Rock and Roll Yogi

sonic wisdom, stories, sojourns from an artist rocker writer

Archive for the category “Live Performance”

Being in Aliveness – Far Out Music Festivals, Trance Driving, Hipster Sound Baths

“When our aliveness consciously connects with the aliveness of the universe, a current of aliveness flows through us. At that moment — when life meets life — a direct connection between the living universe and ourselves is realized and we have an awakening experience. We no longer see ourselves in the universe, we experience that we are the universe.” – Duane Elgin  

Thanks to my sister-in(common)law Ashley Young for sharing this quotation on my facebook page today.  She is aliveness incarnate – her energy is ceaseless as she bounds around NYC and the world with her video camera creating films (sometimes pro-bono) for amazing organizations to help share their messages of peace, and unity, on a global, spiritual, full-on let’s change the world-level.

In my own, internal way, I’ve been deep in aliveness recently.  There’s been so much aliveness, day in and day out this past month, that although I’ve imagined so many blog posts – glorious, perfect little stories and adventures with their own custom theme songs – I realized – as did friend and fellow blogger Melissa Marc of The New Fairytale – that, OOPS, I didn’t WRITE THEM DOWN.

Which begs the question:  If a blog is completely written in one’s mind, but is not actually written down, or published, and no one reads it, does it still exist?  OK, maybe not quite the same as “If a tree falls in the woods, but no one hears it does it make sound?” parable, but I’m trying over here.  I am the RRY after all.  I’ll keep working on it.

Back to Aliveness.  Let us Enter:  Aliveness in Three Parts.  Spoken in the voice of Ira Glass from This American Life:

PART 1: Autumnal Equinox. September 22nd. Woman Lured Last Minute to the Muddy Banks of Esopus Creek to Perform at the Far Out Music Festival.  She Sings, She Dances, She Politely Declines Offers of Various Designer Drugs.  And Bad Light Beer.

PART 2:  Perfect Autumn Morning. Friday September 28th. Woman Drives Down Manhattan’s West Side Highway in State of Bliss and Grief and Joy. WKCR’s Early Morning Music Show Playlist brings her to a trance state, her body and car and mind becoming One.  (Only Certified Yogis are Qualified for this Advanced Yogic Practice).

PART 3: September 30th.  A Bath is In Order.  Woman Journeys to the Hipster Town Otherwise Known as WilliamsburgRightbytheBedfordLTrain to Enter Artist Built Yurt. Jesus Eagle Clears Her Chakras with Sage and Feathers. A Sound Bath Via Gong Ensues. She Journeys to Places of Infinite Vibration.  She Fails to Communicate with the Dead.

What do these all have in common?  Almost Husband (Also named Ira) asks tonight over dinner, in his best Ira Glass voice.

Well, Each woman is me.  And each involve some kind of journey – road trip.  And well, other kinds of trips.  Mind/body/spirit trips.  Of the all natural, not smoked, inhaled or swallowed kind. You get the picture.  And each, in their own way, was part of my annual autumnal re-entry back into my Aliveness.

You see, my father Morton died six years ago September 30th.  Each year when autumn begins and September comes to a close, I feel some unseen, difficult, can’t possibly express anxiety, sadness and joy all at once trying to find a way into consciousness, expression.  Sometimes there just aren’t words for it.  And as 9/30 approaches I vow to “do something” to honor him and his passing.  His life, our complicated relationship, the good, the bad and the ugly.

Part 1: Fall is here.  I journey to the Catskills near Saugerties after a musical cohort of many years, Benoir, invited me to play the Far Out Fall Harvest Musical Festival.  Road trips always fill me with a certain joy and this was a particularly straightforward route, so I didn’t need to worry about getting lost.  For two hours I rocked out to sort of bad, yet kinda good classic rock playlists on various local radio stations. Dark clouds loomed overhead the whole time, threatening my 3pm set’s outdoor setting.  When I arrived at the Black Bear Campgrounds, it was like entering some strange far out, lost boys kind of place.  People seemed a little out of it, not quite sure whether they were coming or going.  I was 100% sober so maybe that had something to do with it. Turns out though that it was more about the fact that the forecasted bad bad weather had turned people away and the turn out was smaller than expected.  I soldiered on in typical RRY fashion.  The clouds were holding shape for now, and I kinda like a weird, solemn gray day. I set-up, listened to the opening band Whiskey Reverb, and walked around the grounds. The banks of the creek called to me, as I quieted my racing thoughts about all things logistical, what songs to play, and whether I should eat before or after I played…whether I should sleep in my car later or drive home in the wee hours.

