The Link

I like to write the program notes for concerts I give, and I usually include a brief biography of each of the composers whose pieces are played in the concert.  I played a classical guitar concert last Saturday which included works of Tarrega, Mudarra, Sor, Torroba, Turina, Lauro and Albeniz. If you are interested, I have these brief biographies on my website.

As I was inserting Joaquin Turina into my program, I noticed that he died in 1947, the year before I was born. I also noted that one of his best students at the Conservatory in Spain was Celedonio Romero. I found this very interesting because Mr. Romero was the founder of “Los Romeros” a quartet of superb classical guitarists made up of the father, Celedonio, and his three sons, Pepe, Angel, and Celin. When I was at the conservatory studying music theory, and guitar performance, I studied with Pepe and Angel. The “Fandanguillo” by Turina I played in the concert Saturday, was a piece I remember playing for Pepe in a master class many years ago in Houston, Texas.

I found myself lost in a daydream, musing about the direct link I had to Turina, a man I never could have met in person, but had come to know well through studying his compositions. And then to find I had another link to him through the Romeros! It is  most wonderful the thought and feeling I have about these connections.

After the concert, there was a reception and a gentleman from Canada came up to me and wanted to visit a bit about guitar and playing. Since I had a nice glass of wine in my hand and was feeling good about the concert, I visited with him. He commented that he had heard many of the pieces before, and that he really liked my interpretation of them. I thanked him for the kind words. Then he told me that he was interested in playing guitar as well, but wanted to learn folk and the “dobro”, and slide guitar. I smiled and said:”long ago I decided to specialize in classical music and study only the Classical Guitar.  I do not feel comfortable or competent on any other kind of guitar or music.” To which he responded:”why would anyone spend the thousands of hours necessary to learn classical guitar when everyone knows that the real money is in rock guitar? Surely you cannot be making a lot of money playing classical music. No one listens to it anymore.” This left me feeling a bit shocked and stunned, and fortunately, at that point, I was unable to answer him, for a nice lady interrupted us and said that there was someone I had to meet. I thanked him and moved on to meet this new person and hopefully garner another glass of wine.

But later the next day, I started thinking about “why do I play this instrument and classical music”? The first reasons I came up with were quite obvious, I absolutely love to play classical guitar, and I truly appreciate the music. In fact, I often feel guilty practicing, for it is pure enjoyment to me, even when I am struggling with fingering or interpretation. However, there is more. It all goes back to what I was saying earlier about the link and connection to the composer.

When I get totally involved in learning a piece of music and then performing it, I often get this feeling that I know the composer, know them personally, and want to honor them with an excellent performance of their music that they wrote so long ago. The crossing of the generational gaps of time to connect with the thoughts and feelings of these composers is really a spiritual experience for me. And I am honored to be a part of the chain bringing the music of those long since passed – to a living audience of today.

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The Player of the Instrument

martinI am coming to understand that there is a huge difference in the application of thought. For example, which of the following will actually produce the desired result?  Wishing for something you desire, but not thinking you will get it; holding an image in your mind of the thing you desire being manifest and HOPING it happens; or holding an image in your mind of the thing you desire, accepting it, believing it, and allowing it to happen? The first will never work for it is simple wishing, the second one will not work for it is a false prayer, the third, if you can do it, will always work for it is the natural law of cause and effect. Why is that so? Might we visit about that a little?

If you recall in a previous visit, I came up with 2 assumptions: that thoughts are things and have power; and Intellectual knowledge is simply a starting point and not enough for success at any endeavor. And in another visit, I intimated that I believe there is one infinite power, intelligence -a universal consciousness that comprises all that is, in which everything exists and of which everything is made. I believe my being is a “bit” of that infinite being, my consciousness is a part of that infinite consciousness, just personalized as me.

