I have been reflecting peacefully, and from time to time - restlessly about my spirit's longing to sing. There are no words really that are fitting to describe how i feel about this reflection. I would have to, well, sing it. I have been lying on my bed in the dark earlier listening to the rain, strumming the guitar and just humming whatever sound comes out of my weary yet eager body. I was about to merge into a state of depression again so I had to catch myself and process myself with this post.
When I was young, my grandmother would bring me to church everyday. Sitting on the pews during a mass and singing with the choir almost always moves me in tears even as a grown up.
As I reflect now, I realized that my spiritual experiences are always rich with the beauty of sound weaving through prayers from different faiths, indigenous chants, mantras, bhajans, ghazal poetry, chorale music,the sound of a flute, the rhythm of drums, the heart of saints through an erhu or a violin, piano solos during dark existential moments, and beautiful songs by my favorite artists who sing with their spirits.
I have never been so conscious about this before. Sound is such an integral part of my spirit's journey of awakening to my true self. I have been so wrapped up in my visual art and expression that I have almost forgotten how important this is to me.
With this reminder I realize that the first level to realizing my spirit song is the awareness of my breath and voice. In this rain with the beautiful Native American flute and drum music playing on my radio, I am guided to listen more inside.
With this practice, I try to consciously listen and appreciate the motherly love from indigenous lullabies wafting through a CD, laugh with the giggles of children playing outside, pause to pray with the old man's song about the spirit every morning through the bathroom wall, remember the heartbeat of a lover, acknowledge the calm my deep breath brings to my tired body, and meditate on the power of silence.
I learned this the hard way.
When I was 16, I ran away from a prestigious glee club audition just right before my turn to sing! I had the lowest self esteem even if I was a soprano. This pattern of fear has also allowed me to let someone blackmail me about my love for singing and crush my confidence. Whenever people are around, I try not to make my voice loud and sometimes I just settle for a hum of a tune even if I really wanted to sing. It's funny that I can only sing with freedom after meditating alone in my room, when I'm taking a shower, or when I wash the dishes late at night when everyone is asleep.
I am still learning.
Through our spirits we source the breath of life. We breathe through our body and we create vibrations. Through our vibrations we manifest everything. Sufi musician Hazrat Inayat Khan talks about the natural law of vibrations and how they are affected by its source and medium.
"The reach of vibrations is according to the fineness of the plane of their starting-point. To speak more plainly, the word uttered by the lips can only reach the ears of the hearer; but the thought proceeding from the mind reaches far, shooting from mind to mind. The vibrations of mind are much stronger than those of words. The earnest feelings of one heart can pierce the heart of another; they speak in the silence, spreading out into the sphere, so that the very atmosphere of a person’s presence proclaims his thoughts and emotions. The vibrations of the soul are the most powerful and far-reaching, they run like an electric current from soul to soul."The voice according to Hazrat Inayat Khan is the highest form of sound as it is natural, coming from the soul directly from breath.The spirit of my songs will always reflect how I see myself and my understanding of my soul. This I need to work on as I rediscover the true source that moves through me.
- The Mysticism of Sound
I am always moved by the sacred sound and energy of prayers, even the different names we call God in different traditions. The great insight here is that no language, culture, time, and even space can capture a sound. It can only be experienced and allowed to flow through. Only when the spirit and the body are clear and connected can the life force of the universe manifest through breath, vibration, voice, and sound.
As I deepen on this journey, I am learning that spirit singing cannot be forced. It only releases the highest notes beyond the lung and the throat towards a head tone once there is no fear or need to control. It only manifests with the purest intentions. It only moves you when the message and the instrument are connected to the sacred. Like the melismatic and angelic voices of indigenous elders, sufi singers, sopranos and tenors, it only flows note by note and never independent of each other. Even a staccato has a vibration in between, if you listen closely.
If I listen closely,
and the song
are always one.
***For Lola, for all the beautiful spirit songs I learned by heart because of you.