At 5PM, I finally got on stage, after numerous technical delays, and had started into “He Roams”, when the organizer stopped me after the first two chords.  “We gotta wait one hour so the Church can do its thing”.  Ummm, What??!  Are you kidding me? Turns out the Church through the woods behind the stage had some kind of very special and quiet Autumnal Equinox Service and the Festival had to Shssss as well.  Far Out, Man.  This was a first.  A Church Service never opened for me before.  I walked around and told some of the hippy folks hanging around with their guitars that we should all just attend the service.  Half joking, but kinda half serious too.  No one took me seriously. So I sat by the bonfire and waited for my own version of Church to begin.

By the time I actually sang I was pretty tired.  But also relaxed and feeling naturally high in a good, Catskills Bonfire by the Creek sort of way. Benoir arrived with his entourage, the Light Beer started flowing, the Christmas Tree Lights and candles came out, and some more folks arrived ready to party.  My voice  was lit by something unseen and unreal and crackled, warmed and expanded into the air around us like the heat and flames of the giant campfire. Folks were responding to my tunes, I told stories about love and loss, and then let it all rock out during “Oxbow Legacy“, my voice doing some new kind of thing-it was so bluesy and strong I thought maybe someone else had entered my body-someone like Janis who really likes her Whiskey.

The night continued on well after my early evening set, with DJ Roo getting us all twisted and crazy with freaky trance fun disco jungle beats. I danced with some fun folks including one of the only other chicks hanging around: CeCi Gonzo.  A Gal from the Bronx, and now living in Albany by way of Atlanta.  I don’t know her whole story, but I won’t forget her name, no Sir.  She was super cute, and her eyes were all aglow and her spirit oozing Aliveness.  It was infectious.  God dancing is so good.  There needs to be WAY more of it.  I used to dance my ass off in College.  In my bra.  With packs of women at the LBGT parties.  (Insert PHOTO/VIDEO MONTAGE that only EXISTS IN MY MIND Here). Alas, I digress.  Night fell, and Benoir and his Long Beach Allstars hit the stage.  Highlights included showing Woody how to do Warrior 3.  And eating pepperoni pizza.  Thank you gods.  Then the rain.  The skies exploded.  It was like a cleansing.  Grayness, Fire, Rain, Music Crashing my Ears, now Water Crashing overhead.  In the spirit of CeCi and all the lightness I felt after such a strange, gray day, I wrapped myself in lights.  Literally.  I had become light.  Far Out.

Part 2:  An old friend of mine who also lost his father in recent years, said to me when his grief was still fresh: “I just want there to be beauty, beauty all around me.  Beauty”.  As if saying it three ways would make it real.  And its true.  Why are we waiting to find, be, know beauty in ourselves, our lives, our hearts? There’s not a lot of time.  Ah Yes. Mortality.  Dad loved the play on his name, he was funny like that. “Je Suis Mort”.  My brother, sister and I joked this would make a good epitaph.  Dad would’ve loved it.  But he was cremated and released into the Hudson River instead.

That goddamn river was so beautiful on the day that I drove across the George Washington Bridge and down the West Side Highway to work on Sept. 28th.  I found myself lost in a trance while listening to WKCR’s Early Morning Classical Music Program.

Dad. Dad. Dad. Was all I could feel and think.  He was there with me.  The lights dancing off the water, the buildings, beauty everywhere, a weird Autumnal grayness settling over all the colors so they pop in contrast.  The feel of the car turning and gliding and slowing and turning again, the movement of life itself.  Crescendos and swells of perfect orchestrated strings and horns. My heart lilting with breath and hurting with almost too much beauty.  Dad understood this.  And he didn’t ever need words to let me know.  Ironically, although he was a writer, and a funny word play person, it was the quiet, non-word moments between us – eyes, laughter, silence, that helped me know him the best.

Six years ago, hours before his death, in the ugliness of his hospital room, a feeding/air tube and recent brain surgery obstructing his ability to talk, the sounds of machines and nurses, Dad waved his arm and hand around, with rhythm, intention, feeling – conducting time, space, his unspoken love and awe for us and life.  It was Beauty itself.  And Aliveness. I think in that moment, I never saw him more alive.  He and I were one.  And there was Music Everywhere.

Part 3: Somehow the anniversary of Dad’s death 2 days later coincided with an invitation to attend a Sound Bath.  Gongs. In a Yurt.  In Williamsburg. In an artist’s studio.  OK.  I never thought my first time in a yurt would be in Billyburg at an art studio.  But this is the beauty of all things Art and NYC.  But seriously, the artist, Philip Riley’s “The House of Dreams” exhibit is truly cool.  His yurt aims to recreate something called a “Psychomanteum”, a structure conceived of by Psychologist Raymond Moody as a way to process grief.  And even communicate with the Dead.  Hmmm.

