As a producer and partner with AOMusic, if you have not heard me say that “The Music of AO has changed my life“, I want to say it now. I have never encountered a medium that is both heart opening and able to change the lives of children in need at the same time. I am from the 60′s. The Vietnam war was my backdrop for life. The Beatles came and changed all of us and the way we saw the world. U2 opened our eyes to injustice and issues of freedom, Madonna busted the sexual revolution wide open. Music changes people. Music can also save lives and create hope and love where there has been none.
I am a storyteller. And I have been listening to thousands of unique, heartbreaking and passionate love stories for the past thirty years as a psychologist. But, I have had one amazing experience that has progressively unfolded for the past ten years to teach me a life long lesson about love and manifestation. It is a story that was writing itself, unbeknownst to me. I was simply excited by life and feeling love and joy and all the while the Universe was conspiring to make me happier and bring people into my life that I had never met, experiences that I would never have thought to conjure and work that I had no idea could fulfill me. Manifestation is not about doing, it about allowing. Love is not about getting, it is about giving. This is the core of the law of attraction that I learned in a mysterious and magical encounter that changed my life.
In 1999 I took a sabbatical after more than twenty years in private practice. I decided to accept a job for a year as an in-‐house personal assistant and chef for the CEO of what was then the MBNA Credit Corporation. Weekends were spent preparing for lavish corporate dinner parties and cooking, the rambling house empty till the guests arrived. The professional kitchen had a state of the art sound system and limitless CD’s, so I wandered my way through a smorgasbord of new music while cooking pork loin stuffed with dates, for twenty.
One of the albums I found there was ‘Adiemus’, by Karl Jenkins, which went on to be a multi-‐ platinum smash. It was on repeat for hours in a day, me singing to the top of my lungs while chopping scallions, choosing the right wine and making sure that the flowers got there on time.
I played this world music constantly and was full of appreciation for what I thought was a unique choir of women from multiple nationalities. For the next ten years I frequently flirted with the hope of meeting or hearing this remarkable group of women, who went on to make several more albums. Then, I lost the CD that I had bought to listen to in the car. It got misplaced in a dozen moves.
Fast forward. It is now 2011. I am standing over a tiny duffle bag from REI, trying to pack what anyone would need if they were going to Africa. I had done exhaustive research on South Africa: light weight breathable pants, big brimmed hat, organic bug spray, esoteric remedies for Malaria, a Canon 50D camera, all squished into a bag I would typically take on an overnight to Boston. I was ready for two weeks at the White Lion Protection Trust in Timbavati, South Africa with Linda Tucker. These animals were considered to be “the children of the stars”.
I loaded the music I love onto my iPod. But, I felt something was missing and so I ordered a replacement ‘Adiemus’ CD and when it came I put all the music on my playlist along with Michael Jackson and Deva Premal. I was ready to take the leap into the unknown and do something that terrified me. I had been to forty-‐nine states, three continents and thirteen countries, but I never imagined going to Africa. Africa scared me. But, I was powerfully drawn to see the majestic White Lions there and one week later I was sitting in their midst and meditating on their message to the human race which was clear and simple: Unconditional love is why humans are here. I was changed forever in these two magical and challenging weeks.
In Africa I was with a group I had never met and on an ancient continent I’d never thought I’d visit. Days were full of Lions, Baboons, Wildebeest, shamanism, getting to know Africa and her royal status on our planet. Nights were…sleepless. Some part of me knew I didn’t want to miss one minute. I would always start the night under my mosquito netting, but in no time, I would put my sandals on, grab my iPod, slip out of the Rondoval, and head out into the warm night through a fire-‐lit camp to hear the sounds of thundering roars along the electrified perimeter and be awash in the early morning cacophony of countless tropical birds.
Somewhere in the night I would stop my walking meditation and find a place to sit, and while surrounded by Geckos, I would listen over and over to ‘Adiemus’, and the women who spoke to me through its music. They were tribal. They felt totally in keeping with the soul of Africa…in keeping with my soul. I was at home in Africa and in myself. Africa became the most important trip I had ever allowed myself to take and as the plane took off from Johannesburg to fly back to the states, I sobbed.
