SB: It’s an album of sacred songs, and chants from ancient texts. Each one has a positive message and is recorded in the original Persian or Arabic. The songs on my album “One with the Beloved” are mostly original compositions and others are my versions of traditional Sufi Mantras and folk songs.
Q: How did your upbringing influence this album?
SB: I grew up in Britain in an Iranian refugee household. We spoke Farsi at home (Persian) My parents had lost virtually everything in Iran. It was humbling to experience being an outsider and to learn the importance of compassion and friendship at a young age from certain English friends we had who were kind to us.I went to the US to go to college after getting my GCSE.
Iranians revere figures like Rumi (a 13th century philosopher and poet), whose texts are the main inspiration for the lyrics used in my album. Rumi himself was a refugee who had a revelation which transformed his creativity. I resonate with Rumi’s journey and his wisdom is timeless and universal to me. Leonard Cohen and Coldplay are among the most well known musical artists who have been inspired by his messages, yet his name seems to fall into obscurity. I am hoping to change that through my new album.
Q: Can you explain more about your vision of unity over separation?
SB: Whenever there is political violence that may hold a person in dread or despair that you pause before judgement and consider that this is a desperate act and not how people normally are. Of course some will say that is already happening, but is it really sinking into our consciousness that Islam, Middle Easterners or people of faith in general are not a danger? When people make these claims, they are attacking every person of faith and rather than to debate which side is wrong or right, I wanted to make a contribution showing the world that there is a universalist message from within a faith, which is wrongly associated with violence.
We in the West are urgently lacking when it comes to reversing stereotypes in a meaningful way about civilisations that we have been at odds with. Policies of alienation and adversity are outdated and are not working as they stand. We need to start focusing on humanising and not ostracising those we cannot understand—and engaging from that place. That means calling on imagery, figures in history, literature and artistic expressions that can help us regain a more complete picture of those who have been our so called “enemies”. If we can do it in a way that is relatable, then I believe, lives can change as well as perspectives.
I believe everyone can relate to a figure like Rumi because of the tremendous appeal of his writings and it’s no accident that he is experiencing a resurgence today at a time when our relationship with the Middle East is at its most chaotic. We need more of his voice.
Q: What measures do you feel people could take to try to overcome the current worldwide barriers of political mistrust?
SB: I could say what everybody else says: “vote” “be engaged civically” and “write to your elected Rep” and generally I would respond in such a way, BUT the truth is we’ve had colossal failures when it comes to our policies concerning the Middle East.
When it comes to something like our relationship with Iran for example (and I worked in Washington on this issue) there is a lack of reliable information and it creates this sense of desolation no matter what we do or where we turn. Historically, when our institutions are gridlocked, it’s up to the grassroots to get involved and to come up with alternative ways of pursuing the positive change that we urgently need. That’s not practical or easy when there is a large distance and gap in cultural awareness.
Music and the Arts are powerful tools in rebuilding that human bridge. Their potential is untapped here, and if we can make these tools accessible and personal, if we can trace the relationships between societal wounds and the wounds and fears within each person’s individual consciousness that exists, then there is hope, and I believe Rumi would approve.
Q: What is Sound Healing and how did you first come across this?
It’s a holistic modality that involves vibration and frequency (not just music) and it can have positive effects on the consciousness and the physiology. I learned about the cellular research that Fabien Maman was doing on blood cells and their response to sound vibration and was inspired to become a practitioner. I went on train at Fabien’s Tama-Do Academy of Sound, Color and Movement and became certified as a sound therapist in 2011, two years after leaving my career in Washington DC.
Q:You have worked in the past with many major businesses such as Google to provide their teams with Sound Healing and Talks. How did this come about and what has been the feedback and positive impact of these?
SB: I had someone who took a workshop with me in Bali who worked at Google. They invited my to their offices and I did a presentation for them in Singapore and had a great response. I have also done corporate events in Bali and shared about my personal journey to retreats and private groups as well as giving a demonstration of the deeply relaxing effects of the different instruments I play.
