Laura Lee Perkins and Ken GreenWhite Owl Products

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Power, Meditation and Prayer through Sound


  The language of music is universal and timeless. Even the earliest primitive societies used melody and rhythm for communication, for celebration and for honoring life and death. Music instrument artifacts teach us that the native peoples of North America used music for thousands of years to express feelings and emotions. Today, those who are drawn to the compelling sound of American Indian flutes often speak of the power of this instrument to draw forth sacred personal and communal experiences.

 Much curiosity exists about the strength of this gentle, yet haunting, simple instrument. Is it the wood, is it the modes, or is it the simplicity of so many native melodies that seem to awaken primeval memories locked deep within our souls? Is the experience of feeling summoned actually the ancients calling to us, or is it simply that our hectic lifestyles make our soul long for meditative respite? Perhaps it is both.

 Audience members often speak of feeling drawn into a trance-like state by the native flute’s power to invoke altered states of consciousness. They speak of responses that include relaxation, visionary processing, space and time travel, memory regressions, improved states of physical/mental/emotional health, an abatement of strife, a feeling of inner balance and acceptance, and an overwhelming feeling of universal love for all life forms. There is a sense of the sacred that is almost whispered after hearing the American Indian flute. The significance of the experience is often revealed through tear-filled eyes, glistening with gratitude.

 The sounds of the flute unlock the gate into our subconscious mind. The encounter with the flutes’ tones opens our personal psyche into awareness, allowing us to have deeper opportunities for clarity and understanding. What a gift this is! These experiences encourage us to keep playing the Native American flute. The power of the quality of the sound moves the listeners [and often the performer] into connected states of meditation which can be described as prayerful. Being lead into the awareness of a spiritual presence beyond, and also within, ourselves is the gift of opening to the beauty of the Native American flute.

The body also has an experience of divine things,
When the passionate forces of the soul
Are not put to death
But transformed and sanctified.

St. Gregory Palamas

 The wood from which our flutes are made came from the earth. A tree grew and gave us oxygen to breathe the very air which produces sound as the air flows from our own bodies into the wooden flutes. We who have the eyes to see the beauty of the tree, also have the voice to speak for the responsibility of protecting our sacred connections to all life forms. The voice is our flute. We know it when we play and when we hear others play. We feel it in the breath which we give forth in tones of beauty through the wooden flute, crafted by human hands from the tree which grew up out of the earth.

 Sometimes it is almost as if the air remembers the sounds. Or maybe we hear the dead singing? Our hearts are filled with songs that only we can bring forward, with gentleness and passion, into the world. There is no wrong way to play the Native American flute, but there are innumerable right ways to play it. When anything is this right, the world benefits. When music fills the holes in our heart’s colander, the bowl of heart love overflows and the dark chambers of the heart become illuminated by the fulfillment of our yearnings.

  The sacrament of playing the Native American flute is the experience of being tethered to the Great Spirit. We are free to float in our personal experiences, but we always have the tether to keep us safe, to keep us spiritually connected to the source of our human experience. The earthy wooden flute’s quality helps us to connect with our soul in slowly unfolding yet magnifying ways, allowing us to live within the mystery of life’s magic. The Native American flute brings us face-to-face with the Great Spirit, offering a glimpse into immortality as we cross the space that Thomas Merton has described as the abyss that separates us from ourselves.

 When we become connected to our own inner core, we are also connected more deeply to others. In my work, I ask others to envision the tone quality as the soul, and the breath as the animating spirit which not only propels the sound outward, but vibrates and expands the psychic entity known as soul. According to John Keats, the earth is the Vale of soul-making. If soul-making is our life’s purpose, then the Native American flute is a magnificent teacher and facilitator.

 The Native American flute reveals and summons. It responds to our innermost longings and our most celebrated joys. The soft, sweet tone flows over us like honey, satiating our human longings. It comforts us when we need consolation, and allows us to simply be our most intimate selves.

 The Native American flute has brought us to our knees in gratitude, while freeing our souls to fly. If life is a divine dance, then being immersed in the rhythmical pulsations of music, made by our own breath through wood grown up out of the earth, must truly be Heaven! Creativity brings forth beauty, and your creativity expressed through the Native American flute illuminates our individual creative paths.

The Native American flute put us in deeper contact with our hearts, allowed us to live life more fully, and to uncover deeper and more fulfilling levels of joy. It has brought us to our knees in gratitude, while freeing our souls to fly. If life is a divine dance, then being immersed in the rhythmical pulsations of music, made by our own breath through wood grown up out of the earth, must truly be Joy!

If, as scientists inform us, everything is composed “simply” of light and sound, then the sound that passes into and through each of us has the potential to transform. This is where the Native American flute’s magic and mystery live – in the vibrational frequencies that we know as music. This music invokes memories of previous incarnations in cultures long-since vanished — and in native cultures which are still vibrantly alive. We are drawn back and down, back and down around the circle of time — back to that which rests deeply imbedded in our soul’s memory.

The alchemy of the Native American flute’s resonance is profound. Shifts in consciousness, accompanied by relaxation, occur as we allow ourselves the gift of a vibrating tone, shifting in pitch and played with pulsating vibrato and rhythmical underpinnings. Our consciousness expands, and we become one with the music. How does this unity happen? How do the two components of sound and mathematics combine to create change? How can a “simple” instrument, crafted from wood or reeds, with a few tone-holes, move us from one emotional stance to another. What causes the shift?

Throughout our world, for thousands of years, we find that music is constructed in a variety of ways. Based on different scale models, using a wide variety of musical instruments and vocal techniques in solo or ensemble presentations, music thrives as a vivid voice of cultures. The Native American flute’s timbre has a metaphysical root. The quality of sound, offered by breath and wood, opens us into wider possibilities of knowing. Somehow this instrument transcends time and space to enter our heart, and we experience the sense of coming home, coming back down into the very core of our own creation where we know love.

That might seem just too simplistic for some, but for me, it is the truth. There is a fundamental purity in this instrument’s sound, when the warmth of one’s own breath brings the instrument – made from a piece of dead wood – back to life. Music “says” what we are unable to express in words, and the Native American flute-call sounds forth longing, warmth and envelopment. We are summoned by its yearning, seeking voice. As we are enveloped by the beauty of the sound, our bodies warm. We have arrived back at our inception; we have followed the leading sound down, down, into our soul’s memories. We have come home.


Laura Lee Perkins (Maliseet/Sioux ancestry) is the author of six published books, including The Native American Flute Tutor and Earthmother Flute Songs, five professional CD recordings and she has recorded background music for three audio-books and for two Inner Sanctum CDs. Laura is a former classical flute professor “who became enamored by the beauty and power of the Native American flutes.” She has been awarded ten grants and has served as Artist-in-Residence for the U.S. National Park Service four times. Laura and her flute-maker husband Kenneth Green (MicMac ancestry) are professionally known as The WHITE OWL DUO. They travel the U.S. teaching Learn to Play Native American Flute classes and performing concerts featuring Native American flute/drum music. They live in Maine.

 
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