The sunshine has been pulling me outdoors recently, and I’ve been exploring unfamiliar areas close to my new home. This afternoon I went down to the water’s edge—it’s my first spring here and I want to know how the river is when her ice breaks up. This path meant a lot of stairs, down and then up. When I got home I thought to myself: “There’s a big difference between a long walk and a long walk with stairs.”
So that’s my insight for you today. Give yourself credit for the stairs, and rest a little more. Inner work, creative work, spiritual work, and emotional transformation: these activities take a lot of energy, use different muscles, and require a special kind of focus. Just like stairs. Whatever it is in your life that you realize takes something more of you than you have been acknowledging, honour it. Honour yourself and the work you do with the stairs.
I have been going to Teresa Doyle’s weekly sound yoga classes off and on for several years. We sing some Latin rounds at times, but mostly we sing and chant in Sanskrit. I have learned a great deal in these wonderful classes and have become more at home with my voice. Most of all, I have learned to let the song come through me. I have received some compliments on my singing from people in this group, and frankly, at first this puzzled me very much. I have sung most of my life, but apart from the odd comment here and there, based on the feedback from the outside world, I concluded there was nothing special about my voice or my singing, at least, nothing that could be detected by others. Of course—in my own world, singing along to music in the car—I sometimes felt I was a superstar!
On Christmas, I took my mother to church, and the first hymn was “Joy to the World”. I noticed (for the first time) that it started on an irritatingly high note—rather hard to hit if you haven’t even warmed up yet. Nevertheless, I enjoyed singing all the Christmas carols though I noticed that it was a strain on my voice and felt somewhat forced. I also noticed that my right shoulder began to ache.
The next night, I got out the old Christmas music books and started playing my parents’ new electronic piano. Unfortunately, the beloved Heintzman on which I learned to play did not come with my parents when they moved back to town about a year ago. I picked out the chords for some favourite Christmas songs and as I sang along, I noticed again how high the high notes were and how tight it felt in my body to hit them. (I must say here that for decades, I have NOT been a fan of electronic pianos. For me, it was only the old pianos that had life and character in them. But, after adjusting the key touch on this piano, I began to like the sound and feel of it.) There were a number of buttons above the keyboard and one of them said transpose. I thought to myself, what if…? And I yanked out the manual to figure out how to use this function. I then transposed “Joy to the World” down 3 keys and lo and behold, it felt wonderful to sing it! Other songs I transposed 4 or even 5 keys down. All this time, singing these songs, I’d been singing in a range that was unnatural to me and a strain on my voice. In high school choir I’d been put into second soprano, but was that really where my voice belonged?
It was a revelation to sing these familiar songs with comfort—to let the tunes really come through the natural instrument of my voice. Singing within my range, I finally felt in tune.
Then I started to think about all the other things that I do because I’ve gone along with where I’ve been slotted, not knowing any better, trying to conform to a shape that others made, when in fact, growing and flourishing means finding my own range, where my song and my efforts become magnified, like a resonant wave structure, in which the power is many times beyond what at first seemed possible. And I thought about other people struggling with the very same thing in many areas of their lives.
So that is my guiding wish for myself for 2012: to find more ways in my life that I can become in tune with the talents and natural range of this particular being that I am, to notice and to seek resonance. And I wish the same for all of you too.
I once worked at a law office downtown and walked to work. After some time, I visited a podiatrist for help with the pain in my left foot and ankle. I told him that it hurt when I walked to work but not when I walked home. His expression showed he thought this was either wacky or irrelevant. For myself, I wondered. I thought Maybe I’m in a rush when walking to work and when walking home I’m relaxed, which gives my feet a break. He made orthodics for me. After a time, I moved on to other jobs and the problem disappeared, or at least lessened. Even when I worked at a bookstore on my feet for many hours, the same pain did not recur.
And then I got a job at an office just 2 doors down from the former law office and started walking the same route to downtown again. The problem with my left foot recurred. This time I worked with a physiotherapist who told me my hips turned in. She gave me exercises to strenthen my hips, thighs, calves, and ankles. Squats, ankle raises, and exercises using a “step” all helped. And yes, it got better. But still I wondered: why does my foot hurt sometimes (especially when wearing those pink ribboned Sketchers) on the way to work and not on the way back?
One morning I noticed the reason — which was as obvious as the nose on my face — the sidewalk on Pownal slants! How could I not have noticed that before! On the way to work, it slants to the right, making me work to balance my feet constantly in my weak direction. On the way home, I often take Queen street, where the sidewalk is broad and level and my feet do not hurt. And in any case, if I take Pownal street home, the sidewalk slants now the other way, in relation to my body, which is not a problem for my feet to adjust to. Mystery solved!
Now I vary my route depending on my shoes and sometime take the West side of Pownal street where the sidewalk slants the other way. Just one more little story in praise of paying attention to the ground beneath our feet. And a big thank you to whoever created the gift of curiosity.
Oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, a little scorched because I was underneath my desk detaching and attaching wires on my new computer when I smelled a slight scent of burnt sugar in the air. But the chocolate chips are gooey, the brown sugar, flour, and butter: crisp and chewy. Delicious with a glass of milk. Better than bakery cookies. Of course! As I chewed, I thought of a café that would bake cookies for you while you waited at a table, reading and drinking tea…. Mmmmm. Cookies on order, hot out of the oven. In my dreams and on my table.