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.
“The minute I heard my first love story, I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere, they’re in each other all along”. Rumi
Love has many faces. I think there are nine faces of love. Love for the beloved, your lover or spouse. Love for your precious child. Love for a special pet that is an essential part of your life. Love for family, for a mother and a father, a sibling and home. Love for a friend. Love for God. Love of Self. The Universal love of life itself and the world we live in. And then there is unconditional love, which can be part of every one of our love stories, and when present, transforms love into something far more spiritual and far less personal. Unconditional love is all about giving.
If you think about these nine faces of love and feel into the nature of those love stories, you can feel that each love is slightly different. The love of a child feels very different or at least should, from the love of a spouse or lover. The love of God feels decidedly different than the love of our pet, who brings joy to our lives. Love is vast and has so many colors and forms that there is no end to discovering the territory of the heart. And without an open heart, there is no love.
We each have a love story. Or many love stories. I have had the privilege of loving often, loving deeply and loving without borders. I have had three husbands, two daughters, countless people who have sought out my advice and are now part of my heart for life. I have had family, friends, teachers, gurus, dogs, cats, horses to love. Some of these relationships gave me ample opportunity to learn about love and forgiveness, about letting go and taught me the difference between love and possession. And my experience of unconditional love usually was born from having so much heartbreak, that my capacity for loving grew exponentially.
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. That is a big statement for me to make in a culture that is all about being loved and getting love. But, the distinction makes all the difference to the quality of true happiness.
Last year I had the opportunity to open my heart just a little wider and let in the world. It was not a choice. It was an unexpected moment when my heart was blown open by a new experience of love. Most of my love affairs have been with a person. Sometimes my love has been far more universal, but this past year I fell in love with the world around me. I fell deeply in love with the children of our planet, the people who are just like me but who have very little opportunity to be loved, yet who possess a depth of spiritual awareness, loving kindness and joy that defies my comprehension.
I fell headlong into this central love story for my life when I heard the voices of AOMusic. And then I felt the beauty of their vision for creating unity between those
who have resources and those who do not, creating connection of heart and cause, money and magic, and I was encouraged to participate in a process of personally embracing my own power, in order to encourage more power for those who are powerless.
Children are such a gift and they are the seeds of our future and possess the innate spark of ‘source’. Each child is a walking love story. So, I would like to share a few stories with you that touched me, generated a life long commitment to partner with AOMusic and Richard Gannaway, its founder, who endeavors to marry music with charity and to write songs that change our own cellular nature. Music wakes the heart and the children of AO bring each and every one of us closer to the source of who we are.
Richard has been traveling the world to remote areas, which suffer from natural disaster, poverty and alienation. He has been recording children in these areas for over a decade. He finds groups of children who learn one of his songs and then sing with Richard, who then records them for becoming the voices at the center of the music. Then the financial profits from these songs go back to the children and their villages. Here are some of the children of AO and their amazing stories.
A Love Story from Johannesburg, South Africa:
It is not unusual for the bush mothers in the squatter villages around Johannesburg to leave their newborns by the side of the road. They are from families who are too large with not enough food. They are young girls who 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, an aunt or a sister will come in the night and leave newborns at the crossroads for someone to find and hopefully bring the baby to an orphanage or take the child into their own homes. That is the hope. It does not 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 came for her, or heard her cries. 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. This one little girl stepped forward and her voice was clear and true and her love and joy for life, bright and blazing. This tiny baby left for the dogs was now eleven years old and had one nearly fully amputated arm and one amputated leg from that fateful night.
Her love for life, the joy in her voice was never fully compromised by her brutal beginning. The offering of her light and her voice rang out in the And Love Rages On Album. And she and children all over our planet just like her are at the heart of why
I do what I do with AO. Why I am committed to bring love into the lives of children who need AO, who need our help, who need both you and me. And as Katherine Hepburn said, “love is in the giving”.
A Love Story from Indonesia
AO had an opportunity to record children in Indonesia. There are several Youtube videos of these amazing children as part of stunning songs from AOMusic. But, in this story, more unthinkable experiences for Americans like me, went straight into my heart.
