Floral Notes and Bardo: Magnanimity, Bhanu, and the Back Nine


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

So sleepy this morning, both of us, and Heather said:

“It’s cute that we have temples, huh? Like, my body is a temple, and my temple is a temple… And my temple is my body!”

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At breakfast, Director Gayner — who is in the midst of high-level Shambhala leadership retreat — in which they practice for 20 hours a day — approached Heather and I with a big grin.

“Ahh! Just the two that I was hoping to see.  This is very auspicious.”

We nodded, and he went on:

“Magnanimity!  Do you know this word?”

He’d like for us to come up with a calligraphed presentation of this word along with its definition from the 1812 Oxford English Dictionary (or something like that) as a gift for Richard Reoch, who is leading the retreat.

We gladly agreed.

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I woke up this morning early and a bit jumpy.  Jumbled dreams, especially in the morning.  I’ve been restless at work all week, wishing I were able to do something else.  In particular, spend time exploring poetry, experimental prose, theory, and things in the writing world that I don’t understand.  I have a wish to attend grad school for this sort of thing when I leave SMC.  The idea is inspired by a long inclination towards writing, a connection with Allen Ginsberg, who is connected to Trungpa, who founded the school I want to attend, and all of that.  And, a very magical meeting with Bhanu Kapil, who is a major teacher at the university.  I’ve probably written about that before and will write about it again…

This blog began on the way down from Marpa Point, after I had led Bhanu into the charnel ground and then up to Ginsberg’s memorial reliquary in the Milarepa Poetry Garden.  She encouraged me to write a blog, and sang joyfully about how our meeting signified the re-connection of Shambhala Mountain Center and the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics.

Lately, that’s what I’m thinking about most — Bhanu, the word, and the school.

Meanwhile, I have a job to do here, which is feeling more like a job than it used to now that I have the taste of fine arts and academia in my mind.

Next week I will be going into solitary retreat.  I’m now half way through my stay at SMC, feeling my way into the back 9.

Just now, Heather spoke to me from the ground, up through our second story window.  She told me that I am being summoned to give a Stupa tour to a high school class on a field trip.  So, I will do that now.

— March 12, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

The No-Selfie: Miksang Contemplative Photography

 

Miksang Woman with Orange UmbrellaAll photos in this article by Julie DuBose

Discover how to see the world in a fresh way and express your full and complete experience through your camera. Miksang Contemplative Photography as developed by Michael Wood and Julie DuBose teaches us how to recognize the experience of direct visual perception — direct in this case means without the filters of our habitual ways of seeing and experiencing. In the interview below, Julie DuBose offers some wisdom related to this beautiful discipline.

Click here to learn about our upcoming weekend workshop: Opening the Good Eye: Miksang Photography, April 2-5, 2015 — This is Not Just A Photography Class

Watch our interview with Julie DuBose below, or scroll down to stream/download the audio, and to see more Miksang images.

If you’d like to download the audio file, CLICK HERE and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

Click here to learn about Julie DuBose’s upcoming retreat at SMC: Opening the Good Eye: Miksang Photography, April 2-5, 2015

Miksang Diner Seat

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Click here to learn about Julie DuBose’s upcoming retreat at SMC: Opening the Good Eye: Miksang Photography, April 2-5, 2015

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Click here to learn about Julie DuBose’s upcoming retreat at SMC: Opening the Good Eye: Miksang Photography, April 2-5, 2015

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JulieDuBoseJulie DuBose began her study of Miksang with Michael Wood in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1998. She has been traveling and teaching with Michael since 2000 and is a teacher of all Miksang levels. She founded the Miksang Institute for Contemplative Photography in 2009 in Boulder, Colorado and Miksang Publications in 2012. Julie lives in Lafayette, Colorado.

Her first book,  Effortless Beauty: Photography as an Expression of Eye, Mind, and Heart, was released in March 2013. 

Floral Notes and Bardo: Come with Me — Haiku and Katharine


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Deep tissue, heavy with ocean — blink and it’s mist.

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I had accumulated some savings, stability, now all gone to help kin.

Yesterday at my desk, and Scott knocked on the door.  I opened and he took me by the arm: “Come with me.”

I went with him, wearing the slippers that I wear inside the office.

Katharine Kaufman — Zen teacher, poet, spontaneous movement angel, coolest person — had ordered him to do so, saying “Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

So I spent the morning with her studying and practicing haiku.

