "nature is a portal to presence". I couldn't agree more!!! I feel like I'm learning to experience life, my environment, nature, with an added "sense" that I haven't had before. A sense that has more to do with being in intimate relationship with the larger natural world and Universe. It sometimes feels like a kind of "download" from a greater reality. A download that can't really be perceived by the mind, but instead experienced by my entire being in way that my mind isn't capable of comprehending. It's like a full body, full sensory state of being that includes my mind but is centered in my heart or my soul. The experience is not linear or dualistic, and it's not thought driven or rationally explainable.

What I'm trying to convey cannot be created by the mind and cannot take place while the mind is operating in a "thinking" and "reasoning" capacity. So being able to calm or bypass the mind is a valuable tool. Meditation and Nature can help with this a great deal. I'm not new to this path. For several decades I've been exploring various tools, resources and practices to clear my self of old "baggage", connect to my essential self and get "present". Nature is a living, thriving energy with "no mind", purely essence and expression of presence. And when I'm in nature, especially some place that I love, it's easier for me sense to what degree I am being present and then use my mind (and heart and body) to help me evaluate and release what is keeping me from being more fully present. I KNOW what it feels like to be fully present in nature, therefore I can tell when I'm not. And when I'm not, there's always some thought, feeling, obstacle, unclarity, blocked emotion, limiting thought, perception or fear, that is keeping me from a full experience of the present moment.

I've always had a strong bond and appreciation for nature's beauty, peace and healing powers. But these new experiences are so much more than this. It's as if a veil of numbness or blindness is being lifted and I'm becoming more aware of how amazing and unexplainable "existence" is. My initial openings seemed to be connected to the sun and clouds. I literally felt called to the sunsets, to go to the oceans edge and gaze at the sun quietly with my full attention. At first it was surprising. I'd be driving and look over at the sunset and then I'd look again, and there it was, the sun was "calling" me. I felt like it was actually "seeing" me. There was mutual recognition (as crazy as that may sound). It totally felt like it was reaching out to me, giving me energy and nurturance and even imparting some kind of non-linear, non-mind information. Then the clouds started to seem so much more rich and full and "present" as well. I could perceive and experience their form and mass in a total way, like I was having a physical experience in my body of the clouds size, density and movement. They started to become "alive" and again, like the sun . . . communicative in a way that I had never experienced before. In placing my full attention on all the layers of clouds in the sky and watch their movements in various directions at once and dissolving and manifesting I felt like I was learning something unexplainable. Like I was resetting my perception to include all directions at once with multiple layers and depth, comparing it to linear and dualistic perception is like watching black & white television rather than looking out at real life. I started going to the beach about a half hour before the sunset. My excitement began to build. I realized that sometimes it took me a while to let go of my more limited reality and experience the larger, "real" world I had just discovered. So, I started heading to the beach about an hour or more before the sunset, then started lingering longer afterwards into the dark night sky and stars and moon. Then I started doing it in the mornings as well. I wake up between 4:30 and 5:30 everyday and prepare for my morning encounter with the miraculous. Now I spend 2 - 3 hours a day sitting at the oceans edge, sometimes in meditation and sometimes just being present with all that I see and feel.

Obviously you don't need to live near the ocean to do this. Just to be somewhere in nature that makes you feel good and connected will do. The stronger the integrity and presence of nature the easier it is to connect. The Natural World is the most true and essential manifestation of life. From a place of presence in your being you will experience it as a miracle. From a present place within you feel the wind against your skin, or the ocean rising and falling, the earth or sand beneath your feet and the life giving energy of the sun (from 93 million miles away), all completely different elements unifying together to create "life". It IS absolutely amazing. When you become truly present everything becomes a miracle. Life is an amazing experience of movement and stillness and color and sound and form and space in a way that is truly beyond comprehension. Our breath, our hearts beating, our awareness of self and others . . . all feel miraculous when experienced free of all the thoughts, distractions, resistances and attachments. I know, it's one thing to read about it and think about, but to "drop into" the experience with your self is totally and completely awe-inspiring and life altering.

I found that my expectations and desire for this experience were actually in the way of my having one. That there was no way to "create" the experience myself or control it in any way. The only thing that would help was to be present in as deep a way possible with my Self. To really "be" with my Self. Sometimes I'd have to release the stress I was holding by acknowledging to myself that I was holding it and letting myself feel it and dissolve it. Sometimes, I'd have to be aware that my mind was just "running" me with thoughts and ideas. Good thoughts, bad thoughts, whatever. "I" was too identified with my thoughts, my day, my interpretation of people and events. Even after removing layers and layers of "stuff" I'd have to surrender to the experience of what "is". Full surrender into the moment unconditionally without any expectation or desire. Not an easy task sometimes. Sometimes I'd sit there for two hours and just "drop-in" the last 10 minutes. Sometimes not at all. And sometimes I'd be able to let go and really show up almost immediately. Certainly years of practice of various forms of self discovery and emotional processing help to work with and dissolve layers of thought or feeling that is old and keeps me from being in the moment. AND I really think that there has been a major shift in what's available to us these last few years. I really feel that the present experience of the Universe or God is more accessible, tangible and present than ever before. I've heard it said that what was once available only to a select few is now available and WILL be experienced by everyone. Or . . . perhaps I'm just losing my mind? I love the phrase about losing your mind and coming to your senses. Or references to "unreasonable happiness". It touches upon the unexplainable brilliance of the present moment.

We are raised in this culture to experience life with our minds. To make comparisons and judgements and think in a linear, logical and dualistic fashion. We learned to separate, categorize, isolate and protect. I think it's essential that we grow beyond that old paradigm of reasoning. I think it's a paradigm that isn't useful any more. Victorian concepts of society, psychology and value are only a couple hundred years old. We barely discovered electricity a few seconds ago and for some reason we think we know about life and existence. It's what we think we know that keeps us from being in the present moment. We think that because we can name "water" and know a few things about it that it is something that we understand. Or gravity, or even the seed of life. Just because we can manipulate things we try and take credit for creating them. When you look at the world, the solar system, the sun, planets moving through space with clear eyes, with eyes of innocence and presence, then none of it makes sense. It's all beautiful wonderment. None of the things that we take for granted every day of our lives makes any real sense at all. But we accept it (or live in denial of the fact that it doesn't really make sense) and go about trying to do things that we CAN control and that do make sense. But for me, I think that "unknowing" is where it's at. Maybe that's just because I'm an artist, but I don't think so. I think we can all benefit from asking ourselves . . . what do we really know?

Here we are in bodies that last for a duration of many decades that grow from a small cell into full adults. We live on a large ball that we perceive as flat that is turning at about a 1,000 miles per hour while moving through space at over 67,000 miles per hour revolving around a sun that is also moving at over a half million miles per hour around the Milky Way Galaxy which takes over 200 million years to accomplish. But we don't really perceive any of this. We drive in our cars, go to work, movies, think about our careers and relationships, what's for dinner, etc. We think it's all important stuff. And we think we know a lot about life and living etc. What I find helps me to get present is to think about the larger picture. To think about and practice true perception and awareness of what "reality" really is. What truly exists in this moment. And as a musician I am always listening. I'm listening to the sound of the moment. The voice of life that pulsates and cries out in creative presence every second. We are alive and live in this unexplainable manifestation of the creative expression of the Universe (of God). We are a manifestation of the creative expression of the Universe (of God). There's nothing casual, normal, rational or understandable about it. Really . . . . there isn't.

Yes, life IS a miracle.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Maui Is Alive! - Nov. 2010

There have been two places in my life where I've felt "home".  One is Boulder, Colorado and the other is Maui, Hawaii.   I've only lived on Maui for two and a half years but I can honestly say that it calls on and nurtures my soul like no other place I've ever been to.

But the funny thing is that it's not because of it's beautiful beaches, perfect temperature and gentle breezes.   It's not because of the great tasting healthy food, the welcoming vibe and diverse culture.   It's also not because of the amazing snorkeling, ocean activities or hiking.   It's not even because of it's awesome yoga classes and unsurpassed sunsets! Its because Maui is alive! That's right! Because the "life force" or "mana" (as they call it here on Maui) is rich, vibrant and alive, breathing inspiration, health and well-being into everyone and everything that lives here. The "mana" surrounds these islands and ocean like a blanket of loving creative life energy. I also like to refer to is as "The Aloha".

