A Re-Education of Voice

A Special Thank-you to Emma Jarrett for helping me uncover the renaming for this write, bringing me yet closer to my voice.  With love and gratitude, your humble student.

(Song Dedication: Deep Water by American Authors)

When I was a kid I loved to sing. LOVED it. Some of my closest friends would say that about me now too, but they only know it in the context of pubs, liquid courage, anxiety and cheesy rock ballads like “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (aka Karaoke). But when I think back to my childhood, music was something that saved me. It was a tool I learned to use to distract myself from things too difficult to understand or face at the time. It was self-preservation, an escape.

Whether it was lovingly planting myself for hours upon hours at the keys of the slightly out of tune piano in our basement; stubbornly trying to decode familiar tunes by ear, listening to my parents vinyl collection (Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison, Billy Joel, The Eagles, Nazareth, The Beatles, Eurythmics, Micheal Jackson, maybe you’ve heard of them?) on the old turn table that was still (still as in 1990) set up to the receiver along with the 8 track (that I couldn’t quite comprehend it’s purpose at the time and just ignored it), or taping over my Dad’s Nitty Gritty Dirt Band Mix with my new favourite pop songs from Casey Kasem’s Top 40 on the weekend. I intentionally immersed myself in sound and harmony because it brought me so much joy and peace. It gave me a much needed release.

And although my music experience was limited as far as training goes, I played anyway, I sang anyway. A tiny Florence Foster Jenkins.  I still feel a bit embarrassed (not a state I believe, Florence possessed) when I think about after school; I’d walk the few short blocks home and be expected to perform my list of chores, grabbing the dusting cloth and spray proceeding to not use it, instead choosing to crank up Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Stevie Nicks, TLC, maybe the Flashdance or Footloose soundtrack and sing the shit out of whatever my ears could get their hands on; performance of an entirely different kind. This was no subtle engagement either, I would turn up the system to Spinal Tap 11 and belt out the words (or what I believed the lyrics to be). Sometimes I would hold the liner notes to learn about the story behind an album and always appreciated having access to the actual lyrics.

An attempt to honour the music and avoid mincing of lyrics like a friend in my class told me she always sang along to INXS’s song “Suicide Blonde” as “Soup and Salad Bar”. That still makes me cringe and grin simultaneously. I wonder if she remembers that?

The point is music has always been in my life in one way or another, and I have always appreciated the comfort of lyrics or harmonies that would speak to my heart when I couldn’t. It gave me the language I needed. As I grew older, I still found ways to sing but as sports (and increased groundings due to not getting her chores done) took a greater role in my life, the after school private performances ceased and I let that form of expression go almost completely. In my mid-20’s I discovered Karaoke, but as mentioned (many times) my anxiety and ego were the ones performing then. I had taken something that was sacred and healing to me and turned it into a fun mockery and at that time, that is what I needed. I actually believe now I had become so accustomed (addicted) to cortisol in my system, that it was a great way to instantaneously release a dump of it and adrenaline into my body, giving me a rush, making me feel alive. A different kind of release. Some people bungee jump, I sang karaoke.  (I can see the dusty underselling memoir now The Darkside of a Karaoke Star)

Fast forward to the last month and I have come to experience sound meditation, also known as Kirtan, as a deeply spiritual intervention in my wellness journey. I have somehow meandered my way back to engagement with my musical voice, but the way I had done so long ago as a kid…not the way I did when I was a young adult.

Yesterday was a gathering of strong brave woman all around. (Men have been in attendance in the past and I did miss the deeper resonance of their voice today) However there was a feminine baring of witness to each other’s vulnerability, creating a collective crescendo of resonance as our hearts released. The sound so pure and encompassing I felt as if I was (and still am) being held gently by the arms of our voices. Grounding. Enlightening. Permission granted to be as we are.

My heart beat in coherence with the rhythm of the sounds we created. I couldn’t help but wonder in child-like curiosity if the other hearts were matching my own; just the belief that they might be, was connecting and reassuring enough. I was struck by the strength of each beat in my chest. I did not know I was able to have this intense drum pound slowly, yet clear and loud in my ears, like I was immersed underwater and the absence of my anxiety was what was most profound for me. I have always associated a heavy heartbeat with anxiety of unknowing. I had forgotten I could feel the same cadence in my rib cage; hear each pump of blood while in a state of joy and gratitude. What I thought so destructive and unhealthy now a signal of strength and virility. It makes me laugh to see how black and white I had been defining things.

