Kevin Kraft, 42, at his home

Danielle referred me to Kevin and I'm so glad she did. Kevin invited me to his home and we sat on his floor over a cup of tea and chatted about all sorts of things. I can honestly say I haven't encountered sound healing to this degree before or even thought about it much. One of things I really love about this project is that it exposes me to a variety of experiences I may not have had otherwise. And I imagine the same is true for you as the reader. I am certainly guilty of more than my fair share of judgments about things unknown and unfamiliar, but I am sure we would all be better off if we would let curiosity and potential learning replace those more critical and negative responses. Kevin was kind enough to give me a short sound session after our interview, which I found super interesting. You can see what services he offers and get in touch with him here

Who are you and how would you describe yourself?

What a great question to jump through the gates with. Wow. I would actually call myself a cosmic anthropologist. I don't know if I made up that term - I sure like it a lot. It kinda combines my background of interest in international business - international travel - with my wellness efforts to understand who we are, why are we here, our brains and why do they think the way that they do, and how to help quiet them when they need quieting. And that search of just who we are and how we're similar and how we're different - especially on a global level, but on an individual level as well. To define cosmic anthropology for a second, cosmic - as we relate to the cosmos not just here on Earth. But anthropology - the study of humanity and where have we been, where are we now, where are we going, and how do we fit into this whole, crazy scheme of things. 

So how do you see yourself fitting in this crazy scheme of things?

I've been called a bridger before. I don't hear that term so much. But someone that understands the corporate world, someone that understands the responsibility of starting a business, failing with businesses, being successful, working with multi-billion dollar companies to small mom and pops and everywhere in between. It's that experience and that part of my life and the way that I was raised to also realizing that there's a connection to a lot more that survives beyond corporations and businesses and really gets into kinda the sweetness of life. And I feel I understand both worlds and I can jump between both worlds, so that role of a bridger has resonated with me. 

What came first? The business end or the cosmic end? 

You know, chicken or the egg? I think I felt much more comfortable expressing... you know being a responsible child and wanting to do well and study hard and get good grades and be on the path for having a good job, right? We all start off along that path. And I was fortunate to be able to start my own business and kinda created that opportunity that I could design my own life and my own time and how I spent that time. So, really, the business and success through business created some free time to explore other interests that I think were always there, especially my interest with connecting with people and languages and culture. But it wasn't really until an injury that got me into the world of yoga that got me into the world of yoga philosophy that got me into the world of spirituality and cosmic connections and things like that. 

What matters to you? 

It's understanding the authenticity of things. And, first and foremost, I find that through the language that we communicate with - the way that people speak to each other. In the world of small talk and defaulting to weather talk and really not forming a connection. Or speaking down to someone or gossiping or any interactions - even praising someone. It's like there are energetic trajectories to all of the words and language forms that we use and that's like the basis of how we communicate, which is the basis of community. So, yeah, how do we connect, how do we form authentic connections that talk about real things that [are] transparent, authentic, and non-harmful? And as that fits into forming community and forming relationships - for your family or romantically or business or anything. How does community form? What are the ingredients? And having just moved from Hawaii, coming to a place like Bend - going from a place of about a million people to a place of about 80,000 people - it's a much better microscope and example here in Bend of how people approach community. It fascinates me. 

What does community mean to you?

Great question. I think Hawaii really formed a desire to say Is this really the best form of community and is there something different, better? So, Hawaii - super magical place, I've got nothing but love for it, but it's extremely transient, right? Some of the highest cost of living, highest median home prices, food's 30% more than anywhere else. Some good friends that didn't prioritize income would have to leave. Really good people, in a place that's really magical in terms of growing your own food or doing anything outside or really being among people - you're not shelled up in the winter time - but people wouldn't latch onto a friendship because they knew you'd be leaving. 

I experienced that same thing in Japan. I was an outsider when I lived there. Ah, you're wonderful. You could be a great friend, but I know you're leaving in two years. I'm not going to invest in a relationship with you. That was never specifically said, but there was this undercurrent in Japan and also in Hawaii because, hey, people only invest in most relationships that they know they can immediately benefit from and be around for. I looked at the Pacific Northwest for sustainability, just the movements, kind of the general quality of life things: food is grown locally, people actively want to be part of a community and community efforts and growing food or supporting each other and doing less harmful activities because there's options here. 