I came back disoriented. I had been taking care of my mother for three years, and returning home my life felt…small, like a shoe that no longer fit. Two months later my mother died, and four months after that I knew it was time for me to move on. I closed my psychology practice, sold what I owned and headed out to manifest the newest incarnation of myself living a gypsy life on the open road. I first headed to North Carolina for a short visit with my daughter, with no specific destination planned afterwards. But the minute I unpacked my suitcase for a week, let my two cats our of their cat carrier, the Universe had a chuckle.
“Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck”. The Dalai Lama
As luck or fate would have it, my driver’s license needed to be renewed, and I immediately ran into a glitch with the Social Security Administration. I had changed my name in 2001, and an administrative typo resulted in my name at the DMV not matching my name at Social Security – and Homeland Security didn’t like that. My gypsy notions were brought to a standstill while I worked to get myself legally back on the road. But after repeated attempts, even seasoned lawyers couldn’t get any government agency to fix it. My wings were clipped. I was grounded in Asheville indefinitely. My plan for living a Gyspy life on the open road for a year to discover what made me truly happy, were cancelled by bureaucracy. As they say, “if you want to make god laugh, tell him your plans”.
With time to spare, this reinventing myself obviously needed a new twist. I decided to create a website while working on my drivers license and posted a position for a graphics designer on Craigslist. I made a time to meet at The Dobra Tea Room with the one person out of forty-‐six that had inspired me. Mary arrived at noon for Masala Tea served in a red terra cotta teapot. We shared little gluten free almond cookies and by 1pm I had hired her to do everything I needed.
It was a match made in heaven. I looked at my watch and realized my second appointment with someone I had found as a music consultant who might help me with music on my website was about to walk through the door. I had to break the news to him that Mary was going to do that part as well and he was not needed, thank you.
Richard Gannaway walked in wearing a navy blue baseball cap that I would come to see as a trademark look for him. He was carrying a well‐used computer case and his broad smile lit the room. I already felt badly to tell him he had come all this way for nothing.
Four hours later we had not even talked about my website music needs. When I found out what his work in the world was, we plummeted into one of those timeless places where people who have a palpable soul connection go so easily. That feeling of, “Oh there you are, I’ve been waiting for you.”
Richard had been a professional musician for over thirty years and was the founder of the world music group called AOMusic, who records the joyful voices of children around the world living in dire circumstances. It was highly unusual that someone who had been on the Grammy ballot two years in a row would have taken my call or the time to come and meet a non-‐musician like me, but here he was, as surprised as I was. And, then it was 5:30 and we had plowed through two plates of hummus on cucumber slices while trying the most exotic teas on the menu and talking about a global shift in consciousness and the Golden Mean.
As I was packing up to leave, Richard slid his newest AO album, And Love Rages On, across the table. We intended to meet again once I had heard his music and then hugged goodbye. I left grateful to the Universe for bringing such amazing people into my life, simply because I was stranded in Asheville and had a wild and crazy idea that I acted on. Little did I know how much gratitude would be called for.
It was lightly raining as I drove the back roads of the Blue Ridge Parkway, out of site of police, just in case I needed to present a drivers license for any reason. I popped in the CD that Richard gave me. Five minutes later I pulled off the road and sat for an hour with the rain, like percussive drumming in the background. Through the windshield, as the wipers swooshed to the rhythm of the music, I watched two young deer graze next to the car as if they were eavesdropping. Once my tears were over and the album finished, I turned the car around and drove to find Richard. My heart had blown open without my permission.
By the end of our second conversation I had volunteered to help make sure the next album would receive a well-‐deserved Grammy and to fundraise for AO Foundation International. I knew nothing about the music business or fundraising for that matter, but I was ready to learn. I also had no idea what I was creating for myself as I fell into the music in such bliss that it was a no brainer to simply say ‘yes’ to some unknown future, working for a music label and for the children of AO who opened my heart. My life and direction had changed in a nanosecond.
