Your ancestors and your voice.
“Death, the undiscovered country from whose borders no traveler returns”
(Hamlet, William Shakespeare.)
I am alone in a boat, a row boat, on a large body of water.
I am sitting in the boat with my hands on the oars.
I am rowing.
The water is deep blue.
The Seagulls cry.
And I cry
For I do not understand this world we all inhabit.
I have felt the energies swirling behind the scenes. I’ve heard and felt the powerful energies of existence break through the body carried by the vibrations of voice. I’ve seen the shock and the release of long-held-back feelings and unexpected parts of being come through the human voice. I’ve felt and seen people release the muscles around their organs and free the bile from their liver on the vibrations of their voice.
And when I don’t have any meaning – when my existence bounces around in the dark box of meaninglessness, I know what I have seen people do as I placed my hands on them and encouraged their breath to find their own dark corners. And I’ve seen the miracle of possibility open up in front of me.
When wallowing in that existential box of meaninglessness I remind myself – when I have the presence of mind, that I must get out my pen and notebook and write. The desire and the need to write feels the same and at times greater than the pull to help others find their voice. I feel the power in my studio where I work – and now I am feeling that power coming through my body, out of my hands and fingers and into my pen, the energy channeling into story.
I’m in the row boat alone in the vast, seemingly endless body of water. Most of my day I am alone – but sometimes other row boats come close to mine or right next to mine and we are two humans sitting in our tiny boats, clutching the oars and staring needfully at each other, like animals at a zoo.
And a few times in my life outside the studio, a very few times, someone rides with me in my boat and sometimes they row for me. And I will row for them. And sometimes we row the boat together or we drift together in the natural current.
Often, another boat comes along side of mine. The rower looks at me and I climb into their boat and row for them for a while as they scream or rail and curse their fate. They open their mouth tilting their head to the sky and release what’s been held inside their bodies and their souls. I watch it. I feel it. I praise their courage, their humanity, encourage them to breathe, and I return to my boat and row off alone as the vibrations of their scream reverberates in my bones and my memory.
And this is my job. I help people find their voice. I am strong. I have to be strong, but my strength sometimes blocks my own voice. Sometimes what makes me strong, makes me weak.
One time a young, beautiful Arab woman came to my studio for an intensive voice workshop in Los Angeles. (*She granted me permission and blessing to tell this part of her story.) She struggled with her breath, blocking it out of her body with the muscles of her belly and throat. She was from Canada but had lived much of her life in Morocco. Her first language and the language of all her ancestors was Arabic.
She struggled to speak – to speak her prepared words, a monologue that she had taken from a play. My trained-voice-coach hands helped her feel her breath and the tensions that were stopping her voice. I asked her questions to awaken her awareness. Her face changed slightly as something amorphous but powerful began to stir in her belly. I asked her to voice the sound of what she was feeling. As I continued to release the tension in her throat and encourage her breath, her voice became clearer revealing her inner experience. She was magnetically present and unconsidered. Then I asked her to speak her monologue in her native Arabic – which she did.
And as we all listened and felt her words in a language we didn’t understand, we were moved and wept. Her voice joined with the voices of her female ancestors had found a pathway out of her body and soul into the world. The vibrations of the thoughts and feelings that all her fore-bearers had not been permitted to say for generations going back, instead of freezing and tightening the muscles of her breath and throat, came out with multi-leveled and penetrating vibration. I felt the voices of her ancestors shuddering through all my bones moving my skin to goosebumps in waves through my body. My tears were freed as hers rolled down her lovely face and the voices of her ancestors were finally heard and touched us all.
In these moments I am one with the meaning of life, which for me, is to grow, to evolve, and to be free. In these live moments, we are all rescued from our separate row boats and can feel each other as if we were all in one great big ocean-liner.
But in the end, we return to our boats and row away from each other again on the vast deep blue water where we cannot see the shore, we cannot see the undiscovered country where we will all be forced to venture one day –
But, I can hope that as my life winds along, I will remember my connected moments of intimacy with one or many, and not be stuck in fear’s body. I can hope that in the undiscovered country, we are together in beautiful ways that we can only catch fleeting moments of now.
(All rites reserved. © Excerpted from a work in progress.)