Today, I interview James Guzzetta. From the very beginning of his life, James had an intimate connection with nature and music. At age 1, James remembers being captivated by the light streaming down on him through tree branches. At age 4, he began playing music, and his experience heightened his awareness that he was having a divine connection to the deepest parts of himself.
James also remembers the incredible backyard oasis at his grandmother’s house. He grew up around lush, green fullness of plant life, and all kinds of animals and critters. It was paradise for him, until she was forced to move inland because of her asthma. Back at home, James sank into the boring, grey, conventional childhood. Kids at school were miserable, and so was he. So he was given the option to go to parochial school or music school, and this was the beginning of his musical education.
Eventually, James landed in San Diego and began studying with some very wise and influential people. One mentor inspired him in such a way that he felt that he truly connected to his “inner ear”, a sensation he now compares to that first encounter with the sun through the trees; he was filled with warmth and light. This caused a shift in James. He realized his own true inner self, and he began to feel oneness with his expression of that self in relation to nature. He began meeting with others, making music together out in nature using found objects. James felt his own relationship with everything in the world, and the connection that lives in those depths.
Through this process, James discovered that “we can tap into greater wisdom, greater knowledge as well, but also into who we are as a human being, a spirit, having a human experience as a human being.” Now, James leads workshops about mindfulness, awareness, listening, and self-discovery. He uses music and other techniques to show others how to shift into the state of being fully present with their inner selves and truly connected with nature.
James Guzzetta has been a musician since the age of 4, first studying classical music, winning competitions, and as a guest soloist with the San Diego Symphony. James went on to explore electronic and ethnic music forms. In the early 1970s, studying with North Indian Vocal Master Pandit Pran Nath, James discovered his inner ear and True Voice. During this time he started a series of musical journeys in SW canyonlands, deserts, and other remote and sacred sites, taking small groups of friends to share a dynamic and reconnecting experience with Nature and their True Self.
After 40 years working in Corporate America and 2 Startups, he has returned to offering transformational workshops and retreats – all focused on Nature as a Gateway to our True Self.
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Transcript of Interview
Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode # 94 James Guzzetta
“The Energy that Echoes Through Us”
(0:36) Dr. Doreen Downing
Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing, and I’m a psychologist and host of the Find Your Voice, Change Your Life podcast. And what I do here is invite guests who have stories to tell about either not having had a voice in their life or somehow finding it in other ways. It doesn’t have to necessarily be through speaking. Today, I have a wonderful guest who has a voice through music as one of his ways of expressing himself. Hi. Hi, Jim.
(1:07) James Guzzetta
Hi. Hi, Doreen. Doreen, it’s wonderful to be here, and it’s a pleasure to talk with you.
(1:12) Dr. Doreen Downing
I know. Well, you’ve written a bio, and I’m going to read that out loud so people get a better sense of who you are right now. James Guzzetta has been a musician since the age of four, first studying classical music, winning competitions, and as a guest soloist with the San Diego Symphony. James went on to explore electronic and ethnic music forms. And in early 1970s, studying with a North Indian vocal master, James discovered his inner ear and true voice. I have to take a big breath there. That’s such a different take on finding your voice of anybody I’ve ever had on my show. So, I’m sure people are going to be looking forward to hearing more about what that means, the inner ear and true voice. And during this time, he started a series of musical journeys in the southwest canyon lands, deserts, and other remote and sacred sites, taking small groups of friends to share a dynamic and reconnecting experience with nature and their true self. And after 40 years working in corporate America and two startups, he has returned to offering transformational workshops and retreats all focused on nature as a gateway to our true self. Ah, what a wonderful introduction. I think people might not know that how I connected with you is through the internet. And I think it was something about gateway to our true self that caught my eye.
(2:58) James Guzzetta
Ah, right. You know, I just completed a summit in August of this year that was based on nature, the gateway to the true self, and had some amazing guest speakers help with me to broaden the perspective of nature in their own work, but also relate to the concept that it is a gateway to our true selves.
(3:27) Dr. Doreen Downing
I would think so. And I want to go on and explore that as a conversation because that’s the mystery. That, to me, is the entrance into the deeper sense of our lives and meaning and what drives us on a much more soulful level. But before we do that, I’d like to get a few details about where you grew up and your family history. And of course, we’re talking about voice. And when we’re really young is when we first start using our voice and people respond or they don’t. So what was your experience?