I wrote:

Wind is cold
I am sitting in the shade
I’m going indoors

and then…

The door is ajar
The floor is cool
People made these things

Someone else wrote:

Wind outside
Fart inside
Such suffering

I said “That was the best haiku I have ever heard.”

After our session, at lunch, the guy who wrote that poem engaged with Danny, our resident magician, in a little card-trick showdown.  It was awesome.

Before lunch, after haiku session, I spoke with Katharine for a while in the shrine room — about poetry, buddhism, and the possibility of attending Jack Kerouac School at Naropa when I leave SMC.

She was enthusiastically supportive of the idea.  She was under the impression that I am already an accomplished poet.

“I don’t know anything about poetry,” I said.

She told me that her “knowledge is spotty also.”

I told her that it’s always been like that with everything I do: I’ve made music for two decades now and I don’t know how to read music.  I’ve never memorized scales.  I don’t know what a circle of fifths is.

It’s that way with dharma too: I am not a scholar, but I practice a lot.

She said she’s the same: “I’m a practitioner.  I practice a lot, whatever I get into.  And Buddha said, teach from experience.”

She said she thinks there is a place for people like us, in the univeristies — as students and teachers.

Hearing that helped to resolve some hesitation that I’ve been feeling about the idea.

Okay.

I’ve written a lot and only read a very little.

“That’s good to acknowledge,” Katharine said.

So, I’m going to start engaging with JKS, poetics, texts, and see where it goes.

— January 29, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Yesterday, Sitting Beside Sensei


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Yesterday, sitting beside Sensei…

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As she introduced Ikebana to the students from Chapman University, from LA, who are here for a week to immerse in Shambhala culture in a program called “Ancient Wisdom: Modern Madness,” which we’ve been hosting here for 25 years.

Sensei is musical in everything that she does; floral. Her speech, throughout the hour long talk — which touched on Japanese culture, Tao, Heaven, Earth, Humanity, flowers, flowers, branches, sticks and stones, meditation, avante garde, and more — was fluid.

She told me afterwards that she used to be too shy and nervous to even make an announcement that lunch was ready.

That quality of nervousness, she said, is gone.

“It’s gone.”

After the talk, my friend Noel remarked: “Sometimes I think that they shipped her in from another dimension.”

“She’s floral,” I said.

In the next session I helped her hand our flowers to the students, who sat in a large circle with their eyes closed.  She instructed them to explore the flowers through touch.  I’d done this exercise with her several times, but this was the first time that I got to watch other people explore — brushing the flower on their cheeks, smelling, tickling.

Just as I was becoming amused and delighted at watching the others she leaned over to me and said “Close your eyes.”

She handed me a flower and I enjoyed my time with it.

We all placed our flowers in small containers and then, slowly, while Sensei rung the various singing bowls, we stood and placed the flowers in the center of the room, making a large, collective installation.

Then we circled the room together, slowly.  “Moving the energy around,” she said.

We all bowed to each other, recited protector chants, and everyone went to dinner.  I stayed back with Sensei and prepared for the evening session.

I ate dinner with her and we spoke all about art, dharma, living at SMC.  I shared my ongoing frustration with her, which is that I think I should be making more art.  And I told her about the recent shift towards surrendering that, and allowing myself to focus more fully on deepening into dharma.

“That’s the best thing that you could do for your art,” she said.

Oh yeah.

Years ago, while reading True Perception (which awakened my mind and approach to life and art forever), I realized that meditation is first.  Before making art, allow mind to settle, awaken, and then simply express, go forth without trying to manufacture anything.

The big idea about coming to live at the dharma center was to deepen into dharma, and then go forth into the world, into my art, whatever.  I decided to live here as I was turning thirty.  So, in the large arc of my life, the idea was (is), as a good way to enter this next phase of creativity, I’ll first meditate for a good while.

I told her about my recent meeting with Joshua, and how he encouraged me to deepen into dharma.  And I asked, “What about music?” And he said “Sing dharma!”

And it’s funny because that’s what has been happening, even before that meeting with Joshua.  I study dharma all the time, and while I’m walking around the land, I sing verses, and I improvise, and I simply sing.

While I’m hanging around my room with Heather, I pick up the bass and groove for a while.

I make Ikebana arrangements every week. I write a blog.

Art is happening all over the place here… just not in the way that it used to.

