In these last two years, since the end of 2017, I have been continually transformed in a crucible of fire. It has been worth every moment, and beauty continues to unfold out of the pain. My passion has always been about the enrichment of consciousness through spiritual practice. What I have never consciously known is the pain I have sought to escape through it. Now I know, and I cannot unknow it. This suffering, if one might call it that, has given me a new appreciation for the human condition, for what so many humans go through in so many different ways. I am you.
My passion is helping others discover spiritual enlightenment while practicing an ongoing transformation of ego states. The ancient sages of the Upanishads called it the razor’s edge. Applying myself every day using the resources of my lifework, The Yoga of Sound, I am constantly rediscovering the power of music, mantra, meditation to cultivate states of abundance consciousness. To strive for the continuity in spiritual enlightenment requires continual engagement in the healing of the psyche and the ongoing transformation of the ego. The constant balance of these three, inter-related dimensions (awakening spirit, healing psyche, and transforming ego) are the basis of all my teaching programs.
Now you can read all the stuff about my official credentials and biography. They are all true, but it may not sound very human. I am human. Spirituality is my path to being a better one every day.
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In 35 years, transformative spiritual leader, author, and musician Russill Paul has gone from attempting suicide to experiencing a redemptive spiritual rebirth, and, more recently, a dark night of the soul in which memories of childhood trauma have surfaced. Throughout his journey, he has taught thousands, a way to exist in a heightened spiritual state while living authentic personal and professional lives. This journey continues to evolve and develop new dimensions.
Russill’s platform has been created at the intersection of his personal and professional journeys. His unique background includes training as a monk and yogi in India, performing music professionally, and recording for the Indian film industry. Since moving to the United States over 25 years ago with the love of his life, his wife Asha, he has served on the faculty of leading educational institutions in California, teaching in graduate and post-graduate spirituality programs for 15 consecutive years.
“The new vision of reality that is being birthed in the world is being shaped here in America, where tradition is being forced to go through the eye of the needle so that it is made relevant to human development,” Russill explains. “This is why I’m here!”
Seekers wanting to experience Russill’s platform can select from a broad range of offerings.
The most intensive opportunity Russill offers students is a pilgrimage to India. This is a profound opportunity to shed everyday burdens, lifelong struggles, and pain, and directly experience a fresh way of spiritual living. Many hundreds of participants have been radically transformed by “Transform In India” that has been offered annually for almost two decades.
Russill’s spiritual journey begins when he was 18 and engulfed with despair. While his boyhood dream of being a professional guitarist was coming true, his inner world was dark and tumultuous. At this time, he was unaware of what his brain protected him from remembering. These dark and complex matters o his early childhood would only come to light in late 2017, after a year of hypnotherapy sessions. Just as he was turning 19, however, he made a serious attempt to take his own life, cutting into his body 40 times with a set of razor blades. He survived, returning to his education in engineering college while continuing his studies in music. Some months later, a bike accident that hurt his pinky resulted in his temporary inability to play music, which prompted him to become a monk.
For five years, he lived an austere life, far away from the life he once knew of rock n’ roll, alcohol, and romantic love. During this time, he discovered the power and scope of Indian spirituality, including yoga, meditation, devotional music and chanting. These became foundational experiences for his current work and drastically altered how he gifted the world with his music, which now had a healing purpose in line with his spiritual path.
The decision to reenter the outside world as a deeply spiritual person, and maintain that precious center, has engendered the core of Russill’s revelatory lifestyle platform. Russill Paul has architected a life-changing spiritual state rich with joy that’s compatible with life in the bustling “real world” of bills, job pressures, and relationship challenges. “This is the new medium for transformation,” he offers. His method refreshingly liberates spirituality from 2,000 years of shackling modern-world abnegation such as celibacy, voluntary poverty, and constricting religious dogma.
Pondering his journey, and the life-changing influence he has had on others, Russill says:“Some students see me as a guru, I do not encourage this, I always point to the importance of one’s own self-empowerment and self-discovery. I do, however, provide tools, experiences, and insights that come out of my own liberation from inner darkness. My message is with the right inner resources, life can be empowering and uplifting— a forward path lit by spiritual awareness and inner bliss.”
Besides his academic pursuits, Russill has garnered acclaim as an author and a recording and performing artist. He authored the revelatory literary works The Yoga of Sound: Tapping the Hidden Power of Music and Chant, and Jesus in the Lotus: The Mystical Doorway between Christianity and Yogic Spirituality.
As a musician, he’s released several acclaimed chant CDs, including Shakti: Tantric Embrace and Shabda: Mantra Mysticism, recording with numerous world-class musicians, including famed Night Ranger lead guitarist Brad Gillis and Indian sarangi maestro Ramesh Misra.
And, as a live performer, he’s graced some of the most prestigious venues internationally including, Propstei Sankt Gerold in Austria, and Chicago’s Grant Park, sharing the stage with music greats such as the legendary Arlo Guthrie and British rocker Arthur Brown. His latest album “Mantra Magic” offers a spiritual vibe with infectious musical dance grooves.