To access that infinite power of consciousness and allow it work to create goodness in a life, one must create a thought in the formless, that can slip into the subjective side of the one consciousness and become a “mold” for the objectification by spirit of that which is desired. Is it that simple really? Yes, and no. For a “thought” is not only an image of what is desired, it also carries the emotion you are holding while thinking of the image, and it is attached to how you view yourself while thinking of the image. Success and results come down to a person’s belief and faith in themselves and their creator, an infinite, universal consciousness. As noted above, intellectual knowledge of it is not enough. To the extent one can believe that their thoughts have power, they will have power. To the extent that one can truly understand and accept the fact that they are a personalized portion of this universal consciousness and can, and do, actually create their existence, they will. To the extent that one can go within and unite with the one consciousness, realization will come. For those that are not willing to do this, their lives, more or less, will be created by the race consciousness in the subjective (subconscious) part of their being.

If you are anything like me, the first question that pops up in my mind is how? Honestly, I am struggling with that. But as I think about it, I am drawn to my learning to play the robinjango2guitar. How did I do that? I worked at it. I struggled and worked everyday until I got so I could play a few chords and scales clearly and awkwardly stumble though simple music. I continued, every day and my ability to play the music became better, over time, still better. Then playing began to be easier and soon I was performing difficult music, and I began to be able to create more and more beautiful sounds.

I do not believe that living well in this world is by stroke of luck or some hidden magic, though this world is magical. I truly believe that I can learn how and master it myself in due time; if I work at it everyday and see myself as an instrument I need to learn to play. If I am stumbling around in my mind now and thinking awkwardly, I will improve daily if I continue to make the effort. I also think it should and will be fun, for I love to play the guitar and I really do love being alive.

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Comparison

I want to complain! I want to put together an impressive string of expletives and offhand references of people’s lineage and shout it to the heavens. I want to. Indeed I really do. But I am going to make a comparison instead. And I will let you decide which is better. The comparison is of our federal system and all our politicians versus the Lakota Indian federal system and its leaders in the early 1800s (before the Hoop was broken). I promised myself that when I started writing, I would leave politics out of it, so to the best of my ability, I shall. Instead I will make it generally personal, for it is motives, personal desires and the quality of the individual that make the difference.

The senate in 1890When a man or woman in today’s world wants to become a politician and “help the people”, how do they go about it? First, they need a desire for personal power and influence. Next, they must establish a base of the powerful  and their money, and if they are successful at that, nothing else really is required. Of course, words need to be able to flow out of their mouths effortlessly, and they need a “message to the people” which need not be true, but simply convincing. But what is really in their hearts? Do they ever transcend their personal goals and belong to the people for the good of the whole? I want you to honestly tell me. My answer is a rather doubtful, no. The system established by our founding fathers is good and should work, however the people controlling it are flawed; and greed, corruption, and the search for more power is really the rule of law these days. Please notice that I have named no political party, nor will I, for the two party system is the cruel way those who desire power have developed to divide us and control us. I could go on, but I know that you probably have a clear understanding and possibly share the same rather helpless feeling about it that I do.

A picture of a Lakota Sioux Camp in the 1800sMind if I move to the other side of my comparison? Imagine a young Lakota man growing up in the Hoop of the People, before the Hoop was broken. His grandfathers are his teachers and he dreams of being strong and brave. If he were to decide that he wanted to become a chief of the people, how best would he go about it? First as he was growing up, he would need to prove that he is brave and unafraid. He would need to go into battle with the enemies of the people and “count coup” and even kill the enemy. Yes he would need to be strong and brave, but that was not enough if he were to become a chief. He would learn to be a good hunter and bring back much meat to the people, but that would not be enough to become chief.

Let us now leave our man for a bit and I will tell you some of the way of the Hoop of the Lakota people. This information was gathered by my grandfather in the 1930s and 1940s from “unreconstructed long-hairs” of the Siouan people, including Black Elk and Eagle Voice. They found in him the desire to know and understand and they decided to teach him what they knew. In the scope of this article, I will only go into as much detail as necessary to make my point. However, there is a DVD titled “The Way of the Lakota” that goes into much greater detail should any of you care to know more.

