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.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Sept. 5th, 2008

It's been a long time since I've written here. I've got several exciting things going on right now. I'm just in the process of releasing 3 new albums in my Healing Series. They are AMBROSIA, WALK IN BEAUTY and CLOUD HANDS. They are Volumes 3, 4 and 5 of the series that ESSENCE is VOl. 1 and COMPASSION is VOl. 2. I'm very excited about this frankly because these are really great albums. Plus the packaging of these new CDs is just gorgeous! Really happy with how they all turned out. Please read about them on CD Baby and for now. In a few weeks I'm going to have my new website up and it will have ALL the info on those records including just TONS of other things. My new site will have lots of VIDEOS to watch, MP3's to listen to, contests to win free CD's, free MP3 downloads, photos and LOTS more. I'm VERY excited about it. You'll have to check back in the next few weeks to see when it's up.

Lately I've been tuning back into Mother Earth in a big way. She's kind of hard to ignore actually . . . But I'm experiencing a renewed surge of attention towards the preservation and protection of our earth. I'm giving a percentage of net proceeds from my new albums to environmental organizations. The CD's are all packaged in recycled paper digipaks. No plastic!! And I'm looking for Environmental groups to hook up with to do some good work together. Not sure what form it'll take but I'm looking and thinking about it. I'm very interested in the natural state of our environment and of our Selves. How do we get back there?

ALSO, my record with DOMINIC MILLER is almost ready. It's being manufactured right now and will be released in October. It's an enhanced CD with two videos, photos and other STUFF. My friend Kenny Loggins layed down some wonderful vocal pads on 4 songs and my new friend, Jaques Morelenbaum from Brazil played some really inspired cello on several of the songs. I LOVE THIS RECORD!!! You'll see and here all about it when my new website is up in a few weeks. Plus I'll write more about it in my next blog.

I'm going to keep this blog kind of short because I'm going to write another one for the GRAND OPENING of my new website very soon that'll have all my latest news. In the meantime, I just wanted to say that there are some great things to come.

Stay tuned . . .

All the best,

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Feb. 28th, 2008

It's been about 2 weeks since the Grammys. Seems like a lot longer. Congratulations to Paul Winter for taking home the Grammy for Best New Age album. His Crestone album is a beautiful piece of music. All the nominees this year put out great records. I guess my year is yet to come. That's fine. I'm a very patient man.

I've been very busy in the studio working with all kinds of great musicians. In the last few weeks I've had Richard Hardy here playing some exotic flutes and wind instruments. Joseph Firecrow was just here playing Native American flue on some tracks for me for a project I'm doing for a German record label. Mike Hamilton was here playing guitar with Joseph Firecrow and I for a special "Home Concert" feature for Echoes, the syndicated radio show that goes out to over 150 radio stations around the United States. We recorded three songs "live" from the Sacred Earth "Wind of the East" album and had an extensive interview session with John Diliberto (famed radio show host and music critic) . This should be aired in the next few months. Sacred Earth is a project that I'm spear heading. Our first series of CD's is on the Four Directions based in Native American tradition. Red Feather records, a division of Four Winds, is putting them out. Bill Miller, Grammy winning Native American vocalist was featured on Wind of the West; Kevin Locke and Rita Coolidge are featured on Wind of the North and Joseph Firecrow and Arvel Bird are featured on Wind of the East. I haven't gotten to Wind of the South yet. But I will soon. I should have some info up on my website about this sometime soon.

Dominic Miller, legendary guitarist for Sting (17 years) and Phil Collins and many others, was here for a whole week recording tracks with me for a new record we're doing. I won't go into much more about that record right now because we're still working on it. I'm very excited about this project. I've been a huge fan of Dominic's playing for many many years and those of you that know me also know what a huge Sting fan I am. We've got a couple awesome guest artists coming in and playing on this record as well. This is an all acoustic album that's awesomely spacious, beautiful and soulful. Alright, I already said too much.

Anyway, as overly busy as I am and as tough as the music business has become over the last 10 years, I still feel grateful and honored to have so many talented people to work with and to have my life's work be all about making beautiful music. It's a gift and a privilege. And receiving all the emails and letters from the people that listen and appreciate my work really goes a long way. Thank you for taking the time to let me know that you're listening and "getting" it. Take care!!