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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wherever you go, there you are...

Today is my last day at my job as a medical case manager. As I start my day, I realize that I truly have been lucky to have so many second chances in my life so far, including being able to come back here to work as a case manager.

I'm glad that I've grown enough to now know that second chances may not always come, which makes me all the more grateful that I get to return to my old workplace in public health and continue working in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

I've learned so much in the years since I worked there the first time, and I wouldn't trade those lessons for anything. But one of the best lessons came just a few months ago when my mom told me that if I didn't start learning to be content, life would make that happen for me.  That's when I realized that dreaming and contentment are not mutually exclusively states of mind. Contentment can keep your mind clear to see the signs you need to make your next step, it doesn't mean you will forever stay where you are. Life so far has taught me that striving to make the next moment happen has just kept me running in circles.

Be happy right where you are, because wherever you go... there you are.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Naima Mora - BUDDHIST IN AMERICA (+playlist)

Sometimes you just know there is something you like about a person, but can't put your finger on it! Naima always felt like a soul sister to me when I was watching her on ANTM...but it's obvious what it was...She's a Nichiren Buddhist!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Compare and Despair ... Words To Live By

I never disappointed when I spend a Sunday afternoon Livestreaming Agape International. I used to watch every Sunday and Wednesday until I started having to work on Sundays.  Lately I've just been watching when I felt particularly in need of a good message, but today's service just BLEW ME AWAY.

First off it blew me away because of the timeliness of the topic -- "Compare and Despair: Be Great if You Dare". I have been dealing with the "demon" of comparison a lot lately, and especially this weekend. I guess it could seem like a trivial coincidence.

If I can't pick up on the little signs I'm definitely going to miss the big ones.

Right before I sat down to meditate and chant, a still small voice told me to livestream.  Even though I initially didn't listen, and started googling about other stuff after my session(which I will be blogging about later), I kept getting this urge to tune in and I eventually did. Somehow I had waited the perfect amount of time for Dr. Beckwith's sermon, and it could not have been more clear that the universe was speaking to me this morning! But even more than that, I'm glad that I listened.

One of the most enduring things he said was that if I am not "me", then what I have to contribute gets lost to the universe and it isn't whole.  As I sit and think about that, it is a curious phenomenon that I can watch a documentary about bees disappearing and see the importance and connectedness of one bee "doing its thing" and pollinating flowers while looking for nectar, but the importance and connectedness of one human life (namely mine) gets lost.

I feel most disconnected from my dream when I get lost in comparison, and then bury my despair with some numbing activity (ie...facebook, youtube, reality tv, or entanglement in friends' drama; which often leads to more comparison). Comparison truly is what I think I battle the most. I look at Oprah, or Mandela and get so inspired with what one person can do with their life coming from very meager circumstances. If the deep urge or message that spoke to me were anything but to make music, then I may not be as terrified, but for me, the thing that requires the biggest battle and discipline is the thing I can't let go of.

I used to want to do nothing else in life but make music.  I practiced hours and hours, and learned to play the trumpet, clarinet, and even the bassoon (albeit briefly because it drove my mother crazy).  Music felt like it was a part of my soul, like I couldn't express or understand an emotion fully unless I had a musical soundtrack with it. I knew I wanted to make music then.  I was such a creative child.  I designed clothes, made paper dolls with full interchangeable wardrobes, I wrote songs, made clothes for my dolls out of old clothes.  (Thank God I grew up before the Internet!)  Where did all of that go?

Even as I type, the shadow that comparison casts on my life has become more apparent. We live in a society that doesn't value art, and in the most benevolent way, people steered me, and many of my schoolmates towards things that would actually get us a job. I was in a Math, Science, Technology magnet school, and comparison and competition was the name of the game.  We magnet kids were made to feel better than the neighborhood kids that went there, and within the magnet program it was an all out competition to be on top so that you could get into the best high school and beyond.

Maybe I feel entitled to always feel successful at what I do because of that experience. Comparison in the past has crippled me by always expecting to be successful, and comparison has been crippling me lately because I see people who are ahead of me, and how I got behind and lost along the way.

