Leaving OM: Buddhism’s lost lamas

Before they could even read, they were hailed as reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist legends in the vein of the Dalai Lama. Now young adults, these reluctant would-be spiritual leaders are stepping out of their monk’s robes, becoming rappers and moviemakers, and blowing the whistle on sexual abuse at Buddhist monasteries.

During a break in a mixing session at a recording studio in Milan, Gomo Tulku, a Tibetan-American hip-hop artist, plays the sample he’s inserting into the intro of his debut EP—a group of vocalists singing what sounds eerily like a Tibetan Buddhist chant. One of his Italian producers had it programmed into his …

Read the original article »

Read More

Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys dies at 47

Adam Yauch, one of the founders of the hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, has died of cancer at the age of 47.

Yauch, who went by the name MCA, had been battling cancer since 2009.

Yauch was a practicing Buddhist, who actively supported Tibetan causes.

In 1994, he established the Milarepa Fund — an organization dedicated to the promotion of nonviolence — and became a leader of the movement to liberate Tibet from Chinese occupation. The fund was named after the 11th century Tibetan singer-yogi Milarepa, and was originally intended to distribute royalties from Yauch’s Beastie Boys’ 1994 songs “Shambhala” and “Bodhisattva Vow,” which had sampled the chanting of Tibetan monks, to support Tibetan independence.

He organized the first “Tibetan Freedom Concert” in San Francisco in 1996.


Read More

Grab the free Buddha Machine app for iPad!

This isn’t really anything to do with meditation or Buddhism directly, but it’s very cool nonetheless. And it’s not an ad! This is just something I’m enthusiastic about and want to share with you.

The Buddha Machine is a palm-sized plastic box that plays meditative music loops composed by Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian. It looks like a 1970’s transistor radio, and the music is absolutely gorgeous. I have one of the loops playing in the background right now, and it’s luscious, expansive, and relaxing.

The Buddha Machine costs $23, but there’s an iPad app available which is free for the next five days. For some strange reason the iPhone/iPod app is set at $0.99, although having listened to he ambient lushness of the iPad version I’d say it’s a buck well spent.

You can download the Buddha Machine app for iPad here. Give yourself a treat!

Read More

Mindful ways to get a good night’s sleep

Cat sleeping under duvet

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to feeling energetic and making the most of our days. Some nights, even though we are very tired it is difficult to get to sleep because there is so much going on in our minds. When this happens, we feel stressed and that makes it even more difficult to get some rest.

Here is a list of techniques you may want to use to clear your mind before bed:

1. Write a list of what you need to do the next day. Having the list helps to let go of worrying that you will forget to do something.

2. Practice yoga. Practicing yoga takes concentration so it takes your mind off all the thinking that stops you from being able to go to sleep. Concentrating on the yoga asanas helps to quiet the mind and lying in savasana helps the body to relax.

3. Take a warm bath to relax muscles so that falling asleep occurs easily.

4. Read, but not in bed. Part of the reason we have trouble sleeping is because we work, check our cell phones, work on our computers and read in bed. In order to fall asleep easily, it is important to use bed for sleeping and sex and that is all. That way, when we go to bed, we associate bed with sleeping.

5. Listen to soothing music.

6. If you go to bed and cannot keep your mind from thinking too much,  get out of bed and do something (read, write a letter, fix a broken appliance) until you are very tired and then go back to bed.

7. If you are worried or concerned about something or someone, remember that worrying does not help the situation and think about all the times you worried and what you were worried about never happened.

8. Write down what has happened during the day that was troubling and what was positive – it helps to clear your thoughts about the day.

9. Write in a gratitude journal, a list of things you are thankful for.  Going to sleep in a positive frame of mind will bring sleep sooner and make dreams sweeter.

10. Visualize yourself on a beach, in the warm sun, listening to the waves of the ocean.

It is helpful to have a list of techniques that help to clear your mind before going to bed, so when you are in bed and cannot fall asleep, you know what to do rather than tossing and turning and feeling stressed because you cannot sleep.

I hope some of these techniques will work for you and you will sleep peacefully, have sweet dreams and wake up refreshed.