DC Strategist Turned Sound Therapist Launches Bold Music Campaign
Former Capitol Hill coalition strategist on US-Iran policy Shervin Boloorian embarks on an unconventional project of reconciliation between the Middle East and West through the power of music.
Boloorian, now a top certified sound therapist in Bali, launched a cross-cultural music project centred around his new album of sacred songs, with some wisdom from world-revered 13th century Sufi poet Rumi, all in original Persian and Arabic languages.
Guided by other music activism campaigns such as Live AID, and the Free Mandela concerts in the 1980s, Boloorian wants this project to raise awareness and start a positive wave of interest in Middle East and Western commonalities through music that he says goes beyond entertainment.
“Music and the arts are agents of change and education, we haven’t seen them reach their full potential yet because our focus today is on light entertainment.”
Boloorian’s new album, ‘One with the Beloved’ is currently being crowdfunded with the goal of leveraging its songs to support live music workshops, community forums and other engagement activities.
The first song from the album, ‘Baza’ received praise by renowned dance music DJs Timo Maas and Nick Warren who both gave the track a 5 star reviews.
“‘A beautiful, delicate piece of music.”
“…this is a brilliant song, full of emotions and very well arranged…Perfect for chill out/” read some of the online reviews.
The Sufi-inspired compositions vary in tempo and style; some recorded with meditative instruments used in Boloorian’s popular sacred sound concerts, and others with upbeat rhythms found in Sufi Zikr music.
Endorsed by leading Bali cultural and holistic community leaders, the project is also backed by world Rumi authority, bestselling translator and author of “The Essential Rumi” Coleman Barks.
British disarmament expert and British American Security Information Council head Paul Ingram is still part of the peace and security community Boloorian belonged to during his time in the US.
Ingram is a firm supporter of Boloorian’s unconventional new solution to repairing relations and start a positive dialogue between Middle Eastern and Western culture.
“There are many hundreds of thousands of people working explicitly for peace by addressing the symptoms of fear and conflict,” said Ingram.
“Shervin’s initiative to bring these together explicitly recognises a fundamental truth, that to work for peace you have to have peace in your heart.”
Prior to his days as recording music artist and sound therapist, Boloorian spent over nine years in Washington and Sacramento, leading and advising US-Iran peace coalitions, briefing elected officials, and reviewing a major coalition Iran policy brief sent to President Obama’s desk.
He worked with a number of congressional, non-profit and community leaders, Nobel Prize Laureates and ambassadors as an advocate for disarmament and avoiding war with Iran.
In recent years Boloorian U-turned away from his career as a peace policy strategist to become recognised as Asia’s premier “Tama-Do” sound therapist.
He spearheaded a movement in 2012 to incorporate sound therapy as part of Ubud’s live music culture and established the acclaimed Bali Sound Healers Collective.
This new project is particularly close to Boloorian’s heart, due to his past as an Iranian refugee migrating to the UK in 1978.
He first realised the magical healing power of sound as a child upon discovering the ability to hum to himself as a method of providing comfort and emotional support during this highly traumatic and stressful period in his young life.
“I was three when I left Iran and joined the many millions without a home nation,” said Boloorian.
“It’s a devastating experience and the story of the album is a reflection of my own journey, going from a very alienated and troubled place to one of inner calm,” said the Iranian-born vocalist.
After nearly a decade of working on policy reform, Boloorian decided it was time to leave DC and reconnect with the power of sound as a professional, becoming a certified sound therapist, musician and vocalist.
“I became a sound therapist because I realised peace was more about bringing soulful living back, not just some distant ideal,” he said.
Rumi is noted as the top selling poet author in the USA and is respected across the West and the Muslim world with his works translating into 23 different languages.
Boloorian explained Rumi’s voice easily crosses faith, nationality and ideology.
“Rumi’s popularity is surging just when the world’s relationship with the Islam and the Middle East seems at its lowest point. I see this as a paradox and an opportunity,” he said.
