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Step into the Storm at Performa 13

In just seven days, November 8, 2013, Zeena will be performing in New York City at the Performa 13 arts festival in “Live - From the Eye of the Storm,” a sonic ritual event organized by artist Frank Haines.

In just seven days, November 8, 2013, I'll be performing in New York City at the Performa 13 arts festival in “Live - From the Eye of the Storm,” a sonic ritual event organized by artist Frank Haines.

Many who've followed my spiritual development over the years recognize the eye of the storm as a continuing thread with me—I've used the phrase to describe my spiritual path in my privately published writings, my SLM column, and my VICE column. It refers to the storm deity known to ancient Egypt as Seth, Sutekh, or Sut. From a Tantric perspective, Seth is a wrathful deity who cuts illusion and self-deceit, a simultaneously creative and destructive force of spiritual liberation.

An enlightened being, Vajrapani (also known as the “Bodhisattva of Great Power”), watches over my Buddhist path. Vajrapani and Seth share many other attributes. A specific mystical characteristic of this deity-force is to protect and guide your way to a speedy—if treacherous—path to enlightenment—potentially even within the same lifetime you awaken to embark on your path.

The storm serves as metaphor for the chaotic and impermanent world we live in as well as the tumultuous manner with which these wrathful deities facilitate our ego-destruction. The eye of the storm exemplifies the non-dual emptiness maintained within the relative and ultimate realities—between and beyond the mundane and the spiritual. Underneath clouds of confusion, all beings possess within them this peace in the eye of the storm. As one who lives by the Bodhisattva vows, the aspiration for this performance will be to transmit peace from the still void to all there that night, to aid in the release from eternal suffering.

Although postmodern hostility, sarcasm and irony toward religion and spirituality mark most contemporary art, art in its highest form has always been a means to unify with the infinite by whichever name we understand it: the divine, magic, the universe, spirituality, Buddhist nature, energy, or science. Many artists experience total absorption, deep meditation, or shamanic trance states when engaged in creation.

Within certain mystical systems, especially Tantra, chanting mantras, prayers, or spells facilitate the same unity with the divine as that experienced through art. Inspired art is the result of diving into that boundless space. Losing ourselves in the immensity of what comes through us, we reflect upon and convey a small souvenir from our journey into that vast expanse to others.

This esoteric science of the vibration of voice is central to my performance. Every sound our breath and voice produces throws subtle energies which manifest throughout our surroundings—that's why we must carefully consider what we say. Letting unfocused energy loose in superfluous or thoughtless words leads to destructive consequences. But conversely, there are also sounds, words and syllables which, when vocalized in a focused way, create profoundly positive transformations. Voicing these sounds aligns subtle energy currents within us. When that's achieved, the entire cosmos speaks through us, conveying the original vibration. In turn, we send that vibration back out in a continuous circular internal and external play.

Many mistakenly consider mantras and chanting to be a kind of anthropological curiosity, sometimes labeling it world or folk music—or worse, some kind of psychodrama for personal cathartic purposes. While that may be true, it's a very limited understanding of certain sounds’ effect on a molecular level. Uttering or chanting spells, mantras or prayers shouldn't be regarded as a romantic excursion to a distant past, faraway place, an escape from our ordinary lives for relaxation, superstitious attachments, or exotic entertainment.  Practicing these sounds conveys a timeless unity of energy currents, enabling us to realize we're never separate from one continuously existing omnipresent vibration.

My Performa 13 presentation will offer these vocalized syllables, which originate from emptiness, gradually transforming into a sound and voice collage. Together with the assistance of Frank Haines's design and execution and Hisham Akira Bharoocha and Anders Hermund’s additional rhythmic instruction, we will illustrate a continuum through ancient mysticism, contemporary artistic expression and future manifestations yet undreamed of. It'll be good to see some old friends there, and I'm looking forward to meeting new ones. Until then, may you have peace within you and may you emanate peace upon the world around you.

Previously - Halloween in a Satanic Household