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Thursday, May 14, 2015

RPM - "Rhythm Prayer Move" project

The word "salvation" derives from the Latin word for "health," salus, and without making too much of that point, as physical-spiritual beings there is benefit to seeking health of both body and spirit. While sickness is no blockade to God's love, and certainly never a sign of divine disfavor, the lack of health can block out ability to be of service to others, and by focusing our attention on our pain and causing worry and fear, it can impede our ability to focus within on meaning-making and  outwardly on service to those who need it..

It's tricky to figure out how to say this, and someone may have a better idea. I've known a lot of sick people, chronically sick, even mortally, who are a lot more other-centered than I will ever be. But by the same token, Jesus never un-healed anyone. Prophetic utterances in Isaiah never described the reign of God as bringing more death, or making people sicker. Restoration to wholeness, to salus, can be an outward sign of the integrity of community, as well as the importance of the individual. As a parent and spouse, I hope to be healthy enough to provide for my family, be of service to my church and to others, and to continue to find and share meaning with others through the gospel until my days are over. For now, it seems the best way to do that is to stay as healthy as I can, and be aware of and helpful to those who are unable to achieve physical health.

My friends Lisa Bagladi and Pedro Rubalcava have collaborated on a musical project to help us achieve mens sana in corpore sano cum spiritu sana. Their concept is "Rhythm Prayer Move," or "RPM," and they have produced together some downloadable music for us. I've known Pedro for more years than either of us cares to recall, but certainly it's three decades; Lisa I've known since the late nineties through our mutual friendship with Gary Daigle. For many years, Lisa graced our liturgical prayer at St. Anne with her beautiful flute playing that flows from an inner integrity as well as well-practiced chops. When I heard that they had been working on this project, I asked Lisa if they might want to share a little bit about the work on my blog, so I asked them some questions and they have answered them. I love these two!

How did you get the idea to do this?
Lisa: Starting as professional dancer, musician, and fitness enthusiast, I began to develop the practice of this method of praying well over 20 years ago. I remember 6 weeks after having my twins (the 3rd and 4th girls) trying to get back in dancing shape, but couldn’t go anywhere because I had 4 kids, four and under. I would find quiet time in the day, while they were napping, and I would have a great need to not only exercise, but truly center myself in prayer, to regenerate for the rest of my busy day. I would use ethereal meditation type of music to relax, then I would start moving in my small space, to work up to an aerobic type of pace. I would focus on a psalm or mantra and started to practice this. I found my experience of going into deep prayer while moving repetitively and rhythmically to be profound, and I just wanted to share it with people! I started to imagine the perfect music to support this, and was on a continuous search. Nothing quite met what I was looking for. Either tracks weren’t long enough, or the tempo had too many changes, or other people’s lyrics (while still beautiful and inspiring) got in the way of my silent listening to God, so I thought, well, I guess I should just create something. I played around with my flute and garage band and developed some ideas…..about 8 years later decided it’s time to make it so. I shared this concept with other musician friends, and while they liked the idea, it didn’t completely resonate, until one day, I shared it with Pedro, and he immediately shared in the vision. He let me know that he wanted to partner with me on it as he had some of his own ideas for something like this as well. We started to play around with the musical ideas and formulated them into our first volume.

With my professional background in dance, dance prayer, as well as continuous study in the area of the mind-body-spirit connection for health and wellness, I envisioned developing this into a lifestyle-type brand of music and method for people to use in their everyday lives. We developed a workshop format and are offering it to parishes, ministries, and groups that are interested in learning and incorporating this type of prayer and mind-body-spirit experience not only in their ministries, but personal life as well. There is a lot of exciting breakthroughs in science and our understanding of the value of prayer combined with moving and it’s effect on our biology, and we hope that this is a wonderful tool and aid to support people on this journey of health and holiness!

Pedro: Lisa is the one who interested me in the idea. However, in my own prayer experience for several years the idea of creating and singing short phrases taken from Scripture and from the Psalms in particular is something that I have used consciously  and unconsciously to accompany my prayer. In think I even began to call this “walking prayers” - chants and melodies that I could use as a focusing element and continuously repeat – not unlike what might be familiar to us through the Taizé prayer experiences.

What are your unique contributions to the project?
Lisa: I composed the Psalm 63 and Psalm 23 instrumental pieces of volume 1. I envisioned a middle-eastern longing feel to the Psalm 63 (My Soul Longs for You, My God) and for Psalm 23, (The Lord is my Shepherd, I Will Want For Nothing) I heard a sort of musical dialogue with God out in the woods, with a Native American feel to the music. (I especially like this piece for running, it has a good rhythmic tempo for breathing and moving) I play flute on the recording of all the pieces. In our workshop experience, I lead everyone in the movement, while Pedro leads our musical support and accompaniment.

