There are several things in modern life that condition, impose, and trap our songs. These include messages embedded in popular culture, Western ideas of individualism, "success," untamed and uncontextualized material and physical pursuits, ideas about our body, beauty, age, and intelligence. Consumption, acquisiton, and efficiency have become normative, highly valued qualities, silencing the wisdom within. Along the pursuit, people begin to identify themselves with their things, their status, their perceived "power." Sometimes, they extend it to their children, identifying their children's "success" as their own. Yet, there is more than the doing, the achieving, the acquirinq, which results in what I perceive as Thoreau calling a "quiet desperation." "The masses of men" carry on their days, their routines, their lives not finding the deeper meaning to the gift they were given: Another day at life...Another day to sing their song, which is inimitable, and expressed in their personal life mission.
Our innermost being knows this, she gives glimpses of her truth: It is not what is out there-the external definitions, trappings- that define us and bring meaning. She tries to tease it out of us, delighting us in moments of meaning, salubrious play, and awe: moments of emotional intimacy, authentic selves in conversation, a belly laugh, natural highs, the gaze, longing, familiarity of a beloved, acts of loving-kindness, music, ideas that expand the mind and foster imaginative and cognitive faculties for creativity and noble pursuits, the raw loveliness of nature: her sounds, hues, life. She understands these forms of beauty and asks that we pay some attention to her.
Thoreau approached it this way:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms...” (Thoreau: Walden first published 1854)
We need not go into the woods, nor retreat from material existence. The following guidelines might be helpful:
*Emotions are embodied, be attuned to them: What/when/with whom do you feel heavy? What/when and with whom do you feel light, free, generative and playful? Be in the light. Apply this to work, to interactions with others, to places you visit, and you will draw closer to your song. Positive psychology teaches us that when we are content, when we experience positive emotions, we are more expansive, able to make better decisions, and foster additional positive emotions.
*What recurrent thoughts, patterns, happenings do you discern in your life? Do they hold a truth for you? Are they your own, or do they belong to culture, unhelpful family-of-origin, or partner experiences? Is the past asking you to release something; have you found the learning in the challenges? Will you choose to move forward, invite something new into your life? What keeps calling you forth?
*What is life presenting to you now? Are you attending to her, do you notice? Where is presence in conversations? Is taste, texture, aroma, gratitude, focuses of meals, or is it a phone that captures more interest ? What beauty was found today? It is always there- even in our momemts of discomfort, sadness, and ugliness. We must find it, and let it soothe, heal and bless us.
We are never too young, too old, too poor, too affluent, too battered or too blessed by life to sing our songs. Your song is there, it is for you, now, go and sing it!