Read More

Head first: mindfulness and music

Rolf Hind: It was a rainy October afternoon in Huddersfield two years ago. I was fresh off a silent retreat – 10 days in the countryside being instructed in sitting and watching my thoughts, and I was brimming with epiphanies. I was between gigs at the new music festival, whiling away time with some old friends and new acquaintances, and trying not to bore them with my breathless “insights”.

But in every case, with each new person, I was blindsided or scotched by their response to my enthusiasm. It seemed that I was the last person to have discovered meditation… Read the rest of this article…

Read More

Third Eye: Kellee Maize

Video directed by Matt Marzulo, shot in Sedona, AZ.

I recently made contact with Kellee Maize — a young, blonde, female rapper from small-town, Pennsylvania, who moved to Pittsburgh and started her own guerrilla-marketing company, Näkturnal. She formed her first rap group at age nine, and music has been an important part of her life. Her debut album, Age of Feminine, was released independently in May 2007, and has had over 100,000 downloads on iTunes.

Kellee’s lyrics are often urban and gritty, but spirituality plays a large role in her music, which see sees as a way to transcend the ego. Here she talks about what the “third eye” means to her.

“What is the third eye? I feel that I am trying to reach the part of you that is just above ego. I feel this song is seemingly egoic at times. I mean, i have an ego, we all do, but, I want to connect with what is beyond that, but still be real. I often struggle with this, I don’t want to try to say I am god or something, we are all creators, and I don’t want to seem too egoic. In the end, I feel like a conduit to spirit so I just write what comes and try not to over analyze.”

You can check out Kellee’s website to find out more about her and her music, and learn more about what the lyrics of Third Eye mean to her.

third eyeLyrics of Third Eye
Yeah I hate to tell ya but I won’t fit in your box
I know you wanna know but you cannot pick my locks
See you a part of me like New York is to the Bronx
And everything is everything we do not need to box
Cause I could stick and move, I am focused like a soldier
And you’ve been in my way, heavy like a boulder
And everybody’s scared of death and getting older
When you release your fear come cry on my shoulder
Cause, finally the Earth’s come around
Use a new part of your brain, make a new sound
All we want is love it’s making our heart pound
The new children are here they are coming out the ground
Stop medicating them their power will abound
Now please just gather round
The pitchers at the mound
Catch my words don’t clown
You know you like my sound
Now give your girl a pound or a hug would mean you’re down

[Chorus 2x] And with the power of Isis
I will speak to your third eye
I’ll be your soldier in crisis
I will lick your cheek when you cry

Down at the four rivers, the waters they will heal
I will lift my hands up to the sky and make it real
My bothers and my sisters, you will see how I feel
I will give you a dollar to listen, baby let’s make a deal

No you can’t buy me, don’t even try me
in fact unleash your lasso and please untie me
I’m done with the cowboys they do not excite me
don’t need your opinions please don’t indict me
I won’t do your homework, do not assign me
the universe will teach you what science is finding
Open up your chakras your aura could be blinding
grab some rose quartz and start reminding

[Chorus 2x] And with the power of Isis
I will speak to your third eye
I’ll be your soldier in crisis
I will lick your cheek when you cry

I am a writing machine and this is my weapon
Fighting with my mouth peace I will be reppin’
We’re all contradictions stop your suggestin’
The righteous do not judge ’cause they know its projectin’
And just ’cause I say it’s the age of feminine
Doesn’t mean that I am not down for our men
We all need some yang get that dick up out your head
‘Cause there are mad women who are too masculine
And yes I know that I do not sound Caucasian
But sorry this is how it comes out like the days end
My soul is here for some consciousness raising
Stop all your labelin’ I’m Kellee amazin’
And I’m not concerned with which god you’re praising
or what herb your blazing
Your light shines, its dazing and now the bridge fades in
And now the bridge fades in

Ladededadadadaday, you can light your own way
Ladededadadadaday, today can be your day
Ladededadadadaday I will be lighting my own way
Ladededadadadaday, today is my day

[Chorus 4x] And with the power of Isis
I will speak to your third eye
I’ll be your soldier in crisis
I will lick your cheek when you cry

Read More

“Vipassana – the Musical” inspired by author’s experience of silent meditation

Kaki Hunter

Kaki Hunter is no stranger to success. Her background includes a career as a successful film actress, a published author and a recognized guru in sustainable building.

