Music and Media Focus - Feature Article - "Source of Compassion" Oct 2016
October 31, 2016
What is the Spotted Peccary album "Source of Compassion" all about, anyway? Michael Diamond's recent feature article on Music and Media Focus interviews Howard Givens and Madhavi Devi on their thoughts, methods and intentions for this transformative meditative and energy-shifting work of musical art. Read on!
Album: Source of Compassion Artists: Howard Givens and Madhavi Devi Websites: www.howardgivens.com www.madhavidevi.com
"Howard Givens and Madhavi Devi are two highly regarded artists whose work I’ve been familiar with separately dating back to the 1990’s. Howard is a musician and producer extraordinaire creating his own ambient electronic music as well as working on numerous other artist’s projects at the famedSpotted Peccary Music label of which he is a founder. Madhavi Devi is an innovative harpist, sacred soundscape creator, and visual artist who I knew as Cheryl Gallagher when her smooth jazz album Kinetic came out in 1999, which was one of my favorites at the time. So it is interesting to find them coming together so many years later to blend their talents on a brand new album of spiritually focused music entitled Source of Compassion. From my first listen, I could tell this was a proverbial “match made in heaven.”
My interview with the pair revealed two people of tremendous depth, insight, and unbounded creativity, which will be reflected in this feature article. For them, the creative process is a vehicle for the expression of Spirit. As mentioned, Madhavi’s earlier contemporary instrumental music was more jazzy
and upbeat, compared to the meditative ambiance of this new release. Not long after her Kinetic album came out, Madhavi had the opportunity to travel to Tibet, which was a profound and catalytic experience for her, resulting in an album entitledTibet with Deborah Martin. In her words: “Since the release of the album Tibet, spiritual practice, development and transformative growth have led to a deeper exploration of the sonic sacred, this time with Spotted Peccary’s founder, mentor, and muse Howard Givens, investigating profound resonances and the depths of intuitive collaboration. Source of Compassion reflects the years since, the absorption and development of that transformative energy, striving to work and yet simultaneously NOT work, instead to allow the ephemeral creative horizon to open up and envelop us whole.”
Likewise, Howard shared: “I am centered around the spiritual path or journey, and find a deeper resonance with expressing music directly related to that path. Source of Compassion has been a deepening of that conviction where the compositions led to both clearing of past notions and obstacles – in life and art – and discovery of an authenticity with the relationship of music and instruments. This project is not purely some cathartic self-examining work. Source of Compassion is shared as both an intimate art expression of The Source and the journey one travels to reveal it (certainly influenced, in part, by Madhavi’s and my own personal journey).”
I was intrigued by their creative process in the making of this record, which Howard described in this way: “Often, our ideas were initiated by more traditional compositional techniques of structure, but led to more “live” sessions, where final parts were recorded in the moment with little editing involved. This process captured a more transparent sense of the artist to artist, and artist to music relationship. The project culminated in the last track simply being a two part, virtually unedited performance that quietly and symbiotically finished this album’s message.” With Howard being such a master sound designer and studio wiz, it was interesting to hear him say: “We spent less time being attached to specific aspects of sound design, and/or the manipulation of sound intended to yield a desired result, and more time with the authentic nature of the music with regards to the intention of the project… a bit more ‘why’ rather than ‘what’. As the work took shape, the intention for the project was refined, perhaps more understanding discovered, and the titles, art elements, and overall flow of Source of Compassion was unveiled.”
And speaking of art elements, the beautiful album cover was designed by Daniel Pipitone, Spotted Peccary’s excellent graphics designer, and included elements from several of Madhavi’s original artworks, about which she shared: “Tibetan Buddhist energy, symbolism and images are featured prominently on the cover of Source of Compassion. Most of these cover art works were created by myself at Howard’s side, listening and learning while Howard applied his formidable mixing and mastering skills to our tracks. Ultimately, for me, the imperative drive to produce more and more authentically profound and meaningful art, that reflects the holistic process of self-discovery, revealing and removing barriers to creative freedom, and is my favorite form of meditation.”
