Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Teaching of Sweet Sounds

Dear Gossip,                          

My name is Stephanie and I was scared of being me.  I'm not anymore.

Thanks for the teaching,


Oh I could tell you all the ways to “handle” people.  Newsflash:  People know when they are being handled instead of loved.  But the truth is I am the one that needs love, not handling.   

A woman in business is bound to be talked about.  I had a parent today share a compliment another Mom gave me.  I told her that was very nice and she was responded with “Well, we talk about you!” 

Nice, I think?  I am aware people talk.  In fact, to rub that fact in almost flew out of my mouth as I “Yes, I know you do.”  (Okay, down ego).  I just expect it now.  Sometimes it brings business my way and sometimes it doesn’t.  What is true is that my self-worth is not built on the opinions of another person.

When a get a call for a student, I usually regard what others have said about the family with relatively low importance.   In the first place it is often wrong and is often founded in some kind of jealousy from the person speaking the negative words.  Secondly, it usually goes against what my inner guidance is telling me, which is the ultimate decider.   There are many jealous parents and hurting people in the world who will stop at nothing to diminish someone.  I want to be a person in the world who lives by her Divine Guidance, my higher self, by seeking prayer and discernment in every area of my life. 

Check out this cool necklace from the Choosing Beauty store at Etsy.com. 
 Join her mailing list at www.choosingbeauty.com for a 15% off code!

One parent told me that I would be crazy to take a certain student because the student’s father was a jerk and the student was kicked out of a fancy school,  or so she heard.  When I got the call, I felt very good about taking this family in spite of the call.  It turned out to be one of my best teaching experiences to date.  Sadly, everything the gossiper said was not only wrong, but cruel.

I have also seen people rise to the occasion.  I’ve had parents so angry with me at times that I just knew I would never receive another student.  I chose not to speak ill of anyone and as a result, I grew so much as a person, allowing God to use situations like these to make me more loving, kind, and forgiving – not bitter, rude, and cynical of love.  In the end, the very people I thought hated me did not. 

When I hear criticism or gossip I mentally send love to the speaker and the intention of protection over the spoken.  I also ask to be shielded from the negativity myself.   It can be so easy to point fingers on others, but in the end all my frustrations and disappointments came down to my expectations and views of how I look at life.  When I love myself the way God loves me, it is very hard to see others as villains.

The great revelation is the more I stay away from gossip, the better I feel. The more I see love and not hate.  The more I have compassion for the little child in all of us who wants to be loved.  The less I take in the negativity because that is not the truth of how God sees them - it's just smoke and mirrors.   Then when I do hear it I am very sensitive to it. I like it that way.  And so it is.

Theme Song for this post?  "We Are" by Kari Jobe  - It's a Lightworker's Theme Song!

I'm Not Good Enough to Sing

"Culturally we've been scared away from our creativity by what my dear friend Julia Cameron, the author of The Artist's Way, calls creativity monsters--the voices from the past and present who criticize, attack, ridicule, and judge us, and who banish us from owning and expressing our creativity with joy and abandon....  They're the people who imply that creativity must be "good" in order to be valuable, who subject your work to public appraisal before you're allowed to join the club...
One of the problems that distances so many of us from our creative Spirit is the notion that being creative is synonymous with being a professional or an aspiring artist.  It's not.  It simply means making something new out of something that presently exists."
The Answer is Simple...Love Yourself, Live your Spirit!   Sonia Choquette

One of my older adult students often comments about singing – how she would love to sing, how she admires others who sing, but she herself does not have that gift.  Having heard her singing a bit in piano lessons I wondered why she was so hard on herself.  She sings on pitch and it’s a unique voice. 

In another lesson a first grader noticed the microphone sitting to the side of the piano and spoke about it for the first time.  I asked her if she would like to sing and she said that she’s uncomfortable singing.  She didn’t think she was any good.

A young adult has sung for weddings and in choirs, but admits in a small voice that her voice” wasn’t that good.”

I marvel at how three different students and ages six, twenty-three, and forty-two could have the same thoughts about themselves.  How they all have an innate yearning to sing, to express their own voice, not just allow someone else to speak for them.  And yet, they look around to see if anyone is looking who will not like it.  The sing with one eye open to the critic bound to appear.  And eventually, that critic becomes the voice in their own head.

