Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Global Warming

I have just returned from the Celebrate Peace Tour. Today is my first day home. We hung our wind chimes in the back yard... and I'm really enjoying the beautiful sound. The focus of today's blog is on the environment. Its been on my mind lately.

I'll start with some fun pics from our tour....

From left to right: Karta Kaur, Harimander Kaur with her baby Sarb Jot Kaur, me, GuruGanesha, Jennifer with Ella (GuruGanesha's daughter in law and grandaughter, Akal Sahai (GuruGanesha's son and our tour manager), Krishan Prakash in true form, and Jesse who produced a very successful concert for us in Encinitas.
GuruGanesha and Krishan Prakash... Peace Warriors. Here is a picture of one of the Boutique Apartment buildings. This is one of the most environmentally aware companies that I've come across... and they are really successful.
Here's a picture of my husband Sopurkh in our garden at home.

This last weekend we had a number of events in the Denver/Boulder area all of which were sponsored by a progressive company called Boutique Apartments. This company creates chique apartments with artistic themes that range from fun to sacred. One building was called "H20" and had a huge water faucet sticking out of the side of it. Another building had beautiful sacred artwork from Tibet in the hallways. We got a tour of their apartment buildings. I was so impressed by the beauty of design, and by the steps they had taken to be environmentally responsible. Here's what they do for the environment. All of the appliances (refrigerator, stove, etc.) are energy efficient which cuts way back on the use of electricity. The electricity comes from wind power, and not from coal. The cabinets come from pressed wheat. The floors are made of bamboo which is much more sustainable. The carpets come from recycled bottles! It was so inspiring to me. Check out http://www.boutiqueapartments.com/ if you'd like to see more information. They are one of the fastest growing businesses in the Denver area.

I've grown up on the west coast. In high school I was in the social action club and we organized recycling. Living in Oregon for the last nine years, our local government and industry was very supportive of recycling. In fact, it is a big business there as it can be in many places if people just change their perspective. Recently my family and I saw the movie Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore. I have always been very aware of the environment, but this movie has changed my whole perspective on things. I suppose the major fact that alarms me is that if we don't reduce our current use of CO2's within the next fifty years then the ocean's water will spill over onto all of our coastal lands and cities. All of Manhattan will be under water! Cities all along our coast and in countries all over the world will be under water! This is a huge problem to me!!! Is anyone else out there concerned??? If we don't do anything at all, then our children and the generations to follow will inherit a devastating environmental calamity. I would have left the theatre feeling completely helpless, however the movie put a large emphasis on what we can do. There are some very simple steps that each of us can do. You can see http://www.climatecrisis.org/ for more information. Basically, we still can reverse the situation... but we've got to act now. We've got to change our personal habits, and we've got to talk to our friends, family, and neighbors to bring awareness to this issue. Here are some basic things that my husband and I have come up with that we are incorporating into our lives.

1. Recycling. (I live in an area of New Mexico that does not have a good recycling program yet. I just found out after researching it that the regular drop off site, bins at Walmart, gets so contaminated with waste and other non recyclable materials that most of the material doesn't make it to an actual recycling facility. The best option for us is to drive to Santa Fe which is about a 25 minute drive and drop our materials there).

2. Unplug appliances if you are not using them.

3. Driving a hybrid car; we have a Prius.

4. We're hanging our clothes to dry instead of using the drier. (This was my husband's idea, which I thought was over the top at first... but it's actually kind of nice... especially out here in New Mexico.) 5. Our house is heated by solar energy. We intend to convert all of our energy use to the solar panels eventually. 6. We're going to carry mugs with us, and instead of getting our drinks in paper or plastic cups.

5. We're going to talk to our friends and family and try to inspire them to make some of these simple changes.

May Peace Prevail On Earth.

Over and Out.

Monday, September 18, 2006

We are having a great time on our Celebrate Peace Tour. We met some really inspirational organizations along the way, and I wanted to share a little bit about them. I think that the media will have us believe that war is breaking out all over the place. Granted, there are many terrible wars in our world... but what we are finding through our travels is that there are thousands and probably millions of people that are working for peace. The people I have met have shown me that sometimes its just a matter of reaching out to your neighbors and giving a helping hand. This week's blog shows some people doing just that.