A sense of the sacred is invoked right from the beginning of the first track, as chiming temple bells ring out over a deeply layered electronic soundscape on an 11- minute piece entitled “Intention.” While I had started listening to the album on my studio speakers, I soon stopped and started the album over after switching to headphones, as the sonic space the music creates is so immersive that I wanted to be enveloped in it. A similar expansive ambience is heard on the next track, “Emergence,” as ethereal sounds flow in and out of the meditative sound field carrying the listener along in their celestial current.
The extended length of these tracks make them perfect for deep inner journeys, and “Omkara” is a perfect example. On this one, I particularly liked the way that the sustained evolving textures open up into a gently pulsing Tangerine Dream-like sequence that provides a sense of forward motion at about 3 minutes into the track. I also appreciated the random generation of the notes in the sequence, as opposed to a strictly repeating pattern, which gave it more of an organic feel, if such a term can be applied to electronic music. Exotic and intriguing percussive elements appear later in the track as it floats effortlessly through its slowly evolving arc over nearly 17 minutes.
As the album’s title track unfolds, an earthier ambiance is heard in the sounds of nature and soft tribal drumming that begin the piece, providing a foundation for the dreamy electronic textures that drift over it. This particular blend brought to mind some of the ethno-ambient music I’ve heard from fellow sonic explorer Steve Roach. On track 5, “Pathless Passage,” classic synthesizer blips and bleeps define a pattern that is punctuated by rhythmic sounds creating a somewhat eccentric groove that is quite cool. As it evolves, additional electronic patterns weave in and out in counterpoint as the sustained textures tie it all together. The album draws to a serene conclusion on a purely non-rhythmic piece entitled “Connected Space,” that evokes a deeply meditative sacred vibration. This is archetypal Hearts of Space territory that will be familiar to listeners who frequent that sonic realm.
One of the key things I take from the music on this album and my interview with its creators is the importance of intention in their creative process. In this regard, the album cover is not only beautiful to look at but reveals a lot about their intent. The Tibetan letters are the words for the mantra of compassion: Om Mani Padme Hum. According to Madhavi: “Through pure and devoted repetition of this simple mantra, the Divine Mother reveals…and compassionately observes. The Tibetan deity depicted is Chenrezig, revered as the ultimate Bodhisattva of Compassion of all the Buddhas. The image of his heart streaming with light everlasting merged with the mantra of compassion is central to the meaning behind this album. It is said that merely displaying this image energizes the intention for world peace, compassion among all, and the end of all suffering. Therefore, that is one expression of intention for this album, contributing to positive healing energy in the world, through abstract intonations and expressions of inner sound.”
Without a doubt, compassion is something we could use more of in today’s world. Artists like Howard Givens and Madhavi Devi use the power of their artistic expression to transcend the role of music as entertainment to create a vehicle for entrainment to a more spiritual vibration through meditative attunement. While Source of Compassion is music to lose oneself in, it is equally music to find oneself in."
MAINTAIN AN UNBROKEN INNER AWARENESS OF OUR HIGHER CHRIST CONSCIOUSNESS
Master says " Invoke God in the temple of silence, in the temple of peace, and invoke him in bliss. Feel that He is right here and that you are addressing him with all your soul, asking him to manifest on the altar of peace, on the altar of Bliss." The more we can maintain a constant inner awareness and open to God's continual presence, the more we can see the circumstances of our lives from a more objective and detached point of view. If meditation is difficult, try to practice this and pray for more patience and ask for His help. If the answer to your problems seem unknowable, release them to Him. Say into your deepest self, "God, I do not know what to do, I give this problem to you fully, please open my heart and mind to guide me to do what is best. Reveal to me the path I cannot yet see." It is important not to seek your preferred outcome, as you will block God's revelations to you that way. Seek only what is best, and God's will. This practice not only provides an almost immediate relief from suffering, but also allows clearer vision and thought, so perhaps you can be open to solutions that are obscured by personal pain, confusion and suffering.