While in Indonesia, Richard was on an island where he met a family on a hillside living in a lean to. This little family was selling crafts, coconuts and mangos in order to feed their family. Their house was a piece of corrugated metal with sticks to hold it up and on a steep volcanic hillside. Numerous families were dispersed in the jungle just like this family, exposed to the elements and making ends meet the only way they could.
There was no TV, or Internet, there were no toys from Toys R Us. The lives of each family member had a singular focus: Survival. And yet the children were the happy children, laughing and playing. The adults were the salt of the earth, generous and giving.
And in Indonesia there were countless children without families living on waste heaps that went on for miles out side the city. These heaps of trash and refuse were two or three stories tall and infested with giant rats. There where herds of rats that would run and stampede and the children would have to hide from the stampedes. These children were living in toxic waste but at sunset Richard would watch them playing with each other and creating games with what they had found that day among the garbage.
A Love Story from Malaysia
In Malaysia, off the tip of another volcanic island, countless five and six year old children were armed with machetes that were taller than they were. Every day these children would hike up the volcanic mountain with their giant machetes and they would pull coconuts off the trees, while welding these massive swords. Then they would sell the coconut juice for money or food. These bands of children lived on the hillside and in the tropical jungle having only a donkey to get them up to the rim of the volcano.
Our constant and never changing experience is of the resilient children who have lived through earthquakes, tsunamis, war, and genocide, orphaned and alone. Their unbeatable spirit and strong hearts, is what AO is about. AO is Polynesian for, Light. These children possess the light even after the unthinkable.
As our planet embarks on our single most historical moment and begins to consciously feel and understand that we are all…connected, our work with and for
children of the light is a monumental need. AOMusic is dedicated to that need and answering the call for responsible action in every way we can. And as for me, I have changed my life, cleaned out the closets of my own resistance, sold everything I own and done so in order to live this journey of unconditional love. And when I meet children like these, it is an easy choice. Because in the end I am the one who is given the gift of love.
And, like in every other remote part of the world, these children that live hand to mouth, possess a kind of joy that stops you in your tracks and allows for the possibility that your heart will expand with love and caring and then move you swiftly into action. Love without action is incomplete. And as just one person I have much of what they need. I have time. I have extra money, I have motivation and baskets full of love to freely offer. What I receive in return is priceless.
Each 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 who feel uninspired, have resources they could share, are doing a job they hate, feeling alone, lost in the television or isolated. There are people everywhere needing meaning in their lives. We need each other. And like the little girl who was attacked by wild dogs, the triumph of her spirit is a spiritual energy that can create miracles for anyone who is willing to open their eyes and arms to the world around them.
The stories of these children are a call for me to move into action. The way I get to ‘unconditionally love’ is to simply be fully present to the feelings I have when I look into their eyes. To really listen when I hear their voices singing on an AO album, feel the joy every time a donation to AO Foundation International comes in and I know which child will get shoes because of it, what little boy or girl in Kathmandu might get an education, or see shelter be put up after the next earthquake or tsunami to get children off the street and away from sex trafficking predators. I simply get countless chances to love…unconditionally. And unconditional love is the single most untapped resource we have on this planet.
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.
“We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better.”
― C. JoyBell C.
I ventured out of my pond over a year ago. I put my tiny boat in a new river and made a commitment to stay in and see every inch of where this river was taking me. I have lived on the road for now over 14 months and have loved every minute. And from that deep commitment, that letting go of everything that was familiar, I not only discovered a passion in this life, but a purpose that uses every part of who I am. A discovery about my work in the world that looked nothing like I had imagined yet embodied everything I love: Children, Giving, Film, Music, Travel and Collaboration.
My partnership with Richard Gannaway, AOMusic and Arcturian Gate has not only “re-seeded” my life with a new kind of hope, a bigger version of myself and a certainty that love is why we are all here, but it has allowed me to meet people all over the world, reach out to children in need and enroll countless others in expressing their own talents and gifts in aligning with us on the journey of Music married to Cause.
