I love my growing community of author friends. It’s one of the things I’m discovering that I love about having published a book. Together, we share the joys and frustrations of selling ourselves and our books. We share our experiences and ideas and inspire each other onward. We support one another and celebrate each other’s triumphs. We lovingly steal each other’s great ideas and learn from one another’s mistakes. Fellow John Hunt author, Carolyn Mathews, sent me the following list of questions as part of a bloghopping party. I’m not sure where the party started, but since I’m here, I might as well dance…
2. Where did the idea come from for the book or project? Originally, I was wanting to write a non-fiction book about sound healing. It was taking me years, so I turned the book into fiction, and poof! It was written in a couple of months.
3. What genre does it fall under, if any? My book is a tricky one to place. It is a work of fiction and yet it is based on truth. It is written like a manual in some respects, so there is a self-help element to it. But it is also a good story.
4. If applicable, who would you choose to play your characters in a movie? I love this question. Whoopie Goldberg comes to mind to play the eccentric Goddess character. She’s got the ‘tude and sense of humor to carry it off…and a pretty dynamite voice to match. For the struggling vocalist, I would cast Emily Blunt or Zooey Deschenel .
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your manuscript or project? This is the story of a woman determined to find her authentic voice as she walks through the 10 Gates of Sound with the Goddess of Music by her side.
6. Will your book or story be self-published or represented by an agency? It is already published by Roundfire, an imprint of John Hunt Publishing.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript? I sort of already answered that. I took about 2 months once I decided to swing towards fiction.
8. What other book or stories would you compare this story to within the genre? Victor Wooten’s The Music Lesson comes to mind as does Illusions by Richard Bach. It has some Carlos Castaneda to it too.
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book or story? Life inspired me. Music inspired me. All of my teachers inspired me.
10. What else about the book or story might pique the reader’s interest? This book is really magical. That isn’t just a subtitle. If someone is ready to do its work, it is going to start a transformational process.
I’ve tagged the following authors to answer these same questions on their blogs:
“You have more words for diseases than you do for health. You have more words for conflict than you do for joy and love. You have more words for anger than for bliss. You have more words for control than you do for freedom. This is coded within your language. Your language creates this world for you every day of your lives.”
~Lumari, author of Alawashka: Language of Creation
“Do English, Indonesian, Russian and Turkish speakers end up attending to, understanding, and remembering their experiences differently simply because they speak different languages?” The answer is a resounding “YES!” Check out this article recently published in the Wall Street Journal by Lera Boroditsky.
Perhaps this is just more new science in support of old ideas, but it’s still pretty cool.
Funny, the first book isn’t even out yet, and I’m already 8000 words into the next one! What is it, you ask? Something along the lines of The Unknown Mother Companion. It will be a combination journal/workbook that will lead the reader through the 10 Gates of Sound with activities and exercises for reclaiming your voice with a capital “V”. Everything that Wrenne experiences in her apprenticeship with Matrina in The Unknown Mother will be broken down into practices to help build your awareness of the vocal mechanism, the breath, letters, words, stories, sound, and silence. It’s going to be a book of power and magic filled with glorious attunements and inspiring surprises. I’m having a blast creating it! Patience, grasshoppers. I have no clue when it will be complete.
I thought it might be fun to share a passage that I had decided to exclude from the book. Here, our Goddess, Matrina, instructs Wrenne on how the various elements…earth, wind, air, fire, metal, and ether…express themselves through the voice. Enjoy!
“Matrina, we talked once…way back when…about instruments representing the different elements. I recently remembered that and got to thinking. Do people’s voices represent an element as well?”
“Excellent topic for today’s discussion. As a matter of fact, every voice is made up of varying degrees of each of the elements, and where an individual may fall on the continuum of vocal flexibility is determined by the access he or she has to each of the elements as well as the extent to which each element is in balance with the others.”
“Whoa, slow down. Say what?” I was having trouble processing everything she was saying.
“Elemental imbalance is revealed through the voice.”
I tried to grok what that could mean. “So…a person who has an imbalance of…let’s say earth…would sound…how exactly?”
“Let’s just say person who exhibits a great deal of earth in his voice would tend to speak low in pitch and slowly thus bringing about a feeling of groundedness, reliability and emotional security. Or negatively aspected, perhaps the person would come across as rigid and opinionated or even dull and lazy.”
“I can imagine that.” The face of Rocky Balboa entered my mind. “I just thought of Rocky. Is he an earth voice?”
“Good example. Whereas someone exhibiting water traits would be more apt to instill a joyful, healing, and comforting feeling in the listener; that is to say, if they didn’t instead come across as overemotional, jealous or false as their voice meanders in speed and pitch.”
“Wait…is it good or bad to have a watery voice?”
“Child, there you go with that good or bad again! Each of the elements can present itself in either positive or negative aspects. None of it is good or bad. It just is, but if an element is well balanced with all others, it is more likely that the positive aspects will express.”
I must have been frowning a little. She reached out her hand and gently patted the top of my head, letting me know she wasn’t scolding me.