Our culture of criticism regarding creative expression saddens me.  Judges of this, that, and the other believe they know where true beauty and art lie.  I always chuckle to myself.  If I go to a music college I will receive one answer and if I go to a pop recording studio I will receive another.  In a certain church I am a piano genius while in another, merely an amateur.   If we don’t naturally fit in these boxes we give up.  We figure the critics are right.  Why expose ourselves to more hurt?  The more we try to make our creative gifts fit into a box that has been built by someone else, either the less we will sing or the more we continue to sound like someone else.  I’m tired of acting, thinking, and trying to look like someone else in my own life.  I don’t want my son to feel he must be someone else to earn my love and approval.  In turn, my students need not sound like me, their church singers, or someone on the radio for me to love and be genuinely moved by their talents.

I consider myself, on occasion, a bit of a music snob.  It takes a lot for someone’s singing or playing to move me.  I can appreciate technical abilities, yes, but I’ve heard so many good players and singers that I tend to turn a deaf ear to a “good sound.”   It never ceases to amaze me the moments that catch me by surprise and I am moved.  A young student, about twelve or thirteen year old, was living house to house each week as a result of her parents divorce.  I saw a lot of stress in her life and did my best to help her enjoy singing.  She would take a deep breathe to sing and this tiny voice would flutter its way into the air and putter out.  She was defeated in her heart and it showed in her voice, literally.  One day I told her, as I’ve told so many students since then, “Everything you sing gives voice to where you have been, where you are, and where you are going.  No one has your life therefore no one has your voice.  It doesn’t matter the words you are singing in this moment, it matter that you embrace who you are.”  And so she sang and I was moved to tears.  I don’t remember what she sang or how good or bad the rhythm was.  I just remember that I heard, and maybe she did too, her.  It was the real her, the part of her that has so much to teach me and everyone in ear shot if they are willing to listen. 

I shared with my older student, afraid and convinced she could not sing the story of the first grader.  She covered her mouth with a gasp and tears filled her eyes.  She understood that she and the first grader had much in common.

We are told from an early age by people or society in general, that creativity is only good if it translates to popularity and success.  It is worth doing only when it is done correctly from beginning to end, otherwise, why bother?   Why be creative for your own pleasure?  Our culture pushes down the need of using creativity to move closer to God and our life purpose and instead, deems only valid those things which bring us trophies, material successes, and popularity.  As stated so eloquently here by Parker J. Palmer in his book Let Your Life Speak, “The difficulty is compounded by the fact that from our first days in school, we are taught to listen to everything and everyone but ourselves, to take all our clues about living from the people and powers around us.”

The more we “chase” those things that fill our soul and give it natural expression, the more we send ourselves the powerful message that what we have to offer the world is of value, even if no one else sees it.  Chances are if a student is stifling their creativity with music lessons, they are doing it other places as well.    I’m reminding of the Bible verse “Seek first the Kingdom of God…”  Yes, seek first to give voice to the spirit of God that resides in all of us.  Give it words, colors, or movement.  Let it sing.  You might be surprised how much you have been wanting and needing to say.  It may also amaze you how it can bless others.

It is rare to find that student who seems to have no self-criticism to block their inner flow of music.  I had a student once, and the best way to explain her gift was to say that I wasn’t teaching her anything.  I was only asking her to remember what she already knew.  It was as if she had been playing before because her brain and her body just knew what to do after I showed her once.  She was open to learning, I never saw her hang her head in shame or say “I’m sorry” for a mistake made while learning.  What a wonderful gift this student was to my life.   Being prideful and full of self-condemnation are two sides of the same coin.  That is the coin of blockage.  Both keep us from allowing our inner spirit to shine through.  Let us be so tender with ourselves and our children.  We never know in what moment their soul will choose to express itself.  When a person knows they are loved and safe, it is amazing what will bloom.

The next time you feel prompted to sing, write, or play – anything creative – take that moment and do it.  There is something inside of you that needs to come out.  Don’t judge it or try to make it perfect, just let it come out.  I will be cheering.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Day #1 - Some Grief Leaked Out

Today I attended wonderful workshop involving art therapy for grief thanks to our local Hospice of Acadiana.   I loved it, but it was very emotional.  I didn't know we had to share our pictures and thoughts about our creative outlet with the group.  I actually told the leader I didn't want to share.  However, by the time the final person shared and we were all wiping our eyes, I asked the facilitator if she would read my thoughts.  It was so powerful and such a rush to finally shed some tears.  I had not done so since before the funeral which at the time of this post, was 9 days ago. 

