Growing up in the Soviet Union, I didn’t have access to spiritual books. The first time I ever saw a person pray was when my grandmother visited from my father’s homeland near the border of Azerbaijan with Iran. I didn’t know anything about religion, but I could see that when she prayed on her knees, she made her own connection with God. From childhood I was curious about spiritual things. I eventually found spiritual books on the black market. As a voracious reader I consumed everything I could get my hands on. Once I moved to Paris, I found I could learn French by reading books which really interested me. And that meant reading books on spirituality and self-development.
I could write about many of the different teachers who have inspired me: Maharishi, Marshall Rosenberg, Peter Koenig, M. Norbekov, Fr. Artemy Vladimirov, Murat Yagan, Brennan Manning, Bruce Lipton, Gregg Braden, Joe Dispenza. Some of these people have nothing in common (they can even disagree strongly with each other) but for me each one revealed something true about Divine and human nature and played their role in my self-development.
It was through a book that I discovered one of the most extraordinary men that I ever met: Murat Yagan. I read his spiritual autobiography “I Come From Behind Kaf Mountain” one year when I was visiting my godmother in Abkhazia on the Black Sea. I knew I had to meet Murat. So I traveled to British Columbia, where he had emigrated and founded a community, in 2008. Murat was a great Abkhazian elder, author, and teacher of Amsta Kebzeh. That’s an ancient spiritual science of life which originates in the Caucasus Mountains.
Murat told me many things I will never forget. In Kebzeh, God is described as the "Eternal Spirit of Creative Power." In this world view, when we create something, whether it is a piece of music, a painting, a piece of prose or poetry, or anything at all, we are participating in this eternal creative energy we call the Divine. But creativity involves struggle. And that is why Murat told me to have patience, patience, and more patience.
Murat also told me something that has guided me for the last 10 years. Something I knew to be true but hadn’t put into words. He said that “fine art is the salvation of the soul.” If we are creating, then we are co-creating with the Source, with the Divine. And underneath the visible creation we also have the internal struggle with doubt, the search for inspiration, and the interpretation of our inner world through our creative work. Through this creative struggle we refine our soul.
Now, when I met Murat he was already 94 years old. He was still writing books. Still working with his horses. And he was still doing construction work! He was even getting up on the roof with the workers and climbing around. This level of vitality wasn’t an accident. He practiced what he taught: daily exercises (“Caucasian Yoga”), life in accord with nature, and constant connection with the Divine. He could even dance in the vigorous Caucasian style well into his 90’s (he passed away at the age of 98).
While I was visiting there was a gathering of Kebzeh community members and I was invited to play the piano. I played “Warrior of Light” from my album “Meeting with the Master”. It seemed like the perfect song for Murat, who was truly a warrior of the light. He danced. And he told he “You’ve raised me up again together with my horse.”
As creators, we are all “warriors of the light.” We are engaged in a spiritual battle to find the light inside us and share it with the world through art. It doesn’t matter if our creative work seems modest to us. Even a hobby watercolorist is refining her soul every time she dips her brush in the paints. Even she struggles with doubt, procrastination, and fear.
Murat taught me as an artist to question the voice inside me. Is it the voice of fear? Or the voice of love? I only want to listen to the voice of love. And when I do that, and put my fingers on the keys of the piano, that’s when the miracles happen inside me. That’s why I alway say that for all the teachers I’ve known and appreciated, it’s the music and the piano that have been my greatest teachers and initiators on the spiritual path. I have experienced the truth of what Murat told me: fine art is the salvation of the soul.
My 2007 album “Meeting with the Master” is all about this – click here to listen to more samples from this album.
My 2007 Album "Meeting with the Master" – click cover art to view/sample album