So, I don't know if I'm good at it. I want to be good at it. It's something I wasn't raised with. It's a desire. I want to flex my community muscle and without having a lot of background in it, I'm hoping to learn as I go being in this new, small town. 

Do you have thoughts on the words responsibility and white privilege?

Mmmmmm. (Sigh) Yeah. Well, I love the word and the question about responsibility. I pose that question in some of my yoga classes and if you break it down, it means the ability to respond. And which, for most people, is a very different definition when you think of just the word responsibility. Responsibility - it's something I have to do. But breaking it down is the ability to respond. How can you be able to respond? Right? So you take away your stories, take away your blame, take away some filters, right? What is your authentic answer or authentic position? And often times that means no or no, thank you or this is not for me. But, as a culture, we want to protect ourselves, but we also want to protect the feelings of others so we end up saying something that we want the other person to hear or something that's neutral. And so, is that really able to respond? No, it's able to create a story to help someone feel a certain way or help yourself feel a certain way. And I think that's different for everyone. What enables you to be able to respond authentically and not have an agenda or to not harm? Sometimes it's just self-care - I need to take care of myself if I'm going to be able to respond to you or show up for you or this project or this job or whatever. 

In Hawaiian, there's a word - kuleana. It's a great word and it means responsibility and I think it's more closely related to that ability to respond than this is what I need to do. But it's a really wonderful word that's up there with aloha in terms of having much more oomf to it than just the word appears to have. 

White privilege, gosh. I've been fortunate to have been brought up in privilege. I recognize that and I'm super grateful. In terms of having lived in places like Japan and Costa Rica and even Hawaii, where whites were the minority and actually could feel what that meant. I definitely don't feel that here in Bend, being such a white place. And it was actually one of the reasons why I moved away from Colorado - the homogeny. Why do places like this lend itself to being so homogenous and are these changing and how are they changing? And then, in Japan, I was put on an immediate pedestal because I was white. It felt wrong. I was given gifts for no reason. I was being paid more. People just wanted to hang out because it was almost like a status symbol to be seen with a white person. This isn't right. And at the same time, they didn't really want to be friends because they knew I wasn't gonna be there very long. Right? So, what's authentic? What's okay with authentic? Is short-term friendships or superficial friendships - is there anything wrong with that? I don't know. I prefer the authentic, long-lasting, trust - hey let's support each other - but it's definitely a different way. In Hawaii, and especially with the history of how Hawaii was formed and the cost of living there, it was very easy to be put into a different category. I would just put it out there - there's issues, there's divisions, and there are tons of problems that come from that. So how can I be a part of that change? I feel like I'm sometimes discredited. Sometimes you need to go through a trauma or an experience in order to help raise that vibration. So, I'm still figuring out how where I'm coming from can help raise that vibration, just break down some of those divisions. 

What is your role in the fight against social injustice? 

I see my wellness activities are helping people find their authentic selves. What is their unique internal vibration? And I believe that when you strip off the stories and you work on your personal awareness practice and say, Oh my gosh, this is a story. This is a judgment. This is a prejudice. This is an inequality. Right? All of these things surface in practices of awareness. And there's so many different practices of awareness. And I think as a society we've gotten numb and we've gotten really comfortable with having big houses and fat bank accounts and new cars every three years or whatever that may be, that it really has enabled us to be numb to what it feels like to actually sit with a discomfort or a pain or a trauma. So, I'd say right now my role is to help people in their personal laboratory of awareness and, as a result, they'll see and feel what's going on inside of them in an individual experience - if it's an instance of inequality or greed or whatever that may be. There's no judgment good or bad, but as a society, if we recognize it without labeling it, a lot of it will just kind of right itself, at least to a certain degree. 

Can you talk a little about what you do specifically to help people or to facilitate wellness? 

