DIANA ZAHEER ON HER COLLABORATIVE PROJECT CONFRONTING THE INNER CRITIC

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Diana Zaheer is a highly respected spiritual teacher and expert in the realm of inner work. With an impressive 30 years of extensive experience under her belt, Diana has dedicated her life to empowering individuals as they embark on their own journeys of self-discovery and personal growth. Her latest outing in this noble endeavor is a spoken-word track titled “Judgement City.”

“Judgment City” is a unique collaborative project that combines art, music, and personal transformation to explore the theme of internal judgment. The project features a fairy tale-inspired narrative examining the critical inner voice. Diana Zaheer worked with musician Lincoln Parish (ex Cage The Elephant), who composed a reflective score, and artist Marina Loeb, whose animation brought the story to life. These elements create a multisensory experience designed to invite self-exploration and challenge self-criticism. By presenting judgment in a creative, non-judgmental way, “Judgment City” aims to empower listeners to befriend their inner critic and reclaim their worth. The project represents an innovative blend of artistic disciplines united in the pursuit of personal transformation. 

At the heart of Diana’s approach is a skillful blending of ancient spiritual wisdom with modern insights and understandings. Her mission is to guide people toward living more fulfilling and authentic lives. Diana’s healing work draws upon teachings and practices from a diverse array of traditions and cultures, imbuing it with a distinctive nurturing, motherly quality. By using the term “Inner Harbor®”, Diana eloquently describes the sacred inner space that resides within each person – a space she seeks to help her students access and embrace as they navigate the path of personal transformation.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Diana and delve deeper into the inspiration and process behind “Judgment City.” In the following interview, Diana shares her insights on the intersection of creativity and inner work, as well as her hopes for how this project will empower listeners to challenge unhealthy patterns of self-criticism and reclaim their inherent worth.

With 30 years worth of experience as a Spiritual Teacher, what are some things that jump out immediately at you about most people? Those things you wish more folks were aware of?

That’s a beautiful question. I love people. I don’t always love what we do to ourselves and to each other, but I truly love the human potential within each one of us. I see that potential in everyone, no matter how deeply it is buried under our history, our erroneous beliefs, or harmful behaviors.

I wish more people knew their innate goodness, and knew it directly, not only as a concept or something someone told them. When we feel our innate goodness within as a direct encounter, we experience our lives and the present moment differently, with more possibility. We soften toward ourselves. We open doorways to learning and change.

I wish more people knew that we are on a journey. It’s not easy to have a human life, but it is extraordinary and full of potential.

“Judgment City” looks like a challenging work to put together, it’s less a music video and more like a very brief film where every part had to fit perfectly with each other. How did you accomplish that working with Marina Loeb and Lincoln Parish?

“Judgment City” is a project of the heart. It had special care from the beginning. When Lincoln and I recorded the songs for the Over The Counter Meditations album in Nashville last year, we took the most time and care with the “Judgment City” track. All of the songs came into form as spontaneous meditations in Lincoln’s studio, but this song wanted special attention. Because we all have an internal voice that can judge, criticize, and compare, I didn’t want this song to push anyone’s buttons. I didn’t want to tell people something that would cause more judgment. Lincoln and I sat on his back porch and looked at nature and relaxed. Then the idea came to me. We needed a fairy tale for this song. Everyone loves stories. So I went and wrote a fairy tale about “Judgment City,” starring all of us as the main characters on the journey.

Lincoln and Marina each added their magic to that fairy tale. Lincoln is a spectacular composer, musician, and producer. He shows up for each moment of creativity in the studio and lets that guide his creative process. The music he created for “Judgment City” captures the dark mood and ongoing challenge of this part of our relationship with our minds.

Marina is a breathtaking artist. I love her creativity and the way her mind processes inner experience. I told her that I was looking for someone to animate some songs from the album. She generously offered to animate them, and I couldn’t believe my good luck! Her compelling artwork for “Judgment City” and the way she animates this fairy tale added the final, necessary ingredients to this project. 

This is of course not the first time you’ve worked with them. How does such a collaborative effort feel?

Collaborating with creatives is the best experience ever. There is a momentum that happens, which takes the creation to places you never imagined. Each person shares their gifts, something unique and personal. I feel beyond grateful to work with such talented and inspiring people. 

Our collaboration will continue throughout this year as we release more animations for songs from Over The Counter Meditations. The next one, “Lullaby,” premieres this summer. That relaxing animation will be the centerpiece of a series of sleep meditations, also coming out this summer.

How do you see the intersection of art, music, and personal transformation playing out in “Judgment City”? What do you hope listeners will take away from this multisensory experience?

The combination of art, music, and personal transformation gives the project its full power. Each one of these elements is excellent by itself. But together they create something emotionally, intellectually, and energetically engaging. There is an alchemy. 

The concept of “judgment” is often associated with religious or spiritual frameworks. How does the notion of “Judgment City” transcend traditional religious connotations and instead invite a more universal exploration of the self?

This is a human experience, not specific to any belief system or tradition. Every human being develops a personality, and part of that personality includes this mental structure. We may call it the inner critic or the critical voice. Freud called it the superego. It’s part of having a human life. We don’t need to judge that or create more inner conflict about that. We need to understand it. We need to learn about our own minds, so we can work in harmony with them, operating from more space, more curiosity, and compassion. 

In a world that often encourages harsh self-criticism in unexpected ways and external validation, what role do you see “Judgment City” playing in empowering listeners to challenge unhealthy patterns of judgment and reclaim their inherent worth and dignity?

Learning to see what’s true in each moment is our ally here. This animation asks us to consider what is true. It opens us to considering new perspectives on judgment. Of course, that’s a helpful inquiry in any situation in our lives. In terms of learning about judgment, we become empowered when we get to know the part of us that shows up to judge, criticize, and compare. We can become acquainted with that part of ourselves and see what’s operating underneath it. Why did it show up right now? Do I want to function from that part of myself, or something else? These are genuine, helpful, compassionate questions. We develop more choice and inner freedom. We can become friends with our own minds. We can feel our natural and indestructible goodness inside. 

What has the reception been like for these spoken-word guided meditations?

The reception has been very positive. People seem surprised and intrigued. I think people are more open to self-reflection with creative invitations like these.

What’s the first step to take in order to get out of “Judgment City”?

Notice we are there in “Judgment City.” Be brave enough to recognize that, and then we can be curious about why. That’s when the learning can begin. 

CONNECT WITH DIANA ZAHEER:

WEB | YOUTUBE | INSTAGRAM | TIKTOK 

 

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