As I stood in the Artist’s Loft in one of the hippest places in Brooklyn, I couldn’t believe the irony.  The synchronicity.  Dad would’ve loved this.  Maybe he’ll visit.  Would be a good time for all if he did.  We packed into the small round space, lit by candles.  Emily Horowitz played her gong beautifully, but at first, I had trouble letting go, letting the sounds free me, wash me.  I felt tension, difficulty relaxing. Sonically I was in heaven, but mentally/physically I was struggling.  I felt grasping, over efforting.  For a sound bath, I wasn’t getting very clean.  I felt almost as if I was getting more clogged, as if my expectations for some totally definitive Dad’s Death Anniversary Communicado Via Brooklyn Yurt Sound Bathers was stopping me from being in the moment, from being really Here.

So I focussed on the candles – four were visible to me.  There was a tall one- which I imagined was Dad, and then three smaller ones grouped together – I imagined these were me and my two siblings.  I didn’t pray or ask questions or wait for some miraculous moment of realization.  Or Dad’s voice telling me something I didn’t already know.  And Yet. The sound, the candlelight, my soft focus on those four flickering wicks.  Soon my aches and pains and discomfort faded and mingled and softened and merged.  Like the overtones of Emily’s gong swirling in and out in incredible impossible to recreate patterns.  A word came to mind:  One.  I needed to stop over focussing on Dad versus Me versus You and Me and I and Us and This and That. My I was tired.  Of constantly creating separation.  Between Dad being here, and not being here.  He was Here.  Always Here.  There’s no reason to differentiate between the physical plane and all the other planes we can’t prove or disprove.  It was time, I felt finally.  To move FORWARD.  Beyond grief.  Into something very new, something I’m not sure I was aware existed before.  Something I KNOW, but not something I can SEE.  So maybe I did communicate with the Other Side.  The other side of my own mind’s possibilities.

Aliveness. I think in that moment of awakening, I never felt Dad more alive.  Or me.  Or Brooklyn.  Or Strangers in a Yurt.  We were all one sound.  Nada Yoga.  Nadam. Ommmmm.  Vibration.

The Universe is ringing in my ears.

Namaste.

The Yogi Who Fell To Earth, Yoga Month – and, The Thirsty Alien Mind Cure…

Inhale, Exhale.  Sigh.  Yaaaawn.  Still trying to find my breathing apparatus flow over here.  Just getting up.  The mental is a little slow today, despite Almost Husband’s painstakingly complex scientific strong coffee making ritual.  Long night of various cats and dogs taking turns burrowing in the covers, human and canine snoring, dreams – nightmares? – of water drainage yard issues, wedding guest lists (not to mention where, what, when?), visions of patios and walls sinking into mud, then waking up in the wee hours and being led half awake into the living room by the sounds of Ira’s insomniac TV watching adventure, The Man Who Fell To Earth.

I’d like to fall to Earth.  Feel a little more human, less humanoid.  And drink more water. (Movie reference, IMDB it).  But really, drink more water, its good for you.  Lately I’ve been reaching a little too much into the worry stratosphere, my breathing getting lost in arbitrary thoughts, concerns, what if’s.  Hmmm.

There’s a lot going on this month – preparing for a CD release show in November, work is picking up, writing, promoting, house reno.  All the things to do are swirling around like the tree branches outside my window right now. Feels like there’s no rhyme or reason.  Just swirl.  I’d like to say I can control the wind.  But sometimes we need to just let that swirling be;  Things will calm down eventually.  Even though it is scary. We cling, we want.  We thirst. I try to focus on now.  Try to detach a little more.  This is part of my daily yoga practice.  It has nothing to do with Down Dog, Child’s Pose, Triangle.

Which brings me to Yoga Month.  Is this the beginning of a new Hallmark Holiday: Cards for loved ones that tell them to “Just Breathe”?.  Flowers with cards that say “Just stop and smell the roses”?  I was just going about my weekly yoga teaching, when suddenly I noticed it everywhere – yoga class discounts, community yoga activism, articles in my local Natural Awakenings magazine…When did this happen? Why September?  And just, Why?

I could be cynical and go on about corporate yoga land’s efforts at promoting and selling yoga products and such – and in some ways, for any business person, a month focussing on such things can only help the bottom line.  I wish though, that the name of this new month of __________ (Insert your Bottom Line Here) would be a little more descriptive, more proactive.  Less VAGUE. Less room for the cynics.

Some ideas: “Fall Back to Earth” month? “Help your Neighbor” month. “Be Kind to Yourself” month. And so on.  Weirdly, when I launched this blog in early September, I dubbed September “Pay it Forward” Month.