Two years ago, however, despite all of her success, Hunter says she found herself miserable and at what she describes as, “an extremely low point in life emotionally, spiritually and physically.”

After hearing about friends’ experiences with Vipassana, a 2,500-year-old silent meditation technique designed to eradicate human suffering, Hunter decided to enroll in a 10-day retreat.

The program required all participants to abstain from all communication, including talking, eye contact, writing, music, and reading. As Hunter entered into “noble silence” and began the practice of nearly 16 hours of sitting meditation each day, she said she found she enjoyed the silence, and became almost immediately aware of the degree in which talking, both between people and within a person’s own mind, dominates human existence.

Hunter said she enjoyed abstaining from the ubiquitous chatter, but what proved difficult and physically excruciating was the actual act of sitting. On day two, her retreat experience was given mission and purpose with the unlikely visit of an unexpected guest. That visit shaped the remainder of her retreat, and planted the seed that would become “Vipassana – The Musical.”

“Vipassana – The Musical” is a playful, provocative, unpredictable and introspective look at the process of self-discovery. From cynical shenanigans and righteous rebellion, the musical winds its way through the process of spiritual breakdown to final epiphany.

While Hunter says her journey is the foundation of the piece, she says her own story is interwoven with those of individual trials, tribulations, and triumphs of the other students at the “boot camp” of meditation.

Through dialogue, song, dance and musical performance, Hunter wrote the lyrics to 13 songs and, together with her partner, Doni Kiffmeyer, crafted the melodies in a variety of musical styles including rock, rhythm and blues, soul, African/Latin drumming, country and musical theater. Highly technical and with elaborate special effects, The musical, which is performed by a large cast and supported by a sizeable crew, features some “highly technical and elaborate” special effects, according to producers.

Staged at Moab’s historic Star Hall, 159 E. Center Street, “Vipassana” opens Feb. 4, and runs through Feb. 19. Performances will be held Friday and Saturday nights at 7 p.m., with a special matinee performance on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 13, at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10 and are available online at Arches Book Company, 83 N. Main Street, or at the door the night of the performance. For more information visit the website or call 259-4811.

[via Moab Times-Independent]


The Moab-Times-Independent published the following letter on Feb 10, 2011:

My husband and I went to the opening night of “Vipassana: the Musical” at Star Hall Friday night, having no idea what to expect. It turned out to be what they advertised: funny, sad and provocative, and we really enjoyed it.

The amount of talent in this small town is just amazing, from the writer, to the music, all the actors, and everyone else who helped in the production.

Thanks for a fun evening, and I hope many others will go and enjoy it also.

—Bonnie Crysdale

Read More

Dhamma Gita: Music of Young Practitioners Inspired by the Dhamma

Dhamma Gita: Music of Young Practitioners Inspired by the Dhamma

A few months ago I received in the mail a CD called Dhamma Gita: Music of Young Practitioners Inspired by the Dhamma. It was described as a compilation album that “offers a taste of the varied, beautiful forms of Dharma-inspired music made by young practitioners.” I loved it, promised I’d review it, but then got too busy. In the meantime, though, many of the songs have been on regular rotation on my iPhone, and the time has finally come to give you my opinion.

Right off the bat, however, I confess I’m not a music critic. Like everyone, I know what I like, but I don’t necessarily have the vocabulary to describe the music or to articulate what I like or don’t like about a particular piece of music, or the knowledge of music that allows me to make sensible comparisons with other musicians you might have heard of. And Dhamma Gita is very, very varied, representing genres from Hip Hop to jazz to contemporary classical, to soul.

