Becoming Christopher Raven, yoga musician

Aug 2, 2017

 

He was once an aspiring attorney who wound up becoming a pastor. 

In a Sioux City yoga studio, a long-haired musician sits off to the side, softly strumming his electric acoustic guitar with an assortment of prayer beads wrapped around his tattooed wrists, a fedora on his head. He hums in the microphone. No words or lyrics. Just sounds.

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. He was once an aspiring attorney who wound up becoming a pastor. (He was also known by another name—Chris Saub.) For more than two decades, a pendulum swung back and forth between music and ministry—or spirituality as he calls it today.

“I saw the two as very separate destinations,” he said.

In college, he started as a music major, but his studies robbed him of the joy. Saub graduated with a pre-law degree in political science. He was studying for the LSAT when his mom saw something in him that he couldn’t see himself. She said, “You love music so much. Why don’t you pursue that?”

And he did. At one point, he was in four bands. But he was overcome by a spiritual yearning.

“Sometimes I even feel it in my chest,” he said. “That’s that gnawing. Like a desire, a burning. Something. And in my 20s, I didn’t know how to seek it out other than church.”

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.

“I had done the music thing for a while. We had some CDs out, had done some festivals… And yet, I couldn't get rid of this gnawing,” he said. “It didn’t take to long to wrestle with that to just say, ‘I got to figure this out.’”

He quit the band and became a pastor. He wanted to help others experience the fullness of life, but at the same time, he was silencing part of himself. He had abandoned his music, trying to satiate his spiritual hunger. That didn’t turn out as he had hoped.

“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 out in Los Angeles. But the shift caused a rift between him and his wife. They got divorced. That was the death knell to his church work.

For several years, he was writing furiously 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. I wasn’t writing out of a place of experience or my own person,” he said. “Rather than living inside-out. I was living outside-in.”

Too often, Saub did what he thought he should do—go to school, get a good job, get married, have kids. Following the prescribed path didn’t always bring happiness and success as promised.

“Sometimes we think that Step 1 leads to Step 2, and so we think, well, I went to school for this. That’s going to lead to the next step of a job doing what I studied,” he said. “We have this very linear view sometimes. We don’t always know that Step 1 is preparing us to make a decision on a multitude of tributaries that lead from that one step, and it might go this way, this way or that way.”

By that logic, studying pre-law prepared him to be a musician, which prepared him to be a pastor, which was a necessary step to return to music.

But then, as it always did, his spiritual hunger growled again.

He went looking for morsels of knowledge at the Christian bookstore, where his mom worked. He 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. Saub remembered watching him 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. Following an overwhelming urge to talk to the clerk, he went in and told her 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 two personal growth books, “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz and “Be the Person You Want to Find” by Cheri Huber.

“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, 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.

He started with one tattoo on his wrist that said love in Arabic, giving a nod to the origins of his family name, and then kept adding ink to 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. Every day, finding more of that and being free to be that,” 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. To which he replied, “Pshh. What are you talking about? That just sounded like Charlie Brown’s teacher.”

His friend gave him the number of her yoga teacher more than a year ago. He’s been creating soundscapes for yoga and meditation ever since, finally finding harmony between his spiritual life and music.

“My output was a natural input in the yoga community,” he said.

He mostly performs in and around Omaha, where he lives. Recently, he’s been making more frequent trips to Sioux City to play at Be Yoga Studio.

Floating down this new tributary of sorts, he’s adopted a new name based on his spirit animal—becoming Christopher Raven.

It’s said that the raven signifies change and healing because of its ability to cast light into the dark. Maybe it wasn’t a gnawing that Raven felt all those years ago but an internal cawing, building up, waiting to be released.