The Lakota, as a people, formed the Great Hoop of the People. Within that Hoop were seven smaller hoops called Teoshpaiay. These could be considered states, meaning they were autonomous and could travel where they would, but were still a part of the whole, similar to our federal government system. Each Teoshpaiay had a Wichashita Nacha (chief), and three Nacha (lesser chiefs). The Chief lived in the Teepee Okige, the highest teepee. The Teepee Iyokihe was the second highest teepee and was where the councilors made the laws for the Teoshpaiay. When all the Teoshpaiay came together for a council or for a great buffalo hunt, they created the great Hoop. The seven Iyokihe were brought to the center of the camp and were fastened together to make one large enclosure called the Teepee Thrown Over. It had sides only and no roof, for it was not going to be used long. It was here that the representatives from all the Teoshpaiay made the laws for the whole tribe.  The enforcer of the laws for each of the Teoshpaiay was called the Akichita and was said to have the power of lightning and thunder. He had the power over any who would break a law, including a Nacha or even the Wichashita Nacha himself. If a law was broken, the people felt that it was like breaking a bit of the Great Hoop, because it affected the lives of all.

Up to this point, all this is pretty much government stuff and a thinking person might reason that it could become as corrupt as any other system of government, given enough time. You only have to look at our system of government at all levels to see that it is true. But “hold fast, there is more”. In each of the Teoshpaiay, there was a society called the Wichasha Yatapika. It was comprised of “men of whom no evil is said”. It was an unofficial body of good men. They had the power to throw out bad people including the chiefs. The Akichita, or enforcer of the law, was chosen from the Wichasha Yatapika. Even the chiefs were chosen from the ranks of this unofficial body of good men. The Wichasha Yatapika made no laws, but ultimately had great power because of their stature in the Hoop of the People.

To understand the true meaning of the Wichasha Yatapika and its tremendous value to the people, let us return to the young Lakota man who has a desire to become chief. As you recall he is a proven brave man and skilled hunter, but that was not enough to be chief. Lets call him Eagle Voice. It will take Eagle Voice a long time to become a chief. Being brave and skilled was expected, as was never breaking any laws. He also must be good to everyone in the Hoop and be generous and  take care of the old people. These things he will continue to do until the people begin to notice him. Imagine a group of old people sitting under a shade visiting and talking about the good old days. They see a “horseback”, our Eagle Voice, riding in from a hunt. He stops and gives them the best cuts of meat and honors them. They will start to talk about him and say that he is a good man. He continues to do this because it has become his way of life. He is brave and generous, the two most valued traits a Lakota man can have. As he continues for a long time on this path, and the people speak kindly of him, he eventually comes to the attention of the Wichasha Yatapika. The begin to talk of him in their meetings and say “this is a brave and generous man”. They speak of him over a period of time and eventually they decide, “this good man should become one of us”. They then call a meeting of the entire Teoshpaiay and call Eagle Voice before them. “the people think you are a good and brave man and we have noticed you and think you should become one of us”  Then they ask all the people “is there anyone here that can say anything against this man?” If all pronounce him a good man, they then offer Eagle Voice the Sacred Pipe. If he takes it and smokes it, he has made a vow to the people and is welcomed into the Wichasha Yatapika. Then he is taught what he must do in front of all the people, and they tell him, “you do not belong to yourself anymore, you belong to the people”. Thus Eagle Voice is now a Wichasha Yatapika, and as long as he continues on his path of bravery and generosity and goodness, he shall remain in the society. And if Eagle Voice continues to grow on this path, he can become Wachin Tonka; which is to be “filled with great spiritedness and great mindedness, one that has learned how to stand above himself as he stands above others”. And eventually, Eagle Voice may be asked to become a chief.

I have a few questions to ask you. First, you may know that in the early period of our history, Indians were considered savages. In light of the above, who indeed are the savages? If we “grew” our leaders as the Lakota once grew theirs, what would our country be like today? Is there anything we can learn and bring into our society? What if our leaders truly understood that they now belonged to the people and not to themselves? Isn’t it motives, personal desires and the quality of the individual that make the difference?

All the best to you.

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The Sacred Hoop

I have a question for you. Do you believe that all things are related? Do you believe in the inclusiveness of all things? Do you think there is a spiritual “mind-stuff” out of which everything is created? Granted, though I have just lost my audience, I know there is more than a few of you who do believe this and I would like to visit with you a bit. EVERYONE is welcome to read along, for you are welcomed with an open mind and heart.

