Our AO team has finished their 12 day trek to Nepal. Karan and his attendant Baldev have returned to India, Jessie and Rob have landed in Raleigh NC after a 33 hour flight from Kathmandu. And Josh has decided to stay on and trek to the Maratika Caves for spiritual retreat. The entire trip was nothing short of miraculous.
These young people were recording Nepalese Children and filming this process that AO has gone through for over the past decade in order for world music to be created through AOMUSIC and proceeds from this music can go to benefiting the children themselves. And the team filmed…themselves as a team. Interviewing each other from the moment they met at the Kathmandu Airport for the first time, to the day they parted company just a few days ago.
On their last day together, exhausted and spent, they all decided to wake each other up at 3:30 am and trek two hours up to the Himalayas to record their last interview with one another, as the sun rose. Their dedication every step of the way was constant.
Now the footage goes to Seattle where it will be edited and a short film will be created for fundraising. The recordings are with Richard Gannaway who will continue to finalize the last songs for AO’s new album to be released in 2013.
So, after a few bumps this week in my road, I am finally introducing you to the person on the team who was indispensable. Josh Massad. I met Josh three years ago in Tulsa Oklahoma. Instantly I knew him to be a rare individual possessing a deep compassion and spirituality that filled the room the minute he entered. Josh is a musician, taught children around the world music filled with love and joy. But, I was never able to get to really know him other that first etched impression. I moved away from Tulsa and he left for India.
Then one night only weeks ago I woke up around 2 am and instantly, his face was right in front of me as if he were in the room. His radiant smile reminded me of all that I had felt on our first meeting. I sat up and knew immediately that I had to find him, that I had to tell him what was about to happen in Nepal. I had no idea why but it was clear I needed to act. But where was he? I tracked him down through friends in Tulsa and found he was in Goa, India. My email began with, “I hope you remember me…and I have no idea why I need to write you…but”.
Following this “impulse” and vision in the night has led to Josh being an integral part of our team. But his response to my email was stunning, having no idea that when I wrote to him he had a story of his own. Here is a little of that story and his first email to me back in July:
“How should I respond to such an email? And one that is found during an intuitive search thru my junk mail – on a rainy evening?
How do we react when our back hurts?
How do we react to painlessness?
And when a child cries? Or when a child laughs?
When one is born? Or when one dies gracefully in old age?
How about when God answers our prayers..?
well… here goes.
Quick response to your idea about joining AO: Yes, in my most humble manners – I too have so much to share with the world! I believe our goals are One. Count me In! Tikrami! At Your Service!
And here is the rest of my story:
Today, we are celebrating a festival for cobras here in india. I don’t know the details yet, probably Shiva’s Cobra that he often wears around his neck is honored (as a god). The cobras are said to come out and even into our homes but we are safe if respectful and by making prayer hands. All the temples are playing great music and lighting Agarbathi (incense).
I have been living in Goa for the last 6 months. I am so intrigued by Goa’s ‘Hindu Christianity’. Goa is also known as “India-lite” and for this reason: Though there is poverty and plenty of orphans and tons and tons of trash – it is nothing compared to the rest of india – save one state that I love more than Goa much due to its cleanliness, spirituality & music; Kerala.
I ruptured a disc in my lower back while mid-flight from Chicago to Delhi 6 months ago exactly. Which also means that my 6-month Visa expires in 4 days! I had been considering doing what many people do and go to Nepal for a while and then reenter India on a new visa. What timing.
After the rupture, I successfully took my train from Delhi to Mumbai on Feb 2nd where I was to record a big festival concert featuring some of the greatest percussionists and musicians in India and the world. Maybe you remember the band Shakti, who began in 1974. Anyway, times were tough for me, and eventually I had an MRI that frightened most doctors.
Continuing on, Feb 14th, I came to Goa to tour with a world music ensemble, Emam & Friends, played only one concert and then became paralyzed, spending the next 5 weeks in bed only. One daily visit to the toilet left me the rest of the day to contemplate pain. Eventually I renounced my ego-causing attachment to pain all together!
It has taken me 6 months to heal naturally. With great help from Ayurveda, I am healed! All the others told me surgery is inevitable – though I trusted them as respectable doctors, I didn’t hear that they knew me, or better – the God who resides within me – who I was and still am so determined to know and Love.
When I first came to Varanasi in 2008, I found myself among a 5,000 year old civilization. I had to be part of it, I had to learn, I had to contribute. And that is when ‘Teaching My Ancestors’ established a month of village school visits, laughing and playing with my young ancestors. The greater international project took the name, World Through Music.
Each winter I have returned to my growing student body here – last year we taught in 9 Indian states. I am learning so much from these kids, they give me the opportunity to experience love – I and the project are Empowering them! And I am hoping to master the art of ‘wordless communication’ that is peaceful and Creative! The school is a forum for sharing.