This is a picture of Steven who works for an organization called Outdoor Outreach. This organization helps children and teenagers from the inner city neighborhoods of San Diego get a chance to do outdoor activities such as surfing, and hiking. Steven came early to our Celebrate Peace Concert and helped us to set up our banner.
On behalf of Peace Cereal we gave a $2,000 grant to an organization called Neighbors Across the Bridge. This organization works in conjunction with Outdoor Outreach and the Barrio Logan College Institute. Barrio Logan College Institute helps inner city kids get good GPA's and get into colleges. In conjunction the three organizations encourage kids to keep good GPA's and rewards them with special outdoor trips and adventures. The founder of Neighbors Across the Bridge is sitting right next to me, along with representatives from Barrio Logan College Institute and Outdoor Outreach. We brought them up on stage at the end of the Celebrate Peace concert in San Diego to present the Peace Cereal Grant to them and also to dedicate the song "May the Long time sun" to them.

For more information on these organizations and their incredible work please visit these websites: www.blci.org, and www.outdooroutreach.org
At the end of the concert we were all very inspired as GuruGanesha took the microphone and announced, "Peace is Breaking Out all over the place!"

We went to the King Chavez Academy for a Children's Peace Hour with 200 kids. This is a school that is in one of the highest crime areas in San Diego. The school is a completely alternative school where the children learn in a positive environment and are encouraged to develop peace making skills. There is a large emphasis on the arts with many classes in dance, art, and creative expression. There are highly qualified teachers who are dedicated to these children. These children come from relatively poor homes, and it is truly a miracle that they are able to go to a school like this one. They were so enthusiastic and positive during our program. You can see them here doing yoga with us. There were mirrors in the back of the room... so you can actually see the band; Krishan Prakash, GuruGanesh and I in the reflection.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Call for Prayer

We are on the Celebrate Peace Tour. This is our day off, and so I get a chance to write on my blog. We have about one day per week where we don't schedule anything. On our day off we all do our laundry, pay bills, relax, or whatever else we need to do.

On this day five years ago I watched the news coverage and felt the horror along with people from around the world at the site of the World Trade Center being hit by airplanes. Over and over again these images were played on the news. I felt a sense of dispair that seemed to enrapture the whole country and fill my heart. Finally for me, the spell was broken when I attended an interfaith prayer for peace. In Eugene we gathered in a large church and each faith brought a powerful prayer. In my own heart it was a ray of light and hope, as it allowed all of us to not only pray for peace, but reach out to eachother in those dark times. I know that the power of prayer is real. If you feel any sense of dispair in remembering the events of September 11, I encourage you to join me, in whatever your faith is, and pray. I know that our prayers are still needed, not only for the families who lost loved ones on that day, but for the families that continue to loose loved ones because of a war that still goes on.

Here is my prayer.

May the love and light of the Great God, the Great Goddess, Waheguru
Find its way into the heart of humanity
So that we may awaken
To our infinite capacity
To be strong
To carry on
To heal
And to overcome.
May Peace Prevail on Earth.
Sat Nam.

Our Southwest tour is going great. We have a few more days in San Diego, and then make our way to Phoenix, Tuscon, and then Boulder and Denver. We had our big Anand cd release concert at Golden Bridge in Los Angeles. GuruGanesha, Krishan Prakash and I had been practising the week before the concert and learning all of the new pieces on the Anand album. Even though I had worked on the pieces in the studio with Thomas, bringing them to the live experience was an opportunity to really grow. The Anand cd recording is at such a high standard musically that it really called us to bring our level up. We really worked hard to prepare for the concert... and admittedly I had butterflies in my stomach.

People seemed to enjoy it.... you never know if it was "good"... but I felt good about it. The new pieces from Anand really have a beautiful energy and I'm really looking forward to delivering them at our future events.

My husband flew out for the evening, and I got to give him flowers on stage for his amazing work with the artwork for Anand.

Here are some pictures from that night at Golden Bridge.

If you'd like to order the album Anand or see our tour schedule please visit www.spiritvoyage.com.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Celebrating the Release of Anand!

My husband Sopurkh Singh took this photo and the subsequent photos during the recording of Anand. This is what my recording booth looks like.

Thomas Barquee (my producer) and I are listening to what we've just recorded.

Thomas is a first class producer. He always demands the best from me as a vocalist, and calls out for the best to come through the music.

During a vocal take... sometimes we would get it after just one or two tries, and sometimes we would have twenty takes before finding the right one. Our goal was to find the place where my voice connected the heart and soul together. This is not always the most fancy vocalization... it just is what simply works... and you know it.

We are beginning our September tour at Golden Bridge in Los Angeles next Friday, with a big release party for Anand. We'll tour through Southern California, Phoenix, Tuscon, Denver, and Boulder. Information about our tour is on www.spiritvoyage.com, and the cd is available there as well. The following is an excerpt of an interview that I had with Guru Simrat Kaur of Spirit Voyage Music.

Q2 What does the title of the CD mean and why did you choose it?

