My “soothing” “irritating” voice – thoughts on being oneself

February 5, 2010

If you are reading this post, chances are you are someone who likes my voice, the style of my guided meditations and Richard’s music. I get lots of comments about how soothing and reassuring my voice is. That feels good, of course. But everyone’s reaction to my voice isn’t so favorable.

There have been reviews that said I sound like a Valley Girl, a Saturday Night Live skit, too sing-songy, aggravating, irritating, annoying, even drunk! Reactions to a person’s voice and style of speaking, especially in a guided meditation, can be so different. Something in a voice can trigger a difficult or unpleasant association. What soothes one person annoys another.

Obviously, there’s no “best” guided meditation style or “right” voice for everyone. People’s tastes are so varied. Nevertheless, the first time we got a negative review on our first CD, it made me want to quit. I listened to myself and thought “oh my they’re right, I sound ridiculous”. It didn’t matter that many people were already getting benefit from the meditations. My confidence in myself was so low. On top of that, I have a way of seeing things from all different sides. So I could easily feel that someone’s criticism was the truth of the matter.

Thank goodness I didn’t give up. It took a lot of reminding myself that a few people not liking what I do doesn’t negate the value many others were receiving from my work. It took accepting that as soon as you express yourself fully, in your own unique way, some people are not going to like what you do. It also took understanding that the more you express your true self, the more you had to offer those who resonate with you.

For much of my life, I didn’t fully express my creativity and talents because I preferred to hide and not give anyone the chance to criticize me. But that is no way to live. We all have gifts and we need to share them to be really fulfilled. If you express yourself and share your gifts, not everyone will enjoy them, but some people will absolutely love what you have to offer. And that’s what matters – that you give what you can to those who can benefit from it. Perhaps what matters even more is that you give the gift of yourself to yourself!

Now when I hear a criticism, it doesn’t phase me. My perspective is much more balanced, and my self-love and respect so much stronger. Day by day, I gather more courage to be more fully myself. The more I express myself, the less I care what others think, the more fulfilling life becomes. It’s an on-going journey for me. Some fortunate people grow up with that kind of confidence, but others have to gain it later. How about you? What has your experience been?

In life, as in music, the pauses make all the difference

September 30, 2009

These words — “in life, as in music, the pauses make all the difference” — floated into my mind a few weeks back. I tweeted them on Twitter and started a post about them. The post has been saved as a draft since then, barely started and abandoned. Checking in with my drafts today, the words were quite welcome, as I am in a place where I need to pause. There have simply been too many things going on and my mind and body need a break. Reading these words was a good reminder, since everything in our culture demands that we constantly do, do, do, and then do some more.

We think that when we pause — whether for a brief break or a week-long retreat — we are losing time that could be used productively. We think we’re making progress when we’re in motion — moving forward, as it were, on our way to our goal. In reality, it’s often when we pause that the most progress is made. It’s common wisdom that discoveries are made and insights come when we stop working on something and let it go. Inspiration and insight spring from deep within. They can’t be reached through mental focus, thinking and logic. They are accessed when the mind is relaxed and creativity can flow.

Pauses refresh and renew, hence they actually contribute to our productivity. But even more important, they bring balance and an enjoyable rhythm to life. We can’t live at all without the long pause of sleep or even the tiny pause between the breaths. Pauses give life. Why not honor and allow ourselves to relax into them completely? Today, instead of lamenting the fact that I need to take some time off, I’m relishing the hours ahead. And when I’ve had enough r and r, I’ll relish plunging back into work.

In music, it’s the pauses that make the rhythms. It’s in the pauses that the notes settle in and have time to reverberate in our hearts. It’s in life’s pauses that we find the silent background of our being. Today I shall delight in pauses!

Blackberry picking and lessons on creativity

August 3, 2009

Blackberries can be sooooo delicious when they’re soft and sweet, and sooooo disappointing when they’re not. I’ve been picking them on a nearby road where they grow on a fence by a field. It’s a great summer for blackberries. There are tons of them, enough to lure me back into berry picking after having given up on it last summer when I seemed to always come home with a bag of tart berries. But this year I discovered bring sweet, juicy berries home. What’s more, honing my fruit picking skills has given me insights on creativity and life.

It all began with our plum tree in June. The plums are outrageously delicious — incredibly sweet, juicy and perfumed with their own unique fragrance, but only when they’re really ripe. We learned last year that when they fall off the tree, they are just perfect. Only problem is they often split open when they land, and a bagful of split plums soon degenerates into a mess. The trick then is to get the plum when it’s just getting ready to fall, and you can do that by grasping them ever so carefully and giving just the slightest tug. Not a tug even, a faint whisper of a tug… If the plum falls into your hand, it’s ripe. If it resists your tug, it’s not ready. It may still be good, but not incredible, and why settle for good?