I have come to believe very strongly that all things are related and in a great infinite consciousness we all live, move and have our being, from a rock to a human. I also believe that all form is temporary (in the infinite sense) and that spirit is eternal. There are many ways one could come to this belief, but however it is obtained, it takes a good deal of internal dialogue, at least for me, to truly come to grasp it.

There are many names for it, but for me it is the Sacred Hoop. That name and the concept behind it was handed down to me from my mother, who got it from her father, who received it from Black Elk, a Lakota holy man, who in another time or place I believe would have been a great prophet. In 1931, John Neihardt had extended meetings with Black Elk with Black Elk’s son, Ben Black Elk, acting as interpreter. The meetings resulted in the book Black Elk Speaks; which is still in print for any who desire to know more about it.

ImageMy grandmother, Mona, was a sculptor and had studied with Rodin as a young woman before coming to America to marry my Grandfather. She came from a world with stately gardens to live on the prairie with a man who grew up in a sod house. That is a very interesting story, but not exactly in the scope of this article. However, if you should want to know more about that tale, The Broidered Garment, by Hilda Neihardt, my mother, is a great read. Anyway, when my grandfather got back from his meetings with Black Elk, and explained the concepts to his wife, Mona, her creativeness immediately went to work on the Great Sacred Hoop. She designed and then built a formal garden based on the concepts of the Sacred Hoop.

As Black Elk told my grandfather:”Imagine a hoop so large that everything is in it – all two-leggeds like us, the four-leggeds, the fishes of the streams, the wings of the air, and all green things that grow. Everything is together in this great hoop.” Thus in a wide open space in her  yard she made a large circle, representing the entire universe and all things included in it. She then marked the 4 directions, South, West, North and East in the large circle. She planted a hedge around the circumference leaving an open space at each of the four directions. Black Elk continued:”Across this hoop, running from the east where the days of men begin to the west where the days of men end, is the Hard Black Road of Worldly Difficulties. We all must pass along this road, for it represents the world of everyday life.” Mona fashioned a path of black rock starting in the east side of the hedge and going to the west edge. “if the black road were the only one along which we may pass, then this life would not mean much. but there is another road: It is the Good Red Road of Spiritual Understanding, and it begins in the south where lives the power to grow and proceeds to the north, the region of white hairs and death.” Now she made a path of red rocks that started in the southern point of the hedge and proceeded to the north edge. Black Elk speaking in Lakota and Ben earnestly and haltingly explaining in English what the old man said:”Where this Good Red Road crosses the Hard Black Road, that place is holy and there springs the Sacred Tree which shall fill with leaves and blooms and singing birds.” Mona then planted a flowering crab tree in the center of the garden where the 2 paths crossed. And in this manner, she built her Sacred Hoop.

ImageI remember as a small boy, visiting at my grandparents farm and going into the Sacred Hoop Prayer Garden. As I remember now they all called it simply the Prayer Garden.  I do not know, but was that tingling, special feeling I got then as I entered it from the South real or imagined? Does years of prayers and reverence really make a place holy and sacred? What I do know is that all of my adult life I have built a Sacred Hoop in my own yard, first to honor my grandparents, then because I needed to have that special place to go. Since I live now in the Sonoran Desert, my Sacred Hoop has taken on the character of the desert. It is filled with cactus and the perimeter of the circle is now rocks instead of a hedge. I replaced the crab apple tree with a rock fountain, for water is the most precious thing of the desert. Of course there is more to the Sacred Hoop and how Black Elk spoke of praying in the sacred circle, but that I will relate to you later. Best to all of you.

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The Good Red Road

The other night I was watching television, I know, a mistake in its own right, but I was. On this program, there were four people debating belief in God and belief in No God, two atheists and two Christians. I listened intently for a few minutes, though it did not take more than an instant to realize none of them would touch my heart or mind with their arguments. I was struck by the intense anger and hatred spewing forth from one atheist in particular. He was a scientist. The other atheist could not get past the earth being older than 10,000 years. He was a historian. Sadly the two Christians seemed to me to be defending an old man sitting on a large throne with long white hair and a flowing beard with a very angry look on his face. This was a debate, with all the arguing, with all the anger and vitriol, over truth and light and love? Can this really be? Would intelligent people, with years of experience in living and being, really want to fight about this? Of course the answer is YES! One only need look around the world to see the unbelievable limitation, control and carnage perpetrated by one against another in the name of God! I really do not want to visit about that right now, I have a simpler more personal bit I want to share.