The word "Aloha" is NOT the Hawaiian way of saying "Hello" or "Good-bye" or "Fare-Well" which is how the average dictionary defines it. If you talk to some of the local Hawaiians or to my friend, Richard DeLeon, Hawaiian Kahuna, Herbalist (direct descendent of the last Hawaiian King Kamehameha), he'll tell you that Aloha means "unconditional love" or "the common breath of life that we all share". Aloha is an energy field that pervades these amazingly beautiful islands. When I first moved here I quickly started to draw the distinction of whether I was being "in" the Aloha or "outside of" the Aloha. Being "outside" of the Aloha felt like I was a separate individual going about my day fulfilling my personal needs, goals and desires. Probably how most of us relate to life on a daily basis. Being "in" the Aloha feels like moving with and through an energy field that connects all of us together in an environment of mutual awareness, interdependency and support. Life is a vital network of energies and beings, connected and pulsating within a common reality and experience. And as you can imagine, the difference of experience of being "in" and "outside" of the Aloha, is NOT subtle.

"Aloha" is NOT a concept created in the minds of the first Hawaiians a thousand years ago.   "Aloha" is a very palpable, tangible experience that is available to everyone that spends time in Hawaii.   In my experience it is an energy that not only exists, but thrives, transforms and heals on these islands.   It is akin to "the force" or to "grace". And again, it is NOT subtle.  It feels like being very present.   It feels like being loved by nature and being connected to and part of the environment.   The air takes on a quality of thickness and substance where you feel it connecting you by it's touch to the distant hills and the clouds. The water takes on the attributes of silk and softness and becomes even more "alive".  It is the experience of being part of something greater than ourselves and transcendent of our separate egos. And if you're already good at doing that, then being on Maui just fuels the fire that much more and invites in an even greater opportunity to take you on a journey you've never had before. Beyond your imagination.   It almost sounds too good to be true, right?   Almost unbelievable, right?   Well it IS unbelievable. Even inconceivable . . . by the mind!   

I think that at one time the energy known here as "the Aloha" existed everywhere on the planet. People tell me "well of course you like hanging out in paradise".  And yes, this IS paradise.   But the whole world was once paradise. I feel that this is what life was meant to be like. Like "paradise". And the more we built square houses, and power lines and highways and polluted the skies and waters . . . the less paradise it became. And as we undermine, obstruct and pollute "the natural world" not only do we "harm the environment", but we also dampen the presence of the energy that I'm talking about and numb our abilities to experience the "force" or "mana" of nature. Of "our" nature. On Maui, the Natural world is still the predominant force and presence here. And there are less and less places on the planet that you can say that about.    The skies are clear, the waters clean, the sealife is vibrant and healthy and the land is fertile and bountiful.    The recent volcanoes here still vibrate with the primal raw life force of creation.    And, for the most part, the people that live here know and respect the fact that there is no separation between the well-being, health and vitality of humanity and of Mother Earth.   We are one.

I've created a yearly Maui Event. It's about my desire to share the experience that has truly changed my life in many ways. I've designed this Maui Event to support and nurture you from all sides while addressing all of your senses. Starting with your luxury accommodations at the elegant Four Seasons Resort. To beginning your day right with some quality time with your Self. You can choose from a little morning yoga on the beach or a leisurely stroll or Jacuzzi; followed by some time in the healing waters of Maui.   Kayak or paddle board and let's take a closer look at these amazing humpback whales.   Or let's just snorkel a bit along the beautiful reef along Wailea Beach or Turtle Town.   Our excursions to interesting sacred, natural and historic sites and towns are entertaining, educational and stimulating. The food is nothing less than world-class and extraordinary BUT nothing compares to ending your day with a glass of wine on the beach watching the sun go down. Maui sunsets are world famous. People line up along the beaches an hour before as if they're going to the premier of the summer's long anticipated blockbuster drive-in movie.    However, you'll soon realize that the true blessing and gift of Maui is to be felt from within. It is a very real opportunity to experience the unexplainable. The unthinkable gift. The unspeakable shift.  We have the opportunity to breath in and be present within the Aloha of Hawaii, of life, mana in its purest form.

Maui reminds us that life IS a miracle.  Not in some abstract philosophical or religious sense, but in a real life tangible experience that we can all partake in. The way life was originally designed and created to be.   An effortless yet profound miracle. With every breeze, every scent, every warm touch of the sun, every breath you take, every move you make, every step you take, I'll be watching you . . . Oh, sorry, that's a Sting song.   I love Maui. Can you tell?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Creativity: Inspiration or Emptiness?

Strange title, I'll admit. But I wanted to talk about one of my favorite subjects . . . Creative Process. I think it's safe to say that many artists get caught up in the idea of being "creative". The idea that we have to "do" something to access our creativity, or we have to "be" something or "try" to be creative. It's an easy trap to fall into.

In my experience, true creativity is more of a result of "undoing" rather than doing.
"True" creativity comes, initially, from an empty place or a void. I don't mean "emptiness" like something that is lacking. I'm talking more about a womb or fertile place. An undefined place of "possibility". I don't really think there is an accurate word for it because it is a place that exists prior to any kind of definition. It exists prior to any kind of creativity. I think the best way is to describe it as some kind of Void. However the void, in and of itself, is no more than an Invitation for creativity.

I learned a long time ago that, in performance, if I'm not having an experience, then the audience isn't either. So, how does one "plan" on spontaneously having an inspired experience? In the mid-1980's I used to do a 3 day water fast before every one of my larger concerts. And during those 3 days I'd do lots of meditating, Tai Chi and centering before each show and then I'd do the concert while fasting. I wanted to be a clear channel for as much energy from the Universe to pour through me, into my piano and out to the audience as possible. But I quickly got tired of all the "prep" work and decided that I didn't want such a huge distinction between my more "ordinary" daily life and my "special" creative life. I was tiring of the distinction between the sacred and the mundane and realized that it was separation that I was creating and that it really wasn't necessary or even a true reality.

After many years of "working on it" through various techniques, therapies and practices I feel that I've, to a large degree, integrated my creative life into my entire life and at this point my music grows as I grow, whether it's me doing the dishes or laundry; walking on the beach, writing a blog or recording in my studio. I'm almost always involved in my creative process. My life IS my practice. I DO still have certain activities or practices that I feel nurture my more "expanded" or "spiritual" self more than other activities, but they are more like reminders throughout my day rather than a real departure from my normal routine. Some of the practices are ones of re-membrance that I can do during any other activity I'm involved with and other practices are more involved like my yoga practice or my love for sitting and seriously focusing on the sunset for an hour or two. Basically, it's all about "emptying". Stripping down the layers of thought, identity, desire, expectation and judgement until what's eventually left is just "being". Just "listening". And when we get to a place of truly being able to "listen" (because we're not filled up with all our thoughts and ideas of what things should look and feel like) then, finally . . . we've just sent an Invitation out to the Universe. In fact, the Universe (or God) is always seeking us. We just need to learn how to listen and allow access. Actually, recently I'm also noticing that there is a way of "seeing" that is very powerful as well and completely aligned with what I'm talking about regarding "listening".

In my experience, the Universe, God, the Creator, the All that IS, loves to fill us with it's energy. It can't help but to fill up a Void. We're usually generating so much of our own thoughts, concerns, expectations, desires and judgements that there's literally NO room for divine inspiration. I'm serious. True creativity only comes when a welcoming (open, empty, void) space is created. However, emptying ourselves of all that "extra" stuff that we usually think IS "us", is often challenging and sometimes confronting. Sometimes in stripping away the layers we need to let go certain believes or associations that we've taken comfort in for a long time. These are both positive AND negative identifications. Sometimes we need to feel things we'd rather avoid, like sadness, loss or fear of various kinds. These things take up our inner "space or Void" and interfere with truly being "present". But after we feel and release the concepts, wounds or pain that occupy our inner sanctum, the Universe rushes in and fills us with it's energy. That's why we feel so good after some kind of emotional or cathartic release.

And when I come to the piano to play, perform, write or record, I try and empty myself first, then I play a note or a short phrase that is an expression of how I really feel at that moment. If I feel good, then I play "I feel good". If I feel nervous and insecure then I play "nervous and insecure". And then I listen to what I just played and then I respond to that in an honest, whole hearted way with another musical phrase. Then I listen to that and so on. I never try to mislead or lie to my piano or to my audience. I always start exactly where I really am. If I don't play from where I really am then how can I be present? If I'm pretending to feel good and confident when I'm not, then I'm deceiving my audience and not being honest with my self or my instrument. I'm not aligning my Self with what IS. If I DO start from and express from where I am, for better or worse, then I know it'll change. The "moment" always transforms into something else. It never stays the same. If I'm honest and expressing mySelf truthfully then I can align mySelf and music with the present moment. It feels literally like dropping into "the moment". And in the present moment there's all the energy and all the creativity of the entire Universe. It's like being swept away by a huge current that I can only keep up with if I continue to stay present and not think about it, not define it or categorize it in any way. And that's always so much more interesting and moving than what I could ever bring to the table on my own.