“I felt strongly that a sacred music project drawing from Sufi texts in Rumi’s original language creates something new for people to think about in terms of Iran, Islam and the Middle East.”
The sound therapist plans to incorporate story-telling and theatre events, forums for dialogue and collaborations between local musicians and those from migrant or refugee backgrounds in cities right across the world to follow a global tour.
“If the momentum is there, I see this as blossoming into a global collaborative,” predicts Boloorian.
“I’m urging international community and cultural groups, organisations, businesses and community figures to become a part of our project and to help assist us in whatever way they can.
We need help to push the Kickstarter over the finish line in the final weeks and help share the message that music can be a healing force,” he added.
The crowdfunding campaign concludes on July 25, 2017 with the ‘One with the Beloved’ tour beginning in August following the album’s scheduled release in September; with Sweden, Switzerland, UK, Italy, Spain, Germany and Holland already listed as destinations to be followed by dates for Asia, Australia and the US.
As a global ambassador for sound healing and motivating peace activity, Boloorian and his project have already been widely endorsed by many respected cultural groups, after appearing at some of the worlds most prominent wellness festivals and events including: MURFEST Wellness Festival (MAL), Byron Spirit Festival (AUS) , BaliSpirit Festival (INDO), Berlin Healing Arts Festival (GER) and , Talks at Google (SIN)
“Anyone who spends his time tackling the huge divide the world is currently experiencing with music and the teachings of Rumi is worth supporting,” said founder and director of the Ubud Readers and Writers Festival Janet De Neefe.
“Now more than ever we need to focus on the fundamental importance of peace and compassion to find a solution to our current global dilemma.
Shervin Boloorian’s music offers an extraordinary, healing journey with mystical sounds, both traditional and new”.
Have you ever walked into a room and felt an expansion in your heart as you breathe in?
What about the opposite experience- have you ever walked into a room and felt a sweep of fear or contraction in your gut?
Is it possible to affect a room or space, so that anyone entering into it may instantly feel at ease? The simple answer to these questions is yes.
Upon entering a room, consciously set an intention to clear all negative energies within, towards and around the space; then sit still in meditation and breathe with this wish until there is a feeling of ease and a sense that all negative energies have been cleared.
You could consider to remove your shoes and leave them at the door. Anyone who practises yoga frequently gets into the habit of doing this at almost any doorway, sacred or not. It is said that shoes represent the ego, which is why it is an act of reverence to remove them before entering a space. It can also be helpful to cover the head with a shawl or a hat as a connection to spirit and a veil of protection representing humility.
Another beautiful ritual to enhance good energy, is to create an altar of meaningful objects, talismans, crystals, candles and fresh flowers. Anyone entering this room can contribute to decorating this altar, ideally with a personal object that they cherish and wish to have charged for the duration of their time in the space, with all the positive energy that will be flowing through. A way to welcome people towards an altar would be to invite the setting of intentions internally or out loud for whatever is to take place in the room or simply for whatever wish or prayer that a person may want to call into their lives or their futures. One by one, as people place their objects on the altar to both contribute and receive a sense of sacred space is created by all who enter it.
Smudging or the burning of sacred herbs such as sage, palo santo or incense is a sensual way of releasing negative ions into the air and creating an instantly uplifted mood. This ritual is practised in many cultures, religions and sacred spaces worldwide.
Holding space is not just about creating the right atmosphere, bubble or den of love, trust and safety- although that is definitely a powerful and effective intention.
There is a psychological aspect to this concept too. Coaches, counsellors, healers and teachers are all space holders first and foremost before offering their knowledge, expertise and gifts as lightworkers, caretakers or empowerment catalysts.
Learning to park the ego to one side is an integral first step in being able to allow the necessary space to be filled by the students, the clients, those who come to learn or who seek help and are in need.
The Karpman Drama triangle is an insightful diagram explaining what conflict can arise internally and externally if a person takes on a “Rescuer” “Let me help you because you are weak” role, a “Persecutor” “All knowing. I am right and you are wrong” role or a “Victim” “Help me because I cannot help myself” role .
