by Victoria Derr Valencia

 © NTCH. Simon Ballard at JTMF.
© NTCH. Simon Ballard at JTMF.

Mid-morning sat still in the high desert. Frenzied Scorpio full moon activity ceased, desert campers preferred the lulling melodies of sound baths to crescendos of jazz funk bands. Ducks sat by the placid lake, watching wind scrape small ripples into the water’s surface. Two yogis lay in pigeon pose, South-facing.

But stillness doesn’t exist without the contrast of movement.

And within the stillness of the midmorning – movement. A center unfolding itself around every breath Simon Ballard exhaled into his Traditional Native Flute.

Tucked in the north eastern most point of the campground at Joshua Tree Music Festival, Simon sat surrounded by Indian and Nepalese singing bowls, Koshi Chimes, a Chinese Earth Gong, a Yaki Drum. Humans splayed on rows of mats behind him, before him, to the sides of him… tranced by the tiredness of the night before, the crispness of hi-desert May air, the vibrations of Simon’s singing bowls.

Most of the moments I had experienced in this north-eastern most point of the camp were focused on movement – this was the yoga studio. The tarps had been non-stop flapping in the wind, the Kidsville train blew by every ten or so minutes, yogi’s stretched their arms upwards and bodies downwards. This is what the space has previously held.

But in this moment, EarthTime at 9:30am on a sacred Sunday morning, with the tarps still moving overhead and the birds still chirping overhead and the Kidsville train still choo-chooing by…held a static stillness.

Simon Ballard is a guide to Movement, Meditation, and creates Sound as a catalyst to each of the M’s. And for that mid-morning hour between mountains and lake, Simon sat, stood, gingerly stepped, and sounded.

I, a lens, an observer, crept closer to Simon. His eyes were cast downwards, the color warped behind yellow sunglasses. A matching marigold shirt, the purple painted mountains in the background supporting his spine, and the blue sky as an upwards background for currents of cumulus clouds. Birds sang their 9am tune, a lady wandering behind me asked a stranger for the EarthTime. Simon continued to spin sound.

 © NTCH. Simon Ballard at JTMF.
© NTCH. Simon Ballard at JTMF.

It felt like standing still as the whole universe expanded around you. My skin stood at attention, aware of the wind moving it’s way across my surface. Goosebumps sprang like ripples in a lake. My ears sunk into the fasting spreading sound of gong, enveloping my entire head. The sound seemed to come from all directions.

Standing still, with the intention of photographing, observing, feeling, as stretched out bodies sunk into their personal states, the splay of humans experiencing Simon’s sound sunk into a collected state.

Simon himself sat at the center radiating yellow, long bearded, as the vortex, the apex, the center of sound. Purple and blue spun at the outskirts.

Sound spun.

NTCH got the chance to interview Simon prior to experiencing his work with sound.

To begin, share your story with us. (Who are you? What do you do, create, make? Your inspirations?)

Hmmm, Stories, Stories, Stories.

I was born in South London in the early 70s, the eldest son to a pair of Music lovin’ Hippies.

I was raised on the music of Ravi Shankar, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters, Augustus Pablo, and John Coltrane.

As a young~star, I didn’t dig school or humans too much, I liked trees and solo creative adventures, I liked to be alone with the vast landscape of my own imagination, I liked to wander, to get lost, to be free.

Not much has changed, and yet everything has changed.

I spent some time as a young adult as a Circus Performer, a Dj, a Gravedigger, and a Vagabond.

I have and continue to be inspired by Life, Culture, Belief, Music, Nature, and Death.

These musings keep me connected to my creativity and a source of spirit.

In this time and space I guide Movement and Meditation, I Write, Offer Ceremony by way of Tea, Cacao, Sacred Union, and Plant Medicine, Oooooh and I REEAAALLLLLY like to Dance.

Tell us more about the space you created at 7 Directions Alchemy. What manifests there through movement, art, meditation and sound?

7 Directions Alchemy was birthed from an Idea, a Meditation, and maybe a Dream.

If one can become aware and somewhat in relationship with that which exists Above, Below, In front, Behind, to the Left and to the right of their physical form,

then they can find relative Peace with that which exists Within.

Peace being acceptance of how things are revealed in that moment.

Movement, Meditation, Art, and Sound being catalysts for that awareness.

Sound moves us, Movement awakens us, Meditation reflects us, and Art is an expression of us.

How did you find the Joshua Tree Music Festival? Or rather, how did it find you?

It found me in a toilet in 2006.

I was in the low desert at a larger more commercial fezi, I was having a hard time with the rigidity of the structure of my freedom.

“Park there, Put ya tent in that chalk lined box, Can’t bring water in here, Nope, no blankets either”

All the things that I had rebelled against, fought against, protested against in my youth were right there with me, on my lap, in that damn porta potty.

As I looked up, there it was, like a beacon of hope. The beautifully swirly art of Ryan Kerrigan on a flier that simply said “Joshua Tree Music Festival”

Most of the Artists playing I had never heard of, which for a self proclaimed music junkie with a serious “more strange and wonderful music please” problem found inspiring. I went, I loved, I was free, Inspired, Creative, and Smiling from Stinky Dreadlock to Stinky Dreadlock.

I have maybe missed 2 festivals from both May and October since 2007, and that was because I was abducted by those damn humans.

How do you participate?

I have been gifted the “job” of creating and running the Movement and Mediation schedule for the Yoga Paradisa for the past 8 or 9 years.

It’s pretty damn cool, I get to hang with some of the most Beautiful, Creative, Inspiring, and Groovy individuals that the world has to offer.

They are Guides, they are Teachers, they are Friends, and they are Familia.

It’s a testament to what Barnetts vision and the intention of the festival is……..COMMUNITY…… Barnett is a Damn Community Love Wizard.

If ya didn’t already know!!!

And how to you participate in the magic of the desert itself? What does the desert mirror or manifest in you?

Before I ever moved to this Crazy Wild and Free Vast Magikal Landscape, The Desert was already Home.

I knew it, I felt it, It was Intuitive, It was Instinctual, it was Familiar, it was True.

She is a Beautiful and Dynamic Teacher.

And once you Bleed, Cry, Shout, and Sweat a little for her, once you show her you are worthy of her power and guidance………….She’ll wrap you in her majestic blanket.

Time Stretches, Loops, Twists, Skips, and Repeats in every Direction here.

You learn to Pause, to Stop, to Observe, and to Experience your own Un~Becoming.

To learn more of Simon and 7 Directions Alchemy,

follow his page on Instagram