I, for the last five years, have been very passionate about teaching sound yoga. And a lot of people ask What is sound yoga? A simple definition is using sound to achieve the benefits of yoga. So, if yoga's the alignment of mind, body, spirit or a connection with your higher self or source or the divine - whatever your definition is - using sound as a vehicle. Some people run to find that alignment. Some people find a religion. There's lots of different ways. There's many, many paths. Sound is something  that I have found super powerful. And there's something with sacred sounds - sounds that take us somewhere. And there's a science behind it. The instruments I use - the gongs, crystal bowls, harmonium, drums, rattles - they all scientifically show that they will lower the brain waves, slow down the brain waves. We all have the four main brain waves going on in any time, but these instruments will bring out the theta waves and the delta. So this basically allows us to quiet the mind. It kickstarts kinda the self-restoration process 'cause the body thinks it's going to sleep for eight or ten hours. So there's a release of all these positive hormones and restorative effects. But there's also this act of letting go. Just by being in a position for a few minutes, you just keep dropping deeper and you feel yourself releasing and letting go. It's amazing. We don't even know how much we're holding onto. Right? We constantly are locked in the jaws or in the shoulder and that's the norm, right? Constantly holding it. But what does it feel to really let that go. I heard under anesthesia, the stiffest person, you can totally take their leg behind their ear. There's not stiffness or inflexibility when you're in anesthesia (laughs). Which is pretty crazy, right? There's this mental component to the structure, the tightness that we hold onto. So by quieting the brain waves, doing some activities that lengthen the spine and relax through the muscles, we can let go of a lot. And when you begin to let go, a lot of things can surface in order to be let go. So, trauma, stories, experiences - when you have a practice of awareness, you can feel like Wow, this is really bothering me in my solar plexus. Why is there a pain in my solar plexus? Well, there's obviously a story or something connected with that. And as you can release, just like a layer of an onion, you can help discover yourself and where you've been and where you are and where you hope to go. 

That's kind of the physical science of it. But the mystical is when you have an intention or when you are having positive thoughts in that environment, what's the long-term effect? A lot of people believe in prayer, but no one really knows how prayer works, right? What's the tangible or real effects of prayer? Most people would think, There's something there. It's similar here. It's not necessarily a prayer or a prayer to a religion, but setting an intention or just your vibration, you can set that and you can almost entrain your body and your neural pathways to be a little bit different if you are stuck or if you are holding onto something. 

What do you wish for the future?

Oh, gosh. My simple wish would be that people would sing, dance, and laugh more. And I think that is some of the best medicine out there. And not dancing, singing, or laughing by themselves, but doing all of that in community. And I think, if you do that, or when we do that, the effects are going to be a lot smoother and long-lasting than other attempts. And not to say that other attempts are not needed. But I see my role - if I can help them sing, dance, laugh, and find silence, too (I would add that fourth one), I think there'll be subtle, but long-lasting changes.

Do you have anything else you'd like to add?

On that last question, too, and part of my vision - I'd like to just put it out there - is how do we do more things together? I think everything is moving into this movement of individuality, big homes, single car, less car-sharing, less food-growing together, less community meetings, activities. And there's a ton to do in this town. Bend is an amazing town. There's no shortage of activities to jump into. Which is wonderful, but there still feels to be kinda that separateness. So, how do we do more things together? How can neighborhoods be a living organism? Is that up to each house? I mean, there's always gonna be people that aren't interested in that, so how do you form smaller, more micro communities that then kinda ripple into that larger community, that ripple into the county, the state, the country? But I think it starts in neighborhoods and small towns. So, I'm putting it out there. How does that happen? How can we all just start doing things even if we don't want to? Because this is new for a lot of people. And it definitely seems like there's a desire to have this change but not enough of a desire to do the change on their own. So how do we kinda push people to do things that they may not necessarily feel an inclination towards? Like, neighborhood mandatory potlucks and trash clean-ups, you know? Things like that. 

Is there a sound you can make to close this interview?

Yeah, let me just say one quick thing about gongs. Gongs started popping up around the world three to five thousand years ago all over the place. All about the same time, which is pretty special. And they've always been associated with sacred events - ceremony, battles, births, deaths, rites of passage. So, for thousands of years the gong has been associated with this rite of passage or a ceremony and ceremonial closings. So, I'm just gonna do a single strike of a gong - this is a wind gong - and it will go for a couple minutes. Just ride it out, maybe close your eyes, take a deep breath along with it.