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Friday, January 02, 2009

bringing about change in the new year


i don't know about you, but i could definitely use some. if i could just shove all the issues and disappointments from 2008 into a box, toss it into an incinerator, and start fresh, it would make things so much easier. unfortunately, it just isn't that simple. sigh...

and now that i've rolled up my sleeves to start the gruntwork needed to bring about this elusive change, i figured it couldn't hurt to also look to the heavens for some assistance.

so i chose to ring in the new year by chanting to the deities for their divine intercession.

on new year's eve, i joined a large crowd of fellow chanters at the spacious studio of the blankenship ballet company in venice. we were led by the ever-invigorating kirtan artist dave stringer and his group of talented musicians: miles shrewsbery on tablas and cajon, jeff andrews on hammer dulcimer, guitar, and bouzouki, patrick richey on mridangam, michael mollura on keyboards, sapphron obois on saxophone, and c.c. white and joni allen on vocals.

besides celebrating the end of 2008, the kirtan marked the end of a four-day anusara workshop taught by desiree rumbaugh and sianna sherman. titled superheroes, fairytales, and the kleshas, we practiced asanas that, in some cases, pushed us past our comfort zones. we twisted a little farther, bent a little deeper, opened up a little more. and there were times, i'm sure, when many of us were surprised at what we could do. i know i was!

during the course of the workshop, there times when dave stringer would drop by, lay out his yoga mat alongside his lovely wife dearbhla, and join us in our yogic fun and games. he'd also hop on stage with his harmonium and lead us in a chant, whether it be the opening anusara invocation or the closing om shanti shanti shanti. or sometimes he would blissfully chant a soothing mantra while we lay in savasana...

anyway, going back to the NYE festivities, i brought along my bass-singing yoga buddy BDB who, as it turns out, had never been to a kirtan before. being of a musical bent, he caught on quickly. in no time, he was comfortably following along in our sanskrit karaoke session. and considering that i literally had to twist his arm to get him to come along with me, there was a point in time where i actually thought he was enjoying himself!

we chanted to shiva, to ganesh, to krishna. and as the midnight hour approached, the room turned frenetic, with everyone gyrating and chanting devakinandana gopala at the tops of their voices. at that point, BDB wondered aloud if the crowd would turn into a sea of whirling dervishes! and as far as i was concerned, all i was trying to do was scare off bad karma to ensure a prosperous new year :)

i'm keeping my fingers crossed that i did a good enough job...

by the way, there'll be another group chant later this month to celebrate another beginning -- the inauguration of the next president of the united states, barack obama. chant 4 change will be held in washington DC on the eve of the inauguration (and unfortunately, i've sworn off long-distance travel to save money, so i can't make it!). dave stringer will be performing at that event, along with jai uttal, gaura vani, and daphne tse. hundreds of "conscious revolutionaries" led by shiva rea, saul david raye, and joshua greene are also scheduled to be there to inspire and activate the crowd through sacred sound vibration.

here are the specifics, just in case you can make it:

Chant 4 Change: Inaugural Kirtan Festival
Monday, Jan 19th, 2009 6:30pm - 11:30pm
Church of the Holy City, 1611 16th St. NW, Washington, DC 20009
Tickets: $70 (Seating is very limited). Profits go to charity (will be announced soon).

Celebrate the Inauguration of Barack Obama with sacred activists Shiva Rea and Seane Corn, world-renowned kirtan/chant artists Jai Uttal, Dave Stringer, Gaura Vani & As Kindred Spirits and 400 other conscious revolutionaries including Saul David Raye, Daphne Tse, and Joshua Greene.

Join us for a night of chant, dance, expression and teaching within sight of the White House and the Washington Monument. This is the place to be on the night before the Inauguration. Millions are converging on the nation’s capital to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event. Be here now at the heart of the movement! Breathe! Chant! Move! Dance! We will lift our hearts and voices to empower ourselves, our new leaders, our city, our country and our world in this revolutionary gathering of sacred sound and movement.

Space for this event is limited. Tickets are selling out quickly.

Click here to purchase tickets

*** postscript: i just picked up an amazing CD at my local best buy store -- YES WE CAN: Voices of a Grassroots Movement. as you can guess from the title, it was inspired by barack obama and his movement for change during the recent presidential elections.

Probably never before in modern history has a political campaign inspired so many artists to create art in the reflection of the themes, hopes, aspirations and ideals embodied in the movement that was created in its wake. This first of a kind album inspired by a presidential campaign and its supporters' quest for a "more perfect union" contains performances by some of the most talented recording artists alive today expressing themselves through instruments and voice.

the artists featured on the album include:
lionel richie ~ stevie wonder ~ john mayer ~ dave stewart ~ shontelle ~ los lonely boys ~ john legend ~ bebe winans ~ suai ~ jill scott ~ ozomatli ~ jackson browne ~ sheryl crow ~ malik yusef + kanye west + adam levine ~ yolanda adams ~ keb' mo' ~ ken stacey ~ buddy miller

so while the yoga community is being inspired at the chant4change event in DC on the eve of the presidential swearing-in ceremony, this album will be my own source of inspiration right here in santa monica (and coincidentally, the CD was produced by hidden beach recordings, just down the street from me).

let's all hope that change comes about soon!

*** postscript to the postscript -- there'll be another inaugural chant in DC that same weekend:

Om Ball 2009 featuring Ram Dass
Sunday, January 18, 2009. Doors open at 7:30 PM
Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral, 3600 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC
Parking available in the cathedral parking lot. Enter on 36th street.
Cost: $75 per person (includes appetizers & drink)

Come together as ONE for the OM INAUGURAL BALL. Join acclaimed teacher Saul David Raye, Kyra Anastasia Sudofsky & Michael Francis from Inspired Yoga, Rob Kramer from Global Water Trust, yogis, peacemakers, guest musicians, and activists as we gather to celebrate this powerful shift in consciousness in our nation’s history. Help us ignite the sacred vision of aligning ourselves as ONE. All participating in the OM BALL stand for the power of love, peace, unity, social justice, clean water and food for all human beings, humane treatment of animals, and environmental harmony.

The evening will include a special video address from legendary spiritual teacher Ram Dass, a world peace ceremony gathering all faiths, sacred music, inspiring speakers, light food and drink, chanting and trance dancing into the night.