Long ago, burdened with difficult problems and weary from worries, I felt I needed my mother. I prayed and meditated until I felt I was truly with Divine Mother. Into her peaceful lap, I rested my head in her lap and told her all my woes. Bathed in her Divine Light, I imagined that she stroked my hair, held me compassionately and listened. The relief and support I felt while communing with Divine Mother within me gave me the strength to endure. Telling her the story of my woes helped me see them in a different light, and openness of heart and the release of these troubles to God brought forth remedies not apparent while I was so absorbed in my own problems.
In this earthly plane, we have learned to experience things personally, both joyful things and painful, and yet, as powerful as some events are, no earthly experience is unique. There is personal and spiritual power in realizing this, opening up the opportunity to awaken inner compassion and understanding, setting the stage for patience, forbearance and love, both of others and ourselves.
Meditative practices increase our receptivity infinitely, but if you find yourself in difficulties with your concentration, do your very best to hold Him in your conscious thoughts, like a program or music playing in the background of our mind, and you may find that serendipitous messages will be conveyed! "Learn to be conscious of God all the time, in every act of your life. Invoke God as power in the temple of consciousness during the day, and know his embrace of peace and joy in your temple of dreams in sleep. Feel God in the temple of bliss in meditation. Having this great understanding of in realization of God, the Father of your being, you will never surrender to worries and selfishness...."
Remember always that WE are the ones in these earthly containers who feel limitations, of space, time, and the experience of separateness from each other and from God. God and the Great Ones like our dear Master have no such limitations, they are with us always, and they can reach us in any way, anywhere, if only we can remain OPEN to their conscious presence in our lives. "May Thy Love shine forever in the Sanctuary of my devotion, andMay I be able to awaken Thy love in all hearts." -PY
Inspired by the wisdom and perspective of great Master Paramhansa Yogananda
There is no existing on this earthly plane without living in or around some level of conflict , difficulty or pain of some sort. Some of us have more than we think we can possibly bear, the question is, how can we endure such painful difficulties with grace, without bitterness and hatred of those people or life events that impose such hardship upon us?
"Be afraid of nothing. Hating no one, giving love to all, feeling the love of God, seeing his presence in everyone, and having but one desire- for His constant presence in the temple of your consciousness - that is the way to live in this world" -Paramhansa Yogananda
THE HIDDEN GIFTS OF MEDITATION
Life can be a swirl of anxiety, trouble, and conflict with others and within ourselves. Bearing and burning the karmic seeds of past and present lifetimes can make it seem very difficult to be calm, settle the mind and meditate in the presence such pain and chaos. Yet the blessing of our Guru's teachings is that with even a few minutes practice of peaceful awareness, relief from our sufferings is possible, and over time, the rewards are palpable, even the greatest pain and hardship can be gracefully endured without fear, and lessen discomfort. It is common that the discomfort, fear, anxiety and pain of current circumstances of hardship interfere with your spiritual focus and daily meditative practice...here's some helpful suggestions to remember to achieve some relief and inner peace.
THIS TOO SHALL PASS...
Master has said " Every problem that waits for a solution at your hand is a solemn duty imposed upon you by life itself. Any escape from problems, physical or mental, is not an escape from life, but only delays your progress..."
An everlasting principle of this life is that everything changes, nothing stays the same. Even in your own human body, cells divide, renew, age and finally pass away. The cells you were born with are completely changed out at regular intervals, and yet the everlasting soul that is you remains essentially the same over this lifetime. Likewise, the conditions of this life and world change, the happiness and agonies of this life ebb and flow over time. Therefore, be patient, focus on your soul's ease and development, think intelligently, relieve difficult life circumstances as possible, and wait for inevitable change.
DO NOT HATE THOSE WHO HURT YOU
It is hard not to be angry when someone hurts you, your family, and causes you harm, difficulty and hardship, possibly even death of loved ones. It may seem difficult to understand their behaviors or actions, or comprehend that they may not be actually evil, especially in the throes of the suffering foisted upon usby such circumstances. The Dalai Lama observes often that a person's worst actions is simply that person trying to relieve his or her own personal suffering, as wrongheaded an approach as their actions and behaviors may be.
