Sliding into Tyranny

January 3, 2018

We are on a slide to tyranny with the prime narcissist and his advisors in the White House. They are preying on our fears in order to take control and consolidate power. We need to face our fears and choose to engage.
Fear drives contraction – contraction of vision, understanding, perspective, choices and opportunity. A narrow vision with clear guard-rules can feel preferable to the terror of fear. We feel safer when fear is contained. But all human life, all life on this planet and in the universe is based on expansion.
The brilliance of this time is how clearly we can see the consequences of choosing fear. With the current President, we have a narrowing of opportunity to those with wealth and power, a move to limit speech, access to information and science, an effort to control the independent Justice department, and a calculated strategy to pit “us” against “them.” Creating enemies is a standard fear-enhancing tactic on the road to tyranny. “Us” are white men, particularly with money and power, against the poor, disadvantaged, immigrants, women and all people of color.
Fear narrows. Fighting fear only entrenches the narrow beliefs and anxieties of fear. Instead, try this. Sit with fear, your own fear, and breathe. Hold its hand. Do not fight. Acknowledge it. Accepting that you have this fear does not mean that the fear is real. Fear is part of being human. Some fears help to keep us alive. If your house is on fire, get your children and get out. But many fears are amplified by imagination and worry. Sit with fear to discern its true purpose. Is this fear based on reality or imagination?
Some fears beg for attention. The fear of tyranny is based on a growing list of facts. While the President lies with impunity, he has discredited the free press as fake media, calling journalists “enemies of the people,” which is a quote from Joseph Stalin. He has erased information from a number of federal websites, including health care and the environment. He has directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop using a long list of words, including fetus, diversity, vulnerable, transgender, and science. He continually bashes the FBI and the intelligence services as they investigate Russia’s interference with last year’s election. The actions of the President and his aids have been to systematically destroy our trust in politicians who have sworn to serve us, the federal government and the constitution.
Fear can be paralyzing. Respond to the fear of tyranny by choosing expansion. Take action. Choose movement that widens, action that includes, diversifies, and opens. Meditate. Write a letter. Write your friends. Speak up. Run for office. Help others run for office. Protest repressive laws. Start a movement. Time’s 2017 Person of the Year is the Silence Breakers, the women who launched a movement by speaking up about their personal experiences with sexual harassment and abuse. #MeToo swept through the nation and 85 other countries with millions of women publicly sharing their stories. Working together is what helps to shape and change our world. Pick one thing you are interested in and find a way to help.
I am using music to speak up. In the fall, Songweavers focused its outreach efforts on singing for New Americans and inviting them to sing with us. The theme of our 2018 concert is ‘We are the World.’ We are singing songs that amplify the following quote from Maya Angelou, “We are more alike, my friend, than we are unalike.” This new year, I am also going to get more active with Kent St. Coalition, the Concord grass-roots resistance movement that has grown into an effective voice for democratic values. At their first meeting of 2018, I am going to teach people a song written by Melanie DeMore. Written the day after Trump got elected, these simple words are as vital today as they were a year ago.
You gotta put one foot in front of the other and lead with love.
Put one foot in front of the other and lead with love.
I know you’re scared, and I’m scared too.
But here I am right next to you.
In 2018, let’s face fear and lead with love.

Recording and Release

The first time I recorded a set of songs for my composer friend Thomas Oboe Lee, I got

Calvin and I at WGBH Studios in Boston

back spasms. Tom came up for a rehearsal on a Sunday afternoon. With my friend and fabulous accompanist Calvin Herst on piano, we worked through each song clarifying notes, rhythms and articulations. The set is called “Love Songs.” They are lovely, hard and exacting.

Tom said, “You guys both sound great.” Calvin and I exhaled with relief.

Over dinner, Calvin asked Tom, “ Do you get to hear your music live very much?”

Tom chuckled. “No. As I’ve gotten older, I want the music to be played the way I wrote it and that hardly every happens. So now I am recording all my music, one piece at a time, so I can hear performances that are nearly perfect.”

