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Thích Nhất Hạnh: A Message of Peace in the Midst of War

In 1972, Thích Nhất Hạnh, was a young Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk and outspoken critic of the conflict raging in his homeland.  During the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden he spoke candidly about the war in Vietnam and the need for peace.  He called for people to re-examine their lives and take responsibility for the causes of war.  This interview was recorded in half-inch, black and white video on a Sony Portapack and appears on the DVD ‘2 U.N. Earth Summits: 1972 & 1992’ by Dean Evenson.

Transcription:
“Pressure should be made in order to stop the flow of weapons in Vietnam either by the United States and other countries, whether capitalist or socialist.  But that can be done only when there is already a commitment by the United States to withdraw in a certain period of time and the cessation of the killing.  I’m not talking about North Vietnam or South Vietnam, Hanoi or Saigon.  I am talking about the people in Vietnam whom I know, those people who are dying every day, who are suffering every day.  I am talking for their sake.

“And if you want to ask me the question of what they want, the most is that you stop the bombing, you stop the killing and then if we are alive we will pursue our struggle for other things like human dignity, freedom, independence and so on.  But if you think that you have to go on fighting and dying, then you are wrong.  I don’t think it is only the American government that is responsible for the war.

“Most of you know that the political-economic system there has been causing things like war in Vietnam.  That is why not doing anything about the system and only demand the government to do everything, that is not enough.  And I’m afraid that even if you get another new president, he may be doing the same thing as the present one.

“That is why for the people to re-examine their lives, themselves, to know whether they are participating in the strengthening of the present system in the United States is a very crucial point.  If you continue to support that system, continue to consume, continue to live that way, and then you cannot say that you are not responsible, that you are upholding the government in doing things in Vietnam.”

Thích Nhất Hạnh is the founder of Plum Village Monastery in the Dordogne region in southern France.  On November 11, 2014, he experienced a severe brain hemorrhage and was brought to hospital. There are signs that a full recovery may be possible.  We are praying for his perfect health.

 

 

Ten Toning Tips to Deepen Meditation

1 Sit or lie down, close your eyes and relax your body
2 Take a deep breath, hold a moment and release
3 As you exhale, allow a quiet humming to occur as you push the breath out
4 Do this several times feeling your hum resonating deep inside
5 Inhale again and slowly exhale pushing out an AH vowel tone with the breath
6 Repeat as many times as you want focusing on love and your Heart Chakra
7 Play with the sound, Change the vowel tone to OH feeling your Power Center
8 Concentrate on the point between your eyebrows
9 Focus on your higher power, your angels, God or Nature
10 Feel the vibration of oneness as you breathe in the life force

Toning is a simple system using the breath and voice that has the effect of energizing and calming the body at the same time as well as centering and focusing the mind.  It requires no musical training, instruments or technology so it is the perfect tool to support your healing and going deeper into meditation.   As we learn to relax and calm the whirlpools of the mind, we are better able to support our well being.  We can use this system anytime we feel stress or want to calm our restless thoughts.

The mind is a very active system and in the busyness of our modern lives, we often need help in letting go of worrisome or troubling thoughts that have a tendency to repeat themselves as incessant tape loops.  Even if the thoughts aren’t negative, by their very repetition, they can wear us down.  We call it ‘monkey mind’ as it reminds us of a bothersome creature constantly nagging us to think thoughts that are unnecessary or harmful to our psyche.  The word ‘mantra’ in Sanskrit means ‘mind protection’ so by toning a sacred mantra, we are protecting our minds from our own negative interference.

Our friend and chant diva, Deva Premal, explains the concept behind the OM mantra which she says is really three tones in one: A-U-M.  The first AH tone is opening up to love and a power greater than ourselves.  The second tone is UH and more like a funnel drawing that energy into us.  The third tone is MM which resonates the sound as a hum deep within us.  So by focusing on each sound separately A-U-M, we create a sacred cycle of breath and tone and with our intention, we enhance our wellbeing.  So whether you prefer vowel toning, humming, chakra toning or the simple Om/AUM mantra, you are likely to experience the healing benefits of toning.

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Practice Makes Perfect!

“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same…Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”   ~ Martha Graham

Have you ever wondered how musicians are able to perform their music with ease?  Perhaps you assume they were born with ‘the gift of music.’  That may very well be true, but I can assure you they didn’t get anywhere on the gift alone.  Most likely it was the ‘daily practice’ of their instrument that allowed them to create effortlessly. 

My husband, Dean Evenson, has played the flute for more that six decades and although he may have had the initial talent, he also loved to practice his flute. His mother never had to remind him to practice, he just enjoyed playing.  The result can be heard in over 80 albums he has produced, many of which feature his beautiful flute music.

Dean’s mother lived almost 100 years and was a very religious and kind woman.  Her daily practice was reading the Bible and prayer.  She did this ‘religiously’ which meant she did it every day with regularity and intention.  Her long life may have been because of her good genes, but it also may have had to do with her daily practice.

