Christopher Raven, yoga musician
A long-haired musician sits in the corner of a yoga studio, softly strumming his amped acoustic guitar with an assortment of prayer beads wrapped around his tattooed wrists and a fedora on his head. He hums in the microphone. No words. No lyrics. Just sound. Rainsticks and looping melodies blend together, creating a soundscape for yoga and meditation.
Everything works in harmony — a reflection of the life Christopher Raven has found. Not too long ago, though, this man was lost, known by another name: Chris Saub. For more than two decades, a pendulum swung back and forth between music and Christian ministry — or spirituality as he knows it today.
“I saw the two as very separate destinations,” he said.
After studying pre-law, Saub pursued a music career, and Saub was in four bands when he was overcome by a spiritual yearning — what he describes as a gnawing in his chest.
“In my 20s, I didn’t know how to seek it out other than church,” he said. So, Saub joined the church worship team and kept playing in one of the bands. On Sunday mornings, he’d lead the congregation in worship with stamps all over his hands from being at clubs the night before. The elders didn’t like how it looked. It was one or the other, they said. He couldn’t do both.
Trying to satiate his spiritual hunger, he quit the band and became a pastor. That didn’t turn out as he had hoped.
Fields of Yogis 2017 is a two day yoga festival happening this weekend in the New Bohemia District in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Highlights from day one include music by Christopher Raven, intro to acro yoga, chakra stone painting and more. Visit www.fieldsofyogis.org for a complete list of vendors, performers and classes.
Posted by Little Village Mag on Friday, August 11, 2017
“As I look at spirituality, I just view it as this endlessness,” he said. “It wasn’t too long into the trek of being the pastor guy that I found myself bouncing into walls and hitting my head on a ceiling.”
So, he went back to music. This time, he got signed by a management company in Los Angeles. For several years, he was writing and recording demos, constantly trying to appeal to labels that would take him to the next level. It never happened.
“It just ended up frying my soul because I wasn’t writing out of a place of truth,” he said. “I wasn’t writing out of a place of experience or my own person.”
That’s when he decided to take a step back and just read for awhile. He went to the Christian bookstore where his mom worked and told her, “Mom, I think I need a bible, but I don’t want it to sound like a bible or read like a bible. I don’t want to be reminded of any sermon I’ve ever heard. I just want to hear God.”
He didn’t find what he was looking for that day. Instead, he’d get an answer from a contestant on So You Think You Can Dance, who was staying at his house in Omaha, Nebraska. Saub remembered watching the dancer on TV and seeing a spark in his eye. His whole person glowed. Saub had to know his secret. The dancer smiled and said, “Kabbalah.”
“That was the door being opened to spirituality,” Saub said.
Now, on this journey of “I just want to hear God,” he stumbled upon another bookstore. He went in and told the clerk what was going on in his life. She assured him, “Chris, as long as you keep an open mind, you’re going to be fine.” And then she sent him home with The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and Be the Person You Want to Find by Cheri Huber.
“Each day it’s like getting closer to finding — in Hinduism, they call it the atman — your true self.”
“It was like a deluge on top of a dry sponge. Awgh, just keep it coming. Keep it coming,” he said. “One conversation of one book would lead to something else, and it just ended up being a wonderful carnival of information.”
He spent the next four years reading books on Buddhism, Taoism and Hinduism, as well as Egyptian, Native American and Australian Aboriginal spirituality. He explored Tai Chi, Qigong and traditional Chinese medicine. He befriended a psychic and a group of Tibetan monks.
Saub started with one tattoo on his wrist that said “love” in Arabic, giving a nod to the origins of his surname, and then kept adding ink on his arms until he had two full sleeves, documenting his discoveries about Kabbalah, Zen, Hinduism and himself.
“Each day it’s like getting closer to finding — in Hinduism, they call it the atman — your true self,” he said.
His spiritual journey became endless, effortless. And after more than five years of not writing any songs, the music poured out.
“I didn’t have a context in mind. I wasn’t writing for any purpose. I was just exhaling what was naturally in me and letting it out,” he said. “[It was] probably the first time in my years as a creative artist of actually being an artist rather than trying to get someone to like me.”
The sound surprised him. It was ambient and ethereal. He played his new song snippets for a friend, who asked if he ever thought about playing music for yoga. “Pshh,” he said. “What are you talking about? That just sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher.”
His friend gave him the number of her yoga teacher at Pranam Yoga Shala in Omaha two years ago. He’s been creating soundscapes for yoga and meditation ever since — finally finding harmony between his spiritual life and music.
Last year, he performed at yoga studios and events in South Dakota, Nebraska and Iowa, including Be Yoga Studio in Sioux City; Fields of Yogis, a two-day festival in Cedar Rapids; and Yoga on the Green, a free outdoor class at the Okoboji Commons Hotel, offered by The Studio Yoga & Barre based in Spencer.
When things don’t go according to plan, Saub said, “That’s when we become open. We let go of these ideas about the way we think things are supposed to be. And we go, I don’t have a clue. But there’s got to be some way.”
On his journey, he’s adopted a new name based on his spirit animal—becoming Christopher Raven.
Ally Karsyn is the founder, producer and host of Ode, a live storytelling series presented by Siouxland Public Media, the NPR affiliate in Sioux City, where she is the arts and culture producer. She’s also a lifestyle photographer, specializing in documentary-style photos that tell a story about how you live, love and work. More details at allykarsyn.com