Richard Shulman's Blog

November 17, 2009

Light from Assisi – The consciousness behind the music: Enhanced liner notes for the CD

Filed under: What's behind the Music — by richardshulman @ 3:23 am

Light from Assisi, by Richard Shulman
Light from Assisi, by Richard Shulman

To purchase the CD

To listen to the Music

Prologue to the liner notes:

A Personal Connection with St. Francis

Growing up in a Reform Jewish household I had no awareness of any connection with St. Francis, EXCEPT that my mother had bought a calligraphic rendering of the prayer of St. Francis (Lord make me an instrument of Thy Peace) and it was on a wall in our unfinished basement, where I often played with my chemistry set.

Until I went to Assisi, I had no direct awareness of St. Francis, although some hints reveal themselves in hindsight. When I first moved to NYC I occasionally had a job as the substitute organist in a Spanish Catholic church in Brooklyn. I loved the exalted sense I felt from the services, not understanding a word spoken, but being enraptured by the mystery and atmosphere. One time the priest asked me to follow him through a court yard after the service so he could pay me and we passed a statue in the courtyard. I asked the priest, “Is that St. Francis?” and the priest gave me one of those looks that perhaps meant “what planet did you just land from?” and after a moment, said “Yes.”

A couple years later in a non-denominational meditation group, the teacher had asked everyone to tune in to “The Christ.” I was quite surprised to see first, a sleeve, and then the torso of what might have been St. Francis. Later in the sharing, I learned other people had seen Jesus or white light, so I wondered if I had been off track…..

In 1988, Ron Young, a healer I was studying with, invited me to participate in a trip to Assisi. I had just bought a new synthesizer that had a string sound that I realized could serve as a wonderful vehicle to transmit unconditional Love, and I looked forward to using it at a meditation retreat in a sacred space.

A week before the trip I was at another meditation weekend and the facilitator showed “Brother Sun, Sister Moon,” Franco Zeffirelli’s film of St. Francis and St. Clare, and I sobbed through the whole video. Synchronistically my heart had been opened by my connection with St. Francis through the movie, so when I arrived in Assisi a week later I was able to experience the vibrational legacy that he and Clare left in the very stones of the city and wherever they had been.

When the meditation group convened in Assisi, Ron asked me to play for the group and a river of Love and Blessings flowed through the music as I had never experienced before. St. Francis was supporting and enhancing every note and prayer for good, and although I didn’t see him, I felt his overlighting presence.

Here are the liner notes to Light from Assisi:

Richard Shulman
Light from Assisi

RICHHEART MUSIC

My first experience of the magical city of Assisi was in November 1988 as part of a meditation group. The atmosphere of Assisi, combined with our meditation work, opened me to an ecstasy overflowing with Divine Love. Visiting the various holy places, I felt such grace and healing that I when the teacher suggested I return to record music, I leapt at the opportunity.

A year later I arrived again with my synthesizer and computer, determined to express these feelings, this vibration in music. Each day, for two and a half weeks, I would go to one of the holy places, absorbing what I could of the atmosphere I found there. Then I would return to my keyboard, tune in to the place I had just visited, and play the music I heard from within. At the end of my stay, I had two and a half hours of raw music. This album is the first of two releases from these recordings.

About the music

This album is a reflection of my personal experience at Assisi, yet I believe that the music touches something universal, a place inside all of us that feels like “home.” I believe that somehow the deepest and most beautiful personal experiences can be translated into a mutual human understanding even within our diversity. We all have frameworks in which our spirit can blossom. The blossoming is in the music and in my personal experience surrounding it. The ability to blossom is in all of us. For me, the blossoming is what really matters.

St. Francis and his followers used to greet people they met saying “May God’s peace be with you.” I have done my best to bring this same peace to you in the form of music. I invite you to share the peace and the wonder I experienced at Assisi.

It is in the music. Listen…

To listen to the Music

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More about the music…

For St. Francis, 1&2
The Spirit of St. Francis pervades all of Assisi and the surrounding countryside. Francis and his followers indelibly changed this town into a sacred place. For the pilgrim, or seeker of God, there is an ineffable sense of peace, a feeling of blessedness so strong that the very stones seem to be praying.

