I AM NOT A MUSICIAN.
…or so I keep telling myself, but my relationship to music and the way it manifests through me seems to be up for reconsideration.
I love to sing. My voice has always been my chosen musical medium, and other than my ceremonial hand drum, I have only ever played an instrument with the intention of providing a background for song to pour through me. Over the last several years as I stepped more fully into the practice of channeling healing songs during my energy work, what began as a few hesitant notes and chants eventually grew in fluency and fluidity. They now flow effortlessly in a cascade of moving energy to support nurturing, catharsis, activation, clearing and death. The healing songs I bring forth have given a voice to the grief, joy, innocence, pain, sweetness, rage and love of my clients (and of myself). Sometimes these songs have words, but mostly they consist of a blend of syllables and tones that provide some semblance of structure to an otherwise formless melody. While there might be similar themes, most of the songs are completely new in the moment and leave my consciousness as soon as they pour out of my throat. One or two, however, have come through so often and so strongly that I know them as allies that are here to stay and can call upon them consciously.
So, you might ask, what is it that has me meditating on the medicine of music? Let me take you through some standout events of the past week.
Last Friday, I attended a gong meditation and sound healing bath. I absolutely love these events and always go deep with the sound healing, and this was no exception. Despite the volume and intensity of the gong, I fell asleep, as I do when receiving deep healing. When I awoke near the end of the event, I suddenly heard a chorus of flutes within the shimmering tones of the gong. I listened, transfixed, and perceived the melodies of the ancestors making their way through the gong vibration. I felt my body respond with subtle shifts and releases as the sound of flutes intensified.
The next evening, I went to the closing ceremony of Sun Gate studio. In addition to the beautiful community container and celebration of the space, this wonderful event featured some amazing live music. As I drank in the deep heart songs, I heard that same chorus of ancestral flutes! Someone there was playing the flute, but what came through was much richer and more ancient than a single instrument and I knew that the ancestors were making their presence known. Later in the evening as other musicians shared their medicine, I experienced similar sensations of seeing/knowing/feeling the space from which they were channeling, and feeling that intimate connection with my own version of bringing forth healing songs.
Also at this event, I ran into a friend of mine whom I hadn’t seen in a while. He is a wonderful cellist, and we have enjoyed the occasional singing and playing together. He asked me, “Michelle, when are we going to make some music together?” I told him I don’t play an instrument, and he said “Well yeah, I know, but you sing.” I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I do remember the feelings of resistance and shame and shyness that rushed through me, because after all, I’m not a musician and would have nothing to offer.
Fast forward a couple of days to a conversation with a friend. I don’t remember how the conversation arrived at this point, but he said something to the effect of “You’re going to sing during your speech” (meaning the speech that I gave yesterday at Embrace Festival) and my reaction was along the lines of “Haha, yeah right. I’m not a musician.”
The conference began on Friday, and the very first speaker was a woman from Australia who captivated me with her heartfelt talk on nonviolent direct action… and the pieces of songs of Australian First People that she wove into her talk.
Yesterday, I gave my speech at the conference, and as my friend predicted, I sang onstage. It was entirely unplanned, but as I gave my talk, I realized that I was actually offering a group healing session to the audience. In typical fashion, a healing song poured out of me. That was the first time I had ever sung a healing song in any kind of public context—a fact that didn’t register with me until just now.
Last night, I received some more deep medicine of powerful heart music during the Embrace Festival closing ceremony. I enjoyed every musical offering, but hearing Peia and the profound ancestral magic that poured out of her left me dissolving and raw.
…oh, and yesterday, a friend with whom I haven’t spoken in several months got in touch out of the blue to ask if I wanted to buy her ukulele.
…and the woman from Australia, after hearing me sing a healing song during my talk, said she wanted to give me some songs, so we sang magic together as we walked through the streets of downtown Portland.
I don’t really need to be a “musician.” I don’t even know what that means. But I do think my relationship to song and the way in which I share it with the world is up for reexamination. I know I cracked at least a few people open from giving my talk, and song medicine was a part of that. Given my philosophy on radical transparency (the reason I publish all the personal musings), if anyone anywhere could benefit even a little bit from me sharing a story, no matter how vulnerable, then I share it. I think the same goes for song. I have no idea what that looks like moving forward, but I will hold space for it to manifest in its perfect space and time.
Words—my normal, comfortable means of communication and a significant component of my medicine—seem to be failing me at the moment. The same thing happened repeatedly last week whenever the music cracked me wide open (as it did a few times) and I was left trying to communicate that which exists beyond words. Better quit while I’m ahead and leave it to a song for another time.