Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Five Gifts

I've just returned from a long holiday weekend in Southern California with my family. As always, the (too little) time was filled with great conversation, reflection, and (too much) wonderful food.

I rose on my final morning and let the dog out, gazing up at the lingering stars and moon. The sun had yet to rise, and the unique smell of the morning desert filled my nostrils.

Around the table and turkey, we often give thanks for the larger blessings that have graced our lives. Loved ones, health, wisdom and wealth. But that morning, I became keenly aware of another gift for which I'm deeply and equally grateful: the gift of my senses.

As Maddie and I made our way toward the ocean, we were awash in a sensory sea of pleasure. The wind against our faces, the tall grasses swaying in the salt-scented breeze, the dancing of the birds and the sounds of their morning song, the smell of eucalyptus and sage, the awesome and ever changing color show as the sun began to once again reclaim her spot in the sky...

At the end of a trail overlooking the water, I let Maddie off leash to explore the world in her own way. Some things even her powerful nose couldn't seem to fully take in, and so she'd flounce onto her back, rolling and thrashing about in apparent ecstasy in mounds of dirt and beds of flowers.

Perhaps not quite as flail-ready as she, I still let my sensory wonder lead the way to delight. I gently squeezed lavender stems in the palms of my hand, inhaling their scent until my lungs and heart felt as if they could burst. I caressed flowers and trees, opening my eyes to the miracle and beauty of each blossom and leaf while listening carefully for the wind playing between them. I chewed on wild mint and rosemary, letting the flavors burst in my mouth and envelop my taste buds.

I willed my mind to rest upon and drink in the spectacle of it all...

On that precious morning, I was reminded not only of the tremendous blessing that is life, but the blessings of our senses and responses to them that allow us to be truly alive. May we all remain open to these gifts... to the awareness of a world that waits to rush in when we’re willing to be blissfully overwhelmed by the beauty that is, in every moment, all around us.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Louder Than Words

I've recently been working with a young singer from Japan whose gumption and determination have taught me a thing or two about the words... after reading The Art of Singing, she booked a flight, a hotel and- sight unseen- 5 weeks of vocal lessons.

While I hope that I've been able to offer her the wisdom and insights for which she traveled so far, I'm certain the scales are balanced in terms of learning, if not tipped in my favor. It isn't for the amount or intensity of our work. It isn't that she has a particularly unusual voice, difficult issues or bad habits.

It's that she doesn't speak a word of English.

I've said a lot in my writing about the power of silence and the importance of non-verbal communication. And I stand by their merits; a vacation from language provides for an awareness that speaks volumes about who we are and how we engage with the world and those around us.

But what about when that vacation is permanent?

Confidence about a journey into the silent unknown disappears when words never have nor will be an option. Yet in this void, I gained some of the most profound wisdom of my career. With everything but words, Hikari and I delved into what I'd largely and often unknowingly relied on language to reach. Not only did issues of technique, diction and performance expression open up and unravel in that space. Passion, emotions and dreams laid themselves bare for exploration as well.

Most profound was just how silent we became. The expressions and gestures that enabled us to 'speak' in our first weeks transitioned into physical quiet as well. By the end, we were simply looking at each other... being with each other. An idea dancing across my mind showed up an instant later in her song. I felt her questions and answered them in a voice neither of us actually heard.

That 'voice' is one we all share. When words go away, along with the ideas they speak to... about differences of nationality, language, gender and tradition... we are left touching the pulse of what makes us the same. We are left staring at a human being from across the world... and finding ourselves in her eyes...

Thank you, Hikari, for that true vision of myself, as well as for such profound insights into the real nature of communication and connection. I'm honored to have shared so powerfully together on your most exquisite life journey.

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