Have Faith, Walk to the Edge, and Jump Into Life

Escalante in Living Color ©Lynne Buchanan

“It is important to have faith, walk to the edge, close your eyes and jump.” So said Robert Mirabal as he was introducing The Music of the Sun Choral Ensemble from New Music New College to the stage.  These singers closed their eyes and jumped into creating a riveting ceremonial piece with Grammy winning Native American flutist Robert Mirabal and Ethel, a highly acclaimed string quartet that has been ensemble-in-residence in the Grand Canyon Music Festival for the past nine years.  As I sat in the audience, I too closed my eyes and jumped fully into the spiritual experience created by these amazing musicians as they took a leap of faith and crossed over cultural differences to connect on a multitude of levels that took the audience into new realms. 

As Robert Mirabal breathed spirit across the openings of his flute and Ethel created a driving beat with the choral members toning and chanting, my chest seemed to keep expanding to allow the spirit that entered my own being to swirl inside and remove all blocks within.  I recently spent time in New Mexico and visited Taos where Robert Mirabal is from, so I was very open to the lessons from his culture that he shared as part of the performance.  I own a couple of Native American flutes and one of the highlights of my recent cross country journey was when I played the flute on a rocky overlook in Escalante National Monument as the heavens put on a miraculous show and the evening light painted the rocks a multitude of colors that filled me with awe.  The Native American flute allows our own unique voices and connection to spirit to flow freely when we play from our hearts, no matter what level of proficiency, though of course it is even more incredible when you hear someone who has played from his heart for much of his life.  Again, I was primed for a spiritual experience, yet I did not expect to be as moved as I was.  

Upon reflection, I realized it was the synthesis created by all these musicians and spiritual beings on the stage that created the depth of my experience.  It was the Native American tradition integrating seamlessly with western traditions that took the indigenous music to new heights, and of course the addition of voice.  The other day my friend Betsey told me that religious services always incorporate choirs because when people sing they tend to breathe in unison.  This creates a powerful sense of oneness and shared community, which is also what happens during Native American rituals.  As I listened to the combination of varied musical traditions the door to the collective unconscious was opened and my whole being was brought into the moment, my consciousness, my larger Self, my connection with nature, and all of human experience. 

When I got home, it suddenly dawned on me that I have been sitting on the sidelines waiting to jump fully into my life.  I have been practicing courage by doing small things and then facing increasingly challenging experiences, like riding on zip lines, going rock climbing with ropes, hiking into remote areas alone, and driving 13,000 miles around the country by myself on a personal vision quest.  I thought these were all ways of jumping into life, but I see now they were just practice for the next big shift in my life.  Still, practice is important, even when it seems like it is in a non-related area.  The New Music New College coral group had never participated in a Native American ritualistic performance before, but I know under the direction of Stephen Miles they have practiced, improvised, and sang from their souls before.  This is why they were able to perform in perfect synchronicity with the other musicians.  If babies suddenly tried to stand without inch worming on their bellies and crawling first, they wouldn’t be able to, and if they were suddenly propped up by some random act of grace, they would fall. 

Everything happens in its own time.  We should not judge another for the stage they are in or feel like we are lacking if we are stuck and not ready for radical spiritual transformation.  There is just more work and practice to be done.  All humans are capable of spiritual growth.  The problem is that time is running out and if we don’t access the spiritual dimension of our lives and shift our world-view to one of peace, compassion, and respectful co-existence in the web of life we call home, it will be too late for our planet.

I feel ready to have faith, close my eyes, and jump by taking my work in this life to a new level.  I have been pursuing the path of the artist to discover my authentic being, but now I see the value of art is increased when it aspires to be of service by shifting cultural paradigms. My daily rituals of practicing courage are removing obstacles of self-doubt, and I no longer worry so much why anyone should listen to me.  My voice is connected to something beyond me and my desire to speak and photograph comes from a love of existence.  I am talking for the oppressed–for the trees, rivers, people and beings whose rights have been taken away from them and whose voices have been silenced or are no longer heard.  Robert Mirabal said Native Americans believe trees talk to each other and to us, only westerners don’t know how to listen.  My experiences as a photographer have taught me to hear the words of nature and express them through my work.  Appreciation of the ways of indigenous peoples, fully connecting with my own artistic and spiritual heritages, and openness to the collective unconscious are giving me the tools to turn on my inner light and a way to show others how to connect with their own light, which every human being possesses inside.  We must all do this if we are to survive.  This is the only army the world needs right now. 

So what are you waiting for?  Close your eyes and jump into life with love…

Kissing Owls ©Lynne Buchanan