(4:08) James Guzzetta
Well, in a way, I guess I was very fortunate to first be in touch with my voice when I was one year old. I remember this because we moved, we were in a, my dad was in the Navy. We had naval housing and I was sitting in my front yard, one year old, gazing up through this incredible oak tree with the sun coming up behind it. And as the sun came through the, filtered through the tree, I just took it in. And there was a shift in me that I still remember to this day, where it wasn’t just feeling warmth and the sun light, but it was something that really evoked a different kind of relationship to being here on this planet. I define it now in that way. At the time, it was just, I became a big smile, filled with light and warmth.
(5:07) Dr. Doreen Downing
Innocence of taking in the wow of being alive.
(5:16) James Guzzetta
So that was my first inkling of, in a way, being here, you know, for the being here now. And I mentioned, as you read in the bio, that at around three, four years old, I became, well, I was, I started playing instruments. And what occurred with that was that not just playing tunes, but it was a connection to the divine, essentially, for me. The sound became this portal or a transport to another level, another dimension of, very much like what I was experiencing when I was one, but kind of enhanced. And then I started more formal studies at that point. Well, there, this is, this is a, one of those dips in the relative life of, you know, Jim Guzzetta.
As I was growing up, my grandmother had this backyard that was like a tropical oasis. She had all kinds of plants, all kinds of plants, everything she touched just turned lush and green. She had pets of, you know, dogs, cats, canaries, finches, turtles, frogs, all in the backyard. So, for me, as a kid, I was just really enthralled with being able to engage every day with life like this. And then when I was five, my grandmother got sick and we had to move from the coast to inland because she had asthma. And the idea from the doctor was that we had to move to a drier climate, just the opposite of what is the best remedy for asthma, because your lungs being with drier air start filling up more with liquid or fluid. So, and then she passed within that next year. So, it was a huge, deep loss.
We moved to this place that was freshly scrubbed farmland, covered now with asphalt, concrete and stucco houses. And I just went, started my schooling at that point. The kids were just the opposite of what I had been living with the friends that I had prior. They were hurt kids who in turn hurt others, each other. And I just felt like totally isolated, you know. My parents then gave me a decision to make. I could either go to parochial school or take music lessons. Let me see. So, I chose music, of course. And there went this kind of journey into music in a more formal manner. And I had some amazing teachers during that time.
And then I came up here to the Bay Area from San Diego. And I found Mills College, where I was studying with Terry Riley, Bob Ashley, and Terry’s master guru, I should say, in voice, Prandit Pranath. Prandit was like a real enigma. He hardly spoke English. But at one moment, I was walking towards the music department and saw him walking in my direction. And he turned to me and he said something about, I forget exactly what it was, but it had to do with soprano. And it had to do with singing, but it was purely in English, as though he spoke it as a natural language. The only time I’d heard him speak in English. And there were moments in this class with him, and I’ll explain very quickly, you sit in a circle with the instructor or pundit. At one point in that circle, he will sing a line of a raga, and then you sing it back to him. It’s a very rote process. And at one moment, I found myself singing with him for the first time, a line, the next line in that raga without having heard it before. So there was a synchronization that occurred, and it just kind of threw me. I wanted to understand what was that about.
But in continuing to study with him, and I might talk about that a little bit more, but I found my, I call it my inner ear. Now I’ve been studying music for almost all my life, you know, at that point, and I accomplished some good things. But there was a very personal, intimate relationship with what I call my inner ear, where all of a sudden sound resonated within me in a way that it, well, and I’m just thinking about this now. It was kind of similar to that experience when I was one, feeling the sun coming through that tree, and then filling me up with warmth and light. The sound was kind of affecting me in a similar way. And from that point on, it was like the world opened up to me in a very different way. There was a sense of being in all my doing that I hadn’t had before. And so this is kind of how I relate to my voice in this regard. It launched the whole, what I call environmental series of music. I started inviting friends with me. We make music out in nature and use, and use in many cases, the found objects. We didn’t bring instruments with us. We use found objects out there and either made instruments like percussion instruments, or in some cases, like a flute, and use those to generate a sense of sound communion with the environment.
(11:50) Dr. Doreen Downing
Oh, Jim, I have to take a breath here. This is so fascinating. And I’m getting also how it relates to voice and what you’re talking about in inner ear, partly how we find a voice. We have to be listening. And if you don’t hear your voice, if you don’t hear what is the sound or the feel or what you’re talking more about today is the sensation of voice coming through you because it wasn’t words. It was a movement of some kind of energy, right?
