Music and Mindfulness Retreat – July 2015

I was part of a team recently delivering a 2 day residential creativity retreat at Sudarshanaloka Buddhist Retreat Centre in Thames, on the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand.

Our retreat was called Music and Mindfulness and the team consisted of Mindfulness facilitator Akasadaka Robison, a Buddhist ordained in the Triratna order and our assistant Heather Garland, a local Thames based musician.

I lead the Music sessions with 13 participants, 6 musicians and 6 music lovers. music-and-mindfulness-2

We focused initially on the art of listening and created two soundscape stories. The group included an age range from 29 – 70 and of the older ones there were 4 ordained Buddhists. This meant that the meditation sessions were very deep and we were able to access a beautiful quality of listening very quickly.

Soundscaping is a process which invites participants to take full responsibility for the music they are creating. Music, after all, is in the reception of sound. What is music to your ears? How can you tell the difference between noise and music? When is the wind rustling a tree’s branches music to your ears and when is it annoyance keeping you awake at night?

Working in a circle we elected to tell the story of the enlightenment of Siddhartha. Some of the participants who were familiar with his story were able to share it with the group. As we were seated next to a meditation shrine featuring a life size sculpture of the Buddha there was an ‘immediacy’ to the story. Listening to the Buddhist women was grounding and helped the group centre .

These are the steps we created:

The Enlightenment of Siddhartha

  • Siddhartha’s wealthy and protected upbringing
  • Becomes aware of the suffering in the world
  • Awareness that there are those who are not suffering
  • Journey of discovery and exploration
  • Period of isolation and solititude
  • Enlightenment as the Buddha

Our next step was to explore the kinds of sounds we might associate with the different steps, and to try them vocally and with the instruments we had gathered.

Then we closed our eyes, and told our story using voices and instruments, listening to each other for orientation.

Listen to the result on Soundcloud


Inevitably, some people were unsure of where they were in the story, some were still at the beginning when the group reached the end and finished. Others felt quite unsure about which step they were at, and a deal of hilarity and a bit of discomfort arose in the end. However from a musical point of view, on listening, one can hear that the players were in deep presence and awareness.

This is the purpose of the process, to share an authentic and profound musical experience regardless of experience.

Thanks to all the participants!



I have blogged about Soundscaping before here

Transformational Festivals, NZ Summer 2015

Prana Circle stage Summer in New Zealand is full of fabulous lifestyle festivals. My favourites are the ‘Transformational Festivals’  that offer camping, musical performances, healers and workshops in modalities including: massage, yoga, tai chi, diet, meditation and what I could loosely call ‘philosophy’.

For the last couple of years in addition to performing music at the various festivals I have been introducing the work of Zenergy Global to the participants of these festivals in short, 90min – 2 hour sessions where I can present a specific experiential process and allow time to explore it with a group, discuss it and importantly debrief from it together.

This last festival season I offered Zenergy Facilitation services and workshops at Prana, (Coromandel ) , Evolve ( Nelson) and Luminate ( Canaan Downs ).

For Prana I facilitated a stage in the round, The Circle, and this was an opportunity to use facilitation techniques as an alternative to what would be called the Stage Managers role on conventional stages. I have blogged in detail about this project here.

At Evolve festival I offered 2 sessions. The first was called  ‘Being With’ which is a process exploring the 3 pillars of great facilitation ‘ Being with self, Being with another and Being with the group’ simultaneously. My second workshop was ‘Identity Check’, a process to uncover and debrief the projections that we, as facilitators, can unknowingly put on members of the groups we work with.

Seamless organisation of a busy festival programme is a big logistical challenge and details can easily go astray. I was up to run ‘Being With’ at the first spot of 10am on Saturday morning. When I turned up to the venue the key hadn’t been delivered and I faced the locked door with the knowledge that I needed to think fast and get into improvisation mode immediately as participants were already starting to arrive.