And don't forget, a key element to any relationship with the Universe/God or one's creative muse, is a healthy dose of humility and an awareness that this all really IS a mystery . . . a miracle that will never really be understood by our rational minds through words and explanations. There's so much more to this way of approaching life and creativity. I'm writing a book to discuss the process and journey in much more detail and to provide tangible exercises to facilitate an experience of what I'm talking about. But for now, this is just a little blog to share some of my thoughts. Please feel free to comment or ask questions. This is one of my favorite subjects. Thanks for reading!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

My New Album - Call Of Love

I'm very excited to announce the release my newest album, CALL OF LOVE. I honestly can't tell you how many records I've recorded. But the great thing is that even after years and years and recordings and recordings, I am, at this point in my life and career, more in love with music than ever. Making and recording music is all about the process. Yes, it eventually leads to a tangible outcome, like a CD or score for film. BUT the best part is the process. From having an idea or melody for a song, to flushing it out on the piano; to seeing how it evolves and changes as I work on it and nurture it; to recording it; having other musicians add their support and ideas to the song; mixing the album (often my favorite part); naming and packaging and then finally releasing it and planning some marketing. I love every step. And the interesting thing is that "love" is so much a part of the process that if I don't literally "fall in love" with every song on the album, then that song doesn't make it. For me making music is all about "love".

That's one of the reasons why "Call Of Love" is such an appropriate title for this album. What the title, "Call Of Love", means to me is that every day, every hour, every minute we're making decisions and choices that affect our present, our day, our year and ultimately the rest of our lives. Whether it's choosing what to have for lunch; or how to communicate to a friend or loved one about something important; or how to react to an event or situation that crosses our path unexpectedly . . . choosing "love" is always one of the options for us to choose. Every day we make thousands of decisions that ultimately add up to the overall quality of our life experience. I believe that the more often we choose "love", not only will our experience be better, but our contribution to our family, friends, community and world will be of a greater and more meaningful impact.

Now, this is not always the easiest choice. In fact, it often appears to be the most confronting. But just the awareness of it as the best option IS life-changing in and of itself. The World calls to us from many different perspectives and attitudes. The World has an amazing momentum and pace that is often overwhelming. The World tells us that we need "this", and should work for "that" and what's "better" and "cooler" BUT the World almost NEVER tells us what will bring us the most peace, contentment, joy and love in our lives. That's why it is SO very important to listen so closely for the Call Of Love. The Call that some part of us recognizes as the "true" and "pure" sound. That we recognize comes from a deeper place within our selves. The one that brings us closer to the home, life experience, contentment and the love that we truly desire most, beyond all else. I hope it doesn't sound to "out there" BUT that IS the inspiration for this album. The awareness that we have a choice every second to answer to a deeper call from within.

Now, on a more tangible note . . . let me tell you a little about how this album evolved and let's take a look at each song individually and see what I can tell you about it.

1. Call Of Love - I wrote the main melody for this song for a series of PSA's that Pierce Brosnan was making to "Save The Whales". The International Whaling Commission was considering lifting the "ban on whaling" because of pressure from countries like Japan and Iceland. A combination of efforts from organizations like Greenpeace and individuals like Pierce upheld the ban so that for at least another 15 years or so, the Whales are relatively safe from "legal" whale hunting although they are still under threat by "illegal" whale hunting. Nonetheless, it inspired this song. I really love Paul McCandless's oboe solo in the middle of the song and Jaques playing is always spot on.

2. Breath Of Life - I wrote this song with Dominic Miller in mind. I knew his acoustic guitar would really shine on this song. When Paul McCandless put down his beautiful oboe part it added this sweet longing to the song. And I'm sucker for "sweet longing". Mixing this song was a bit challenging because of all the layered guitar parts a couple minutes into it. The cello adds such an important element as well. The "hook" that happens in two places on the song where it goes from an F major to an F#minor repeatedly gives it this auspicious/otherworldly quality for just a few seconds. That's one of my favorite parts. This could be my favorite song on the album. I'm already planning on recording a solo piano version of it for a future project because the solo piano version is very different and interesting. Much different from this version.

3. Song Of My Heart - This song used to have a minute long mellow intro with just cello and guitar, but I wound up removing it because I thought it was too long to wait before the song "kicked" into it's groove. This is probably the jazziest song on the record, but it's still not really jazz. I actually wrote this song with Jaques in mind, playing the cello melody the 2nd half of the song. Paul's soprano sax added a really nice color and energy.

4. Everlasting Waltz - This is another song that will show up again on a future album probably as a solo piano version. This version is "in time" and sound more structured as a result. But there is a very moody "out of time" version lurking within me and I'm looking forward to playing with that. I think the oboe and cello sound particularly beautiful on this song.

5. Here For You - This, for me, is the "surprise" song on the album and leans the most towards pop instrumental or some unknown category. I've never been easily categorized. The piano does some interesting things with "time" on this track. I often "let my fingers do the walking" and just play what feels good to my hands. This song is perfect example of my hands just having fun. When I recorded Paul playing his soprano sax it took the song to a new place. His equally uncategorizeable style really comes through in this song. Is he playing "pop", "classical" or "jazz"? Answer: none of the above. He's playing his own unique self. Yeah Paul!!! I love what he does in the latter part of the song where he gets more punctuated and "staccato". This song makes me happy cause it's so "me".

6. In Every Life - Funny thing about this song is that when I'm not really paying attention I like it more. If my mind is wandering and this song comes up, I'm like . . . "Oh, that's nice . . . what is that?". But if I'm listening to closely I start thinking "There's really only two sections and I'm just repeating them in different octaves". Well, maybe that's all it needs to be? I've included it on the record in a short form because I really like the melody, it sounds good and it's satisfying to play. Plus it's my album and I can do whatever I want. Right?

7. A Tale To Tell - I kind see this as the "sleeper" song on the album. It's just very sweet and satisfying. A little blue. I find the textures really satisfying. The acoustic guitar especially. This is one of the those melodies that just came out of me completely intact and very specifically. It doesn't have the "build" that is so common in my music. It's stays pretty even throughout. Sometimes that's hard for me to.

8. My Beloved - To me this sounds like an old Celtic love song. The penny whistle really adds to that feeling. I really like that the piano plays a main melody and counter melody at the same time. Definitely sounds like a love song to me, maybe a little bit of unrequited love and a little melancholy, but I like that as well. I also think it sets up the next song very well.

9. Fields Of Gold - I love this song. One of my favorite Sting songs. Dominic played on the original. I thought it was very cool that he was into recording it with me. I think he's only played it with Sting and I (I could be wrong) and that's very cool. I tried adding some penny whistle to it to add to the "old Irish ballad" feel, but it wasn't happening, seemed to distract too much from the heart of the song. I love Dominic's playing, the simplicity, the great tone, the restraint. I've learned a lot from playing with him on and off for the last couple years. Thanks Dominic!

10. Each Moment - This is Jaque's favorite song on the album. I think it's because of the ever evolving chord changes and melody growing over the top. I like it because of the "timelessness" in the playing. Meaning . . . it like moves through honey in some places and slides along in others. Sounds romantic to me.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August 2010 "On The Road with Nawang Khechog"

It had been years since I'd seen my friend, Tibetan Flutist, Nawang Khechog. I had heard of his near fatal traffic accident in India two years ago through mutual friends and was very upset by it. He was mostly out of communication because of either being outside the US or when he got back, was recovering and literally completely withdrawing from any contact from the outside world. Then I heard about his heart attack and more health complications. At this point I'd had enough and I contacted him and insisted that he stop putting me through so much and cease this untimely romance with death. It was too soon from him to leave and I didn't appreciate the stress he was causing me with constantly being hospitalized etc. LOL. We talked briefly and he returned to his home in Boulder to continue his healing process. Then about 5 months ago I contacted him again and proposed we do a little concert tour together to spend some time and make some music. He liked the idea and felt for the first time since his traumatic last couple years that he was ready for a little road adventure and some quality time with his good friend.

Nawang and I had recorded our Dance Of Innocents album sometime in the mid to late 1990's. It was the only record we recorded together and since then had only performed a few concerts together. But they were good ones. Carnegie Hall in NYC, JFK Stadium in Washington DC and some other smaller venues around Colorado like Chautauqua Park Auditorium in Boulder. I don't think either of us really knew what to expect musically when we got together and were more looking forward to some quality time together since there was a degree of uncertainty around the future. By the time we got together a few weeks ago in Southern California, we hadn't seen each other in about 7 to 8 years.

I definitely noticed considerable growth in Nawang both musically and personally. It was a pleasure for me to be around someone that truly does his best to "walk his talk". Nawang's "Be Kind To Each Other" slogan is his daily practice as well. I watched him everyday practice his teaching in every way possible. Never saying a harsh word about any one . . . always looking for the best possible explanation putting everything and everyone in the best possible light. I've worked with many "indigenous" or culturally specific musicians over the years and was not always thrilled with the person behind the image or facade. And at this time in my life I simply don't want to deal with personal "contradictions" of that nature. So, to be with Nawang for a couple weeks, concert after concert, on the road was a welcome and affirming experience.

