Posts Tagged ‘Singing’

Sound and Chant

November 8, 2010

I have had the rare opportunity recently of hearing two different friends sing devotional chants that they have written themselves. Lindsay Wilson ( writes them as she takes walks or meditates or does chores, and will sing one for you a capella any time you ask. She’s completely joyful and generous about it. They are exquisite chants of love for earth, plants, spirits, whatever she is musing upon; with a quality of sound coming through that will change your vibration in an instant. I want to learn her songs and sing them over and over.

Chris Moors ( has written literally hundreds of songs, a number of which are chants of devotion and meditation. As I listened to him sing them, there was a feeling of transport into inner realms – to the real, the sweet, the strong, powerful and good. The tones of voice are healing in themselves.

One of my deepest impressions from time spent in Africa has been the way the people I met there sing constantly. They burst into song at the mention of any word or thought that reminds them of one, and everyone joins in. In the midst of unimaginable poverty I was witnessing among them, these spontaneous outbursts that put smiles on everyone’s faces and united hearts instantly floored me, and helped me to understand the spirit that brings them up and through.

There is sound locked inside of those of us who don’t sing regularly. As humans, I believe our voices were meant to be used for regular singing, and our bodies for regular dancing. Just talking, walking and running – these are not fluid enough, not expressive of the multi-layered beings that we are. I advocate for song, regular singing. And dance, fluid bodily expression, however and whenever we can. These are big parts of what makes us human, and are too little utilized in Western cultural expression.

Thanks to Lindsay and Chris for so moving and inspiring me. I feel changed by the soulful sounds of their generous hearts.

More about singing and a dream

January 21, 2010

Yesterday I wrote about the song singing over the earth, using Rilke’s words. The feeling from that writing stayed with me all day. Today a lovely woman who regularly comes up to the mountain to do one day retreats with me was here for one of our days together. We talked and worked with her dreams through the morning and then during the afternoon, which she spends quietly journaling and reflecting, I took a nap and fell into a dream. A group of “carolers” (not Christmas carolers, just singers) had come to my house and were standing outside of the window to my office. They were singing not a two or three part harmony, but rather it seemed like a 16 part harmony, or many more that they had worked out – the singing so perfectly and intricately toned  that it was beyond anything I can describe. I tried to get up to go tell my guest that they were here and that we should run outside to see them and listen. I couldn’t get back into my body to move. Then she came into my room (still in the dream) to tell me that they were here and I tried hard to get back into my body, and finally made it. They had moved into a place nearby where they had numerous instruments being utilized along with their voices. It was one of the most exciting and intriguing things I had ever seen – and utterly surprising.

After my nap I told my friend of the dream. She sat quietly and then said she wondered if it was the spirits of this mountain singing over our work. I liked that. I am moved by this dream, so responsive to yesterday’s thoughts and feelings, and so affirming.

And just now I read today’s Rilke reading, in a poem called “God Speaks” from his Book of Hours. I’ll excerpt some lines:

I am, you anxious one.

Don’t you sense me, ready to break
into being at your touch?
My murmurings surround you like shadowy wings.

I am the dream you are dreaming.
When you want to awaken, I am waiting.

The Song Singing over the Earth

January 19, 2010

Above the change and the loss,
father and freer,
your singing continues,
god of the lyre.

How can we embrace our sorrows
or learn how to love,
or see what we lose

when we die? Only your song
over the earth
honors our life and makes it holy.
                          -Rainer Maria Rilke

Rilke has long been a favorite poet, and quotes from his writings weave through my conversation regularly. That may happen more often this year as I just found a book I didn’t know existed called A Year with Rilke with readings for every day. When I read today’s piece, quoted above, my mind went to an enormously touching scene in yesterday’s news report from Haiti. A woman had been trapped inside a building for 6 days – her husband apparently just knew she was alive in there without any way to validate that knowing until yesterday.  Finally, miraculously, they dug to a place where there was a hole in the rubble. The man called his wife’s name and she answered. She was right inside that hole. 

When after three hours of careful digging they pulled this woman safely out and put her on a stretcher, after six days in the dark with no food or water or clue whether she would ever be found, she lay on that stretcher and started singing with a full rich voice. Singing! Reporters, on-lookers, people all crowded around and I wished I could have asked everyone to gently back away and let this woman sing until she was finished singing. Sing over this whole tragedy. Please let us  hear the song.

I was privileged to go to Kenya on an intercultural exchange organized by Daniel Martin and Wangaari Matthai in 1997.  One of my most moving and profound memories of the people in the villages is of their constant joyful singing – all of them, all of the time, all day long. In the middle of a conversation a word spoken could trigger a song and they began, with smiles, shoulders and hips involved in the singing. It seemed everyone there had powerful, rich voices. After a few moments, the song would stop and the conversation continued; but soon another one would erupt. This happened during planting, carrying water, cooking, cleaning, you name it. I felt our cultural poverty that in general we don’t do that. Listening to music is very important to most in the world I live in, but actual erupting into song in the middle of a conversation or workplace – not so much.

Right now, reading this poem of Rilke’s about the god of the lyre singing over us, and hearing this woman from Haiti still singing in my brain, and knowing that the Kenyans and so many more are singing today, all day, I feel more at home in the earth. Conceptually I know that the air is not empty and it carries the earth’s song, but these memories help me to feel it in my belly and in my heart. I like that, and I’m grateful.

P.S. That was intended to be an ending for this writing, but as I was looking over it I suddenly remembered my dream of last night. It was of a man who shattered a vase over his wife’s throat and deliberately used a triangular piece of the glass to cut her wind pipe and kill her. Their daughter was looking on and crying.  I seemed to be both the wife and the daughter. I went to the wake and was neither of them, the daughter was with me. I was the only one there who knew what had happened and I felt physically ill.

I didn’t know what I might write about today until I read that poem of Rilke’s and the woman from Haiti came back to mind. But my dream knew! There is personal meaning in it for me, of course, but also collective meaning I believe. In our patriarchal world the throat of the feminine has been sliced, her rich voice silenced. The daughter inside of each of us, male and female, is weeping at this tragedy; and the woman in us is a witness, and is physically ill because of it. God of the lyre, please help us.