How can I describe the perfect evening? Being so absolutely in the moment, in such astounding harmony, that feelings melt into a painting and in the moment caught in time, what is left is calm and delight? How can one evening give so much light and harmony?
My mind is full, my heart is full, I am so peaceful inside. What could be better than this? I truly feel blessed that I get to experience something like this. I never thought it possible before.
This story will talk about spiritual travel. Coming back from Paddy’s concerts and trying to write out my thoughts fueled by so many feelings and reflections is always extremely personal. Those evenings always leave my heart full to the brim, to the extent that it is very difficult to string words along in my mind, there is so much delight and adoration in there. Especially in the case of the Ruah tour experience, I still feel like I am processing that evening and finding myself wishing it never ended.
INVITATION TO EXPLORE
After my embarking on a more spiritual search within the last two years and later on coming across Paddy’s music, which led to coming back to him as an adult, fully grown and powerfully inspiring artist last year, I knew I would be back for more music and more art from him. With a lot of traveling in June and July I could not attend any of the summer club shows, but when I saw the announcement of the RUAH tour it sounded perfect for the autumn season: I really wanted to be a part of it. When Paddy talks about his new artistic ideas, it really feels like a an invitation to experience, explore and discover, extended warmheartedly to anyone that would like to come along – and even the expectation of what the evening would be like already gave my imagination a thrill.
POTSDAM 29TH SEPTEMBER
The closest stop on RUAH tour for me was Potsdam, a couple hundred kilometers away. Even though traveling is one of my greatest passions in life, no travel impressions were possible this time, even if the way alone was extensive and time consuming. I had to get there after working half-day and come back to Hamburg by a night bus, back at 4:30am the next day. This time however instead of being able to see a little bit of Potsdam in my travel, I had to opt to queue in front of the church… : )
Pew hogging ways have never been my thing.. I was torn, believe me, since parts of the city that I could spot from my little curve in the queue looked so cool! The concert was on outskirts of the Dutch quarter in Potsdam, I really wanted to go and discover… But since this concert was held in an unusual venue with the free seat choice arrangement, people were camping there since morning. Reluctantly, I forwent of my travel exploration plans and stuck to the queue, because I really wanted to experience everything inside that church up close and personal… So I stood there for three hours before they opened the door to let people in (cringing inwardly a little bit, to be honest), listening to the sound of rehearsal seeping through the brick walls of the church. Part of me thinks now, I did not need to worry. It does not really matter what my place inside the concert hall or the church is, those evenings are always all-encompassing.
Even though the crowd outside of the church was huge, crossing the fence was relatively peaceful, and only some people could be seen speeding into the building of the church; the majority of people walked in peacefully. That moment of confusion, finding a place seemed to me the only rushed one. After this, the atmosphere built inside the church took over peoples’ minds and hearts…
Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
The moment I stepped inside that church, the grandiose theater of light stole my breath away. The whole space of the church was lit, adding so much beauty to already very ornamental interior, wide and reminiscent of an opera house, full of delicate decorative motifs, evoking the impressions of orthodox Christianity in its mosaic. The wings of the church and balconies were covered in shade, as if disappearing in a secret – and intense color was flowing freely through the center, the altar, like a fountain of varicolored light. With warm delicate blue hues lighting up the heart of the altar, and deep crimson red slowly turning purple as eyes traveled up, to see the representation of Christ and God and to touch the ceiling of the cathedral, it was stunning. Even without music it gave the feeling of musical harmony, as if caught right before the music played, awaiting that first note, in anticipation filling the space through the interplay of color, light and ornamentation.