I like it.  That sums it up for me right now. That’s my RIGHT NOW bottom line.  I want to bring yoga MIND into action.  This not only helps me get out of my own Thirsty Alien Mind (Too much clinging, too much desiring, too much disconnection, too much upper stratosphere reaching), but gets me moving, connecting. giving back.

There are great organizations out there that are doing such things – like Yoga Across AmericaThe Yoga Health Foundation, and etc.  I’m learning about new ones everyday.  My idea is not an original one.  And its being done on a much smaller scale.

But for me, giving back in a small yet direct, intimate way is most gratifying right now. Kind of like how it feels when I perform and can feel the audience connecting, receiving, opening.  Dare I say, even transforming.  I launched my Pay it Forward Campaign to help a fellow musician and aspring yogi take her next step by going to yoga school.

Helping Shelley this month has been a cure for my Thirsty Alien Mind (TAM) like no other. Knowing that all the promotion, the work, the worry, has been to ease someone else’s burdens – and to help birth another healer, has been so beautiful a process for me.  Thank you to all near and far in my life who have donated your energy/$$.  We thank you.  Shelley has made her downpayment at Kripalu – and now needs to raise the rest of the funds to actually get her in the door (and have someplace to sleep).

TONIGHT at 8PM I am performing my original music as part of this process – and will donate all proceeds to Shelley’s yoga school fund.  Read about the show here!

Ahhh.  The winds have died down.  There.  I feel a little bit better.  My breath is back.  I’m ready to birth this baby and go out walking with Hazel.  A little walking meditation never hurt anyone.

Earth is closer than I thought.

When Ego Gets a little Crazy, Reach Beyond The Self – Or,

…How to Play Music in the Dark, Tune a Broken Guitar in front of a large crowd, and Be OK with Other Major and Minor Technical Mishaps…

Ahhhhhh.  Can we all breathe a collective sigh of _____________?!  Yes.  Let it go people.

Summer is winding down.  September is here.

Its That Feeling of – “Uh, oh, Its time for me to really (Insert your Goal Chart/Vision Board, or List of Things to Get Done, or Pile of Bills, Here).”  Here.  How on earth did we get Here?!  Summer flew by.  And man have I been flying every which way.

I’m trying to be oh so Cool and Grounded about it all. But lately, it’s been “One of those weeks” – Dare I say, one of those Summers.  A whole lotta work, rallying, family obligations, running around, practicing, writing, cleaning, teaching, animal tending, fundraising, marketing, commuting.  Bickering with AH (Almost Husband) on the State of Things House. Lots of things I love, Yes. But Lots of Busy-ness to make it Manifest. It’s the nature of work.  Even partying has become a little tiring.  I LOVE connecting and meeting new folks, but when my own inner well is down to a few droplets, I need a vacation from it all.  But that’s not been reality.  So I’m pushing through.

This push through anyway thing has unfortunately (and naturally) gotten me a little out of whack.

Ego -The thing that has nothing to do with pure Katie (Insert Your Name Here)-ness – has gotten the better of me this week.  She just won’t leave me alone, just won’t let me be.

She’s become a strange, mean little cartoonish creature following me around from room to room, gig to gig, yoga pose to yoga pose.  She says:

“Haha!, what’s up with those extreme dust bunnies in the bedroom messing with The Romance and Love Feng Shui, mingling with Large Dog hairs and Cat hairs into a Super Nova Power Allergen Ball of Hell?  Get with the Cleaning Program Now or Forever be Blocked by Furry Anti-Chi Balls”.  Sigh.  Vacuuming has seen better days.

OR,

“Yogi Chick, get on the mat and breathe.  Stop all this Life Stuff.  You need your Yoga, and your Yoga needs you.  Down Dog is waiting.”  But then when I get there, my body hurts, my pains and aches start screaming.  “Haha!” says EvilEgoElevitch – “You are being punished for lack of Practice!  How dare you Abandon Yourself like this!”  So much for Yoga being a path to happiness.

AND THEN,

“Girl, what is UP with your hands flopping all over the guitar neck like you’ve never played a Chord in your Life?!  Get it Together!  What are you – A Beginner?! I mean, ALL THOSE YEARS OF VOICE LESSONS, and you’ve got weird posture and a frog in your throat, those high notes have seen better days.”  The Triple E has a way with me sometimes. I really hope my audiences this week didn’t hear that one as I humbly worked my way through songs in the dark.

The Darkness.  Well, that’s a loaded term.  We’ve all been there in some way or another. There will always be more to say on this.