With the Sun streaming down I spied a sail cloth cover over a small outdoor playground at the adjoining kindergarden and occupied the space. The fresh air was lovely, the sail cloth just covered our group of 20 and we worked through the process using the whole garden. Participants explored the sound of their names as part of the ‘Being With’ warm up – and had conversations with each other where only their own names were spoken. A sense of joviality prevailed. As part of the process we settled into a group vocal improvisation, taking care to hear each member of the group, even the quiet voices. We worked with mirroring the sounds around us, focusing on our own and each others sounds. We ran the group improvisation twice. The first time just as we started to make sound the Kindergarden alarm went off! We worked with it….. and at the exact moment that we finished so did the alarm. We were astounded.

 Luminate Festival is held on the top of Takaka Hill in the South Island and runs for over a week. It is a larger gathering with around 2000 people attending. Workshops are a big attraction and the first of the two I ran was Mining the Gold / Powerful listening which attracted over 80 people.  As we could have up to 2 hours for this session I started with the ‘ Being With’ material and moved into the listening exercises after we had time to really get centered. The marquee was buzzing with conversations in pairs where people listened to their partners speak and listened for specific attributes, including : commitments, concerns, contributions and magnificence. The idea of listening for such profound and positive messages in each others words was inspirational for the group and the session was potent.

My final workshop of my summer adventure was ‘Identity Check’. This is an important tool for a facilitator as we must be very clear when we are working with groups of people that we are not projecting our own baggage and past relationships onto the people we are working with. The session was intense. By this stage of the festival people were up for some meaty work and as the session was run at the time of a rain storm we had a few people who may not have found their way into the tent otherwise. Some of my best memories of this session was the 2 young men who were reminded of their mother by one of the women in the workshop. Such a common and compelling projection that demands debriefing to keep the relationship authentic. We were able to use the idea of debriefing this projection by proxy, without the woman who sparked the memory being aware that two men were working on their projections towards her. It was a win win for the guys, and they were very happy they had stumbled in to the workshop, unaware of the healing work they would undertake.

Thanks for reading my post, if you are interested in more of my work and my personal blog you can find me here


The Circle – A place to breathe music. Prana Festival 2015

20 January 2015
Updated 13 October 2105

The Circle Stage first ran as a performance space using Zenergy Facilitation processes at Prana Festival in Opoutere, Coromandel Peninsula over the 4 day New Years Celebration Dec 30 2014 – Jan 2 2015.

This blog is here to document The Circle project and hopefully to inspire a conversation about the use of facilitation tools within a transformational festival environment.


My area of expertise is in musical performance and I am a Zenergy Global trained facilitator . I am a regular attendee at transformational festivals in New Zealand and when I was asked to take on running one of the day stages at Prana it was logical for me to combine my interest in facilitation with musical performance. The group I worked with was known as the Prana Artist Collective. Through my work with this group I was able to introduce some of the basic  facilitation processes to the Prana administration team.  Once the festival was running my work was contained within the Artist Collective. I used a facilitation model for a job usually referred to as : stage managing, chief, crew boss or even the loaded “Head of Department” or open mic MC.

One of my motivations for writing this blog is to share the learnings with the rest of the Prana crew, another is to share with the Zenergy team and other interested parties. I also offer this blog to artists wanting to perform at Prana festival in the coming years to describe the kind of quantum shift in focus and energy that is available.

I saw that facilitation tools would aid the evolution of this transformational festival on an administrative level making it easier and less work to run.  Festivals in general can be run in a more grounded and holistic fashion than is presently taking place in many of them by harnessing the collective intelligence of the groups involved . I believe this will result in less burnout, more fun and connection and therefore contribute to the functional development of the communities around these important events.

The performance space which was developed for Prana 2014/15 was called The Circle : A place to breathe music.

I’m going to start here with the fundamental aspects of the role of a facilitator. This work offerings potential solutions to some common shortcomings within musical performance environments and open mic style events. The Circle Stage was created specifically for Prana Festival with involvement of the Prana administration team and the Artist Collective that formed to populate it. I have included information about the logistics of the zone: our physical environment, circular stage, ambient lighting & sound design.