Then, Paddy’s music came, from dark first notes of Ruah to layers upon layers of harmonies of all songs of the Ruah spiritual album (Hebrew for spirit, wind). What I loved the most was how Paddy interwove stories and reflections into the beautiful melodies, shedding light on some of the metaphors he had so carefully crafted into the music during years of silence and contemplation. In some way, in its refreshing nature, this evening felt like a contemplative meditation immersed in music, where ideas, beauty and sound came together to create an experience, a sum that was more than its elements. Paddy and his musicians delighted our senses with beauty, and opened our souls with harmony and peace, and I must say I have never before experienced an evening like this. The space of a cathedral was perfectly chosen for that night. The church in its architectural dynamic added to the feeling of movement and change: vertical axis for eyes to travel up, altar in focus in the front, door in the back leading into a different reality, balconies like loggias… In flickering light and open to movement, with people approaching the altar with their candles lit and warm, it felt all-encompassing, more like a musical performance, spiritual, idea-oriented theatre, than a concert. We walked the line that night -people in the darkness who see the light…
Seeing Paddy calm and serene, walking through the church full of candlelight, singing Thanking Blessed Mary without a microphone, seeing him safe and comfortable, making quiet, long eye-contact with all of us – just like one of us – that moment was very beautiful. What was even more touching to me however was seeing all musicians off stage, for the second part of the evening, the peace meditation, literally becoming “of us”, the crowd. I have a lot of respect for inner modesty and purity of heart and this dedication flowing from them all, with a spotlight shining on the altar, on the core of their faith, and not on them, was very moving. Immersed in divine harmony of music (All who are thirsty was a dream that I wished I never had to wake up from), I could feel my heart melt. Time slowed down and then stopped completely. Reality hung in the air, like a warm dream, as if everything that mattered in the world was limited to that fluorescent, lit up space around me. I was surrounded and submerged in the oasis of peace and sound, a physical and mental place that I never wanted to leave. I felt home and together with everyone, with all our energies focused in adoration and our eyes turned towards the secret dark light, the source of harmony, the moment of love.
In absolute truthfulness, I have no idea how he, one artist, manages to bring so much harmony and light into my heart and into my life, but for this I feel I will forever admire, respect and value him immensely. Sense of connection, wonderment and warmth is the closest I can describe my reaction to him and his spiritual music. The songs of Ruah album, especially Agape but also Salve Regina, Walk the Line and Don’t Judas me will forever mark the beauty of his soul. To think that this is where years and experience brought me: to this understanding of my teenage crush at the age 15, forgotten soon after as I forgot myself in growing up but found now as a living inspiring energy. The wealth that I receive is never to be forgotten and that knowledge that beyond every life curve new ideas are hidden, new meaning and symbols that show the path forward, is precious to me. We never know what lies ahead and where our souls can go in enriching our lives – if we only let them explore and be open.
WHAT WILL STAY WITH ME – GOING HOME?
Paddy has a strong, full-rounded influence on the spiritual part of me. It is impossible for me to describe my experience of his music, personality, art and spirit as separate elements. I especially valued some of his insightful words, told during this evening in Potsdam. He was reflecting on what it meant for him to be religious and be part of the church, and the idea he expressed was “wahrgenommen sein, wie Mensch ist” – to be seen and understood in truth, as you are, human walking into a sacred space, without a mask. Truly be and be perceived and recognized for who you are.
This understanding of church has never been mine. I always felt forced there, forced into a structure I did not feel I belonged to; forced to repeat in circles words that left no echo in my soul. I felt like a phony, it was an act which brought me nothing and was easy to abandon. For quite some time, I considered my abandon of church attendance at the age 16 synonymous to “losing faith”. I have only recently realized that my practice was out of convention, difficult to escape when growing up in Poland – and to lose something, one has to have it in the first place. What saddened me to understand – for reasons yet unknown but stirring yearning in my heart – was that I never knew faith at all.
Spirituality has always been more accessible when I was in nature. No real deep spirituality though – just a passing immersion, a fleeting experience, always leaking through my fingers, when I tried to hold onto it… So to see that someone can come in earnest and truthful, from deep within their spirit, and find such a beautiful expression of who they are, of their faith and love in the church, was a totally different way of seeing that sacred space. I have never seen anyone around me experiencing it in such a profoundly happy way. It was fascinating.
I do not think that this experience necessarily brought me any closer to what the church as an institution represents. But I must say that at the minimum I glimpsed another side of things. I saw a shadow of what could be – that this could be home. This is what I felt that night in Potsdam. The very first time in my life, because of how Paddy sees that space and how strongly he believes, I felt home in the church; home, happy and safe. It did not feel like I had to wear different clothing to fit in, appear to be someone else.
I felt good there. I felt like myself.
This experience was very interesting to me, but it did mean I had to break down a couple of “barriers” in my mind to go in there and be open. I also wondered, why exactly those barriers existed in my mind in the first place? Somehow, together with this, John Paul’s II words “do not be afraid” played on repeat in my soul. Do not be afraid to be yourself wherever you are, even or maybe above all else in the church…
You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Another aspect of his words about “being perceived as you really are” made me think deeply about my way to faith. If we are reflections of the beautifully arranged universe, magnetic in its presence and full of harmony; if we are a representation of God the way Christians believe him to be, could this “perceiving oneself in truth” be a way to faith? After all, for God to work his ways, I have to be there and be present. If one has to face oneself to understand the Cosmos, without an excuse or an explanation – would that Truth be a way to God? Is it that childlike wonder, taking the world as it is, taking ourselves as we are, without much analysis, that leads to God?