Calvin and I looked at each other. Tom laughed. “But you guys are great. No need to worry. Besides, we’ll record a few pages at a time and then the engineer, who is a whizz at splicing, sticks the best bits together. Seamless. Easy.”

Two days later I was laid flat with back spasms. There was my body’s familiar response to the pressure of perfection. I was mad. I thought I had gotten over my back spasm time. I took all my remedies, laid on a heating pad, and saw my energy healer, who helped guide my body back to balance. The day of the recording, I woke exhausted, but pain-free.

Calvin and I drove to WGBH studios in Boston. We walked in to the studio where the Boston Symphony records. It was the biggest studio I had ever seen, bigger than my house, with a ceiling at least three stories high, a wooden floor, wooden slats at various angles on all the walls and mostly empty, except for a nine foot Steinway and some microphones arranged on an oriental rug in the middle of the room.

Thomas Oboe Lee going over music with Calvin

Our footsteps clipped through the space like percussion. I sang a few notes to test the acoustics. The sound soared clear and pure. Calvin fingered the keys – divine! We were in heaven. While the engineer finished setting up, I walked around the studio noodling notes in the cavernous space, relishing the fluid tones. Calvin trailed scales up and down the keyboard. When I was warmed up, I lay my music in single sheets over two music stands so we wouldn’t have any noise turning pages. I took my shoes off so I could feel the floor with my bare feet. I looked at Calvin. Ready? Ready. We began.

“This face so fair first bent mine eye…” Calvin and I dropped into our groove. Without the need to sing and play every note perfectly for the whole song, we were free to focus on the notes of the moment. We’d finish a section, pause, and record it again two or three times, fix particular spots Tom or we had heard, then move on to the next section. Eventually, Tom would say, “That’s great. I think we’ve got it.”

There is a delicate balance between delight in the music we are making, trusting technique to support the sound, letting go into the flow of beauty and skill, singing with mindful concentration, and expressing the music with heart. The tight rope of recording demands absolute focus in each moment, like meditation. It was thrilling and fun. We finished at 5:30pm and crawled our way through rush hour traffic, gabbing the whole way home.

This month, Calvin and I recorded a second set of Tom’s songs called “Jack and the Blues,” on poems by Jack Kerouac. My back and shoulders began to hurt the week before. I went for an energy session to release any accumulated tension. I was determined to record easily and with joy – spasm free.

We arrived early with time to warm up and prepare. Ten minutes before our scheduled start time, the piano tuner showed up. He tweeked and tuned for 45 minutes. Tom had booked two hours. We had 5 songs to record. Time was ticking.

Finally we began.

Calvin and I recording.

“Mexico City Bop, I got the huck bop, I got the floogle mock, I got the thiri, chiribim, bitchy bitchy bitchy batch batch, chipperly bop, noise like that.”

The first two songs were very demanding – pitch, rhythms, getting our timing precisely together. On one tricky phrase, I had to watch Calvin’s hands so I could sing the words exactly when he played the chords. Tom said, “Good. Let’s move on.”

The melody of the second song has as a motif large interval jumps, particularly on the last word of the phrase. The last word or syllable frequently jumped up by a seventh, an octave or a ninth. Tom said, “Could you sing the last high notes softer?’

I knew what he meant, but it was harder that way. I tried it and heard my voice sing soft, lilting high notes. One take. Trust your technique, I thought.

On one phrase, Tom said, “Let’s do that page again. The high F is too flat.” I penciled an upward arrow over the note and sang it again.

“It’s too sharp. It should be flatter.” I sang it again. And again. I could no longer hear the problem. I said to Calvin, “I’m just going to sing it the way I want to and we’ll see.”

“Perfect,” said Tom, “let’s move on.”

Unlike the spring recording session, this session was tense and intense, but I didn’t realize why until the end. Between takes, I jiggled my legs, rotated my shoulders, fluttered my wings, flopped upside down breathing in to make space, breathing out to let go. Every few pages, I wrote the word JOY on the top of my music. It made me smile and relax, remembering my true purpose.

We finished in 90 minutes, only 15 minutes overtime. It was the time crunch that created this atmosphere of pressure. I could feel my insides vibrating from the adrenaline kicking in to help us do a good job, and also the excitement of recording, of playing well, of delivering songs that were jazzy, fun, exacting and meaningful. Calvin and I were in this music bubble together and we nailed it.

