I welcome the first day of summer by attending a yoga and music workshop with musician and yoga teacher Jack Harrison.
We lie down and begin with some breathing exercises. Jack strums his guitar, recites poetry and sings.
Then he takes us through a powerful yoga sequence. No music plays now. All we can hear are Jack’s instructions and our breath.
My breathing deepens. I feel strong, present and peaceful.
Afterwards, we sit in a circle and sing. For the most part, I close my eyes and really get into it.
Occasionally, I open my eyes and appreciate what’s in front of me. The fantastic Jack Harrison playing guitar. And a group of people joyously opening their hearts together in song.
Next, Jack suggests that we sing any tune we feel like.
“Dissonance is beautiful,” he insists.
“Some of us were told as children that we weren’t good singers. I was kicked out of the school choir when I was a boy,” he laughs.
“But singing is easy,” he says with a smile.
Many of us spend our lives trying to fit in and appear normal. We’re told how to live and what’s expected of us.
But today for a change, we’re being encouraged to be different. We’ve been given licence to sing our own song in a way that’s right for us in this special moment.
We start quietly and self-consciously. But before long, we become louder and more confident.
I realise that it’s much easier to sing in unison. It’s actually harder to be different. But I’m determined to find my own song.
I go with the feeling. I put judgment aside. I allow myself to be me.
Somewhere between dissonance, unison and harmony, I hear my own voice. Tears prickle behind my eyes. Jack’s right, it is beautiful.
Posted in Personal development, Spirituality
Tagged allowing, appreciation, beauty, beliefs, body, breathing, change, childhood, confidence, control, courage, determination, emotion, encouragement, expectations, fear, feelings, fitness, freedom, gratitude, guitar, jack harrison, judgment, letting go, love, mind, mindfulness, music, oneness, past, peace, personal development, personal growth, presence, pressure, self-acceptance, self-love, singing, society, song, soul, spirit, strength, summer, thoughts, unison, yoga
Recently, a friend asked if I wanted to join her in giving gifts to the homeless for Christmas. As soon as she suggested it, I knew that this would be my priority for the day.
I bought socks, hats, gloves, scarves and chocolates and we set out one cold, windy evening. I hoped that the heavy rain would disappear before we wandered around the city but then I realised that this was just one evening out of my life, unlike every evening that the homeless had to endure. The following Feed the World lyrics came to mind: “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you.”
For the next couple of hours, we handed presents to the homeless. We were greeted with smiles and thank you’s. One man was so surprised, he continued to shout his thanks long after we’d left. It broke my heart and opened it in one fell swoop.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey writes about the Win/Win Paradigm of Human Interaction. This is the mindset that sees life as a cooperative, not a competitive arena. It’s based on the principle that there is plenty for everyone, that one person’s success isn’t achieved at the expense of others. “It’s not your way or my way; it’s a better way, a higher way.”
Many people have become jaded with the ways of our world. There is war and violence, theft and abuse. There is illness and death, grief and sorrow. But there is also love, connection and altruism. There is laughter, joy and sharing. The opening speech of Love Actually says it so perfectly:
“Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
What if it’s not you versus me, and us versus them? What if we came together, helped one another, and recognised that we are part of the same whole? What if we gave love to ourselves and others? And accepted the love that is all around?
Last night, I attended an amazing gig – Paddy Casey and The Secret Light Orchestra featuring the Shannon and Dublin Gospel Choir. The song Paddy started with was There is Light. I’ll finish with his beautiful words:
“We are everything, we are everything. And we have wild and precious songs to sing. We are lights that shine, throughout all time. We have all of this and more to bring… And the love that moves between us all knows we are the same.”
