Friday, September 24, 2010

Finding my Voice in the Silence

It's ironic that in listening to the silence, I find my Voice.

I've been journaling and writing and leading classes on journal writing around this theme. But it just hit me this morning as I read this piece I copied from Heart of the Matter newsletter  by Mark Silver.

Silence is not the absence of noise, it is an active presence. If you listen with your heart, you can taste it. Take a moment now and listen for it in your heart.

Under the noise, behind, within the noise, there is a silent presence. It's palpable.
Don't try to grab it. Don't try to hold onto it. Instead, invite it in. Give it permission to take over everything within you, to push aside the noise, to fill you up.
Whatever noise is taking up your attention in this moment, kids, music, Twitter, notice it. Notice all the noise in your space. Take a minute to focus in on each one.
Next, in your heart say "No." If you like you can try the phrase "La ilaha illa'llah," which is pronounced pretty much like it reads. You're not resisting the noise, just acknowledging that all of that hubbub is not the truth.
Third, feel the longing in your heart for silence. Let the longing deepen.

Finally, ask in your heart for help in tasting the silence that is there and allowing it to flood in. Give permission to the silence to master you, to be your anchor.

Now, to some of you this  may seem counterintuitive, but this is how I get in touch with my inner voice, my own wisdom, and my real heart's longing to be whatever I can be. I listen to the silence.

I've spent the last year journalling about the direction I want my life to take, in terms of working with women on retreats or classes, writing and blogging, and this is what appeared finally from out of the void, as My Theme: Finding my Voice.

I can't say it's all that original, but when I look back at my life story, from early beginnings in a large family of eight, to singing like a shy little sparrow in grade school, hiding in my room to play guitar in my teens, coming out of the bedroom to sing for others in my twenties and even write my own songs, to meeting my husband as a new 'guitarist' who could play bar chords so I could sing the songs I loved, to singing to my children when they were little to calm them, entertain them or divert them, to singing in a duo with my husband occasionally today, and performing in public with a barbershop quartet and chorus by night....

I am finding my Voice.

Through writing poetry in my teens, keeping a diary of sorts since around the time I met Jacques 26 years ago, to first applying to a Creative writing program with a very sentimental manuscript of poems, to finally 10 years later publishing a book of poems and birth journal (part of my Master's thesis in Creative Writing), to recording a CD of poems and one with friend and cellist Kim Gosselin, to leading workshops on the Feminine, the Body, and now one called Charting your Journey, through publishing short stories and poems about my own journey and about meditation, menopause, teen sexuality, and every Taboo topic that my mind wants to keep silent and ashamed....I am Finding my Voice.

There, I think I've said it.

I have also been inspired by Janet Quinn's book I am A Woman Finding my Voice, and by Janet Connor's Writing down the Soul, to mention just a few books I love.

I am very excited about attending a workshop with Natalie Goldberg at Kripalu this November too, on Memoir writing, since the Voice keeps leading me back to my own stories.

And another wonderful on-line resource is for finding writing workshops and mentors.

So try practising letting the silence be your teacher, and let it help you find Your Voice.Then write, sing, dance it out into the World. Share your Voice, for the world would be a much too silent place if only the best song birds opened their throats and sang (paraphrased from a famous author).


Bask until the silence leaves. Rinse, repeat if desired.

Let the silence master you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Home made Retreat

Watching the sun rise over tree tops and leaves gently rustling in the slight breeze - I am ecstatic to be up here in St-Sauveur at my retreat house/chalet, playing house, placing dishes in cupboards, folding sheets and making beds.  It feels like this is 'my own' house, somehow, just for me. Perhaps because I have come up here alone, to honour my work.

It has been decorated simply, white curtains, pine walls, wood floors. It feels homey yet very bare, the way I like it, just add a rug and a few chairs and it will be perfect (we bought it partly furnished, table and couch, beds in place).

I especially love the silence. A good place to meditate, write, prepare my class in.  Yes! a whole day without telephone, email, disruptions, to concentrate on my work. If I can do this once a week it will be so amazing. I am very fed up of schedules and being busy. Am I finally ready to listen in and follow my inner guide? Unplug from the busy world?

What can I hear by listening in, trusting the silence, instead of fearing the emptiness?

Later, I lay outside on a blanket and rested my sore shoulders in the sun. Wearing a brace on right forearm because of irritated nerves from too much typing, lifting, overwork.

Sigh, I want to write and my body is saying, rest. This chalet will be a place for both.

Enter the silence....


Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Birthing as Heroic Task

Labour Day weekend brought many parties for us this weekend. Yesterday was Le Bouilli, a traditional harvest supper with loads of vegetables and beef cooked slowly in a huge pot at my brother-in-law's place. The whole family (or almost) was there, including two pregnant nieces. Naturally, the conversation turned towards the coming birth of one of them, due in October.

My childbirth experiences were very different one from the other, and I don't believe in frightening future mother's by telling them in great detail what I went through.  (The second child was born in the car, ten minutes away from the hospital).  But I do clearly remember the labour, the physical work and concentration required of Labour, and the total focus it required of me, and when I began to talk about it, it brought me back to the words of Joseph Campbell, who said giving birth and becoming a mother is a woman's heroic task.

Just like a warrior must focus his mind and conquer his fears before battle, a new mother giving birth brings all of her self to the task. All her courage, all her strength and energy are required.  She does need help and encouragement, yes, the nurses and doulah or companions, her husband can help her remember to breathe, but it is the inner work that gets done that is important, from the quality of her surrender and trust in the body's processes (and the more knowledge of these processes the better), to the letting go of fears of not being capable of passing this threshold.  The journey is dangerous, as the forces within move the baby out into the world from his watery womb space, forcing him to cross the threshold into life outside the safety of his mother's enclosure.  She will be turned inside out too, and perhaps lose all sense of separateness with the world.  All her senses will awaken, and sharpen once he is born, whetted by the cries of her baby, and nothing will ever be the same. It is a spiritual birth of the mother, as well as the physical birth of the child, as they journey together through that tunnel.

For the first few days, if she allows it, she will feel at one with her baby, this being from another planet who has slipped like a fish through her legs.  His eyes will be her mirror, his pain will be her pain. As she tunes into his needs and feels the milk tingle in her breasts even before he wakes, she will either accept or resist this intrusion, this call to selflessness, this giving over of the self to a larger need.

It will be the hardet (or the easiest) thing she will ever do, has ever done.  To give her self to the needs of the vulnerable tyrant at her breast, as they both navigate new territory, and learn how to find contentment and ease together.  What can prepare her?  Focus, concentration, rest, inner strength, conscious letting go of expectations...of fear, of anxiety - allowing life to hold them both in its arms.

To fight this great battle for life by letting go, by surrendering, is kind of  conumdrum. But that's what it takes.