I would like to acknowledge the Artist Collective itself and how the Zenergy Global Facilitationtools impacted on our group including : pre-festival networking, welcoming and closing ceremonies, inter-artistic relationships, day to day running of the performance space, music and dance performances, interaction with the wider festival, and creation of the FINALE performance.

Zenergy Global Facilitation 101

Zenergy Global identifies is purpose as: Whole people cooperating in a sustainable world. Facilitation as a role can be summarised as : assisting the group to achieve it’s purpose by introducing a structure of simple, transparent communication processes along with a deep understanding and attention to universal human emotional, intellectual and kinesthetic needs.

The purpose of the Circle Stage was “a place to breathe music’ and participants were selected from the artist application list against this purpose – how would each group member support a energetic dialogue with the audience to enable the breathing of music?

Our group ‘culture’ or ‘ way of working’ :  Avante-Garde, Loungey, Spunky, Weird, Truthful, From the Heart, Cosmic, Soulful and Human. It was quite beautiful to see these attributes manifesting in the art produced on our stage.

Avoiding common problems in ‘open mic’ events.

Usually the facilitators role is clearer if they are purely a process guide and not involved in the actual content of the groups purpose. Therefore I did not perform personally. We wanted to create a ‘charged’ listening environment capable of healing the audience and performers alike. We were keen to avoid typical open-mic issues like : clashes of artist egos, energy wasted by prioritising ones own performance over that of other participants, artists talking through the performances of others. The emphasis was on sensitively to the integrity of The Circle’s purpose and the audiences experience.

A good facilitator can access help from the group itself using processes and tools including :

  • responding great suggestions as they emerged
  • harnessing the energy of the group
  • working with the mood and feel in the space
  • adjusting energy levels to suit

The Artist Collective and with their enthusiasm and reception of the idea worked to achieve this clear purpose.

Instrumental in maintaining the positive energy in the zone was the concept ‘BEING WITH’ – being with self, with each person in the group and with the group as a whole.

We all held the role of reinforcing the purpose and culture of the space itself and to graciously accept the energetic offerings of the people present.


Having played Prana at approximately 5 NYE festivals and suggested to the admin team that the effects of unstable weather patterns during the Coromandel over New Year could be partially solved by creating a large covered stage which would keep the audience out of the sun/ dry. A circlar central ‘stage in the round’ would allow everyone to see the stage, and for the stage to remain dry if the rains came.


At Prana there are always many festival participants who are musicians, and who would be happy to receive tickets, petrol vouchers, food allowances or guest tickets for loved ones. Artist remuneration was a combination of these items.

Artist Applications included an explanatory brief for the zone which explained the purpose: ‘a place to breathe music’ – We were interested in multi instrumentalists, solo artists and support musicians so we recreated the application form around this new concept. The fees and terms of the energy exchange were made explicit, all applicants were asked to apply under these terms

The applications came in fast and by the cut of date on September 30th we had about 60 musicians from which to select a collective of 20 to populate the schedule.

The musicians would be engaged in the following subgroups.

  • Grounding – house band/ supporting musicians
  • Shining – significant songwriters or musicians with a specific style that required a focused set to explore their artistic point of view.
  • Soloists – who could jump up with anyone at any time and embellish.
  • Dancers – who were to take the aural spectrum into a visual form.
  • Surprises – there were some groups on the team that I had no idea what to do with, but trusted that it would be obvious when we all got there.

We prioritised acts who would attend the full 4/5 days of the festival – not what we call ‘fly by nighters’, but rather artists who would be happy to attend the performances even if not playing. We were aware that by providing an aesthetically beautiful space, food and great company this requirement would flow easily. However to get it right I did meet with most applicants using video skype calls and took plenty of time to explain and integrate the concept. The energy exchange similar to a ‘festival volunteer’ arrangement and we asked for 8 hours of attendance in performance space, primarily listening and giving attention, but ready to play if required.

