By Deepak Chopra, Will Ackerman, Paul Avgerinos
These are troubling times: hate is threatening to rip apart our national fabric. As our cultural conversation and political climate becomes saturated with xenophobia and divisive rhetoric, it’s not only incumbent on our civic leaders to stand up for what’s right. America’s creative community can also play a significant role by serving as activists.
As our country enters an era of fear and anxiety, we believe that many can find solace in the “New Age” movement, of which we have been involved for decades. More specifically, we are resisting the recent political developments with what we call “spiritual activism.” Spiritual Activism means speaking up for what is right on a deeply fundamental level: supporting and encouraging tolerance, acceptance, kindness, compassion and empathy. What’s more, spiritual activism can involve focusing the New Age aesthetic sharply on the challenges of our time.
Arguably the most pressing issue of the day is immigration. We are concerned about the isolationist, anti-immigrant trend in our country, and we wanted to make a positive creative statement that reminds our fellow neighbors and citizens that diversity is one of the hallmarks of our country. Our statement has taken the form of Home: Where Everyone Is Welcome, a book of poems and album of songs inspired by American immigrants. In essence, we channeled our frustrations into creating poems and songs, hoping that art can enlarge the empathy of our fellow citizens.
Here is how each of us thinks about spiritual activism and music:
India has a very long history of sacred, deeply spiritual music spanning at least five thousand years. The ancient rishis learned the essential vibrational power of music, mantra and devotional singing and its ability to transform, heal, uplift and transcend human suffering and limitation. The true beginnings of today’s ‘New Age” music may be traced to this ambrosial well of pure consciousness. To help heal our fractured hearts and minds I can think of no better remedy than uplifting thoughtful words and music. This is the power of poetry and music. Art can be used as a tonic to heal our wounds.
I have a very personal reason for being a spiritual activist. When I was twelve, my mother committed suicide. I was sent in the summer into the mountains of Yosemite to build and maintain forest service trails there. It was the most healing experience of my life, and I have always sought strength in the power of nature. At the same time, I discovered that music was deeply healing as well. Hearing Eric Satie changed my life. His music moved me with its heart and intimacy. I founded Windham Hill Records to explore this powerful gift of music. By simply putting music into the world, it can bring peace, hope, and beauty to a troubled world. Our “Home” project is a natural continuation of this desire to comfort and heal a suffering world with a message tailor-made for the issues of our day.
I am rarely politically active but the dangerous developments of this past year compel me to exercise my civic responsibility as a patriotic American and engage in Spiritual Activism. Being the son of an immigrant taught me not to take our American freedom and prosperity for granted. My father helped to defeat the Nazis in World War II, and I will do my small part to defeat and transform the culture of hate in this current age. Like Will, I also discovered the deeply healing power of music to comfort and uplift at an early age. Music saved me from depression and existential dread, giving me a deep and abiding sense of comfort and true joy.
We hope that more can turn to music to find peace during these difficult times. May our humble offering help to awaken the spiritual activist in you.
About the authors:
Deepak Chopra is the co-founder of the Chopra Center. Paul Avgerinos is a Grammy Award winning New Age artist. Will Ackerman is also a Grammy Award winning New Age artist and legendary producer of New Age Music. Chopra and Avrgerinos created Home: Where Everyone Is Welcome, which is produced by Ackerman.
Love by Paul Avgerinos
RoundSkyMusic.com (2009) 63:17 minutes
Review by Kate Russell
Seeing in technicolour, feeling goosebumps and a slowly spreading pleasant warmth. What`s this feeling? It`s “Love” by Paul Avgerinos.
Touchingly dedicated to his parents, who Avgerinos credits with showing him “… by their selflessness and devotion, what true Love really is”, this hour and a bit, nine track album is an uplifting, dreamy and sensual trip to the realms of love in some of its many different forms.
From the first notes of ‘Love Is’, the title track from the album, you know you are in for a delicious listening experience. It`s not often I get so excited at first listen – the mix of mellow, compelling melodies with delicate chiming accompaniment builds excitement for the tracks to come. This is an album with a wide variety of instruments on it – and as such, feels wonderfully rich to listen to.
‘Acceptance’ is a slow, reflective piece moved along by slide guitar melody and a sparkling backing track giving the impression of tree leaves rustling in the wind – like a walk through the park on a summer`s day. ‘Oceans of Bliss’ takes the listener down into the depths of a watery world with synth-sounding melody and ripple-like chimes alongside ocean sounds.
But after being sumbmerged in bliss, it`s only sensible that the next step to take is ‘Seven Deep Breaths’ – a foray into a higher warmer tone of piece that has a mysterious far-eastern sound and within which slow string melodies breathe life and mystery into the track.
‘Surrender’ seems to me the stand out track on this album. Sharp and echoey sounds drum in the wind melody with an air of tentative excitement that creates a welcome change of direction in the album, whilst ‘Healing’ Touch is a tenderly played track that trembles with emotion.
‘Rivers of Love’ is a flute driven, other-worldly sounding piece with an echoing wistfulness of synth effects.
Returning to the watery depths in ‘Tranquil’; whale calls and wind melody beckon the listener to a safe reflective space in time, with ‘Always Within You’ as a dreamy and sparkling swansong for the album.
As diverse as the arrangements in this album are, I would recommend taking the time to listen to it in its entirety, rather than track by track. This is not the sort of album you pick up and listen to one or two favourite tracks before changing CDs. “Love“ is an album to get lost in – a pleasantly healing and indulgent way to spend sixty minutes. Whether smitten with new love, celebrating found love or reflecting on lost love, this is a perfect album to fall in love with.
Kate Russell is a singer/songwriter and busker from Vancouver, up until recently performing under the stage name Jadis Gloom (www.myspace.com/jadisgloom). Currently she is taking some time out from her solo music projects to write, listen to other styles of music and gain inspiration from other artists and their own creative journeys. Believing that to look into someone’s art is also to look inside their soul, she enjoys the intimate opportunities for understanding others in new ways that being a music critic provides.