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.