A Study in Solitude

solitudeRecently a friend of my son’s passed through our town after spending four months traveling alone on the Pacific Coast Trail. He began his adventure in Mexico and still had all of the states of Oregon and Washington to travel before his mission would be accomplished. I invited him over for dinner and we had a deep and serious conversation about the hardships and values of spending time alone with oneself, particularly in wilderness. He admitted that it was not for everyone. And that even now and then at the beginning of his hike he wondered if it was even for him. But after he finally passed through the threshold of loneliness, something soulful happened to him, opening him up to the significance of his initiatory experience which could only have occurred had he not become accustomed to solitude.
Most of us will never have the opportunity to give ourselves over to a solitary nine month hike, nor perhaps should we. But to find a place of soulfulness, a sanctuary of solitude in our busy lives is more valuable than I think we can imagine. Nearly every great teacher, thinker and artist has gone through some kind of initiatory experience where like Jacob they have had to wrestle with their own angel. Or demon. (Or Daimon, as James Hillman puts it.) Whatever the dragon is that protects them from facing the ecstasy and the terror of their own soul.
A time of solitude I think is especially important to a young adult when they are looking toward discovering who they are, what their life’s purpose is all about, and what kind of person they hope to spend the rest of their life with. But the fear of loneliness is always their lurking in the shadows. So distraction becomes the name of the game—video games, TV, computer surfing, all nighters at bars—you name it.
I think as a culture we all need to take time out from our busy lives from time to time and give ourselves a sanctuary where our souls can be nourished and if needed, be made whole. Perhaps it may be taking up some creative activity, walking in nature, or even gardening. For my step-father it was tinkering in the garage. Whatever one chooses, it needs to be away from one’s phone, computer, family and neighbor. It needs to be in a treasured place where sanctuary is honored and aloneness tantamount. We need it as individuals, as a culture. We need it as inhabitants of this glorious interdependent planet.

You Can Be President, And So Can YOU!

Election
I am not one to post anything political on either of my website blogs or Facebook accounts, but with all the anger and frustration bubbling up over this upcoming election, I cannot help but take a step back and look at how much has been accomplished in just the last ten years with regard to who can now realistically become President of this beautiful country. I consider myself and my children lucky to be living at a time when the best person for the job can actually have the job, should the popular and electoral vote prove them electable.
Perhaps for some people this is no big deal, but for me it is nothing short of miraculous. What a privilege to know that my cousins, nieces and nephews, should they desire a life of political service, achieve the highest office possible—and that in spite of their skin color or gender. And hopefully someday soon, their sexual identity. We all deserve to speak the truth of our voice! And especially if we are called to be President of the United States of America!!

Too Small of Shoes

sneakers-worn-holes

“We all walk in shoes too small for us.” Carl Jung

I remember when I first read this quote how curious I was as to how tight my shoes fit with regard to my life’s work. Were the activities of my day to day existence pinching my toes or roomy enough to encourage self growth? And were the hopes and dreams for my future merely fragments of wishful thinking or glimpses of my personal destiny?  And were those hopes and dreams big enough to hold all of my potentiality as a woman, an artist and a healer?

“Imagination is the eye of the soul.” Joseph Joubert

I have always desired to make my mark on this world. And I have had ample opportunities to do so on stage, in the classroom and in my private practice. Hopefully I have also been a positive influence on my children and my community at large. Even now my prayer is that what I have to say in my writings will find its way into the heart of those who read them.

But often what I have desired for myself has not always manifested, at least not in the way I would have wished. There have been significant struggles, failures, wrong turns and false dreams along the way, which looking back now, do not seem near as devastating as they felt in the past. What I am trying to say is that these disappointments have at times made me cautious, wary, distrustful, and slow to act. In other words, SCARED!

“God wouldn’t put the dream in your heart if He didn’t have a way.
You don’t have to figure out how it’s going to happen. 
Your job is to believe.” Joel Osteen   

Yet, something inside of me has always nudged me forward—to stand at the edge of the abyss of change and opportunity and stare down into its dark mystery of promise. My mother once accused me of being a dreamer, which I am in part. Yet a dreamer often does not take action, for the dream is always more beautiful than the hard work and possible disappointment that may come in its pursuit.

So, transformation takes a courageous heart as well as intelligence, discipline and perseverance. But if we do not take that initial step of faith, then how can we ever know for certain that we are living in the full potentiality of our being?

I leave this blog with a quote from my beloved teacher Aftab Omer at Meridian University on the occasion of my last day of class. It was a bittersweet moment for both of us as I was leaving the comfortable nest of graduate school and flying away toward the larger purpose of my life as I knew it to be then.

“May you find the courage you need to step into your imagination!”

Silence is Golden

RumiSilenceJust as the rest is a crucial aspect of musical notation, silence is important when we speak of the voice. Knowing when and what to say is important, yet counterbalanced with the knowledge of when one should embrace silence.  Silence is important in communication for it allows one to listen actively with whom they are communicating with gives the other person the feeling that they are being listened to and in turn valued.

“But the Lord is in his holy temple;                                                                                 let all the earth keep silence before him.” Habakkuk 2:20

Silence is also important for the individual for it offers the opportunity to be psychically present, to be in a space where words are “poor translation.” Silence is different than merely being quiet. Being silent means that we have turned off the chatter in our minds (at least to the best of our abilities), as well as our mouths. We have instead surrendered to either the offerings of  the inner voice or the serene nothingness of the moment.

For me it is all those things and more. Being silent is a gift for it allows me to re-form what it is I want to say and how I want to say it once I do step into my voice. The voice is only as soul-filled as the silence beneath it. So to be a person of my word, I must also be a person of my silence.

“The kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17: 21

There is an innate holiness to silence. It is an expansive space compared to the often limiting stricture of words. To me it isn’t strange that in contemplative orders silence is not only revered, but part of its policy. It’s standard procedure at Thich Nhat Hanh’s Plum Village, for example, that certain days of the week or month are designated for silence only.

I advise us all to take time out to be silent, if not for a few minutes each day, at least for the greater part of a single day once a week or once a month. It may surprise us all how greatly it will affect our speech when we finally do step into the truth of our Voice.

Soul of Voice: How to Step Fully into the Truth of Your Voice

INBOX406275c548c693359ca8c3adcc2dd6ade8096I am excited to announce the recent publication of my book, Soul of Voice, which is now available in print as well as for electronic readers. Many of you have asked what it is I do in my private practice, and this book culminates my system as well as its application in a concise yet enriching manner. I plan to keep you posted when artists and other voice practitioners are utilizing my book and / or its methodology.