A certifiable Soular Power Station beeps onto my radar. Now, here I am in West Hills, Los Angeles, sitting across from a very robust-looking Buddhist monk, drinking a cup of freshly-made Chai tea.
It’s over 100 degrees outside, but inside this comfortable house-turned-temple, the atmosphere feels just right. The monk offers me a cookie before settling into a chair beside the sunny window. I take a cookie. Then I start asking questions.
Born in Sri Lanka in 1975, Shantha became a monk at the age of 12. He journeyed to the United States in 2009 with a vision: to create a retreat center. I look around, admiring the open meditation spaces, scenic paintings, and enormous statues that punctuate the property.
Shantha goes on to explain the major division in Buddhist philosophy.
Teravada is wisdom-based, and very structured. Devotees are careful to follow the sutras, a sort of manual for the art of living. Sutra literally means a thread or line that holds things together. Mahayana is compassion-based, and relatively subjective according to the present-moment perception of the devotee. Whatever feels most kind is the right thing to do.
But a person needs a blend of wisdom and compassion in order to be self-sustainable. When you get to the root of it, he says, the division disappears. This seems to be true of other concepts, too. The deeper your practice, the more you see it is all the same.
Shantha is forging his own happy trail, a philosophical merger grounded in his own understanding. For example, Yoga and Karate are not traditionally practiced by monks. As an acupuncturist, however, Shantha understands the importance of movement for the body. So he practices and teaches Yoga, Karate, Meditation, and Healing. He teaches whoever wants to learn. And he does it for free, because this is the way he learned it himself.
Sitting in a sunbeam, ageless and handsome, it’s natural to wonder how Shantha manages without certain, um, creature comforts. “People are always looking for satisfaction,” he explains with a smile. “But this longing creates a struggle. Through wisdom and meditation you see that the satisfaction in external things doesn’t begin to compare with the satisfaction dwelling within.”
Shantha’s teaching style encourages people to be more of who they are; to harness their own power, rather than following something outside of themselves. Indeed, Shantha is a Soular Power Technician if I ever met one! “It isn’t about all of this,” he says, gesturing to the statues of the Buddha and his robes. “These are just symbols and pointers. Sometimes they help people get started. But finding peace or making change—that is something people do with their own understanding.”
His job is simply to offer tools. To listen, to share, to guide, to hold space for the sacred process of transformation that can neither be faked nor forced. Shantha teaches in various temples and visits people in their habitations, while offering classes and events in his Shanthi Nikethanaya Buddhist Center.
The center originated as a four-bedroom home on a residential street. The garage has been converted to a Yoga and Karate studio, while the living room, furniture-free, holds an enormous altar. All of the common areas, both inside and outside, have been transformed into intentional gathering places. There is an impressive amount of creative engineering, custom building, and art at work here. While it functions as a temple, it feels like a home. This is compelling; it speaks to accessibility and everyday relevance. Indeed, Shantha’s messages tend to draw from the simple things of everyday life, because that is how it’s really lived.
Before I leave, Shantha tells me he is going to do a chanting and blessing for me. He directs me to the altar, where I light a candle and some incense, arranging myself on a cushion. Shantha speaks some words in English, setting the intention for blessings and protection as I walk out into the world. Then he begins to sing, a beautiful melodic chanting in a sacred language called Pali. Although I don’t understand the words, I feel a tingling wave of energy wash over my head and down into every cell of my being.
This monk holds a key to happiness, but he can’t give it away. Rather, he provides a living workshop, a tool shed, a place to go and whittle and hone the very skeletal structure of your body-mind. He’ll inspire, encourage, and nourish you while you forge a personal key to the door of your uniquely infinite potential for joyful freedom.
Meet the monk and see what’s happening at his peace pad! www.shanthinikethanaya.com
Take it easy.
There is nothing wrong.
Rooting and grounding into core strength, in present moment awareness, is always effective.
Activating the Love that I am, literally and figuratively.
The occupation most worthy of my attention is
FEELING, BREATHING, BEING.