I shook my hands vigorously, opened my jaw as wide as it would go, stuck my tongue out and sighed. I’d done it. Stayed present. Focused. Flexible. We’d done it. Played with skill. Beauty. Breath. We were in sync musically and very happy we could deliver under pressure.

The big milestone for me was that I was able to do all of that without creating more than the usual tension in my body – no aches, no throbs, no spasms, just ordinary tension that melted away when we were done. A turning point. How thrilling!

 

Begin Again

Return, begin again – heart

opening, closing –

right now

give yourself to love.

 

 

Right now, I am giving myself to my book. I have been working on a book since my friend, Laura, died of cancer nine years ago. She once said to me, “This writing is your cancer; this breaking down of all structures, nothing left to hide behind, no pretend, only love.” I am giving myself to the process, to learning, to not knowing, to growth, expansion, fear, struggle, imagination, possibility, creativity, play, joy. This challenge is calling me to a new relationship with myself, one in which:

I can

I am able

I express what I need to say

I sing

I let go

I give myself to love, love of myself and my inner call

I answer this call because it won’t let me go

I trust its unknown value

I seek not knowing

I hold my hand and jump.

 

This process might be like hopscotch; only the squares go out the driveway, down the road, and away around unseen corners. All I need do is jump from one box to the next – one jump at a time.

“Fear is not your friend,” Carolyn Myss said recently to a friend of mine who has cancer. Fear is not my friend, either. The last years of writing- and not writing- this book have been a journey with fear. Fear has been tenacious and steady, my seeker of comfort, my defender against change, my test of truth – but not my friend.

Today, I return. I begin again.

“Begin again” is a meditation mantra – an invitation to sit down, relax, breathe and open to what is before me right now. What’s before me right now is a deep desire to sing with the birds outside my window, to chirp with the crickets in the woodpile, to trust the call, trust myself, trust my voice to expand beyond the self-imposed limitations of my fears, and to open to life while I’m alive.

This is not just a cliché etched on clay tiles and hung on my wall. ‘Follow Your Heart,’ it says with a dragonfly hovering nearby. The message is deeper than a decoration. When I begin again, I can hear the call more clearly. Fear fades. The heart is the channel of light, the inter-spirit connector. The password is: loveopens.

 

As part of the process of writing again, I want to share some of my thoughts as they evolve. Please feel free to send me your comments or questions.

The Way of the Voice

August, 2017

 

I spent a week at the Madeleine Island School of the Arts in late July, writing with Mary Carroll Moore. Madeleine Island is in Lake Superior. I flew to Duluth, Minnesota, drove to Bayfield, Wisconsin, took a ferry to Madeleine Island, where I was picked up and driven to the school. I didn’t drive again for a week. It was heaven. Mary is an inspiring writing teacher who happens to live in New Hampshire. The most valuable thing I learned during the week is that I actually have the threads for an interesting book. I am writing a book about voice, about how we find our voice and how voice can become a spiritual path.

 

As I tease out my ideas and experiences with voice, I am going to share some of my writing with you in this blog. I would be very happy to receive your comments, questions and feedback. I begin with a 19 syllable poem I wrote while at the writing retreat.

 

 

I sing because I can. I

a monarch perched on my finger waiting to fly

may wander away,

but I

always come back home.

 

 

 

The Way of the Voice

out of the dark

into the dark

The dark of the black universe

of no-thing, no-time, no-body, no-thought, no-voice.

Isn’t it beautiful here

all shimmer and sparkle

From here you can do anything

From here you can be anything

breathe

space

breathe space

inside

space outside the illusion of skin

Breathe space into every cell, atom and molecule

Breathe space between every particle

Feel the vibration

Feel the vibratory nature of your skin,

of the atoms of these fingers “holding”

the atoms of this purple pen

Merge

Weave

Entwine

My hand on the paper

Vibrating, intermingling

Space

Breath

Breathe breath

Breathe space

Breathe love

fill the space

fill all space

fill all vibration

The Doctrine of Vibration

13th c Kashmir

We are all vibrating form emanating from the vibrational field

of ultimate consciousness –

Pure consciousness

Pure love

Unconditional

Without limit

Wide open

Space before me

Space behind

Space above me

Space below

Space within

Breathing out

Infinite

The Way of the Voice

Is a way in

to the infinite.

