I have this recurring dream of listening to a song. I’m at the opera, only a few feet away from the soprano onstage, the ethereal highs of her voice backed up by a full orchestra. Or I’m driving, tuning into a radio station, and this familiar beat comes on–I remember this, I think, I know this, and it reminds me of a time and a place I cannot recall, and the name won’t come. Or sometimes I’m singing myself. I’m standing in the middle of an empty cobblestone street at dawn, the shuttered apartments around me glowing pink with the first touch of light. The wind smells like water. I open my mouth as if to drink, but instead I sing. And it’s like I’m singing up the sun.
But when I wake up, I can never remember how the song goes.
In shamanic tradition, finding your song is an integral step towards becoming a shaman. It’s only by finding, carefully listening to, and then singing your own song that you can develop the ability to truly help and heal others. Being able to sing your song is a sign that you are in harmony with yourself, and thus the natural world.
There is this beautiful quote from Kay Cordell Whitaker’s “The Reluctant Shaman,” where Kay’s teacher tells her:
“Little Stellifa, you breathe so shallow sometimes. That does not feed your life. Breathe slow now and deep, to fill yourself as though your whole body is an empty vessel, leaving no space between breaths. Make this breathing a habit. One can do many things with the breath…it is a carrier of songs and stories…[i]t is the thing we take most into our bodies, assimilate at the heart, and send out with bits of our essence in its current.”
I’ve always been musically inclined, but the energy that I used to put towards violin, voice, and piano lessons I now channel into my writing. Every poem comes to me first as song. That is a poem’s true form. Those first words have a rhythm, a certain cadence, and it is only by being absolutely silent, by closing myself off to the outer world and turning all of my senses inward, that I can accurately and successfully reproduce that song. It is a deep and beautiful meditation. As I’m constructing the poem and going through edits, I sing it out loud many, many times, trying out different tones, annunciations, or speeds. I know the right pitch when I’ve hit it. It’s a feeling of complete accordance. It’s a soft high. My body, all my cells nod, Yes, yes, and buzz with delight.
So this month, I encourage you to travel inward. Find your breath. Remember that your breath, and that the way you breathe, hold so much power. Use your breath to sing your song. Maybe your song is a mixed media sculpture, or maybe it’s a story you’ve been meaning to finish for years. Whatever it is, this month create something that is wholly, fearlessly you from the heart. Then: send it out into the world.