(12:25) James Guzzetta
Yes. Yes. Very well put. I felt that. I felt that with my discovering my voice or my voice opening to me, I felt this connection with the energy that this entire experience we have is created from that moves through us continuously. And it’s almost like surfing life in a way that there’s a sense about that, that is a one to one relationship with everything. And so I felt like what was occurring here was a new vista in the way that I perceived my own life, the way that I engaged with others in my life and how I engage with, and this is where nature became such an important thing for me. Every time I was out in nature, meaning away from civilized metropolitan environments, when I was in that space of space of almost aloneness, it’s not loneliness, but it’s an aloneness that it’s almost like an electromagnetic force you enter that you’re part of this. It’s echoing through you. It’s echoing around you. And you are also emanating that same energy moving through you into the environment. So you’re affecting the environment that you live in or that you’re in at the time.
(14:08) Dr. Doreen Downing
I love that phrase, Jim, the echo, the whole sense of this sense of echoing within and how that echo moves through you. And then the echo is heard, whoever happens to be in the environment, but maybe even it goes beyond whoever’s in the environment, right?
(14:35) James Guzzetta
You know, I think it becomes part of that energy that you’re surfing. You know, it continues. Oh, let me share this story. A pundit had related this to me at one point. He had an apartment in Berkeley, which was close to Mills College. He was singing a raga that was about 300 years old. And all of a sudden he heard another voice singing along with him in the apartment. Well, he lived alone in the apartment, right? So there was no one there that he knew about, at least at the moment. And he kind of turned over to the side and he saw this, I don’t know, I guess I could describe it as an apparition, but I think to him, it was like he was in a room with the person who actually created the raga back 300 years ago. And the thing about masters and mastery is not just the pure tentacle,
artistic mastery of whatever it is that they’re creating, but there’s the transference of the essence of who they are in the moment that they are creating this, that lives through that raga. And when a master on the other end, like him in this case, sings that raga with, our terms here are really strange. I call it perfection, meaning that he is in tune with the raga completely and he’s immersed in it. So there’s no hymn and raga, it’s all one. That is a kind of a perfection that resonates through time. So that 300 year old raga and the master that created it is now there with him 300 years later singing.
And so I feel like there’s that kind of transmission that occurs when you do create from that perspective of true voice, true self. And that has now become the foundation for all the workshops that I found that I, kind of on this calling that I’ve had to bring that forth and share it with other people. And it also includes, because I know that when you are doing any kind of discipline, tools, methods, systems, even though they may appear a little bit mechanical, are really essential to really master the rudiments of what you’re doing and help you with any challenges you might find along the way. And so that’s what I try to do here as well, is embed a lot of those capabilities into the workshops and courses that I offer.
(17:39) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, before we go on too much further from this idea of sound or voice coming through ages, I think that is something I’ve never heard of about the alignment of voice and voice, energy of a voice that was, you know, years and years. So it brings to me the thought that for us here today, you know, our, how we line up with ourselves and how what we, who we are, can move through time and affect people in the future. And I know that’s kind of bizarre. I mean, obviously our children, but it just really opens me and expands my thinking about how important it is that we do line up with a sense of what’s true inside, because truth must have, there must be an energy called truth that runs through the universe.
(18:49) James Guzzetta
I think your bizarreness is really perfectly on. I ascribe to the same belief in a way, you know, it’s like experience, I think is a better word for it. And it’s almost as though, well, you’re familiar with Aeolian harps, you know, like a string instrument, that has strings that are close enough that when you place it outside in the wind, the wind actually passes through it and vibrates the strings. And it creates this wonderful, you know, just spectrum of sound and many cases, melodies, harmonies. In a way, our own personal voice is like that Aeolian harp, that if we are able to open up who we are to that energy moving through the existence, you know, the universe constantly, that our voices are just the representation of wind passing through the trees, through the, or like the Aeolian harp, you know, we can have intention along with that to shape that. But I really believe that that is how this happens, how true voice and true self get resonated and carries through to the future. Because I’ve had other stories too, mostly through the Indian Raga tradition, where even spoken voice is heard while you’re singing a Raga. So, you know, I could be immersed in playing a tambura, singing, and I hear a voice that I’m not familiar with, but there’s a kind of wisdom, a kind of, I guess I’ll use your terms here, alignment with the way that the universe is flowing, that can come through. And some people call them downloads, some people call them many other terms, but I feel like that is a way that we can tap into greater wisdom, greater knowledge as well, but also into who we are as a human being, a spirit, having a human experience as a human being.