It’s not the main focus.

Sensei said: “It’s the tea sweet.”

—  January 26, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Be Befuddled or Change


Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident
 is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Guitar music is floating out from the room across the hall.  It enters through the vent in the bathroom, and also seeps through the door, and the wall.

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I’ve been hanging out with the acoustic bass that Dorian gave me, and singing all over the place.  My art is not quite a discipline these days, but it’s very much part of life.  It’s a joy, and it’s very easy.

Joshua encouraged me to be a minstrel.  He said if he ran this place he’d pay someone to just walk around all day and play music — maybe a clarinet or guitar.

I asked him about finding time for dharma study and music.  He said: “Study, and then play what you studied.”

Funny… I’ve been doing that — taking a phrase from the text and then singing it all day.  It’s been beautiful.

I wondered about “Travis” music — Will all of my music here be so… formally dharmic?

“The circumstances will determine what kind of music you make.  Be amenable.

And, about the general frustration of not being able to find the time…

“You have two choices: you can either be befuddled, or you can change.”

The art is going to come out.  If it is being suppressed, it will forcefully re-aggange the surroundings in order to make space for itself.

Funny… that’s been happening also.  I recently, quite simply, decided that I’d extend my morning meditation session by 30 minutes, and also add an hour of art-making to my morning right afterwards.  When I sat down and looked at the calendar, there’s no reason why I can’t do that and also get my work hours in.

And… be flexible.  Some days, he said, the thing to do will be to just go deep into the music.  Other days, maybe not.

I told him about my ongoing efforts to schedule out my whole life to ensure that everything I want to do happens.

“Schedule is good, and breaking the schedule is better,” he said with a huge grin.

— January 21, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Complete in Process

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a regular feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

This all consuming glow, inviting me to go forth from self concern, to love perfectly.  A work in process that is never incomplete.

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Making plans and letting them drop; keeping the tires off the line; big wave picks me up–flourishing.  Then, I want that to always be the case.  Then I fall off a bit, resisting all the way.  Then, I let go.  Then, things are simpler.  Then, I have the space of mind to be organized again and flourish.

Meanwhile, chaos is terrifying, abundant, and the source of all great explosions of art.

Who am I to talk about the source?

Some artistic activity attempts to present a tidy package.  Maybe sometimes it’s appropriate.  Much of the time though, it seems that the name of the game is fluidity.  Ever shifting life.  The dharma influences the flow.  And then it’s letting go and lots of improvisation.

Am I becoming what I want to become?

Am I on the road to success?

Oh… I am on the road!

— December 17, 2015

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Shambhala Guide — a preliminary teaching position.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: Burnt on Government

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Within a dense tangle — stop, drop, and sing.

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Recently, Harvest of Peace community celebration, welcoming the autumn. The marketing department buzzing at a high frequency, like an exploding galaxy, bringing our big project into being — Awake in the World.

My community work has been more demanding than ever, as a group of us has been meeting to create the Shambhala Mountain Center values statement.  Along with Care Council, Community Council, and the rest of Delek System work.

I’ve been maxed out.

And so, a shift…

Now… each week (beginning last week) I’ll be doing an Ikebana arrangement on Friday morning, and on Friday afternoon, I’ll be going up to work at the Stupa for three hours.

This week I’ll be stepping down as Head Dekyong and will be beginning Teacher Training with Greg Smith.

Last night I spent an hour and a half playing music.  Ahh…

I’ve been involved in all sorts of things and not so much in the basic things that bring me joy: Art, Stupa, Dharma.

I know, I know, it’s all art and it’s all dharma.  But, at this stage in my being alive, it feels so good to do Ikebana, play music, and directly work with… Buddhism.  That’s my stuff.

I’m burnt on government.  I’ve been not-so-joyful recently.

Acharya told me:

“All bodhisattvas must be joyful.”

Bhanu told me:

“Be your music self up here.”

Something is shifting and I feel like I’m discovering a new way of being a member of the community, which is actually the way I used to be, but wasn’t sure of its value.  I thought I had to take on esteemed positions, or more formal leadership roles, more formal service roles.  Now, I’m feeling my way into joyful service.  I’m feeling my way into being myself, very simply.

— September 29, 2014

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

Healing Sound: A Conversation with Christine Stevens (Video/Audio)


Shambhala Mountain Center hosts Healing Sound Retreat with Christine Stevens and Silvia Nakkach, August 29–September 1, 2014.