Pedro: "Un ángel habló en el sueño" (An angel spoke in a dream) has two inspirational sources. One is the idea from the gospel of Matthew’s infancy narratives in which God speaks to Joseph through an angel appearing in a dream – three distinct times. To me these are wonderful stories of faith and how the Divine enters into our lives. For some reason the idea of an angel appearing to Joseph in the dream seemed like it should be in a flamenco rhythm who’s melody speaks in the voice of the angel telling him to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, to flee to Egypt with Mary and Jesus, and then to “get up” and return to Nazareth after Herod’s death. The second inspiration was actually a dream that I had in which a mother and daughter were dancing a flamenco rumba and in which I was the guitarist that was providing the soundtrack for their beautiful dance. To me this song has a lot of breathing in it and movement. “Blessed Are They Who Believe” as a mid-tempo expression allows me to breathe more deeply and I imagine it as a cool-down or warm-up song that allows us to stretch. This was inspired by the “doubting Thomas” post-resurrection account in the gospel of John—“Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” The melodies actually came out of singing those words. After our conversations and reflection on the scope of the project I agreed to become the musical producer of sorts.

Who or what inspired your collaboration?
Lisa: I believe the Holy Spirit inspired our collaboration, as we both share in the desire of leading people into a multicultural deepened prayer experience. Our music is more in the genre of world music using rhythmic percussion and instrumentation. Working together on this has flowed very naturally. Also, Pedro’s gift of leading prayer through music and poetry has always been inspiring to me. In addition,we have teamed up with some wonderful musicians that share in our vision, Antonio Gomez - percussionist from Seattle specializing in latin, and middleastern rhythms and music, and Joseph Hébert, Cellist, professor of music and choir director from the Bay area, along with others that are able to join us in different settings, who will be contributing to our future volumes.

Pedro: Yes, ultimately it was the Holy Spirit  Several years ago, Lisa had asked me (and Peter Kolar) to listen to something she had put together on Garage Band that was a percussion track with flute and spoken word. That led us to have on-going conversations about “bodily" prayer and the idea of creating music that was intentionally religious that allowed people to pray while they moved exercised. Our conversations led to sharing of ideas surrounding this very concept and experimenting in live settings with groups of people, leading them in the prayer experience. These conversations led to further conversations with the folks that Lisa has already mentioned (Antonio Gómez and Joseph Hébert) about possible collaboration. I think we all share in the power of music to transform and integrate our prayer life.

What do you hope to achieve through RPM?
Lisa: Our mission is to help ordinary people (fitness buffs or the newly inspired to incorporate more exercise) in bridging their fitness and prayer life together, and offer ways to deepen their spiritual life through this higher awareness, leading with intention, and a surrender to the living God through Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Our workshop and retreat formats offer a unique, interactive, and engaging experience that provides an oasis from the traditional workshop format, employing the ability to learn through multiple intelligences. We find that the kinesthetic process of learning and praying through the body, in community, reaches and touches people on many levels. The feedback that we have received is that with the experience of live percussion, instruments, and voice to support the rhythm of breathing, moving, and praying together creates a unique communal bonding experience--truly praying as ONE. This experience allows people to connect with the divine through their very body, unifying body, mind, and spirit.  This type of praying is not new, but very old, and very alive in other cultures and religions around the world. Somehow this experience got lost in our U.S./western culture, despite the fact that this was a way of life for the native peoples of this land.  Catholics may be experiencing an element of it in their local yoga or zumba classes, but the unique opportunity to bring our Catholic imagination and theology to it provides inspiration and enrichment, besides that wonderful stimulating feeling of stretching and getting the blood flowing!

Pedro: Lisa expresses this very well. Providing folks with the opportunity to enhance their lives by connecting them with the experience of intentionally praying as they move, can only lead folks to deepen their prayer life. The more people pray and deepen their relationship with the Living God, the better our world is. I have a dream/vision of the transformative power of the Holy Spirit influencing one person exercising at a time, and moving from there to one more, and the next and so on. We know that music is a powerful gift and tool. Let’s use it to make a difference.

Any perspectives on how someone might jump into the world of danced prayer?
Lisa: While the RPM—Rhythm Prayer Move—recording is great for dancers, we also envision it being used by runners,walkers, bikers and anyone working out at the gym. We all use headphones and an iPod of some sort, and our music is important to keeping us pumped for the workout. Hopefully people will find this music as a wonderful alternative and option to help sustain them through their workout, and help them engage in a deepened prayer experience and connection with God!

Pedro: Even for folks who are not into heavy workouts, walking and simply breathing well and deeply is beneficial. RPM is hopefully a simple tool and way that people can enter into this bodily prayer experience and in time develop into more options for the way that folks are extending their prayer life into meditation and reflection using the musical prayer chants. It’s exciting.

In addition, we have a Facebook page:  or put "RPM Rhythm Prayer Move" in the search bar. We invite people to LIKE our page. Our aim is to include inspirational content around the subject of Prayer, Fitness, Health, Spirituality, and Wellness.  The music is available for download on iTunes, Amazon, and all the other digital music outlets.

To contact Lisa for more information, email her. You can sample the other songs from their CD on iTunes (links below) or Amazon (direct link above). Blessings and the very best of luck to Pedro and Lisa in this new enterprise and ministry.


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