How the flute changed my life

this is a picture of a fluteAchieving a quiet mind during a practice that is formal can be taxing to the newly initiated sage, especially when we make the practice a “practice”, meaning the only time we are practicing is when we are in the temple, zendo or church. I encourage my students to “practice” all day long, using what they already have in front of them as their tools for awakening. You never know when that “aha” moment will happen and if you remain open for it to happen at anytime and anyplace, obviously you are increasing your odds dramatically for having a direct experience in the now. Here’s an example of an “aha” moment that happened for me with my flute as the catalyst.

One cold winter evening driving over the pass on Mingus Mountain in Arizona, near the town of Jerome, I had another mystical moment in time. What’s with me and mountains? Well I love high, remote places. There you can find peace, quiet and calm. It’s a respite from the chaos down below, up above the energy of commerce and the focus on busy, busy, me, me. That evening Tanya, myself and Tony, the dog, had driven over the mountain to Prescott Valley to the Mingus Music store. I had been playing the flute for about a year and I wanted to hear what it would sound like through an amplifier with a delay and reverb. My friend, Jesse, introduced me to this style of playing the flute. I just loved the way his flutes sounded through the amps and delay. Such a haunting and transcendent sound.

At the music store I met a friendly staff member who helped me hook up the mic and delay and amp. The first time I played a note I was immediately transported to a space of stillness and clarity. The more I played, the more I became completely transported, calmed and healed by the sounds I was hearing coming through the amps. That first experience of hearing that healing sound come through me was a pivotal point to me in my life’s journey. I go into more detail on this in the chapter “Using Sound As A Healing Tool”. When I came back to the car, I related how I had felt after playing the flute with the amp to Tanya and we talked about it on our long ride back to Jerome.

It was on the pass back over Mingus Mountain that I realized I had found another profound stillness practice, the healing power of sound. I learned by just letting go, I could allow the sounds to flow through me freely as a listener. Without thinking, I could just listen and be healed by the action of non-action, vis a vie being a conduit for the sound from Source.I had discovered the shamanic practice of becoming an instrument of compassion, healing and love. I’m not saying that I was a compassionate person at the time; I was far from it. I was still drinking, using drugs and being a selfish ass. I had just discovered that I could let go and let music come through me via the flute without the need to concentrate or create the sound by thinking about it. By stepping aside and allowing the sounds to just be, I could just be.

At one point on the drive back as I was talking about how amazing it felt to just let this music flow through me, I was suddenly compelled to pull my little BMW 2002 off the road under some Ponderosa pines. I told Tanya to wait in the car as I needed to play my flute for some reason. I walked off into the woods and was led to a small clearing where I could see the stars shining brightly in the night sky. I began to play the flute to the sky and I was suddenly overcome with intense gratitude and wonder. In that moment I was thanking the Source/Creator for the gift of healing and the gift of the ability to play the flute. In this thank offering prayer, I was connected to the Source of compassion, love and healing. This is where my healing from alcohol and drug abuse began. Shortly thereafter, I stopped using both drugs and alcohol and have been free from both since 1996.

I’m not taking credit here for the healing, I’m saying I was a willing receiver of the compassion and love of the universe in the form of sound and the willing transmitter of that energy. My introduction to shamanism came from a prayer I had practiced, mentioned by Frank Fool’s Crow in his book, “Wisdom and Power”. Fool’s Crow’s prayer was thus, after cleansing yourself with sage and making the tobacco offering to the six directions, ask The Creator, “Wakan Tanka”, to make you like a hollow bone, filling you full of His power, removing all of the obstacles inside your body, mind and soul so that you may receive His great power fully to bursting. Once you have been cleansed and are filled to the bursting with His power and love, see it flowing through you to all your relations. I practiced this prayer for many years and at once on the side of that road, I saw how the power came through me and the flute, suffising love and healing to all beings.

Of course using the word “shaman” can conjure up images, stereotypes and controversy as well and I would like to clarify that my personal experiences with the flute are in no way tied to any tribal affiliation, nor do I claim any tribal affiliation with any North American indian tribe or culture. What has come to me was purely from a direct teaching and a mystical transference that tapped into my innate wisdom. What I may word here in my book may not be an accurate portrayal of the usage of the block flute as per certain tribal teachings and beliefs. My apologies in advance if this offends anyone but what I offer here is, to me, an honored and cherished tool, a gift that was essential in my healing and transformation. Without the flute as my teacher, guide and medicine, I’m sure I wouldn’t have made it out of the dark night of the soul.

I continue to use the flute as my medicine, healing and gift. My understanding of it is pure and without ego. I believe it is my gift to share to the world to help heal and alleviate the suffering of all beings. This I give freely and with reverence to the instrument. It is a powerful stillness practice to use it as a conduit for the sound of Source and all of us have this ability to tap into and share this type of energy. It’s our birthright so I want to encourage you to explore and experiment with drums, flutes, didgeridoos, guitar and voice so that you may find your instrument and a stillness practice that inspires not thinking and being the channel of sound. Please share your gifts. We are waiting

3 thoughts on “How the flute changed my life

  1. Thank you Robert – you’ve inspired me to take up the flute again. And your podcasts have helped me so much over the years.

  2. Thank you for taking me with you on your journey a bit.

    You just reminded me to honor my shamanic drum more and make space for it on the dream board I’m just designing. Very much appreciated! :-)

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