“It is no different whether we are referring to the speaking or singing voice,” she added.
“So what elements do you hear in my voice?” I was almost afraid to ask.
“Your voice expresses a lot of metal, fire, and earth. Sometimes water. Your air is very controlled.”
In my head, I kept thinking metal wasn’t an element; it caused me to completely forget everything else she had just said, but I was too embarrassed to admit it.
“Fire in the voice evokes enthusiasm, excitement, and connection to our intuition. But it can also signify anger, impulsivity or instability. Air is the transformer, it uplifts and spreads understanding, but it can sometimes be impatient, flighty, or worrisome.”
She ignored me. “Too little air, and a voice may evoke inertia. Space provides awareness without judgment and accommodates all that arises. Too much space may signify a loss of purpose, lack of presence, or overwhelm. And metal, metal at its worst can suggest oversensitivity and tendencies to overanalyze. Here’s where you should say, ‘Moi?’
I rolled my eyes.
“But expressed in its positive aspects, metal evokes beauty, truth, and strength.” She looked so deep into my eyes when she said that. I didn’t know whether to feel complimented or frightened.
“Have you even considered the underlying energies at play when you speak or sing?” she asked.
“I’m not sure what you mean. Like technique?”
“No, not exactly. I’m talking about something much deeper. Sure, your voice has its own palette, from which technique arises. It’s distinguishable from every other voice. Technique is choosing which paints to use from this palette. But I’m talking about what kind of brushstroke to make, creating a work of art that portrays your unique message. Trouble is, most people have no idea what’s on their palette, let alone what brush to use. But this knowledge can turn an average performance into something inexplicably magical and magnetic.”
“Cool. You have my rapt attention.”
“Well, I’m sure you already know how dynamics, phrasing, and tonal quality can color your vocalizations.”
“Sure. I mean, if I use a breathy voice, I can portray something seductive or fragile. If I increase my volume, I can give something an edge or raise the energy of the lyric. Isn’t that just technique?”
“Yes, for the most part. You see, pitch, vibrato, how long you hold a note, how clearly you sing the lyric…these are all just colors on your palette. It’s what you use to paint with them that makes all the difference. The brushstroke is where the magic lies.”
“Okay. I’m not much of a painter, but I’ll try to stay with you on this one.”
“Ever notice how certain people just open their mouths and seem to command attention effortlessly from everyone around them?”
“I guess so.
“A fiery minister is a good examples of what I’m talking about. He knows how to exert control with his voice. Can you think of any vocalists who do that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe Barbara Streisand?”
“Sure. There’s power and strength. Barbara illustrates something invisible that I’m wanting you to see.”
“Hmm…not always easy to see the invisible, is it?”
“Have you ever read Rumi’s poetry?”
“Wow, from paint to poetry. Actually, yes. I have.”
“How would you describe his voice?”
“Wait, I’ve never heard his voice, have I? I mean, he wrote poetry a rather long time ago.”
“A voice is a voice…on the radio, on paper, or in your head. So, how would you describe Rumi’s voice?
“Well, there’s a lot of beauty and longing in it, I guess.”
“Excellent! Yes. Can you think of a singer who does that?”
I had to think about that. I worked through my fear of giving a wrong answer and said, “Maybe Frank Sinatra, with his eloquent phrasing and heart-touching deliveries.”
I sighed with relief.
Matrina leaned back in her chair. “I keep thinking of Marilyn Monroe with her lilting, breathy voice, myself.”
“Well, those two are certainly breeds apart from Barbara.”
“Yes! So you are starting to see after all!”
“But I still have no idea what it is I’m seeing. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to hear that I am understanding when I feel like I still have no clue.”
“Yet you are still listening. Because you recognize something in what I’m saying. It is a quality, a wisdom that you trust.”
A lightbulb flipped on in my mind. “Ah, are you showing me examples of brushstrokes?”
“Let’s see, we had the strong, powerful voice. Then there was the sweet, longing voice. And…the voice of knowledge?”
“Oh, heavens, not knowledge. Let’s call it wisdom or truth instead.” Matrina opened her mouth about to say more, then shook her head and remained quiet.
“Is one brushstroke better than the other?”
“I wouldn’t say that. They each have their purpose.”
Just when I thought I had it, the kernel of understanding popped. “I’m not sure if I get it, exactly.”
“I’m referring to a quality carried on the voice. It isn’t about a person’s actual intellect, or beauty or power. It’s is far less tangible.”
“So how on earth do you figure what these brushstrokes are and how to use them?”
“First you listen. You listen to the voices of others and notice where each particular voice lands in you. And then you pay attention when a message arises in you. Before you express it, what quality do you want your voice to convey? It’s all part of our art. The point is learning to listen with new ears and hearing the supernatural elements at play behind the music. It’s an exercise in building awareness.”
“I’m beginning to think everything is an exercise in building awareness.”
