Archive for the ‘Singing Meditation Event’ Category

I facilitated Singing Meditation last month for the first time in two years.  With ‘fresh eyes’ and a completely new venue for me (North Carolina), it gave me a chance to re-assess everything about singing meditation. I’d like to share with you my thoughts.

1) I think the name should be changed. The word ‘meditation’ means so many things to people. Although I always explain both orally and in all written materials that the silent periods between songs can be used to just

Spiral staircase in Melk Abbey, Austria.

savor the sweetness of the song, or pray or meditate or contemplate — it
still remains the undeniable first impression that there will be ‘meditation’ involved. This is unfortunate in two ways — one because many people are turned off by meditation and will turn away from trying ‘singing meditation’ because of the meditation part, even though it is completely optional; and two because people who have serious meditation practices can be disappointed that the silent intervals are too short for them to sink deeply into meditation. I’m now thinking of calling it “Joy Singing” if I continue to offer it, since joy is the ultimate goal of this practice.

2) The social aspect — I have always stressed the importance of singing in community as opposed to just singing alone by yourself. It is obvious to me that there is an entirely different dynamic that arises when my voice is combined with the vibration of other voices who are right there in the same space with me, and I mean this in a more spiritual way than simply the fact that additional voices can result in harmony and/or polyphony. I revel in the ‘ephemeral sanctuary’ that is created when singing mindfully with others. But in the first six years I led singing meditation I made a deliberate choice to avoid having social activity immediately afterwards. I wanted people to have a chance to leave the singing meditation session holding their silence — or music — within their hearts. I was afraid these feelings might dissipate all too quickly in the banter of friends over muffins. But this time I was wondering — why not provide a social time to bond with the people you have just bonded with in a different way during the session? So my friend Nancy kindly baked muffins and most people stayed around to chat afterwards. The jury is still out on this one, and I’d be interested to hear thoughts from others on this topic.

3) The importance of ‘teaching’ a song first is something I remain convinced of. Attending the session last month were a graduate of Julliard, another who has played professionally with a symphony for 28 years — as well as two women who claimed they could not carry a tune in a bucket and did not read music. Playing the song through twice on the piano, and asking everyone to hold silence and NOT hum along with the piano during this time, levels the playing field and made it possible for the two who couldn’t read music to participate as fully as everyone else. This remains an aspect of Singing Meditation that I am committed to continuing.

4) Until last month the only instruments we had included in Singing Meditation were piano, percussion and very rarely the guitar. Since an accomplished cellist was part of our group I asked her to play a base line for us. This didn’t work out quite as I had planned, as it turned out to be a strong ‘pull’ to the novice singers and created confusion for them as to what they should be singing. There would be absolutely nothing wrong in people singing the melody line, or what the cello was playing, or improving a line of their own — but the feeling of ‘confusion’ while singing is not one that should be fostered in singing meditation. If I were to include an instrument again I’d have to think of a way to avoid this problem.

5) I did experience joy myself as I sang!!! I was curious to see whether I would or not, since my voice is still not fully restored, and as Facilitator one has several concerns in mind that sometimes overshadow the joy factor. I am delighted to say that JOY did fill my soul! Another good reason to contemplate a name change to “Joy Singing.”

I’d love to hear about your adventures and experimentation with Singing Meditation!

May joy fill your heart this day!


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On September 24 and 25 Liz Hill, Helen Gierke and I will be presenting a workshop at the UU Church of Chattanooga. This will mark the first time where we will be offering three choices simultaneously for the afternoon break-out session. Liz will be offering writing. Helen will be presenting Care of the Voice and Science of Sound. I will be talking about how to start a Singing Meditation group.

This workshop is being organized by Kate Briere so I’ve asked Kate to be a guest writer on the blog. >>>>>

My name is Kate Briere and I live in Chattanooga TN. I am a retired teacher (French and Music) from upstate New York. Over the years I have used my music background for pleasure, to supplement my income, and to help and assist my husband in his ministry. He is the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga.

I love music. Not just for itself, but for the moods and emotions that it evokes. When I first heard of this spiritual practice of Singing Meditation, I knew it would be exactly what I would love to do. Combining music and silence in community sounded like such a great idea. I had heard of the Taize tradition in France and had wondered how that could be adapted to our Unitarian Universalist world. Then my husband ordered the book, songbook and CD by Ruthie Rosauer, Liz Hill and Helen Gierke. He knew it would be something I would be interested in.

My only difficulty was connecting to one of their workshops. I felt that I needed to experience this first hand before I could start my own group at our church in Chattanooga. None of their workshops fit into my schedule this summer. So I sent Ruthie a message. Much to my surprise she responded to my e–mail right away! She wanted to talk with me so we set up a phone call. From that call, a workshop in Chattanooga was organized. I am not only going to attend a workshop of Singing Meditation, I am going to host one.

Our Singing Meditation Workshop will be September 24 and 25 in Chattanooga TN. Friday evening is free and open to the public. It will be an evening of Singing Meditation. Saturday will be a day long workshop with Ruthie Rosauer, Liz Hill and Helen Gierke presenting workshops on writing, singing, vocal techniques, music and movement and much more.

If you are interested in this as I am, please go to our church website (www.uuc.org) and sign up for this weekend event. I look forward to seeing you and singing with you.

