“Today, someone told me I had a beautiful singing voice!” my journal entry for the day read.
No mention in my entry of how wonderfully I felt the yoga class I taught went…just delight in the fact someone told me I had a beautiful voice.
No one had ever said that to me in my entire life!
For 51 years, I have blasted out silly camp songs to children, sang quietly to my own young ones and lip-synced when in public…but mostly I don’t sing.
My lack of singing skill is a constant joke in my family, as I am lovingly teased by them. Oh, sure, I sing alone…belting out songs in the car and while I do dishes. To my ears, I sound great! Do I do this publicly? Never! Put me with people, and my voice wobbles from high to low tones with no control, following the lead of those near me.
Most of my life, I have pushed the edges, making myself do the things that made me uncomfortable, stepping into that place where I am moving forward on faith and courage. A life steeped in wonder, in experience. Somehow, I lost that edge about nine years ago when my friend died. While I accomplished a lot in those years, I felt I lost my sense of self, the fierce adventuress, always diving into the richness life offered, following my heart and dreams wherever they led.
I missed me.
That was when I stumbled upon Bhakti Fest Midwest. It was July 2012. I was listening once again to Donna de Lory sing “Hey Ma Durga” on YouTube. As I watched the video this time, I noticed Donna had performed it at something called Bhakti Fest. I googled it, with her name.
The top hit was Donna de Lory…and she was performing that very day—right as I was looking at the link!—at the first Bhakti Fest Midwest. This new annual event was only two hours away in Madison, WI. I felt the adventuress stirring again. I had no idea what Bhakti Fest was, but I knew that I was supposed to attend this the following summer! Investigating, I discovered it was a festival filled with yoga classes (yeah!), workshops (yeah!) and kirtan. Kirtan? Ewww.
I don’t sing.
A year later, it was Friday, July 5, 2013, the first official day of Bhakti Fest Midwest. I decided that if I had taken off on this solo adventure, I was going to push those limits, and take myself out of my comfortable bubble.
With great trepidation, I walked into Moses & Zeina’s chanting workshop, “So You Want to Be a Rock Star.”
The class was offered for those of us afraid of singing out loud, to help us find our voices so we could more richly experience the kirtan that weekend. Moses and Zeina were lively, funny, great! The room had about 40 of us in it, all feeling a bit safe knowing we were with other non-singers. Our croaking together would be fine. That was until they told us what we were to do.
“Okay, so, everyone, we are going to all sing the Hare Krishna chant, call and response! After that, each of you will take the microphone and sing the chant yourself, and then we will all respond!” The room was rather quiet. They sang, we responded, maybe a bit unenthusiastically.
“And now, who is going to go first?” We all sat there silently, awkwardly, trying to not make eye contact with Moses and Zeina. Finally, Moses handed the microphone to the woman next to me, as we were (stupidly) sitting up front. She took a deep breath, voice quivering with fear and out of tune, and belted it out. We burst into applause, celebrating at her courage, and chanted it back to her. She was high from the experience….sparkly!!!
She handed me the microphone. “I can’t do it!” I told her.
Nodding her head up and down, encouraging me, she told me, “Yes, you can!”
“I don’t know how!” I told them. Moses and Zeina were nodding yes now, I could, and others were encouraging me to go on.
“No, I mean I don’t know the words!” Moses and Zeina stared at me. I didn’t know the words to the Hare Krishna chant?!?! They quickly wrote them down, and handed the paper to me, along with the microphone. I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and did it.
I sang the Hare Krishna chant, solo, to a room full of strangers.
They burst into wild shouting and clapping when I was done, chanting it back to me. Now I was all floaty and sparkly too! I passed on the microphone and page of words, and was now blessed to support this room full of frightened folks singing a solo publically. It was a room full of light and love, a room of courage, a room of people all finding their voice.
Since then, I have been attending our local kirtan circle whenever possible. This is where I first heard Jai Lynn’s beautiful, melodic version of “Aham Prema”, which translates as “I am Divine Love.” Happy, upbeat, it is truly my favorite version. I started chanting it every day recently, thinking it a good reminder in my life.
Coming full circle, finding my voice, the ability to sing a song without worrying about how I sounded, is helping me find my way in life again, helping me rediscover myself, and mostly, helping me reconnect with my powerful inner wisdom.
At the age of six, I attended a yoga class with my mother, and I have flirted with yoga ever since. For 45 years, I have wanted to study it more in depth. When three different friends have gone on to become yoga teachers over the last 20 years, I have felt this little ache of longing inside.
The fates intervened. Through a series of beautiful, serendipitous events, and by following my intuition and the path of least resistance, I find myself immersed in yoga teacher training. A beautiful, gentle yoga, SomaYoga fosters self-awareness in the body, mind and spirit. It encourages self-discovery with daily practice of meditation and an in-depth study of Deborah Adele’s The Yamas and Niyamas. I had a perfect image in my mind of all that I could possibly want in yoga teacher training, and the universe brought me my heart’s desire and more.
Last weekend, I had to teach my first SomaYoga class to a room full of fellow students and my teachers, most of who were already experienced yoga teachers. I chose to go at the very beginning in the presentations. I was nervous enough without having to compare myself with all the experienced yoga teachers.
If I was stepping out of the box, I may as well leap instead.
I started off by bravely leading the class student/teacher prayer, singing the sankrit chant with them without the help offered from my teachers. I (gulp!) led the yoga class to it’s closing. With even more courage, I ended with another chant, Jai’s beautiful, “Aham Prema.” My nerves over teaching the yoga were nothing compared to making myself sing, alone, in front of all these wonderful women.
Explaining the meaning of “Aham Prema”, I sang it out loud for them a few times so they could catch the tune. We then sang it together for 108 repetitions. My entire being felt I was radiating love.
They loved the chanting in the class and encouraged me to keep it in when working with students. When one of these women told me I had a beautiful singing voice, I was stunned. Me? No one had ever said this to me before. In finding my voice I am finding myself again, remember all I already know.
I am Divine Love!
Here is that lovely Donna de Lory video that got all of this started!
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Bryonie Wise