Having mastered plum picking, I was ready for the more delicate task of picking blackberries. One has to be ever so careful, not just dodging thorns, but tugging on the berries just right, being careful not to mush the ones that are truly ripe. It’s a delicate operation. It takes patience, sensitivity to the bush’s readiness to let go of its fruit. After all, the bush thrives by having bird’s eat the berries when they are ripe, when the seeds are ready to be dispersed. There’s a reason the fruit gets sweet when it does.

It takes patience to cooperate with the timing of the bush. It takes respect for its natural rhythms to enjoy the treasures it holds. You learn to listen, to cooperate with the life cycle of the bush, and when you do you are rewarded with a berry that drops effortlessly into your hand and tastes incredibly delicious.

Picking berries this way has allowed space for reflection as I pick. Since I am still in the midst of creating a new set of meditations, the parallels in the process of berry picking and giving birth to a new project became obvious. The ideas have to gestate and grow, and when they are ripe, they come easily. Like the berry bush that I return to day after day to cull the berries that are ripe that day, I have to leave the project to mature and ripen at its own pace. I spend time with it and then leave it. It percolates inside me and then when I work on it again, the latest “fruits” are ready for the picking. Inspirations come in their time, and I can’t force them.

Letting the new project grow requires the same respect and trust that I’m learning in berry picking. I can’t make the berries ripen faster. It’s always tempting to try to pull off a berry that isn’t really ready. It just doesn’t work. It’s not fun, actually. It feels as if the bush is resisting. If I do manage to get one off, it doesn’t taste good. Creativity can’t be forced. It comes in its time fueled by the same vital force that ripens the fruit. Sure, you can make sure a fruit tree is planted in the sun and gets enough water and fertilizer, but then you just have to wait. You can nourish yourself with adequate rest, exercise, meditation — but you still have to wait.

My fruit picking is teaching me that patience, respect, and trust. The blackberry bush is teaching me its lesson as I learn to listen. The new project will be finished on its schedule, in its time. I can try to push it, but it will only result in frustration and will get me nowhere. Or I can surrender to the process. I don’t have any more ability to hasten the creation of my new meditations than I have the ability to make the fruit ripen. This realization is humbling, and it’s also a relief. If I don’t seem to be making progress on a project, I can just let it go, knowing it will come in its time.

Related posts:

Meditation and Creativity

Enhancing Creativity Guided Meditation

Meditation and Creativity

July 20, 2009

It’s always a surprise to me. Every single time. I record a guided meditation, do some editing and pass it on to Richard. And then before I know it, he’s added some music and voila — it’s done. Just like that, he listens to the meditation at his keyboard and the music seems to get composed effortlessly. And I always love it. It always feels just right for the meditation. And I’m always in awe. How did that happen? How is it that every single time, on the spot, the music comes?

Even though I’ve experienced how effortlessly things can get created, I’m still amazed. And yet, when something new does come into existence, it is by nature a spontaneous, effortless event. If it’s new, it’s never been seen, touched, heard, known before. How could that come with effort? When we make an effort, we are working at something. We have an end in mind — we draw on everything we know and have experienced before; we use our logic; we try to connect the dots. But something completely new can’t be found in what we have heretofore experienced and known. It comes from the source of all of that, and the functioning of the source lies outside the functioning of our own will and actions, even though it influences them. So “true creativity” can only be effortless. While we may work at shaping an inspiration once it arises, we cannot force the inspiration to come.

While that explains to me the effortlessness of Richard’s composing, it doesn’t explain the consistency of it. And here I turn to my understanding of meditation for answers. Meditation can align us with the source of all creation (and hence creativity). The mind shifts into a more open, intuitive mode, beyond intellect and logic.  Composers have to “get out of the way” for their music to come into being. Meditation in its most essential form gets us out of our own way.

Richard gets into a meditative state to compose. After all the years of meditation, it’s easy for him to do that. So Richard gets out of the way and the music comes. I should understand that — it’s how my meditations come. It’s how everything I’ve ever accomplished creatively has come. And yet it still surprises me when it happens. It is always a wonderful, awe-inspiring mystery. It is always a gift.

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Richard’s beautiful, meditative music is available on our Pure Light album (a compilation of background music from our podcast and CDs.)

Enhancing Creativity Guided Meditation

May 22, 2009

We’re all creative. Life is naturally creative and so are we. And yet so often our creativity seems to be stifled. There are millions of hits on Google for “creative blocks”. Once you’ve tasted the joy of creativity flowing easily, it’s extremely frustrating to hit those blocks. And if you are an artist, writer, musician or anyone whose work requires a lot of creativity, there’s a sense of pressure to create that in itself can hamper the creative process.