What we do every day becomes a habit.  Many of our habits do not serve us well and those habits may become addictions or obsessions.  We create our lives through our habits so we need to develop habits that enhance and not degrade our lives.  What thoughts do you keep repeating in your mind?  Are they supportive life-giving thoughts or are they worries and negative tape loops?  What do you eat everyday?  What do you do every day (or not do – like get enough exercise).  In any event, consider developing a daily practice in all areas of your life and you will be blessed with good health, happiness, and a life worth living.

Here are some simple steps to develop a daily meditation practice –

1 Decide what you are willing to do every day
2 Choose a comfortable place to practice
3 Create an environment that supports your practice
4 Set an intention to doing it regularly
5 Be realistic in what you are able to commit to
6 Eliminate distractions, turn off the phone and computer
7 Let your family or roommates know not to disturb you
8 Start small and let your practice grow
9 Keep a journal and document your progress
10 If you miss a day, get back to it when you can and make a habit of it

Click to hear some of our music that is supportive for yoga and meditation

Have fun and let me know how it goes.  Peace!

How to Use Toning & Breath for Meditation

Vocal toning is not an esoteric practice or exotic form of sound healing, but it is in fact a natural form of expression that may occur throughout our day whether we are aware of it or not.  When we stub our toe we may emit a loud groan as we moan owww.  Or perhaps we are finally able to relax after a busy day and we let out a sigh of relief sounding a long tone of ahhh.  We may hum a tune under our breath and feel the deep resonance of that hum.  Or we may laugh out loud with a big ho ho or ha ha.  All these sounds are indeed aspects of toning.
 
Yet beyond these spontaneous natural vocal tones, we can also use toning consciously to bring more energy into our own bodies or to enhance our meditation practice.  This can work by allowing the tone to put the breaks on our breath and slow down our exhalation which also helps slow down our mental thought process.
 
You can follow these simple steps to deepen your meditation using toning:
• Breathe in quickly and fully
• Hold your breath for a few moments
• Then exhale slowly and completely letting a sound accompany your exhale
• The sound can be a vowel tone or ohh or ahh
• When the exhale is complete, repeat the process
 
Be aware of your diaphragm, which is located just below your belly button.  This is the powerful muscle that causes your lungs to contract and expand acting like a bellows.  Relax into the rhythm of your breathing.  As you become comfortable with the process of expressing yourself vocally through toning, you will be able to deepen your meditative experience and reach a more peaceful state of being.
 
Chakra Meditations & TonesCheck out our album Chakra Meditations & Tones which includes affirmations on each of the chakras and vocal toning for each chakra that you can tone along with.  Toning is a fun, participatory practice that can bring a sense of rejuvenation and vitality.  The good news is toning can be done by anyone and requires no prior musical training.

Dudley Evenson taught a workshop called ‘Toning Up, Tuning In – Chakras & more’ at the 4th International Globe Sound Healing Conference, Oakland, California.  It was an amazing gathering of sound healers.  Sound healing benefits are limitless and the presenters in this conference had a lot to share.

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Creating Personal Sanctuary – My Sacred Laundry Room

SacredLaundryRoomA personal sanctuary for rest and rejuvenation can be of great benefit for individual health as well as for the health of family and community. By allowing your soul and spirit the refuge of peace, you are able to reach out and have a positive effect on the harmony of all your relationships – including your family, workplace, community, and world.

It is helpful if you can define a physical space where you can devote yourself to inner healing work.  This can be anything from a room set aside for meditation to a small corner in your bedroom or living room or a spot in nature.  I have made my laundry room into a sacred space where I do my yoga and meditate and love the privacy and peace it provides. Whatever place you choose, this is your special sanctuary where you can do your yoga or sit quietly and meditate, free from distractions and let go of the worries and cares of the world or whatever is going on in your personal life.  In this sacred space you can focus on bringing harmony and peace into your life.

You might want to set up an altar to help focalize your meditation, contemplation or prayer.  The altar can include a candle, flowers, treasures from nature, sacred pictures or anything that inspires your spirit.  If possible, it is helpful to play peaceful music in the background to help ground and center your soul in the spirit of peace.  I would love to hear from you about the kind of sacred space you create for yourself.  It is always inspiring to know what others have discovered to help bring peace into their lives.

If you’re looking for peaceful music to use for meditation and yoga, try Healing Sanctuary which we created after 911 to give people a calm space to retreat into when the world becomes too much.

