Watering the Jasmines
by Ulla Suokko ©2004 Published in The Mythic Journeys Newsletter Fall 2004
…our time surrenders us to an obligation
to water the jasmines
or bleed to death in a dark street…
The purpose of artists, musicians and storytellers is not only to inspire, excite and uplift, but also to unsettle and to provoke, to arouse and to awaken, so that the veils of comfort are lifted and the deeper truths revealed. It is through art, poetry and music that we water the jasmines of our souls and ignite our heart’s fire to cultivate beauty, bliss, passion and compassion in our lives. Artists shape-shift into messengers of timeless times, leading us into the known and the unknown, into darkness and light,soothing our souls and stimulating our minds. They educate and entertain, heal and hold, connecting us with our own hearts and visions, bridging peoples and cultures, reaching for the ultimate vision of oneness with each other and with the universe. Joseph Campbell was an avid advocate of the artist’s function as the communicator of the divine mysteries of life and as the interpreter of the things seen and unseen. In today’s world, it is the artists who are the magicians, the shamans and the bards, who stir the cauldron of our dreams and guard the wisdom of the ages. But as Campbell said, he or she “has to be an artist who understands mythology and humanity and isn’t simply a sociologist with a program for you.”
In June, we had an extraordinary opportunity to delve into mythology and humanity from various intriguing perspectives at the Mythic Journeys conference in Atlanta, celebrating the work, ideas and 100th birthday of Joseph Campbell. It was an honor to be part of this festival with such luminaries as James Hillman, Robert Bly, Michael Meade, James Flannery, Mickey Lemle, Coleman Barks, and so many others! It was brilliance and beauty in action on many levels, where the essence of ancient myths and timeless tales offered their timely gifts through the voices of daring and caring, and through the poetry of intellect and intuition, eloquence and imagination.
My presentation of the first Big Story in Atlanta was the creation story from the Kalevala, the national epic of my native Finland, in which Ilmatar, the Daughter of Air, creates the world. The very breath of the beginning of time, the Air Goddess rides the winds and the waves of the primordial ocean, and finally, gives birth to the first man, the witty, steadfast, old Väinämöinen. He is the supreme hero, a consummate singer-musician-healer-shaman-bard, who, when challenged, would use the beguiling gifts of music’s magical might, instead of mere brute force. Truly a forefather to all of us cosmopolitan bards, as we hold space for each listener to journey into the sacredness, magic and medicine of their own hearts, and into the heart of their own story.
6As a flutist and performing artist, one of my most important allies is, naturally, breath. Breath is my brush and air my canvas as the stories arise through my flute or voice. I surrender to be an instrument, listening to the hidden meaning of sound, observing how a shift in the quality, character, color, mood, or intent behind the sound changes the vibration in the room, the player and the listener. In Jungian terms, I allow intuition, sensation and feeling to ride the dragon, and to determine the expression of my breath, thinking coming to aid only when language is needed.
Many of the creation myths of the world are testimonies to the power of breath and sound to create and to transform. The Old Testament says, "And the Lord said 'Let there be light!’ And there was light." The Gospel of John, "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The Koran says, “When God said ‘Be,’ it became.” In the Ancient Egypt, Thot was said to have created the world by his Word, and the sound of Thot’s song was thought to have created four frog gods and snake goddesses who continued Thot's song, helping the sun journey across the sky. The Hopi Indians have the Spider Woman, the Earth Goddess, who sings the Song of Creation. In the Popul Vuh, the Mayan tradition, only the giver of breath, the Maker, is present in the primordial hum under the empty sky, and the world is created by word alone. In The Vedas of the Hindu we have “Nada Brahma,” the God-Sound through which everything is made, "In the beginning was Brahman with whom was the Word. And the Word is Brahman.” Or, the mighty Indian sage Markandeya, who is deeply transformed by the song of the life-breath of a manifestation of Vishnu, the immortal wild gander, “the sound of whose breathing is the magic of the creation and dissolution of the world.”
These powerful tools of creation are available to all of us right here, right now. Through the awareness of our breath, we may enter the threshold of silence within, thus tuning into the possibilities and potentialities of the conditions of the primordial hum in the microcosm of our own being, merging into the music of the universe, into the sound of the Absolute, nada. (I find it interesting that in Sanskrit nada means “sound” and in Spanish “nothing,” perhaps, in the ephemeral infinity of listening to the universe through your own breath, these two become one and the same thing.) By consciously changing the pattern and expression of our breath, we can change our lives at any given moment, at any given breath. Working with the sound of our own voice, uniting ourselves with the sacred sounds of creation, we can access the subtle vibrations beyond the physical form and enter into the realm of manifestation and miracles. The great mystics and schools of knowledge have always studied the power and science of conscious breath and sound as carriers of divine codes, and as potent portals into higher awareness, profound healing and deeper awakening.
The Mythic Journeys festival will always remain in my heart as one of the important and inspiring milestones in my life, a confirmation of my purpose as an artist and human being and an affirmation of courage and continuous curiosity. Mythic Journeys was a discovery of a beautiful community of seekers and finders, of explorers of the inner and outer worlds of humanity on personal and global levels. It offered a new vocabulary for the hidden mysteries of age-old myths and the deep waters of the human mind, a truly enriching expansion of ideas and insights into my own mythic journey.
Since the conference in Atlanta I have paid yet again much closer attention to the deep messages of my dreams and to the subtle signs that connect me with my true path. Every moment is a call to live our lives to the fullest, to expand our awareness, and to water the jasmines. While staying aware of the realities of the world around us, we must have courage to keep our hearts open to goodness, kindness and love, and to keep moving towards our dreams and visions. One breath at a time, one note at a time, one heart at a time for hope and healing, and for the fulfillment of each of our life stories. We can, and we must make a difference. Every action counts. Every thought counts. Every breath counts. In Pablo Picasso’s words, “It is my wish at this time to remind you that I have always believed, and still believe, that artists who live and work with spiritual values cannot and should not remain indifferent to a conflict in which the highest values of humanity and civilization are at stake.”
The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don't go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don't go back to sleep.