The tour wasn't very long really. Only 10 concerts in about 14 days. A few in California, a few on the East Coast and several in Colorado. Each concert was a little more of "getting to know you" musically and the following day was a little more "getting to know you" as a human being as we'd drive to and from airports, hotels and sound checks. We'd chuckle to ourselves when the curb side baggage checkin person recognized our names on our drivers licenses and said how they just listened to our music last night and we were very moved by the great feedback we'd receive night after night from the people that would talk with us after the concerts. And we'd both acknowlede afterwards, driving back to our hotel or to the next gig that it truly was truly a gift and honor to be able to facilitate "meaningful" experiences in others by the music that came through us. We'd have conversations about the meaning of "essence" or "true nature" for us individually and for Nawang as a follower of the Dalai Lama. And we'd wonder at the beautiful planet that we live on (especially in traveling through Colorado).

I think for both of us there was very little distinction between the music we played at night and the personal exchanges we'd have driving to and from the airports, hotels and venues. Nawang and I are brothers from different cultures and mothers. I think we recognized that early on in our meeting some 16 or 17 years ago and there are just a small handful of men in my life that I can say that about and it's really nice to spend some time with them on occasion. We're planning on doing some concerts in Hawaii this fall perhaps and maybe some more in other places as well. Nawang is releasing a book this winter about his "Be Kind" workshops and is working on a film about this life. He walked as a small boy of only 3 years old from Tibet to Dharam Sala India with his family some 50 something years ago. He's lived a diverse and interesting life and continues to follow the path of his spiritual unfoldment. It is a pleasure and an honor Nawang to be your friend and share music with you! Here's to your Long Life!! You can read more about Nawang and his music on his website . Thanks for reading! WIth Love, Peter

Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 2010 Unreasonable Happiness

"Unreasonable Happiness" has been one of my favorite terms since I first heard it many years ago. There are two things main things that I like about it. One is that it immediately got me thinking about how most of the time there are "reasons" to be happy or not happy. And the Second is the questioning of "where does happiness really come from". To explore the concept or possibility of experiencing happiness for now apparent or tangible "reason" is very liberating. And I've actually spent a fair amount of time working with this idea. Funny thing is that the subtle "unreasonable" reasons to be happy start becoming more and more tangible. Like "I feel happy just because I feel good". Or "I'm happy because I'm in touch with my Self" of "because I'm feeling connected to something larger than my ego". It takes the emphasis off of circumstances in a huge way. A couple other of favorite phrases are "Losing your mind and coming to your senses" and "No matter where you go, there you are".

There's been a lot going on in the world (and my world) for many months now and things seem to be moving so fast that I've had a hard time being able to focus on just one subject for a blog and have, as a result, started and stopped writing many blogs over the last few months. With the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico and President Obama's administration thinking about loosening the moratorium on Whale hunting for countries like Japan, Iceland and Finland finding my sense of "unreasonable happiness" has been a bit trying lately. With events and issues like this close to my heart on the table it's sometimes hard to feel good. Negativity, fear and blame have never furthered any good cause but I DO think it's important to discover why these kinds of things happen and understand how they could be prevented so that they never ever happen again.

How does one find the balance between doing one's part to co-create a healthy and balanced future for our children and at the same time find the necessary peace and joy in one's daily life? Perhaps I just answered my own question. In first finding the peace, presence and joy of my inner experience I am then prepared to create or initiate change in my environment and world. Does anything really positive come from feeling bad? I know I'm sometimes sick to my stomach about what's going on in the Gulf of Mexico. And the thought of seeing my beloved whale friends harpooned and cut into pieces makes me nauseous and angry as well. But can I really function effectively and clearly from that place of pain and anger? No, I can't.

I find more and more in my life that regardless of what's going on externally, my inner and personal experience has it's own life and reality. I can be in a terrible mood for one reason or another, often a really good reason, and then go do yoga for 90 minutes and my entire mood and perspective has shifted to a very positive and present one without anything changing in my circumstantial world. I can also be having a great day for hours and hours and then suddenly a thought enters my mind and my whole mood and enthusiasm for the day collapses around me.
Is it possible to effectively deal with overwhelming world and environmental events from a place of centered inner peace? Can one feel empathy and compassion for all the many creatures and situations pleading for help and care while not losing the awareness and experience of the perfect chaos of this world? Yes and yes!

Actually I see this as my main mission or objective in this life. It all begins with my relationship with my Self and my Essence (or God, Universe, the Force, All That Is) then my relationship with my family and friends, my music, my work, my activism, and so on. It's as complicated as "how to bring balance and peace to the world" and as simple as "how to take my next breath". It's as mysterious as trying to comprehend the origins and depth of the Universe and as plain as holding a door open for someone or picking up a cigarette butt from the sand on the beach. It's as daunting as "how to bring my music to as many people in the world as possible" and as intimate as softly, gently playing just one note on the piano and letting it ring in it's glory as I intently, patiently listen until the last whispering shimmer of it's overtones have become inaudible to my ear.

Alright . . . enough waxing philosophic. Right now I'm in California. Been here for almost 2 weeks. It's been cold in CA and cloudy too. Missing Maui quite a bit but happy to be furthering my career and getting my music out there. Having meetings in LA with film people letting everyone know that I'm really into scoring for film, ready and available to work, and making some new friends in the process. Doing about 13 concerts in the next month or so between California, Colorado, Virginia and North Carolina. Many of which are with my long time friend, Tibetan Flutist, Nawang Khechog. We haven't performed together in many years and this is the first little tour he's made since dealing with some very serious health issues over the last couple years. I've got a few solo gigs, some at New Thought churches and others at concert halls. Visiting with family and old friends and doing my best to stay in touch with my Self.

I'll write another blog from the road in the next few weeks. Check out the new updates and tour schedule on my website .

Wishing you all the very best,

Monday, December 7, 2009

Dec. 2009 Grammy Nomination

There's nothing "casual" about being nominated for a Grammy. Yes, it's my 6th nomination but still, the anticipation and excitement doesn't really diminish at all. If there's one thing that I've learned in being nominated and in life in general, the best thing about it is the inner experience of it. It's very personal and almost private. I've learned in my life that it's what I know and feel that it most important, not what someone else has to say about it. In fact, I've even noticed that I have a more complete and fulfilling experience of some things when I just keep it to myself. It's like watching a sunset or sunrise, or having the best glass of wine or some kind of inner revelation. Of course it's often fun to share that with someone, but the experience, the visual, the taste, the chain of thoughts leading to a profound realization are one's own and very personal. And like a lot of things, the experience doesn't really get any better in describing it. It actually takes on even less dimension, less depth and space. You can't really convey the experience of a great glass of wine by describing it, you can't recreate the feeling you experienced by explaining the chain of events or thoughts that led you to an epiphany. Some things are best left unspoken, unqualified and unquantified.

Of course I tell whoever I want about being nominated for a Grammy. I post it on my Facebook profile, tweet it and send an email to my friends and fan base. But . . . for me the sweetest thing about it is just savoring the moment, the inner experience. Just to be with my Self. Feeling the honor and acknowledgement that it represents, fully letting it in and embracing it. Letting it soften me just a little more, giving myself just a little more permission to be just "me" musically and creatively . . . and then . . . perhaps just a wee bit too soon . . . I take out the trash, empty the dishwasher and make my son's lunch for school and my life goes on. Because, as the buddhist saying goes . . . "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop would, carry water." I'm not equating a Grammy nomination with enlightenment really. I'm just pointing out that it IS the "every day" and moment to moment experiences that we live, create and perceive that gives us the opportunity to truly experience a life of meaning and presence. If we don't wake up in the morning curious about what the day may bring, eager to watch the sun rise and make it's way up sky and back down the other side and be present with all the little moments and experiences that fill space and time along the way, then all the awards and acknowledgments won't make your life any more the sweeter. Oh, and by the way . . . the Sun doesn't rise or set. It's the earth spinning on it's axis that gives the illusion of the sun rising and setting. It's our proximity on the earth that moves closer to and farther away from the sun at a speed of just over 1,000 miles per hour that determines what part of the day or night we're experiencing. I like to think about that when I'm watching the sunrise or sunset. It's different and gives my mind an interesting twist. Funny how an awareness of reality can be so contradictory to the way we usually perceive things.