Christine Stevens is on a musical mission to introduce people to the most ancient and transformative vehicles to support healing and release joy: Voice & Rhythm. Through guided sound-centered contemplative practices of drumming and chanting, students gather an original repertoire of medicine melodies to use personally and in shamanic, psychotherapy, and wellness sessions. In this interview, she shares her inspiration, discusses her journey, and leads listeners/viewers in a healing exercise.

Watch our interview with Christine below, or scroll down to stream/download the audio.

If you’d like to download the audio file, CLICK HERE and find the “Download” button. Otherwise, you can stream the audio below.

Related posts on the SMC Blog:

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Christine Stevens

Christine Stevens is the founder of UpBeat Drum Circles and author of the Sounds True books Music Medicine and the Healing Drum Kit.  She has appeared on PBS, NBC, and led the first drum circle training in a war-zone in northern Iraq. Learn more on her website: www.ubdrumcircles.com/

Floral Notes and Bardo: Buddhist Jokes

By Travis Newbill

Floral Notes and Bardo: The Creative Chronicles of a Shambhala Mountain Resident is a daily feature on the SMC blog in which a member of our staff/community shares his experience of existing as part of Shambhala Mountain Center.

Motion and glow — nature, from my perch on the porch, the moon moving slowly across the morning sky.  Perfect arrhythmic chorus of creatures, and myself doing nothing.

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A couple of nights ago, community open mic.  Buddhist jokes from our host Kyle, kirtan from Cody, Danny wowed with magic tricks and contact juggling, Dorian — so soulful.  Heather, Kate and I offered some music and an interactive experience — folks holding candles and singing spontaneous verses in tribute to our friend Chris, who is moving on.

“let it shine, let it shine, let it shine…”

Very sweet and a reminder of what art and music are all about — uplifting people, situations.  Accessing harmonious, deeper than the day-to-day, experience.  We offer vulnerability — a nod to sacredness.

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Last night, Acharya Lobel gave a talk on Shambhala. The whole thing:

Entering the Cosmic Mirror: From Level I to Scorpion Seal

A two and a half hour talk.  He spoke freely, deeply.  I served as his Kasung guard — sitting beside him, holding space.

He spoke about Shambhala as a path to being a good husband and father and also a way to know the origins of the universe. Mmm…

Something like: “What we want, in this society, is secular mindfulness.  A practice that will easily fit into our existing worldview.  Shambhala is not that.”

He spoke of the terma tradition as being radical — a different way of experiencing reality — and one of the most profound mystcial traditions occuring on the planet at this time.

Afterwards I thanked him:

“That was huge.”

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A couple of other nice notes from teachers in the last few days:

Acharya Lyon: “You’re relaxing a lot.  Not taking things so seriously.  You’re ready for the mahayana.”

Joshua: “There is a path.  You don’t have to walk in the middle.” And then, with a big grin: “You can walk on the edge.”

— July 16, 2014

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PortraitTravis Newbill is a curious dude on the path of artistry, meditation, and social engagement who is very glad to be residing at Shambhala Mountain Center.  His roles within the organization include Marketing Associate and Head Dekyong–a position of leadership within the community.  Follow Travis on twitter: @travisnewbill

 

Sound and the Subtle

By Silvia Nakkach

Silvia Nakkach will be co-leading Healing Sound Retreat, along with Christine Stevens, August 29–September 1

Silvia Nakkach -BiaSound as vibration has the ability to permeate all things. Sound originates in space. We live in space, breath air, receive energy from the sun and the earth at every moment, and yet, the awareness of the essential relationship with these primal elements only happens during heightened states of consciousness, when we become sensitive to the gross and subtle dimensions of these essentials. Sound travels through us, activating our bodies and our imagination, and modulating our mood in the process. We connect and process sound as information. Everything we do, think, sense, and feel, carries a vibrational frequency that creates and can change our circumstance at every moment.