We called it a ‘listening’ space and looked for artists who were ‘good listeners, who had nothing to prove, who had no problem with sitting in silence and were able to recognise when there was enough sound on the stage and they were not needed. This was articulated in every discussion with prospective applicants.

The project to started with introductions on an email thread to help establish the group as a union of diverse artists.  The majority of the group responded.


Parameters included :

  • no drum kit
  •  acoustic instruments,
  • a mix of planned and spontaneous performances,

We needed an engineer with experience in working ‘open mics – i.e no time for sound checks, lots of mics onstage on previously unseen instruments, a mixture of professional and amateur players….. someone comfortable to basically fly blind with a smile!!!

In retrospect I can see that we fulfilled the culture objective of ‘safety, and nurturing the audience’ with what we manifested.


We used a ‘stretch’ tent hired and erected from a local company – this gave us a 20×15 metre cover with elegant lines and angles. It was an unusual shape which complemented the idea. During tent construction it was important for me to be present, patiently guarding the integrity of the idea and while watching the erection I could get a better idea of what was possible. Basically the role of facilitator holding the space started long before the festival.

It’s worth noting here that If I hadn’t been present from the first moment the idea started to manifest physically the plan could have been altered by negligence. This has been an important learning for me which is modeled within the Zenergy Facilitation course leaders work: someone needs to take responsibility for the physical space at every step and ‘hold’ the creation of this fundamental aspect. At Prana I inhabited the zone from the moment the truck appeared on site, mainly sitting still, watching, being available and ready to intervene where nessecary. I needed to be resolute in the intended design or it could have been altered at every single step, from pole position, stage shape, light rigging etc. There were many ‘suggestions’.

The original ‘vision’ included a circular stage area and this idea had to be ‘shepherded’ carefully as it was outside anyone’s recent experience. There were quite a few naysayers and people who didn’t ‘get it’, as well as plenty of suggestions of other shapes that could have worked better.

The stretch tent has a soft roof, and the tips of the poles disappeared inside the canopy. There was a fairly dramatic loss of light typical of a shady tree or cool cave on a hot day. The tent was sourced by Vasku and the guys were great to work with, they put it up effortlessly and responded to my request to swap the usual central pole to a tri – pole design. I did have to do some fast talking at one point offering to take an alternative central pole and erect it ourselves in the advent of a downpour, but in the end they agreed it wasn’t nessecary.

Our circular stage was 40cm high and 3.6metres diameter. It was not a huge space: the intention was to work with groups of 3-5 seated in a circle. The visual was spectacular, there was no single ‘hot spot’ on the stage, the whole thing was charged by the attention of the musicians and the audience combined.


In the initial design the feminine womb shape of the circle was enclosed by a triangle of poles of masculine energy. The three paths that led in to each of the three posts symbolised the fallopean tubes and birth canal.

In this arrangement all of the speakers and the lights were able to be concentrated in three places. We had 2 or 3 amps on stage at any one time and the larger bass amp leaning back from the floor.

The stage was built over 2 fairly relaxed days. We used palettes as the primary structure and a straightforward grid type cross beam supports with the edges reinforced with offcuts.

Once the skirt panels went on it was ‘solid as’.

Circle stage SOUND DESIGN
created by Moby and Laurence Diack 

The speakers were set in 3 stereo pairs, one of which faced Laurence the engineer (the baddest ears in the house ).

Here is the spec for the PA :
3 pairs of JBL SRX712M speakers placed at 120 degree intervals around the periphery of the stage on tripod stands to give even coverage of the 3 sectors of audience. These were driven from the L and R outputs of the mixer via a QSC PLX3402 amplifier.

A JBL PRX618 powered sub at the edge of the stage operated in “aux fed sub” mode from the mixer so it would only be used on channels that actually had program material which needed low end reinforcement.
4 JBL “Control 25″ small speakers at 90 degree intervals around the outer periphery of the tent. These were powered by one channel of a QSC PLX3402 amp in mono driven from an aux channel on the mixer. The other channel of that amp drove an additional pair of JBL SRX712M speakers used as foldback wedges on stage.
Mixer was an Allen & Heath Mixwizard 16:3 which has onboard effects. There was also a front of house FX rack (shared with mainstage) containing graphic equalisers etc. On stage was an assortment of mics (mainly Shure SM57s & 58s) and DI boxes.

