“If you can’t teach me to fly, then teach me to sing.”
– from Peter Pan by Sir James Barrie
Singing, drumming and dancing are vehicles that lift us into the jet stream. This unitary state of consciousness is the zone and the flow that athletes and artists speak of. It’s where you feel and perform your best and are one with what you are expressing. Action feels effortless, time ceases to be important, and focus becomes so complete that everything else falls away.
This view above the clouds is boundless and ecstatic, and you may have already had glimpses of it. Climbing through the fog and turbulence of daily life, it can help you to see clearly and react calmly. It can propel you to new levels of insight and inspiration, and connect you to a voice that will reliably guide you home.
Leap in the air! Once you get the feel of it, ascending to this flow state and maintaining it steadily is easy. Like many skills sets, it just requires a little training and practice. Learning to play music in a group context is a joyful and inhibition-releasing means of getting there and staying there. The effect is to enhance and accelerate your performance in whatever you do.
Music and ritual are practices that bring us together and keep us connected as one heart and one mind. They are the operating system of our consciousness, and our humanity. They are instruments of empowerment and self-discovery that can teach you to navigate life and pilot yourself wherever you want to go.
The mantra chanting practice of kirtan is an ecstatic technology that modifies consciousness. It’s simultaneously calming and thrilling, a flight path of brain wave oscillations, neuropeptide surges, and autonomic nervous system responses. It strips away your usual frames of reference, your sense of self, and experiences of time. It’s an instrument to discover what is imminent and transcendent in yourself.
Flight School is a spiritually inquisitive music, science and education workshop offered on four continents. It has developed in surprising and powerful ways over the last ten years, with voyages into neurobiology, group dynamics, improvisation, songwriting, physics, philosophy, ethics, psychology and aeronautics. It is designed to facilitate an experience of yourself that once seen, cannot be unseen.
What to Expect:
We put you in a band with four or five other people. You bring whatever instruments you have, or play instruments we provide, like harmonium, cajon, djembe or finger cymbals. If you don’t know how to play an instrument, we teach you. Simple, interlocking parts combine to produce surprisingly sophisticated music. No previous musical experience is necessary.
We meet every morning to sing and drum together, survey history and theory and linguistics. We focus on techniques of finding your voice, developing arrangements and becoming a relaxed performer. In the afternoons, the instructors rotate through every band, offering support, not judgement. We guide the rehearsals and help you shape the sound. Every evening, the bands let it rip, and talk about what has just been experienced and learned.
The emphasis is on improvisation, writing and performing original compositions. Advanced rhythmic techniques, arrangements and methods of organizing, inspiring and leading a group are also explored. It’s preferable to have completed at least one previous Flight School at the Introductory Level, be able to play a musical instrument with practiced ability, or be actively participating in some form of ensemble or community music practice.
Comments from a recent workshops in Australia and California:
“It feels good to sing for five days and not be judged – that’s a spiritual experience. I found my voice from an authentic place. It’s a somatic experience – not in my head – in my body. When I can feel into it, I become part of the oneness and I play better. The container Dave creates facilitates self-discovery and spiritual connection.”
“This was the most profound and moving experience I have ever had. Flight School is brilliantly conceived, well presented, and rich in support, knowledge and learning.”
“What you do is what I call sacred theatre. It’s incredibly liberating because we are at our edge and with your super lovely attitude of “of course you can do it” everyone just gets on with it. The way you did it was so UN-stressful… I came to my edge at times – especially leading a kirtan on the first night, but the space you hold is so warm, supportive, joyful.”
“An amazing space for self-inquiry, personal and musical growth using Kirtan as a vehicle.”
“One of the most healing experiences of my life. Dave Stringer is loving, committed, ingenious and fun!”
“Words cannot describe the joy and experience of it all. Perfect team, perfect structure, perfectly amazing workshop.”
“Absolutely fabulous. I signed up for this workshop thinking it was going to be light and only about singing kirtan… but what a journey of transformation and self-discovery it turned out to be!”
“The best music workshop I have ever attended.”
Flight School Video
What is Kirtan?
The call and response form of mantra chanting known as kirtan is a consciousness-transforming practice, directing the singers to vanish into the song as drops merge into the ocean. The musicians and the crowd coalesce in a cloud of intelligence, turning together like a flock of birds, until the song itself vanishes into the blue skies of silence.
Participants in kirtan often experience a profound sense of unity, well-being and timelessness. The form is simple: a lead group calls out the melodies. The crowd responds, clapping and dancing as the rhythm builds and accelerates. The mantras quiet the mind, and the music frees the heart. Ecstasy is both the process and the product.
From the perspective of Eastern philosophy, the bliss we are seeking is already inside of us. This is also true from a neurological perspective.
Ecstatic experience begins when breathing slows down, gets deeper and becomes established in a rhythm. The parasympathetic nervous system is engaged, eliciting a relaxation response. The brain releases norepinephrine and dopamine. Brainwaves slow from beta to alpha, and parts of the pre-frontal cortex shut down.
Typical sensory filters are diminished, ability to recognize patterns increases, and new links are arise. This stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, creating a feeling of excitement and intense presence. Creative breakthroughs occur as anandamide and endorphins are released.
Activity in the occipital parietal lobe of the brain diminishes, softening the apparent boundaries between self and world. Alpha states shift to theta states. Serotonin and oxytocin are released, eliciting feelings of peace, well-being, connection and compassion.
“Immerse yourself in the rapture of music. You know what you love. Go there.”
– The Radiance Sutras