It has been about 10 days since I have returned from my life changing experience at Wilderness Torah’s “Passover In The Desert.” I was invited to serve as an artist in residence at this years festival. However little did I know that they were facilitating the entire holiday from the fist and second Sedar throughout the end of the holiday. I commuted to the festival with my dear friend Rachel Rose Reid who was also serving as artist in residence as well. We both met at Limmud UK last December when I stumbled into room to rest my voice because of laryngitis. We then had a two hour conversation by using pen and paper not saying one word to each other. I then realized her laugh reminded me of one of my old friends from my child hood. Believe it or not, Rachel is my friends cousin.
Rachel and I traveled to the desert, (aka the place of nothingness) hoping to arrive a few hours before the first sedar. My front right tire had to be tightened on our way out, but other than that we had a really smooth trip. After 3 and half hours of driving North east past Victorville, and the open desert filled with Joshua trees we finally made it to the Panamint Desert Valley where we would camp for the next 8 days. Right before we made the turn to the dirt road, Rachel asked me “What is Tanya?” Right as I opened my mouth 6 wild donkeys cross right in front of our car. I slammed on my breaks and we stood in awe as a family of beautiful donkeys greeted us. I knew at that moment we were entering a very sacred and holy place. I had the same feeling when I return to Burning Man every year. For some reason divine coincidences show up more when we completely disconnect ourselves from technology and open up to what is in the now. There’s something special about being in the desert. To be honest it’s my favorite place to be. I grew up in coastal desert with the ocean so conveniently placed to seek comfort.
The week at “Passover In The Desert” had a completely different energy to “Sukkot On The Farm.” Here we were experiencing an extra intimate connection between the community (the Village), because of the desert living situation. Compassion, understanding and mutual helpfulness were common in the interactions I witnessed. This desert seemed to crack open hearts and to allow people to be embodied with a deep sense of authenticity. We were all in this together. There were Jews from all over the world, and from all walks of life. From families, to elders, to dozens of young professionals who practice Judaism in their own ways. Some people belonged to a specific movement. Others choose not to define it. Everyone who was there were all teachers and students and this was vital to our dynamic and beautiful community. The kitchen was kosher for villagers who were orthodox or not and for villagers who were learning kashrut. Everything was kosher, and might I say healing and delicious.
I was one of the 22 villagers who participated in the Vision Quest. I have been trying to process my experience from the Vision Quest and I gained clarity recently. To be honest I still feel like I am on my Vision Quest. Indigenous tribes have been participating in Vision Quests to pray to the divine and seek clarity in vision and understanding of the world that we live in. Some of these quests last 4 days and 4 nights. However the one we I participated in was 16 hours, from 4pm-8am the next morning. We were invited to fast and stay awake the entire night focusing on our intention while in spiritual practice. For over three weeks before I went our to the desert I was preparing for the journey by creating intentions that I wanted to have clarity with after participating in this powerful ritual. One of my intentions was to connect deeply with the Shechinah (the divine feminine aspect), as I grew up always relating to g-d as the mother. I felt before the vision quest that I was loosing my connection to g-d and experiencing a connection with the earth. This was my time to ask permission to build on our relationship and feel mama earth connected with me through my interactions nestled in the natural elements our our world
After two days of preparation through intensive counsel with the wilderness team and shamans, we were ready to offer our blessings to the spirit. I walked out to the sacred fire wearing two kefiyot, sand goggles, my outback hat, and bringing my yoga mat, blanket, backpack 1.4 gallons of water. Twenty two of us met sacred fire where we each offered our intentions and prayers into the fire. As we were there we were greeted by our shamans and members of the village who were holding space for our quests and committed to praying for us as we prayed for them as well. Believe it or not many stayed at the fire all night as we were out there in the darkness. After offering my blessings into the fire I walked out to the location that I scouted a few hours before. I laid down my belongings and created a circle of stones around my yoga matt. As the sun was still up I did a 2 hour yoga practice and Kriya yoga chanting to clear the space for my night meditation. I davened mincha and as soon as the sun went down I walked into the circle and did not leave the circle until the sun shined on the mountains in the morning. The sun set and the most beautiful sunset scorched the sky with beautiful pinks, greens, oranges and yellows. The sky turned dark blue and the stars joined the sky one by one. I laid back and was in complete awe with the abundance of stars light that seemed to keep the desert lit. In those few hours of stargazing I experienced moments of clarity and was visited by many power animals. It started to get really cold and dark? Where was the moon? I called out for the moon. But where was it? I waited for hours and just let go. Finally a bright almost full moon finally rose over the eastern mountain peaks. Now I was really out there. I would have to make it through the night. Trust I would be safe. So I prayed like I never prayed before. I sang out to g-d so loud that other villagers in the valley were echoing my songs.