Master says "Develop metaphysical reason and destroy anger. Look upon the anger arousing agent as a child of God; ...You should not feel a desire to stab this little brother in return...Mentally destroy anger by saying 'I will not poison my peace with anger; I will not disturb my habitual joy-giving calmness with wrath. "
Likewise, if someone is simply disagreeing with you about something, allow them truly to have their opinion without persecuting them. This does not necessarily mean remaining in their direct presence, it may be necessary to remove yourself from them for your own comfort and security, but try your best not to hold grudges, as that hurts you far more than them. If you have anger, acknowledge that it is there, without denying the harm that may have been done, but do not let the anger fester within you.
Guruji said " If you heap hatred upon your enemy, neither he nor you will be able to perceive the inherent beauty of your soul...Be true to yourself and to others, and you will gain the friendship of God." Also, " Anger defeats its own purpose...When you recognize anger coming over you, know it instantly for what it is --that is half the battle won. control your speech, saying nothing...Protect your peace by calmness." Master gives us a little prayer, "Today, I will forgive all those who ever offended me, and I will give my love to all thirsty hearts -- both to those who love me, and to those who do not love me."
BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF AND OTHERS.
At times of stress, distress and confusion, take a moment to close your eyes and breathe deeply to reorient yourself in your consciousness of God. Pray for patience, with yourself if you do experience anger and unhappiness, and with others as they are angry and acting out. Remember that God loves them also, even if they do not realize it, and it is not for you to judge or hate them. How is this possible? Some people cause so much pain and distress in those around them! "Do not allow anyone to take away your peace and happiness. Sometimes little puffs of breath have more power to hurt than big blows. They destroy your nerves. Keep quiet rather than argue. Be safe in the fortress of your own peace. The minute anyone wants to fight with you, take a walk. If anyone insults you, just answer with your eyes. Affirm divine calmness and peace and send out only thoughts of love and goodwill if you want to live in peace and harmony." In other words, peace and patience come from within you, and not outside of you, therefore be patient with yourself and others to cultivate peace and God 's unconditional love in the world. Forgive yourself and start over if ever you lose the thread of patience and forgiveness, in all cases do not lose heart! While struggling with the depths of grief or anger, it is sometimes hard to access the peace of meditation. During these times, seek solace in Master's teachings, meditate as best you can as he has taught us, when grief and pain keep you awake at night, access his teachings, calm the breath, watch the point between the eyebrows and pray to release your pain and worries to God. Keep copies of his books near the bed and sit up and read for comfort and solace. "O Patient Heart, teach me to revive by meditation my old friendship with Thee. May I realize that in my journey toward divine expansion, incarnation after incarnation, Thou and Guru have been and will be my only Eternal Friends".
REMEMBER THAT WE ARE ALL ONE
"If you unconditionally love all, you have expanded your consciousness to Cosmic Consciousness. Think of the happiness of your fellow beings first, and your own happiness will be included in it....do not hate any other nationality or person, for if you do, you will, in some way, karmically draw that nationality or person to you in another life. Stubborn attachment and unreasonable hatred are both detrimental to the attainment of Cosmic Consciousness. You should learn to love all things impersonally, because all belong to God." Sometimes this may mean that you do not remain in the presence of someone who attacks you or otherwise causes you harm. By maintaining composure and an impersonal view, if a difficult situation becomes unresolvable while you are present, make arrangements for a change of place or situation somehow. Whether you stay or go, resolve to expand your consciousness to receive clear guidance from God on the best actions to take. In this earthly plane, we have learned to experience things personally, both joyful things and painful, and yet, as powerful as some events are, no earthly experience is unique. There is personal and spiritual power in realizing this, opening up the opportunity to awaken inner compassion and understanding, setting the stage for patience, forbearance and love, both of others and ourselves. Remember that we are all in this world together, and we are not alone in our weaknesses and problems, there is nothing unique in them. Seek out support and guidance from others who have experience with your situation. This is our common experience, and we should be compassionate to ourselves and others in all that we do. (Go to next page.)