When the creative juices are flowing, it’s a high. It’s effortless. In fact, artists describe the creative process as one in which something simply comes through them. There’s a sense that “I” didn’t create this, it came on its own. It feels like a gift that comes spontaneously from a source outside ourselves. In fact, it’s the bypassing of the “me” who gets involved in trying to control the creation that allows the creativity to happen. It’s the “me” with all its doubts and anxiety about outcomes that becomes the block. It’s the “me” who wants to control the creation that gets in the way.

This latest podcast episode is designed to disarm the me, to help you drop into the natural flow of creativity that’s going on all the time in your own consciousness. Life is a flow of creativity. Our own consciousness is a flow of creativity. Ideas come, things get created naturally when we get out of the way.

Hope this meditation helps get your creative juices flowing. If you wish, you can use the meditation right before you do your creative work.  Just let go of any expectation of outcomes and enjoy the process!

What is my philosophy and background? Part 2 — Up close and personal.

February 15, 2008

And now for a more “up close and personal” answer to Erica’s question (on the About page of this blog)…

Erica asked about my philosophy of life, and my dilemma is that I don’t really have one in terms of having a set of fixed beliefs. At the same time, it’s fair to say that I’ve spent a good deal of my life philosophizing. After taking a vocational aptitude test in college, my advisor scratched his head and said, “this indicates that you’d do best at being an armchair philosopher”. I love to think about the nature of life and look at things from all sorts of angles. I love to question things. I’ve also had a love of asking the question “why” which doesn’t really have an answer, and I suppose much of my journey has been to give up the need to know answers and to be able to embrace lovingly what is here in this incredible play of life, with all its contradictions and paradoxes, and with all its joy and pain.

So it’s difficult to say what my philosophy is, but I can say something about what’s behind my guided meditations. Behind them is a quest, a quest for greater acceptance, peace and to be more fully alive. My guided meditations are as much for me as for those who listen to them. It’s not like have a specific philosophy to share. It’s more like I see us all on a journey together. Along the way on my journey I started meditating, then teaching meditation and eventually leading guided meditations. It’s in my nature to communicate and share what I learn and experience.

When I create a guided meditation, I close my eyes and drop into a meditative state and see what comes. I am literally meditating with you, and the meditations speak to me in the same way they speak to those of you who enjoy them. What they speak about for me is trust in the natural flow of life and relaxing into that. For want of a better way to describe it, I view life as a flow of energy, much like a river. That flow is governed by the same natural laws as those that move the river along its path. Everything that we do and experience is a part of that flow. Events are a part of that flow, as are our reactions to those events and all of the thoughts and emotions that arise within us. My path has been one of developing trust in that flow. Relaxation is a reflection of that trust.

Some of the guided meditations I lead are simply about that — about relaxing into life as it naturally unfolds. The Relaxation Break, Simply Being, Effortlessness and Letting Go are examples of that kind of meditation. When I first started leading guided meditations, I thought that was all that I would do, because that is the kind of meditation I had always taught. But things evolved and I found it was useful to sometimes direct the attention in ways that helped to create balance and enhance fulfillment in life.

So there are meditations about healing, the chakras, nature, etc. I enjoy the process of creating these new meditations, and a lot of this is happening thanks to the podcast and the requests and feedback I receive. I decided not to restrict myself to just one kind of meditation. All the other meditations, however, are based on starting with a relaxed, open state of awareness. That’s why they all start out in much the same way. Then the meditations that have a specific focus will be much more effective if one starts with that non-resistant, going with the flow, state of awareness. If we are tense and fighting with what’s happening within us (or noise or something going on around us), then all our energy goes to that and we can’t direct our attention in other ways.

As for my background, it’s been very eclectic. At first I learned and taught meditation in a style from India. I was trained in a very specific technique and the essence of that technique was effortlessness. This had a great deal of influence on me. After years on one path, however, I began to study with some other teachers and learned other practices and was exposed to a number of philosophies. I also studied and taught energy healing for a number of years and that too has shaped my meditations. I also worked as a counselor in mental health and hospice, and the insights and understanding I gained from that certainly influence the meditations I create.

I’d have to say that my guided meditations today are a synthesis of all of these different influences. Of course, this synthesis is unique because I am a unique individual just as we all are. Ultimately, everything that has happened in my life contributes to the meditations, because everything in life is a teacher.

It’s interesting that people often recognize their paths in my work. Erica asked about whether I have a background in Buddhist Vapassana meditation and I don’t, although often people have found that in my work. People have also found similarities to Christian centering meditations and other traditions. I think that’s because the same principles and concepts are arrived on many different paths.

Often as I am creating a meditation, I am surprised at what comes out. It will not be quite like anything I’ve heard before. That’s part of the fun of it, and part of the reason I don’t relate too much to tradition and what’s gone before. What’s really alive is what is fresh in this moment, in the infinite creativity of the life force as it expresses itself here and now.

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