I soon became aware that I was in this calm dreamy state, not sure what reality was. I would go into mini dreams and was have flashbacks of my life and seeing future adventures. I was visited by the spirit. She came to me. I would go into more detail but I’m saving what took place in those hours for people who want to learn more.
In the morning the 22 of us returned to the sacred fire and had a half day of counsel to lear how to integrate our experiences into our daily lives. I shared my story and visions in counsel. I shared having a brand new relationship with the sun, stars and moon as they all guided me through this profound ritual. One of the shamans told me I have a bunch of new allies here, and more power animals to observe and listen to as I continue to deepen my relationship with the spirit. Another shaman also mentioned that the stones that I have been cultivating and praying with are fossil sea shells. These sea shells come from the bottom of the ocean, and the divine feminine (shechinah) is described as the element of water and the ocean. I have been using these stones from the unknown depths to help ground me as I pray to the only one who performs wonders that are mysterious like the depths of the oceans. I grew up surfing and theres no wonder why I have been yearning to be greeted by mama ocean. No wonder why I returned to the waterfalls and natural mikvehs that were up the canyon from the festival. I was returning to my spiritual home… the water.
A few days after the festival I was studying the daily Tanya. That day the world was reading Tanya chapter 42. In this chapter Rabbi Shnuer Zalman of Liadi talks about the sun, stars and moon and how they are g-ds internal and external garments. That when we experience their power we have access to the wonder they bring to this universe. When we are present to this we can be overcome with awe. This gives major clarity to a main point I have been struggling with in my Jewish practice. What some Jews define as “fear” of g-d is actually defined here as “awe and wonder,” That when we experience the vast power and blessing that hashem gives to us through the stars, moon, sun, creatures, wind and anything that we can experience we are overcome with “awe.” From here we can come from a place of nothingness and create our lives with the power of authentic choice with a foundation of love.
On this Shabbos, may you build on your relationship with the wonderful divine garments we are blessed to observe. May you participate in a new and profound awe that deepens your relationship to your spirit and the divine. Good Shabbos!
Today we remember the 6 million and more who still continue to live in a world with anti-semitism. Let us NOT give up on our pursuit for a spiritual Judaism. Let us all stand for the ability to see and feel divinity in all, May we continue to elevate this world starting with a foundation of love. From love EVERYTHING is possible. Today I remember and STAND WITH LOVE.
Today I will travel four hours north to the city of Ballarat, an old ghost town where I will turn off the road to my final destination at the Panamint Velley Desert. I will be serving as an artist in Residence at Wilderness Torah’s Passover In The Desert. I will be offering Jewish Music, Chanting, Yoga and ritual along with other artists in residences Rachel Rose Reid and Rabbi Mike Commins. May you all enjoy a transformative Chag and break free from negative forms of behavior. May you experience the mitzvot in new ways that help free you from all the blockages in your life. Here is something I posted about the JCC Shooting:
I loved being able to share my story in a new way during this interview. Kendra (which is also the name of my first acoustic guitar) asked me ” In recent years Matisyahu really shined the light on the whole Jewish crossover, and you’ve gotten to share the bill with him before. How do you compare and differentiate with him?” Well I was able to get really authentic here. Many people have described me as the next Matisyahu. I’m honored, however we have two very different journey’s and missions. Read up and comment on the article.
After one of the craziest years of my life, I will be returning to perform @ The Hotel Cafe Sunday night with my good friends and co-songwriters Heroine December, Molly Williams, and Scotty Grand. This event will start at 7pm and we encourage you to come all night long to support all the acts. Looking forward.
