Monday, April 10, 2023

Finding the Inner Practice We Need

The other night I watched a film about the melting permafrost, 90 million square miles of frozen ground under the northern surface of the Earth. All this is thawing, thanks to our human-caused heating up of the planet.  The bad news.  Methane is released when the permafrost melts, many times more virulent toward the climate than the more familiar culprits. The melting is destroying animal habitats and human homes in the arctic are collapsing into sink holes.  In general, ecosystems everywhere are being upended.


All the predictions of climate scientists appear to be occurring must faster than they had calculated. The only way to slow up the cataclysmic onslaught is for the rich countries to radically change their way of life.  Nothing short of a social miracle is needed for that to happen.


It’s a hard thing to saye.  Planetary disaster is inevitable, short of a large-scale change of human habits and consciousness in the near future. One way or the other—engineered by God’s angels or by some nice extraterrestrials or by our collective subconscious—something has to give. 


So it’s either a karmic wipe out for the human tribe or a last minute  change of heart, a coming together in a rapture of creativity. Think of it as an avalanche about to engulf you—only in slow motion. Easy to forget about what’s coming.  And if you don’t stop an avalanche, it will certainly stop you. 


One nasty symptom of the Zeitgeist are the epidemics of young people committing suicide, driven by depression and anxiety. The Internet is a showcase for the pretty and the clever, but seems to create identity crises in more suggestible souls.


A more independent source of inward satisfaction is something we need to cultivate.  Pity the person that has to be measurably “liked” before she or he can be an authentic self. Might as well sign the death-warrant before one is born.


Some years ago I met in New York City a wandering minstrel from Rishikesh in the Himalayas.  He was a musician and sannyasi, i.e., a monk who believed that music was the best way to enliven and enlighten the human soul, especially during what he called the Kali Yuga, the Age of Conflicts.  Strangely, I dreamt of this man before I met him. In the dream, he offered to teach me music—but, oddly, without any instruments.  Only later when I became his student I found out what he meant.


The Indian name for retreat to practice is sadhana, a practice where you can explore and evolve your inner resources. It could be any art form. Any hobby or practice where you can watch yourself develop.  Cooking, making clothing, a sport, caring for animals, reading history, stamp-collecting, all forms of meditation, etc., etc. Sadhana is a way of gaining useful access to our subconscious treasure-trove.    


The Indian I met was Swami Nada Brahmananda who made music his sadhana.

I took lessons with him on the tabla and vocal, though my real interest lay in getting to know this amazing man, who was famous in India and had been studied by American and Canadian scientists.  He had abilities that were unique if not seemingly impossible, at least according to our reductive materialists.


It was a wide concept of music that Swami Nada embraced. He saw the melodies, songs, and rhythms of music everywhere: in the colors of the world, the fragrances, the delicate touches, the nuanced tastes, the landscapes, the emanations of other human beings—the vibes, we might say.  Nada, whose name means something like breath united with the fire of intellect, was one of the few masters of the yoga of sound vibrations.


As far as I can see, we live in two worlds.  Our bodies live and breathe in the external world, subject to caresses and hammer-blows of objective existence; but we also live in our subjective world of feelings, memories, thoughts, dreams, fantasies, and so forth.  Both worlds are vast, complicated, with great portions unknown to us.  Nada struck me as being a rare sort that seems to inhabit most of his existence in the subjective dimension.


Sadhana is a way of probing the uncanny powers latent in that dimension. I’ve written a book about my experience with this ghandarva (celestial musician)—Yoga of Sound: The Life and Teachings of the Celestial Songman, Swami Nada Brahmananda. I will have more to say about all this.  There is much to think about as the thunder of oncoming catastrophe gets louder.




Miguel said...

I have a vague recollection of driving up with you some time in the mid to late 70s to an ashram somewhere north of NYC near Harriman State Park to see Swami Brahmananda, but I don't believe we saw him, or if we did I just have no recollection of such. Instead, I think there was another fellow in his place playing the flute. Ugh ... my memory. Perhaps when I read your new book some of those memories will come back to me.

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Anonymous said...

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Michael Grosso said...


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