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

***********

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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2 Comments »

  1. Your words and music help me convey a feeling of peace and strength that grows and grows more each day as I listen. Meditation with your music is becoming a treasured part of my daily life! As I read your words about Light from Assisi, I put on that CD and suddenly I found tears rolling down my face and a renewed sense of peace that I AM on the right path! Thank you for sharing your feelings/words and your incredibly moving music with me… and the world!

    Comment by Jan Jenson — November 17, 2009 @ 4:05 pm |Reply


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