I was born in 1955, making me a "child of the Sixties"- almost a guarantee of an "interesting life"!
I showed an early interest in music...my great-aunt gave my family an upright piano when she saw how interested I was in it. After awhile, I started picking out tunes on it. Then came accordian lessons, woodwinds in school, then piano and organ, and a little guitar. Later, I got into jazz, rock, and funk.
The 60s were an interesting time to be going to public school, as I did. The Cold War and the Space Race were in full swing. In order to ensure that America "stayed ahead of the Russians", a lot of emphasis was placed on math and science. I ate it up, and became something of a nerd.
This, and my interest in music- being considered somewhat a "child prodigy", led to being ostracized by the majority of my classmates in junior high school. My formerly confident, joke-cracking personality gave way to fear, feelings of inferiority, and isolation. I spent a lot of time reading, and the big question arose, "What are we here for?".
I was brought up Lutheran, and, during this same time period, I attended confirmation class, and studied the Lutheran catechism in regular classes led by our church's minister. I really got into it- sermon reports every week, etc. I attended a Lutheran retreat, and seriously considered becoming a minister myself, realizing, in part, that it would be an escape from the hostile environment at school.
Then came the Viet Nam War, the hippie era....at the same time I got into being a jazz musician more- a type of hipster with a longer history than that of the hippies. Many things came into question, especially authorities. The government- I'd been inspired by the principles of American Democracy, but saw how they were thwarted by the government, in the forms of racial discrimination, imperialism, attacks on freedom of speech, censorship, etc. School- I started to see it as an oppressive environment- learning by coercion rather than creativity. I started to see the same thing in the Church- the authoritarianism, the guilt trips - so contrary to the teachings of love and compassion of Jesus.
I found more friends at high school, as common interests in music, other arts, intellectual pursuits, and the emerging counter-culture brought more connections with others. At the same time, my choices were creating more tension and less acceptance at home.
Part of the hippie culture included an appreciation for "alternative religions", especially those of the Far East. Attending DePaul University, I took a required Comparative Religions course, and got turned on to books like "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse, and others at odds with the religions they grew up with.
I bought a book on yoga that included relaxation and meditation instructions. I began to sit on a cushion, and breathe in "OM" and breathe out "Shanti". This brought me peace, a good antidote to my past, the present turbulent era, and the conflicts at home.
One night, I was meditating in my room, and a warm feeling of peace and love grew inside and enveloped me. I heard a loving voice inside of me say, "My child!". I knew right then that the Universe is a loving place, that God is real, and, rather than a distant Judge of people, who are basically depraved sinners, the Divine is in all of us, and is completely loving!
After awhile, I got away from regular meditation practice, and considered music my meditation. I saw a statement in a magazine: "As in music, so in life". I took that to heart: playing at gigs and innumerable jam sessions, I focused intently on my playing and listening to the other musicians I played with, and worked on my state of mind, to eliminate obstacles like self-doubt and egotism, and reach an optimum state of openness and concentration.
On a flight from Chicago to LA, I hadn't gotten enough sleep the night before, so tried the deep relaxation and meditation techniques I'd practiced in the past to relax. In LA, I went to a bookstore and found Ram Dass' book, "Be Here Now", which I'd looked for during the hippie era but couldn't find- it was now the 80s! I got back into meditation again...Ram Dass' book mentioned that Buddhism had an "organized system of meditation", and encouraged people to meditate in groups. I began to seek out Buddhist meditation groups and to study books on Buddhism.
I began to practice with a meditation group at the Thai Buddhist Temple in Chicago. I was moved by the peacefulness of the temple and the monk who instructed us, always ending the sessions with a Lovingkindness Meditation: "May all beings be happy. May I be happy...", etc.
I practiced Vipassana (Insight) meditation regularly, did some retreats, and had some more experiences of Oneness. Using a questioning technique from one of the books I read, I was walking down the Lakefront path in Chicago (in the summer) from downtown to Oak St., continuously asking, "What is it that walks?". Rounding the curve on Oak St., and seeing the beach and some waves of Lake Michigan crashing on the sand (a windy day), a feeling filled me- how the waves, my body, the action of my legs walking, the sky, everything are all One!
How I'm not this separate being, in a sometimes-hostile world, fighting to survive! How the world, the Universe, is a single, loving entity, and I'm a part of it!!!
On another trip to LA, I looked in the Yellow Pages for a meditation group to practice with. I ended up going to a Zen center from the Kwan Um School of Zen. I met the founder, Zen Master Seung Sahn, there. Their style of practicing was quite a bit different from the Vipassana practice I'd engaged in, but I became interested. One of the teachers there suggested I check out their school in Chicago. I began practicing meditation, koan study, and doing retreats there.
