New Writing

Music, worship & transcendence

Personal background & experience

Sanctity & meaning in music making

Additional Writing

Musings on faith, music, activism and the artistic experience...

I am a 'Yeshu Bhakta' a devotee of Jesus Christ. People say, "So are you a Christian?" To this I say, sure but I don't call myself a Christian. Labels are figments of association and I feel all too often result in a kind of questionable conformity. Unfortunately the label 'christian' often has less to do with living out Jesus's teaching and more to do with looking good in the eyes of one's church or society. Of course this is not limited to the 'Christian religion' life nor religious life of differing practices and traditions either. People often feel that they need to validate themselves in one camp or another and make divisions that separate themselves for others whether they be religious, social, political or whatever.

Perhaps being a 'Christian', has lost much of the radicalism that Jesus modeled and taught in sharply turning away from the legalism and politics of ancient Jewish religious practice. Instead he draws us into a direct spiritual relationship which emphasizes repentance, purity of heart, compassion, a willingness to suffer and above all loving others, even those who persecute us. Sadly 'Christians' are often heavily associated with people with hypocritical and judgmental 'holier than thou' attitudes (exactly what Jesus raged against!). For the reason that many people associate what it is to be a 'Christian' with those who lack reason, have exclusive associations and other negative and destructive attitudes. Because these things have nothing to do with my faith and reason to follow Jesus I have no allegiance to the label. Another difficulty is 'Christian' history, from the Crusades to the War on Terror, Christian leaders and their sheep have justified violence and terror which I deem to be apostasy to the gospel of Jesus.

That being said, I do attend churches, as well as temples of a variety of faiths and I do enjoy worship and growth through the teaching I receive from pastors and priests of myriad of flavors. In the end I always seem to come back to the reality of sitting alone before God seeking the truth of my own naked soul. Rather than basing my 'view' of the truth around any church or religion I wish to focus my life around the transforming power of the Spirit of Jesus and the truth that is revealed in the of study of his commands, the humble lives of the mystics and the quiet stillness of silent or musical meditation. I feel that real church, like a (Buddhist sangha or Hindu satsang) is simply a community of people who seek the truth together in love and take the time invest their lives, music, food, praise and resources in an open and generous way. This is why Jesus guided us to live in community and exhorted us to share all we have. Christ showed by example how to truly live. To die to ourselves and live in service of all, showing special attention to the poor and disenfranchised. This is what it meant to be a follower of 'the Way' (as the early Christians were called) and to conform ones life to the simple commandment of loving others as ourselves.

What Jesus taught gives us freedom from all rules or structure of any church or human guru.We need not an intermediary, because we have been given the Spirit who carries on Christ's teachings in us through an intimate relationship which is readily available to all. In this communion of the Spirit we have everything, all that the Father gave to Jesus is also our own. This is clearly taught by Jesus to us in the Gospel of John, and confirmed by St. Paul to the Romans in chapter 5, that 'the Spirit has been poured into our hearts'.

I struggle with my faith daily, I am striving to experience the truth, as I recognize my own folly, limitations and tendency to self serve beyond my own limited view and shadowy experience. What I do know is that I am eternally grateful for the sublime teachings and the profound and life-altering love of my sat guru, Jesus Christ!

Music, worship & transcendence

I have committed my life to creating performances that ignite the heart of the listener and lift our consciousness into the transcendent communal experience. By definition this work, must engage our own reality on two levels. First, we must realize our horizontal inter-dependence (our sense of belonging & equality with the the whole human race) and secondly we dwell in our vertical dependence (as we discover an intimate relationship with the creator). From a place of open hearted vulnerability and risk, we explore new sonic territory through collective improvisation, cultivating in-spir-ation (in allowing the spirit to work within us). As we may find ourselves in alignment with God's present purposes, we know and feel the truth of this relationship. The result is a confirmation of a direct powerful outpouring of love and grace accompanied by a feeling of deep connection and purpose in freedom, joy and peace.