This year we established our non-profit agency, AO Foundation International. Through our music, our connection with children and their families who live in hardship around the world, we are giving back to these children who make our music what it is and we are aligning with several other non-profits who give generously to helping those in need. As AO becomes the only group to give 100% of our profits to helping the world, we embark on an entirely new paradigm.
This Christmas season is amplified by the ending of the Mayan Calendar. This is a time which increases the potential for love and unity around the world. I have been watching and posting on Facebook this week and see a surge of hope, love and gratitude flowing far more freely today. Each of us are being called to use our energy with intention and focus on giving, gratitude and love. And energy can be working with your hands, making music, feeding people who need our help and giving of our financial resources.
We are establishing and developing all the channels for giving with our new 501c3. And now we can offer all of you who give to AO through our foundation, a tax deduction that can benefit you as your generous support financially will launch rockets of love into the lives of so many. We are rapidly building a financial village who make our work happen.
And AO Foundation International is needing to create an impeccable infrastructure and needs financial help to put this vessel of love into the ocean of causes to make sharing and giving the reason our music exists. Please help us during this amazing time by donating to our new endeavor. Not only will you receive a useful tax deduction, but we will send you our new album just about to be released in 2013.
Simply contact us through our website www.aofi.org and use the “Donate Button”. Or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your financial support is greatly needed and appreciated.
AO starts the new year with a brand new album that is destined for another Grammy Nomination and beginning a fully funded Documentary series and live performance in Italy. We are eager for you to join our family, follow us on this amazing journey and participate in ways you are inspired. Look for updates as all our work of love manifests. What a time we live in!
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.
A Seed Planted
It has been one year since I sold most of what I own and drove away from Tulsa Oklahoma. I had been called there to help my mother die. Four years later, my time was done in Oklahoma and I asked a question. “Now…what makes me happy”. Then I turned the corner into my sixties. For the first time in nearly forty years I had no children at home, no husband, no clients to care for. I just had me. And my two cats Hazel and Snow.
The question of what makes me happy was new. It was asked in a new spirit with the emphasis on ME. What makes ME happy. I had spent decades organizing my answers around the ‘whole’ of my life. My happiness was always intertwined with my daughters, or the man I loved, my mother and family and the concern I had for my clients who entrusted me with their stories and their care.
There had been little time to truly know what my own seed of happiness was. So, I set out for one year to discover the answer. Not by making a list of what made me happy, but to have an experience of “being happy”. What became quickly obvious was that I was surprised by happiness. I never went out looking for it or trying to create happy moments. Happiness found me. And in unexpected ways.
And what also became a life lesson was discovering that the way happiness found me was because I slowed down every aspect of my life and made room for happiness to come in. The art of allowing my life to flow and simply following the current has been the gift of this past year. Our society is focused on doing, on making, on busily trying to get our life to look like our vision. This presupposes that we are the only one to make or break our own possible happiness. That boot-strap mentality locks us out of the experience of being part of the mystery, of the divine, of a destiny that has a design and pattern to discover. It creates isolation.
Allowing life to move us has at the center this divine mystery of a perfect design. But allowing is a relational word. Allowing does not mean I do nothing. Allowing means I hold the vision, embody the energy and move my feet and then the dance begins and my partner is Spirit, God, the Universe, and Love.
I did do one important thing before I put the carrier on top of my Nissan and drove away toward the East Coast: I set an intention. A strong intention. I sat up late into the night and wrote my vision for my life. I soaked it in, knowing that somehow I had captured on paper a glimpse of a life I would love and then I tucked the writing into my Tarot Bag. The vision was filled with joyful ideas of being closer and working with my daughters in a business, of being surrounded by music, living in nature, writing for film and seeing myself succeed with my writing. I wrote of being in a common community with like-minded people, increasing my health and prosperity and being with children in my work. Then I drove to Asheville, North Carolina.
