Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Swami Sankarananda Next Friday

The Akron Peace Project, Spiritual Life Society, Free Akron Yoga, and Blue Hen Yoga bring an inspiring evening with a peaceful presence - Swami Sankarananda. Swami Sankarananda is a Peace Pilgrim on a journey walking across the US for Peace. Join us at the beautiful Hazel Tree Interiors on Market St FRIDAY JULY 17th at 7pm for a conversation with Swami. Seating is limited, and floor sitting is recommended, if this is an issue, please feel free to bring cushions or folding chairs.

About Swami in his own words:

I am walking a 10,000 mile Pilgrimage for Peace as a simple service on behalf of the cause that all may know Peace.

By way of introduction I am both a peace pilgrim and a monk from one of the Hindu ord...ers (thus "Swami"). I love, respect and honor all including all people, all creatures and all faiths. I'm midway in this pilgrimage having walked coast to coast through 2014 and am now (summer 2015) journeying from Portland, Maine through New Hampshire then northern New York, Ohio, southern Michigan and Chicago. I walk with no visible means of support; in full faith in the goodness of mankind and in the Supreme. My pilgrimage is inspired by Peace Pilgrim and through the example of many of the great teachers of all traditions.

I share a positive message and do not see need for conflict in any way. I see the path to peace as an inner journey coupled with outward experience and expression; as the source of real peace is inside each of us and may be touched by any of us through kind thought, words and deeds.

I walk openly in continuous prayer for Peace for all and serving through a smile and a wave for all. I neither expect not ask for anything, I simply do my best to be of benefit. When anyone wishes to stop to talk I listen completely and do my best to help the ones I meet to touch peace inside through sharing of stories, experiences and observations. Often I am asked to talk with small groups and am happy to meet and share with one or many. I've written a free downloadable book based upon this pilgrimage as a way to share the same. The book is available at There are articles available online regarding this pilgrimage if you would like more information, also I share regularly on Facebook and you can link too that through my website if you would like.

Thank you for taking your time to read this. Please let me know if you are interested in a visit, and also if you might be interested in my sharing any of these stories and experiences or talking about the book. I am quite flexible and will do my best to support what you see as beneficial for yourself and your friends. There is no fee nor expectation for any of this, peace itself is free and I believe that whatever I can offer should be as well.

If you are interested please respond and we will try to coordinate a date and time.
Thank you so much again! Namaste.

Deep Shanti THIS Saturday

Over the last few months I have been working with my friend and sweet yogi, Kelly McHood, to create a series of Furthering Yoga classes which integrate sound and mantra into the asanas, as well as add myth and storytelling, all of which are designed to help us delve deeper into our sadhana, or spiritual practice.

"Musician / Peace Maker, Zach Freidhof, and Yoga Instructor, Kelly McHood, invite you to explore the Yogic Path through sound and movement in the Deep Shanti workshop series. Each class will blend an aspect of yoga philosophy with mantra chanting (outward repetition of Divine names and sounds) accompanied by instruments and asanas (postures). Surrender yourself in a practice that goes beyond the physical body, tapping into a deep sense of peace and oneness.

"Divine Deities" will explore the Gods and Goddesses of Hindu mythology through asanas, chanting, and story-telling.

The class will be donation based (suggested donation is $5).

Future classes in this series will include "Yamas & Niyamas" and "The Bhagavad Gita" and "Gandhi".

***OM shanti OM***"

Join us this Saturday July 11th, 2015 at the Miller Ave Church, 1095 Edison, Akron, in Akron's Summit Lake neighborhood. Class starts promptly at noon and will wrap up by 2pm.

Facebook event link: 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Serving and Leading

To Serve is to Lead

As I find myself in various conversations in my community revolving around the arts, the role of the artist, the yogic lifestyle, and how to inspire all to take some sort of step deeper into service, I see the great need for more conversations about leadership. Real leadership. Leadership that stems from a genuine desire to be a servant of the community, the whole community. How do we inspire, cultivate and encourage this type of servant perspective in our artistic and spiritual communities? What does an Artist or Yogic leader even look like? We see examples around us. Some more aware of their efforts and roles, and some unconsciously or unfocusedly doing the work needing done.

There is effort to build leaders from the business sector, which is important, but If we want to be a society that truly thrives and is adaptable, then this sort of artistic and spiritual leadership is imperative!