The best thing about the sermon is that it breaks down the pitfalls and faulty logic of comparison.  For me, it doesn't matter who is singing and promoting themselves on facebook or social media, they are fighting their own battles that I know nothing about. If they haven't done their own soul's work, they may attack and jeer, despairing in their own abyss of comparison.

I have to do my own soul's work, so that when people see me doing my thing and shining my light, they can see and feel The Presence.  

But I have one goal now...and that is to reclaim my divine inheritance.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

My life in metaphors...

This morning before meditating, I decide to read some Rumi. I didn't have any particular attachment or prior knowledge about this poem in particular, but a lot of times I like to randomly open a "sacred" book, and take in whatever I read as an auspicious message about the present from "the universe" (God, Spirit, or whichever label I'm using at the moment). So this is what I read today...

These words of mine are no stones
To pick and throw at passing fancies.
They're yeast-sounds, bread waiting
To be broken whilst they're still fresh.
Leave them overnight and they become
Hard as rustling bolts, not fit for eating.
My verse is harboured in lovers' hearts.
Expose it to the indifferent world
Busy with its traffic and it chokes to death.
Like a fish it swims in the lover's blood.
Land it on the rocks and it gasps for life
Then it slowly dies, cold and still as an icicle.
You must be rich with metaphors.
Like an ore of gold waiting to be mined
If you are to digest my words
When they're fresh.  Know this,
My friend, it's nothing new,
These words are turned to bliss when you
Read them with your own imagining heart.

(Rumi - Divan 981 - "Words of Paradise" - Raficq Abdulla)
Instantly I could see myself being 22 again, talking to my therapist about conflicts I was having with my boyfriend at the time. I was pouring my heart out to him, so I thought, never getting anything back in return.  I would write letters, and emails, with the most beautiful language and metaphors (so I was told by him), but he had no idea how to respond.  After bringing one of my letters into my session and reading it to her, she pointed out to me that she could understand why he would have a hard time responding because what I had written was full of symbolism and metaphors, but short on actual emotional confessions.  Thankfully, I no longer have any of the evidence...

What became clear to me is that somewhere along the line of becoming an adult who can keep a roof over her head and still have some time to have fun (when not working two jobs), my life has lost its metaphors, and damn it, I want them back!  At 22, I was a person "rich with metaphors" as the poem says, undeterred by conflicting evidence and practicality. I had no real convictions, no discipline, just dreams. As I approach 35 I realize that one of the big changes I need to make is to resurrect that 22 year old, or maybe dig back even further.

The benefit of approaching 35 is that a lot of questions my 22 year old mind had about my future have been answered.  I have become a professional woman doing meaningful work, and looking good while I'm at it.  I haven't found a companion in life but I finally realize that's not the end of the world.  I never became a good housekeeper, but I've become a great cook.  Most importantly of all, I have found my way back to spirituality, albeit a long way from being raised a Jehovah's Witness.

I really think this poem, at this moment in my life is asking me, how can I truly be spiritual, and know the I am connected to everything, without loving the metaphors? What benefits will my spirituality have for me in creating anything musically or artistically if I am not a welcoming vessel for fantasy and symbolism? I read over these lines several times in particular:
My verse is harboured in lovers' hearts.
Expose it to the indifferent world
Busy with its traffic and it chokes to death.
Like a fish it swims in the lover's blood.
I think on a certain level I was already moving in this direction without knowing it, which makes it all the more auspicious (I love this word, one of my favorite words in the English language). I've been limiting my time watching political shows, limiting my time on facebook, finding more time to connect with people and with Spirit.

On the most basic level I've been struggling with dreaming big, and at times feeling childish to think that something magical can still happen, and will happen in my life. But I can't escape who I am, and in my gut I really do believe there is more in store, even bigger than I can imagine, if I just get rid of the junk and negativity.

I still find it hard to believe I've been able to do some of the things I've done, but back when I lived in metaphors, the money mysteriously came from "no-where" to "now-here" (thanks, Wayne Dyer for that), a person's heart changed, my heart changed, my life changed.... I think somewhere along this path my logical brain started taking credit for that, or at least diminishing the mystery and synchronicity of those moments.

I can't let go of dreaming. I must nurture my lover's heart.

