Suzin Green’s music is haunting and uplifting, soothing and energizing, with a sound that takes you somewhere almost supernatural. The centerpiece is her accomplished and mysterious voice.
Then there are the “magic words” — chanted Sanskrit mantras. “I am a huge proponent of chanting mantras silently or out loud. It’s one of the great healing medicines, one of the most powerful yogic practices that exist,” says the Princeton resident.
She says yoga and meditation are popular practices of healing and exploring the soul but feels that mantra chant is “equally powerful as an inner practice, for strengthening, eliminating, deepening, and busting out of one’s confines.”
See and hear for yourself when Green and her longtime musical allies — Daniel Johnson on tabla and guitarist Tom Spiker — join forces for a night of mesmerizing music, Thursday, February 7, at the Hopewell Theater.
Titled “Travel Sonic Pathways: An Experiential Concert with Suzin Green,” the show features otherworldly works from her most recent albums, “The Mantra Project Volume I: Daughter of the Mountain” and “The Mantra Project Volume II: Mantras of the Sun,” as well as vintage pieces from her 2002 release “Devi Demo.” (This music can be found at www.suzingreen.com/discography)
She promises that audience members will have an experience beyond simply taking in a concert. “Just being in a theater where this music is being performed, people will be sonically saturated with very powerful mantras,” says Green, who accompanies herself on the harmonium.
“The magic is (the listener/participant) encountering their own inner stillness, going deep inside,” Green says. “In the yogic tradition, that stillness is the portal into what we truly are, into the authentic self. My goal, whether it’s through performance, teaching, or one-on-one work, is to keep bringing people into the ever-deepening experience of their own stillness, and from this stillness, into their authentic self.”
As The Band had its “Last Waltz,” you might call the February 7 show “The Last Chant.” It will mark a pause in Green’s live performances as she works on a book that has been incubating in her mind and heart for 25 years. “It will be the last time to hear me live for maybe two years,” she says. “Except for Monday night classes (at Alchemy Mind and Body on Route 27 in Kingston), or private sessions, that will be all for a while.”
Though Green will return to the Hopewell Theater on Tuesday, May 14, it will be to host a screening of the film “Mantra: Sounds into Silence” and lead a post-film discussion.
Her book was something that always seemed to be interrupted when a music project came up. A classically trained pianist, Green always found the music so enticing and all-encompassing and could not say no or break away. But now the book is calling.
The book is about Green’s work and journey over the last 40 years, covering all different aspects to what she does and where she has been. “But it all begins with my core as an artist and mystic, a spiritual seeker,” she says.
Green was, in fact, close to a book deal with Shambhala Publications in the mid-1990s. In 1993 she had earned a master’s degree in expressive arts therapy from Lesley College (now university) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her thesis is titled “The Deep Song Singing: Creativity and Self-Expression, Artistic Discipline and Form, and Yogic Practice as a Triad for Inner Healing.”
She says she was working with a Shambhala editor to turn the thesis into a book, but “when the editorial committee passed on our proposal towards the end of 1996, I decided to offer weekly meditation classes in Princeton” — a place she “fell in love” with when she and her now ex-husband moved into the area for him to take a job at Rutgers University.
“This would have been early 1997,” she says. “I taught a Monday night class and a Thursday morning class at the original Princeton Center for Yoga and Health when it was on Route 206 in Princeton. Although the venue has changed, Monday night class continues to this day,” Green says.
She says the basic format of her classes remains the same, combining teachings from yogic philosophy and psychology, as well as from the world’s wisdom traditions, with mantra chanting and silent meditation.
It was also in the late 1990s that Green teamed up with tabla player Johnson to offer evenings of ecstatic chant, otherwise known as kirtan chanting, the third Saturday of each month.
Green says the programs were so popular they often sold out, creating a large following that continued through 2000. That’s when she and Johnson recorded and released the classic kirtan album “Hearts on Fire.” “Once the album came out we received invitations to perform at yoga centers throughout the tri-state area and New England, and before we knew it we had a national reputation,” she says. “Two decades later Daniel and I are still working together, and our last two albums hit the top 10 on iTunes’ World Music Chart.”
