Durga Das Writes About Truly Waking Up
For most of his life David Newman, who is also known as Durga Das on the Kirtan circuit, has been a spiritual seeker, you can hear these notes in his music, and his words, but that has all changed. Recently in his new book "The Timebound Traveler, he has come out about his lightening bolt experience, which took him from being a spiritual seeker to as he puts it simply “waking up.”
While seeking many of us never expect to experience a profound spiritual awakening, and neither did Newman. He was content seeking whether that was with music, yoga or spiritual practices, but when he started waking up it turned his inner world upside down, and then when he finally “relaxed into it” he found a brand new reality full of freedom, wonder and illumination.
In The Timebound Traveler, he takes you through his three year journey, capturing the pain and confusion of his unraveling, laying bare his soul in a way that draws you fully into his world, and has you rooting for him to “wake up” and bring together his two paths – one of devotion and one of direct realization. One thing is clear in The Timebound Traveler Newman believes that waking up is not just for him, or the people who helped him along the way, who had already been through the experience, its for anyone who wants it.
Recently Yoga City's Dar Dowling sat down with David Newman to talk about waking up, his book and his music before coming to NYC for a Kirtan Concert at Integral Yoga on December 6th.
Dar Dowling: What was awakening like?
David Newman: Back in 2010 when I had the lightening bolt experience I realized that I wasn’t this temporal mind and body with an expiration date, but something much greater, without beginning or end. Though this truth was revealed to me in an instant, it took me three years to integrate the vision, due to the powerful strategies of ego. It was a powerful and radical process to let go of who I thought was, and to embrace the truth of my actual identity. In the end it was just too painful to maintain the illusion.
How it ultimately came is a mystery for me - it was a gradual process of unraveling, unfolding, and letting go. Waking up in a sense was simply realizing that I am the dreamer not the character in the dream.
DD: What inspired the book?
DN: I was giving a talk in Colorado and sharing the idea of what I called ‘the time bound traveler'. A woman came up to me and said it would be a great title for a book. In the past, people had told me that I had a book in me, but it just never came. I was definitely sharing my unraveling and awakening with others, but I had no idea that it would be a book.
Then one Tuesday last December I spontaneously started to write it and finished it on Saturday, because I was going to NYC to play at Integral Yoga. It was like a faucet was turned on, similar in someways to when I create music. However, this this was different as it felt even more like a gift of grace since I am not a writer; It really just flowed through me.
DD: So who is Time Bound Traveler?
DN: When I woke up to my timeless nature, I realized that ‘I’ was somehow still there having a time bound experience. Though this identity no longer bound or limited me, it continued to operate in a time bound or dualistic reality. Hence, the term ‘The Timebound Traveler’.
DD: Your working on a new album?
DN: Yes, I have a new record coming out with Bakithi Kumalo (bass) and Jamey Haddad (percussion) from Paul Simon's Band, and Jo Lawry ( vocals) from Sting's Band. Its really a record about spiritual awakening , and its different than my other albums with less chanting, and most of it is in English. Its a singer songwriter record and it will be released in 2015.
DD: Did your awakening change your music.
DN: One of the main ways is that the sense of grasping isn't there anymore. I used to have a sense of angst when I made music, and now it’s not there. These songs came naturally without any angst at all. Those labels – singer, songwriter, Kirtan singer, no longer have as much meaning to me. I don’t identify with them. I just make the music that comes without labeling or judging it.
When creating music I don’t have a set impression of how it should sound. While making this record I asked the song how it would best be served. What did the song want, rather than what did I want – partially that was the case in the past, but its even more so now.
DD: “Waking up” has changed your music but how has it changed your day to day life?
DN: When I woke up, a kind of systemic fear was gone. My awareness no longer dwelled in the past or future, but rather in the moment. So, a greater sense of discovery and spontaneity now characterizes my daily experience. Also, the feeling of my ‘being the doer’ or 'things happening to me’ fell away. And therefore a much deeper sense of trust, surrender and acceptance followed, giving a distinct sense of traveling lighter. Things are still deeply felt, they just don’t stick!