“Well of course, honey, you came here to experience yourself. An understanding of these brushstrokes represents a new approach to your own voice and its power to inspire or make an impact on others. As a vocalist, when are you engaging strength, when sweet longing, and when truth? Do you know how to blend those qualities together to create an intentional vocal color in a song? Or when to draw upon only one for greater impact?”
“Ug, I still have so much more to learn!”
Matrina pulled a magazine off of my coffee table.
“A strength voice that is weighted in the earth element would express itself as very controlling and literal.” She pointed to a picture of a prominent news figure. “But on the other hand, a strength voice that is weighted in fire might be more like that of a zealous and fanatical preacher.” This time she pointed to a political figure. “This is not to say that all strength voices would express negative traits. A strength fire could also be represented by someone with the ability to awaken people and start a much needed revolution, for example.” She pointed to a photograph of a well-known singer. A sweet longing voice with an abundance of water might be very intoxicating, the voice of a tender lover perhaps. Or a sweet longing voice mixed with ether might be able to bring harmony to two warring factions.” She turned the page to a photo of an activist Indian woman I had seen on the news. “When we add the earth element to a truth voice, we get hope and wisdom in a mix that would calm our fears and raise us up above illusion.” Now she was showing me a picture of a celebrated author. “Or if we add fire to a truth voice, we may discover the voice of our intuition.”
“Ack, I’m lost.”
“Honey, it doesn’t all have to make sense. It’s working its way through you. Trust in that.”
“So, how do I apply this information?”
“Your song and the way you present it expresses at least one of the voice types as well as a unique combination of elements. This is your art, your alchemy, but only if you bring your attention and consciousness to your expression. Without consciousness, you are at the mercy of the elements rather than their master.”
“But I still don’t get what I’m supposed to do.”
“Why not try singing with the intent of expressing a particular element? Then, when you repeat the song, apply another element. What do you notice? What changes? What do you feel? What feedback do you receive? You know, maybe just a touch of air will lighten a line that feels overweighted with earth. Or perhaps some ether will open up a crowded lyric.”
“Sounds like the only way to really understand this is to just experiment.”
In The Unknown Mother, Matrina speaks with Wrenne about how the concepts in which we place our faith or belief affect the structures of our lives and the way we approach our problems. She compares the US reaction to the terrorist attacks of 9-11 with the more enlightened response of Norway to the more recent terror of Anders Breivik’s insanity.
Today, Norway continues to demonstrate a sane and responsible course of action based more in love than fear. Here is one example of, as my friend Kevin put it, “A magnificent approach to such a horrible event and situation.”
I just spent six days in silence at a retreat with Adyashanti, a zen-inclined spiritual teacher with a penchant for irreverent humor, cutting clarity, and straight-forward integrity. Like Matrina, the Goddess figure in The Unknown Mother, Adya reminded me of a lesson I too often seem to forget: it’s the SILENCE.
Looking back, I remembered what had drawn me into sound healing. It wasn’t to “be a sound healer.” It wasn’t to teach workshops or have a website or two or even to create instructional CD’s. It wasn’t to own cool sound healing toys like bowls and bells. It wasn’t because I wanted to teach people this stuff either, though that is a natural by-product. But somewhere along the path, I forgot all that. Somewhere along the way, I got so wrapped up in my identity as a sound healer, teacher, and and person who uses sound.
The whole reason I fell in love with sound in the first place is because of the power the bell possessed to drop me into stillness. I loved the gong because it rattled my sense of self into thin air. I love to tone because when I stopped, I felt vast and peaceful. How could I have forgotten the power of sound is not so much in the sound…
…but in the stillness?
My work on this planet is not so much about sound healing anymore as it is about using sound to access the stillness…to stop. Maybe that will change again in the future…in fact that’s likely…but for now, here I am.
Something old is dying and something new is being reborn. The Voice of Life and all its resources will remain available to folks; it kind of has to since the web is so…well…web-like, sticky and interconnected. But my new focus will be on Toning for Peace and this book, The Unknown Mother. I’m really rather excited. My focus is changing. I’ll still offer workshops in Shamanic Voice Work and work with clients, but not in the same way. I’ll still certify folks in Vocal Toning Meditation, if that’s what they want, but what I offer now will be for a completely different reason. Sound is a Way; it isn’t the destination. I will offer sound and voice for MINDFULNESS, for PRESENCE, for SILENCE.
What does it mean when we say, “I give you my word?”
It is a promise, a vow that we are telling the truth, that we mean to follow through and will not disappoint. Look closely. We use the word “give” which refers to a gift, something shared freely. And we say, “my word” not “words”. Why? Because we aren’t talking about words as objects or units of meaning. We are talking about the word as power, as vibration. We could say, “I give you the power of my words.”
It’s really a beautiful phrase. I suggest we give this gift, the power of our word, to ourselves. Stand in front of the mirror. Light a candle, gaze into your eyes and say, “I give you my word.” Let us not go against ourselves with our word. Let us both think and speak with care. Let us surrender this awesome power we have to construct reality with our words to that Pure Self whose only desire is to love and enjoy.