I was taught a ‘song of welcome’ from Liberia – by my teachers 15 years ago – and do they know, does anyone know that thousands and thousands of kids in India are still singing that song today, years after I shared it them, they still have the purity of welcoming in their hearts. I know this because I return to them a year later – and they sing me this song that traveled from Africa to America to them and has most likely reached the cosmos by now, within their hearts, as One Soul.
Each Spring and Autumn, (accept this Spring I was here in bed) I am in Tulsa teaching and sharing my international experiences with American students.
It became so clear to me that these students are the leaders of our future and that now is my time to do my work, but soon I will be old and they will determine the fate of the world. With all these weapons and temptations/distractions, we need to train our community in self-control (pratyahara – yoga) and appropriate action.
Then my work must be to train these kids. All around the world, it was clear to me that most kids are not receiving proper training. Even in the USA where there is some investment in education, what are we teaching? – - are we teaching life, community, and the beauty of breath, silence, sound, universality, freedom, freedom in death, healing one another? Or often just the opposite?
Like AOMUSIC, I believe these children, all of them, will influence our future world, TOGETHER. So give them something in common with their international peers, introduce them, teach them community, empower them that they know their responsibility, to family, that family need not be limited to common languages, etc.
What could be easier, more beautiful to access Truth, expression, inclusion, spontaneity, “peaceful & creative forms of communication”, than art? And music is sound, healing that everyone loves. Through Music I have learned about the world, and so thru music, I will do my work teaching Truth to the world. Yoga also, music and yoga teach me patience, control, unbounded love and forgiveness and keep me alive, connected, healthy and inspired.
How can I further this international community? In 2010, I worked with a Tulsa school for one month, teaching them all these things, yoga(union), breathing(awareness), music(expression) (determination) and then we built instruments, played them in a shared musical experience. Then our students, knowing I was off to teach in India – offered their made & blessed instruments to my Indian students which I carry everywhere with me.
Off I went to India with 24 Rainsticks on my back as an ambassador to offer these kids a chance to know themselves better, and their connection to the world, to their peers – through the gift of Music.
I began recording my classes only a few years ago. Video and audio. (more equipment to carry) but also thankfully, more people to hire and get involved with. That is what I know I need, more people, more participation. I have been forced to work alone dear Maya for most of my professional career and it is such a blessing, all my dreams are clear, I work diligently and find creative ways to succeed – but this one man trying to raise an international family is hard work. I need community that which I teach of that is family! All I have to do is what I do best, Inspire and Encourage.
But my back finally gave up supporting all my issues – and the project has been halted again – (another disadvantage of a one-man show). I haven’t anymore money. I need sponsorship. All of Tulsa supports me – but I don’t have experience asking for money. I missed $5,000 of work in april/may/june in Tulsa schools with a tour I created called ‘Beats To Bridge’ connecting the American student with our Indian students. That work took years of preparation and was crucial to my survival. Now in debt with hospital bills and haven’t any plane tickets home or even money to pay musicians here to contribute to the album now that I am healthy again. My life is just now starting over – I feel like I have been given another chance to live, to pray, to celebrate, to Inspire, to Serve!
All of the dreams remain – even have been further empowered – there is not a doubt in my mind that my ‘dreams’ or my ‘service’ need be fulfilled. I don’t feel necessarily attached, only that I need to survive to serve and I should continue with a well-conceived plan.
Since the last month or two, I have been approaching Dzogchen Monastery nearby in Karnatika and hoping I could spend a month there meditating and internalizing the Sacred Sounds of Prayer. I offered to produce recordings of their prayers if they pleased to raise money for them. I haven’t yet been formally invited, and today my visa is the biggest issue.
Then your email arrives Maya. The timing …well….perfect. Our goals are one dear Maya! And our means are quite similar. Your team has decades more experience and accomplishment than myself. I come in humble admiration.
I am willing to reserve my plans with calm or give up any attachments if my path was meant to lead us to collaborate – of course I surrender. I have not foolish or proud or selfish intentions. India and America are two of the greatest teachers especially in combination. I am forever a student. One of my most recent lessons is to protect myself and that God within me.
Whenever The Mother calls, I shall answer.
If I can assist on your project in any way, I would be most honored and appreciative. To work with you and this wonderful family of humans and musicians that you mention is obviously a great blessing which will help me fulfill my own destiny.”
Josh proved to be, as I lovingly refer to him, the Yoda of our team. He brought his suitcase of instruments for the children to play wherever the team was. He supported the team when they were exhausted with joy and patient listening, he helped Rob with all the recordings and Jessie with sound. Josh was a spiritual backbone for our project in Nepal.
My learning was simple and powerful: To listen to my dreams, to follow that inner nudge, that fleeting glimpse of something that you cannot know why it crossed your mind and to trust the process as it unfolds. To count my intuition as valuable as any asset I possess. If I had not acted on that nighttime urging, seeing Josh’s face and not knowing why, our trip to Nepal would have been quite different. Josh became the glue that held the vision together. How could I have known that?
So please tune into this next step of filmmaking. The team that has once again miraculously assembled themselves is another magical story to tell. And you know me. It is all in the story.