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Lions Roar : January 2010
SHAMBHALA SUN JANUARY 2010 56 Dechen Hawk MusiCian, BoulDer, ColoraDo “What I like about meditation is that it doesn’t quell my desire for adventure.” “Music is a way of getting one-pointed focus, and playing for people is my most consistent practice,” says Dechen hawk, whose performances have included shows with the likes of leon russell, r.e.M., and fun lovin’ Criminals. indeed, according to hawk, his other contemplative prac- tices—sitting meditation and yoga—are woven into his music making. “i hold myself in the same upright posture whether i’m sitting or playing the piano or guitar,” he says. also, while medi- tating his gaze is slightly ahead, maybe seven feet, and it’s similar on stage. he describes performing this way: “i’m not staring into everybody’s eyes, but i’m also not completely introverted. every- thing is more peripheral.” then there is his yoga training, which has taught him pranayama, or yogic breathing. hawk says most singing is long and slow, so the heart rate drops and the speed of exhaling and inhaling decreases. this, for him, is a type of pranayama, and Jessie litven translator, halifax, nova sCotia “When you spend all day translating, the dharma is in your face all the time.” sometimes, says twenty-eight-year-old Jessie litven, translating dharma texts from tibetan into english is just another job. More often, though, it’s a reminder to practice. “When you spend all day translating teachings on the nature of mind, it would seem funny, when you finish, to say, ‘i want to go out drinking.’ the dharma is in your face all the time.” Jessie litven is a second-generation Buddhist or, as she puts it, “a dharma brat.” it was her mother who sparked her interest in learning tibetan. “i don’t know where she got it,” explains litven, “but she had a sheet of paper with the tibetan alphabet on it and she gave it to me.” litven was nineteen at the time, and about to embark on a road trip from her home in nova scotia to California. somehow the paper ended up in the car with her. litven’s travel companion from new york to Missouri was a guy she had met on craigslist. he mentioned that he was going to continue on to new Mexico to stay at Joan halifax’s upaya Zen Center and litven—who was broke—thought maybe she’d be able to stay there for a night or two for free. the travelers had been dumpster diving for days, living off donuts and string beans and precious little water. that, plus the altitude, had left litven disoriented, and when they arrived at upaya in the middle of the night, the twenty-year-old tibetan monk who greeted them seemed to her like an old man. litven turned down all offers of food and the next day, while meditat- ing, she began to feel flushed. she tried taking off her sweater but Joan halifax said not to move. this was a surprise for litven, as she was used to shambhala-style meditation, which allows for adjustments. she struggled to comply with the Zen way, only she couldn’t. she fainted. When she came to, she ate something and sat some more zazen. What she didn’t do was leave. instead, litven stayed for two months and became friends with the monk who’d originally greeted her, and she asked him to teach her tibetan. no, he said, tibetan is impossible to learn. and, indeed, when he did try teaching her, she found it extremely difficult. it took her a week and a half to remember how to say “see you later” in tibetan. she photoByalexKing