Voice will empower the world

July, 10, 2017

Sing your song

As we each empower our own voice,

Voice will empower the world.

Listen

Pay attention

Breathe

Speak

Proclaim

Soar

Seek

Authenticity

Truth transformed by heart

Make waves with your one wild voice

Collaborate

Commune

Chant the web of connection.

 

Voice is the path in.

Sing the spirit calling.

19 Syllable Happiness

June 7, 2017

The sun has returned after what seems like days and days of cool, rainy weather. Summer is finally in the air.

In this blog, I am going to share some poems that I have written in the last few weeks. Many are inspired by the ocean in Maine. I spent my birthday sitting on the wet rocks at the very tip of Seapoint Beach.

I learned about this form of poetry from my cousin friend, Tracey, who first inspired me to write when I was ten years old. On my annual February visit to Hawaii, where Tracey lives, we played around with this structure. I find myself writing these little poems all the time – at the beach, after meditation, looking out the window. I love how simple and spare they are.

These are 19 syllable poems in four lines, a kind of elongated Haiku. Line 1 – 7 syllables, Line 2 – 5 syllables, Line 3 – 2 syllables (or 1), Line 4 – 5 (or 6).

Since this is play, if I need 20 syllables, I do. Or sometimes I let the 19 syllables spin me where else they want to go. I have found it very settling, therapeutic and just fun. Try some yourself.

 

from Hawaii:

 

I walk alone pondering

Pacific Ocean on a gray day in Hilo, Hawaii

poems and pleasure,

streams

sing their way to the sea.

 

~

 

Which way does the weather go?

from above? from the sea?

or

from my heart, tangled and free?

 

 

from my birthday:

on my birthday – May 12

Misty rocks rise through my bones,

water within and

without –

the ocean calls me.

 

after meditation:

 

Stand on the sill of thinking.

Jump out the window,

roll, lay

down and watch the sky.

by the ocean:

 

Sitting on granite, symphonic

Seapoint Beach

sea on three sides –

I breathe

sweet smelling lightness.

 

~

 

I don’t need a clock. I have

the wind in my hair,

the waves,

the first wisps of clouds.

 

 

 

Grace Comes In

“This is what I want everyone to experience at the end of my concert is everyone has this sense of

Songweavers happy singing

rejoicing. I want them to have this sense of real, real joy from the depths of their being. Because I think when you are taken to that place, then you open up a place where grace can come in.”

~Bobby McFerrin

 

Songweavers had our first concert last Sunday and are getting ready for our second concert on April 22 in Concord. In preparation, I have been thinking about grace, how music takes us beyond our linear brain into a place of unexpected spaciousness. That spaciousness is like the ever-widening rings on a lake. As singers, we release a song into the air, the rings of sound washing through the room and everyone in it. The sound resonates through our bodies, literally creating added space between the molecules and cells, loosening constriction, relaxing muscles, opening the breath.

 

To close today’s rehearsal, we sang “May You Dwell in the Heart,” the final song of our program. It is a Buddhist blessing. “May you dwell in the heart./ May you be filled with kindness. /May you be well./ May you be at peace.” We start with the melody, then the high part floats over the top. The bottom part enters and we finally hear the ground of the chord. As the harmony unfolds, it feels like double doors open in the center of my chest. I can feel the waves of energy expand out those doors, flowing beyond myself. A song of simple, but beautiful words and uncomplicated harmony transcends space and time. Our hearts open and we merge into one pulsing, resonant being. “May you dwell in peace.” As the last note fades, there are many women wiping away tears, including me. Grace has come in. We have been moved from the depths of our being.

 

This experience of joy, as McFerrin calls it, expands throughout the body on vibration, beyond bones, mind and form. The right and left hemispheres of the brain merge. The barriers of individuality melt. In the spaciousness of joy, “grace can come in.”