Studying several spiritual leaders such as Gandhi and Swami Krishnapada, and through discussions with local artistic several points have been coming up again and again. Perhaps it would be helpful to list a few of these traits common to the sort of servant leader a community needs to thrive. (in no particular order)

1.       Servant Leadership

2.       Often and continuous self-reflection

3.       Gratitude

4.       Encouraging the best in others

5.       Listening

Servant Leadership.

What is meant by a servant leader? A person who truly views their role as a servant to the community, and sees their strengths as service for the community, with the community is a servant leader. These persons realize that you don’t need to be the one out front to be leading, that you can be leading within, or even from behind the group. To keep the needs and dreams of the community always in sight when undertaking action, events, collaborations is absolutely necessary. Servant leaders always seek to inspire and cultivate more leaders, knowing that we can move beyond competition into abundance when others are empowered.

Often and Continuous Self-Reflection.

True leadership comes from living your life. Actions, words and lifestyle can all be in harmony through rigorous self-reflection. We must not be afraid to question our motives, our ideals, even our deepest held beliefs. Little is more powerful for a leader than to know when we are getting in our own way, or when our ego is shutting down opportunities, communication or honest growth. Self-realization should be a large goal for any leader. As it is said, to know oneself is true wisdom. When we look at our actions, reactions, and thoughts, fears, and hesitancies we learn invaluable information about ourselves which we can understand and work with. This effort helps our words to become clearer, our passions and actions to be pure and in step with our ideals and philosophy. The best leaders really live their message, as Gandhi repeated, “My life is my message.”  With this process comes the ability also to actively be the changes one wishes to see. This sort of leader should never ask someone to do anything they would not themselves do, or that they are not already doing.


Giving thanks for the many blessings in our daily lives helps us to find the positive in any situation, i.e. a wider perspective. This allows us to put less stress on succeeding, per se, allowing a space to fail – a space to try, to learn, to get up again. As we realize the amazing progress being made in and by our community, we can appreciate all those who are playing their supportive and other leadership roles. Giving thanks and opportunity to those around us doing good works is more than just good teambuilding, but how a community is supposed to support and encourage itself! A daily gratitude practice gives us the strength to continue and get up again when challenges arise. It also helps the broader community to be inspired to keep working for the goal you have all outlined. 

Encouraging the Best in Others

Everyone has a super special skill. Some people know their skills and have offered how they can be helpful. Others need some help finding it or being encouraged to bring that skill to the table. Servant leaders see the potential in others, and know that we are all made of the same Divine star-stuff. Clearly, we must do what we can to bring out the best of those around us. Sometimes this can be done simply through example, or by conversations. Sometimes it’s much more difficult. Regardless, a leader acts from a place of compassion and desire to understand and meet others where they are. When the community awakens to the idea that each member holds a piece of the puzzle, and that with all those pieces put together their goals will be clarified and made manifest. This helps people to feel genuinely appreciated and involved in the work that is being done. People will be invested in that which they have a hand in creatively building.


I cannot stress this attribute enough. Listening is loving. To listen to the community is imperative in finding out how you can serve them. Deep listening involves hearing the needs not being met. Without this effort, any leadership efforts are self-driven and ego-based, which can lead to power over people, instead of with people. It also leads to separation from the rest of the community. The servant leader knows the immense worth of each member, and that he must respect and honor the best in each of us. Listening is one of the most important skills for figuring out what is working and what is not, and how the genuine progress of a mission is going. It can allow for further self-reflection, and give a deeper understanding of how you be helpful to others.

These are just a few jumping off points to meditate upon and begin implementing in yourself, organization, community, or in any role you play. These attributes connected with a deep Love and carried out in the spirit of compassion can greatly transform all of us.   


The film Whiplash, came up in conversation the other day. This award-winning film, if you're unfamiliar, it's a story about a drummer in a prestigious music academy and an instructor who is over the top in his expectations of the students. This movie really moved me, though the lead character of the instructor is quite miserable and horrible. Yet, it calls up the question of what motivates us? What pushes us beyond what we thought we could be or do? Often it is the difficulties, the doubters, the antagonist that drives us to that place. In my own life, the times of biggest growth and movement have come from being told im not good enough, not able to play there, cant do something, etc. I owe a lot to the folks who either never thought much of me or who believed that only through this type of unending criticism will you reach greatness.

What motivates you? Has difficult and discouragement pushed you beyond your limits into something greater?

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Community Inspirations 1

This fall, I talked with a number of people who inspire me daily and have had large roles in my creative life. They asked questions of me they wanted to know, and I hope they can post their own answers.