Now this is where it gets interesting. What happened next confirmed that we all live in a vast and mysterious Universe, with perfect design. Yet most of us live so close to the tapestry of our lives that we are only focused on a few threads right in front of us and we never seeing the full design.
My ‘destiny’ had been weaving a tapestry for me from my own heart’s desires for nearly a decade. A few days later, Richard and I met again to talk about the music. I learned how it was created, about the universal language that was constructed and about the principle players Jay Oliver on keyboards and Miriam Stockley, vocalist. When I asked Richard who Miriam Stockley was, he said, “Miriam is the voice of Adiemus”.
The one voice?
“Yes”, he said, “she is from Johannesburg, South Africa”.
As it turns out, what I thought was the women’s choir on the album was just one incredible woman who had recorded multiple tracks. She was now the principle singer on the last two albums for AOMusic. Miriam now co-‐composes with Richard and lives in Florida, involved in projects with her husband Rod. “I think you and I need to go to Florida, Maya, and meet Miriam in her Studio!” he smiled.
My heart could not even grasp what had just happened. From the kitchen of a banking mogul in Maine where I first heard some anonymous woman and where I was deeply inspired by the music, to the mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, where I stumbled on my destiny that had started to manifest a decade earlier, I was at the epicenter of my life not knowing concretely how I had even arrived there. My inspiration had physically manifested without my DO‐ing anything.
Now, a year and half later, I am partners with Richard and AOMusic, executive producer of Arcturian Gate Films and working on a feature documentary. We have established AO Foundation International as a 501C3 non-‐profit that highlights and aids children in crisis. I just returned from Florida as a part of finishing the mixing of the newest AO album, “Hokulea” in Miriam Stockley’s studio. I sat on the black leather couch in this futuristic engineering studio, her toy dog Minky on her lap, watching her husband Rod masterfully mix the current album and then had days of bliss witnessing the team create the most transformative sound I have ever heard.
I remembered the nights in Africa with Miriam’s voice in my ear as I breathed in an entire continent. I used to think to myself often, “What I would give to sing like her, to meet her”. The Universe heard me ten years ago and led me to my inspiration. Manifested my desire. All I had to do was feel the inspiration, the hope, the love, the vision and Spirit handed me all I hoped for and more on a silver platter. And it just keeps coming. The love keeps coming. The inspiration keeps coming and the joy keeps flooding in.
Since the beginning of what is becoming my life’s work, it has been the children of AO who have captured my heart and given me a global vision for changing the world through music, through charity and for inspiring countless people to live their own dream. Sometimes we don’t even know what the dream will lead to, we simply have to move our feet in the right direction. And I am not a trained fundraiser but I have a story to tell, I have music and vision and real life stories to share, which can lead to manifesting everything that the vision needs and create opportunity for children who have none.
Many of us love parts of life passionately, yet we never create the opportunity to make those passions our inspired work in the world. We do what we have to or what our families expect and then put dreams that are driven by the heart on the shelf. Many of us are impassioned by our love for animals and want to fight for animal rights, children’s rights, our oceans, the dolphin, the whale, civil rights and our environment. By allowing the universe to lead me to it, I found that my motivating passion is to work for those who have very little opportunity to be loved and to feel safe, yet who possess a depth of spiritual awareness and a loving kindness and joy that defies my comprehension. They are the children of our planet.
Richard has for years been traveling the world to remote areas which suffer from natural disaster, poverty and alienation where he finds groups of children, teaches them his songs, and then records them singing with him. He then weaves their voices into the structure of his music to create AO’s signature sound. The proceeds from these songs go back to the children and their villages to put shoes on their feet and to provide food, shelter, schooling and love.
The AO vision is to create a beautiful harmony between those who have resources and those who do not, to create a unity of heart and cause, money and magic. AO is crafting a beautiful new paradigm for music creation fueled by love and built upon a participatory process that synthesizes personal inspiration and creativity with the pure and joyful spirit of children in a way that uplifts and empowers those who are powerless.
