by Michou Landon, unless otherwise noted
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CD Title: Ayahuasca: Welcome to the Work
Artist: Ben Lee
2013 TenFingers, www.Ben-Lee.com
Years ago, I played the Dar Williams song "The Pointless, yet Poignant, Crisis of a Coed" to a friend. He erupted into appreciative laughter during the instrumental interlude of wandering cello glissandos. To me the song was cute, but, it was only when he explained that it really captured what it was like to be high (the song references pot-smoking), that I realized that I'd missed whole dimensions of the song's art.
Ben Lee is an established Australian singer/songwriter, with a name more familiar to me than his oeuvre. For some reason, I popped his CD Welcome to the Work into the car stereo before reading the promotional information, or even looking closely at the cover art. The music had seemed sweet, endearing, promising, but not quite enrapturing: an odd assortment of folky songs with contemplative lyrics and musical meditations and meanderings.
One song stood out, however, and invited me to listen more deeply: "The Will to Grow." It is the emotional centerpiece. It stirred in me remembrance, but of what was still a little vague. I consulted the liner notes; and, as with this whole album, context exponentiates its power.
Once I was reminded that Welcome to the Work is an homage to the potent gifts of the sacred South American psycho-tropic herb, Ayahuasca, the listenings took on richer and deeper poignancy, exploded with significance, rather like this indigenous medicine explodes through one's mundane consciousness. Needless-to-say, subsequent listenings made more sense, humbling and reaching beyond the filter of reviewer's mind, toward a collective Heart.
Ben Lee and his primary collaborator here, Jessica Chapnik Kahn, had been so impressed with their experiences with this Grandmother Medicine, that they were inspired to write an album for her and about her. Listeners with first-hand experience in sacred Ayahuasca ceremony, will recognize dimensions in the music that others may not. But even without that memory, the music carries the message of the medicine. The work is not only dewy with gratitude and tenderness, but certain passages admirably intimate ineffable phenomena often experienced in the arc of the Ceremony, as unique as every experience is.
Welcome to the Work is a sweet and reverent labor of Love and of skill. The Work here is that of healing. May the tendrils of the Divine Vine reach you through the music.
CD Title: A Deeper Light
Artist: Deva Premal and Miten, with Manose and Maneesh de Moor
"We see ourselves more as flame carriers of a 5,000 year old tradition than emotion-based musicians. The music we make is born out of a committed spiritual practice. We meditate -- we investigate -- and our music is a result of that experience. It's more a case of life and death than entertainment!" --Miten
With a deeper light, Deva Premal, Miten, Manose and company have plucked a select bouquet from the mantric garden and offer us their first "tantric-mantra dub" album.
They've drawn from an ancient well here, using primarily acoustic instruments, with respectful injection of dub flourishes, thus blending echoes of the 21st century into the echoes of history and eternity.
Strangely, the selections struck me as dry at first, but they open up their subtly-lush layering with listenings. I lifted the above introductory quote from the White Swan website, because it may speak to that initial impression dryness. These offerings aren't emotional in the dramatic frequencies and common currency of our time. They are tender, reverent-yet-playful recitations. Om Triambakam mantra is all the more powerful for its play in dissonance and experimental instrumentation.
These aren't quite the tuneful sing-alongs that some of their earlier renditions of classic mantras have become over the years. When these latest, simple tunes and mantras "catch" inside the us (and they do), we likely find they recite themselves through us. The effect is a meditative song cycle through the energies of innocence, refuge, devotion, healing, wellness, embrace, etc., which we don't so much think about as relax into or align with.
Don't let the word "dub" scare you. All the cuts are pretty subtle and mellow. This collection may not have any "hits" on it, but Deva Premal claims in the promotional blurb that it's her favorite yet.
Book Title: Guardian of Gaia: A True Story for Healing the Heart and Mother Earth
Author: Szuson Wong, RN, PhD
Sunrize Publications (Available on Amazon)
ISBN: 978 0 9859331
In Guardian of Gaia, Szuson Wong offers an account of faith and surrender of a degree relatively few have the courage to give themselves to -- surrender, in turns, to a powerful external teacher she calls Shaman and to the still small voice within.
There is a sweetness, honesty and humility in her delivery--one person in the "Praises" page called it understated--which can lull the reader into underestimating the discipline and courage demanded of her. Though the poetry of her experience is ever-evident, the language of her narrative seems vague, overgeneralized, even wispy at times--perhaps as much a weakness of words themselves to parlay such experiences as of the author's skill at conveying them. There is an aura to the tale, which pervades and transcends the lightweight reportage.
This is a tale of transformation, a song of serendipity and synchronicity, which cannot fail to inspire a heart open to the truths lived and observed in its chapters. And the serendipity is contagious.