Hey there mates! I’m eating a nice brunch and enjoying the beautiful northern california like weather here in beautiful Brighton, UK!I was just informed that my interview with Local Music Vibe just went live. I really wanted to set things straight with my new music video, “Top Of The World.” Take a look at the interview here and see what are create vision is. It may flip you upside down.
It was just under three months ago when I was contacted by Limmud international conference in England who asked if I would be interested in performing at their 2,500 people conference. Limmud is a festival/conference where all denominations of Jews come together to engage in deep social, spiritual, formal and experiential learning sessions. There are world class Speakers, Rabbis, Publishers, Visual Artists, recording artists, educators, and enthusiasts who participate by facilitating sessions or just go to learn. Other artists who have performed there in the past include: Matisyahu, Debbie Friedman, Craig Taubman, Sam Glaser Billy Jonas, Dan Nichols, Julie Silver and Michelle Citrin. Having just joined this niche of Jewish spiritual music in the past 5 years, I was honored to receive the invitation and jumped to the occasion.
As being a touring recording artist I find performing at Limmud to be a “Golden Opportunity.” I have heard from a handful of people that Limmud doesn’t know how to treat the presenters and musicians. I’m very surprised to hear that, because that’s not the case. First of all, Limmud covers round trip flights, puts you up in a private room for the week, pay for your fee to participate in the conference and all the meals. As an artist they showcase you with state of the art sound, lighting and promote the heck out of you to the community. The best part of my experience was working with the sound engineers. I come from a culture in america where many of the sound engineers are gruff, lazy and aggressive. I have experienced gigs at clubs where the sound engineers show up late, do not care about giving you a proper monitor mix and leave the sound board during your performance. Andy, Jon and Ian (sound engineers) made themselves accessible to the many updates in my orchestration during my main night gig due to loosing my voice. They made themselves available for any questions and were completely present in all of our performances. The staff at Limmud were divine. Anytime an artist needed support they were there to listen and help create powerful experiences for us. The staff worked day and night for a week to make sure everything worked out. I had a serious issue and lost my voice for 4 days and during my soundcheck for my main performance I was going to cancel my gig. I walked outside and spoke to David Hoffman who is the director of the international talent and he coached me to switch the orchestration of the gig to support my energy level and voice. He told me not to cancel and to recreate the experience. I indeed did, and the performance ended being one of the highlights of the festival.
I know there are many artists out there who can’t fathom playing a gig internationally without receiving their booking rates. Yea, there are artists with this “diva” attitude and to them I say, “Wake Up, and be grateful for the invitation.” I know business is business and we get paid for our work. Limmud does pay you. How much would it cost to fly international, pay for the festival and room and board for a week to showcase your music for 2500 people you would of never met if you didn’t get invited? Think about happy many new gigs you will be invited to perform from volunteering your time on this one. The successful business owners participate in trade shows. If this is your “business,” then it’s your job to share with the world your product. I played 5 gigs and also taught a workshop on writing Jewish spiritual music. I already have been invited to participate in a handful of other Limmuds all over the world. You may too. Just be open to showcase what you do.
A “golden opportunity” should be celebrated. I am grateful for the opportunity Limmud has given me and looking forward to be invited to share my music at conferences like this all over the world. Blessings and light!!!!
I am beyond flattered that my new music video “Top Of The World” has been rated in the top 5 Music Videos of 2013 in The New York Blueprint!!! We are rated #2 right behind Moshav’s “World On Fire feat. Matisyahu.” The funny thing is BANCS media aka director Danny Knust and producer Erez Diwon Safar took home the winning for both 1 & 2!!! In third place was Shtar, 4th was Soulfarm and 5th was goof friend Ari Lesser. It is such an honor to be included in this cohort of artists. Thanks to all who have been watching the video. Please do continue sharing it with your entire community. I am inspired by the possibility of you sharing our creation!!! Thank you.
Happy New Year Folks. 2014 is here!!!! To start the new year off fresh, I’m featured in Examiner.com with an interview talking about his new music video, “Top of The World.” I set the record straight and talk about the meaning of the video and of course share some specific behind the scenes info. I also talk about the future of Jewish Music and my new initiative Merkava Mentors. Take a look and share!