Posted in Love, Modern Society, Spirituality
Tagged 9/11, abundance, abuse, africa, airport, altruism, beauty, christmas, competition, connection, cooperation, death, dublin gospel choir, earth, evil, feed the world, gifts, god, greed, grief, hatred, help, homeless, illness, joy, laughter, life, love, love actually, lyrics, music, one, oneness, paddy casey, plenty, scarcity, shannon gospel choir, sharing, songs, sorrow, spirituality, starving, stephen covey, success, the secret light orchestra, the seven habits of highly effective people, theft, there is light, twin towers, universe, vicar street, violence, war, win/win paradigm of human interaction, world
Last night, I went to see The National in the O2. They were amazing. Matt Berninger’s voice sounded just like it does on their albums. And he really got into the performance.
The person with me commented: “They don’t write songs for the public, they write songs for themselves.” This really rang true. The lead singer appeared to let go when he was on stage. It was like he was losing himself in his passion, exposing his darkest thoughts and deepest emotions, sharing his heart with all of us. It felt raw and honest.
We could only get seated tickets, which was fine as The National’s music is quite relaxing. But there was no dancing or jumping in our section of the arena. However, after a while, the energy of the musicians rippled into the crowd. The woman in front of us started raising her hand and standing after each song. The man beside me played air guitar. And I swayed and roared in appreciation.
I gazed at a beautiful visual behind the band of the ocean and a sun-streaked sky. I was brought back to times when I swam in the sea or bobbed on a boat. I had felt free and alive.
I thought: How often do we experience these things in our everyday lives? When do we allow ourselves to let go and become one with that joy, that aliveness?
Perhaps when we drink alcohol, take drugs, have sex or go on holidays. Or when we attend gigs like this one. We connect with that passion when we witness someone living their dream, when another human being lets us in to the honesty and depth of their authentic selves.
We become truly present. We enjoy all of our senses. And we give ourselves permission to be free, even if just for one day, one night, one moment…
Posted in Random
Tagged alcohol, aliveness, authenticity, beauty, concert, connection, dancing, darkness, dreams, drugs, dublin, emotion, freedom, gig, heart, holidays, honesty, ireland, joy, letting go, life, living, matt berninger, music, ocean, oneness, passion, presence, raw, relaxation, sex, song, soul, spirit, summer, sunshine, swimming, talent, the national, the o2, thoughts, truth
A girl walks by the window of the café I am sitting in. She has a limp, a large head, glasses, and her mouth is set in a sort of grimace. I look away as I don’t want her to think I’m staring just because she doesn’t look like the average human being.
Then, it strikes me – how many other people refuse to look this little girl’s way for the very same reason? If she doesn’t already feel different from the rest of the world, surely a lifetime of averted gazes will add to her sense of separateness and disconnection. Doesn’t she too deserve to be showered with looks of love, admiration and interest? Should she too not experience a world of inclusion and togetherness? I watch her sit in to a car. And I watch her father sit in beside her. Tears come to my eyes at the pure, unconditional love that I have been looking away from all these years.
In my lifetime, so far, I have not had much contact with people with special needs and so I feared that I wouldn’t know how to relate to these people or how to treat them. I worried that I wouldn’t do the “right” thing. I now realise that I was too much in my head and so very far removed from my heart. I also know that it is fear and ignorance that is at the root of discrimination, bullying, violence and even war.
Just this morning, on Hay House Radio, a woman phoned in to speak about her newly born child, who has special needs. She worried that she wouldn’t be able for the challenges that this new life would bring. Interestingly, the presenter pointed out that this situation would teach her compassion. Not for her daughter so much as for the people she might encounter, who would ridicule and ostracise her child.
Life is life in all its forms and shapes and containers. A soul is a soul no matter the physical appearance of the instrument. And beauty is the light that burns bright within and around each and every being in the Universe. The lesson is to learn from every person we come into contact with and, even more importantly, from how we react to these people. Today, this is the lesson that I have learned. And so I thank that beautiful girl on the street with all of my heart.
True beauty is witnessed with love
Photo credit: Jessica Watson
Posted in Love, Modern Society, Spirituality
Tagged autism, beauty, bullying, discrimination, exclusion, family, fear, hatred, hay house radio, ignorance, inclusion, life, light, love, oneness, ostracism, parents, society, soul, special needs, spirit, spirituality, togetherness, unconditional love, universe, violence, war