Finding the Yes in the No

     Have you ever had an experience of your inner judge? Complaining about something in a tone that is not very kind, a bit demanding, maybe even punishing? The judge often presents in the form of a no. No, this is not acceptable. No,  I deserve better than this. No, this is wrong. 

     Recently, after quite a visceral experience of the judge, I stopped and asked, what is it that you want? The answer-health, sustainability, beauty, love. I realized that the judge is often an advocate with a terrible bedside manner.  Under the resistance to the current circumstances, there was a knowing of what felt right and good. Once I honored the knowing underneath the harshness, something relaxed. Energy returned, and I felt a yes energize my body. Yes, I will take a stand for health, sustainability, beauty, and love. I feel the rightness of that in my bones. I am walking in the direction of that which supports and nurtures life.  I allow that energy to fill me with a sense of purpose and momentum. And in that moment the no turned into a yes, the judgment turned into a sense of conviction. 

     I see this frustration and judgment in the collective. An anguish that there is a lot happening that is not right, that does not support basic human goodness and love. And the strength that arises, we must resist. Yet I know the energy of resistance is not sustainable. It is exhausting.   

     The energy of for is much more powerful than against.  This was shown powerfully in the Chilean film “No,” about the campaign to defeat dictator Augusto Pinochet in Chile’s 1988 referendum. At first, the “No” campaign focuses on the suffering of people under Pinochet with harrowing stories of torture and oppression.  Then, they hire an advertising professional who convinces them to focus on the joy and freedom the people will experience if they vote “No.”  Through the jubilant nature of the ads for “No,” they feel the rightness of the kind of leadership that they deserve, and they begin to taste their freedom. They triumphed, with 56% of the vote. 

     During this time of upheaval, may we find the yes and unite. 

What is true power?

When there are so many examples of false power around, it's good to feel what power really is.

When I think of power, I like to think of nature and the elements. What is the power of fire? of water? of earth? And how are these expressed? Power can be a fierce clap of thunder to wake people up out of distraction. Power can be a steady hand. Power can be a tender balm to soothe weary hearts. What these expressions of power have in common is that they are on behalf of--always in service to--the whole.

True power is that which heals and connects, showing the interrelatedness of all things. True power is in the truth. True power is in the heart. True power is in harmony with the laws of the universe, which means it is life-giving and generous. True power liberates. 

Power is vulnerability. And, vulnerability is power.

Voice is a gateway to our power and vulnerability. Vocal expression brings what is inside to the outside. Sound bypasses the mind and connects to our body’s wisdom. It goes right to the heart of the matter, piercing through the layers of our defenses, to our deepest truths and to our power. When I work with clients, they are often surprised by what they experience in their voice. There is always a feeling of deep recognition, of a resource they have barely tapped into, of a tender strength.

The next time you’re feeling powerless by the latest political scandal or event in the news, try taking a moment and making a sound. You can even lightly ask the question, what is the true nature of power? I believe this is part of breaking the spell of the current overwhelm and anxiety in the world right now. When we dare to share our love, that is one of the most powerful things in the world.  

Feel free to share your insights here.

Bringing new energy and freedom into your life through Space Clearing

     My friend called me last fall. She is a creative genius, a beautiful singer with a huge heart who had spent the last 15 years caring for her mother who lived downstairs and had recently passed away. She was overwhelmed with her mom’s possessions that needed to be sorted, plus her own backlog of taxes, recording projects, cat hair, etc. “Help!  I'm completely bogged down and overwhelmed!”  I flew to Vancouver and spent two weeks helping her clear and organize every room in her house. 

     In clearing, building momentum is key. So we started with something manageable-- the hall closet, full of shoes and warm jackets. Soon, there was room to spare and we even discovered a long forgotten jacket hiding in the back. The benefits were immediate. 

     I acted as a friendly angel guide, whispering the questions, "Do you love this?" or "When was the last time you used this?" and "What future would you like to create now?” I gently encouraged her to keep only what she loved. 

     What did she want her space to look and feel like? With this vision in mind, it became easier to let go of books, clothing, old papers, and outdated electronics that were weighing her down. Each day we worked together, her space started reflecting more of her present desires than the baggage of the past.  And finally her studio, once buried in piles of unopened mail, was transformed back into a creative sanctuary and recording studio.

