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Shifts, Sounds and Shankar

December 12, 2012 4 comments

Our lives are filled with shifts: seismic, paradigmatic, geographical, sociological, personal, and spiritual shifts. Big and small. And our lives are filled with sound: rhythm, and repetition – music, chant, song, verse, and spoken word.

Endings. Beginnings.

Today is filled with the feeling of a shift. We are aware of the date, and we are in the moment: 12/12/12. Some might note that it is an end…there won’t be another repetitive date for lifetimes, not until January 1, 3001. A door, closing and transformational. Others may say its a number sequence filled with magic and mystery. A portal, open and transformational.

And many of us woke up to the news of Ravi Shankar’s passing.

While Bruce Lee is credited with opening a door to the world of martial arts and to Eastern thought through Chinese philosophy, George Harrison also influenced a cultural shift that would define a generation.

George Harrison was a seeker, looking for a deeper meaning to life beyond the material world and the confusion of fame. He played an instrumental role (pun intended and unintended) in changing how we listen to music, raising our awareness of the global community, opening a door not only to Indian and to world music, but also to Eastern philosophy through Indian thought, practice and meditation. The bridge between East and West was built, note by note, through his friendship, mentorship and collaboration with legendary virtuoso Ravi Shankar.

Pandit Ravi Shankar, from Varnasi, an ancient and holy Indian city, had played with Western artists like John Coltrane prior to his meeting Harrison, though it was his musical collaboration with the Beatles that sent his career soaring, elevating him to cultural ambassador, and introducing classical Indian ragas to the world. He played Woodstock, Monterey and organized the first-ever music fundraiser, held at Madison Square Garden, The Concert for Bangladesh. (The 12/12/12 Benefit Concert for Hurricane Sandy is rightfully part of his legacy, also held at MSG). During his career he played classical Indian music, but also experimented with different genres and collaborated with many artists. His soundtrack for the Apu trilogy by Satyajit Ray is as haunting as are films (see them if you can).

He remained, throughout his life, an electrifying force and powerful presence in world music. Sounds and shifts. Endings, beginnings. A door, closing and transformational. A portal, open and transformational.

Ravi Shankar (1920 – 2012)

Toni

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Full

March 28, 2012 6 comments

The moon orbits the spinning earth, and in its phases and cycles, seemingly shows us aspects of itself: new, crescent, quarter, full. Although it appears to be changing shape on its journey, the moon is actually reflecting the light from the sun. It is always moving, intact, whole. In truth, the moon is always full.

Sometimes in our search for meaning, we tend to take concepts and symbols apart, and then focus on the parts, and not the whole. A symbol we are all familiar with is the Taoist symbol of the yin yang. The image is a static version of its wholeness. Life is always in motion, always in a process of becoming, and changing. Like the moon, the yin yang is a symbol for change, for motion, for the play of light and shadow. We think of it in halves, and opposites — but it is not day or night, fall and winter. It is all things: day becoming night, fall becoming winter, growth and decay. It is always moving, intact, whole. This is time.

In the richness of Jungian psychology, this concept and its symbols are understood, and utilized, as the anime and animus. The anima is the female aspect present in the collective unconscious of men, and the animus is the male aspect present in the collective unconscious of women. But this energy is not static, neither halves or opposites — male or female, logic or compassion, conscious or unconscious, light or shadow. It is always moving, intact whole. This is being.

Yeats said, “It takes more courage to examine the dark corners of your own soul than it does for a soldier to fight on the battlefield.” Our life path is to realize the self. Not merely to explore and reconcile our light and our shadow, but to awaken what already resides within us. Like the moon, we are reflecting light, serving as mirrors for one another, not static, but reflective, responsive. This is transcendence.

In truth, like the moon, we are always moving, intact, whole, and full.

Toni

Masks

March 16, 2012 2 comments


Consider the mask. In the English language, the word for person is derived from the Latin word persona – which translates as “mask”. Masks are a universal part of our human experience. Used in ceremony and in practical purpose, the mask holds social and symbolic meaning. Power and myth.

The Iroquois healing ritual masks invoke the spirits of the dream world with the belief their masks have life. Igbo tribal mask ceremonies connect to ancestors. Shamanic masks of the Chinese Shigong, Hopi, Zuni and Dogon are used in ritual dance. There are the Temne’s masks of wisdom and humility; the Ivory Coast Senoufo tranquility mask with its sleepy eyes and Grebo mask of the proud, unyielding warrior.

Masks of ancient drama and myth teach and entertain, from Greek and Roman amphitheater to India’s Mahabarata and the Noh plays of Japan. There is the ancient iron mask as torture; oxygen mask, life saving; gas mask, protection; and diving mask, clarity. Masks as disguise, to avoid recognition, be anonymous — in crime or carnival.

A great deal is written in psychology as well, on how we wear “masks” in our every day life, as a defense mechanism, hiding a true self behind it. We don the right one for the appropriate situation. Our vulnerability is protected.

You may believe you are the sum of all the masks you wear. Give this some thought: if you hold a mask in front of you, and shine a flashlight between the mask and your face, light would shine through. It would pour through the openings in the eyes, the mouth, it may even appear luminous. Maybe your essence is spirit, and you are that light shining through.

What do you think?