“May our heart's garden of awakening bloom with hundreds of flowers.”― Thich Nhat Hanh
Since the age of eight, when I first nestled a black and orange starburst garage sale guitar in my arms, something has melted inside of me when I begin to play and sing. I still remember the first vibrant low twang of its rusty old low “E” chord—it was as if someone had plucked a heart string and loosened it right up. My mouth opened, and some words came out. I don’t remember what they were, but I do remember that my troubles went right out the window. My heart burst open, and my soul knew she was home.
I wrote my first song at the age of 8 and never stopped writing. Professionally, I became a marine biologist, but the music kept calling and soon deckside jams on oceanographic cruises were replaced by real gigs at beach bars. When children were in the audience, I felt a special affinity to sharing music with them, creating songs together, co-creating energy. A very rewarding career as “Shana Banana -- the award-winning national children’s musical entertainer"-- was soon born, along with three CD’s and two DVD’s. I loved being “Shana Banana” because it served people. It helped to motivate and encourage kids, and I could deliver so many great messages through original music.
As time went on, I met my husband, our children were born and as my yoga/Zen spiritual path deepened, more songs were written along this journey independent of "Shana Banana." I spent a two decades diving deep, and from these depths of exploration came personal revelation --that of the gift of learning how to open my heart and share it with others through music and writing. I started to lead kirtan and song circles for all ages called "Chanting to the Open Heart.” Through this new way of singing to and for and with others, it was quickly revealed that it reached our true beings, and together we could begin to transform and open each other's hearts with amazing results. By sharing this music, we began tapping into the authentic, true Self based in compassion and positive change that comes from going right to the heart and staying open.
I also began writing about my formal Zen practice from the perspective of being a very busy and full time parent. the book "Meditation for Moms and Dads:108 Tips for Parents and Caregivers" was the result.
Today I sit in deference to this journey of life. There is so much gratitude. And yet, witnessing this world suffering under such current environmental and humanitarian atrocities is not what I ever expected to be happening in my lifetime. Instead of drama or crisis or ego fulfillment in the face of such happenings, we remember the Oak Tree In the Garden: it elicits a heightened sense of ability, clarity, purpose, and responsibility, rooted in the awareness that the world is suffering and that this sacred short life--indeed, this very moment-- is a gift. We can learn to listen, to stop, to see, to breathe, to allow dharma to assign its purpose. And it has everything to do with a low E string and the melting of my heart into music and writing.
Expression through music and writing continues in harmony with this life's unfolding, deeply rooted in the earth, growing into the boundless, like an oak tree branching out majestically from her source. They are chants, songs, blogs, books, and poetry. The songs and chants are being recorded now, to be released sometime in 2019 as the project "Oak Tree In the Garden."
It's a joy to share this path with you here, in fearless humility and in gratitude.
We are sangha.