I've had two days to myself. Just me and Juna, my friend's 9 month old German shepherd mix. Hanging at Juna's house and on the land around here, Wild Cat Canyon. Drinking tea, taking walks and naps. As I come to the end of this delicious unstructured uncluttered weekend, I know that my body and mind are still tired. I could rest for many more days like this. Just to decompress from life. So full all the time with agendas, to dos, meetings, ideas, visions, plans.
I am putting on my EP release show in 5 days in San Francisco. It seems at these moments more than ever when there is a feeling of the anti-climactic nature of things. I've worked so damn hard on this music. It's taken everything I've got in me to raise the funds, sit in the studio and keep at it. Not because it's hard in the general sense of the word. It's not back breaking or uncomfortable by any means. But it does take a certain clarity and determined effort to believe in oneself for so many days, months and years in a row. It's almost like I have been waging a war inside all my life - against the demons. Against all the voices and stories that have led me to believe that I am not good enough. That my music and my voice do not matter enough. That someone else is better, smarter, prettier, sexier, more worthy. And this project has been a battle I have won. A battle against all the feelings of being two separate parts - a healer and a singer - broken hearted and whole. I thought many times that I couldn't put this music into one project. It didn't seems right to fuse the polarized edges of myself into one continuous piece of art. I have spent many years in two different worlds and struggled with how they fit together. I know that from the outside, to many people, it looks seamless. In my inner experience it has been the challenge of a lifetime and continues to be.
People's perceptions are an interesting thing. Just the other day a friend was telling me how established it seems I am in the music scene in the Bay Area. She sees me playing with a band, playing at certain venues that would probably gladly have me back. She sees the network of artists I have in my circles. And as she was saying these things I could feel a little part of my mind want to run away. My eyes wanted to glass over. I didn't want to hear it. I didn't want to let those things she sees be true. But I made that little mind stay. I made myself look into my friend's eyes and listen to what she sees. I am acknowledging that these things are true - and I have worked so hard - slaying demons for years, maybe lifetimes - to be able to sit here and listen to her tell me that my hard work has paid off. It was a huge accomplishment for me to play music with other people. Most of my life I have been a solo musician. Playing and writing behind closed doors. I was very uncomfortable "jamming" and collaborating with anyone. When I did try, I would get very emotional and angry. I would easily get jealous, insecure and frustrated. But at a certain point in the last couple of years I recognized that I was not happy feeling so isolated. I had no choice but to fight out my own battle. Break down the walls between myself and other musicians. And honestly it had very little to do with becoming a better musician. It has everything to do with turning down the volume on all the nonsense in my head. That internal dialogue is so potent - it's poison. And yes, I am proud to have the choice now. I can play with other musicians. And apparently they are flattered to play with me... who knew?! I am constantly working on this internal conflict. Because I can see the results feel great. And I am not yet satisfied.
I am exhausted. But I am not satisfied. I am willing and ready to keep on slaying the dragons of my self doubt - but there's got to be a more efficient way. A way in which I can take a day off. Maybe even a week off. One where I don't have to be caring for a sick person (myself or another) in order to take a break. There is a way to find the optimal way to exert energy. A state of doing and non-doing that must co-exist. On a day to day basis I am driven much of the time by anxiety. The insecurity that I won't get things done. That I won't make rent. That I won't move forward in my career. That I am just treading water. This is not helpful. I want to learn the art of swimming. Which stroke will help me push the water behind me so that my body will just ease-fully float forward?
Yoga teaches me that my body is an instrument. Yoga teaches me to listen to my deep sensory experience. I close my eyes. I listen to the silence. Yoga teaches me to join the universal sound of OM to open my practice. I invite in a deep belly breath and ride the exhale into vocal vibration. It teaches me to open up the channels of sensation and awareness so that there is a constant movement of vibration through my being. Yoga teaches me how to experience music on the deepest level. It teaches me to open up to what I don't know and let the music arise out of the moment. For me yoga and music are a way of life. They fit seamlessly together as my spiritual practice. One thing is certain - we are all here on this earth for a limited time. And we need to make choices. We need to decide what our priorities are. From moment to moment we can spend our time, energy and resources in one way or another. We all have songs inside of us. Yoga has asked me to set aside time to allow those songs to come forth. When I sit down to play and sing during yoga class, I never know what is going to unfold. It's just like getting on the mat. I get curious about what this very moment is. What does my body feel like? What is being called forth from my spirit? What is the energy in the room? What song will be born right now? And I set forth an intention - just like getting on the mat. Sometimes it's "pulse" or "let go" or "connect" or "flow". But it's also always to be a channel. My intention is to best support the class as whole. I am so honored to be creating a soundscape for yoga practitioners. I do not take lightly the fact that all of these people will be subject to my musical whims for the next 90 minutes. I enter the space gently and with a lot of respect for that. I have a strong sense of duty. I have trained my hands, heart and mind for many years to be able to show up now in this way. As a musical presence. A musical force. It has been a long journey for me to get to the place I am today - where I have the confident inner knowing that this is my calling. Even though I am no where near perfect.
When I was playing for Ai Kubo's class at Yoga Tree Telegraph last month, she opened class with a quote by Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, "It is better to perform one's own duties imperfectly than to master the duties of another. By fulfilling the obligations he is born with, a person never comes to grief." I could spend many lifetimes running from this truth - telling myself the story that music is not a real profession. Or that I am not good enough. I would also spend those lifetimes trapped in delusion and unhappiness. I am so glad that yoga teachings are here to remind me that no matter what, I am on the right path. And I get to see that reflected in each yoga teacher and student who enjoy my music during practice. I see it in each shiny person who comes out to hear my band. These reflections grow my sense of well being and connection.
Yoga teaches me about community and support. It teaches me that my inner knowing, my truth, is much more valuable than my day job. That together we strengthen each other on the path of self study, morality, and union. It teaches me that I have purpose. And by listening closely to my self and the support of the community I know deeply that I was born to sit here and strum this guitar and sing. And that this is enough. That nothing more in the world is required of me. But that doing this is absolutely necessary. In Hebrew we have a saying, "Lo alecha hamlacha ligmor v'lo ata ben horin lehibatel mimena". Rabbi Tarfon Says: It is not your responsibility to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it (Pirkei Avot 2:21). This quote which I learned as a child points to the community we live in - that there are many people working toward the same goals so none of us has to shoulder the entire burden alone. But in the same vein, we each have a clear responsibility to one another, an accountability not only to myself but to others as well. I am committed to do my part so that you can do yours. Whatever it is. Whatever is being called forth from you - do it. It is vital that we each answer the call of duty. With grace and poise. With pleasure and purpose. Answer the call with persistence. It is so rewarding.
So my worlds come together - Yogic text, Jewish text, "avodah" which is the Hebrew word for work and also for worship. Om. Peace. Amen.
My life is my art and my music. My body is my vehicle. The deeper the sensing, the deeper the meaning.