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The Way of Mindfulness

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The water is warm, with bubbles dancing on the surface. I immerse my hands and pull out a plate, feeling its porcelain smoothness against my skin. It drips a steady, diminishing stream back into the water as I pick up the dish rag, then make a series of steady swirls across the white surface. The little clumps of dried food are released and disappear beneath the bubbles. The room is quiet and I can hear my own breathing as I rinse the plate and position it in the drying rack. I repeat these steps with more plates, then cups, then tableware. There is a serenity about it. I focus on what I'm doing. The water is warm. The air is cool. These sensations dance across my skin. There is nothing else in this moment. I am content.


Mindfulness

Mindfulness is just another term for paying attention. Too often in today's world we are constantly distracted by sights and sounds crowding into our personal space. We always seem to have our phone, our computer, our television, or some other distra…

The Alchemy and the Ecstasy

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alchemy [al-kuh-mee] 


noun, plural alchemies for 2, 3.
1.
a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life.  2.
any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.  3.
any seemingly magical process of transforming or combining elements into something new.
Alchemy

For me it's a ritual. I play these sounds, these vibrations—and I try to transform them into something else, something more. I also try to use them to transform my surroundings. This idea of transformation is really central to working with sound, as sound is a very strong and transformative force. Think about how you feel when you listen to your favorite song or composition. What does it do to you, to your state of mind, your feelings? 

Think of chanting, singing toget…

Every Step of the Way

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This has been a long journey. My personal history with the Gong started over 40 years ago. This blog has been around for over 3 years/129 posts now. I haven't gotten this far without commitment every step of the way. Even when I'm tired, angry, frustrated, or any of a thousand seeming emotions, I can always come back to the sound. 

It is my life. 
It is my refuge.

I'm not as young as I was all those years ago, and carrying around all these instruments and stands is not as easy as it once was. 

I complain.
I Swear.
I wonder why I'm still doing this.

Atlas Shrugged
But it all becomes clear when I pick up the mallets and start bringing forth the sounds: “This is why I continue to do this.” Who wouldn't want to do this? 

It's magic. 
It's amazing. 
It gives so much back for the effort I put into it.

I have learned patience. I have learned devotion. I have developed a deep spiritual practice. And it's all connected to the sounds. It's well over 40 years now and I…

The Art of Devotion

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Devotion is an often misunderstood word and concept. Most people think of it in a religious way, as in being devoted to some sort of deity. Or they think of being devoted to a spouse/lover/family. Or quite often, being devoted to a sports team, as in being a devoted follower. But devotion is actually different from that.




The word devotion comes from the Latin, devotus, which means to vow, or consecrate


vow
vou/ noun 1. a solemn promise.
a set of promises committing one to a prescribed role, calling, or course of action, typically to marriage or a monastic career. verb 1.
solemnly promise to do a specified thing.

2. archaic dedicate to someone or something, especially a deity.

con·se·crate
ˈkänsəˌkrāt/ verb make or declare (something, typically a church) sacred; dedicate formally to a religious or divine purpose.
Be Devoted

How many of us are really devoted to our sound practice? It's often easy to look at instruments like Gongs, Bowls, and Bells and think, “There's really not much to them. …

Your Life is Your Practice

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Playing the Gongs/Bowls/Bells is a Journey. It's a commitment. It's a transformational experience.

The question is asked, “Where do I start?”

The answer always is, “Here.”
Here and now. Now and here. Here now. Now here.

There is only ever now. - Singal Rinpoche 

Too often there is waiting.  Waiting for the right time. Waiting for the urge. Waiting for the inspiration. Waiting for permission. Waiting for the fear to subside. Waiting for the world to welcome us. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
But in the moment there is no waiting, just doing.
Waiting is passive.
Doing is active.
Make the time, take the time, to play your instruments. To explore. To practice. 

Bring your life into it. Buy food. Cook dinner. Wash dishes. Do laundry. Chop wood. Carry water. Play Gongs. Live your life, but pay attention to how everything is connected. Pay attention to how everything enriches your musical experience. 

~ MB
Chop wood / Carry water / Play Gongs™ 

Transcendence Is An Artform

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When you reach the horizon, there is still the horizon ahead of you. - Singal Rinpoche
As a species, mankind is always striving for new horizons. We seem to have a restless spirit, that despite various set backs over history, continually moves ahead. It seems that we are predestined to not just sit still, but to explore and discover the universe around us. A big part of this is our personal universe, for we all contain worlds within.

As an artist, whether you dance, sing, paint, sculpt, or play an instrument, there is often this sense of the act of doing our art being a sacred sacrament. It's no accident that religions throughout history have used music and other arts as a way to reach the divine. If anything, the arts are a bridge to another world, to the heavens.

Who hasn't been moved by the exquisite motion of a dancer, the plaintive voice of a singer yearning for a lost love, the grace of a marble sculpture, or the way a painting reveals new worlds. There is transcendence in …

The Art of Deep Listening

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Deep Listening—I didn't invent the term, but wished I had. The term actually comes from the late composer/performer, Pauline Oliveros. In short, deep listening is a way of hearing in which you are fully present. You listen to both the inner world (your mind, breathing, pulse, etc.), and the outer world (all sounds around you). The idea is to become fully aware of all the sounds around you. Through this heightened awareness, you become aware of sounds, and parts of sounds, that you haven't heard before. 

Oliveros said that “Listening is not the same as hearing and hearing is not the same as listening.” Hearing is a passive activity. We hear sounds all the time: traffic, the TV, birds, etc. And for most of it, we don't really pay attention—it's just background noise that blends into our environment. Active listening, on the other hand, is just that: active. We become participants in and with the sound. We notice our sonic environment and how it exists around us. We also l…