My Dad will have passed from the physical plane 14 days on Wednesday.  Today was the first day I could cry.  There was something about hearing other people in the same pain that softened my heart enough to share mine.  I knew they could handle it because we were speaking the same language.  Like a person in a foriegn country who hugs that lone person who understands, "Where is the bathroom?"  It was the feeling of being allowed freedom of my intense, harsh, and powerful experiences and feelings.  I welcomed their experience as well.  I wanted everyone to keep sharing.  They were speaking fo me to, saying the thing I wanted to say but couldn't.  Their pain gave voice to mine at the same time.  I loved that the emotions bypassed all forms of being proper about how we should feel and worrying about what others think, managing *their* feelings and sensitivities.

I meet with  grief counselor tomorrow.  Before today I was going to cancel it, but now I can't wait to see what my grief journey has in store.  Whether it is a support group or journaling class I want to do it.  I see that the support I had during my Father' cancer was pefect.  I also see that the support I need to live in a new way going to be different.  They say the only way out is through.  I am grateful that today it is through tears, finally.  At long last, finally.

Even though we may feel alone, we are supported by many beings.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Why Am I Writing This Blog?

Today is my birthday.  I am 39 and pumped.  Since I was 30 years old I would admire women in their 40's.  Why?  Because those women who didn't give up on themselves, stayed true to their being, and evolved,  kick ass!  They are beautiful, graceful, loving, and set firm boundaries of self-care.  These women of whom I speak are less concerned with climbing the social and carrer ladder and more devoted about finding out why they are here and how they can be of service. 

I am writing this blog because I am becoming less afraid.  I am becoming the kind of woman I want to be.  I'm not all the way there, yet.  But my goal is to be 100% me to everyone I meet.  I will speak more of this in another post.  But for now, I just want to come out of the spiritual closet!

I am writing this blog because I am evolving.  As I do so, I feel compelled to share with the world these changes.  It helps me articulate what is in my head.  It gives voice to those who feel as I do but are afraid.

I am a natural teacher.  I teach music and it bring me great joy to do so.  It is a natural extension to share my learning with other on a blog.

I love to read and share my thoughts on books.  I love to do book reviews because it expands my awareness to others.  I enjoy reading book reviews and I hope mine are enjoyable and informative to read.

The world needs honest, positive, voices.  I see much condemnation, self-judgement, and low self-worth today.   It is my goal to share my thought and opinion with the light of love and self-respect. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Obey "God" or go to hell and other ridiculous statements

As a lifelong questioner, breaker of rules, and Aquarian it is no surprise that early on I was cynical about the topic of going to hell if I didn't obey God.  I would like to say my cynicism kept me from feeling lots of unnecessary guilt but that is not so either.  As I've gotten older I have had the opportunity to study different religions and spiritual teachers.  I came to realize that God loves me and the power wielded by religious fanatics on the innocent can be carried for life if the person is unaware it resides in the deep places of the soul.

My big wake up moment came with my father.  As he lay on his hospital bed, moving through the transition from this life to the next, he was daunted by the question, "Do you think God forgives me?  Do you forgive me?"  I would tell him, "Of course God forgives you and so do I."    I noticed when others came in, even preachers, he gave the staple answer of "Yes I know I am forgiven and I know where I am going."  which made the preacher's job very easy and showed him to be assured of his salvation, something very important to this religions culture.  I shrugged, as if there were some way we are not saved.  It just does not compute in my brain.  Another one of those tricks we learn early on - tell them what they want to hear and all will be well.  Play the part and parents will sleep better knowing they have done their job, pastors get to report good numbers to the board and a feeling of a job well done.  It's ironic because in my meditation practice I do the opposite - let me be present with what is there and be okay with what is.  There is no need to pretend otherwise because either way I am always loved. 

After this experience with my father I fully realized the power of religion and doctrine upon our children.  Oh they feel good as parents and church leaders when everyone follows as they should.  They  feel good knowing the child, teen, or adult is following the law of Christ, right?  I would say it i more like the law of fear and do as you are told.  Our spiritual life is not a bargaining chip.  Our spiritual life never ends, it only changes. 

My prayer is that for myself and all those I love, including peoples everywhere, that they will feel God's love so strongly there is no question they are forgiven and God welcomes them with open arms - just as he always did.

A Survior's Guide to Kicking Cancer's Ass

by Dena Mendes

This book was sent to me by www.hayhouse.com for my honest review.