Moby made several metres of cable housing through which we could lay our cables safety in any direction – these were made from ply, in 1m x 30cm lengths, and thick plastic half pipe. The half pipe was hinged to the ply in two places. We used these for the snake of cables running from the sound desk to the stage itself.

While in use the stage was surrounded by instruments in cases, this area was kept clear overnight to avoid it becoming a mess, uncollected instruments were put into the dressing room. ( This aspect of cleaning things up could have been delegated to the artists themselves, by the last day I had intervened but it took us a while to ‘get it’.)

The feel of the space fulfilled the purpose and culture in every way from my point of view. The audience feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Creating paths between the mats directed the audience throughout the space leaving the ones sitting, lying, meditating, eating and listening were undisturbed. Interestingly the last day, the one I dubbed ; ‘day of anarchy’ was the Jan 2nd gig and the mats had all been moved and messed up by workshops and general mayhem so the paths disappeared – this did have an effect on the space, and I  observed the need for chaos, with an edge of desperation seeping in to the space as the need of people who wanted to play became urgent.

Coincidences and Gems. 


After the initial period of introductions that had taken place on line and the whakawhanaunga ritual held on the first night, the artist collective was very cohesive and mutually supportive. They all understood that if they wanted to play they just needed to be sitting there giving their attention to the stage and eventually they would be playing on it.

I was careful to put the most experienced Grounding musicians on the first day – so the rest of the collective could see the vision appear clearly. Rob, Dave and Christine did a great job on days 1 and 3 as did Adventures with Rhubarb who were all under 20 and classically trained multi instrumentalists on days 2 and 4.

Matching up Shining artists with the appropriate Grounding band was a consideration and for this I took into account the stated wishes, comments and enthusiasms of the artists themselves.

At the last minute I dropped the listing for the final act of the tent and keep the whole afternoon free, this was a well foresighted decision.

What occurred spontaneously on the Day of Anarchy ( Jan 2nd)  is that the Sambatron group needed another slot to play so I put them on last at 3:45 and they played the show out and drew people out into the field to dance – it was a lovely energetic closing of the first part of the project and they ended up able to play for about 30mins. Win / Win.


I had asked for and been granted a 90 min closing spot on the Main Stage at the end of the last night. I was unprepared for the level of apprehension I would feel as the date got closer and the reality of transposing our small stage gifts to the audio, lighting and physical dimensions of the Main Stage.

I disclosed my concerns to the Main Stage stage manager and artistic director and discussed the possibility of repositioning this event to the Circle itself after the Main Stage wrapped up. After a Zenergy supervision conversation I handed all planning of the FINALE over to the Circle Artist Collective to create and execute by facilitating a meeting with them where they created the programme themselves and Laurence our engineer created a technical run sheet he could work from. It was nerve-racking to hand it over but this is one of the skills of facilitation and it definately made the FINALE much more powerful, the artists were on fire and the audience was ecstatic!

thanks for reading!

I have created a public facebook foto album for this project here

Being In Music

This workshop ‘Being In Music’ was presented at the Australasian Facilitators Conference in Alice Springs Australia 2014.

Being In Music introduces ‘musical’ processes to explore the three basic awarenesses of a facilitator. Of simultaneously being with the self, being with another ( i.e with each member of the group ) and being with the group as a whole. I created these ‘musical’ processes to accompany the books of Dale Hunter and the work of Zenergy Global. Specifically The Art of Facilitation ( Random House 2007 pages 46-77)

Being with the self – we cannot effectively read a group if we do not know ourselves deeply, the subtle nuances of attention , distraction, sabotage, collusion, jealousy, competition, nurturing, rescuing, interdependence through to co-dependance ( just few things that can get in the way). By recognising within ourselves the multifaceted expression of humanity we are better equipped to effectively assist a group attain it’s purpose.