Having explained above how I know that it's the simple things in life that create a life worth living, now, let me try and describe my experience of receiving this nomination. I was aware of the exact time that they were going to post this years nominations on the website. I had done a pretty good job of NOT thinking about the upcoming nominations 2-3 weeks prior. Whenever it would cross my mind I'd get the little electrical jolt from my chest down to my stomach and then I'd put the thought out of my mind because I really couldn't deal with it. And I did honestly think I stood a decent chance of getting nominated because my album with Dominic Miller, IN A DREAM, really is one of my best (I think). But about 45 minutes before the announcment time which was to be about 7pm PST I started to feel extremely anxious. I was watching the clock and time was slowing down to a snails crawl. I decided to make some soup to keep myself occupied. I started chopping vegetables, sauteing onions etc. paying special attention to stay focussed and present so as not to cut my fingers before my upcoming concert in Boulder that coming weekend. My mind was still thinking about it pretty often but at least I was doing something constructive and useful. Right at 7pm PST I went to my computer to go to to look it up. My 4 year old son saw me go to my computer and ran over and wanted me to print him out some coloring pages. I wanted to see if I was nominated or not, but he felt very strongly that he wanted me to print out some pictures for him to color in. I thought about it for a second and opted to satisfy his needs first because at least then he be happy and I'd be free to experience whatever I had to experience. So I printed him out a couple pages and we was happy and running off to color them in, then I finally went to the site. As I saw the site come up on my computer the wave of anticipation came pounding down on me in a huge way. Suddenly I felt so overwhelmed it became hard to even think straight or really comprehend what I was seeing on my computer screen. I was looking for a little sentence like "See Grammy Nominations List Here" but couldn't find it. Then suddenly i noticed that there was a whole big square bar that had the announcement link which I then clicked on immediately. Then there was a list of all the different Fields and Categories and I went straight to New Age. And there it was. "In A Dream" by Peter Kater, Dominic Miller, Jaques Morelenbaum and Kenny Loggins. WoooHuuu!

Oh boy, that felt good. I yelled to my wife Gabrielle, "We're going to the Grammys!!" Then I looked to see who else was nominated in my Category. My long time friend David Darling, an amazing cellist, is nominated for his Prayer For Compassion CD. I was so excited to see his name. His music (his solo works and his early work with the Paul Winter Consort) has been an inspiration to me literally for decades. Plus I'm fortunate enough to have had David play on many of my own albums. And Kitaro is nominated as well. I don't know him as well as David Darling but we've shared sushi on more than one occasion and enjoy running into each other at events. I immediately felt proud and extremely honored to be sharing the nominations with these two extraordinary musicians. Jim Brickman is also nominated, but honestly I'm not very familiar with his work and I don't know of the 5th person at all. I immediately sent David an email congratulating him for his nomination and really felt only joy and happiness to be sharing it with him. Of course, I'd love to win the Grammy but if David or Kitaro win I'd be happy for them because they truly deserve the acknowledgment for their very impressive and creative body of work and talents.

Next was my phone call to Dominic Miller and tell him the good news. Dominic was in NY at the time (his home is currently in France) rehearsing and doing concerts with Sting (as he has done for most of the last 20 years or so). He answered his cell phone right away and I said "Congratulations!!". He knew what I was talking about because we spoke earlier that day about another matter he knew that we'd be finding out that evening. He said "We got a Grammy Nomination??". He was very excited and proud. We talked for quite a while. Excited about going to the Grammys and looking forward to our next project together. Next was to let Kenny and Jaques know. Both were also very happy with the news. Kenny's last nomination and win was for his collaborative "Song of the Year - What A Fool Believes" with Michael McDonald. As Sting has said "Music is it's own reward". So true indeed. Sharing the creative process with Dominic, Kenny and Jaques has truly been a wonderful honor and gift. And to crown the experience of making a beautiful recording with a Grammy Award nomination is really very sweet and slightly intoxicating. Does it make the Sunrise or Sunset any more brilliant? No, not really. But it does give me a sense that, yes, it is okay to follow my instincts and intuition, to create music that really appeals to my personal taste and to branch out and collaborate with artists that I admire. It's like a big "YES" from my peers and the Universe in general. The gift is really just to be a musician and share my music with those who would listen, but you know . . . I've never held one of those shiny little grammophone statues and would love see what it looks like on top of one of my studio monitors. I guess we'll see!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Deep Listening

I began this tour with Dominic Miller not really knowing what to expect. Dominic arrived on Maui just 3 days before our first concert. After a short period of rest we dove right into rehearsing. We chose 4 songs from our album, IN A DREAM, and several of our individual songs that we could collaborate and improvise on. Neither one of us had played any of the material from our album since recording it almost a year ago. And as beautiful as the album is, I wasn't sure how it was going to hold up in a live concert situation. Neither one of us liked to "rehearse" but everyday we worked on the songs for a few rounds when not recording for our new album and while preparing for an almost a full day of video shooting for a docu/film that I feel compelled to make. Plus I was also trying to show Dominic some of the beauty and wonder of Maui. So, needless to say, we had a lot on our plates.

Initially I felt some pressure (self imposed) to try and play really "good" and be "creative". I mean, come on . . . the last gig Dominic did a few days before arriving on Maui was with Sting in Quebec in front of 120,000 people. And Dominic's recent album, yet to be released, is produced by one of my all time favorite producers, Hugh Padgham. So, if there was ever a situation where I'd feel some pressure to be creative, this would be it I've long given talks and workshops on "creativity" and how "listening" really needs to be at the core of any creative endeavor. This was good opportunity to practice my own teachings.

I've worked with many very talented musicians through the course of my career. And I've felt varying degrees of satisfaction from the interaction of performing live with them. In playing solo concerts, one focuses on connecting with one's inner or "essential" self and expressing what's there without agenda, judgement or expectation. However, In performing with another musician, one connects first to one's inner space and THEN communicates from that place with another musician and has a sort of musical conversation that is "real", honest and responsive. Dominic shares my "deep listening" philosophy about music and I was actually quite surprised at how similar our concepts and approaches to "creativity" are. In rehearsal there was a great deal of "getting to know you" and creating an intimate and trusting sanctuary. We felt we were just barely prepared enough for the first concert on Maui.

I've had a lot of experience improvising live with other musicians. But I had no idea just how intimate and present two musicians could be with each other on stage until our first concert together. From the very beginning of the evening it became clear to me that performing with Dominic was going to be different than anything I had yet experienced in my long musical history and a completely new beginning of my creative life. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to experience and no one could have explained to me what it would feel like. Just as you cannot know what it feels like to be a parent until you have a child I could not know, until experiencing it, what was possible between two musicians live onstage.

The degree of trust, listening and openness that Dominic (and I) were willing to "BE" with was something I had never felt with another musician before. It's not that we trusted each other's musical expertise, chops or talent. It's that we trusted that we would fully be ourselves and that we would be completely present with and listen deeply as we offered each other one melody, phrase, question and response, after another. We nurtured the awareness and trust that we could ONLY be ourselves, nothing less and nothing more. I'm not talking about our "ego" selves, but instead our deeper soul- connected essential selves. And within that connection, all was possible. And every night there were mistakes and every night there were moments of pure magic, but there were never any compromise as to who we are. It was intensely personal and intimate and at the same time it wasn't even about us. It was about the integrity and responsiveness to the music that was coming through us. I felt that I was performing and listening to a concert at the same time. I knew that whatever I said musically Dominic would embrace it and be fully himself in his response. There was never any right or wrong or power-play. Just varying degrees of connectedness, emotion, listening and letting go. And the reactions from people after our 8 concerts in 7 days confirmed that indeed we were participating in an intimacy that was very personal. It was thick in the room.

To be perfectly frank, in the beginning of my career in Boulder, Colorado in the mid 1980's I began playing with other musicians. With very few exceptions there was a great degree of competitiveness in the music scene in the Boulder/Denver area. A lot of ego flying around and a lot of musical "pissing" contests to see who had the best chops and could play the best solos, or had the most creative ideas and compositions. I was always very turned off by this and very disappointed that even people in my own bands (that I paid to rehearse and record with me) were competitive with me and let's say, less than supportive and straight forward at times. But I thought that was the way it was with "professional" musicians and I tolerated it for the pursuit of my creative vision. But as I began to play with more well-known and established musicians I noticed in most cases that the more secure an artist was in their own work and playing, the more supportive and open they were with other artists. There was more of the feeling of let's make this as great as possible because that's how it should be. Is it possible that the competitiveness and "pissing" contests were compensation for deeply insecure egos? Absolutely! And taking it even further when I moved to California I was again surprised that the majority of the musicians I came in contact with and worked with really didn't have ANY competitive attitude. I mean, everyone was trying to do their best work but it wasn't at the expense of some one else. The feeling was that we were all invested into helping each other fulfill our creative vision (and make a living). And even though our creative expressions were different, there wasn't that sense of comparing and judging. There was a deeper appreciation for the diversity and integrity of our art and quest for creative satisfaction while supporting our families.