As individuals I believe we all our endowed with the capacity to be original in whatever we do, whether we are considered 'creative artists' or not. In India, shakti, 'creative power' is the divine force which is given through the work of humanity in the world. I believe this is analogous to the Holy Spirit working in us, providing we are open, present and empty vessels for God's voice in both an inner and an outer direction. As well allow our open hearts, minds and hands to be engaged, we may just become the instrument through which the eternal song is sung. This singing, of the spirit infused in us, is known (also in India) as prana, or breath. The same breath, known as the nooma in Greek and the rua in Hebrew is synonymous with spirit. This prana, (breath/spirit) is what is poured into us as open creative individuals and groups through the music and work we engage in. In a communal experience the line between performer and audience should be blurred as we feel the music has its existence beyond any one individual but reflects a fully participatory experience. In this sense, an open hearted and sensitive audience is as important as an artist who is dis-engaged from their ego bound creative 'ownership'. I do believe that through this experience a powerful outpouring of love and the devotion may be felt by anyone involved, whether they believe in divine realities or not.

Personal background & experience

I am a musician, composer and a music educator with an eclectic and consistent curiosity in way we express faith through the practice of our artistry. I seek to know how artists of different faith traditions bring the experience of God into their work and how that process becomes real for themselves and the audience. From the age of 15 when I first traveled and lived in India, I studied sitar and tabla religiously which gave me a sense of peace, fulfillment and joy. I also took an active curiosity in the faith traditions of India, learning about the myriad paths of the Hindu tradition, Buddhism, Sikhism & Jainism which has been a lifelong pursuit along with the development & growth of my personal faith in Jesus Christ and the Judeo/Christian/Islamic (Abrahamic) faiths of the Middle East & West.

For the past 25 years I have been blessed to learn from a few of the greatest masters of Hindustani music. These legendary teaching artists have not only distilled for me the essence of the rigorous and complex musical forms but have taken me through the years discipline practice of developing a raga spontaneously. This style of training so greatly valued in India involves a complete immersion into the personal expression of creativity inherent in the music. This goes on whether we experience it in classes or accompanying them in concert. I have been fortunate enough to go beyond the cultural limitations of the western approach of learning music and to enter into the Indian pedagogic paradigm known as guru shisya parampara, (teacher/disciple relationship). In this tradition learning is never confined to school or a timed lesson but includes going home, eating together, traveling and performing together. The role of the shisha (disciple) is to serve the guru with a heart of devotion, love and humility in the passionate pursuit of learning, always ready to receive a spontaneous opportunity to learn.

As a performer/composer, ensemble director & community activist, I have for the past 20 years been working in professional artistic, educational and community settings, as well as sacred spaces of a multiplicity of faith traditions to present work that reflects a wide range of cultural expression. I have done this with a primarily focus on the journey through the oceanic raga system of India and the dynamic rhythms which emanate from within the heart of this music. With a relentless drive for a clear and authentic understanding of these traditional forms and the creative expression which flows out of the experience I strive to lose myself (without being lost) in the music, whereby I feel completely at home and simultaneously fully charged and full of possibility, without preconception of the next step. This incredible feeling of freedom is accompanied by the experience of being led through uncharted territory, unfolding through the music, uniquely fresh in the present moment.

Sanctity & meaning in music making

Although most music does reflect onto (sometimes more or less directly) aspects of the divine experience I do feel that Indian classical music does play a unique role in this perennial search. Music reflects that wordless search for truth, beauty and meaning in a manner, which cannot be explained, but must be felt from the heart. Perhaps Indian music takes this search one step further by systemizing this very intention in a format, which puts the artist into a position of creativity through a complete and powerful rigorous training.

It is from this context that we are able to approach this music with a high degree of sanctity. For it is into a great stream of solid tradition that we step into every time we reach the stage and play with the intention of breathing our own spirit into this living classical art form.

At the risk of sounding cliche... I seek to express a music that, without need for label, is in its essence, a pure expression of the divine through us, and can be organized into a collaborative or group dynamic as an improvisational expression (like jazz) through a global vision that is only possible in our contemporary age. With a vision of unity in our diversity, it is truly the work the gives me purpose, inspiration and meaning.

Ultimately, this openness precipitates a deepening connection to a relationship we must discover within our own selves engaged in a true spirit of love. In a relentless struggle to be a more fully in touch with the spirit, dwelling in the kingdom of God, we reveal more and more our infinite indebtedness to the grace of the Almighty. This relationship deepens as we scape off the crusty layers of our rotten thoughts, judgments, selfishness and ego driven mania. Only in the present, we are affected to live, walk and play in the anointing light of the Jesus. Allowing our true selves (not our earthly nature) to lead, we become empowered as artists to be vessels for something which is much greater than ourselves.