Holding space is not about rescuing or playing out any of these roles, it is about standing in the eye of the tornado as an observer of thoughts words and emotions and all that is energetically swirling around us. It is about being fully present and heart centred in authenticity with transparent intentions and very clear boundaries. It is about seeing things as they really are, whatever may arise, whatever may be said or done. It is a path the demands a strong sense of discernment, of knowing when to speak up and when to hold back, when to smile and when to just simply nod your head, when to give advice and when to ask powerful questions. It is also about developing a sixth sense slowly over time for understanding the unspoken and the subtle. Some people are born with high levels of intuition and others develop it through the school of hard knocks aka “the wounded healers”. Our pain can be our greatest strength and from there we can learn how to best be of service to others.
Holding space can be a catalyst for deep healing and powerful transformations and the most beautiful thing about it, is that we all have the power within us to develop the skills and hold space for each other.
This article by Giada D. was first published in KULA Magazine.
People all over England, Europe and America have chipped in to provide quite a lot of money to Yogabeats Conflict. I think it was almost £25,000 pounds we raised to do this project. This year we’re flying people out from The West Bank to Scotland to carry on training there as yogis.
Why have you chosen to fly people out of the West Bank?
It’s too dangerous in the West Bank.
I don’t recognise borders. There are no borders to me. Love is the only thing that exists. So, if we need to take them out of there, we take them out of there. I believe that yoga will create peace because it goesbeyond where any source of politics goes.
These people are incredible. How powerful the human heart is in spite of conflict, in spite of oppression. I’m headlining a yoga festival in Israel and I told them I don’t want to keep any money that I make, that it will all go straight to the Palestinians and I said “you need to know that”. They said that was fine, that they were totally supportive. There’s a great tribe of Israelis that are for peace and compassion. I’m proud to say that a lot of them exist.
What’s inspired you to do this work?
It just happened quite naturally. I was in a war in Bosnia and I really saw humankind and all the aggression which was stirred up by politics. The press is always very economical with the truth because they bend the story by just leaving out a few words. The press are very responsible for creating a lot of the wars that we have on our planet right now.
I don’t see myself as a yoga teacher, I’m a yogi and I believe that our species will not survive unless we can carry out what is important to us.
There are no borders between countries and there are no borders between the human heart. All of this conflict is something we need to evolve past and for me it’s just pure intelligence. It’s just so obvious.
Why do you need a middle man for God? Why do you need a middle man for each other? You don’t!
You sound so fearless when you talk about doing something that would scare many people to do.
lt gives me such a pleasure to know that these people love me. I mean, they’re my family and so are the Israelis. I go between borders simply because I love both sides. It’s kind of hard to love one without the other. It’s totally impossible for me.
Is it safe there at the moment?
No it’s never really safe. I mean if it was safe, I wouldn’t do the work in the first place. It’s just, it is what it is and it always seems to work out.
So the intention, with the work that you’re doing is yoga for peace?
The yoga gives people there the physical and psychological tools to deal with being in an open prison. That’s what they are basically living in-an open prison and there’s no doubt about that. It’s a very difficult place. There’s no freedom. It’s very hard to get out of the West Bank. Life is extremely difficult and also frustrating. Yoga is a way that they can kind of find that inside of themselves and they can be free. So, you can have an overt oppression outside and inside a sense of freedom. I say interior freedom because everything that we feel comes from the inside.
Where did the idea originate, to use yoga to heal the conflict between Israel and Palestine?
I was invited in 2004 to do some yoga workshops in Israel by Israelis. I said “Yeah, I’m happy to do that as long as you provide me with classes of Palestinians too.” And they said “No, we’re in a war so that would be very difficult with a lot of potential conflict”. I said “Well then, I’m not going to come.” They said “Don’t be ridiculous.” I was in a Bosnia war and I don’t know what the enemy looks like, they’re just different people. To me, there are no such things as enemies.