Music and art in general is a very intimate and deeply personal expression of one's inner life and soul. I believe that music really originated and still primarily belongs in places of reflection and reverence. It was never meant to be weighed or judged or attributed a specific value or genre. Once again, Dominic and I shared this perspective of music and creative expression in general. In our times off stage, driving or flying to the next gig or having a meal after the concert we'd talk about whatever was on our minds. And even though we had our fair share of logistical conversing or discussing the meal, accommodations or weather, the majority of our time was consumed with exploring our common interests and questions about life, spirituality and music, which in most cases are one in the same. To play and listen to music is a gift and privledge that has great transformational potential. Art in it's purest form is a vehicle or tool for accessing the divine (within ourselves and within the Universe) and bringing us that much closer to our souls and the awareness and experience of the mystery and miracle of this life. It is a bridge between the mundane and the divine, from the severed ego to the "essential" whole self. Within "deep listening" we become more aware of ourselves, the mystery of this universe and the gift of this life. I'm grateful for the experience. A door has opened. And I love what I'm hearing.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 2009 - Dark & Light

On my 18th Birthday my Mother lost her 2 year battle with cancer. She died that night at the young age of 38 years old. This left me relatively alone in my life (as far as immediate family) and also opened a huge door into what I call "the void", the birthplace of all creative potential. I lingered around New Jersey for another few months trying to come up with a plan. I couldn't bear the idea of staying in the town of my High School and my Mother's gradual decline. My Bavarian roots in the German & Austrian Alps birthed a curiosity into what the Colorado Rockies might hold for me. And songs from John Denver and Dan Fogelberg stirred my imagination as well.

In the middle of winter I set off on the road in my beat up old Buick La Sabre that I had bought 6 months earlier for $250. But it died in a blizzard over the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I continued my journey, but I took the long route. I wound up hitch-hiking over 30,000 miles up and down and across the United States over the next year or so. I had no money, all my belongings (mostly music books and some clothes) fit in my backpack and I still had no "plan". Hitching west was tedious and lonely until after passing through Kansas City. Then suddenly the sky and my mind simultaneously burst open in a great panoramic expanse. There was nothing but nature to be seen from one end of the horizon to the other. And so began the next chapter of my journey. My sleeping bag and the roadside became my home, food became my only expense and luxury, and the road unraveled endlessly before me with a diverse and often dangerous cast of characters. What I did, experienced and learned on the road is a whole other story which I won't get into here. But I will say that it contained everything one might imagine, hope for and fear from a very long and spontaneous road trip.

At 19 years old I found myself in Boulder, Colorado. I was hired as the second pianist playing for a University of Colorado Theatre and Dance Department production. I was paid $50 for 10 weeks of rehearsals and performances. That's $5 per week. I guess that's why they call it a labor of love. It wasn't the money I was looking for anyway. I was looking for something to be a part of. I wanted to "belong". I slept in the foothills in the early fall in my sleeping bag, and as the weather got colder I slept in the bathrooms and dressing rooms of the Theater building until the Director found me out and invited me stay with him and his family at his mountain home for a period of time. After the production ended, so did my welcome at his home. I started to pick up a little extra money playing piano for dance classes and at some lounges and restaurants around town. Soon thereafter I felt very fortunate to rent a room in a basement apartment on "the hill" in Boulder with 4 other guys.

The entire apartment had dirt floors, a single small bathroom, kitchen, 4 small rooms and a boiler room (the dreaded 5th bedroom). We fondly called our apartment "The Pit" and it became known for it's unusual assemblage of musicians, spiritualists and transients. True Bohemia. We shared the $150 a month rent equally at $30 each and I considered myself fortunate to have my own back entrance and to not be sleeping in the boiler room. The guy who slept in there and would emerge every morning soaked in sweat, swearing off the night's heat. I, on the other hand, lived in relative luxury in comparison. I had my own hand made platform bed, sleeping bag, alter with candles, incense and fruit bowl and an old upright piano I was struggling to pay off. I had one tiny little window up on the top of my bed that looked up onto the alley and driveway that I covered in stained glass, creating my own private sanctuary. I loved my room in the Pit.

I spent a lot of my time reading spiritual books like Autobiography Of A Yogi, A Course In Miracles and the Bhagavad Gita. I regularly practiced Tai Chi, meditated, chanted, listened to Keith Jarrett, Paul Winter and Oregon albums and played the piano. Fasting was a good way to get thru those lean times plus it made meditating and chanting that much deeper of an experience. 10 day brown rice fasts were common for me in the cold months and 4 - 7 day water fasts in the warmer months where I would often meditate over 4 hours a day. I had no possessions other than my piano and didn't feel motivated to do much except to explore my present and my muse.

I would imagine that in reading this it would be easy to see this as a very simple and even esthetically pleasing lifestyle. I had no apparent responsibility or agenda. Even in writing this I'm amused at what a nice neat package it presents itself to be and how at this point in my life it sounds almost like a little retreat from the much more complex world I currently live in. But this recounting of my past wouldn't be accurate at all if I didn't interject at this point that I had an ever-present, urgent and intense inner longing to touch upon something that felt "real" and "essential" in my life. Something with content and permanence. I craved experiences and relations that were meaningful to me at the time and that could shed light on the deep feelings and sometimes unbearable aloneness that I experienced on a daily basis. This near anguishing and persistent inquisition into trying to understand not just my place in the world but also this culture and world's place in the universe, motivated everything I did or didn't do and in so many ways still does today.

One night during a longer fast I was sitting on the dirt floor of my room meditating when I noticed this high pitched ringing sound in my ear. I decided to "listen" to it. Then I noticed another lower sound and I decided to listen to it as well. As I continued to listen there gradually appeared more and more tones. I noticed that the more I listened, the more I heard. I also noticed that there were different sounds in different ears. I kept listening and kept expanding my sense of awareness and after a while I found myself immersed in a very deep experience of hearing the most amazingly beautiful atonal noise or sound that i could ever have imagined existed. It was everywhere. I was attentive and focused on it and consumed by it at the same time. It was a phenomenal opening experience that I returned to many times in my meditations for many years. I later found out that my experience was actually of something called the Celestial Harmonies or the Music of the Spheres. A mystical experience of a deeper dimension. The sound of the Universe. The "Word". Once again, another door into the void was opened within me. And this set the stage for the creative exploration which would drive me forward for a long time to come.

I learned that music, light, dark, life and all creation simply exist. That we are creation living within creation. I also learned that to truly witness or experience creation and ourselves within creation we need to slow down, unravel, stop and listen. We need to empty ourselves of our thoughts, beliefs, desires, pains AND triumphs. We need to let go of our concepts of duality, of light and dark; of expanded and contracted and just sit with that sometimes awkward and uncomfortable emptiness that we try and avoid, sometimes for our whole lives long. We, as a culture are always trying to fill ourselves with people and things. Sometimes it's obvious that we try and fill ourselves with anything just to distract ourselves from something else, like a deeper, less comfortable feeling. What if we stopped trying to "fill" all the time and started to "empty". What if we let go of whatever thought, idea or longing that we thought was so important? And then, what if we just allowed that space or void to be there? In my experience, in so doing we've created a void. We become in some ways an empty "container" that in so being sends out an invitation to the "divine" or "essence" to fill this intimate space within us. This is the raw potential or experience of Creation. This is the courtship and dance between the void (emptiness or darkness) with creation (energy or light). And through that experience of emptying and allowing ourselves to be filled, we are forever changed. And this, as human beings and artists, is what we have the opportunity to share and express.

There are many of us filled with this experience. Some are musicians or artists. Some are authors and speakers. And some are teachers by example and simply touch family and friends from this essential place. I've been fortunate enough to know many musicians, artists and humanitarians that travel within this precious experience. But what we often forget is that truly knowing and embracing ourselves is a process that involves light and dark, energy and emptiness, beginnings and endings, joy and sadness. There cannot be one without the other. And without both there cannot be wholeness. The affinity and dependency of darkness and light is true primordial love.  It is the passion from which we were conceived and the devotion through which we will dissolve.    All that exists is the consequence of this enchantment . . . this eternal balance of dark and light.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Something Sacred . . . Something Free.

I headed out on my paddle board one morning several weeks ago looking for . . . an experience. The ocean and winds were calm so I ventured further out than normal and probably further than would have been advisable given that the sun had not yet risen and I was the only one on the water as far as I could see. But I REALLY wanted . . . an experience. I paddled for a while, breathing deeply into the fears that sometimes surfaced in my mind and stomach. Fears about sharks and unexpected winds and my own vulnerability and mortality. As soon as one set of inner "disturbances" or "ripples" of fear dispersed, another surfaced. But I kept breathing into them and relaxing my body and mind as I did so. I kept breathing, waiting patiently for enough layers of my thoughts to disintegrate so that I could simply be "present". And finally this thought surfaced . . . " but I'm so far from shore ". That struck me as an obvious but interesting thought to have. And I looked down at my feet standing on top of my beautiful red striped board and I thought . . . "but I am HERE, standing on my board!". Life isn't on the shore. Life isn't elsewhere. It's here. Like it or not, where ever we go, there we are. And I was here, simply standing on my board, holding my paddle, somewhere out on the ocean. And that is all. This was the last of my distracting thoughts for that morning. And finally . . . I was present, simply looking for an experience.