Physiologically our voices are an important key to self expression and a doorway to self reflection. In authentic communication the muscles, membranes and passages of throat, mouth, sinus, lungs, and diaphragm, continually change and adapt to the situations in which we find ourselves.

Lets learn about ourselves……

We start by loosening up with some physical warm up exercises for voicework/singing. You could use your own exercises for this or download of the warm up routines I use – links are at the bottom of this earlier post.

Exercise One – How do you say your name? Walk around the space in your own rhythm quietly saying your name and listening to the sound of your name from your own lips….. what combination of consonants and vowels make up your name?… exactly how do you like your name to be said?…. what movements does your tongue make?… does it hit your teeth? rise up at the back? are the movements of your tongue rapid or slow? what shapes do your lips make? are there variations depending on the circumstances? … do you have several names? nick names? how do they differ and how are they the same?… include your family names…. how do the different names feel to say? how do they sound when you say them the way you like them to be said? what meanings do these powerful words have for you?

Keep walking slowly, keep the focus within, dance if you want to, make tai chi floating hands in the air, tracing figures of eight as you move forward, keep saying your name out loud to yourself….. say it louder, pretend you are introducing yourself by name to a stranger, or on a phone speaking with a family member….

How do the minute muscles and membranes of your mouth, throat, face and chest move as you say your name aloud? is there tension? where? is your mouth dry? are you nervous or relaxed? hot or cold? thirsty? how does this stimuli affect your voice making apparatus?

 Being with another

Find a partner – Have a conversation between yourself and another where the only words spoken are your names and the variations of these names.

With the awareness we now have of our delicate voice production apparatus we are better able to observe how it is affected by our interaction with another .

We can now observe ourselves in relationship. Can we focus on another while maintaining our relationship with ourselves? What changes? How do the muscles of respiration adapt? Our tongue? How does our jaw respond? Our larynx?

How does self consciousness affect the way our voice responds? Can we observe self consciousness aurally in the voice of the other?

Change partners – continue with your names and then add other key phrases – “I love to…….”, ” My favourite activity is ….” , ” My children’s names are ….”.

What happens when we listen to the ‘others’ voice? Can we perceive their throat muscles working? the tightness of their jaw/ tongue/larynx/lungs/sinus/head/eyes/cheeks? How far back to they throw their head when they speak? How does this movement affect us? How do we respond to our perception of tightness in another? of relaxation? Does our self observation extend to these minute and automatic reactions?

Exercise two In pairs take two minutes in silence to listen to the sounds around you – then record these sounds on a paper – record not only the actual sounds but where they reside sonically and what frequencies they inhabit. Listen for : near/far/dissonant/assonant/polyphonic/monophonic/metallic/woody/rustling/buzzy/sharp/soft/pleasant/unfamiliar/sustained or staccato, as well as sounds that travel from one side to another such as a bird flying over head, or footsteps traveling across the room …………

Come back to the large group and write a list of these sounds on a large central paper… you might need short discussions of the terms if people are unclear ….

Being with a Group

Form a large circle, with the list of sounds in the centre…. reflect together on these scope of these sounds…. we are going to make vocal music together using them.

Exercise three – Start with an Om – a group Om – with eyes gently closed – each person finds their own note – listening for each voice, listening for your own voice and also the softest voice in the group – so you can hear every single voice in the group – when everyone’s voice is present start to include the sounds you have listed – think about inhabiting the aural space together, sometimes in unison, other times in harmony, filling spaces with rhythm, or no rhythm, explore drones together or separately, bring all the ideas you have listed to the song, the sounds that travel, the sounds that change, the softer and louder moments, the pleasant and the jarring, familiar and mysterious. Represent your surroundings with your aural expression. Allow the song to mutate to encompass other sounds not previously presenced. Listen to the music as you are co-creating it , appreciate how your voice is contributing to the music and the muscles and membranes of your throats/tongues/respiration etc are accommodating all of the sensations you are feeling. Allow the song to find it’s own ending. Let it extend as long as it needs to as each person explores their own voices while listening to each others voices,

Listen inside the song, Be within the music. Be with the silence as the music ends.


