I am pleased to announce that my newest book, Soul of My Voice, is now available at Lulu.com. Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. This text was written as a workbook/journal to accompany my first book, Soul of Voice published in 2016. However, Soul of My Voice is just as effective as a stand alone book, chuck full of essays, poems, quotes, photos, writing prompts and mandalas. Happy reading (and writing, and coloring, etc.)!!
Recently 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.
Just 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.
Humming holds within it the powerful promise of transformation. Air from the deepest recesses of one’s soul travels up the windpipe, causing the vocal folds to vibrate, which in turn gives the entire body a most deserved massage. This vibratory impulse quickens the nervous system, revs up one’s circulation, and the flow of one’s being is met within the flow of the universe. Then a tone emanates—either familiar or created in that instant. The phoneme rides the raft of emotion on the river of the imagination, and all for that brief moment seems right with the world.
Some people find the same thing to be true when they whistle, or sing nonsense syllables such as tra-la-la or doo-be-doo. I prefer the hum. My voice trembles with the sounds of the insect world, the breathing pattern of my pugs, and the electrical current running through my refrigerator. I hum an accompaniment to the life within my home and feel its spirit of warmth and aliveness within my soul.
Objects have energy, and when I quiet my mind and listen carefully, I get in touch with the hum of that power. I hum fragments of old tunes, catchy commercial jingles and made-up little ditties. They are usually either warm and caressing or spirited and lilting. My body quivers in harmony to my hum, and I feel it from the soles of my feet to the ends of my head hairs. I am abuzz with the power of all Creation.