But what kind of experience? What was it that I was so hungry for? I asked myself what was missing inside of myself that I was searching for somewhere out here on the ocean, alone, so early in the morning? And the thought occurred to me . . . "something sacred . . . something free". I wanted to touch on something that was intrinsically itself. Something completely free and wild. Something that was not defined by it's productivity or assigned some relative value or worth based on what it did or didn't do. Something that didn't need to practice . . . "being". I wanted an experience that could remind and reconnect me with the essential part of my self that existed since my conception and still lives beneath all the concepts, ideals and values that have been layered and layered upon me from the moment I took my first breath. I wanted to experience the part of me that transcends even the loftiest and most well-meaning of spiritual aspirations. Spiritual ideals, values, concepts, revelations and breakthroughs are merely vehicles to guide and transport us to a place where they are no longer useful or relevant. I wanted to experience something sacred, something free.

I wanted to feel true freedom. A wanted to experience my essence. A place where if one tries to determine how one got there or define where that is, "it" simply dissolves back into the mystery that "it" emerged from. Didn't you ever have the experience where for one reason or another you find yourself in a higher state of being or oneness and then as soon as you start comparing it to other "lesser" or denser states of being or you start thinking about how you want to stay here in this ego-less place for as long as possible, then with that thought you find your beautiful "space" slipping away back into the confines of duality? Any thoughts or rational thinking of what our experience of true essence and presence may look or feel like are often just distractions and obstacles to experiencing the real thing. We can "Om" and "affirm" all we want but until we throw our spiritual concepts and emotional attachments away we're still going be just "Oming" and "Affirming". It's like we can swing on that swing over and over again until we go higher and higher, but then if we don't jump off that swing at just the right time and soar through the air, then we're just clinging to a rope tied to a tree (which is nice, for a little while).

We hug our concepts and beliefs close to ourselves like a favorite soft blanket, protecting us from the cold. We hug it so close we don't even realize that we've blanketed our eyes and hearts as well. Even the most comforting, well meaning and loving thoughts and intentions can blind and separate us from what is present and right in front of us. It's like we forget that we needed the blanket and snow boots when it was winter. And then we wanted the umbrella when it was raining. And now we're still walking around carrying our boots, blanket, umbrella (and God knows what else we're lugging around) that helped us get here. But for me I'm realizing that "here" is very different than "anywhere" I've ever been so far in my life. And being "here" is requiring a lot more breathing and letting go. We can't take all our "knowing" with us to a new place! We can't wrap all our "knowing" around us and then expect to be touched by a greater experience of "wonderment" or awe! True inspiration doesn't come from any place of "knowing"! And any experience of "grace" can't survive an inquisition or desire to define and sustain it. You have to be willing to go along for the ride with all your heart and all your faith until your mind just can't take it longer and grabs hold of the steering wheel, to be once again, in control.

I started paddling out on my board hugging my identity, concepts, fears and aspirations close to me. And one by one I dropped them into the ocean and they submerged. I became more and more vulnerable and present as I disarmed myself of my illusion of protection and separateness. And there I stood alone, just me and my board about a mile or more off shore watching the sunrise shimmering brightly over the distant mountain ridge. And then I heard it. The sound of a huge, wet exhale. The sound of water and air spraying out with one giant breath into the atmosphere. Compared to the quiet lapping of water on my board this new sound was like a freight train blowing it's whistle into the night. And I then I heard it again and I turned to look and find it. And there I saw it! It's dark long back, rolling up surfacing out across the water and then, many yards later, rolling back down into the ocean. It rolled and rolled, submerging very slowly for many long seconds. It looked like a giant sea serpent from some mythological fairytale. It's body was maybe 40ft. to 50ft. long and it's huge tail fins were wider than the full length of my board. Sliding and slicing through the water until the while completely submerged with a playful SLAP of it's tail fin! This beautiful humpback whale, less than 30 ft. away, was now heading directly towards me!

I dropped to my hands and knees on my board now looking for more stability. It was once again quiet. Very quiet. For several minutes again there was that sense of just me out there on top of the water. But now, not alone. In fact, I had tons of company, literally. This is what I was looking for! First an encounter with myself and then with a living breathing ambassador for something sacred, something free. A mascot of my inherent desire and right to freedom. A giant symbol of the "unknown" from a world I can only peer into for a few seconds at a time. A creature that is so foreign to the world I live in and so free from the goals and aspirations of the culture that I've adopted and invested most of my life into, but yet, at this moment we share the same water and breathe the same air. Literally occupying the same space in time. Well, almost. It's more like we peek at each other for a few seconds at a time thru the thin but substantial veils that separate us.

It finally surfaced again on the other side of my board and was now heading away from me. It must have swam underneath me. Then, with more blind enthusiasm and fearless motivation than I had felt in a long long time, I jumped to my feet and paddled hard and deep after my new found ocean companion. I hoped that I could keep up for at least a few minutes before it decided to disappear into the ocean again. I did manage to keep up with it, or it allowed me to, I'm not sure which. I felt it's salty spray on my face and saw it's huge amazing body slice and dance thru the water over and over again. And in-between paddling hard to keep up with it I also sat patiently, quietly, many times, waiting for it to resurface again for the air that we both shared. In some ways the waiting and listening was my favorite part of the journey. The air was shrouded in mystery and anticipation. The quiet was as rich, thick and poignant as it could possibly be. I submerged my head into the water to listen to it's whale song and couldn't believe how loud and clear it was. What a beautiful contrast to the quiet on the surface. The whale surfaced and submerged a dozen times or more on it's way south before heading further out to sea. The journey lasted for about 30 to 40 minutes and finally it was time for me to head back to shore. I had gone as far out to sea as my mind could tolerate. But I was completely moved by the grace of the animal and humbled by it's magnificence. And something about it's very existence that had me spell bound. I didn't want to let it go, but our worlds were calling us in two different directions and I had to return to solid ground.

But I had my experience, my encounter. I found something sacred, something free and spent a long time with it. And as I paddled slowly in towards shore, often looking behind me and listening to every ripple in the ocean and every breath of wind, I hoped to bring something of that experience back to the land, to my life. Perhaps to allow just a little more perspective and a little more freedom in the world of solidity and structure. But regardless of what the day had in store for me, for now I was enlivened, inspired and rejuvenated. I experienced a brief yet satisfying allay of my deep lifelong thirst for something sacred, something free. And I was, for now . . . content. (End Part 1)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Nov. 3rd, 2008 Paddle Boarding and Vinyasa Flow Yoga

I have two relatively new favorite pastimes. One is paddle surfing and the other is Vinyasa Flow Yoga. And if you knew me, you'd know that they were both kind of a stretch from anything I've ever immersed myself into in the past. My previous favorite pastime was mountain and road bike riding which I still enjoy but don't do as often. Paddle surfing (or paddle boarding) is really very enjoyable. I've never been on a surf board in my entire life and it took me several days to be able to stand up on one for more than a couple seconds. But I'm proud to say that finally the board has become an extension of my legs and feet. The sense of peace and oneness that I get after about 45 minutes on my board is rather profound and very addicting. The sense of buoyancy and getting my "sea legs" on the board is something that stays with me all day long. Even as I'm sitting at my studio working I still feel the waves and the water gently rocking me from the inside out.

But this blog is really about an experience I had in doing Vinyasa Flow Yoga. Vinyasa Flow Yoga is also something I wouldn't have expected to enjoy as much as I do. Especially since I'm terrible at it and always the person in the class who's least capable of doing the postures and "flow" correctly. All those intense and long bike rides where I NEVER stretched afterwards have caught up with me. Plus I'm the person in the class that sweats the most and always has a completely soaked t-shirt and hair at the end of the class. But the funny thing is that after the class I feel great! My body feels good, my heart feels open, my mind quiet. And sometimes during the class I have moments of satisfaction as I get close to the desired posture and breath. I also enjoy the music they play in class. It's a lot of contemporary arrangements of Bhakti (Bhajan or Kirtan) devotional songs from the Hindu culture of India. They are songs about surrendering one's Self to the Divine or Beloved within and the peace and release that comes from "giving it up" and "letting it go". I find it very refreshing. Some of it is reminiscent of Sufi songs that I knew from an earlier period in my life.

