Posts Tagged ‘facilitation’

I was asked to present Singing Meditation as part of an Interfaith lecture series at Grateful Steps bookstore in Asheville last night. I knew there wouldn’t be a piano. I had no idea who would show up IMG_3578and if any of them would be confident singers. But I set up an altar first — as I always do for Singing Meditation. I always thought I had done it to help the participants. But I found tonight that it had a calming and centering effect on ME. First, because the colors were soothing and pleasing to my eye. Second, dressing the table reminded me of the approach I had taken to Singing Meditation in the past when I had fretted about how many people might attend. My job is to ‘set the table’ — it is up to The Divine who shows up!

Unlike a typical Singing Meditation session, I started with some lecture about Singing Meditation — which I interspersed with teaching of songs. This way at the end of the lecture we already knew some songs in common and we could flow into an abbreviated Singing Meditation session. I brought a small toy piano I have in order to get some pitches, my voice was strong enough to teach a melody line, and I stomped my feet or shook a rattle to keep a beat as wanted.

Although we were a smaller group than I am accustomed to — I made a deliberate choice not to dwell on the fact we weren’t singing in rounds or in harmony. Instead I focused on the beauty of the melodies. And I found the silence between songs to be sweet. When I drew an angel card for a word of inspiration I chose ‘courage.’ It felt like a benediction.

I share this experience with the hope it might enourage you to offer a singing meditation session even if you don’t know who will show up and/or you have other factors that are less than ideal.  Even a small group can result in delicious silence where your heart and soul can be refreshed! May joy fill your heart this day!


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At this time I know of Singing Meditation groups gathering in at least nine states as well as Canada. If there isn’t one in your area you might be looking for other opportunities to open your heart in song. Or you might be debating  whether you could possibly organize and facilitate a Singing Meditation group on your own. If you live in the Pennsylvania/New York/New Jersey area — or can afford to travel there — I’d like to suggest another group, Music for People (MfP).   A MfP weekend will provide plenty of opportunities for you to sing and will offer models of group facilitation that will help build your confidence in that direction.
MfP was founded in 1986 by flutist Bonnie Insull and cellist David Darling. [David’s CD “Prayer for Compassion” won a Grammy in 2010.] I’ve attended several of their weekends myself and can attest to the fact that this organization is dramatically different from any other music experience I’ve had.  This group is unique in that it mixes professional level musicians with complete novices — and people in all stages in between. ALL are FULL participants in making the music!!!! They are also unique in that all music for the weekend is spontaneous. There is no reference to music printed on paper, or ‘old standards’ that everyone is expected to know. The music arises from the interaction of the people playing together in that very moment. There is a strong emphasis on listening to the music produced by the people playing with you and responding emotionally and musically to these sounds.
Lots and lots of percussion instruments are provided by the staff.  Attendees haul guitars, accordians, cellos, wind instruments, and home-made instruments from their cars. There will be dazzling music from the instruments, to be sure, but the voice is honored as well. From their Bill of Musical Rights: “The human voice is the most natural and powerful vehicle for musical self-expression. The differences in our voices add richness and depth to music.”
What impresses me most about MfP is the generosity of spirit and egalitarianism of the staff and participants. There is no jockeying for status as ‘first violin’ or ‘best soprano’ as so often occurs in music groups. Egos, for the most part, are checked at the door. They truly live by their credo: “There are no ‘unmusical people,’ only those with no musical experience.”
Another one of their precepts has been particularly powerful for me. “There are no wrong notes. Every sound in the universe lives with all the others.” This is a liberating thought in both musical improvisation and life!

The next Music for People weekend is February 18 – 21 at Immaculata University, northwest of Philadelphia in Frazer, PA.  You can drop in for a weekend and enjoy the music and atmosphere on offer, with no obligation to enroll in a specific program — although they do also offer training programs. For more information see their website: http://www.musicforpeople. org

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