For example the way I viewed religion and spirituality. It made me uncomfortable at the very least. My body sensed talk of God and faith as a threat. And perhaps it was if my ego were my body…so I think it was my mind that grappled with these Big concepts then inducing a bodily reaction of tension and apprehension. We fear what we don’t know though don’t we? I bravely reached out to a friend this week who I believed could enlighten me on the matters of religion from her own personal context. She may not know it, but through her willingness to be vulnerable and open she enlightened me greatly. Her generosity to help me understand something I had little traditional experience with, confirming what I had been feeling; that I don’t need to be in a church or subscribe to a particular denomination to be in touch with spirit.

Where there is Love, there is something greater than all of us. Maybe it just IS US; but us as the collective consciousness. Not our bodies; our spirits and our love.

I have recently branched from the book “The Shadow Effect” to “A Return to Love”. Both written/co-written by Marianne Williamson. My spirit seems to consume these ideas like its favourite soul food. My body and mind not as sure. But the further I allow these ideas to permeate I feel my body relax a bit more, inhale more deeply and my mind becomes more open. The biggest shift I’ve noticed is a different vulnerability and lack of judgement. The more I (or my mind) let’s it’s guard down the more I accept myself. The greater acceptance I gift myself, the more I feel less inclined to judge others for what they may say or do. Reactivity is decreased exponentially and in this space I feel like I can breathe contentedly. What peace this is and I feel like there is nothing else I need! No anxiety to feed with thoughts of doubt. No place I must be to feel safe. No person to help me out of any hole I may or may not of inadvertently fallen into again. No thing I need to obtain worthiness.

Did I just explain love? Possibly. My truth and interpretation anyway.

I have come to a point where I am no longer just action and reaction; observing what seems acceptable and then mirroring it back to the people I think I need to please. I see there is no fulfillment in this space. I may still fall in and out of this place from time to time and I forgive myself these stumbles.

I just wish to appreciate every moment I am given for when I am in this new space of existence and alignment. It feels so whole. I feel aware and open to possibility.

Today after chant, a long time friend stopped by for a quick visit. We covered the gamete, conversation jumping from one life event to the next; work, kids, school, relationships, all in an hour. At one point I shared my experience of Kirtan and how healing I’ve found this practice. She shared that she is trying to understand how much I’ve changed calling me “new Sarah who she’s not sure she knows anymore”. I smiled and agreed, “I know, but I am not scary or anything.” She smiled but replied with tears in her eyes, “I know, but I am scared of you…” I listened as she explained how she was afraid of me…not like, intimidated, quite the opposite, afraid of my fragility. Afraid to hug me as she might hurt me or undo something and cause more pain. I also believe she may have been reading my vulnerability as weakness. Although, for me to be perceived as vulnerable is a compliment.

Instead of feeling hurt or misunderstood like I might have even a few weeks ago, I felt secure in the energetic work I had done earlier in the day at yoga and kirtan. I smiled and reassured her by explaining “I am stronger than I have ever been and your hugs will always be appreciated. Please don’t fear me or for me. I am okay.” I believe I needed to hear this from my own lips as much (or maybe more) as she did. I realize that I, at times, have been framing my existence through a lens of pain, trauma and disability. These are all fragments of me, but they are tiny in relation to who I have become and am still to become. These fractal pieces have all been instrumental in my uncovering of my truest self; shining light through carefully crafted stained glass windows into a dark cavity. I have not only released these pieces as negative but want to hold them like jewels of affirmation in my palm and marvel at their beauty, without them I would not be whole. Without them I would not Be.

In my release of judgement I accept my whole self no matter how fractured. I accept all beings whole or shattered. The inspiring beauty in the mess of what we call life is in every speck floating around us. My heart is awakened and coherent in all things; we, they, us, all connected. The only regret I have is my words fail me to convey the deep well of abundance and gratitude that exists in my soul.

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