This idea of “being as I am”, evoked by Paddy in my mind that evening, combined with that idea of not being afraid, is very moving… seeing all in truth and with calm, and maybe, just maybe finding God within my heart. Without fighting for His presence. In harmony and in peace.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
PRAYER FOR PEACE
I came back from that evening with one more light in my soul. In the second part of the evening, a prayer of Saint Francis was read. “Lord, make me instrument of your peace” … This is the first prayer that moved my heart, ever in my life. There is something mantra-like about its nature. This prayer was read out during the second part of that evening, right after the instrumental Agape, and brought me to tears and made my hands shake… It brought such a relief to my doubtful mind. I will never forget those moments of silence and relief: to me this evening truly was about peace within me, calm, silence and harmony. It was almost as if during that night the missing parts of my soul were rearranged, reattached and I could yet again feel my core, lifted, healed of the cracks I did not know I carried inside.
The way it was read out during the night, in German, left a deep echo in my heart. It is very interesting how my learning of German became full of spiritual ideas through listening to a lot of Paddys’ words. German in its relative secrecy to me sounds partly like a language and partly like a code or a melody, which fits in perfectly with a prayer that I need, while going through darkness and mystery, trying to find light…
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
Forget about pleas to be loved, and love instead. Forget of yearning to be understood, and bring understanding. Bring faith where people despair and hope where they cannot see the light anymore. All of that bypassed my mind and went straight into my heart, making me cry in the middle of the meditation. And my heart reacted as if there was a magnetic pull in those words, in those ideas. I am so hungry for ideas, so hungry in my spiritual search, and somehow my heart seems to be my compass, telling me which way to go.
I do not know yet what will grow out of this experience inside my heart but every now and then since that evening, I try to calmly see and feel what I did and how I was, and truly feel that I am here to be an instrument of love. I pray in my soul to be that instrument of love, to be capable of love and free of expectation, and I direct those prayers at God’s love, the way I can touch it and understand it. This feels right, this feels true and this is thanks to the light that has lighten the world for me that night.
My way to faith and way to love might seem very imperfect to someone, who knows how to love and how to believe. I feel I never learnt those things properly. In my heart, there was always so much doubt and so much fear – and yet, when I lifted the cover, so much hunger for hope, for love, for the ability to really and truly love. That is why I also decided to describe everything truthfully. The process is an important aspect of the end destination… I have so much to be thankful for, to so many friends and loving people in my life, for so much inspiration from artists like Paddy. I am just trying to learn how to deeply express my love, and let that love, hope and faith grow.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.
One more little interesting tidbit, in closing..
By complete coincidence, I found myself in Koblenz on exactly the same day as the second RUAH Tour date. Me and my partner booked an anniversary weekend for the two of us – a week in advance, as usual in our case – and decided to go to Koblenz and Rheinland on a whim, last minute. I am blessed to share my life with a fellow traveler : )
Only after we made our last-moment travel plans, I realized that we would be in Koblenz on the same day as Paddy and his band. Knowing my partner and his very different taste in music, I was sure he would not be interested in visiting the meditation part of the evening, so I was not pushing that idea. Those were days for us, not days for me. However, throughout that whole day I kept in mind and heart where the church in Koblenz was in the grid of the city, wherever we went, and somehow I felt really good about the fact that I was in the same city and still close to that tour, right after experiencing Potsdam.
In that moment when the doors were about to open to let people in for another evening, the two of us were riding down the fortress hill via cable car. I was taking pictures of the beautiful sunset above two rivers converging down below around Deutsches Eck, but did not realize – until yesterday – that on my favorite picture, exactly above where the church where Paddy’s concert was about to take place, a little shape in the form of the cross was reflected – and now it looks as if that cross was floating in the sky, right above there.
It isn’t to be superstitious, but I still find it a beautiful coincidence and a beautiful symbol. I kept that church and RUAH tour as light in my heart throughout all of that day, in the back of my mind – and it was only fitting that this was reflected : )