Green grew up in Yonkers, New York, where home life was “idyllic, post-war upper middle class,” she says. “Lots of theater, concerts, other kinds of cultural events. My mom played the piano and my dad played the mandolin, so there was always music in our home.”
She began studying classical piano around age 6 and continued until she was 18. Green also took flute lessons, played in the high school orchestra and band, and sang in the school choir.
Her parents owned a mail order and advertising business in downtown Manhattan, and her father was able to retire at age 45. He then pursued a career in finance and investments, working on Wall Street until his late 60s. When the family business closed, Green’s mother worked at various publishing companies in NYC.
Green did undergraduate work at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, in a program that allowed students to combine majors. “I was able to study music, dance, philosophy, and psychology,” Green says. “My senior thesis was on the creative process.” She earned her bachelor’s degree in 1974, after marrying and becoming a young mother. Her daughter is Coby Green-Rifkin, director of marketing at Grounds For Sculpture in Hamilton.
Going back to her own formative years in the 1950s and 1960s, there is a bittersweet aspect to Green’s life that will resonate for many, many women within her age group.
Even though family life was good, sweet, and safe, Green — who will be 71 this year — rarely felt seen and heard for who she really was, a “right-brain child, sensitive and mystical,” she says.
“For example, I played classical piano (for 12 years), and I loved the challenges and my teachers, but I also wanted desperately to learn how to play jazz and improvise, and that wasn’t allowed for a girl like me,” says Green.
“It didn’t occur to my parents to encourage me to pursue a serious career in music; they could only see their own experience,” Green adds. “This was at a time when it was more of a ‘given’ that I would just get married and my husband would take care of me.”
This lack of understanding gave Green the impetus to find out who and what she truly was, to take the reins and build a life that was an expression of her creative, numinous self.
Green admits her father was more sympathetic, with a mystical quality to his own personality, and the two of them had wonderfully deep discussions. “In his own way he did open some of those doors for me,” Green says. “He had this interesting philosophical side, which not too many people saw.”
She was still living “the family script” in New York City in the early 1970s, when she, her then-husband, and young Coby moved to western Massachusetts, near Northampton, and then to New Jersey.
“We later split up and then I raised Coby as a single mom but also went back to school and finished my bachelor’s degree,” Green says. “That’s when I really came of age, really started to discover myself as a creative artist and mystic, realized ‘this is who I am.’ It was also where I began to explore my voice.”
Fast forward a few decades and Green believes she is at the right place and time to share her kind of healing.
Today most of Green’s therapeutic counseling revolves around her private practice, seeing individuals — from youths to seniors — who are interested in deep inner work that blends psychological, spiritual, and creative exploration.
“I do see myself as an elder of the human potentiality movement,” she says. “I am very interested in sharing this wisdom, reaching young people, including millennials, and even those younger than that.”
“This work we do is essentially inner-centered but it’s also outward-looking, and we have a lot of work to do,” Green says. “We need to heal the planet because we’ve managed to rape the planet. We need to heal the country since the country is broken. All this requires engaged social activism.”
“Within the spiritual community, I come down very much on the side of spiritual work to strengthen our social engagement and our social justice engagement,” she continues. “I have no interest in a spirituality that keeps us in a little cave on a mountain top. The world needs something very different from us now.”
Travel Sonic Pathways: An Experiential Concert with Suzin Green, Hopewell Theater, 5 South Greenwood Avenue, Hopewell. Thursday, February 7, 8 p.m. $34.12. 609- 466-1964. www.hopewelltheater.com.
Green returns to Hopewell Theater on Tuesday, May 14, at 7 p.m. to host the film “Mantra: Sounds into Silence,” and lead a post-film discussion. $19.73. For more on Suzin Green: www.suzingreen.com.