Merry Christmas 2015

Merry Christmas!

I offer my sincere wishes to each of you on this Christmas day for peace, joy, and love.  May you experience and know abundant blessings.

My heart feels expansive at this moment after some significant shifts within as I remember who I am as a child of God…an extension of God…a reflection of God, and as I allow God’s bright light / my bright light to be seen & then to stand in gratitude and awe of this same light in everyone around me as I soften to this beautiful world, breathing in the supreme, divine perfection of all.

This year’s Christmas benefit concert was an opportunity to join in community and to celebrate the sacred that was, that is, and that always will be.  I found meaningful connection in gathering with those in attendance and sharing our spirits and energy.

As I shared at the concert, there is indeed much pain in the world;  sorrow and sadness can be amplified during the holiday season when there seems to be an expectation of perfect families and jolly activities.  There is also much to celebrate.  There is peace and love underneath the heartache, and the peace and love can be arrived at when we release resistance and accept our present realities with authenticity and care.  I have come to see that it is all about remembering…remembering who we are and accepting our roles as co-authors of our world.  Along with God, we are constantly co-creating a world in which hope, peace, and love can thrive and endure.  I believe in more than Christmas.  I believe that every day is Christmas: a day of birth, of promise, of peace, and of understanding that what might seem imperfect to the naked human eye (a lowly manger / our seemingly broken lives) is to the holy heart perfection and the wellspring of bliss.




While pop music is definitely not what I prefer listening to, a friend recently introduced me to the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles, and I must admit that I kind of like the song.  The melody and rhythms are pretty catchy, and the lyrics to this song are powerful.


The song begins by pointing to the power of words.  It then continues to encourage listeners to be brave by speaking out and not holding back on what we truly want to say.  In the music video, there are many scenes of people of all ages and backgrounds dancing freely in public places.


I believe that this message of allowing our authentic selves to be heard and seen is important for all of us.  It’s not just teenagers who shy away from being themselves in order to fit in.  I believe that it is a societal tragedy that the majority of people restrain themselves from free expression in speech and movement and action, because they have become better at listening to others than listening to themselves.


When I teach young children, I see how freely they sing, dance, and tell ther stories.  I see how they don’t question how others are going to judge them before they assert themselves into the world.  As they get older, they hear those first words of feedback.  Praise by parents and teachers, correction by adults, or ridicule by peers then influence how they behave in the future.  There is now a combination of voices that guide them as they make choices and interact with others.


Sadly it is easy to lose touch with one’s own voice and to squelch one’s impulse to dance and play and live fully.  It takes a lot of courage to say what we want to say and to live our lives from the inside out.  I am lucky to belong to a wonderful tribe of friends who are committed to being brave and who support each other in this, even when it is most challenging.  We know each other and give each other a hard time if we know that one of us is shrinking and “going along with” rather than being brave and speaking and acting with integrity, passion, and conviction.


So often, the path of least resistance is to follow along the same path as others, to say what we think others want us to say, to do what we think others expect of us.  Instead, being brave is choosing to sing our own songs, dance our own dances, and tell our own stories.  Judy Garland urged, “Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.”  In order to do that, we must be brave.

Authenticity of Emotions

This blog post is inspired by a recent blog post by Dr. Alice Chan: Be Real, Not Positive.    Dr. Alice Chan and I connected through Twitter, and I have found her to be an authentic and inspiring voice who is passionate about the work she does as an author, a speaker, and a coach.  Dr. Chan’s words in her most recent blog post resonated with me, as I read and agreed with the thoughts she shared regarding the treasures in negative emotions and how we might allow them to “have their air time” as any and all other emotions.


I believe that all emotions are valid and welcome, if they are honest.  I think of Rumi’s poem “The Guest House” when I reflect on this.  (This is a favorite poem of mine.  I encourage you to read it and take in the message if you are not familiar with this piece.)


In my blog writing, I typically focus on my experiences as a creative artist.  As I relate Dr. Chan’s blog post to my art, I know that, as a musician, it is important to bring my real self to the stage and to the practice room every time.  I need to stand in honesty and in vulnerability before my audience and in the presence of fellow musicians.  I believe that acknowledging one’s humanity evokes beautiful music.


When we appear as our whole selves – not denying those pieces that we judge as “ugly” or “messy,” we allow for a sincere connection between those offering the music and those receiving the music.  It takes courage to do this.  It might seem easier to slip into Dressing Room A to find a mask to put on & then go out and pick up our instrument and exude an air of confidence.  We might reach for a script that includes the lines, “I have it all together.”  But those performances, while they might be technically flawless…don’t move us.  And making music that moves others is what it’s all about – that vulnerable sharing of ourselves with others through our art.


As a choral conductor, I could appear before a group of singers at an evening rehearsal, plaster a smile on my face, and say in a peppy, perky voice, “It’s so great to be here!  We’re going to have so much fun singing.  Let’s hear your pretty voices starting on page 1 of the score,”  …or I could say…  “I’ve had a tough day, but it’s great to be with you to make music.  Let’s begin.”  Which conductor would you connect with?  Which conductor would you want to sing for?  I believe that people are craving authenticity.  I find it refreshing to be in the presence of someone who’s not afraid to be himself/herself.


Dr. Alice Chan provides steps to guide us in the journey toward authenticity of emotions:  acknowledging our feelings, allowing our emotions to be felt fully, learning from our negative experiences, and releasing our traumas and pain.  I believe that these steps allow for a person to progress through a healthy emotional cycle.  It’s when we deny our “shadow” that it becomes bigger than life and eats away at us.  My study of Debbie Ford’s transformational work has affirmed my intentions to invite myself and those who surround me to fully allow and embrace those darker shadow emotions.


While it might, at first, make us uncomfortable to witness others in their pain…it becomes easier and more natural.  We stop judging emotions as “good” and as “bad” and come to realize that we all experience highs and lows and in-betweens.  I desire to walk with my family and friends and fellow human beings through all of these.  I want to see the real you, and I want the real me to be witnessed.


I believe that whatever degree to which we allow ourselves to experience these difficult and painful emotions…to that same degree, we allow ourselves to feel joy.  If we resist feeling the “negative emotions” to their full extent, we also put a limit on our joy.  I want to experience the full spectrum of emotions, and I want to have the capacity to express all of these emotions in my musical performances and in my daily interactions with others.  I honor you and all you are feeling in this moment.  I invite your reflections and comments.