 

Join us next Saturday, April 22 at 5:00pm at South Congregational Church at 27 Pleasant St. in Concord. For tickets, call Concord Community Music School at 603-228-1196 or go to ccmusicschool.org.

Chakra Toning/Journaling Sequence

Chakra Toning/Journaling Sequence

Chakra wheels of energy

 

The following exercise utilizes sound to open the chakras. I use the word tone, which in Latin means “stretched sound,” to mean sounding a vowel without words for as long as is comfortable, then breathing when you need to, and sounding the same vowel again. It’s like chant without the words. The vibration of your own sound reverberating throughout your body opens space in all of your cells. When we focus a specific vowel and pitch on a particular region of the body, as in the chakras, the added intention opens the energy in that part of the body. As Jonathan Goldman said, “Frequency + intention = healing.” In other words, adding intention to the sound amplifies the physical effects in the body, allowing our natural energy to flow more freely.

In this sequence, we will tone 3 chakras to open their energy and then pause to answer a question. We are toning the 7 major chakras plus 2 others. You can tone each chakra as long as you like. It has been demonstrated that when we tone one vowel sound or note for three minutes, our brain waves change to entrain to the sounding vibration. Tone each chakra a minimum of 5-6 breaths. Let your body decide when it feels done. Then read the prompt question and write whatever comes up, without censorship, judgment or punctuation. This is a way to channel and hear your inner wisdom.

For each chakra, I have listed the physical location of the chakra, followed by the vowel sound in brackets, the element associated with each chakra, the color, the organs, and the focus of each chakra’s energy. Start with the root chakra low in your range and sing each chakra a note higher than the last one as you ascend to the 8th chakra. It does not need to be a scale, nor do you need to know what the note is. Just allow your voice to go a little higher for each ascending chakra.

 

1- Tone: Root Chakra- base of your spine – tailbone – [uh] low in your range, Earth energy, red, adrenal glands, detoxing, Survival, Fear, Security, life/death, primal instincts, “I exist.”

2- Sacral Chakra – about 2 inches below the navel/ low belly – [oo], Water, orange, reproductive organs, life force, sensuality, sexuality, creativity, pleasure/pain, “I desire/I feel.”

3- Solar Plexus Chakra – solar plexus, just under the diaphragm – [oh], Fire, yellow, digestion, gut, intuition, power, control, will, self-empowerment, “I will, I control.”

  • Journal ? – What feels stuck now and what would you like to let go of this year?

4- Tone Heart Chakra – heart – [ah], Air, green (or pink, if you are drawn to that color), heart, lungs, healing, Love, compassion, acceptance of all life, ” I love.”

5- High Heart Chakra – 3-4 inches above the center point between the breasts – a brighter [a] than heart chakra,  Air/Ether, turquoise/aquamarine, thymus gland which regulates the immune system, intent, connection between reason and emotions of the heart, gate to Higher Consciousness, “I open.”

6- Throat Chakra – throat, [I] – which becomes two vowels [ah + ee], Ether/Space, sky blue, voice, thyroid gland, communication, creativity, able to speak up and ask for what you need, “I create and express.”

  • Journal ? – What does your Heart Voice want to say to you?

7- Tone Third Eye Chakra – point between and slightly above the eyebrows – [aye] as in the long vowel sound of the letter [a], Light/Mind, indigo, pituitary gland, endocrine system, wisdom, intuition, inner wisdom, “I am the Witness.”

8- Crown Chakra – top of the head, [ee], Transcendence, Beyond Elements, white or purple (go with the color that draws you), controls body and mind, One with Source, enlightenment, connection to the Divine, “I am One with all.”

9- Soul Star Chakra – above the head from 6″ up to 2 feet above the head, start a hand’s width above your head – [om], sacred space, white, higher Self, Spiritual connection, the point where Spiritual energy enters and filters down throughout the body, letting go, infinite energy, spiritual compassion, Divine wisdom, “I transcend.”

  • Journal ? – What guidance does your Soul or Higher Self have for you at this time?