The Sacred Hoop

The Sacred Hoop

I think that over the past few thousand years, the human race has built up a powerful race consciousness. Can you imagine the sheer volume of thoughts that have been thought, the opinions that have been expressed? (From earlier visits you may recall that I believe that thoughts are things and have lasting power.) I have come to believe that the race consciousness operates in the subjective or unconscious side of our minds;  meaning there is a consciousness at work creating and building our physical existence that we are unaware of and for the most part, have left on autopilot to pursue its ends. It is filled with thoughts of limitation, poverty, and fear. I am inclined to believe that the continuing state of world affairs is primarily a result of the evolution or playing out of this race consciousness. I am not asking you to believe this or not, it is for you to decide, I am just visiting with you about it. This world then is the Hard Black Road of Worldly Difficulties that Black Elk, a Sioux Holy Man, told my grandfather about in 1931 that resulted in the book, Black Elk Speaks. The black road begins in the East of the Great Hoop where the days of man begin to the West where the days of men end. (The concept of the Great Hoop is an all inclusive, infinite space that includes the entire universe, and ALL things are contained within it. I recently found a 50 year old film of my grandfather talking about his meetings with Black Elk and about the meanings of the Sacred Hoop. I have cleaned up and edited the pictures and graphics and it is available as a DVD.)

I know the previous paragraph paints a pretty grim picture of humanity, but none-the-less, you can look around you and see that it is true. However, there is another side to this that can overcome this current state of being. It is personal, meaning it can only be done one person at a time, one consciousness at a time. It can only be achieved inside an individual conscious mind that is yearning for a greater understanding, and takes place in the space between the two ears. It requires belief and faith in an infinite intelligent consciousness that is good; and an understanding that conscious thought has power and can affect real change, a change that begins in the formless as a mold and evolves into the conditions of your life.

Let us say we are traversing the Hard Black Road of Worldly Difficulties and at some point we begin yearning for a realization of the true meaning of this existence. We truly begin to search inward for a spiritual understanding behind life. As Black Elk talked to my grandfather of the Black Road he stated that if that was the only road, this world would not mean much. But he said that there is another road, the Good Red Road of Spiritual Understanding. This red road begins in the South where lives the power to grow and proceeds to the North of the Great Hoop, the region of white hairs and death. The Red Road is the road the mind travels in search of spiritual understanding and guidance. If, when you have a great difficulty, and turn your mind inward in search of an answer, and then find it; you are using spiritual guidance to overcome worldly difficulty.  Black Elk said that where the Good Red Road intersects the Hard Black Road, that place is Holy and there springs the Sacred Tree of Life, which in man could be called realization. As more people turn inward for understanding, the world will change, and change for the better. Life can be truly wonderful, filled with prosperity, happiness and love. Why would we argue, fight and even kill over belief, or non belief, instead of turning inward and finding the real answer for ourselves?

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When Is It Finished?

ImageI mentioned I was a guitarist.  I am a composer of music as well. That in itself, is hardly worth mentioning for we all know there are approximately one gazillion people who call themselves composers or songwriters. Not to worry, that is not the real reason for writing this. However, while I am stalled here, I guess I should at least give you a glimpse at what kind of composer I am. If you navigate to my listening page, you will find several examples of recent pieces I have composed (I do hope you enjoy them). I now assume that you went away, listened, and some of your are back and still willing to hear what I have to say!

The composition at the top of the listening page titled: “Joy” was titled “Reverie” a couple of days ago. I wrote “Reverie” in 2007 or thereabouts. I distinctly remember when it was finished, I took a certain pride in it and thought I had created a very good bit of music. Last week I stumbled upon the 2007 manuscript and started looking it over. I still liked the main melody well enough, for I believe melodies are inspired by a higher power, but I became increasingly aware that my part in the compositional process of this work was “less than adequate” from the standpoint of my current level of competence and understanding.