I moved to LA in '95, and began practicing with the Kwan Um Zen center I'd originally gone to on my trip from Chicago. A big part of their teaching involves being in the moment and keeping a clear mind. This helped me in many ways: one example is, I started playing Broadway shows with some of the "heavy" musicians in LA, and wanted to "get in with" them. This thought, however, made me feel intimidated, and I wasn't able to have very good conversations with them. However, when, as Zen Master Seung Sahn taught, I "put it all down" (my concepts, my preconceived notions), kept "Don't-Know Mind" (a clear mind), and just got into the situation, I was able to get to know them, and we became friends.
Toward the end of the year 2000, I moved to Hawai`i. Being there was wonderful, and my career was going well, but I had problems in my personal life.
I began to study what women find attractive in men, how to maintain a relationship, and self-improvement in general. This path led me to ways of maintaining confidence, positivity, and emotional strength, techniques of Huna, more meditation, self-hypnosis and NLP, and the importance of having a purpose, a Mission, in life.
The old question from my teen years, "What are we here for?" arose again. I came up with a Mission Statement, related to my work as a musician: "I revitalize and optimize people's inner states, by taking them on a journey of positive feelings and moods." Seemed like a vital and important thing to do, because I recognized that inner states determine a lot in the outer world- and if people had optimized, positive inner states, crime, war, and other negative phenomena would be greatly reduced, and the world would become a much better place!
I realized, however, that although I've been a musician all my life, and have become pretty accomplished at it, that I've also spent a great deal of my time, energy, and dedication on philosophical and spiritual pursuits. I'd learned the value of meditation in optimizing one's state and realizing / connecting with the Oneness of things, and that of keeping a clear mind and being in the present moment in living fully. More recently, I've seen that "reprogramming" the subconscious mind, through tools like hypnosis, NLP, affirmations, and guided meditations, is necessary for keeping one's state optimized in action: in the heat of the moment, subconscious, pre-programmed responses tend to take over.
I studied and practiced self-hypnosis and NLP further, and used these tools on myself, with tremendous results. I noticed, in the self-hypnosis, NLP, and guided meditation recordings and courses I'd purchased, that music played a role- it was used to help evoke the states of deep relaxation needed for hypnosis, etc. Sometimes, musical "hooks" (melodic, harmonic, rhythmic, and/or timbric themes repeated at significant times) were used as "anchors" to make evoking states faster, easier, and deeper on repetition.
The many products I checked out in this field, however, usually relegated the musical component far into the background, and used very simplified music- sometimes just one sustained chord over a long period of time. I began to experiment with doing hypnotic induction and guided meditation recordings of my own, where the music played a larger role, and more time was devoted to the music. I also did a recording of music alone, but inspired by the feelings of a guided meditation: relaxing, then focussing on the breath, then feeling the Presence of the Divine Oneness, then being energized by It and feeling the joy of this experience.
While all this is happening, the world at large seems to be tuning into spirituality more and more. The immense popularity of the movie and book, "The Secret", has turned millions of people on to the concept of Universal Power. The explosion of the internet has made global communication fast and easy, and the world has indeed become a smaller place!
Meanwhile, quantum physics has brought science and religion together. As scientists became able to observe matter smaller than the atom, they found that everything, at it's most basic level, is not matter, but energy! And this energy shows intelligence and interconnection- it changes by being observed! Science has seen that One Intelligence is at the source of the entire universe!
All religions have come to this point. This Source, this Intelligence, this Divine Mind, may be called God, or Brahman, or Buddha-nature, or Christ, or Allah, or whatever....but there is only One, no matter what name you choose to give It! And by direct experience of this Oneness, through meditation or other practices, one discovers that this Source of everything is unconditionally loving and supportive to all humankind!
Most recently, I've begun a study of New Thought religions. Their teachings have really resonated with me, and seem to fit and expand on the experiences I've had. They teach that the Supreme Being is inside us all, as well as in the world around us, and that there is only One. That human beings are basically good- that evil only comes from ignorance and error. That we can connect with the Divine Mind, and allow It to guide our lives, and provide us with everything we need. That God is Love!
I feel like I've found the "missing links" in my life. My purpose is clear- to live according to the Divinity within, to see It in others and treat them accordingly. To use the tools of music, meditation, hypnosis, NLP, and New Thought to help others realize the Divinity within, and help the world in its progress toward enlightenment and Unity with its Divine Source! In terms of religion, I've sort of "come full circle": the New Thought religions, while fully appreciating and drawing on the teachings of all religions, are mostly based on the teachings of Jesus and the Bible! As far as my career is concerned, I feel I'm finally on the right track, because, as I've heard and read, when your career is based on the best use of your abilities to contribute the most to the world, your success will be unlimited!!
Although many others are on a similar path, and there are many doing similar work and creating similar products, I feel I have something unique to contribute and that my contribution is needed and necessary. The combination of life, spiritual, and musical experiences I've had is unique, and I believe that, especially, the way I combine original music with tools such as hypnosis and guided meditation is unique. And as I've experienced in my studies of meditation, Buddhism, and hypnosis, having a variety of approaches to experience when studying, practicing, and looking for inspiration is very helpful- so I feel that adding my contribution "to the mix" is the right thing to do!