As I read, I felt resonance with not only the general themes and teachings, quietly and candidly observed, but with specific details. I could feel stirrings of my own unfinished business in Arizona as hers unfolded. Within hours, an invitation came from Arizona to revisit and explore these.
That's a lovely testimony to the open channel that Wong is as a healer, and by extension, an author. The greater Grace to which she has given her self works through her on the reader.
Book Title: Brainspotting
Author: David Grand, Ph.D
Sounds True, 2013
Brainspotting is "a way of looking inside by looking outside." — Oliver Schubbe
It's a catchy title, and it's a relatively recent development in therapy, and, whether one's interest in psychology is personal or professional, it's an interesting read.
The term Brainspotting was coined by Dr. David Grand, sometime after he stumbled upon it while practicing his "Natural Flow" variation of EMDR in 2003. (EMDR-- Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing is a neurobiological therapeutic method developed by Francine Shapiro). Having evolved from EMDR, Brainspotting itself has been evolving since, as it assimilates further discoveries and other therapeutic influences. To way oversimplify, it's a fascinating, versatile and powerful technique that enhances the efficacy of one-on-one talk therapy with attention to neurological cues discovered through the movement (or stasis) of the eyes.
A fundamental premise is that the brain (a quantum map of body and psyche) contains all the information and wisdom required to resolve and heal any presenting condition. The key is to accessing them, liberating them where they are tangled or blocked. To this end, a brainspot is the "location" of a trigger in the brain correlating with precise position of eye or eyes, unique to every individual and every trigger or trauma. If I understand correctly, it's like a key that unlocks a neuro-network in which a traumatic memory, or train of them, is encoded. Therefore, Brainspotting is especially effective in pinpointing and discharging sources of PTSD, phobias, limiting beliefs stemming from abuse, etc. It must be noted, though, that Brainspotting's applications extend far beyond trauma work. More on that below.
In his book, David Grand details the stages in which the modality and he (as a person and practitioner) evolved concurrently, and continue to do so. Each chapter describes an additional innovation, and, often a compelling account of the therapeutic situation or professional collaboration that prompted its emergence. It can be quite moving to read these accounts of how much chronic suffering is alleviated through an apparently simple technique. But the simplicity is deceptive. The cure is not always instantaneous. The brain is quite complex, the therapeutic choices quite subtle, and the courage many of the patients demonstrate in their process is admirable, if not overly emphasized in these relatively bare-bones accounts.
Perhaps more inspiring than these stories of healing and redemption were the later chapters of the book, which detail the modality's application to enhance athletic performance; artistic and creative confidence, depth and flow; and general well-being. He dedicates the penultimate chapter to self-help applications of the technique, that is those that can be employed safely, without a therapist's facilitation.
Indeed, Dr. Grand has presented the evolutionary story of his modality in this way in order to educate self-aware individuals in nuanced discovery of their own therapeutic and creative process with Brainspotting. Alas, the short chapter on "self-use" exercises, struck me as scant and anticlimactic, somehow not quite complete. This may simply be because the work is so experiential, individual and creative, or that it isn't designed for gentler objectives than drilling to the core of one's deepest stuff without a therapist.
Fortunately, all that precedes the self-help chapter offers plenty of useful, validating and inspiring insight to lay an intuitive foundation. These earlier chapters also provide a sense for the power and pitfalls of the therapy, for how it works at its best, and for the criteria of a quality therapeutic experience of it, should the reader wish to explore Brainspotting with a professionally trained practitioner.
The language in Brainspotting is accessible overall, although certain expository passages well into the book, can approach dryness. Those don't linger long. The book actually commendably balances the technical with the touching. I'm ready to sign up for a bit of Brainspotting myself!
Coming January 2013:
Book Title: Second Rule of Ten (A Tenzing Norbu Mystery)
Authors: Gay Hendricks and Tinker Lindsay
In private eye (and former Buddhist Monk) Tenzing Norbu, spiritual relationship luminary--and now spiritual mystery writer -- Gay Hendricks has devised an amenable vehicle for demonstrating the application of many tools and wise principles in not just mundane, but even gritty, daily life. And, while the collision of cultures may seem contrived at first, it ends up working, as you warm to the conversational, first-person delivery of Ten's thoughts and experiences. This guy is human--self-aware but hardly perfect -- and it's actually refreshing to observe the experiences of cops and detectives through a slightly new age lens and vocabulary.
We watch Tenzing getting caught up in the momentum of events, skipping meditation and regretting it; or, taking in a scene, and sensing some intuition not quite surfacing clearly enough to grasp. Most of his readers will have had these experiences. His back story and relationship give him fodder for wounding and neurosis and we watch him bring his Tibetan Buddhist training to bear in navigating these. It's a kinder, gentler spin on the jaded, and often exaggerated, cynicism of typical detective heroes.
Yes, The Second Rule of Ten is the second in a series. I have not had the pleasure of reading the first, but I did sample and am looking forward to The Third Rule of Ten, having gotten to know the character and appreciating a quick mystery that doesn't insult the sensibilities as much as the traditional noir selection. It is tempting to assume there are ten books in the works, given the play on words in the title.
I wouldn't say this is brilliant mystery writing, but Hendricks and co-author Tinker Lindsay manage to accomplish more in these fast moving pages than may be superficially apparent, beyond the sufficiently twisty plot. Tenzing is personable company: easy to miss after finishing the book. And, in the aftermath, one may recognize situations in life similar to ones described in the book and remember a fresh approach to meeting it.
TV Program: Global Spirit
Producer: Stephen Olsson
They are calling this "the first Internal Travel Series." For ten weeks this summer, Global Spirit will air on PBS. If the excerpts and sample provided to this reviewer are any indication, this should be compelling, rewarding viewing, inspiring and thought provoking. It is being translated for broadcast in 14 other countries.
The episode I saw interwove discussion (between moderator Phil Cousineau and very articulate guests) with documentary footage in support the guests' work in the realms of "Forgiveness and Healing." It showed the stories of Vietnam vets carrying their heavy load of guilt back to Vietnam, where encounters with that place and people catalyzed redemption in their own hearts, and also of an outreach foundation formed by two gentlemen, one of whose grandson murdered the son of the other. It was quite moving.
Some other episodes and the guests invited to discuss them are: The Spiritual Quest (Karen Armstrong and Robert Thurman): Music, Sound and the Sacred (Alan Jones and Joan Shenandoah); Islam and the Path of Love (Coleman Barks, Cemalnur Sargut and Omid Safi); The Shaman, the Spirit Healer and the Earth (Flordemayo, a Mayan Healer and Angaangaq, an Eskimo Healer); and the list goes on.
The production values seem solid here, and the content earnest and very lucid. I confess that the choice of Monty Python alum John Cleese as the presenting host (that is, the one who introduces and closes each program) struck me as more than a little curious and awkward. Even though I recall Cleese to have depth and personal interest in matters of Psychology, and I've seen him in credible dramatic portrayals, his mannerisms and voice are so associated with spoof and irreverence that it is hard to take his delivery seriously. And it may be that this was the intent, to keep it from getting ponderous or new-agey. But, as much as I admire John Cleese, I'm not sold on the choice to employ him in this way.
It may be that his wit supports the material in segments I have yet to see however, and his presentation is amenable enough. To be sure, this kind of television is still rare. Tune in if you can. Find more about this project, and more programs, on line at www.globalspirit.tv
Film Title: Awake in the Dream
Director: Catharina Roland
2012: Walk on Water Film Production
This is a sweet film, which began as a personal quest, and ends up harvesting and sharing perennial wisdom and answering universal questions. It's a little bit the feminine counterpart to the recent film I AM, and while the two films cannot help but overlap a little in the existential nature of their queries, and they both promote the same message (that we are all connected, all one), they are distinct.
This film progresses along a channel plumbed by A Course in Miracles, Advaita Vedanta, Eckart Tolle, Michael Brown and others. The talking heads in the film range from higher profile (Bruce Lipton, Neale Donald Walsch, Arjuna Ardagh) to luminaries less known in the United States and speaking many other languages. In fact, at the time of this writing, it had not yet been formally released in the U.S.
If I'm not mistaken, Awake in the Dream competed with the films Thrive, Happy, and the director's cut of Avatar at a Cosmic Cine Film Festival in Europe this year and won Jury Prize. It is more enthusiastic than masterful film-making, and I wouldn't necessarily have chosen it over those others, but it does have its moments, and the message in all these film bears repeating and redelivering in these varied packages in these somewhat harrowing times on the planet, when our courage, our faith and our integrity is keenly challenged. Whether in community or isolated on this journey, one will find support and a kind of quantum fellowship in them.
I'd say that a key selling point for Awake in the Dream is that narrator and quester Catharina Roland doesn't leave us simply with after-echoes of a lot of beautiful scenery on our retinas and soundbites of wisdom in our ears. She has tried to punctuate the cogent points made with some simple and effective awareness practice or exercise for cultivating or realizing the wisdom or some behavioral adjustment in our lives, at a practical level. These images, especially the ones most relevant to our own current personal process, stick with us.
The film meanders a bit and was a little heavy on the "happy people dancing in a field of flowers" imagery, which, when the viewer isn't in that beatific state, can backfire with an undesired alienating effect. But over all, we are witnessing the celebration of someone broadcasting the truths, the elation and the possibilities of Awakening, and, luckily for us all, that is infectious. Because the process of awakening is not all bliss, we need this spacious contagion to propel us to the critical mass, to the tipping point, in this shift in consciousness that is simultaneously personal and global.
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