Leaning Back

The moon is shaded behind dense clouds when my journey-buddy and I settle in. We converse for a while, getting to the crux of what it is we want to ask, setting our intentions before letting the drum take us to the spirit world.

I’ve been struggling with faith for months. The meaning of it eludes me. The practice of it evades me. Panic sets in whenever I review the circumstances of my life. Reading books is only helping me understand that this isn’t an intellectual issue. Steadfast journal-writing only spirals me in and out of comfort. Singing, toning, tapping: nothing shifts the weight. I’m feeling lost, discouraged, stopped in my tracks. I don’t know what’s best to do. Worse, I’m beginning to entertain notions that I might be a fraud. What spiritual guide or teacher has no faith?

So, it comes to me: Ask. How important is it for me to have faith? What are my road blocks to it?

The drum sounds, warm and true. My spirit world mentor stands before me. “Do you trust me?” he asks? “Yes, of course. Implicitly.”

“Then,” he says, “trust in what you know.”

“You mean guidance?”

He nods, and a file drawer opens in my chest. It’s filled with folders whose headings are the many ways I receive guidance, and they are stuck with reminder notes: stay in the present, the only time we can really know. “Trusting in what you know allows you to have faith in the unknowable,” he tells me.

Then, he kneels behind me. “Lean back,” he says. “Whenever you are holding your breath, over thinking, lean back.” I lean back and feel all dread melt from my body.

I remember a poem from thirty years ago.

First Lesson – Phillip Booth

Lie back, daughter, let your head
be tipped back in the cup of my hand.
Gently, and I will gold you.  Spread
your arms wide, lie out on the stream
and look high at the gulls.  A dead-
man’s float is face down.  You will dive
and swim soon enough where this tidewater
ebbs to the sea.  Daughter, believe
me, when you tire on the long thrash
to your island, lie up, and survive.
As you float now, remember when fear
cramps your heart what I told you:
lie gently and wide to the light-year
stars, lie back, and the sea will hold you.
The full measure of my being is held.

I also remember some years ago, taking a class on pruning for aesthetics. The instructor had trained with a bonsai master and practiced the art of revealing, through pruning, the authentic expression of trees and shrubs. One of the key ingredients of the process he taught was what he called the dance. Study the plant, look at the structure, see what needs to come away. Step in. Make a few cuts. Step back. Repeat. If you make too many cuts at one time, you can get lost.

The way forward is such a dance. Gather direction. Take action. Lean back. Repeat. Minute by minute. Mundane tasks or making art. Running your business or doing your social life. The arc of your life is unknowable. Surprises are in store. Even miracles. Lean back. Trust.

Since my mentor’s instructions, I’ve been a bit obsessive. “Really? You want me to use all the mushrooms in this dish?” (And, of course, it was delicious).

I’ve also exercised my will and tested his guidance.

One evening, following a particularly fruitful day, I wanted to watch a movie. I felt a nudge to check the last things off my list instead, but it was nearly 8, and I was feeling a bit full of my oats. So, I watched the movie. It was a good movie. I was entertained, engaged. But when it was over, I felt bland and vaguely disappointed, as if I’d chosen to stare at the ceiling when I could have been to a gallery. I tried laughing at myself, and yet, while getting ready for bed, I felt the edginess of panic creep in.

Even though my superior mind finds it a bit hard to believe that some of the things I’m guided to do could have any bearing on my sustainable future, my wise body is free from terror’s grip.

Communion in Full Voice

2 communion

On April 11 I will join Elena Singing Otter, once again, to offer “Singing the Spark: Igniting the Flame of Communion.” This is the final in our series of empowering voice workshops. It’s been amazing.

When we circle up this time, I’ll coach the chorus into a gospel choir, complete with movement, singing out loud, and layers of spontaneous outbursts of joy. I will also guide an exercise to seat the voice in the pelvic floor. This supports the whole vocal expression by opening a channel of spirited energy through the body.

Elena will introduce creating a sound pool through free-form toning. Sound pools allow participants to enter ecstatic states and there to receive guidance or insight or to shift energy or perspective on an issue.

Following “Singing the Spark,” we will hold monthly, open, facilitated sound pools.

A glorious way to stay tuned!