(21:33) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yeah, what I’m taking from our conversation today already is that if I’m reading something or I’m listening to something that was written long, long time ago by, if you want to call them a master, it doesn’t have to be a master, right? But words that I feel like move me, there’s, I’ve never thought about it as being more connected to the source of where it came from. You know, it’s the words, the words that, you know, wake me up and thrill me and inspire me. But now what I’m going to be doing after talking to you is feeling more deeply into the essence of where that came from or through, because maybe it wasn’t even who wrote it. It came to them through something before.
(22:21) James Guzzetta
That’s true. Very true. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, like, just to go back to the Raga for a while, excuse me, Raga is about a 5,000 year old tradition. So there’s a lot of what, as we call them, masters during that time that are transmitting the Ragas through, across time, through each other. So there’s, when you tap into that flow, you become part of that flow. So there’s a belonging, there’s a sense of connection. There’s a sense of who you are, not just as a being manifest or incarnated right now, but all the incarnations that you have moved through in your life. So it’s, it’s something that just truly shifts the perspective of who we are and what we’re doing here. You know?
(23:28) Dr. Doreen Downing
Yes. Well, this is a certainly a different kind of conversation than what most people have heard on Find Your Voice, Change Your Life, because it really does deepen what this phrase means, find your voice. And it may not just be your voice. It may be the voice of wisdom or the voice of the soul that’s coming through us. Thank you so much for opening up this deeper exploration. I, we’re almost out of time, so I want to make sure and, you know, you talk about the workshops you’re doing and, you know, how do people find you? What, what is something that you can leave us with? So, you know, just, just wherever you go right now about how we find you and what you offer.
(24:21) James Guzzetta
Well, that’s great. Thank you. Yeah. So my company is called Journey Into. We’re using a numeral two for the into part of it. Dot com is where you can get to my website. It’s, it’s, I’m just starting to redo the website now for this next year. And it’s just about complete, but not quite there, but it has a lot of good information on it. Talks about who Journey Into is, talks a little bit about me, our intention, but also talks a little bit about the various workshops that are offered now. And one that I’m really excited about, which will be upcoming, I think in about the February timeframe. So the three that I have offered right now are called Small Steps, Big Changes, which is a unique approach to mindfulness practice. And it helps you increase awareness, attention span, memory retention, but also get a deeper sense into who you are. I think that awareness really reflects back on ourselves.
Another one is deep listening where of course, you know, with music, I take that approach to really finding the way that we listen with our entire body. It’s not just our ears. It’s listening with every sense that we have available and using that to be able to understand other as well as ourselves. And it actually, we found in practice, it helps transform conversations or interactions that can be contentional and moving them to partnership. So it’s moving from the negative to the positive aspect, the constructive.
And then the third one that I have offered now is, yes, I was just working on the website with this. So let’s see here. So it’s calling, telling your story. And this goes back to the Raga tradition for me is telling our story or storytelling has been how we communicated with each other from earliest mankind on this planet. And we’ve only in the last 50 years moved away from that with the internet, social media, et cetera. So what I’m doing here is not trying to replace the new technology, but look at a way that we can use our own stories to communicate with each other, understand ourselves even better, and also perhaps use social media in a new way that can embody a lot of the elements of storytelling. So kind of lengthen our ability for our attention span and other benefits.
This new one, which I’m really excited about, I call it unleashing your inner voice. It combines elements of the first three workshops, but adds some new methods and kind of a new perspective on how we can find our inner voice and then actually use that. We have exercises, homework assignments that are going outside the course itself to do it in the real world, so that you’re embodying a lot of these elements as you’re going through the workshop itself or the course. And all of the workshops and courses have a following ongoing discussion group. So it’s not just taking a two, three day workshop and then in three weeks, you’ve kind of forgotten what you learned, but putting it into practice and putting in a dialogue in a community that is resonant to a lot of the elements we’ve been talking about.
(28:33) Dr. Doreen Downing
Well, that’s a lot of you, your wisdom and your learning and your experience that it sounds like you bring to what you teach. And the whole idea of just being in your presence, I think that that’s what we’re talking about today, is that people really being in each other’s presence in a way that enlivens, I guess is a good word that I feel with you, and that enlivens and inspires. So thank you for the inspiration today, Tim.
(29:11) James Guzzetta
Oh boy, it’s been my pleasure, Doreen. And thank you for the opportunity to talk with you and share this with others as well. Yes.
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Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.