Warriors in the World: Alex Van Gils

Alex Van GilsAlex Van Gils likes to make noise.

Like many young Americans, he found his way into a rock n’ roll band as an electric bass player. With the benefit of a dharma upbringing he describes as “skillful,” Alex investigated the lineage of bass players he admired. He tuned in to who his favorite musicians’ mentors were, and who the mentors’ influences were, and with his fingers around an acoustic bass, wandered into jazz, and then classical music.

Alex Van Gils playing the Bass

In the course of playing in orchestras and other creative ensembles, Alex realized composing was the path he wanted to explore. Hehas written in a variety of formats, from structured folk songs to creative ensemble pieces. Currently studying musical composition at UC Davis, Alex is immersed in a variety of musical endeavors. All his influences contribute to the musical lexicon he’s exploring, for which he says there’s no apt description – sort of “classical, very influenced by jazz.”

Alex has earned recognition for composition and performance on many fronts, from prestigious awards to a collection of YouTube videos. His composition, “the water which flows here” is dedicated to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and was debuted in Davis earlier this month. You can learn more about Alex’s musical expression, and hear the music he creates, by visiting his website here.

His dedicated practice and study of Tibetan Buddhism under Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche is also a major influence on Alex’s art and in his life. He served as The Sakyong’s personal kasung during his visit to Northern California earlier this spring, and he’s begun studying the Tibetan language.

Alex is the driving force behind The Ziji Collective, a community of young people interested in learning more about themselves and the world through the practice of meditation and by sharing their passions and ideas. “Ziji” is the Tibetan word for the innate, brilliant confidence possessed by all beings.

The groups’ aspirations include exploring, sharing, supporting one another and engaging in social action – all towards helping bring about a good human society on this Earth. Visit the Ziji Collective website or see their Facebook page. Alex hosts Young Meditators Night, Thursdays from 7:30 – 9:00 PM at the San Francisco Shambhala Meditation Center – A meditation and discussion group for people in their 20s and 30s. Join us for 30 minutes of meditation followed by a short reading and informal conversation with tea and snacks. Find details here.

Alex is enjoying being back in California (where he was born) after having spent most of his years on the East Coast. He is inspired by the confluence of energies in Northern California, and is using his passion and considerable talents to foster an awareness of the basic goodness that sustains us all.