Now, one year later I am astonished. When I arrived in North Carolina to spend a short time with my daughter I ran into a problem renewing my driver’s license. This problem still persists and even baffles congressman Perlmutter in Denver. No one seems to know how to solve my lack of ‘drivability’. The loss of easy mobility left me stranded in North Carolina longer than expected. So, I went to a workshop on manifestation and then two days later met Richard Gannaway from AOMusic through a Craigslist ad of all things. Four hours later my life rearranged.
Richard handed me two of his Grammy nominated albums. Driving home I slipped them into the CD player in my car and headed down the Blue Ridge Parkway. It was raining. My first big surprise was about to occur. I started weeping, pulled off the road and nearly one hour later had finished listening to’ And Love Rages On’, with the windows fogged and motor still idling.
The weeping was a direct message from my soul to me. Weeping with joy validates the moment I am in as sacred, as important, as inspired. In that moment something redirected in me and pointed me back to Richard and AOMusic. My mind said “this is crazy”, “this wasn’t on the agenda!”, “WHAT are you DOING?”. I kept driving. Now one year later I am a partner with Richard and AO and proceeding with a vision for a film series that is inspiring great interest. I am immeasurably happy.
That one surprise by the side of the road…of joy…love…creativity…happiness has led to me back to digging out that piece of paper I put into my Tarot Bag just a year ago. I re-read my hopes and dreams. I smile when I realize that almost everything I envisioned is in my life right now: I work with children who sing, I am surrounded by music, my daughter Jessie and I work together on a project she helped to shoot in Nepal, I write for film, have gone to film school, live part time in two amazing natural environments, Asheville and the Pacific North West. I have a community of inspired, creative, loving co-workers and friends. I have a new kind of partner of the heart with Richard Gannaway. I have been prosperous and happy and healthier. All because I opened to the possibilities, allowed for my life to move with serendipity, coincidence and intuition.
The art of navigating life this way has been the largest learning in my lifetime. And now as our holiday season begins I have a new question. Not about what makes me happy, or what’s next. But a question about where is home? Having been nomadic for over a year now it is time to find ….home. And finding home is never possible until each of us feels entirely at home in the self. This year of SELF discovery has brought me to a new way of thinking about home. Home is the space that is a sacred anchor for our soul to live out our purpose for being here. Finding home is my next adventure. Or better yet! I will let home find me.
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.
“Robin Tamang is arguably the biggest rock star in Nepal. Initially, he started out with Robin and Looza. Later, he formed a new band, The New Revolution, by handpicking each member. Five albums already under his belt, he is coming out with his sixth studio album Hamro Desh.” Robin has a passion for music and children and invited the AO Team to leave Chitwan and return to Kathmandu to work with children in an Orphanage that he works with there. Here is the story from one of the team: Rob Lenfesty
“We arrived back in Kathmandu after the long and bumpy bus ride. The road to Kathmandu winds perilously along the side of steep, jungled mountainsides with a cold blue river raging far below. The road is narrow and often has no protection from the thousand feet of drop. Following the somewhat morbid but expected thought of how often a vehicle goes off the side, I caught a glimpse of a tangled, twisted metal chunk of bygone bus on the rocks below. Ok, better to enjoy the stunning beauty and leave that thought behind!!
We arrived at the guesthouse that I inhabited not even two years ago on my last visit. Coming back here has felt like a true full circle. Especially when my friend and Nepali rock hero Robin Tamang came roaring in on his Royal Enfield Motorbike to meet with us. Robin had agreed to be our host to an orphanage he has been working with closely for the last 9 years. Two years ago I played an inspirational show with Robin and his band The New Revolution for the kids at this very place.
Robin has the uncanny presence of a rock star wherever he goes; he is passionately dedicated to the Nepali people and to the hearts and minds of the children. Thus this man has made children the target of his work. He believes that the key to changing the failing infrastructure of this nation is to touch the minds and hearts of the kids now. And he is doing it as well as it could be done. You can see the love and starstruck awe in the eyes of every Nepali we see as we make our way to the orphanage.