End by saying your names aloud once around the circle.

Emerging Music workshop

Here is wonderful team building soundscaping process that I used in a workshop at the transformational festival Prana which I call “Emerging Music”.

The group chose the theme of the soundscape and created their own sounds and sonic ideas, while the facilitator role is to encourage people to make sounds freely, without inhibition. This is best done by modelling.

Emerging Music Process

In a circle, close enough to hear each other without straining (we were sitting on the earth) someone decides on the  theme ‘the story of our country, Aotearoa (New Zealand), specifically the colonisation and loss of Te Reo ( Maori language ).

We lined up seven rocks to signify the key points in the story :

  1. The Maori journey by sea from Hawaiiki
  2. The arrival and the beauty of Aotearoa
  3. Colonisation by the British
  4. The conflict
  5. The banning of Te Reo Maori ( Maori language )
  6. Reclamation of Te Reo
  7. The now

Then together , using only our voices and hands, we created a soundscape in which we moved together through each point in the story. ( Powerful listening skills are required here!)

The group had to keep very aware of where everyone else is in the story, to try and keep together in the unfolding.


Facilitator notes :

  • It’s a good idea to have a story ready as an example but be ready to hand it over the second someone gets the idea and starts to run with it.
  • Encourage stories with obvious sections, i.e horses running over wooden bridges, a plague of cats, a snoring giant… these will give very obvious landmarks for keeping the group together. If someone gets lost they can find their way back in easily.
  • Encourage the group to move through the parts of the story using aural non visual cues,  resist the urge to point at each rock in turn to try and ‘ keep people together’, it’s OK if it falls apart as it will let everyone know they have to listen more powerfully in the next story.

The Positive Power of Illusion

I was talking to a street musician, she was about 17  I think, playing the accordion outside the supermarket, and she was tired….but there was a ethereal beauty about her fair complexion and dark ringlets. She reminded me of a ballerina, an opera singer, a performer I might have seen and aspired to be when I was a child.

The game of ‘bags’ was a favourite past-time with my brother and friends, we’d score magazines and slam our hands down hard on anything we wanted. Performers were fair game, and in the programmes of the ballet performances that were compulsory spectacles for children of orchestra pit musicians there was an abundance of pretty young dancers.  I ‘bagsed’ the ones I wanted to ‘be’.

After the show, in the furious colours of backstage chaos I would find a vantage point to watch the excited pack down and makeup removal routine, if I behaved myself I was welcome, even celebrated as my eyes shone with infatuation as I spied my ‘favourites’ transforming into regular folk again.

After the show is a time of smiles, of larger than life, of bouquets of flowers and celebration. Performers are full of adrenalin and the world is a rosy place, far from the droll routine of homework and dishes, the boredom of being overly imaginative in the real world.
Here the love for performance took me, as did the afterglow laughter and optimism that goes with the big show.

Now after years of experiencing this adrenalised fuss first hand and been on the receiving end of children’s enthusiasm I am wondering how if we can somehow embody this sense of purposeful joy more often in our daily lives. Where does it retire to when the curtain comes down? Who are we when we are not shining with face paint and velvet costume? Who are we when we are?

I find myself wanting to demystify the world of magic, and to bring it into the ‘real world’ for the sake of not just children but all comers, we are all children somewhere in our hearts after all, we are all still somehow capable of believing for a few moments that there really is magic, and perhaps we can believe with enough passion that we will see that indeed there is magic in our world.