Song of St. Clare
For me this little melody portrays the joy of simplicity in which St. Clare lived (St. Clare, Francis’ first female follower, founded the second Franciscan order).

For St. Clare
A musical portrait, expressing Clare’s yearning for, and fulfillment in God.

Alleluia!
I imagine that this was a frequent sentiment among the “Poor Clares” (St. Clare’s cloistered community).

Trip to the hermitage

Of the many wonderful sites in and around Assisi, the most intriguing to me are the places St. Francis chose as retreats for his personal prayer and meditation. The remainder of this album is a musical portrayal of a spiritual journey to one of these places, the Hermitage of the Carceri.

The Hermitage is situated on the slopes of Mount Subasio, about an hour’s walk from Assisi. It consists of a cluster of small buildings constructed over a cave called the Grotto of St. Francis. In the surrounding woods are other caves where Francis’ first brothers stayed.

The first building one comes to upon entering the grounds contains a small church. Across a courtyard is the structure enclosing the Grotto of St. Francis. Several small chapels on the upper level prepare the visitor to descend the stairs to St. Francis’ cave. It is a simple room now adorned with a small altar.

The first time I entered this room, I discovered an indentation in the face of the rock wall, forming a narrow seat. I had a feeling that this was a place where St. Francis spent much time sitting in prayer. As I sat in this niche, I felt a wonderful cleansing taking place within me mentally, emotionally, and physically. St. Francis had created a place of grace right where I was sitting!

This became a place of repeated pilgrimage for me, since I wished to taste of this grace again and again. However, the following year, when I had returned to express this amazing experience in music, I sat in the same place and felt nothing.

The fact that I could feel nothing in this place which had been so holy for me left me completely disheartened. It also made me want to get to the bottom of this.

Thus began a period of inner questing. I checked into a monastery for three days and isolated myself as much as possible from human company and any activities which might distract me from my efforts to bring back the feeling of God’s grace.

In the meantime, each day I continued to visit the holy places and on my return, I portrayed my experience of them in music. This process helped me, but I still hadn’t recaptured the aliveness and joy of my initial discovery. I knew something in me needed to be faced, but didn’t know what it was. Turning to prayer, I asked “What is it that is keeping me from You Lord?”

Finally on the last day of my partial seclusion, I decided to take the walk back up to the Hermitage as a final pilgrimage. I asked for two things in prayer: 1. that I would be healed and be given the grace to feel God’s presence again, and 2. that I would be able to express my transformation in music so that others could benefit.

Mary the Compassionate One
A short distance up the road, still within the walls of Assisi, I came upon a statue of Mary. I told her of my plight and asked for help. I felt her grace and knew I had an ally. I felt that whatever happened, her love would not depart from me.

I Meet the Animals
As I was walking, a donkey and two dogs ambled onto the road from an adjacent olive grove and accompanied me for a while. When I tried to approach them, they shied away, keeping to the opposite side of the road. I found myself wishing to be able to talk with them as St. Francis could.

Just then, a nun approached from the same orchard. She pointed to the donkey and said “San Francesco!” and then repeated in English, “St. Francis.” I was reminded that, for the last two years of his life, St. Francis could not walk on account of his stigmata, and rode on a donkey when he had to travel. I felt greatly blessed to be in the company of these beautiful animals, as if St. Francis himself were there with me in the flesh.

The Walk
I continued up the road, asking to be purified so as to reach my goal. Feelings of sadness and hope intermingled within me as I walked.

The Chapel
Entering the Hermitage grounds, I went to the church to rest and pray.

The Grotto of St. Francis
Crossing the courtyard, I entered the building which houses the Grotto of St. Francis. After stopping in each of the chapels on the upper level, I descended the stairs to the cave. Sitting with some trepidation on the now familiar ledge, I asked again, “What is separating me from your presence, Lord?”

I suddenly perceived a dark band covering my forehead. I asked within myself, “What is this?” An answer came inside me, saying, “Doubt.” With this understanding, the band dissolved, leaving clearer vision and much gratitude for the grace I had just received.

