The following story is an excerpt from our compilation book The Way of the Natural Therapist (published in 2010 and now out of print). This personal story is by musician and satsang enchanter Rob Stevenson.
To understand where I am and what I am doing now, we really need to journey back to my childhood. I was always drawn to music, it was something I really felt connected to right from the start.
I am the youngest of three brothers and spent a lot of time on my own, with music being my best friend. Our house was filled with music from as long as I can remember. There were no musicians in my family, just a great love of music which filtered through every room of our home. My father listened to songs from Glen Campbell, Neil Diamond, Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash and the likes, while my mother enjoyed many different styles from Nana Mouskouri to straight out rock ‘n’ roll. My eldest brother was into Enya, whereas my other brother had an extensive music collection that anyone would be proud to own from ABBA to David Bowie. Personally, singer/songwriters like James Taylor and Cat Stevens influenced me. My favourite band was Fleetwood Mac and Stevie Nicks—I still hear the influence of all these artists and more in my song writing today.
In addition to music, from quite a young age, I was always interested in spirituality. We were a catholic family who went to church every Sunday, though I always wondered why we would sometimes leave before it finished. It was things like this that had me question why people went to church and how important was the role that religion, spirituality and personal beliefs played in our lives.
Music was my life though and I was so lucky to have a family who understood this. As a child, I would sit at our piano slowly working out songs from the radio and television by ear.
My parents obviously saw something in how much I loved music, so they set out to find me the perfect piano teacher.
After a few different tutors we settled on Mrs Piper, a wonderful teacher who helped deepen my love and understanding of music.
As the years rolled on I played music to make a living. I guess you could say I was a professional musician. I really fell into it naturally. After touring and living out of a suitcase with various bands, from the Blues Brothers Revival Band to Keith Urban, in my teens and early 20s, I decided to settle back in Brisbane.
My flatmate at the time was into meditation and introduced me to Raja Yoga. I was fascinated and I went to many meditation classes for about a year or so. This was a revelation for me, as the experience of silence and breath work felt so natural, peaceful and exciting all at the same time. I began to feel the connection to something much greater inside me, and I wanted more! Straight away I decided to explore every different form of meditation I could find. My real journey had begun. I was instantly attracted to the music which accompanied some of the meditations. The meditation music I listened to back then was mainly nature sounds of rainforests and waterfalls, with soft and gentle instrumental music weaving through it. This was nice, but I really felt that maybe somewhere there was something a little deeper.
One year while I was strolling through the Mind Body Spirit Festival, I heard a sound being played through the main hall that I hadn’t heard before. It resonated with every fibre of my being, like it was calling me. This was my first taste of mantras and chanting. Wow, it was a true light bulb moment!
Was it possible to combine my love of music and spirituality? Of course, they are made for each other.
I proceeded to find out everything I could about mantras, reading every book and buying every album I could find. I attended as many kirtans (a gathering where mantras are chanted in a call and response style) as possible and talked to everybody I could, completely immersing myself in the beauty of mantras and chanting.
As my understanding of mantras deepened, I saw how they truly are a universal language. I also saw and felt the effects they were having in my own life. I knew this was my true path and what I really wanted to do with my life. The inner stillness and peace that had come into my world were truly amazing. With a constant daily practice of mantras I truly believe you can change your life. Mantras are mainly in Sanskrit, which is one of the oldest languages known to man. Sanskrit feels so comfortable to me, it’s like it has always been a part of me just waiting to be reawakened. As mantras became more and more a part of my daily life, my world seemed to become less erratic. Of course, life was still happening around me—things to do, bills to pay, people to see—but I was able to remain still and calm at the centre. I was beginning to see the perfection in all things. I wanted to share the amazing power of mantras and chanting with as many people as I could.
During a meditation one day, I remember putting out to the universe that I would like to meet others who could help me on this path.
Within three weeks, I saw an advertisement for a concert in Brisbane with world renowned mantra singers Deva Premal and Miten.
I immediately bought tickets as I had all their CDs and loved their music. At the end of their concert I was blessed to meet them and they asked if I would like to attend their ecstatic chant retreat and to bring my keyboards along. These two beautiful souls let me join in with them and nurtured my love for mantras. They have been a great influence on what I do and their continued friendship and support is something for which I will always be grateful. Their encouragement is what truly gave me the little push I needed to do this for myself.