 

Walking in Hawaii

March 2, 2017

 

This morning I woke up in my Hawaiian loft overlooking the jungle. I am on my annual retreat visiting

Pacific Ocean on a gray day in Hilo, Hawaii

my cousin Tracey and her husband in Hilo, Hawaii. Through a gap in the green canopy, I could see a wedge of the Pacific Ocean, slate gray with a sliver of white light on the horizon. It wasn’t raining. Yet. It was my last “free” day here in Hilo, on my own while Tracey was working. I was going to have an Adventure. I had been planning this opportunity for months. The weather Gods had a different schedule. Tracey’s weather app flashed a Winter Storm warning for the whole state and all of the Big Island, with snow on the mountains and potential downpours and flooding everywhere.

First thing to let go: control of the weather. Second – all my current plans.

I felt sad, thwarted and stuck doing the same old rain-driven activities I always do in Hilo, where it rains a lot! What bothered me the most was how shut down and narrow my mind felt, thinking bleak, powerless thoughts. I focused my morning meditation on Joy and presence. I’m in Hawaii for three more days. I did not want to fret about what couldn’t happen and why the day would be wet and miserable. I wanted to be happy.

My body decided I needed to move. I drove up the coast to walk along a road that overlooked the Pacific. It was rainy by the time I got there. I found I had forgotten my sneakers, so I walked in the rain in my star-fish flip-flops, then barefoot when they began to rub. I wore my raincoat and pulled the hood up. I wrote 19 syllable poems to mark the moments.

 

I walk on the grassy sponge

next to the black road

bare

feet feel soft Mother Earth.

 

The rain turns on and off and on again.

 

Which way does the weather go?

from above? from the sea?

or

from my heart, trampled and free?

 

I can not find the public access cliff path, but the one-lane road meanders its way – black and beckoning, through green fields lined with banana trees hung with fruit, scarlet birds of paradise, cows and the lone stallion “out standing in his field.” I cross over two streams, grottos of gurgling green. I round a bend to see the Pacific through a break in the trees. I watch the mighty waves roll up to the cliff and break turquoise light and lace over the black rocks.

 

I walk alone pondering

poems and pleasure –

streams

sing their way to the sea.

 

It is a long, lovely walk. I am damp, but not soaked. There is beauty everywhere. I meet Tracey for lunch, after which I go to Lilliokalani Park, sit at a picnic table by the bay and read Dropping the Struggle by Roger Housden. Surrounded by water, it doesn’t rain for over an hour. Today my goal has been to be present to however the day unfolds, dropping the struggle of my mind’s expectations and preferences. Housden reminds me that when I drop the struggle to control my life experiences, I find what is actually present, which I would have missed – the joy of walking in the Hawaiian rain absorbing the magnificent scenery. In the process, I found beauty and time, inspiration and contentment.

I move to the car as the sky lowers and rain blurs the windshield. Colorful Hilo town fades to gray. Time to take my happiness indoors.

 

 

 

Sacred Sound

I prepared the Sunday service at the UU Church of Concord last Sunday on Sacred Sound.

winter sunset at Seapoint Beach, Kittery Point, ME

Here is an excerpt from my sermon:

 

Sound

Shimmers, soothes, shines

Sound

Sings, centers, celebrates

Sound

Endures

Sound

Connects, convenes

Challenges the status quo

Sound births, romances, marries, separates, and mourns

 

Sound relieves

Pain, fear, anxiety

Sound heals

 

Sound makes disconsonance consonant

Chaos clear

Separation united

 

Sound celebrates the color of diversity

Each note

Each articulation

Each crescendo and diminuendo

 

Sound entrains

Every cell to its signature tune

Every chord to the harmony of its highest vibration

Every soul to the celestial symphony

 

Sound makes space

Between atoms

Between cells

Between muscles, organs and bones

Between our endless streaming thoughts

Between our consuming emotions

Our constrictions, restrictions and rules

Sound makes space

For stillness

For now

And the new

 

We breathe –

The body expands

Releases

We inhale space

We exhale sound

A whisper of air

A sigh

A sound

A song

Our heart opens

And we are once again

United

Aware

Body, heart and mind

 

The soul calls

We answer with a song.