Extended Musician Biography
The story you are about to read is a true one, for a life like this could not be imagined or made up! Russill Paul is a spiritually mature person with a richly storied musical history that extends outwards to his distinctive work in the world. Firmly established as a respected artist and author, he understands perfectly that his journey has been divinely guided to develop his soul and share his gifts with the world. And after such a storied history, filled with accolades and successful accomplishments, connections and experience, only now is he fully ready to bring his creativity forth through this diverse and well-crafted series of musical creations.
A native of Chennai, India (formerly Madras), Russill began his musical immersion at age 4, when he took to playing stringed instruments. He began playing professionally in his teens. It was a motorcycle accident, at age 19, that shifted the course of his musical and spiritual trajectory and literally changed his life. The accompanying spiritual awakening led him on a path he just might not have discovered otherwise: to a forest ashram. Here, Russill spent five years as a monk and yogi, immersed in the sacred culture and spirituality of India’s esteemed heritage, studying traditional Sanskrit chanting and South Indian classical music as well as yoga, meditation, philosophy & cosmology. In addition to his training at the monastery, Russill was initiated into the sacred learning of Sanskrit and Indian music in several ancient temple cities of South India enabling him to develop the tools related to his lifework: The Yoga of Sound.
In 1989, he came west on a mission to perform and teach. He is considered one of the pioneering figures who helped establish the connections between yoga and sound in the west. Because of his close association with an illustrious spiritual teacher, Bede Griffiths, and because of his capability to awaken powerful experiences through music, Russill was quickly assimilated into the stellar faculty at the Institute in Culture and Creation Spirituality in California, sharing the podium with spiritual luminaries such as Carolyn Myss, Andrew Harvey, Clarissa Pinokla Estes and artists such as Alex Grey. He taught in graduate and post-graduate spirituality programs for 15 consecutive years in addition to presenting his work on sonic mysticism at prestigious retreat and learning centers nationwide, which he continues until the present day.
Over the last 25 years, Russill has been presenting workshops and retreats throughout North America at leading-edge institutions such as the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA, the Omega Institute of Holistic Studies in Rhinebeck, NY, Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Lennox, MA, and Hollyhock in Cortes Island, British Columbia, Canada. These are places where the best of the best present their work. And he has been featured as a presenter at prestigious conferences, such as: The Parliament of the World’s Religions that convened in Chicago in 1993 and in Barcelona in 2004, New Age Journal’s Body and Soul Conference in San Francisco, The International Sound Colloquiums in Colorado, Omega Institute’s Awakening the Soul in NYC, The Christian Meditation Center’s John Main Seminars in Toronto, Canada and The California Institute of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, CA.
Russill, however, is at heart a musician, and an extraordinary one at that. A long time ago, as far back as 1990, legendary folksinger Arlo Guthrie recognized his talent and helped him produce his first album, Spirit Bridges. And Arlo’s own words point to the talent that is now offering its best works to the world: “The music of Russill Paul is not only distinctive, it is extraordinary and brilliant. His fusion of the sounds of India with the energy and technology of contemporary Western music produces a sound unequalled since George Harrison collaborated with Ravi Shankar in the late 1960’s.” – Arlo Guthrie.
Russill is no newcomer to the music industry. Over three decades, he has recorded movie sound tracks under well-known music directors in South India as well as recorded and produced a wide selection of his own world-class recordings in the United States that are distributed worldwide. For almost twenty-six years, Russill has toured extensively in North America and abroad, performing his unique style of music at many prestigious concert venues such as the premier European classical music venue Propstei Sankt Gerold in Austria, Chicago’s Grant Part and Medinah Temple, The Sports Auditorium in Sheffield, England, and the Music Academy in Chennai, India. He has also performed on several occasions for His Holiness the Dalai Lama in India as well as in America and has shared the stage with music greats such as the legendary American folk-singer Arlo Guthrie and British rocker Arthur Brown. After several self-produced CDs, Russill formally entered the music system from 1999-2001, when the Relaxation Company of New York released half a dozen CDs that were placed in both book and music environments simultaneously: Nada: Awakening Spirit, Shabda: Mantra Mysticism, Shakti: Tantric Embrace, Bhava: Ecstatic Heart (originally released as Nada Yoga, Shabda Yoga, Shakti Yoga and Bhava Yoga) as well as A.M. & P.M. Yoga Chants, a double-album label collaboration with yoga product giant, Gaiam. These products officially put him on the map and helped create his name brand. However, as you will soon learn, writing and teaching pulled him away from the music business for a while.