It is harder to step through to the mystical dimension in the city, where even the clouds appear contained by the omnipresent cables overhead, the concrete structures, the fumes and the worried faces.

karena koa at takapuna market

I find my way more easily performing as part of market life, where the multitudes can come and go, look and stare, or avoid eye contact, freely and without judgement. Here children can stumble onto an expression of presence that has no programme, no promotion and no price. Where for a second or a minute I can connect with the broken and lonely, and from my safe zone amidst a tune or a song, I can turn that frown upside down, meet those infant eyes with freshness, reminding myself of the sacredness of performance, the shamanistic role of the extrovert,  to explore a way to try and tune us all to vibrate with the same open heart.

Powerful voice for Yoga Teachers Workshop

I was invited to deliver this workshop by the leader of a leading local Yoga Academy that offers a teachers training programme. Powerful voice skills are included as part of the course

First I explained to the participants their Course Leaders purpose for the session:

To explore tools to develop voice:

  • Projection
  • Tone
  • Pitch variation
  • How to enhance each persons individual voice to engage their students
  • To be fiery of voice or softer when necessary in their delivery of the instructions for the different asanas ( including for the different parts of each sequence).

Then I asked the participants to write down their personal purposes for their own voice development on A4 paper with the 3 main points they wanted to be coached on.

Began with voice/body warm up – included jaw relaxation, tongue stretches, breathing, humming, humming into opening the mouth

Included vowel and consonant exercises – used the room fully, standing with our backs to the walls to feel the spine, asked the participants to imagine and address:

  • a baby in their arms
  • a kitten stuck under a house
  • someone in their family who was making them late to leave the house
  • their dog
  • and finally a dog in the road in the path of a truck

Asked them to observe their throats, bellys, neck muscles, head resonators, and breathing for each of the examples. Explained that to speak well in public it’s good to have access to the full spectrum of vocal sounds, and then to improvise, speaking from the intention to communicate, and allow the whole authentic human voice to function.

Asked the participants to teach one- three asanas to the group while I watched, listened and took notes and observations based on the course managers and the participants individual purposes .

Coached on the three points they outlined, plus any very clear points that I pick up on that they might not have noticed.

Offered opportunity for self reflection.

Offered an opportunity for peer feedback.

Finished by listening to recording of Sanskrit pronunciation of the asana names. We all practiced these together.

Sung Vande Gurunam ( Ashtanga mantra ) three times with Om.


Here are some resources you can download



And a mp3 to listen to by Awakening Circus collective performing a rousing street yoga demonstration with music. ( in Spanish and Sanskrit) which begins with Vande Gurunam.

Collective Intelligence

Why are we living the lives we are living?
What are we doing here on the planet?
Do we want to live using the combined power of all the beings on the planet?
The collective intelligence of our entire race?
This is evolution :  emotional and spiritual human evolution.

What do you want to do with your time?
Where do you want to channel your energy? Your precious life force?
Do you want to access collective intelligence in your every waking moment?
What would it take to transform your time on earth to be an urgent quest towards human evolution?

So…… how far are you prepared to go?
Are you prepared to amass all the energetic resources you can muster, to gather them together and use them?
All of the possessions you have that you need to look after and pay rent for, can they be sold or exchanged for the things you need to use today?
Can you let go of what you don’t need? Do you understand that these extraneous old possessions can weigh you down unnessecarily?

Does the place you inhabit service your needs? physical, material? energetic?
Are you thriving in this place? Is it full of an energy where you are connected to the collective energy of humanhood? Of the earth? Papatuanuku? Pachamama?

Do the people you surround yourself with share your ideals?
Do you meet, share ideas and create sustainable and exciting projects together?
Are you generating collective intelligence together with them in your every interaction? in every project?

What roles do you play/masks do you wear?
Are some of these roles outdated? Can you let them go? Do you understand that these old masks you keep around you can weigh you down unnecessarily?

Once that you have amassed all the energy you have available in one place , you can channel it towards human evolution,
and  be part of generating collective intelligence.
With the human race, with the plant kingdom, with the animal world, with the water world, with the realm of air and with the spiritual entities , with those that dwell in other dimensions……

Evolution is natural, evolution is part of nature – there must be a way.
Be an ant, Be a bee, Be a tree.

Everything is available to us.