Anand means bliss. But it is not just bliss in the way that we are used to. Anand is the state of bliss that comes when every word that you speak and action you take supports the light and journey of your soul. In the words of Yogi Bhajan, “ Many people believe that the spiritual path is difficult and the neurotic path is easy. It takes the same effort and energy to walk either path. The difficulty lies in the nature of the mind and how it grasps things and becomes entranced by feelings and sensations. Direct the mind with immediate sensations and convoluted negotiations, and we create neurosis and confusion. Direct it with the power of the Infinite word, words of truth, and we will excel with clarity, kindness, and love. ( The Mind, Its Projections and Multiple Facets, Yogi Bhajan, PhD).

I chose the title Anand because for many of us it is not enough to talk about happiness, admire it, or strive for it... it is time to be it. The world needs us to show up, to be fully present in our lives and ready to serve. I feel that now more then ever it is important for humanity to find a way to overcome the great turmoil and conflict that we are facing. For many of us who have always wanted to help, wanted to serve, wanted peace on this planet... it is time for us to not want any longer...but to become what we are longing for. In my own journey, my first step to empowerment was to love myself and except me for me. The second step was to then find the inner joy or bliss and to feel complete and whole. That is Anand. Granted, every day I work on self love and inner joy. But, I know through my own experience that once these things are firmly planted, truly serving with your whole being and talent can begin.

Q3 Please talk about the different tracks on the CD, what they mean to you, what their general meanings are and why you chose these mantras/songs?

Guru Ram Das Rakho Sarana-ee. During the second week of recording Anand, I was really doing some deep soul searching. I felt as though we hadn't really gotten to the depth that was required for this album, and for the people out there that would be listening to it. I decided to go to the local Gurdwara in Los Angeles, called Guru Ram Das Ashram, and prayed to Guru Ram Das the fourth Guru of the Sikhs for help. In my prayer I said to Guru Ram Das, please help me find a way to serve these beautiful people that we are meeting, give them your light and your protection... that is all I ask. At that moment I got inspired and pulled out the harmonium that sits in the Gurdwara and began to play the beginnings of the music for this piece. I brought it to Thomas that morning, and we recorded it and most of my final vocal that same day.

Jap Man Satinaam. This track is a small window into the great writings of the Sikhs and the experience of how flowing and beautiful the words and the experience of reciting these words can be. I truly feel blessed to have grown up in the Sikh lifestyle and community and to have such a beautiful musical legacy to follow. We merged some of the traditional Gurbani Kirtan styles with western elements. The experience of preparing this Shabad, or sacred song, brought me a sense of stillness and calm. For me, this track represents where I would like to grow more in my musical and spiritual development.

Anand. This is the album's title. Krishan Prakash, GuruGanesha and I were experimenting with different rhythms and sounds and came up with the music. The words came on there own as we naturally gravitated to singing "Waheguru" and then the first section of one of the most beautiful writings of the Sikhs called "Anand Sahib." I feel that this track represents a little bit more of the freedom of the live music experience.

Paramaysareh. The tenth Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh gave the Guruship to the Siri Guru Granth Sahib. This is a sacred body of recitations from the Sikh Gurus and other enlightened masters of India. At an early age I developed a relationship with the Siri Guru Granth Sahib as my Guru, and would often spend hours in our family Gurdwara either sitting and meditating in front of the Guru, chanting, or reading from the Guru. My spiritual teacher, Yogi Bhajan, always said that you've got to find the word or words in the Siri Guru Granth Sahib that really speak to you... then when you recite them your whole being lights up. Well one day I was reading and came upon the following words and just had a rush of joy pass through my body.
Aad pooran
In the beginning, God pervades.
Madh pooran
In the middle, God pervades;
Ant pooran
In the end at the time of death God pervades.
God is the Transcendent Lord.

This track is a celebration of these words and ultimately of "Parmaysureh" the Transcendent Lord that exists in all people, of all faiths, in all beings, in all spaces and in all times.

Ek Ong Kar Sat Nam
During the recording of this album I stayed with Simran Kaur and Guru Prem Singh of Los Angeles. Guru Prem Singh is a wonderful composer and musician and one day he played this chant for me with his beautiful tune. I fell in love with it, and we began performing it live. People sang along with us with so much love... that I knew this had to go on the album.

Kabir's Song
This song was a part of my child hood. A few years ago while on stage, I just did an impromptu version of it because the words express the deep journey that I feel in my own soul. Yogi Bhajan used to say that when you are teaching, speak as if you are teaching yourself. I took the same principal to singing, I like to sing as if I'm singing to myself.

Mul Mantra
One day while we were driving in the van on the Celebrate Peace Tour on a highway somewhere I pulled out the guitar and started playing this tune. When we brought it to the studio Thomas of course took it to the next level and now it is awesome.

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