We arrive through the gate and are immediately swarmed with kids. The older ones remember me quite well, and all are enthusiastic to see Robin; not as a rockstar, as he has been a frequent uncle-like figure since many of them were in diapers. They love him with the complete child-like adoration for a beloved relative. Where the kids in Chitwan were not as touchy-feely, we quickly found the opposite here in Kathmandu. The loping game I played in Chitwan very quickly became eight or nine kids vying for real estate on my arms, shoulders and back. Thus wearing a full, squirming suit of children I would try to move in any way possible. Needless to say I got my exercise!
This orphanage, NAG, has been run by a Swiss woman named Nicole for 20 years. Her work has been remarkable; the grounds of the school are beautiful and some of her first children are now the teachers and managers of the school. She finds children with either no parents or incapacitated parents and gives them more than just a second chance, she gives them access to one of the most diverse and best educations they could hope for. With the help of Robin they even have an entire music room with keyboard, drums, guitars and more! These children are truly blessed, and have seen the darker side of what life can offer as well. This balanced experience augments the delight that shines from their eyes so that they radiate a zest and vigor that inspires.
We gathered a group of the younger kids together to teach them the two songs we were to record. Robin stepped into the performers role beautifully and guided them through the syllables that he himself had just learned. The kids took to both songs written by Richard Gannaway enthusiastically and in no time we were recording them in chorus. We recorded individuals as long as their attention spans could handle and then played with them some more. We left and promised to return the next day.
The Next day found more of the same. While I was not recording I can honestly say I had at least two kids strapped to my arms or back, minimum, at all times. I found a game that proved to be more restful with a group of around 12 boys. I would simply fall in any direction and they would push me back up to standing. I got to a point where I could trust them well and would fall rapidly in any direction, at which they would (usually) catch me before hitting the ground. Even as we loaded up into our taxi to leave I had kids clinging on to me. It was sad to leave!
We decided to go directly to Durban Square, the historic and ancient center of the city. There we were greeted by statues and pagoda like temples with intricate wooden carvings, and the white stone Royal Palace. We explored the ancient city for a while as normal people would, though I was itching to play with this place on a more creative level.. I found some lion statues and began to find ways to do yoga poses on and with them; developing quite a crowd in the process! I played with a few of the kids in the square too, some were imitating my yoga, others showing off their break dancing skills. We played at this and other games until the sun set and it was time to go.
Unconventional interactions with my environment always seem to lighten up any place I find myself. I was able to interact with an entire group of people who would have been normal passerby’s if I hadn’t stopped to turn the world on its head for a moment. I hold sacred the opportunities to imbue the creative essence of this life with the environment and people around me. If one person smiles as a result then it is a success. My hope is that others may be inspired to look at the world they live in with the imagination we were born with, sidestepping the conventions we have learned to take for granted.
We found our rest back at Tibet Guest house, another beautiful and active day in Kathmandu for AOMUSIC.”
In my hope to write every day about the trip five young people are on in Nepal, life broke in and tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Remember about making God Laugh? Throw your plans out the window and go to NYC”. So, two days later I did and I am now in NYC with my daughter Sasha. Hot. Loud. Crazy New York City. There is no other place like it…except maybe Kathmandu.
Each day I surf the moment and the time zones and field so many details of producing, from more ATM machines that are down or changes of plans, budget problems or little details that at the end of the day don’t amount to a hill of beans next to the depth of the journey for all of the Team in Nepal, representing AOMUSIC.
So, I will try to catch up and the only way to do that is to make this entry be all about the day in the life of our AO Ambassador, Rob Lenfestey who has shared a story with me. I will write more tomorrow about the last person on the Team. Our own Yoda. By now your curiosity is peeked, so look for new blog entry and a story you will not believe. It is all about navigating life by intuition and instinct, a skill we could all cultivate.
Enjoy Rob’s words:
“My dreams thus far have been potent down here in the humid Nepali Jungle: I asked in my dream “So what does happiness look like? And was shown some flashing scenes and images in my head. “What does clarity look like then?” and another image. “love?” “Friendship?” And on it went.
Then I asked “What does God look like?” and the door slammed open to my Guest House Room. “Rob”, came Josh’s voice through the glass pane, “Rhino!” And so it was; gracing the river bank below. The first wild example of its kind to grace our team with its presence. It even had the requisite black birds gracing its massive armor-like back and horn.