I was completely drawn to this book because I love the proactive, assertive approach to illness. My father died of lung cancer and I was curious to know what other options he may have had.  For myself, I have noticed that people who are victorious over illness have a deep well of knowledge, wisdom, and spirituality.  I had the feeling this book would share some of that with me and I was not disappointed.
She freely offers links, resources, common sense, and soothing statements that I could not help but ear mark and underline in the first read.  There are places where Dena gives specific advice and natural remedies for radiation and chemotherapy.  She knows what she is talking about because both she and her husband went through cancer.  At the heart of this book is a sentiment on page seven that reads, "You will first need to turn inward to the silence of your soul."  There is no place of your life that Dena does not address.  Her prose is like that of a good friend who tells you like it is while empowering you to do the same.  She makes complex things simple and even more, made me want to do her suggestions.

This comprehensive book on radical self-care encompasses such topics as how to choose your doctor, self-care with cancer treatments and tests, natural remedies, detoxification, food and causes of inflammation, renewing your environment, and your emotional health.  Dena's section on saying no and speaking your truth hit me between the eyes when I read that difficulty taking a full deep breath in is a sign of an inability of speaking my truth.  WOW!  This was me!  This is not a cancer book - this is a how-to-live-life book.  I highly recommend it to those who want to take the driver's seat in regards to their health and well-being.  It's a definite manual for my shelf with all the website, food, and book suggestions.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Anger can become very clear.

Do you ever feel guilty for feeling anger?  I found myself not being present with my anger, but instead, thinking I was supposed to be all love and light and gentle like a kitten.  But in yoga class today my teacher mentioned being a feminine woman while at the same time being a tiger.  That really got me thinking as my intention was to release anger in my practice today.  I found the anger did dissipate, yet, but what was left was such a clear mind.  I suddenly found myself able to articulate my feelings, thoughts, and opinions with clarity.  I was amazed at how I felt so clear about things but not emotionally driven and in a blind rage. 

Anger can be good.  It can be a clear, strong sign that someone has trespassed on my being, spitted on my life's path, or tried to project their version of how things should be on me.  Well that's enough to make anyone mad!

My Archangel card today was from Archangel Azrael and the interpreation was "Even the strongest person experiences upsetting situations, and there's no shame in taking time to heal your heart."

Feel the anger?  You better believe it!  I want that energy moving through me!  And then what is left is a clear mind able to speak my truth.  Being love and light doesn't  mean cowering down but at times confronting evil with a firm, unwavering voice.

Friday, January 6, 2012

CD Review: Kirtan Kids by Jai Uttal

As I write this review I am playing the CD, yet again.  I understand it was aimed at kids but it really is for all ages.  I had no idea what Kirtan was although I do practice yoga.  My son, pictured above, is three years old. By the 4th track he was singing along as if he'd heard it all his life.  We played it the first time while making dinner and I looked over and saw my husband tapping his foot. It's so happy and upbeat!  The CD is based on call and response which means there is a lot of repetition.  However, Jai Uttal is like some kind of musical genius because it never feels repetitious!  I found myself humming 'Dance Shiva Dance' all over the house.

I am a musician myself and a music teacher for children so my bar is pretty high.  Vocally, there are lovely harmonies, especially in "Shri Ram Stars" with jazz, blues, and world rhythms and instruments.  The musical tone of the singers is more of a straight tone, almost slight Broadway style, but it fits well with the powerful percussive backgrounds.

There are a few short stories that sorta lost me as I have no idea what Kirtan is and the inner Cd booklet doesn't explain it much so sometimes I skipped the stories and my 3 year old lost interest in those as well.  

Back to the music which is the vast majority of this diverse world music collection.  The music has a beautiful energy that draws me into it.  The production quality is stellar.  It seems to me some real professionals have worked on this CD as the balances and quality of the sound is very layered and thought through.  Jai does some very cool things with rhythms in the chant for "Gung Gung Gung Ganesha Om."  I had to listen a few times to get what he was doing.  There are elephant sounds in it my son loved!  This guy seems to have a real gift for fusing sounds from all over the world and keeping the quality very high.  The children don't distract and I don't feel the music has been dumbed down at all.  In fact, some of these tracks such as 'Bolo Ram Ram Ram' will easily be on my yoga practice playlist and "Dance Shiva Dance" in my good morning playlist!

Order or listen to tracks here
If you are not a Kritan devotee or on the opposite of the yoga tradition, I would suggest purchasing a few of the individual tunes that call to you.  Check out "Dance Shiva Dance, Bolo Ram Ram Ram", and "Gung Gung Gung Ganesha Om"  I think it's wonderful for children to hear world beats, other languages, and complex rhythms.  It is a joyous, uplifting, spiritual CD even though I have no idea what the blue monkey does. :-)
I was sent this CD by www.soundstrue.com for my honest review.