     Space clearing is one of the most tangible, efficient ways to create change in your life. Maybe this is why I love it. The process helps you prioritize, and get really clear about what’s important to you. And it’s a physical process where you can immediately see and experience the benefits.  I help my clients develop the skill of picking up an object, without thinking or analyzing, and knowing whether it belongs in their life.  Soon, it becomes obvious whether it brings you joy, or something else. And we don’t need the something else.  

     How many times have you heard someone say “I have too much on my plate.” Or, “I don’t have enough time.” or “I don’t have space for that in my life right now.” The problem is not enough space, and it’s as true in our minds and our spiritual life as it is in our closets. In his book, “5 Tibetan Warrior Seed Syllables,” Tenzin Wingyal Rinpoche begins with the practice of singing the syllable “Ah,” inviting the element of space into a problem or an issue. He describes space as “the ground of our being. To recognize our open and pure being, we first connect with space.”  Creating space in your home creates space in your life and makes room for more beauty, joy and creativity. 

     I offer Space Clearing sessions all over the world. Clients sign up when I’m already visiting their town for a period of time, or make a special request for me to travel to their town for a Space Clearing session. The projects can be small, like one closet, or as large as a whole building. I love helping people let go of things, freeing up their space and their lives. I like to think of myself as a kind of Mary Poppins(who I played in the 4th grade), swooping in, helping people create change, and then leaving when things are in order.  The process feels magical and liberating. 

     If you would like to experience the benefits of space clearing, email me for a free consultation. 

 

 

The Gift of Crisis

     Crisis is clarifying. I've been saying this a lot in the past few months during a family crisis. During my father's long recovery from a serious injury, there was no room for doubt or distraction. The stakes were too high. The gift of crisis is that it brings to the surface what is important, and everything else drops away. It's similar to birth and death, there is only one thing happening. It's a potent time. It sounds strange to say, but in our era of distraction, this singularity of focus is a welcome relief.

     Not only did crisis reveal what was important to me, I was forced to drop into what I know to be true about life. That life is for us. That love is the most powerful force in the universe. As Ernest Holmes says, "Create or perish is the eternal mandate of nature...Would it not be more simple to say that finally things work out for the best only when they are life giving." Knowing this in my bones gave me access to a strength and courage I didn't know that I had. Pessimism was a luxury that I couldn't afford. When everything around me was unstable, the only thing I could cultivate was the stability of my own heart and mind. 

     There is a lot of fear and chaos in the collective right now. Many people feel that we are in a time of crisis on this planet, and I am inclined to agree. I recently spoke to a biology professor about funding sources for research projects. He talked about funds drying up. I said money will come from other sources that are deeply connected to the work. He looked at me in disbelief, “I’m going to be honest, I don’t have that core of optimism in my body. And I said, “I don’t know if I do either, but I don’t have a choice.”

      This is not about Pollyanna or spiritual bypass. Am I scared? Yes. Do I feel grief for what is being lost? Yes. And I know that my inner resource is all the more precious in times of great instability. I drop into what I know about life. The creative principle is always operating. That someone or something has power over me only if I give it to them. That there is a greater arc happening in terms of the power of the collective. That it’s possible for us to find principles we can unite around. Living principles that honor the earth, the feminine, the masculine, and the incredible diversity of life on this planet. 

       In my coaching practice, I am more committed than ever to helping people access the resources that are revealed in times of transition. 

 

 

 

      

The Power of Singing From

 

      Singing from is another way to give voice to parts of ourselves that need attention.  It’s deceptively simple. An easy way to begin is to sing from different parts of your body, especially places that have tension. If you don’t know how, try making one sound.  The body knows, and is only waiting for our permission. The sounds are often surprising, sometimes humorous, sometimes powerful.  It’s one of the best forms of release that I know, and a really helpful tool when there is some kind of block. Making sound from stuck places allows movement and can help relieve symptoms of tension or pain.