Before I took up this old manuscript, I had been staring at a blank score for an uncomfortable amount of time wondering if it was going to compose itself, or if there was some inspiration forthcoming. So I took the discovery of the manuscript as a blessing and decided to see what I would do with it after 5 more years experience in composing. What I thought at that moment was “At what point is something you are creating, actually created? When is it done?” That struck me as a pretty good question and thought it deserved an answer.

First I want to tell you I believe there is one infinite power, one infinite intelligence, one infinite consciousness that comprises all that is, in which everything exists and of which everything is made. I believe my being is a “bit” of that infinite being, my consciousness is a part of that infinite consciousness, just personalized as me.

As I pondered: “At what point is something I am creating, actually finished and created?”; I came upon a realization that serves me well. Five years ago, when I wrote “Reverie”, my consciousness and my connection to the infinite consciousness was at a certain point as a result of my living and striving. When I viewed it again a few days ago, it was from a new point of awareness and realization, which was a result of the striving and becoming I have gone through over the past five years. What that means to me is that a creation is complete and finished when it reaches the level of awareness and understanding you currently possess in your being. When what you are working on reaches that “highest” level, and you gain an appreciation for it, then declare it finished and let it go.

I knew a man years ago, who had amazing talent working in wood and made a gorgeous classical guitar. It was beautifully made, had a decent sound and would have been a nice instrument for most any guitarist to own. He wanted to become a luthier and build guitars and make a living doing it. We all encouraged him and played the instrument and commented how nice it was. Unfortunately, this man never was able to accept the instrument as adequate of his current state of achievement and awareness,  and as a result he never sold that or any other instrument. I often wondered at what level of creation he would now be expressing if only he had sold that first guitar and moved on to the next! He was unable to realize the continuing unfoldment in a life and could not grasp that the perfect instrument will never be built, can never be built – for there always will be a greater unfoldment of consciousness, a higher level of realization, a greater ability to create.

I think I am going to try to live in the right now, do the very best I can do right now and accept what I create as being good and complete. I also am going to understand that all things are indeed temporary and that through continued striving to be more and better, ever greater creations will follow. All is well.

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Just A Thought, Continued

ImageHmmm . . .  I am a simple man. Please do not confuse that as some of my friends do and then respond when I say that: “You mean you are a simpleton?” Be kind! Be kind. What I mean is that when I am trying to learn something, trying to gain an intellectual understanding of something, I like to break it down into smaller bits that are easily grasped by my mind. For example, remember I said last time we visited that I am a guitarist?

When I am learning a new piece of music, I quite often come to a passage that I just cannot play and a train wreck of jumbled notes and dropped cadences wreaks havoc on the aural countryside. Whereupon, I pick up fingers, dust them off and analyze the situation. I usually start with the note before the wreck, then the next, and the next, one at a time slowly. I break the passage down into bits and pieces and master each one separately. Then I combine them and master the passage. During this phase, I do not care how long it takes, I just remain calm, relaxed and let it happen. In more than one instance, one passage has kept me from playing a piece well for months. I just keep working on that passage, and eventually, it becomes playable, then easy to play. Once it is learned and built into my fingers I can again say I am a simple man and playing the guitar is easy. I would like to think that this applies to many other problems in life.

Now. From our last visit, I came up with 2 assumptions:

  • Thoughts are things and have power.
  • Intellectual knowledge is simply a starting point and not enough for success at any endeavor.

However, do not misunderstand, though it is a starting point, intellectual knowledge, and let’s add realization, is extremely important. For as in my guitar playing example, the knowledge I possessed on how to master the passage was essential to the process, but was not the actual process. The process was, through repetition, building the ability to play that passage into my being. You guessed it! We now have another assumption, and with your permission I would like to add: for intellectual knowledge or realization to be truly valuable or usable, it must be built into the very substance of your being, it must become a part of the self. So now we have three:

  • Thoughts are things and have power.
  • Intellectual knowledge is simply a starting point and not enough for success at any endeavor.
  • For intellectual knowledge or realization to be truly valuable or usable, it must be built into the very substance of your being.

All the very best to you this day!

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