This first installment is a question from Julie Norman of Body Karma Healing ( and Crystal Awakenings ( She is one of the great yogis, full of powerful Goddess energy. She has played a huge role in my life, helping me work through issues and empowering me to embrace the light and energy I have. She's an amazing yogi, and will hopefully do another Yoga Dance event again soon!

Julie asks:
What's challenges have you/ do you face along your path & what's your process for moving through them?

Challenges are inevitable, and have helped me grow so much.

Many of the challenges I face are from my own self. Things like the fear of success, making time to see the ideas I have to fruition, frustration over figuring out what ideas I can feasibly make reality, and frustration when working with others and their schedules are present more often than I'd like. Marketing myself is something I dislike and constantly struggle with. I have a hard time selling myself, as I fight with myself about how to monetize a talent I feel should be accessible to all. 

Challenges come from the community as well. Finding partners to work with and create the creative visions I have for my music and the community. Finding venues to perform my big ideas are incredibly difficult. Having to constantly pitch and sell my ideas to partners, venues, and others is wearing upon my energy at times.

How do I move through these?

Meditation is always my first step. And probably the second and third step too. Once I can watch my reactions and emotions that come up when faced with challenges, I see the opportunities that are presented. Often times, things that really bother me, or block my path have led me to even more beautiful and powerful places, bringing even more focus to what Im doing. So, I am learning to trust in this.

Friends help too. Learning to ask for help when help is needed has been a tough lesson, but it's what we're here for, really, to help each other.

Beyond this, time in nature rejuvenates my soul and helps me realize my issues are small beans in the timeline of existence. Nature speaks wise advice and gives much solace when you surrender to it. In a similar vein to this, I pick up the Bhagavad Gita and read a chapter or two. I do this daily, but in times of troubles, I find it imperative to allow the Gita's wisdom to speak sincerely and deeply to me.

Julie, what about you?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Recommendations of 2013

These are some of the highlights and inspirations I came across this year. Not all of these came out this year, but this is when I crossed their paths.

Winslow. Left of the Right Direction.
Randi Driscoll. December.
Rachel Roberts/ Sexis Sixes.
Brett Dennon. Smoke and Mirrors.
Medicine for the People. Dark As Night.
Colin John. Two Sides of the Coin.
Tegan and Sarah. Hearthrob.
Noah and the Whale. Heart of Nowhere.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. Self Titled.
Joseph Arthur. Ballad of Boogie Christ.
The Speedbumps. Harbors.
Charlie Mosbrook. Something to Believe.
Hey Mavis. Honey Man.
Michael Franti. All People.
MC Yogi. Pilgrimage.
Alan Semerdjian. Quiet Songs for Loud Times.
Local Natives. Hummingbird.

In Freedom and Peace. Bernard LaFayette
Strength to Love. MLK.
Stride Toward Freedom. MLK.
The Gospel of RFK.
Jesus. Deepak Chopra.
A Gandhi Reader. Gandhi.
Book of Hours. Rilke.
The Animal Manifesto. Marc Bekoff.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Tao of Recording

Recording is a process I have been through countless times over my 15 year career. Hours have been spent professionally recording my music, helping others record their music, or working on demos and other unreleased projects.

I've hears what feels like hours of kick drums being mixed. Put up with way too much pizza and Chinese carry out, and poor light.

Yet, I learn so much each time. Even more about myself, than with the actual recording process.

We start with ideas about the songs, and they always end up in a different space. A song starts off mellow and becomes a rollicking tune. Some songs get mellowed down. You never really know how a song will end up.

It causes us to be flexible and not be attached to our preconceived notions for these songs.

Each recording also challenges us in unexpected ways.

This project has had its fill! First of all this was a very long project, and the time frame found me moving from joy to despair to boredom back to excitement. I found myself ready to give up on it. Found myself disliking the songs. And then I found redemption in the music, and new life in totally changing my vocal style.

We recorded a new, more soulful version of Surround Me for this project. In doing this, we decided to change my vocal approach to the song. It took me into some very tentative places, vulnerable places. Uncomfortable places. And yet, in the end, it pushed me through to a place where I now have a new skill in my belt.

I like working with my band, and enjoying their creative input. That's part of what helps a song to grow on its own and go to a place where I might not have taken it. A random mandolin part can suddenly take a song in such a random tangent - a tangent so far out of my ideas for the song, that it was physically uncomfortable. Until I stood back and realized the song wanted to go there.

It's all a process of letting go.

Of realizing the best take is usually right after the worst take. Once we stretch ourselves beyond our ability, we find a new comfort zone.

Of finding our antidotes.