One day this past week we were approaching the end of class just lying on our backs and the instructor led us through some imagery for our minds and bodies and she said to imagine my heart as a seedling. And my mind immediately commented and said inside my head "I've got more than a seedling here in my heart. I've must have at least a middle to full-size plant or even a small tree by now. My God, with all the work I've done in my life, all the music I've created, things that I've done . . . ". And my mind went on for a little while about that, thinking how much younger the instructor was than I and how she must not have considered that some of us in class have been growing that seedling for a while now. And this went on inside my head for a little while. And then I had a surprising thought. What if my heart WAS just a seedling? Do I really want to be attached to all those things (as wonderful as they are)? I could feel the weight of my "deeds" and "accomplishments" weighing down my heart in just thinking about them. Then of course there are also those things that I'm not so fond or proud of in my life that are more obvious burdens to my inner peace. Of course everyone wants to "let go" of areas in their life that cause them stress, or conflicts or situations that were less than fulfilling or successful. But what about those areas that we are proud of?

Again, what if my heart were just a seedling? What about situations and relationships that DO nurture us and seem "successful"? What if I let those go as well? I don't mean "let them go" like, "stop being in relationship" with them. I mean what if every moment, in my heart, I was just this seedling and didn't feel like I needed "cling" and could just breath and be. And as I continued to pondered my heart as a seedling I saw (quite effortlessly) energy, music, people, relationships, creations and life coming through my heart and being set free without any attachment to my heart even as I still loved them and nurtured them.

What if the heart was always a seedling? What if the heart were never more than this innocent, essential, raw potential to grow and blossom into something unique? What if the heart were always in a state of opening, or discovery or birth? I've decided to ponder this often and use it as an image in my daily life and in my spiritual practice, whether it be on my board, in yoga class or being with my family and friends. And I'd like to acknowledge my wife, Gabrielle, for bringing so many new things into my life on a consistent basis that have brought me so much joy and health and a much larger vision and experience of what life has the potential to be.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Oct. 2nd, 2008 My Grandfather, My Music

I thought I'd try something a little different with these blogs. As much as my past blogs are fine, I have to admit, going on about how great it is to get Grammy Nominations really isn't what I or my music is all about (as much as I do very much enjoy that). My music comes from a very deep place inside me that has more to do with "soul searching", "deep listening" and "Self inquiry" than with "Award seeking" and a sort of "tra la la" way of bouncing through life. So, I thought I'd write a blog that was "real" for me and more about who I am and what I think about. So here goes . . .

My grandfather died a little over a year ago. He was 91 and the last of my family in Germany. My Mother and Aunt died when I was in my teens, my father wasn't around and my Grandfather became my single most significant "Elder". I knew years ago that his death would really put me through it emotioanally. And now a year after his death I still find myself struggling with the loss and the sense of "aloneness" that's been triggered within me. Also, since he was my maternal grandfather I think it's stirred up feelings around the loss of my Mother when I was just 18 years old.

When my grandfather died after a year or so of mourning and missing him I finally realized that it wasn't so much the pain of losing him that I was dealing with, it was the pain of having never really been "seen" by him for who I really am and understood for what I value and strive towards. It's the pain of accepting that so much was left unresolved and so little was said of any real significance or substance. He had the ability to and felt it was his responsibility to comment on and judge every little area and detail of my life. But he never once found it possible to say "I Love You". His conversations were always about what was wrong, missing or false and then from there went to the weather, the food or the soccer game.

I cried when I read about Paul Newman's death. You didn't have to know him personally to know that he was a "good" man. Someone to look up to. I saw a brief interview with one of his daughters the day after his death. All around her was this beautiful air of "peace" and acceptance. I could see that she mourned her father's death because she loved him. But, because she felt seen and loved by him she seemed content with what was shared between them. Her relationship with her father seemed complete and ongoing. This was not the case with my parents or grandparents. I honestly never felt "seen" or "heard" in an essential way by any of them. And I'm certain that it was this longing to be seen and heard, and my desire to find something deeper than was available to me in my environment that led me deeply into my music. Not music in general, but MY music. My music is all about "being" with and exploring and feeling a whole wide range of emotions, of accepting and loving oneselve and creating a safe environment, a loving, compassionate and essential place. It's about embracing whatever exists in this moment in time and space. I can experience the perfection of the Universe and embrace all of my Self and all of Life in the music that comes through me. I realize this may seem to be a rather "large" statement, but is true for me and I feel good about saying it.

Even though my grandfather was the most predictable, old fashioned, judgmental, superstitious and narrow minded man living in Germany; and even though he judged me, never saw me, always criticized me and had the nerve to treat me rudely on and off in the last years of his life; there was something about living under his roof as a child, under his protection; and in his world , even as an adult, that was so safe and comforting. He had the incomprehensible comfort of knowing that what he was doing and how he lived his life was right and was "normal" at the same time. Oh, what a luxury to not question your actions and thought process. To just know that since you're thinking and doing like everyone else, and how your parents thought and did, that it must be the right way to think and do. The comfort of living your life like your parents, peers and neighbors and feeling that it's simply correct and "in order" . . . never questioning . . . That's just amazing. It's almost worth pursuing, it's so attractive. But for some reason, that doesn't really seem like a possibility in my life. Is that something that's true with artists or creative types? I don't know. I feel like a kite with a long ribboned string hanging, blowing wild and free. Occasionally I get caught on something, a bush, a mountain top, a satellite . . . and I'll feel that connection and that tension and soar straight up, sure of myself, higher into the heavens. And then, somehow, unpredictably, I come loose and I'm blown by the wind again, flying randomly, sometimes calmly and gracefully and sometimes wildly and out of control. The need for security and predictability and rootedness can feel pretty intense at times.

There were several times in my life where I could have chosen a more structured path. I could have gone to back to Germany when I was 18 after my Mother died and went to music school and my grandparents would have set me up in an apartment and car and paid for my education. I could have. But no. I always had to be free (I mean "me"). At the age of seven, "Born Free" was one of my favorite songs, with "I Did It My Way" and "To Dream The Impossible Dream" coming in as close seconds. No, "Edelweis" wasn't good enough for me, I flew from Germany to America at the ripe old age of 3 years old and was subject to a whole new world of ambition, risk, adventure and "lyrics". It's not my fault. That's what I tell myself everyday. I look at my grandfather who retired at the age of 55 after working 40 years at Siemens Corporation in Germany. He lived the last 36 years of his life in retirement, comfort and ease. He traveled as he pleased, spent weeks at a time at Spas and Health Resorts, carefully planning his next year of travels, bratwurst and weis beer. He was prudent to cut back on the pork roast, potato dumplings and sweets as he got in his late 80's. He planned everything in advance and kept to his plan. He wasn't hungry for improvisation like I was. He used to tease me about my need for "freedom" and called me a dreamer. It's ironic that he and my grandmother bought me my first piano and paid for all my years of piano lessons. They also instilled in me a deep love, appreciation and respect for nature, beginning in the Bavarian Alps. He told me a few dozen times that if he had my life he wouldn't be able to sleep at night. And yet, I wonder why I have always slept so darn well. I wonder what sleep would be like for me if I had my Grandfathers life and security. I'd probably drop into a comma or die of predicatibility.

He never took out a loan in his entire life. Never. He bought his first house with cash after saving like crazy for 15 years while working at Siemens. He paid for his house in full at the closing. When he first heard about mortgages and credit cards he was totally convinced it was the work of the Devil. And I guess at this point most of us would probably agree. He also warned me to never trust any man with a beard. He couldn't believe I had a car loan. If he new the full extent of my financial stresses throughout my life he'd haunt me from his grave telling me that he can't pass over to the other side because of the unpredictability of my life and income. Well, now I see and understand the value and spiritual significance of "Edelweis". I KNOW that the best things in life are free and organic. I KNOW that there's nothing more rewarding than your child looking up at you with loving trusting eyes, nothing more profound than the sunset blazing, screaming in full glory across the sky, or knowing that you're just happy to BE with your partner, unconditionally, freely and continually. I now KNOW that there's nothing outside of me that I need to be happy. But it's too late to get a job at Siemens and I really love my music work. And to be honest, I wouldn't change a thing (well almost). I dreamed the impossible dream and did it my way in a born free kind of way and now here I am. And you know, no matter where I go . . . there I am.

But . . . my grandfather never got it. He never saw me. He tried, to his credit, but it was just too far from his reality, from his comfort zone. Too far for him to reach. And I never got the satisfaction of his approval, or his saying, "wow, you really accomplished something". Even to hear him say something nice about my music would have been huge, but it never happened. He doubted everything I told him about my career, my accomplishments, awards etc. and he died not understanding what motivates me in my life and what I value. He died without once saying that he loved me. But I know that he did. I know that with some people, the best you can do is see their love bubbling up underneath . . . pushing up their fear, judgments and concerns to the surface, because that's what's between them and expressing their love. Sometimes, especially with family, you have to be the one that gets bigger, even if they're supposed to be older and wiser. You have to get big enough to accept, embrace and love them as they are. I told him I loved him many times in the last years of his life. It came out of my mouth and fell loudly to the floor between us with a thud. The ensuing awkward silence only reassured me that he did hear me and that he loved me too. And in that awkward silence lay the seeds to a life-time worth of music for me to nurture, explore and express. I am grateful.