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Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Sacred Musician

Music has been a sacred art for aeons. It has only been recently that it (and many of the arts) have been curtailed by commercial interests to be more ‘agreeable to consumers’. This is a sad affair and yet a great opportunity for renewal. It is often when we lose something, like the essence of music, that we find ourselves yearning and reclaiming it with greater love and passion than before.

Singing freely in a surrendered way used to be a traditional religious practice whereby people become utterly consumed by divine, ecstatic energy. However, many cultures the world over outlawed ecstatic singing practices as ‘unsophisticated civilization’, suppressing the wildness of our innately indigenous nature. As we reclaim the ecstatic way of making music we are literally reconnecting with a long lineage of ancestral practices which instantly inspires our lives and our art. So many musicians are disenchanted with modern practices of music and the business hovelling it in commercial prejudice. The sacred musician sees a way through and it is the key to their joy.

The very word music comes from Greek, meaning ‘art of the muses’. The muses were seen to be ethereal creative spirits who would transmit their songs, stories and arts through artists to be brought into our world. When we make music, in whatever capacity, the muses are present—it is the essence of the meaning of music to be connected to the divine.  Many musicians and artists taking on the sacred work will realize it is this relationship to the muses, to divine inspiration or whatever we want to call the spontaneous and ecstatic source of our art, as the essential relationship to build and develop in our lives. Many of our healing and wellness self-practices of yoga, meditation, diet and the like help to foster this relationship as they help us become more clear channels for connection and to have a greater capacity to embody the ecstatic states that are natural to bigger realms of beingness. In our healing, we are able to literally become better conductors for divine energy.

It’s at this juncture that the path of the sacred artist truly becomes a life-path in itself, as we become increasingly devoted to becoming better channels for sacredness. The more we channel the sacred the more we understand that this creative realm that we inhabit is infinite and composed of such harmony and beauty that awe will constantly become our prayer. When we relate to reality in this way, our faith in the essential harmony, beauty and goodness of the universe is emboldened. We know it not from reading books but through feeling; feeling the harmonies coming through us in any moment we choose to open and sing. We become conduits and representations of the universe’s harmony and we transfer this to others who experience our art. This can save and restore much in our world that has become so bereft of sacred experience and so disconnected from the innate power and mystsery of nature.

Guidelines for practice for a Sacred Musician:
Here’s a simple list of some ideas to which a musician can utilize to deepen their art into the sacred.

1)      Prayer: before performing set time aside to deepen into yourself through conscious breath, awareness and meditation. Have sacred objects to help you ground into mystical terrain. Pray for divine inspiration to be with you and sing through you. Devote your performance to the upliftment and healing of self, others and the world.

2)      Daily Song Prayers: take time to begin the day singing freely with long tones with or without simple musical accompaniment (droning instruments are ideal such as singing bowls or the Indian tanpura). This will literally tune one energetically for the day (and can also be done before sleep to inspire better restfulness). Sing good thoughts and prayer with the sound as symbolic representation.This gives more feeling to setting well intentioned thoughts and prayer, making them more powerful. One can also sing into illness states in the body to support healing. It is well documented that the voice activates the vitality of the body in excellent fashion.

3)      Improvisation: take time to perform with no goal in mind aside from surrendering to the flow of music coming through. This is also simply called jamming. Try singing without words, using the voice as wordless, sound instrument. Let go. It can help to quiet the mind before hand and to feel the body energetically from within for the whole body is receptacle/antennae for channeling harmony. If one is aware of the chakra centres, breathe into them before sounding notes and you will find elaborate harmonic textures arising.

4)      Study the ancient tradition of sound as spiritual and healing practice: study the abundant literature on the ancient and spiritual power of music. Look into knowledge on sound healing of which there are many amazing modern innovations. Much of my own paradigm shifting began as I was studying Chinese Medicine and was encouraged to delve into studies on sound healing to integrate my musical practice. The realm of sound healing is a treasure-trove of inspiration to deepen the practice of music. As Edgar Cayce attests, ‘Sound is the medicine of the future.’ That future is now.

5)      Community music through free and communal chant: I always leave time in my performances to engage the audience in making spontaneous song or doing a simple healing chant around the sacred sound of OM for instance. In this way, we bridge the divide between performer and audience that has alienated us from the traditional practice of making music together. When we make simple music together we touch the universal language of sound and brought together in exciting and inspiring ways.

Written by Darren Austin Hall

Darren Austin Hall is a pioneering mystical musician, sound healer and yoga teacher. His music is crafted from the infinite creative moment in spontaneous transmissions, devoted to fostering connection to divine power. His legendary performances entail diverse, salving instrumentation (from crystal singing bowls to lyre harp and guitar) combined with his powerful shamanic singing. His new album, The Tantra of Truth, is his soundtrack to the revolution of consciousness of our contemporary times and is out September 13th.www.DarrenAustinHall.com

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“We Are Because We Belong.”

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If you don’t know me already, my name is Mara Richardson and I work at the front desk at Octopus Garden. I have been a member for a few years now, ever since falling in love with the studio during my free first week, and am a graduate of the 200 hour, 300 hour, and Restorative teacher training. I’m sure many of you can relate when I say – walking through the doors of OG feels like home to me.
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The summer of 2013 did not unfold the way I had anticipated it would. On a beautiful June day, my bike tire twisted (in the worst of ways) with a street car track. In a split second I was thrown over my handle bars landing directly on my chin. As you can imagine, it was a painful fall that broke my jaw in three places. I was taken to the hospital and had jaw surgery that night.
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The recovery has been quite a journey of many ups and downs, that are less obvious now, but still continue. The reason I’m sharing all of this is to express my gratitude.  This unexpected detour was hard to handle at times but with the support of my community here at Octopus Garden, I was helped and loved in the big and small ways that I needed most.
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From Pat regularly checking in over email and asking if she could visit me, to the staff who sent flowers to my parents home where I was resting after surgery, to my fellow yogis at the studio asking me how I’m doing, to therapists from the clinic offering to see me for free throughout my recovery, to insightful reflective conversations with Scott, and to my amazing manager, Taryn, and the desk staff who stepped up and covered my shifts until I was able to come back to work! I have learned so much from your incredible reactions and unconditional support. I am so grateful to you all!
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Every bit of all of this has left me smiling in the embrace of my loving community here at Octopus Garden. I knew this bond between us existed without such proof, but the silver lining of this bumpy road is the light I’ve seen in all of you, and my deepened gratitude for the extended family we all have here at the studio.
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With the first Fall Sangha class coming up this week, Wednesday September 11th, I couldn’t think of a better time to thank all of you and to reflect on our community.
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“What was said to the rose that made it open, was said to me here in my chest.” – Rumi 
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Written by Mara Richardson