Title: Dhamma Gita
Artist: Various
Publisher: More than Sound

Fortunately, the website for the CD (which is also available as a download) has samples you can listen to if you’re none the wiser after reading my review. [Update: the company no longer exists]

Overall, this is a wonderful CD. I rate each track I have in iTunes, and overall this album came out with 4/5 stars, with five of the tracks getting five stars. There was only one song I deleted from iTunes altogether. To give you an idea of how I rate my music: five stars means it’s a song I absolutely love and can listen to over and over again and love it just as much each time. Four stars means I really like the song and am fine hearing it repeatedly on a playlist, but it doesn’t rock my world like a five star song. Three stars means I don’t object to hearing it once in a while. Two stars means the song does nothing for me and I’ll delete it from my computer. I’m not sure what I’d do with a one star song — probably disinfect my ears.

So here are the tracks individually, with my amateur assessments, and with the ratings I gave each in iTunes.

***** David Smith, “White Lines.” This is a country-inspired song, with raspy vocals, sparkling guitar work, driving rhythms, and a catchy tune. David Smith has been writing, recording and performing music and practicing the dharma for 17 years, and he’s good at what he does. He says it’s “a song about pain and redemption” that represents “a full admission and recognition of the first noble truth – life is suffering.” Life may be suffering, but listening to this song isn’t. []

****** Tori Heller, “Sut Nam.” The song title suggests something eastern-inspired, but it’s actually a thoroughly western track (which would probably be classified as “adult alternative”) with Heller’s soft, breathy vocals over delicate, plucked folk guitar. It’s a beautiful, evocative, and sensitive piece of music, with lyrics about “the cleansing, quieting, and liberating power of meditation and Buddhist thought,” and with lyrics like “Watching my thoughts like a television screen / seeing how messy thoughts can be.” []

**** Ravenna Michalsen, “Ki Ki So So.” Ravenna brings to this track the sensitivity of the classical trained musician she once was. The song’s in two distinct halves. In the first we have pulsing, rhythmic, multi-tracked chanting that’s meant to evoke the drumming of the Windhorse’s hooves, overlaid with singing that’s reminiscent of gregorian chant. Half-way through the song, this fades out and is replaced with a chant of “I ride on your wind,” which is more like contemporary classical music. Ravenna says, “Ki Ki So So is both a statement of simple devotion to my teacher, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and also a lament that I am not a better practitioner. The phrase ‘Ki Ki So So’ is part of a longer chant done to raise ‘lungta’ or ‘windhorse’: the energy of confidence that is utterly beyond aggression.” []

***** Travis Callison, “Witness.” Witness is a hip-hop ballad with richly-textured rhythms and melodies. Travis names, or bears witness to, the pain and blessings of life, while the simple chorus “Bear witness,” adds spiritual depth, evoking how equanimity can absorb both the ups and downs of life, while still holding the desire that all beings be well and happy. [].

** Michaela Lucas, “Faith.” This is the one song I deleted from my computer. It’s technically accomplished. The musicianship cannot be faulted. Michaela has a beautiful voice. But the interspersing of Sogyal Rinpoche eulogizing the Tibetan saint Milarepa, with Michaela’s soaring vocals reminded me of modern Catholic church music, and I found the effect cloying in the extreme. Of course that might just be me. Someone likes that kind of music, obviously. [].

**** Jay Harper, “Lu Chan Cha.” My first thought on hearing this track was “Chinese film music.” (And that’s not a put-down). Lu Chan Cha is an effective blend of far-eastern and western instrumentation and musical styles. And in fact Jay Harper turns out to have a history of composing for full songs and instrumentals for TV and film, and who has composed music for McDonald’s, The Miami Dolphins, The Miami Hurricanes, and many emerging and established artists. This track is an “interpretation of an incense prayer song that we sing at the St Dak Tong Buddhist temple where my wife Abi and I are students of Grand Master Sheng-Yen Lu.” []

***** Brad Gibson, “Bedtime waltz.” Bedtime Waltz is an exquisitely beautiful jazz trio, with piano, drums, and bass. It’s mellow, atmospheric, refined, and perfectly wrought — a little gem, worth of becoming a standard. Gibson’s music and practice seem deeply entwined: “Through the posture of zazen, I am allowed the chance to calm my mind and perhaps see things a little more clearly. This clarity aids my function as composer and performer. One must pay attention to the moment, working with the psychological and emotional content that often drives one’s work.” []