When I met Richard, he had been traveling to these areas around the world and recording the voices of children for over a decade, yet no one had professionally filmed him and the children in this beautiful creative process. Recognizing the need and value of doing this, I joined with Richard and AO to include a film team on the latest trip to record singing children in Nepal. Invitations have now been received by AOMusic to do this in other equally inspiring locations, and our excitement is building toward a feature documentary. We are invited to record children in camps from the Fukushima Nuclear disaster, the refugee children still homeless after the 2008 Tsunami, children homeless after the earthquake in Haiti and countless others who have a voice to share and are living in Siberia, Italy and the foot of the Himalayas.
I want to conclude this telling of my own love story with two short accounts of the Children of AO that etched themselves into my soul and are exemplary of why I do what I do, fourteen hours a day, seven days a week. You will be changed by reading them.
AO means “light” in Polynesian and these are the children of the light.
A Love Story from Johannesburg, South Africa:
It is not unusual for the bush mothers in the squatter villages around Johannesburg to have to leave their newborns by the side of the road. Families are too large with not enough food. Young girls have been raped with no means of caring for a child. Mothers die from malnutrition and fathers are overwhelmed. It happens all the time. A mother or an aunt or maybe a sister will come in the night and leave newborns at the crossroads for someone to find and hopefully take to an orphanage or bring the child into their own home. That is the hope. It doesn’t always happen.
A little newborn baby girl was left in the night on the side of the road in a basket. Imagine in Africa, in the bush, a baby crying in the darkness. But, this night, a stranger did not pick the little new born up. No one heard her cries and came for her. Except for a pack of wild dogs.
The next morning the child was found having been fed on by the Dingos in the night, but she was alive. She was taken to the hospital and survived the terror of an experience I cannot imagine. This little girl grew up in an orphanage and in 2010 Richard went to this orphanage in South Africa to meet the children and record music with them. He met this little spark of life. This little baby was now eleven and the orphanage was her home. She was academically excelled, a wonderful artist and the light to everyone there. When Richard met her she had a partially amputated arm and leg from that fateful night.
Her brutal beginning never compromised her love for life and her obvious joy. She and children like her are at the heart of why I do what I do with AO. Why I am committed to bring love back into the lives of children who need AO, who need my help, who need both you and me. A Love
Story from Philippines
When AO went to the outskirts of Manila there were countless children and their families living on waste heaps that go on for miles. Consider the enormous waste dumps you have driven past in your life surrounded by stench and birds picking through someone else’s garbage and food. This is home for too many children all over the world. These heaps of trash and refuse are often the only source of finding food or revenue, as children pick through the debris hoping to find some item that they might sell or use.
The waste heaps are two or three stories tall and infested with tens of thousands of large rats. At times, herds of rats actually stampede and the children have to hide from their path, risking disease and being bitten. These children were living in toxic waste, carrying ragged plastic dolls that they had found, a broken toy that someone had thrown away and they lived in filth and squalor. Yet, Richard watched them play with each other as they created games with what they had found in their immense world of human refuse. Joy was somehow far more present than despair for children living in conditions that any one of us would consider unthinkable.
For those of us in AO, our constant and always-‐inspiring experience is of the resiliency of children who are orphaned and traumatized by earthquakes, tsunamis and war, of their unbeatable spirit and joy. They are what AO is about. As we turn the corner from 2012, humanity embarks upon our single most historical moment and begins to consciously feel and understand that we are all…connected, that our work with and for children is the first agenda. It is a global responsibility and a personal imperative.
As for me, I have changed my life, cleaned out the closets of my own resistance, and sold everything I own, in order to live this journey of unconditional love. And when I meet children like these, it is an easy choice. I jumped over the cliff and have never looked down. Joy is my safety net. I am aware that most of us either cannot or will not wake up one morning and take a hard left turn off the road they are on now and never look back. Yet, as the wealthiest country in the world, we have excess that can be shared, with those who desperately need some help: Time, money, love, things. What I spend on coffee for a month is more than most children will see in their childhood. We each have much of what they need, and our average monthly income is more than they will see in a lifetime.