It is a very pleasant priority.
It naturally accompanies a deep and inherent trust.
March 21st 2014- The first day of spring marks the release of Sister Speak’s new album, “Rise Up For Love.” With two Grammy Award-winning engineers on board—producer/mixer Alan Sanderson (Fiona Apple, Fleetwood Mac, Elton John) and mastering engineer Brian Lucey (Black Keys, Arctic Monkeys)—the entire project was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and album pre-sales!
With the people behind them, this rootsy alternative folk-rock band is ready for lift-off. Having toured nationally (over 100 shows a year), Sister Speak was nominated for ‘Best New Artist’ at the San Diego Music Awards. The CD release party at San Diego’s World Beat Center also features performances by Todo Mundo and Groove Session, both explosive acts in their own right.
“Rise Up For Love” represents a major milestone in a journey that has taken lead singer/songwriter Sherri-Anne though some harrowing internal territory. In fact, much of the album was written while Sherri-Anne lay recovering from a broken pelvis. She knew the music was part of her healing, and wrote with the hope that it would be healing for others, too.
“Life writes the songs. It’s when I let myself be vulnerable that I can share the deepest parts of me.” Sherri-Anne’s intentions seem to empower her with a glow of pure emotion, and the ability to share that light with others. One thing is certain; the album refuses to define itself to any particular genre or style. Sherri-Anne blazes her own creative trail. With powerful sensitivity and strength in raw, unfiltered expression, the music strikes a unique and grounding chord in the body.
Sharing the journey with Sherri-Anne is dear friend and dynamic drummer Lisa Viegas. As the core duo, they collaborate with a variety of other musicians. Two in particular, Tolan and Cubby, have fused themselves into the basic formation (this is further illustrated by the fact that members of this fabulous foursome serendipitously show up in the same clothes on a regular basis).
When award-winning songwriter, lead guitarist, and vocal harmonist Tolan Shaw joined the band in 2012, he had the same guitar as Sherri-Anne. And people say that when they sing together, their voices are like a warm blanket.
When bassist Jacob “Cubby” Miranda came aboard in the summer of 2013, he dropped right into the groove and took the rest of the group with him—gluing the sound together and allowing Lisa to really get wild on the drums.
“There’s a state of open, vulnerable connection and confident humility that I feel when we play together. The band is in a vortex. There is a conversation happening,” says Lisa.
Tolan and Cubby have no problem, as men, conversing in a band called Sister Speak. Together with Lisa and Sherri-Anne, the dialogue expands to include a diverse, quickly growing audience. They each work tirelessly to do all the big and small tasks an independent album launch requires, while continuing to develop as musical beings.
Taking to The World Beat Stage on the 21st, Sister Speak celebrates the richness along the way. They truly couldn’t have done it without their fans. “We believe in the music, but to see others believing in it too—enough to fund it with money or support it with trades, food, so many ways—it took all of us!” This, of course, affirms one of the band’s core values: that creative collaboration will save the world.
About the author: Gina Tang is a marketing writer at Brighter Copywriter. If you are doing something awesome, she can help.
AZALEA PARK’S ARTISTIC FIRE ROARS LOUDER STILL…
Azalea Park gets brighter every day! Along Manzanita Drive, between Violet and Tuberose, a new collaborative mural graces the alley wall bordering the property of Kerem Brulé. Her vibrant purple home has emerged as a hub for creative activism.
Officially named T.H.E. (Tiger House of Evolution), the house mission is to support human beings in progress. With a growing aquaponic garden, an enormous work table, and a parlor full of musical instruments, T.H.E. is an ideal living space for this friendly collection of entrepreneurial spirits.
T.H.E. Mural went up as part of a house-warming event celebrating the arrival of new artist in residence, Gina Tang. Gina is the director of The Soular Power System, a project dedicated to promoting community development via strategic content distribution. Recognizing the importance of “Invironmental Awareness” and “Self-Sustainability,” the project declares T.H.E. to be a “Soular Powered” household. For details, visit www.soularpowersystem.com.
Certainly, there was a general radiance to the whole affair: bright eyes, warm hugs, smart conversation; live music on the deck; bon-fire crackling; table laden with tasty offerings; people of all ages, shapes, colors, and backgrounds delighted to be alive and kicking together; old friends and new ones, soaking in the spirit of loving celebration. A true Soular Power Outlet!
While a diverse and talented collection of local musicians rocked the deck-turned-stage, renowned muralist Mario Torero worked alongside many others (including Energía Entertainment’s Dina Bedenko, Ras Pablo Aztlan, and Kerem’s young niece) to create a unique narrative of human imagination. As the name suggests, T.H.E. Mural will continue to evolve.
“Perhaps it’s a story about the layers we shed as we move into the world with an open heart,” says Gina. “The tiger represents the freedom to thrive. Freedom means real education, real food, real music, and real community!”
Neighbors: You are encouraged to explore T.H.E. Mural, and post your personal interpretations and comments to T.H.E. Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TigerHouseofEvolution).
See it in The Parkster http://www.azaleapark.org/newsletter/03MarParkster.pdf
A POEM, as it happened, by the people gathered at Nathaniel’s for dinner on 1-22-2014
The following poem was built one phrase at a time, one phrase per person.
The page was folded over as it progressed, so that no person saw the phrase preceeding their own.
The basic instruction: write a line of poetry, however you define it.
Balance is your personal responsibility.
Each breath more cleansing than the last
Feeling free, finding yourself, losing yourself
Standing witness, fragments of ego falling
Live, happy, life, love. It’s okay to be estranged but still love.
Bring your soul to the table and let’s dance.
I love you. Let’s kiss the earth, and jingle with the earth.
You only know what you see, you don’t understand what it takes to be me
So far away, that I can’t see
The place that you call home
And here I am, all by myself.
In other words, alone.
I knew we were meant to be together
We had a higher purpose to reach
But now was not our time
Wild roaming roading seas and bees burrowing into pollen enriched with abundance, a fun-dance!
He smells of Napthanol and old gold, salt and alcohol, and absence always sullen
and cold of the deepest salinity waves
Her arms, parenthesis,–found themselves holding a fleeting nostalgia for oranges and incense
And they all triumphed despite all odds; overcoming the greatest of challenges.
December 4, 2013. I walk into the room and through the shifting haze and lights and voices there runs an electric current, a tingle I recognize immediately: Soular Power. There is creative potency here. Leave it to the magnificent DJ Jazzy Jeff to draw this kind of crowd. People who vibrate with passion, purpose, and pleasure.
Manila-based event production company, Heavy Boogie, brings this hard-hitter to URBN as part of the “Vinyl Destination” tour. Along with special guests, DJ Jazzy Jeff & Skillz will be in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur next. This might be the greatest hip hop run Southeast Asia has ever seen.
DJ Shortkut makes a guest appearance, scratching new shapes into sound with his astounding talent on the turntables. It’s an audiovisual set with video graphics that bend and blend in highlight of his deft maneuvers. We get on the good foot and it curls our toes. “There should be more of this!” says my friend Agee, several times.
A roar. Jazzy Jeff steps to the deck and with the unapologetic dexterity of a seasoned veteran, moves thru genres and eras, weaving a new dream out of old parts. He is a tiger on the turntables and his claws rake us smooth. He takes us from New York to California to Super Nintendo, from Old School to New and everything in between.
I scan the sea of uplifted faces absorbing every song. It’s taking everybody back to some sweet spot. Even though we’re not from the same place—this is truly an international gathering—we share a common bond, a heartbeat. Music that goes the distance brings people together. Heads are all a-bob, and that’s just in the back of the room.
In front of the raised DJ booth, a circle has opened up, and the dancers dropping into the middle are making major statements. These are not the passive dancers, the look-at-my-sexy dancers, or the try-to-fit-in dancers that fill most clubs. These are physical artists who occupy their bodies completely to narrate the music. They are translators. They move the beats and spin the breaks, flipping and dipping and popping and stopping. Locked in, bugged out. The crowd shouts as one kid kicks high into the air, doing an impossible somersault and landing in perfect form with a wild grin.
A master at work, Jazzy Jeff hand-crafts a musical formula that helps us out of our minds and into our bodies. This is the real that we can feel. Forget what we carry around in our heads, here is an embodied experience, waves of sound and light that fill us with energy. It’s the ultimate remedy for the anxiety, headache, and exhaustion written into the track of life.
Indeed, this is a Soular Power outlet; we’re plugged into a primal source, getting a positive charge. And Jazzy Jeff, well he’s a Soular Power technician, facilitating the flow. When you’re in the zone yourself it’s easy to take others for the ride—he opens the line and we all step inside.
There are “stars” in our culture—the famous, ultra-successful elite who’ve made it to the top—and the masses idolize them, despairing. Then there are real human beings who shine at what they do because they understand that there is no top; true success comes from enjoying where you are in the moment while keeping it moving at the same time. These are the ones who dissolve the despair, who work from their heart and spread light just by getting out of bed every day and breathing at regular intervals. They don’t even have to know how bright they are (and this can be an advantage, because once the head gets ahold of it, the heart sometimes breaks). No, these real stars—and they’re few and far between—they haven’t signed up for an identity-trip. If anything, they’re just wondering why everybody else doesn’t follow their hearts and see what happens.
All this time-travel makes the hours stand still. I don’t notice I haven’t stopped dancing until four in the morning. Jazzy Jeff and Shortkut keep going. Finally I take my happy feet home, eternally grateful for the well-marinated dance floor, and the people who are melting across it.
“I’m not acceptable!”
I would never say this about myself out loud, or even think it consciously. But attentive observation of certain feelings and behaviors has provoked me to a rigorous internal inventory. I unearthed this and other appalling belief systems lodged within my emotional body. They were carefully padded by a protective shield, made from a hardened mixture of time and ego.
Here are a few of them.
Limiting Belief: That I’m not worth it. This is a great way to avoid putting in the effort required to make real, sustainable, positive change. It resigns itself to discouragement and defeat, blatantly omitting the simple fact that life operates on a Soular Power platform: this is a dance, a blink of an I/eye, unfolding one experience at a time. We’re all here to learn, and there’s no way to mess it up.
Healing the Limitation: Realizing that I deserve nourishment and respect, no matter what I feel I’ve done wrong in the past. In fact, I deserve the best that the world has to offer, because I am doing the best that I can. Just relax and know that every challenge is designed to open my heart and mind. I’m a perpetual work in progress, and worth every step.
Limiting Belief: That I, Gina Tang, have something to accomplish every day. This is an attachment to my personal agenda or sense-of-self that needs to do and prove and secure many things; to get work done, to manage a household, to solve problems, to improve myself, to meet goals, to support others, to earn money, and so on. YES, of course these tasks exist. They are part of living. But the belief that I, “Gina Tang,” need to accomplish or conquer them is limiting; it leaves me to my own ideas and plans and devices… which, when driven from internally-applied pressure to perform, are inherently limited.
Healing the Limitation: Realizing that the only thing that I, Gina Tang, need to do is surrender to The Big Hand. Ask IT to guide my daily endeavors. This way, I draw from divine guidance and inspiration, empowering all of the things I do, not for “me,” but for the service of my highest self, and the highest benefit to others.
Limiting Belief: That I don’t have enough. This sense of lack around my personal resources prevents me from giving freely and joyfully. It says there is not enough time or energy or patience or motivation or money to do and have all the things I want for/from myself, and all the things others want for/from me. It grows anxious and impatient when prevailed upon.
Healing the Limitation: Realizing that I am an infinite instrument in The Big Hand. The Big Hand has a lot to give, and it works through me in perfect time and brilliant orchestration. I am grateful to play my part.