Singing Your Heart Out


The human voice is the most powerful and effective musical instrument, or tool, for the holistic healing of the human organism. Whether it is one’s own voice or the voices of others, a healing vocal sound touches us not only in our bodies but in our souls as well. – Kay Gardner – Sounding the Inner Landscape

Aging has done a number on my voice. Her range is lower and frustratingly narrow. She’s become unpredictable, at times crackling and creaking. Frankly, she’s been a disappointment. I hung her in the closet some years ago, pulling her out only on the rare occasion when an old friend requests I sing a lullaby, a grace, or a benediction. Otherwise, this once powerful instrument that used to open all manner of doors to me has been allowed to tarnish and fade.

Then Steve handed me a book one morning while I visited him and his wife, one of my dearest friends, Sharon. I read the first few paragraphs, and there rose up in me such a powerful whoop of energy, I had to lay the book back down, breathe a bit, and pace. The book: Toning: The Creative Power of the Voice by Elizabeth Laurel Keyes. It was days before I dared look again.

I knew the end had come. I could no longer reject my voice and let it languish in neglect. I had to sit up straight, fill with air, and release sound. I had to follow my voice like a writer follows her pencil or a painter her brush, and discover all the light and heat I had stored away.

She compelled me to restore the practice of offering voicing circles to others. All the better that she creaks and can’t always be controlled. Perhaps her age and apparent lack of conventional beauty will give others permission to belt out their tunes. I can’t say. But she won’t let me be unless I share the joy.

Elena Singing Otter and I offer the third in our series, Singing Your Heart Out: The Healing Power of Your Voice, Saturday, 7 February.

You are warmly invited.

Trusting Your Feet

August, 1990. Black Tail Ranch. Wolf Creek, Montana.

With darkness falling through tall pines, we follow Brooke Medicine Eagle up a road, just wide enough for a pick-up truck. One bend. Two. Below our feet, gravel crunches, scuffs, and scatters. Above us, and above the trees, stars trail.


We are away from everything – husbands, homes, families, careers – the fixtures of our lives and frameworks for our choices. We’ve come questing. What can we know? How can we heal? Who are we? Who sends us? What sustains us? How may we serve?

In the morning we’ll be off to our chosen places. There to sit, to empty, and to receive. To sit so that we won’t be caught up in doing or trying. To empty that we might open our more subtle senses. And, while being and sensing, to receive: vision, insight, connection to spirit and our truest selves.

Now, it surprises us that we’re even away from camp: tents, teaching space, dining room, showers. Until now, everything we’ve done has been in daylight or in the lesser but comforting light of fire. Darkness always lay outside. Now, we’ve climbed to the end of the road. We are outside. In the night.

As we started out, Brooke told us it was important to experience the night in the safety of company before we go soloing in the hills.

We’re told to fan out a bit and find our way, through the trees, down the slope, to the lower switch of the road. Brooke, lithe as a doe, runs off between the pines. Eyes widen to keep her in sight. She turns. “Don’t try to see,” she calls. “It’s better if you trust your feet.”

She turns, again, and is gone.

Nervous laughter glimmers through us. Some take hesitant steps, eyes on the ground. A few more stretch out their arms for balance, and send first one foot and then the next, toes tapping before committing. Others simply walk. One or two whoop and run, barely avoiding the trees.

Everyone meets on the road below. Relieved. Proud. Jubilant.

♦ ♦ ♦

In starlight, it’s not really possible to see in the ways we’re used to seeing. When we seek something new, it can by like walking into a starlit landscape, one we once knew but is now unfamiliar. How do we walk into a mystery?  How do we navigate? How does it feel to trust?

Imagine finding your way through feeling Earth under your feet, guiding.


A Call

You are called.

How do you know?

Maybe you feel restless, tugged, full of longing, inspired. Is there something you crave to do, say, learn, or become?

How can you trust these feelings? What do they mean? Where do they come from? What are you supposed to do?

Could it be you’re part of something huge, something overarching and connecting us all?

What will happen if you answer this call? How will it be if you don’t?

How do you walk your path? Does it require wild abandon? Or can you keep your feet on the ground?

What will sustain you? Where will it lead?

Perhaps we can wade into your questions together.