Point Vierge: In Conversation with Alana Levandoski on Thomas Merton’s Winding Journey [Audio]

I recently sat down with my friend, contemplative singer-songwriter Alana Levandoski, to discuss her upcoming album exploring the life and spirituality of the 20th century Cistercian monk, scribe, and arguably leading mystic of modernity, Thomas Merton.

This new album – entitled Point Vierge: the Journey of Thomas Merton in Song – is new collaboration with master contemplative teacher James Finley, a followup to their 2016 album Sanctuary: Exploring the Healing Path, which I’ve cried through in its deep truth-telling and healing at least a few times. If you’d like download your own copy of her debut album in this series, Behold, I Make all Things New, Alana is now giving away the album in its entirety for a limited time – here.

We talk about my many discoveries of Merton in young adulthood, how he’s impacted both of our spiritual journeys, Merton’s abiding love of Christ and wisdom wherever he could find it (be it Church, Mosque or Sangha), and his at-times winding path to becoming fully alive, right here:

 

Alana is currently crowd-funding her Thomas Merton album, right here on Patreon. When I asked her if she could tell us a bit more about it, here’s what she said:

“Ever since I really consciously embodied my Christhood (a number of years ago in the back country of Colorado, on a fast), I have intuited that the boon I have to offer the world is connected to finding creative ways to awaken hearts to the abiding presence of God in all things and in us. That the minute something IS, it is incarnated and being transformed, somehow.

Recording music is my ‘delivery system’ to reveal this incarnational quality. In Behold, I Make all Things New, I paint the Christ Mystery beginning in the unknowns of origin (say, the big bang occurring), and how the very first atom was infused with this Holy presence, and I let the album arc through the story of Jesus and into you and me.

In Sanctuary: Exploring the Healing Path, James Finley and I convey the incarnate beauty even in suffering – not the cause of the suffering, but the possibility of healing or learning in that suffering. The discovery that we are ‘precious in our fragility.’

Point Vierge is no exception to awakening hearts to this Presence. The whole project tells the tale of an almost-mythic Seeker who matures in his encounter with this Presence and as he grows; this Presence is felt much less ‘out there’ and more ‘in here.’

I am using Jim Finley’s work on Merton, where he observes Merton’s contemplative access points, to help with the story arc: philosophical reflection, art, prayer, nature, solitude, human intimacy, suffering, healing.

There is a journal entry from the late 1930’s when Merton is in Cuba. He’s entered a church, which he makes known has its doors wide open. He stands there and hears a man sing “Yo creo,” (I believe), and a choir of children sing it back. Merton becomes so aware of the presence of God everywhere that he feels ‘lightening bolts’ and ‘thunder claps.’ Fast-forward years later and he warns against what he calls the ‘wrong flame’ in New Seeds of Contemplation, intimating that these overblown spiritual experiences can make our egos feel separate and over-identified with being spiritual! This project is really about a seeker’s maturing, awakening to incarnation (without discounting one’s younger experiences). It is also telling the story of the shift from self-contempt to living as beloved.”

Amazing. Again, to check out Point Vierge and the rest of Alana’s work, go to AlanaLevandoski.com and Alana’s Patreon page!
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