But actually, this week I really did play, sing and try to connect to my audience in the dark.

The venue was outdoors (the lovely Art Café in Nyack, NY), and although there were petite lanterns peppered about, I found myself not really seeing my sheet music, my lyrics, and, well, my hands on my guitar.  Nor could I see my lovely fans.  And I wondered: Could they see me?  We were swimming in sound in the dark.  And it appears I was the one creating the sound.  Although at times, I wasn’t even sure about that.

The week leading up to this gig I had had a vision of an outdoor silken summer night of easy breezy communing under the full moon with friends and fans.  Instead, time slogged by as if I was sorta not there.  Cuz I wanted it to feel like something I’d envisioned. Not something that it was. I wanted out of reality.  Tsk, tsk, Katie. Reality. This. Is all there Is.

My intention as always, was to connect.  Yet, although I was singing out into the open air under the stars, within my own heart, I was unraveling with Mind.  Tension.  Disconnect.

Those of you who are performers or teachers might know this moment – when the inner and the outer just won’t match no matter how hard we try.  It’s a hard thing to explain to non-performers.  Because maybe to them, things seemed a little off, but still “good”, “fun”, “fine”.

To us, we are lost in some limbo of – “Why couldn’t I just get in the flow?”.

And those moments are magic.  I will be sharing some of those moments in this blog too in future posts…2012 brought me many of those moments thankfully.  And I am truly grateful when it does happen.

I try to help my students find this flow.  I use imagery, music, pacing, movement.  Breath.  But ultimately, there’s some crazy letting go that must happen in order for it to all come together.  And I can’t make you get there.  Nor, can I make myself.

Getting there requires – even demands – no effort at all.  Huh? So how do I “DO” that!?

Time to face off with that Ego.  That “to do” should be first on that list as we enter into even busier times this fall.

Creepy Ego Creatures exist simply to keep us from that flowing joy that we feel when we know we are in the zone.

Hear her out, be amused, even angered by her insistence, but then freakin’ let that stuff go.  It does not have to win.

Easier said than done, I know people.  This is an on-going process, not a step 1-2-3 simple check it off your list kind of task.  It takes practice.

What has helped me this Summer and now, this September, to ultimately stay out of my tension, my EEE, and into my flow, is to actually get out of my Self Focus altogether.  As AH gently reminds: Katie, you are a little TOO self aware, sometimes.

So what do we do?

Pay it forward.  Do Unto Others.  Help Others Find their Flow.  Leave your own mind and take action.  Bring that intention of connection and push outwards into the space around you, feeling that in whatever you do.  Maybe it’s noticing a neighbor in need, and taking action.  AH spent his Labor Day holiday helping Chad and family re-grade their driveway.  AH is more of a Yogi than he realizes.

Or, notice and help an older person at the store, open a door, smile, engage from a heartfelt place.  It doesn’t take much to get outside of our selves and back into that flow by connecting to others.

I jump started this way of being yesterday by performing at a fundraiser at the wonderful new Union Arts Center in Sparkill, NY to help raise $ for Yoga Across America – an organization that brings yoga to veterans for healing and stress reduction.  Wow. You will hear more on this topic as the blog progresses this year.

Once I started my set, my voice lifted with emotion as I sang a few songs about my Dad who was a WWII Vet. I felt connected again to my music and sound.  I could see folks nodding their heads and tapping their feet.  I think I’m onto something a little voice murmured as I continued just flowing.

Somehow I got there, even though, a few minutes before, I stood talking to the crowd trying to tune a guitar that has finally reached a point of non-tuning.  She needs a total re-string, neck adjustment. Ugh, not now, I thought as I muttered, sputtered, apologized, as I turned knobs and adjusted capos.  I was flustered, but all I needed was just enough alignment to get me to where I knew I could go.  Finally, although the crowd had lost hope and began distractedly chatting, my guitar cooperated.  Was this the perfect, seamless, professional introduction I had in mind?  No.

Did I overcome that moment and trust the next moment was a new reality?  Yes.

I still am kicking myself a little for not taking better care of my guitar, but in the end, despite all those visible and invisible technical gaffs firing off in my brain, trying to keep me from joy and flow, I salvaged enough wisdom and courage to allow my voice to soar out into the open room and potentially touch someone else in need of soothing.

For that lesson, I am grateful.  Namaste.

Please read more about my Pay It Forward Campaign to help another Rock and Roll Yogi like me realize her dreams of becoming a Yoga Teacher – “Get Shelley To Yoga School” on GoFundMe.com, a fundraising collaboration between RockandRollYogi.com and Shelley Nicole Jefferson, reiki healer, band leader, musician and aspiring yogi.

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