Soon I felt a pain in the muscles of my shoulder. Asking for the cause, I heard, “Worry.” This process went on for what seemed about twenty minutes. Each fear or idea which separated me from God came off me like a dark robe, leaving me feeling lighter, more buoyant. As I let go more and more, I began to feel a glorious power within me and all around me, and realized that God’s love had always been present, but I simply hadn’t been aware, wrapped up in my fears, worries, and doubts.

New Robes
I then asked for new robes to replace the old ones. I asked for faith, love, courage, understanding, and simplicity. In the light of my new understanding, the painful experiences I had previously gone through lost their negative meaning for me.

Good-Bye for Now
Coming back to my ordinary senses, I heard some people coming down the stairs. I thanked God and St. Francis, got up, and walked through the tiny doorway out into the world.

Suggestions for the listener


The following exercises draw on a variety of techniques.

Use only those that feel good to you.

General suggestion:
Find or create a period of time when you will be free of distractions. After putting on the music, sit or lie comfortably with the spine relaxed and straight. Take three very slow, very deep breaths, letting go of outside concerns. Then focus your attention completely on the music, allowing yourself to feel and relax into it.

Visualizations to be done with the music:

For St. Francis 1
Picture yourself in a countryside of olive groves and exquisite green rolling hills. It is early morning and the sun’s warmth is just beginning to soften the snap of the lingering cool night air. A mist rising from a freshly plowed field blends the colors of the rich brown soil with the surrounding dark green vegetation. The sky overhead is bright blue with an occasional wisp of white.

You are walking along a path between a deep wood and an olive grove. As you reach the crest of a small hill, you find yourself in a large field resplendent with wildflowers. Take a moment to look at the flowers and savor the aroma of each one.

As you look up, you see at the far end of the field a short thin man in a gray tunic. At first he seems quite ordinary, but as he comes a little closer you begin to notice a kindness in his face and a feeling of quiet joy surrounding him. This feeling reassures you and you meet him at the center of the field in the shade of a single oak tree.

For St. Clare
Picture yourself in a cloistered garden, filled not with the usual cultivated flowers, but with delicate wildflowers. Take time to smell and appreciate these tiny jewels of nature’s perfection.

Across the courtyard, you notice a woman sitting on a rough wooden bench. She is dressed in a white robe and seems deep in prayer. As you approach the center of the garden, she arises and comes to greet you. You sense in her tremendous strength and conviction, and at the same time, deep caring and understanding. She has a gift for you. Allow yourself to receive it.

Calling on the Divine Mother:

Mary the Compassionate One
Most traditional spiritual paths make use of repeated phrases, or mantras to help the aspirant focus on the Divine. This focussed attention can lead to meditation, through which direct communication with our Spiritual Nature is possible.

For many Catholics, the Rosary, or “Hail Mary” is an important part of spiritual life. This prayer can bring one into contact with the energy or grace of Mary.

The following is a slightly altered version of the Rosary which I’m fond of, given to me by one of my teachers, Hilda Charlton.

Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with Thee.
Blessed art Thou among women, and Blessed is the Fruit of Thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, Pray for us children, Now and at the hour of our Attainment.

Using this prayer or the standard Rosary with the music can create a very powerful experience, as the music itself came out of the prayer. Repeat it silently or aloud, slowly, with great feeling for every word.

Meditation

The Grotto of St. Francis
For a few minutes, simply be aware of your breath. Observe it as it goes in and out, bringing life into your body on the inhalation, and releasing tension on the exhalation.

After a few moments, place your attention at the center of your chest (the heart center). Visualize and feel a warm glow as you breath in and out of this center. If your mind wanders, bring your attention back to the heart center. Gradually allow this warm glow to expand, enveloping your entire body.

While maintaining the openness of your heart center, move your attention to a point on your forehead between the eyebrows. Continue to breathe and feel in your heart while focusing your attention at the third eye or eye of God. If thoughts or feelings arise, continue to breath and gently bring your attention back to the third eye and the feeling of fullness at the heart center.

When the music is finished, take your time to feel yourself in your body. Wriggle your toes and fingers, gradually open your eyes and gently begin to move. You have contacted aspects of yourself you may not have been aware of, so treat yourself kindly as you emerge from meditation, a new, reenergized you.