Love without action is incomplete. So many of us have baskets full of love to offer freely – whether we know it or not.
Both of these stories are followed by countless others. And there are millions of stories going untold, children going unseen, lives ending before they begin. And there are also countless stories of people around the world like you or me, who feel uninspired, doing a job they hate, feeling alone, lost in the television or feeling isolated. And many of us are simply afraid to change the lives we have. But, we need each other! Those that have so much need those who have so little. And like the little girl who was fed upon by wild dogs, the triumph of the spirit is a spiritual energy that can create miracles for anyone who is willing to open their hearts and arms to the world around them.
The stories of these children are my call to move into action. We each have a chance every second of each day to answer our own calling. We each have a chance to jump right into the center of what we are passionate about and bring our own light to the world, perhaps to experience the light of children, the joy of giving and to make a difference in at least one person’s life. There is never any risk when we give…only more and more possibilities for love.
Katherine Hepburn is my Hero. She said, “Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get, but what you are expecting to give”. It took me quite a long time to find that the giving of love was far more important and joyful than being loved. And, I have found it in the children and mission of AO.
This is my life. This is my life’s work. This is my love story.
One year and three months and I’m not off the road yet and still have no driver’s license. But, more on that later you won’t believe it. Let’s see. Oklahoma, North Carolina, Denver, Seattle, Point Roberts, Los Angeles, Orlando, New York City, Boston, the Bahama’s and Canada, then all over again. Coast to Coast, 1, 2, 3 times and counting.
As a gypsy, I have traveled to the most amazing places thus far. I have been on all the major highways: I-40, I-70, I-80 and I-95. Route 101 up the California coast, I-5 that was unbearably bleak and down historic Route 66. The Grand Tetons, the Rockies, Mt. Rainier, Zion, Canyonlands, the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, swimming with Dolphins and schmoozing in Beverly Hills. Sun worshipping on Daytona Beach and hanging with soaring eagles on the Canadian Border watching for Orcas. I have slept on blow up beds, several squishy couches, the hard floor, futons, sleep by number beds ( I can never make up my mind. Am I a 35 or a 70?). Then there were boat cushions, the back seat of the car and a dog bed the size of a Great Dane. I have yet to camp. Just give it time.
I determined to take a year to discover what made me happy. I sold most everything and decided to follow the flow that would reveal a deeper layer of who I am and help me discover more of what inspires me. I took the culmination of 2012 seriously. If the paradigm for our planet was shifting, if old structures that no longer worked were falling away and new consciousness was emerging, then I would start living those truths first of all…in myself. I would fall headlong into being a single woman in the world; invite the Universe to show me what I needed to know and how to express love, compassion and generosity in the world. The year went nothing like I had planned. The phrase, “If you want to make god laugh, just tell him your plans” became all too real.
Yet, I achieved all I had hoped for and more, in the face of thwarted plans and with no plans at all. The freedom of driving with the Kenny Loggins blaring in my car and no one to criticize my choice in music was replaced by needing to be chauffeured by my daughter with her music playing and Mumford and Son’s blaring. I wanted to listen to hours of inspirational CD’s while I drove carefree. No way…it was Florence and the Machine.
I had thought that in one year I would find a clearer and more inspired definition of my work in the world. Then I would settle somewhere and begin to craft new work in the world and finish writing my book. In just one month to the day after hitting the road, the Universe reached down, plugged me into my destiny when I was not looking, packed my bags for me and sent me out the door as the Ambassador for a world music company, AOMusic. Then the Universe whispered with a smirk, “so you say you want to be a film produce. Have at it”. Without effort and with no plan at all, I had stumbled upon myself and my bliss in less than 30 days. It was far easier than loosing those 10 extra Christmas pounds.