Finally they agreed to let me teach a class over at Jericho. I went to Jericho and had 18 Palestinians in my first class. We went on the front lawn for prayer. And I had beats playing on the Boom Box and we were rolling and putting our legs up in the air.I really thought I might get into trouble, but I was fine and they loved me.
When I left the Israelis to go back to the West Bank they said “You know these poor people on the other side of the West Bank they don’t have good hummus. So, I became this hummus carrier back and forth and then finally they all wanted to meet each other.
In 2006 I was on a bus going to this meeting with 18 Palestinians. We were going to meet in Jerusalem at the American Colony in town and one Israeli came up to me and said “Can I have a word with you?” She asked “What are the Palestinians like? I’m really frightened of them because they killed a lot of my family.” I said “They’re just like you.” She says “Oh, you’re sure?” I said “Yes, don’t worry. You’re going to see how lovely they are”. So later that day, we’re in a hotel and I see this same woman hugging a Palestinian woman, and they were both crying. I just thought That’s it. That’s my work right there!
I mean, that one memory of them is burned like a tattoo in my brain forever. I can’t get rid of that. No politician can tell me that there’s anything better than that. The rest is just bullshit.
What gave you the confidence to take yoga into war zones?
I found myself in a war in Bosnia when I went there to run a radio station. I was going in and out of the borders during the worse part of the war and then I had my car stolen. I was on the run from the Middle Eastern police and I couldn’t get out of Serbia.
People looked after me when I had no money, nothing. I remember one time it was minus 24. It was horrible and they fed me, looked after me. I saw such human kindness. They didn’t really care that I was a yogi, they read me as a human being who was compassionate.
I felt my work was starting at that point. I didn’t think oh that’s what I want to do, that’s just what happened. For me, wherever I am is the place I need to be.
If you had to summarise your life’s purpose in a short statement, could you?
Yeah. My own self evolution. I know that my biggest pleasure out of this is my pleasure. I don’t give a shit about the world. I give a shit about MY world and I need to feel happy with me as a human being. I’m not such an egomaniac to think that I can save anybody. If I’m compassionate with someone else, loving to someone else, it’s because I’m loving for me. It’s a consequence of loving yourself.
So if you love yourself then you’ll love everyone else?
I think that’s one of the characteristics of all the advanced souls on this planet, they’re very childish and they’re in love with themselves but yet they do the hard work. It’s because they’re in a place of bliss.
It’s interesting to hear you say that you’re not trying to save the world, but your actions would suggest that in a way you are doing your bit to save the world.
Well we all have to come together now and stop it and rub out the borders between countries. It’s like someone saying well, I’m gay and I’m straight. I mean where does the borderline stop? Who knows? There is no borderline. It’s ridiculous. The line is in your head.
Okay that’s a great line to finish this interview with. Have a great time, wherever you’re going now.
I’m heading to Coventry for a big Yoga & Tequila Rave.
Yoga Tequila Rave- what?
Last year we had 240 people and we had 50 bottles of tequila. Basically, it started in Colorado when they wanted me to teach four hours of yoga. We had a break and they all disappeared and went into a bar. I walked in and they were all hiding their glasses behind their backs so I said “What the hell is that?” They went oh, it’s a tequila shot. I said “Well, okay I’ll do one of those too.” They said “Really?” I said “Sure.Allow us to celebrate. Don’t be such pussycats, you’ve got to celebrate your life. Don’t be wimps. Everything in life is celebration. Celebrate life in everything you do because that’s what it’s about. So, as I’m drinking the tequila I get a download from the universe, which is that I need to do tequila yoga. So I said “Let’s do tequila yoga!” and it was the best class I ever gave. Basically, one of the main principles is “turn off your head”. The head is political so if you cut the head off you go back to being simple. You just enjoy being alive without all the stuff going on in your head. You cut the head off. So I started to do this as a rave event; and now they are completely sold out yoga raves.