Love,

Richard Shulman

************

Suggested Reading

On St. Francis
“We were with St. Francis”, Salvatore Butler, O.F.M.
Casa Editrice Francescana Assisi, Edizione Porziuncola

“The Little Flowers of St. Francis”, translation: W. Heywood
Casa Editrice Francescana, Edizione Porziuncola

On Meditation-Spirituality
“The New Sun” Hilda Charlton
Golden Quest, PO Box 85
Woodstock, NY 12498

“Autobiography of a Yogi” Paramahamsa Yogananda
Self Realization Fellowship
3880 San Raphael Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90065

“Be Here Now”, Baba Ram Dass
Crown Publishing, 1 Park Ave.
New York, NY 10016

“The Quiet Mind” White Eagle
Fletcher & Son Ltd.
Norwich, England

Comments:
We would love to hear from you. Please write us and tell us how you like “Light From Assisi.”

Send to:

RichHeart Music
PO Box 6731
Scarborough, ME 04070-6731

or info@richheartmusic.com

888-699-3682

To purchase the CD

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November 15, 2009

A Higher Dimension – The consciousness behind the music

Filed under: What's behind the Music — by richardshulman @ 6:04 am

A Higher Dimension – The consciousness behind the music: Enhanced liner notes for the CD

A Higher Dimension CD
A Higher Dimension CD

To listen to the CD

I had been in an intensive spiritual process for the previous four and a half years, studying with Hilda Charlton and several of her students, and had been learning to express the spiritual journey through music.  So when the opportunity came to record, I did bring some prepared music, but mostly I brought my willingness to listen and perform the music of inspiration which I heard inwardly.   I wanted to express the principles I had been learning spiritually.  I also wanted to express the realms of grace I had touched in my spiritual journey.

As the recording progressed, divine qualities would occur to me and with them a musical piece would begin “in my head.” I then played on the piano what I was hearing inside.  Putting the album together was fairly easy as the qualities which became the titles of the pieces and the music had their own logic and progression.

To listen to the CD

Here is my understanding of each of the pieces:

Gates to the Quiet Place 1:08

Preparation and relaxation to begin the inner journey.

Welcome 4:12

Being received into a heavenly realm – a further relaxation into a receptive place to get in touch with the blessing of a higher dimension.

Opening 8:13

The journey begins as we open to the consciousness of Grace and begin to see the landscape of a more harmonious way of being.  We are wrapped in a blanket of light and comfort which allows us space to breathe deeper, opening us to healing, new aliveness and higher awareness.

Forgiveness  8:50

Forgiveness is the key to the realm – the way by which one can stay in higher consciousness in the midst of life.  This is more than merely letting go of the angst.  It is a reframing of consciousness in which one can see the blessing in any situation.  It begins by taking responsibility for one’s participation in the event – how did I draw this situation into my life?  What idea was I holding that the situation is challenging?  Can I receive the gift of this challenge and let go of the illusion that wasn’t working? Can I let myself be “wrong” and allow my thoughts to be corrected by the inner wisdom enacted in the experience?  What is the gift I am gaining from this experience?  Receiving the gift, do I now  feel gratitude?

Devotion 7:35

Starting from gratitude, we enter into the bliss of every breath devoted to the Source of One’s Being, feeling the nourishment of Divine flow  from That Source as God’s Love holds our attention.

Sincerity 1:45

Sincerity is a quality of willingness and intent by which direction is set for good.

Peace 4:06

Peace, the living quality of trust leads to confidence.

Confidence 3:09

Confidence – the knowing that this is mine to do, and I can do it.

Humility 2:17

Humility is the realization and confidence knowing that nothing is done without the Source of All Beingness.  And it is that Source that does it.

Harmony 2:44

The natural result of allowing the Divine flow  manifesting.

Vision of a New Age 7:24

When we do our part with Sincerity, Peace, Confidence and Humility,  Harmony manifests inside and the landscapes of the heart, informed by the illumination of the All  Wisdom, Power and Love of the Divine, mature into Dreams Come True for all involved.

A Melody is Born 4:46

Creation Manifested leading to expanded consciousness leading to more and more beautiful expressions in life.

Home 4:05

Home is Here, at last.  No need to escape to some heaven world, for heaven is here present, now, Love Expressing.