*** Heather Maloney, “Let it Ache.” This is song in the folk tradition, with passionate vocals and some rather fine guitar work, and with the message “If your heart is aching, let it ache.” Unfortunately this was not my cup of tea, but if you’re into contemporary folk you might well love this. []

**** Lelo Roy, “Hello Mister June Bug.” this is a quirky little number, almost like a children’s song. Appropriately, it’s about the simplicity and innocence of sitting in a tree as a child, and relating to the natural world (and especially the eponymous Mister June Bug) with fascination and imagination. As Lelo says, this song is about “the simplicity in just being, and the distractions in life that keep us from this natural state.” Actually, I had trouble deciding whether this met my three star or four star criteria. The quirkiness, depending on my mood, could either become irritating or be refreshing. So far, though, I’ve continued to enjoy the song. []

*** Duncan Ros, “Rabbit Horns.” This is a raucus, playful alternative rock song, “making fun of ego clinging because ‘I’ does not exist,” like phantom rabbit horns. I didn’t find it very satisfying, partly because the theme of the phantom self doesn’t work too well in a rock song, and partly because I thought the music lacked subtlety. []

**** Eva Mohn, “Matters How You Pray.” Mohn is a dancer and musician living in Germany, a fact I mention because I have trouble describing her style of music and so it’s easier to say something about her. It is alternative folk? Adult alternative? It’s certainly off-beat. The music itself, while repetitive, is richly textured and interesting, in an almost hypnotic way, and Mohn’s vocal style is reminiscent of Ani Difranco.

** Monique Rhodes, “Lama Care For Me.” This track begins with an African/spiritual sensitivity, with powerful devotional female vocals over male bass-line of Om Ah Hum. I began by thinking I was going to like the song, but once it moves into becoming a kind of romantic power ballad, worthy of Celine Dion, I found myself once again reminded of the contemporary music I’ve heard in Catholic churches. It’s interesting that two of the female Tibetan songwriters on this album have written what amount to sentimental and overwrought love songs to their gurus, and have ended up producing cloying and trite church music. []

***** Ladyfinger, “Yer Gonna Git You.” Ladyfinger brings us the grittiness of a soul duet along the lines of “you done me wrong and now you got it comin’ to you.” This is a song about karma, with the repeated refrain “You’ve made your bed, you gonna lie in it.” The singing is shared by Tina Antolini, a public radio producer, and Hanuman, who we learn nothing about. Both singers are accomplished vocalists, with powerful and passionate voices, and they work well together. This is a vengeful view of karma, however, with something of a punitive feel. There’s not much sense of compassion here. But the song rocks, even if the soul (at least in Antolini’s case) sounds a little more like an affectation than the real thing []

**** Lucky Vita, “Swell.” This is the only example of electronica on Dhamma Gita, and is reminiscent of Eno’s early ambient music, although the short track length doesn’t allow for the kind of complexity that we find in Eno’s work. (It’s possible, however, that this is an abbreviated version of a longer track, shortened to fit the confines of this compilation CD). “Swell” is a literal, and rather simple, swell of synthesized sound, building to a crescendo and then fading away into the void. The composer describes is as “a sonic rendition of the feelings experienced when sinking into a place of deep stillness and simplicity.” It’s a pleasant sound.

In short, I was delighted by the variety of musical styles on Dhamma Gita, and also by the overall high quality. I’d urge you to buy the CD in order to help support the work that these young musicians are doing in forging an alchemy of modern music and Dharma practice.

Read More

Face Time: Ed Gabrielsen: Finding peace

wildmind meditation news

Dan Hartill, Lewiston Sun Journal, Maine: Ed Gabrielsen has spent his life trying to marry the body and the mind, first as a singer and later as an instructor of yoga and meditation. He has worked with people touched by cancer at the Dempsey Center, teaching a class titled “Music and Meditation.”

