Music and the Ecstatic Experience

Comments: 0

Music has always deeply moved me. I remember being in church as an 8 year old and being swept away by the massive organ in our church and the music of J.S. Bach. Later I got deep into the Beatles and at 13 got deep into the blues. I loved the earthiness of the blues and used to carry around with me a set of blues harp harmonicas. John Mayall was a hero here. It was hear I first felt the joy of improvisation. It was magical to freely make music by just diving into a feeling. I felt I could “float” on sound. Back when I grew up there was a special record store in Westport Connecticut and there was a lady there (I think her name was Sally) and she would talk to you and then suggest records to buy. I told her I wanted to understand jazz and she recommended “Milestones” by Miles Davis. Now I was hooked on jazz. From Miles I discovered Coltrane and then many younger musicians such as Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Weather Report, Yusef Lateef and many more. With jazz I felt a freedom and also a lot more sophistication. I started to study jazz and understand scale/chord relationships. Around this same time I started flute, it just made sense because I could play it while I was standing up playing harmonica. I now had a flute teacher and started to play J.S. Bach, Mozart, Debussy and Hindemith. I also explored Stravinsky, Stockhausen and others along with world music such as Chinese music and flamenco. I felt I was jet setting around the world and experiencing the highest this planet had to offer. I was a world ambassador and was tasting delicious dishes from everywhere. Then I met Indian music. My High School had one Indian music record “Ravi Shankar Live at the Monterey Pop Festival 1967”. Every day I went into the library and listened to the complete record. It became a daily meditation and I felt such a spiritual force to this music. It was also very free, the musicians were obviously improvising and I could not figure out how anyone could improvise for seemingly endless amounts of time (one track on the record was 27 minutes) with that beauty of development. Also I noticed some western musicians integrating Indian music. I purchased John McLaughlin’s recordings “My Goals Beyond” , “The Inner Mounting Flame” and “Birds of Fire”. I obtained many recordings of the group “Oregon” and Paul Horn. Once I was finished with Ravi Shankar at school, I came home and listened to “The Inner Mounting Flame”. It now seemed obvious to me that these musicians were touching on a higher reality, a state of ecstasy. It also occurred to me that this temporary state felt in music was pointing to a permanent ecstatic state that was possible. There must be some people who were permanently in a free state it seemed to me. I read “Be Here Now” and “Autobiography of a Yogi” and met Maharishi Mahesh Yogi in person (I was now 14 years old) and learned Transcendental Meditation and started doing yoga (as taught by Maharishi). I felt my life’s course was set, to blissfully play music and seek the company of great saints and yogis.

With Paul Horn 1977

Many wonderful experiences have happened since and I feel to be one of the luckiest people alive to have delved deep into music and met so many great souls. Some highlights were when I became associated with the bansuri (North Indian Bamboo flute) and met the marvelous master of the bansuri, Hariprasad Chaurasia. His sound and technique were so sublime and I was entranced. I longer could stay away and moved to India for 2 years where I met Hariprasad and he agreed to teach me ! This was beyond joyful for me. The organic, healing sound of the bansuri were a healing force and I felt Indian music with this instrument held me in the heart. I followed Hariprasad to the Rotterdam Conservatorium for 12 years of study there (I commuted to Holland 3-5 times a year from Washington DC).

Hariprasad Chaurasia

Simultaneous to this music journey I continued to study the spiritual traditions (mainly from India) and felt very close to the teaching and presence of Swami Muktananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Vivekananda, Ramakrishna and others. One day a musician friend returned from a spiritual retreat with the spiritual master Adi Da Samraj and I picked him up from the airport. Right away I felt a transmission from this friend of mine. I knew immediately this was from Adi Da. A spiritual current descended on me and in a few weeks I was given the opportunity to play for Adi Da and was overwhelmed from a tangible spiritual force from Adi Da. It was great to find out Adi Da was deeply into music and Hariprasad was one of his favorite musicians! I spent hundreds of hours in Adi Da’s presence (before his passing in 2008) playing for Him in deep blissful swoons.

Adi Da Samraj

I am always thankful to music for leading deep into the heart and many spiritual adventures. When I release a record or record some music, I want it to reflect the ecstatic state of being I’ve felt with my music and spiritual masters. If that feeling is not there, then all the technique and musical sophistication mean nothing. And if that magic is there, even the playing of a few notes can say so much. This journey is not over! I hope you join with me in writing the next chapters!

There are no comments yet, add one below.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *