“May our heart's garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.”― Thich Nhat Hanh
My favorite Zen koan , "The Oak Tree In the Garden," calls out to each and every one of us to awaken to our most essential nature. Every moment is an opportunity for full expression of what is, and the opportunity to make choices to effect a beautiful world through our authentic expression and connection is a precious gift we are all given.
Since the age of eight, when I first nestled a black and orange starburst garage sale guitar in my arms, something has melted inside of me when I begin to play and sing. I still remember the first vibrant low twang of its rusty old low “E” chord—it was as if someone had plucked a heart string and loosened it right up. My mouth opened, and some words came out. Don’t remember what they were, but I do remember that my troubles went right out the window. My heart burst open, and my soul knew she was home.
I wrote my first song at the age of 8 and never stopped writing. Professionally, I became a marine biologist, but the music kept calling and soon deckside jams on oceanographic cruises were replaced by real gigs at beach bars. When children were in the audience, a special affinity arose to sharing music with them, creating songs together, co-creating energy. A very rewarding career as “Shana Banana -- the award-winning national children’s musical entertainer"-- was soon born, along with three CD’s and two DVD’s. I loved being “Shana Banana” because it served people. It helped to motivate and encourage kids, and I could deliver so many great messages through original music. I recorded my last “Shana Banana” project over 15 years ago.
As time went on, I met my husband, our children were born, the yoga/Zen spiritual path deepened, and more songs were written along this journey independent of "Shana Banana." I spent a decade diving deep, and from these depths of exploration came personal revelation --that of the gift of learning how to open the heart and share it with others through music. Started to lead kirtan and song circles for all ages called "Chanting to the Open Heart.” This new way of singing to and for and with others quickly revealed that it reached others true beings, and together we could begin to transform and open each other's hearts with amazing results. By sharing this music, we began tapping into the authentic, true Self based in compassion and positive change that comes from going right to the heart and staying open.
Today I sit in deference to this journey of life. There is so much gratitude. And yet, witnessing this world suffering under such current environmental and humanitarian atrocities is not what I ever expected to experience in this lifetime. Instead of drama or crisis or ego fulfillment in the face of such happenings, we remember the Oak Tree In the Garden: it elicits a heightened sense of ability, clarity, purpose, and responsibility, rooted in the awareness that the world is suffering and that this sacred short life--indeed, this very moment-- is a gift. We can learn to listen, to stop, to see, to breathe, to allow dharma to assign its purpose. And it has everything to do with a low E string and the melting of my heart into music and writing.
The "Oak Tree In the Garden" music project is divided into three categories: Songs from the Open Heart, Songs of the Spirit, and Songs for the Planet and Her People. Here is the working outline:
Songs From the Open Heart
Heart Revolution, Living Love, Mother’s Song, Safe Harbor, Gulf Moon, Radiance, On the Ground, The Decision, Enjoy this Time, Can't Stop Spring
Songs of the Spirit
Eternal, Divine Mother, Like a River We Flow, Sat Guru Om, Sweet Spirit, Wah Ko Cheh (Seminole), I Seek Freedom, Gate Gate, Fly Home (to the Sun), Hara Hara Mahadeva (Traditional), Mother You’re Beyond the Beyond, I Am Love I Am Light, Who Is In My Temple (final three upon permission of Michael Singer and the Self Realization Fellowship)
Songs for the Planet and Her People
Rise Like the River, Liquid Heart, The Great Escape, Restoration Blues, Florida Breathes, Brown Water, Heartbeat of the Earth, Polly Parker, Devil’s Garden, River Run
So, why ask for funds? My husband and I operate a non-profit land trust and meditation center that is thankfully sustainable but does not turn a profit. Our mission with the Gainesville Retreat Center is to make the dharma--meditation, yoga, music, peace, sanctuary--accessible to all, so we are very affordable and largely donation-based. With two amazing kids ages 14 and 9, whatever funds are left are being saved for their college. There are no liquid monies available for a recording project.
I do not want to rush this project, as I consider it a life's work project, and welcome your input! If there are any songs or chants you'd like to see that aren't listed here, please request them. I will need your voices to sing, as many of these songs a crafted to be co-created with repeating choruses and mantras, so that all of our energies can influence the final recorded result.
Post-release, the plan is to expand the impact of the project as follows:
1) 10% of all net CD and digital download sales go to a charity to support children and families in need, both domestic and immigrant. PLEASE recommend your favorite one to me so we can make the most effective choice. Another 10% goes to Santa Fe Land Trust for land conservation.
2) Performances at folk festivals, house concerts, community spaces, small theaters, spiritual centers (UCG, UU, Unity, synagogues, ashrams, etc), state parks, etc
3) Special outreach programs in schools, libraries, community centers, spiritual centers just for kids, teachers, caregivers, parents: Project CALM (Cultivating Awareness, Loving Mindfulness)
4) “Open Hearted Revolution” Podcast/Youtube and blog
5) Donated copies to those who need it.
The $5000 is an amount that will get us clean, beautiful recordings and hopefully some physically manufactured CD's. It will also allow for sustaining the expansion and reach of the project, as described above.
But I can get started, one song at a time, for less.
For your contribution, I would be honored to gift you with a CD or several CD’s (depending on the amount of the donation). For those able to donate $150 or more, we would be honored to gift you with a two-night stay at the Gainesville Retreat Center for a personal retreat, plus a copy of the CD.
Thank you for opening your heart to me. I vow to pour mine out to you. Together, we will rise and effect a more peaceful and love-filled world.