Not too long after Russill’s excellently produced music albums were officially released worldwide, he landed a book deal with the respected California press, New World Library. This caused a diversion from music recording and performance. In 2004, his first book, “The Yoga of Sound: Tapping the Hidden Power of Music and Chant”, was published. The book was ground breaking and introduced the breath and scope of sacred sound and its effects from the traditional as well contemporary standpoint. In addition to giving him exposure to a whole new audience, the book established Russill as a respected author and authority on the subject of mantra and sound as a yoga path. In 2009, New World Library published yet another book from Russill, Jesus in the Lotus: The Mystical Doorway between Christianity and Yogic Spirituality. This work established him as a cross-cultural figure, someone who understood the relationships between diverse traditions, which is something he does musically, intellectually and spiritually, a rare combination indeed. Despite its many benefits, Russill’s literary works moved him heavily into conferences and teaching, which also morphed into an extensive distance learning program, Yogic Mystery School, for which Russill created a voluminous of audio and video content.
He writes “Yoga and music, two powerful approaches to optimal health, have garnered enormous credibility in the western world in the last two decades. Health, we are fast realizing, is not simply the absence of disease: it is a condition of soul that invigorates our being, enabling us to derive the most from life. The Yoga of Sound is a powerful spiritual system that unifies the key principles of healing found in yoga and music into an effective practice.”
But you can’t take music out of the musician, and Russill began feeling the effects of not doing enough music, especially recording, even though music performance was integral to his conferences and teaching. So in 2012, he took a sabbatical from teaching and devoted himself exclusively to meditation and music production. During this time it became clear just how much his music production had gone on the back burner and he realized that his previous albums (through the Relaxation Company), the ones he was known for, did not truly maximize his musicianship as they were geared toward education and bringing awareness to ancient teachings and practices around sacred sound. In the last ten years, in the background of his teaching and writing, Russill has been continually composing and refining music that are destined to be his best works. Amazingly, he has at least six or seven albums worth of material at the present time that can be released over the next three to five years.
The first of these, Mantra Magic, is an album of mantra chants arranged in a pop rock feel and influenced by the sounds of Dire Straits, Erik Clapton and Carlos Santana. These are uptempo, dance groove songs, each approximately 5-minute in length, to target radio play and mass exposure. They are packed with strong guitar and sitar performances, diverse musical arrangements and soaring vocals that convey the authentic mantra sounds of India incorporated into a tasteful blend of 70s and 80’s rock n’ roll. There is nothing like this out yet in yoga music or world music. And it is of the highest musical and recording standards.
Russill enjoys listening to a wide selection of music, from Smooth Jazz, Brazilian Bossa Nova, and Afro Cuban music, to hard rock, rock n’ roll, and soft romantic ballads, the kind of music one likes to make love to. He says: “I have been experimenting with integrating my guitar and sitar playing with these styles together with mantra chanting for a good many years and feel that, just like Ganesh Express, I’ve devised some really good compositions and arrangements that work well for these styles.” The next half dozen albums are all lined up; further info on the vision of these is easily provided.
With his diverse background, it is no surprise that Russill has a wealth of music ready to emerge. What is even more impressive is how adept he is both with his musicianship and his vocals! From guitar (at age six!) to double reed harmonica to rock bands in his teen years, he has always been a virtuoso with the ability to learn how to play many styles, from ‘70’s and ‘80’s rock to 16th century classical guitar. Some of his main influences were Carlos Santana, Mark Knopfler, Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, Kitaro & Paul Winter. Learning guitar solos from these amazing players off cassette tapes that he played back endlessly gave him a great foundation not only in electric guitar technique, but also taught him how to play the instrument with deep feeling.
The motorcycle accident at age 19 curtailed this passion and led him towards becoming a monk, renouncing the world and rediscovering his spiritual path. Fortunately, this is also where the study of Indian classical vocal music and Indian music theory naturally entered his life. Then he met an amazing instrument maker from whom he purchased a bowed instrument known as an Esraj. Unable to play this instrument with a bow, he began modifying it, changing the bridge, cogs, string assortment and frets so that he could play it with a veena pick. His unique style emulated the rigorous vocal training he was undergoing at that time, which is typical of Indian string instruments that try to mimic vocal nuances. Very soon, he was able to create profound experiences for himself and others as the music that flowed out of this ten-string instrument seemed to come from another dimension. With this in mind, he christened this hybrid instrument “Avitar”, from the indigenous word for Spirit (Avi) and stringed-instrument (Tar). It was also a play on the word “Avatar”. Thus, “Spirit Strings” became his signature instrument, the only one of its kind in the world.
Russill enjoys a wide range of activities. In addition to teaching, traveling and writing, he likes to hike in nature, make up stories for children, write fiction for fun and cook food creatively without using recipes. In looking back, we see that this artist has been involved with performing music for four decades and has been recording professionally for almost thirty years. However, he is just now getting ready to share an immense amount of creativity with the world. His diverse knowledge of musical genres, his skills with instruments and voice, his deep understanding of the audio recording medium, knowing what sounds to craft, and most of all his profound spiritual experiences and knowledge of Sanskrit mantras, have prepared him to bring forth his very best. Mantra Magic is only the first of a very diverse assortment of music products, a way of reintroducing this extraordinary artist to the music scene. What will follow, I am certain, is a diverse and well-crafted series of recordings that will be his valuable legacy.