Total Time 60:18

A Higher Dimension was recorded January 29th, 1988, and was the first album where I could say as a musician and creator of music for meditation, “If I die tomorrow I can go happily, knowing that I’ve done this recording.”

How to Listen to “A Higher Dimension”

When “A Higher Dimension” is listened to, it will NOT deliver the kind of emotional punch that a pop song or Broadway Musical song does.

Instead, this music serves as a doorway to a more subtle realm of feeling. In order to receive the benefit from listening, one has to let go of, for a moment, any concerns, worries, misunderstandings, judgements, or irritations that may show up while listening.

This isn’t done by pushing anything away.  For instance, let’s say that a feeling or a memory “comes up” while listening.  Just be with the feeling or memory and continue to listen to the music. Keep your attention (gently) on the music, note-by-note, chord-by-chord, and something will reveal itself.

At first that “something” will seem like “nothing”  — hardly noticeable…. Then eventually you may notice a subtle peace in that “something.”  Just keep following the music.

Eventually, within that subtle peace you may find a feeling of joy…. And within that joy, a love so peaceful and deep and nourishing….

This is “A Higher Dimension.”  It lives in each one of us — simultaneous and underneath our day-to-day thoughts of who we are.

When we discover this subtle realm within us, it changes who we think we are, and when we return to normal life, we are refreshed and healed. It is good to be gentle with ourselves as we return…. feeling our feet and making sure we are well grounded before resuming normal activities!

Love and Blessings,

Richard

Credits for the 2009 Anniversary CD release include:

Remastering by Stephen Smith, Soundsmiths Mastering

Cover Art by Reine Laurendeau

Design by Diane Couture

Here below are the liner notes from the original cassette-only release of this album:

Recorded January 29, 1988 at Classic Sound, N.Y.C , on an 1896 Steinway B grand piano using one (1) AKG C422 stereo microphone and two (2) Neumann U87 microphones and a Sony PCM F-1 digital recorder.

No compression limiting or equalization was used.

Executive Producer …………….. Charles Schaller

Producer……………………………….. Richard Shulman

Engineer………………………………. A.T. Michael McDonald

Cover Art……………………………… Andrew Forest

Design……………………………………. Charles Schaller

This tape is dedicated to Hilda Charlton who with great love has shown me the way to a Higher Dimension within myself.

(c) & (p) 1988 RichHeart Music

DO NOT DRIVE OR OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY WHILE LISTENING TO THIS MUSIC.

This album was originally commissioned and released by New World Productions, Charles Schaller, President.

We’d love to hear from you: For our free catalog, to order, and/or to give your comments please write, call, or email us at

RichHeart Music * PO Box 6731 * Scarborough, ME 04070-6731 * 1-888-699-3682 toll free * http://www.richheartmusic.com * info@richheartmusic.com

*******************

(Spine)

Richard Shulman – A Higher Dimension    RHM 8806

****************

Bar code for the CD Release: 7 23867 88062 1

Here is the current description I am using to introduce this CD to new listeners:

A Higher Dimension is tranquil and inspiring solo piano for meditation healing and enlightenment.  The music expresses a spiritual journey towards mastery starting at the “Gates to the Quiet Place” through divine qualities of the higher realms to “Vision of a New Age” and ending at “Home.”  Masterfully performed, both vibrationally and musically on an 1896 Steinway B Grand Piano, this music brings the presence of the higher realms into tangible feeling.


November 14, 2009

The importance of clarity in expressing the inexpressible

Last week I did my first interview for a column in the new magazine New Awareness which will come out in their December/January issue.  This first interview was appropriately with fellow composer Steven Halpern, one of the first and most effective creators of music for healing and meditation in the New Age genre.

Steven works tirelessly to express with clarity what his music is about and we had a great conversation resulting in over 22,000 characters for an article slated for 2,000 characters!  So for several days Steven and I whittled, cut and distilled the message down to the essence of his work.

I thought that this might be torture for him and expressed this at one point in the process and his reply was that this is not torture but that it is his job!

To find the right words to express what normally is NOT expressed in words is grounding the ineffable into awareness, and although this may not directly convey the actual experience, it can at least point in the direction of gnosis, or point towards grokking the music.

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