Universal Language

The other day I mentioned to colleague, mentor, and former AIF Clinton Fellow, Khushi Malhotra,  that I am learning many new languages at once–Hindi, Garhwali customs and mannerisms, Ayurveda, intricate rhythms of the tabla.  As I become familiar with all these mediums of communication, one has particularly sparked my curiosity: music.  Never before have I felt the soul-securing importance of music.

The foundation of APV School is music and meditation.  You will hear teachers, Fellows, and visitors say it.  Starting every school day in a combination of collective silence and singing prayer is what threads the community together and gives the students space for their hearts, curiosity, and confidence to grow.

One morning I was sitting in assembly, feeling particularly sleepy.  I thought, “try to sing along to stay awake.”  I have yet to learn most of the dynamic prayers sung in morning assembly, so I was fumbling along, straining to keep up with the rhythm, mumbling words that I do not understand as of yet.  This seemed to make me more sleepy.  I decided to change my approach.  I surrendered to the music.  I stopped my fruitless efforts, closed my eyes, and let the sound fill me up until it felt like my boundaries were expanding into the space around me.  I felt nourished!  Somehow I was simultaneously full of energy and full of peace.  The 50 or so students’ voices rose in unison, as one voice and it felt like they were singing from inside my being.

Sometimes, before I slip into my cozy bed, I get a twang of homesickness.  But, I have found the remedy.  Music!  I listen to some old and familiar tunes, dance along, sing along, just listen, and then I don’t feel so far from home anymore.  As I learn to adopt elements of an entirely different culture, my itunes library has been a reminder and a celebration of my culture and the other cultures I have come into contact with.

I have come to realize that music can be a source of connectivity within our cultures, across our cultures, and within ourselves.  I am so grateful to be somewhere that encourages engagement with this universal language, and that APV School has a spare guitar that I am learning to play!

You can take a listen to APV School’s lovely morning assembly on Soundcloud (soundcloud.com/apvcommunity) or on our website (apvschool.org)!

Vipassana meditation has played a central role in Charlotte's development and education. After being medically retired from the Stanford Volleyball Team, it served as an avenue to greater acceptance, happiness, resilience, and health. Charlotte's interest in the practice brought her to the Stanford-based neuroscience group CCARE (the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education). There she worked for the Director of Education on projects that secularized traditional Buddhist meditation practices for the purpose of teaching them in classrooms and to healthcare professionals. She changed her major to contemplative neuroscience--a combination of neuroscience and Buddhist studies--with the support of a growing community of academics in contemplative studies from Stanford and Brown University, and University of Wisconsin.

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One thought on “Universal Language

  1. The man that hath no music in himself,
    Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
    Is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
    The motions of his spirit are dull as night
    And his affections dark as Erebus:
    Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music.

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