He currently teaches at Healthy for Life Wellness Center in Norway, where his wife, pediatric doctor Jill Gabrielsen, also has a medical practice.

Name: Ed Gabrielsen

Age: 47

Hometown: Norway

Single, relationship or married? Married

Children? We have two children.

You’ve been a musician for a long time. What does music do for you? Music is an art that expresses thoughts and emotions in a way that goes beyond words. I feel very fortunate to be a musician because my life is filled with this wonderful form of communication. Music brings me experiences of joy, solace, beauty and peace.

How is music and meditation part of your daily life? Every day I find time to sing and play the piano. I also find time every day to sit quietly in stillness. These are my two basic daily practices.

Read the rest of this article…

When did you discover meditation? I was in my 20s, and I was miserably unhappy. My unhappiness drove me into meditation practice. Sometimes suffering does that.When you work with people struggling with cancer, either in themselves or a loved one, how do you handle their individual needs? I am not an expert on cancer or bereavement. I am just a meditation practitioner, which means I am continually striving to dwell in mindfulness, in other words, to be completely present in this moment. This turns out to be beneficial in many situations. Just be present. Be here now. Listen. Maybe say a word or two, but mostly listen.

How can someone begin learning about meditation? It’s good to sit with a group that meets weekly. Sometimes yoga centers offer meditation classes. I sometimes teach classes. There are several Buddhist groups in Maine now.

Do you see your work as bridging the mind and body? I guess you could say that. Meditation begins with the mind. We are training the mind.

Are there folks who are immune to music or meditation? There are people who are too impatient, who are looking for a quick fix. These people give up before they see any benefit. Meditation practice requires patience and persistence, just like learning to play the piano.

How do you respond to skeptics? I encourage them to be skeptical. We need to ask questions. We need to find out for ourselves what is really true. As he was dying, the Buddha said to his disciples, “Don’t just believe me. Be a lamp unto yourselves.”

Are there universal pieces of music that make everyone feel better? Listen to your breath. Breathe in. Breathe out. You are alive. Appreciate your life. Be grateful. Be content. This is the most beautiful music. Just breathing in and out.

Can music or meditation heal you? Peace is our true home. Peace is our true nature. Love, compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, letting go, wisdom: these are the things that heal us. Music and meditation are simply vehicles that lead the way home.


Wildmind is a Community-Supported Meditation Initiative. Click here to find out about the many benefits of being a sponsor.

Read More

Kitarō: Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai Vol. 4

kitaro, kukai 4Although this CD was suggested to me as yoga or meditation music, I don’t do yoga and don’t hold with the notion that meditation is (just) about relaxing, and would never have music on in the background while I’m sitting. Nevertheless, I loved the music.

Kitarō, a Grammy and Golden Globe award-winning Japanese musician, composer and multi-instrumentalist, composes luscious sound-scapes incorporating the sounds of both western and traditional Japanese (and sometimes middle-eastern) instruments, along with natural sounds, such as birdsong and water.

“Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai, Vol. 4” is the latest in a series of a collection of albums inspired by the Buddhist monk Kukai’s classic pilgrimage to the 88 sacred temples on Japan’s remote Shikoku Island, over a millennium ago.

Although I don’t listen to music while meditating, I do sometimes enjoy having music in the background while working. When doing something tedious like bookkeeping, I can listen to just about anything. While writing, I prefer music without lyrics, for the simple reason that my mind cannot pay attention to the words of a song as well as the words I’m channelling onto the screen.

I don’t feel qualified to review the music as music. I don’t even know the names of many of the instruments being used (or synthesized), and I’m not familiar enough with musical terminology to be able to describe the tracks. But music is essentially indescribable anyway, and has to be experienced. The most useful thing I can do is to tell you that I really enjoyed Kitarō’s music, and point you to the album’s web page, where you can hear some samples. Each clip is unfortunately limited to only a minute in length, which is a shame since Kitarō’s music (at least on this album) is expansive and gradual in its effects, and a short clip can’t do justice to his style.

The web page also links to iTunes, and allows you to download the album in MP3 format.

Read More