 

Celebrating our Interdependence

Dean Evenson flute circleOn July 4th we celebrate America’s ‘independence’ from Britain.  That was a big step for the former colonies at the time and one that produced shock waves around the world as people from many nations decided they were ready to move on from monarchy and dictatorships running their lives.  Now, hundreds of years later, we have made a lot of progress toward democracy yet there are still  monarchies and dictators who rule much of the world.  Some would even consider the power that corporations have on us as a form of dictatorship, causing us to consume what we don’t really need, polluting our sacred earth and steering our actions toward their own desires.
We live in a world of extremes where some have more than necessary and many have less than they need.  How can we reclaim our citizenship and restore a sense of balance to our lives?  A good first step is by recognizing the interconnectedness that is our ever present reality and honoring the ‘interdependence’ we have with one another and all of nature.  We are truly one people and one world and when we focus on the blessing of that truth, we can create the world that truly supports each of its citizens.  What we do as individuals affects our family and the world around us.  When we join with others and create actions that have a positive effect on the planet and our community, we are exercising our rights as true world citizens.  Together, with conscious intention and focus, we can make this world a better place.  

 

 

What is the measure of a man?

Dean and kids ~~~~~Is it by the measure of his biceps? Or the amount of love in his heart?  Is it how much he can push his way through?  Or how gentle he can be in carrying his child?  I once heard the definition of a good ‘husbandman‘ (gardener) as one who knows when to plant the seed.  I would add that it is equally important to know how to care for the seed so it can grow to fullness and bear the fruits of its harvest.

I am grateful to have found such a man in Dean Evenson who has been such a good husband to me and father to our three children.  He has also been the father of Soundings of the Planet and all the musicians who have come through our studio.  The burden of a father can be heavy and we need to remember that fathers need all the love and support they can get.  So as Father’s Day approaches, let us remember to honor the fathers in our lives and let them feel supported too.

I was intrigued to learn that Father’s Day was first started in Spokane, Washington at the YMCA in 1910 by Sonora Smart Dodd.  Her father, William Jackson Smart, was a Civil War veteran and a single parent who raised his six children there.  In 1909, after she heard a sermon about Mother’s Day being started by Ann Jarvis , she told her pastor that fathers should have a similar holiday honoring them. She initially suggested June 5, her father’s birthday, but the pastors did not have enough time to prepare their sermons so the celebration was deferred to the third Sunday of June.  Its first celebration was in the Spokane YMCA on June 19, 1910.  

Take advantage of our Father’s Day sale of Soundings of the Planet music. 

Peace Through Music Supports Wounded Warriors

by Dudley Evenson
WalterReedGrpInspite of our life long aversion to war, my husband, Dean Evenson and I have found a way we can “support the troops” while still remaining true to our core values.  Since so many people coming back from battle are suffering from extreme physical and emotional wounds, we were looking for a way to really put our Peace Through Music mission to work.  Since 1979, we have been producing music for healing and yoga and the popularity of our music with healthcare practitioners and everyday people made us realize it could possibly be of benefit to soldiers returning from combat and suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

We decided to reach out to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, often the first stateside landing hospital for wounded soldiers returning from war.  When we contacted the head chaplain there, Major John Kallerson, we found that he had already used some of Dean Evenson’s CDs in his own healing.  Once he realized that he had personally experienced the benefits of Dean’s music, he was enthusiastic about making it available for his patients and began to include it in the Wounded Warrior Kit given out at the hospital.

Chaplain Kallerson told us “The music helps our patients focus on their healing and not the chronic pain they endure constantly. The soothing music of Healing Sanctuary and Healing Dreams provides a needed respite from the dreams and flashbacks of the terrors that our wounded have seen and experienced.  It is helpful for them to relax and not dwell on the bad dreams or images that they can see… Some find them very helpful to get to sleep.”

Inspired by this feedback, we began to research the effects of war and the stress disorders that often plague veterans of violent conflict and learned that music can offer an antidote to some of the emotional traumas experienced.  We put together a Relaxation Basic Training Guide to help returning soldiers in their healing process.  Couched in military terms, the booklet presented concepts of Nada Yoga or the Yoga of Sound and shared many techniques that are actually ancient yogic practices incorporating breath, muscle relaxation, meditation and mantra.

During two separate visits, we performed our peaceful music of flute and harp interspersed with teachings about relaxation and sound healing.  Looking back on the content of our offering to these wounded troops and medical professionals, we realized we were actually sharing the basics of yoga and meditation.  Although we didn’t demonstrate any postures, the foundation of the information we offered was yoga.  From breathing demonstrations to relaxation to affirmations and mantra, we were able to educate these service people about this ancient practice.  Hopefully our story will inspire people to reach out in their own communities to offer yoga, music, massage and other healing modalities to veterans who are in such desperate need of healing.  The benefit is for the veterans, their families, and the community at large.  It’s never too late to plant seeds of peace.

Click here to Download Relaxation Basic Training Manual

These are the CDs they have used at Walter Reed – Sound Healing, Healing Waters, Healing Sanctuary, Healing Dreams, Ocean Dreams, Eagle River, Eagle River DVD. Click here for Memorial Day Sale