Sunday, May 14, 2006

Why I perform...

From time immemorable, dancers, singers, priests have been "performing" their devotions for God. By offering ourselves to the highest art, we allow something greater than us to come through, and we give gratitude for this little taste of God, of the mystical, that we are able to taste in our experience. I think of the Devadasis (bharata natyam dancers - "servants of the divine") performing their duties, their dances, daily in the temple, invoking the transcendent through movements so intricate that simply the devotion to learn them is an immense offering to God. I think of the ancient Rishis, opening themselves to the divine cosmic source and discovering the ancient syllables of creation. I think of the ancient musicians who practiced the art of listening, devoting their entire lives to the inquiry into melody (raga) or tal (rhythm), how these relate to the relentless and ever-changing currents of all life, and offering these same ragas and tals back to the divine. I think of Mirabai, singing the river of her heart in absolute desire to merge with her beloved, the divine Krishna (one face of the Absolute). At the heart of all true performance is the desire to merge with God, and then to share what we receive. How simple. What a blessing.

My own story is such...
I knew not who I was, or what I was here for. I only knew that I didn't feel I had a place in this culture, and yet I felt there must be something more. Years of spiritual seeking culminated in a deep longing, a passionate desire to experience the divine, the mystical. That longing, that desire, triggered an immense opening over a few year's time - first as a simple "kundalini" experience, then as an explosion of light radiating from my heart, then as the experience of being "danced" from the inside out, and finally, as a voice strong and pure that came from nowhere... now here.

For me, the song, the dance, is a tremendous blessing, a gift from God, the greatest healing gift I have ever received. By desiring God so fully, that Light began streaming from within me, filling me with lifeforce and creative energy. I had been cut off from this connection for my whole life, hiding in the shadows of my own shyness, fear and unknowing. And suddenly, by Grace, I was given the gift of Life, of Wholeness, of connection to Source.

It is many years later now, and I continue to follow the creative path, continue to sing and dance. I brought up this subject - why perform? - because recently the issue has been raised on the subject of "performing" kirtan. But I've discovered that whether I'm singing kirtan or "performing," there is no difference. In either context, I am simply singing my heart out. I'm not in it for the recognition or prestige, but simply to offer the gift of beauty that has been my deepest healing. Like any of us singing kirtan, I am simply here to share my heartsong longing for God, my Love, and my deep Gratitude for the many blessings I receive. For me, both kirtan and performance are ceremonies of re-connection, and an invitation to take part in the dance of life. So long as we are true to our own connection and/or longing for the divine, so long as true inquiry and innocence guides what we do, we can't go wrong. And so we sing, we play the ancient melodies and rhythms, we dance for the earth and for the heavens. And in the beauty of creation we play our part.

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