So, now, 16 months later I have been to The Film School in Seattle, one script has come and gone, I have created a short film for AOMusic in Nepal, become the executive producer and fundraiser for an AOMusic documentary, work along side of Miriam Stockley who I had always wanted to meet since the album Adiemus was released over a decade ago and gone fly fishing with ‘Viper’ himself, Tom Skerrit. And I am traveling in spite of having no driver’s license as my path keeps unfolding, winding, calling on me to pack up and go where I am needed with no notice. When I get to the next destination I bump into a better, shinier, more alive part of myself. So I now say Yes to the Universe with excitement and enthusiasm even though I have no clear destination. My notion of faith and trust has gone turbo.
The initial idea I had was simply an idea. I have not settled anywhere, I keep moving as a gypsy without a driver’s license. I keep saying yes and that yes opens a next door, introduces me to the most amazing people and fulfills life long dreams without my planning the outcome or trying to make anything happen. My idea of ‘going with the flow’ has changed in nearly a year and a half. I think now I would say that I am “allowing the flow to move me forward”. And what is the flow? Love. Joy. Creative Expression.
Now at the beginning of 2013 I do not look ahead very far. I used to spend most of 2012 looking toward the end of the year wondering what the end of the Mayan prophecy would look like, how the world would change. 2012 was a marker, a point of focus. But, 2013 seems as if there is no vista point, nothing more than vast possibilities stretching out endlessly for all of humankind. I plan simply for one day but I make sure I have clean underwear just in case. Then the next day unfolds and I plan for it the best I can when most of the time I don’t know the answer to the basic building blocks of life: Who, What, When or Where. Only Yes. For me, ‘No’ equals resistance and ‘Yes’ equals surrender.
What is calling me and coming into focus for 2013? Back to Nepal and the Maratika Caves, on to Osaka Japan and the Temples of Humankind in Italy. Working with the growing family of AO and AO Foundation International, producing, working with my daughter, discovering the joy of countless children around the world and giving back ten fold for all the riches this life has provided me with. Trusting that all that is needed to move this mountain of an AO vision forward and to then change countless lives, is always available and generously supplied.
Some days I barely have gas money but money is supplied. I can allow all the money I possess to be a creative agent, freely moving and meeting the need of the moment and the money replenishes itself. I can wake up one day daunted by the possibility of raising several million dollars and then it dawns on me that I can do it a dollar at a time. Love and money are inextricably connected.
And this year has solidified a knowing that has become the hallmark of my experience: Here is what I have learned and is etched in my heart: Rich does not mean money in the bank and stuff in the closet. Money does not make the world go round. Love is the only currency that holds it’s value and compassion, kindness, joy and generosity is the true sustainable resource that has gone untapped far too long. I am grateful for this awareness and eager to see what is next.
On to 2013…the year of Yes …and Yes again. And here is also what I now know and will take with me in my journey (after I pack my clean underwear of course).
Tired of Speaking Sweetly
Love wants to reach out and manhandle us,
Break all our teacup talk of God.
If you had the courage and
Could give the Beloved His choice, some nights,
He would just drag you around the room
By your hair,
Ripping from your grip all those toys in the world
That bring you no joy.
Love sometimes gets tired of speaking sweetly
And wants to rip to shreds
All your erroneous notions of truth
That make you fight within yourself, dear one,
And with others,
Causing the world to weep
On too many fine days.
God wants to manhandle us,
Lock us inside of a tiny room with Himself
And practice His dropkick.
The Beloved sometimes wants
To do us a great favor:
Hold us upside down
And shake all the nonsense out.
But when we hear
He is in such a “playful drunken mood”
Most everyone I know
Quickly packs their bags and hightails it
Out of town.
AOMusic went to Nepal with five young people in August. We recorded children who are singing on our new album to be released in 2013. This is our fundraising trailer for a documentary that we hope you will all support.
If you have not heard me say that the Music of AO has changed my life I want to say it now. I have never encountered a medium that is both heart opening and changing the lives of children in need at the same time. I am from the 60′s. The Vietnam war was my backdrop for life. The Beatles came and changed all us and the way we saw the world. U2 opened our eyes to injustice and issues of freedom, Madonna bust the sexual revolution wide open. Music changes people. Music can also save lives and create hope and love where there has been none. I want to do that any chance I get!