     When I started this practice I often felt a moment of fear or anxiety, what’s going to happen if I give voice to that?! This moment of hesitation or resistance is part of what makes this practice so powerful. Sometimes the sounds were ‘ugly,’ yet they felt so good.  I grew to love these ‘ugly’ sounds,  changing my mind about what ‘ugly’ was. It was so liberating to explore the whole spectrum of the human voice and to allow its wisdom and efficiency.

The Power of Singing To

A tender lullaby. Singing to a loved one. The connection of singing in nature. One of the best ways I know to get out of the way is to sing to someone or something that you love.

     Ten years ago my friends asked me to sing for a ritual performance in Seattle.  “I don’t know what I’m doing, “ I said. “Yes you do.  Just sing from your heart,” they said as they handed me a microphone.  I was both honored and scared.  I had recently moved to Seattle, and my brother, actually my whole family, were in the midst of a crisis. They were on the East coast.  In the midst of my fear I thought, I’ll sing to my brother. It’s the only thing I can do. 

        As soon as I did this, something else took over. The sound coming from me felt tangible, like it was touching my brother and my family, bathing them in love.  It was my first experience of letting go in singing, of allowing sound to flow through me. The experience was surprising, expansive, and easy.  All of the fears I had of being judged, not sounding right, vanished in the light of “singing to.”

       Directing loving kindness with sound to another, or to a part of ourselves, is a beautiful and nurturing practice. Sound carries emotion and spirit.  Even when we are hurting, there is always a part of us that is untouched, that is whole. And “singing to” awakens this part of us and gives it a job to do. In myself and others, I have never seen someone not know how to sing to a part of themselves that needs attention. The mind might not know, but as soon as we let that go, a part of us knows exactly what to do. It’s a gift waiting to be given.

An Attitude of Acceptance

An Attitude of Acceptance

 

    When I was thirty, I found out that I was a baby musician.  Singing was one of my passions, but I had never received any musical training and did not think of myself as a musician.  As a child, I poured my heart out with Olivia Newton John, Barbara Streisand, and Journey in secret. After joining a band for a few months in my twenties, I largely gave it up.  Until I was in Romania, in a Transylvanian forest, singing with Michel Montanaro, an amazing French improviser who had us singing a drone in a circle, and harmonies flew out of me like it was the most natural thing in the world. And I remembered my dream of being a singer when I was 5, singing “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” over and over again.

     The precious gift had returned in a new form, and I made a decision to protect my fledgling musician from judgment.  I wanted to keep beginner’s mind as long as possible, because I was amazed at what was happening. I trusted it. It was magical and it was mysterious. So I created an oasis of acceptance, an improviser’s sandbox to allow my voice to unfold.  I discovered many new ways of using my voice, exploring different inner landscapes.  During one two week period I had a terrible sinus infection, and it was the first time I tried a piercing kind of nasal singing, a bit like I had heard from Mali singers.   I loved it.  It opened up my sinuses, and the emotion it evoked was raw and thrilling.  Or the time when I was frustrated when I kept singing a minor note in a major scale my singing mentor Rhiannon was teaching me, and this deep belly Rasta kind of singing erupted.  “What is that?” she asked. “I don’t know, but it feels really good,” was my reply.

     In the voice work I do, cultivating a non-judgmental attitude is essential. Accepting your voice, however it is expressing itself in the moment , leads to more opening and discoveries, and to releasing the often harsh judgments that are stored there.  Our voice, like ourselves, is very sensitive to criticism. Many of my clients were told that they couldn’t sing when they were children, or to be quiet.  This shutting down led to a lack of confidence in their voice, a feeling of shame about an essential part of themselves, and a deep longing to reconnect. 

      It’s not that scales are bad, it’s just that many people have bad memories associated with them. And comparison soon leads to ‘trying’ in singing, which often leads to ‘efforting,’ which leads to not great singing. The best singers, in my opinion, have an effortless quality.  It is an attitude of love. They allow their voice to move through them like an instrument.

     That’s why when I am first working with someone, the most important thing is creating an atmosphere of acceptance and curiosity. A place where their voice, in all its colors and textures, can come out of hiding.  The voice has many mysteries, and in this kind of atmosphere they begin to be revealed.