What to do next? Hmm. My one bedroom flat was a little too small to invite people over for satsangs (a gathering in truth where we can come together and sing mantras, chant and share music and silence). I decided to approach every yoga and meditation centre I could find and ask them if they would be open to me hosting a satsang/music meditation once a month. At first there was only one venue, but it was a start. I remember the first one very well. It was simply beautiful, everything I could have hoped for. Everyone sang and the energy in the room was so beautiful. I saw the mantras having an effect on everyone, and it motivated me to keep doing this more and more. By word of mouth mainly, more venues started appearing and I found myself doing less “gigs” in clubs and hotels and more satsangs. I was so motivated I even released my own CD of mantras and spiritually uplifting songs, and I am currently working on another one.
Of course, it hasn’t always been easy. There have been many times when only one person showed up and I would think, “Is it worth it?”
I would still hold the satsang though, as they must have been there for a reason and one-on-one chanting can be very powerful. Even with one person, I could still see and feel the affect it had on them and on me. No matter how I am feeling, tired, sad, unmotivated—the moment I start singing mantras I am uplifted. I feel as though I could sing for hours on end in praise of the divine. It really is a divine connection.
Over the last few years, my satsangs have grown and this in itself lets me know there is a need for it in people’s lives. I am grateful and humbled that I have been given this gift of sharing sacred music and silence with so many different people from so many different walks of life.
I also am grateful word of mouth works well and I have made many wonderful friends through these satsangs who continue to help me spread the word about mantras and chanting. For me, the hardest thing is to promote myself. I admit I am still the typical musician who would rather spend his days in the creative process, writing and composing music, instead of trying to sell it. I really saw this as a gift, and for a long time I wrestled with how to keep offering this to people and still survive. Then I realised it was an energy exchange, which has greatly helped me to be comfortable with accepting money for what I do. I now simply live by the donations that are given by the folks who attend. Some weeks there are more than others, but overall it averages out, and it is still growing.
I have experienced and learned many things on this path. I truly believe that if it is your passion and you believe in something then follow it with all your heart and the financial side will happen naturally.
I also have learned to stop pushing. There were times when I would say, “I want this to happen now! There must be something more I can do. Why isn’t this happening faster?” Then I realised what I was putting out there to the universe—all my doubts and fears. So, of course, I was attracting more of that. Once I began focusing on how blessed I was to be doing this in the first place, and how far I had come in the short time since I started, things opened up. Unseen opportunities arrived and magic happened. The mindset is to stay focused on why you got into this in the first place—not because you want to build a successful business (this will come), but because you love, love, love what you do and you want to share it with the world.
There was a short period in my life when I was in quite a dark place. I really couldn’t see any way out at the time. I had heard of reiki and had been given a business card a few years earlier of a woman who did reiki and seichem healings. Somewhere deep inside me was a little voice telling me to go and see her. I am so glad I listened, as after my first session with her I could feel a definite shift in my energy—and what a wonderful feeling that was—a glimpse of light. I continued to have more healings and was amazed and thankful I had found something that really worked and had brought me out of the darkness and back into the light. It had such a profound effect on me that I wanted to tell everyone about it and share this wonderful gift with the world. This was the reason I decided to learn reiki and then seichem.
I am a reiki and seichem master (it has taken me a while to get my head around the term “master”) and I now do healings from my home and some of the yoga and meditation centres where I hold satsangs. Admittedly, my main focus in life still lies with mantras and chants which I have incorporated into my healings.
Mantras and chanting isn’t something I only do on the weekends when I am holding satsangs. It is a part of my everyday life. It’s a common thread that runs through my entire being. There are mantras for health, abundance, peace, love—you name it, there is a mantra for it. By chanting mantras as a spiritual practice every day, my health has improved, my energy levels have improved, as a matter of fact, my whole outlook on life has improved. I see the joy and perfection in everything. I believe one of the most satisfying parts of sharing this with everyone is seeing the joy and peace it brings into so many people’s lives. The question isn’t “How can I do this for a living?” The question is “How can I not do this for a living?” It is all healing in one way or another—mantras, music, meditation, reiki and seichem. They all go hand in hand with each other. Ultimately, it all comes down to what resonates with you. Follow your bliss and it will lead you home.
Copyright © Leisa Golding and James Golding 2010