Thursday, October 27, 2011

My Voice

October 27

Chanting and I, we go way back…

I learned to chant when I was – somewhere around 5, I suppose. Fruit cake that I am.
It was summer with my father – I remember he wore only white cotton and black china flat shoes – he cooked completely vegan – and he meditated for what seemed like an eternity every day… and he taught me how to chant.

Om Mani Padri Om.

Om – the sound the spirit – the beginning and end of the universe…
Om is the jewel in the lotus of the heart.
Isn’t that beautiful? Inside my body there is a beautiful pure white lotus flower, inside the flower there is a shining clear jewel, inside the jewel resides the spirit of the universe…
total fruitcake land, I’m telling you.

Still, the faith that former alter boy taught me in those formidable years has fared me very well in my life.

Both of my parents used to listen to Gregorian chants – which, if you haven’t heard them, are truly astounding. The voices of the monks resounds and fills the space and the caverns of the psyche…

In high School I learned about Artemisia Gentleschi – her science and her art and her mystical chants…

Later, someone very close to me also went deep into Indian religion… and he asked me to do with him a chanting class. A woman (I don’t know what her station was – teacher, indeed…) came to his little apartment in the East Village – where he used to collect crack vials on the street… she came and she taught me the body mechanics of chanting. She gave me a mantra I don’t remember – I told her I had my own, but she said I should never say “OM” – that it was believed too sacred to speak.

Lately it has bothering me that so many teachers will ask you to chant but won’t tell you what you are chanting. I think it is cavalier. I think if we are not connected to the language we are disconnected from connection with others…

I like the way at the beginning of a yoga class which asks students to chant the voices waiver and clash… how at the end of the class – of two hours of practicing communally – the voices flow together and build into one sound.

Yesterday I tried chanting OM in my living room.

Amazing how such a simple – and known – exercise could bring up so many feelings of self consciousness, fear, self flagellation… I could barely hear myself. I could barely force the sound out of my mouth and throat. Couldn’t feel it in my chest or my head at all.

As a writer, I have practiced voice for a long time – practiced and studied and come to know and trust… But my physical voice is always a struggle. I speak quietly. I grow quiet. I used to fantasize about being mute.

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