 I want to sing, but I don't have to fill stadiums on a world tour like Beyonce. It feels like I'm cheating myself not to dream that I can, while at the same time it feels ridiculous to dream that I can, especially being almost 35 and still afraid to sing in front of people.  I don't even think that level of fame is  anything I want out of life or out of making music for that matter.

I can't dream half a dream, so my dream of singing is inextricably tied to something more huge.  I'm not sure if I expect to get there or not, but what I've learned today is I can't stop dreaming big just because I'm afraid that not achieving the dream is going to destroy me.  I need my 22 year old heart, and maybe my 12 year old imagination back.
"I wake up with new dreams every day. So the more I can do to channel that into things that I love to create is healthier for me and probably for everybody around me. And the older I get, the earlier I get up. The second my feet hit the floor, I'm awake. I'm like hurry, hurry. I just love life. And I feel like we ain't got but a certain amount of time anyway. I want to make the most of all of it." -- Dolly Parton (Source: Reader's Digest - January 2006)
In the end, I must dream the dreams I have today and do what I can to make them happen, because tomorrow brings a new day and a new dream. The better I get at bringing them to life, the better I will get at dreaming.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Don't die with your music still in you..

This is not a post about death.  Although I did attend a funeral today, my thoughts are actually centered on life, and more importantly, living.  At 34 years old, on this day, the difference is finally apparent to me.

As we approached 2014, around early December 2013, I really felt as if I had gone mad. Not foaming at the mouth crazy, not mentally or emotionally unstable either.  Truthfully, I felt as if my logic and tenacity had led me to an illogical and distracting conclusion.  To put it simply, after earning a Bachelor's Degree, starting a Master's Degree, working for a couple of years, then earning a degree in Cosmetology, I decided that the perfect way for me to lay the groundwork for eventually singing would be to go to Nursing school in the evenings, while working a full time job during the day.

I finally had a Susan Powter moment with myself...."STOP THE INSANITY"

It helped that my friends mom, upon hearing the news of my newest educational endeavor, told him that I would one day be the most educated unemployed person in America. I was really pissed at first, but then I realized....she was right....almost...

I had to really think about what I was trying to achieve or prove by doing this.  I realized that I love the "pats on the back" that I get from doing what others think they can't do.  Sure, I have all the grace and compassion to tell people "If I can do it, you can do it" But in the end it was all covering up something deeper.

I am still afraid to dive in, sing, and make music.

I started this blog in December of 2009 as a way to make myself accountable, to put myself out there, and to even "put that energy out there" so to speak. I named my blog "The Timid Chanteuse" because that's what I felt then, like I was just on the verge of getting over my fear, and all I needed was to whisper that to the universe, (and the few readers I had) and magically it would happen. I sometimes hear people talking about "putting that energy out there", which makes them sound really spiritual, when it is usually connected to some materialistic desire.

What I realized last month, is that what I needed was to "put that energy inward" instead of "out there". No matter how many times I heard it, it has taken this long for me to realize that the only true change comes from inside of me. Studying nursing is going to make me a nurse...not a performer.  Seems like simple logic for someone with a Master's Degree. Why not take those thousands of dollars I was about to pay out of pocket (because after a Bachelor's, Master's, and Cosmetology diploma I can't borrow anymore) and go to a cabaret workshop, find a better voice teacher, take piano lessons....

So, I quit my second job that was making me miserable, and have gone back to the basics. Meditating twice a day, reading a book called The Practicing Mind, turning off the lights and all electronics at 11:00 (no matter what). I'm practicing the piano, vocalizing, and looking for a new voice teacher.

As for the title of the post, I was watching Wayne Dyer's The Power of Intention last night, and felt awakened by his discussion of The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy. I was busy taking notes when he stopped me in my tracks by saying "Don't die with your music still in you..." Even though he was speaking in general terms to the audience, the deeper meaning of that moment was not lost on me.

Contemplating life is not living, researching singing and wanting to sing is not singing. The funeral I went to was moving and beautiful because a man had lived life fully and given of himself to so many people. No one can be touched by a life lived in my head, a song sung in my imagination. No one will eulogize all the things I kept wrapped up in my head.

I commit myself to putting energy inward, so that the music can flow out.