By 7am we had eaten our breakfast and loaded up into our transport with Raj and headed to two different impoverished villages full of kids to catch of glimpse of how they lived.
Before we even arrived in the first village, comprised of two long buildings that faced each other with a muddy courtyard in between, we were already being chased down by laughing barefooted children. The locals were amiable and smiled, clasping their hands in “namaste” to greet us. The kids, however, simply piled up on top of each other to get in front of us. Once Karan brought out the big film camera, the ensuing kid pile was hilarious to watch. Karan flipped the view-screen around and this delighted them the most; now they were watching themselves on the screen. The gestures and experiments that ensued as each kid eagerly pushed themselves within the field of the camera and watched themselves live was adorable and thoroughly entertaining.
We went to look into their living quarters, which were small rooms split from one long building that comprised an entire half of the small village. In these small 12×12 ft. rooms some 12 person families lived, cooked and slept. Each room was impeccably clean and the space outside in the courtyard, while muddy, was free of trash and filth typical to urban impoverished areas.
We went to their well where one of the mothers was cleaning cookware. This is where the ice broke between the myself and the Children. I was walking behind the well’s concrete platform and began to slip on the slick algae that grows there. I caught myself and didn’t fall, but instead turned it into a kind of gliding dance. The children laughed and so I kept dancing some more. Eventually this dance erupted from the well and culminated in me loping around chasing them through the village. As this play continued I was struck by a certain beautiful truth that brought a deeper gravity to this project and its importance.
At its roots, AOMusic is for the creation of world music. World music crosses cultures and brings them together, celebrating both our diversity and the immutable humanity we all share. And so it makes perfect sense that we should build the foundation of such work on that which binds us. And nothing exemplifies the unity of the human race than the faces, laughter and songs of the children.
It dawned on me that you can change the set and setting as drastically as you want; from Lower Manhattan to the rural jungles of Nepal and you will always find kids. Kids smiling, kids playing and chasing each other around whatever environment they find themselves in. And if you took any of those kids and transplanted them in the other place it would take barely seconds for new friendships to be forged and play to ensue. It is upon the pure essence of a child’s spirit that our “sameness” can be celebrated; and from this thread of unity we may truly celebrate that which makes us unique and different. I had known before that this was important work and for all these same reasons, yet now a deeper part of me understood. My bones understood and very muscle in my body understood. Understood and beamed in celebration of what was before me: Dozens of smiling faces and bright eyes beaming at us, still charged up and ready to flee if the loping beast decided to awaken once more. And it did.
As we prepared to leave I pulled Josh aside and whispered in his ear. We then broke out into a goofy, fun vocal improve performance for the kids, one last gesture of gratitude for the gift of their purity and the deepening awareness it had inspired inside of me.
On we ventured to the edge of Chitwan, over the river by canoe and into the government’s Elephant Breeding Center. The day was hot and muggy by this time, so we moved quickly over the open land towards the relative cover of the Breeding Center’s information booth. We read a little about elephants, the struggles of captive breeding and the economic importance to this region across generations. None of this, however prepared us for the elephants themselves. Under relatively small shade structures, tethered to a wooden post on a small mound of dirt stood each elephant. The front two feet were chained together tightly like those of a convict to prevent any kind of long strides. A brief look into these incredibly intelligent eyes was all I needed. Chained up like a convict, yet what was your crime? A dozen or so such elephants lined the center with perhaps six or seven babies in all. I felt uneasy being among the free humans walking along the railing gawking at them in their captivity. Just one look in the eyes of one of these elephants was all it took to see their depth of understanding and awareness. I turned to look at my team. Each and every one of us felt the same way. We did not linger in this place long. We made our way back out and across the river towards home.
The joy and celebration of the children was mingled with the sobering sadness and even wisps of anger around the treatment of such wise and beautiful creatures as these elephants. All of this, the full spectrum of our human experience, is beautiful. Asia brings this lesson home for me quite often. The best and the worst all mixed into one beautiful cacophony of human existence.”