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First UU Church in Madison


The Unitarian Universalist Musician’s Network conference will be in Madison, WI at the First UU church from July 14 – 18. This church building is interesting architecturally as it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright himself. He even designed the original seating (not sure if he used the term ‘pew’ or not).

Liz Hill and I will be presenting a session about Singing Meditation on Saturday afternoon. That evening we will be attending a kirtan led by Ragani at the Methodist church in downtown Madison. I have had Ragani’s album for a few years now so I am VERY excited to be able to participate in a kirtan with her.

I hope to attend some of the other sessions at this conference including ones on cross-cultural issues in music and vocal challenges. If I come across helpful information for Singing Meditation I will be posting it on my blog!

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Singing Meditation is about singing. It is also about silence. But the third component is the community of voices joined in song and sharing together in the stillness between songs. I know from firsthand experience that

Presentation at GA 2010

singing ALONE does not have the same effect as singing with a group. But is there a limit to the maximum number of voices that can join together and still achieve a sense of intimacy — and permit the ability to listen to other voices while singing yourself?

In a large choir that sings for performance, a director is the focal point. Each and every singer should be making eye contact with the director and adjust his or her voice to the direction given. In Singing Meditation, once the song is taught, the role of the Facilitator is to fade away and dissolve into the group energy.

When I started leading Singing Meditation the groups were small — 6 to 8 people were the norm. Over the years our group size grew and this past year our average in Eau Claire was over 20. On occasion there have been nearly 50. It was with some worry — and curiosity — that I prepared for Unitarian General Assembly. We were advised to expect at least 75 people in the session. And I had no idea if 75 (or more) people would be able to fully participate in Singing Meditation. And I knew they would be seated in ROWS of chairs, not concentric circles, as we were prohibited from moving chairs in the room due to Convention Center rules.

Liz and I were too focused on leading the workshop to count participants — but we heard counts of 135 and 148 — so we definitely know we had  more than 75 people.

I think the answer is in. Singing Meditation CAN work in a larger group. If you were one of those who attended the GA presentation I invite you to share your impression of the session, especially if you think the size of the group mattered.

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“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” (Dr. Howard Thurman)

Liz Hill, second from left, with some attendees at the Joseph Priestley conference

Singing is one of the very few activities I have found that makes me “come alive” and is why I am so motivated to spread the spiritual practice of Singing Meditation with other people. I’m selfish – I want other people to share in this singing with me!

Spreading the word on Singing Meditation this past weekend, Liz and I presented two workshops as part of the Joseph Priestley UU district conference. It was in King of Prussia PA, which I had great curiosity about because of its name. But for all intents and purposes we were simply between Philadelphia and a giant shopping mall. No royalty or palace of any sort was on view!

Walking into the conference room in the hotel assigned to us was a little daunting. It was a typical hotel conference room, fluorescent lights and grubby carpet. Not easy to transform the spirit of a room that was “all business”  into one where attendees felt invited to relax and come alive with a different perspective. Liz and I got busy arranging the chairs into a circle, cadging circular tables from the storeroom – one to use as a central focal point, and one to ‘welcome’ participants as they entered.

We decorated the table in the center with colorful scarves, graced with beautiful stones. Several lit candles let us cut down on the harsh fluorescent lighting and enjoy the softness of the glowing candles.

The participants in each session were wonderful singers who were interested in the spiritual practice of Singing Meditation. They asked great questions (can this be added to a longer meditation session? can this be a Sunday service? how long do your sessions normally last?)  I am hoping the seeds planted for Singing Meditation will sprout into groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Maryland and Washington, DC.

Wherever you are living this Spring, I hope you find what makes YOU come alive – and do it!

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Ruthie is hitting the road again!

She arrived in Ohio last night and Liz will be joining her today to head off to the Joseph Priestley District Annual District Conference in King of Prussia, PA. Introduction to Singing Meditation will be presented twice on Saturday April 17 at 11 a.m. and again at 1:30. Books, CDs, and songbooks will be available for purchase in the conference bookstore.

We’re looking forward to meeting and singing with the UUs of Priestley district, which includes eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, northern Virginia, Delaware, southern New Jersey, and the Washington DC.

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Ruthie and I presented Singing Meditation at the Ohio Meadville District Assembly on March 26-27. The conference was held at the Eastern Campus of Ohio State in St. Clairsville OH. The theme of the conference was Transformational Living, and it included a well-attended training for interfaith youth work.

We were assigned to present in an auditorium that holds 250, because it was the room with the piano. Ruthie pondered how to make this big venue work for a  group of 15 people, and we arranged chairs in a circle on the stage, with the candles and angel cards on an altar in the center. Voila! It worked beautifully. After the session several people expressed interest in starting a group at their home congregation, which is what we are hoping for.

This was an especially exciting conference for me because I was able to present some of the material in the “lecture” portion of the workshop. I was particularly interested in presenting the benefits of starting a group, including the fact that it is an interfaith experience.  Singing Meditation is a beautiful way to get a taste of another religious tradition. And because you are actually doing something — singing with others– not just talking about the religious tradition or its teachings, the experience is much richer.

On the trip down from Youngstown, we crossed into the tiny northwest sliver of West Virgina near Wheeling, and on the way back we drove up across from it. Some of Ruthie’s family roots are in West Virginny and she lived there as a young adult so it revived quite a few memories for her.

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