The most ancient cultures on the planet believed that material reality is the manifestation of primordial vibration. Even the Bible teaches that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” – John 1:1

Early and contemporary spiritual traditions, the mystical experiences of sages and shamans, and scientists alike propose that vibration (spandam, the first sound) is the beginning of all creation. Both the material and the absolute realities are nothing but pulsations and at every level there is sound component of the universe. Through the finesse of their yogic practices and meditation, the sages as well as the scientists distilled the microscopic and molecular stratus of sound in detailed scales. The ancient Bön and Dzogchen teachings, which predate Buddhism in Tibet, also state that sound is in the basis of all manifestation. In a newsletter of the International Dzogchen Community, Costantino Albini writes:

“In the most ancient Tibetan mythological cycles, sound is considered to be the original source of all existence. Sound, which from the beginning of time has vibrated in ineffable emptiness, arises through mutations of light and then differentiates into rays of various colors from which the material elements that make up the entire universe originate.”

Albini is describing how sound gives birth to light, and how light shines out in rays that become the elements—quite literally the physical matter of the universe. In many ancient traditions, sound and vibration are present as a gateway to contemplation, divination, and spiritual development. In the Vedic tradition, derived from texts originating in ancient India, the “Word,” as it is conceived of in the Western Bible, is called the Nada Brahma.

The primordial and transcendent sound is considered the seed from which all of creation evolved. This is the Nada Brahma. Nada, or vibration, is the first audible sound, the primordial roaring, the resounding flow that heralds the beginning of the evolutionary process from which energy and matter radiate. Brahma, the creator God, is the creative power that animates one’s divine consciousness with the power to move the heart.

The original, eternal Nada vibrates at the highest rate of frequency. In physics, when an object vibrates at an inconceivable speed, it appears to the eye that it’s not moving. It’s fascinating that the highest point of vibration is stillness; in the dimension of sound, this is experienced as silence. Above a certain level of high frequency, sound becomes inaudible and can only be perceived subjectively. The ears cannot perceive sounds that are vibrating at such a high rate. Thus, Nada is both the beginning of all sounds and manifestations, and, in the realm of consciousness, Nada is the vibratory rate of silence.

Whatever way you look at it, even as meditation or contemplative practice, an experience of Nada—savored in the intimate union of sound and silence—becomes the super-highway to the therapeutic process. As practitioners of sound as yoga and transpersonal music psychotherapy, we consider Nada the beginning of the boundless healing power of sound. The journey to wholeness starts with awareness, clarity, and a moment of suspension.

It is interesting to see that creation and sound have, in most religions and civilizations, enjoyed a cosmic relationship. In the Indian philosophy, sound, dhvani or nada is the basic substance from which the universe of music and expressive utterance and indeed the entire universe has emerged, the Nada-Brahman. The nada is linked to the source of creation, to space and time, to the senses, to symbols, melodies and structures in music, and to sonic design in terms if resonance and acoustics.

The Hatha-yoga-pradipika 3.64 says that the mind absorbed in nada does not crave for sense objects. The unstruck sound, anahata nada, is heard in the anahata-chakra, the psycho-energetic centre located at the heart, the seat of transcendental consciousness. In this seat of the divine can be heard the immortal sound not produced by anything. It is the divinity inherent in music that connotes this sound of the soundless, and endows the yogis with super sensuous sound, from the audible to the inaudible, transcendental sound. They stir the depth of the ocean.

Related posts on the SMC Blog:

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The above text was excerpted from Silvia’s upcoming book Sound and the Subtle: Transforming Emotions through Mantra & Raga Yoga.

Silvia Nakkach, MA, MMT, is a musician that has cultivated a voice that transports the listeners into heart of devotion. An award-winning composer, former psychotherapist, and a leading authority in the field of sound and consciousness transformation, she is on the faculty of the California Institute of Integral Studies, where she has created the world premier Certificate in Sound, Voice and Music Healing established in an academic institution. She is also the founding director of the Vox Mundi and the Mystery School of the Voice, a project devoted to preserving sacred musical traditions, combining education, performance, and spiritual service, with centers throughout the USA, Brazil, Argentina, and India. As an internationally accredited specialist in cross-cultural music therapy training, Silvia has pioneered the integration of microtonal singing and the ragas of India with integrative medicine applications, contributing an extensive body of vocal techniques that have become landmarks in the field of sound and music therapies across the world. She has released 12 CD-albums, and her last book, FREE YOUR VOICE, is making history among musicians, vocalist, healers, yogis and spiritual seekers. Her thousands of students across the world refer to Silvia as the Minister of Transportation and Transformation. Meet her here: www.voxmundiproject.com

More:

Listen to her recent interview with Tami Simons from Sounds True: The Sacred Sound