After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the only thing that helped me out of the sadness and grief I was feeling was music….Here is an excerpt from my book, Dance of Oneness in dialogue with Andrew Harvey.
Banafsheh: I want to share with you another initiation I had into the power of music. It was right after the 9/11 tragedy in New York City in 2001. I was devastated and crushed like multitudes of people. It was so horrifying. I just couldn’t come to terms with how this tragedy had changed our world forever. I was miserable and nothing seemed to shift my state for months…until I went to a concert of Indian music. It was L. Shankar on double violin and Zakir Hussain on thetabla(an Indian percussion instrument). From the onset, the sheer beauty just melted my heart and made my tears flow. Tears of sadness became tears of joy as the music progressed, and I felt myself literally lifted out of grief into light. All of that was through Beauty, through art—the greatest of human contributions. I knew that this is the kind of art I wanted to express—art that uplifts with great meaning and knows the sorrow, embraces it and lives it—lives it all cause if you’re at all alive, you are intimate with sorrow.
Andrew: But you can live the sorrow as a transcendent being; live sorrow with all of the richness and all of the depth, with all of the peace sustaining the experience.
Banafsheh: And transform it into beauty, into art through grace. I felt so much reverence for these musicians who were angels—angelic contributors.
Andrew: The great musicians are Bodhisattvas (an enlightened Buddhist who gives up nirvanaor heaven to save other sentient beings). They came to us with mandalas of perfection, God’s realms of order, peace, beauty, and shattering honesty, where we can remake our souls again and again if we learn how to listen.
Banafsheh: Think also of how music, dance, and all the arts can lift us out of sadness and depression much more effectively and beautifully than anti-depressant medication (noting that there are extreme situations of chemical imbalance that the use of medication is helpful for). What if instead of turning to chemicals and drugs for elevation and a will to be alive, people were encouraged to attend concerts of inspiring soulful music? In many ancient cultures music was used in this holiest sense to heal heart, mind, body, and soul. Music is, after all, a universal language that transcends words and dogmas and pierces directly to the heart.
Andrew: What a wonderful and healing vision. It is time that we bring this great force of healing beauty back in such a way that all beings can be reinvigorated and re-inspired.
Banafsheh: The effects of Zakir Hussain and L. Shankar’s music that evening was immediate for me. It healed my heart and remade my soul with endless ripples of ecstasy. I have no words; I can only dance my response.