Through an in depth study of world music including North & South Indian, Persian, African, Brazilian, Javanese, Balkan, Jazz & popular music styles and the direct experience with artists of the highest standard of excellence I have continually found one thing to be true. The honest open heart of a well skilled artist is what touches the audience on the deepest level of their being.The opening of ourselves to vulnerability in performance takes a great deal of trust and strength.

Through creative work, the intimate connection of community between the stage and the audience is born. I envision this connection as a sacred space or bridge that removes a conceived obstacle 'the perception of separateness'. In the communal experience of art, the individual is temporarily nullified as we are removed from our 'normal' state of being, allowing the listener (and ideally the performer also) to leave their ego behind and join the experience. Before I step on the stage I become silent and ask God to work through me so that the Holy Spirit would be present and work through me as an instrument.I believe that as any person is able to move their ego-self out of the way, the opportunity for God to use them as instruments is possible in the same the way we use our physical bodies to play our musical instruments. When this intimate connection is made there is no us & them, no separate artist & listener, the space between performer and audience disappears and there is only the sense of unity and a feeling of profoundly beautiful connectedness.

On the larger scale what this shows us is that even in the world we need not view any human beings as others, because they are not from our religion, nationality or race. Is there any native and foreigner in God's eyes? Why talk about us & them? Politically motivated divisions melt away when you realize the absurdity of being 'for us or against us'. As artists we can and should believe in & have pride in our cultural heritage but nationalism is too often a divider of people who beneath their skin are all the same. To me this heresy, a distortion of truth. As artists we can stand against divisive language, and concealed xenophobia, which has run so rampant in our own country and abroad.

Coming back to artistic experience as we look deeply within and experience this space of connectedness in our work, we realize the interconnected nature of all humans, the world and it's resources, which belongs to us all. Through this we realize every step we take and every choice, has an effect in the world around us. This lesson becomes more profound when we experience art across cultures. Though the diversity of traditions brings infinite patterns of variation, change, even stark, radical juxtapositions and possibilities of expression, the result regardless of subject matter can always be a great sense of humanity as one. Acknowledged, as so or not, this result is more than just a symbolic gesture of peace & unity but a dynamic force, which is cause for positive change, and the transformation of the world.

By bringing artists of different traditions and backgrounds together the truth of our unity becomes even more apparent to ourselves-- and as we work and continually strive to push ourselves beyond the limits of our perceived creative boundaries this truth is reflected to the world around us as connection, inspiration and love.



Seek and ye shall find,
knock and the door shall be opened to you.

~ Yeshua/Iesous/Jesus

Coptic Orthodox (Egypt & Ethiopia) Cross
with Coptic writing Jesus Christ Son of God

Ahimsa is an international collaboration of virtuoso musicians with the Arohi Ensemble celebrating the power of non-violence through a multimedia journey of music, dramatic spoken word, history and images.

Click here for more information on AHIMSA PROJECT.

Satyagraha (nonviolence) is the active force of the highest order, it is 'soul force' or the power of God within us. Imperfect man cannot grasp the whole of its essence and even if he could he would not be able to bear it's full blaze. But... even a tiny fraction of it, when it becomes active within us, can work wonders! ~ Gandhiji 1938

A dialogue with Arohi on
Creativity, Improvisation & the Spirit'

Paul Livingstone & Pedro Eustache discuss the personal meaning of Arohi.

Paul & Pedro Eustache

after Arohi Ensemble REDCAT concert
photo by Tony Peres


Whoever you think Jesus is or was?!?

Madman, prophet, philosopher, religious reformer, moral teacher, suicidal maniac
or the Son of God...

It is difficult to deny that in a world in desperate need for transformation and freedom from the addictions of greed, arrogance, hatred and war...

that the message of the one called Christ
is the most radical and compelling vision
of love the world has ever seen.

LA Times Feature Article

'L.A. based musician sows
religious unity with the sitar'
Los Angeles Times, April 20th 2010.

Paul Livingstone interview press

"There is a little tree planted on a little hill, and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came into this world. Never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history, oh no it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, to see the love of God breaking forth into time.

It is an eternal reminder to this power drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, to those who depend on physical violence that love is the only creative, redemptive and transforming power!"

  ~ Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it.

~ Stephen Colbert

Santa Barbara News Press

Joe Woodward interview's
Paul, discussing music,
faith & activism

Paul Livingstone interview press

Paul Livingstone
photo by Pam Arnot