Monthly Archives: April 2012

Dreaming of Forgiveness

I’m in Starbucks ordering a chai tea latte, I think it’s the one on Ambleside down the street from Gyra’s office, my therapist during those dark days full of hurricanes and touch down tornadoes.  Or maybe it’s the one in Caulfield village, in the same plaza as the Safeway where I used to run into her, where we would stop and smile and talk in the cereal aisle, me on my way to the vegetable section, she on her way to pick up bread, or perhaps something from the cold meat section.  She’s a carnivore, I know that.  No vegetarian could wield a flesh cutting knife with as much precision as she.

But I’m allowing myself to become sidetracked.  My Judge quickly backing up my Victim.  It’s good to give them a voice now and again, to let them speak, to hear them out.  To acknowledge them before gently guiding them back to their seats.  It’s my Avenger’s turn to manage the show.

So, back to my dream.  Did I mention I’m dreaming?  It actually begins in that trance world between awake and sleeping, the best birthplace of Active Imagination.  I’m lying on my back in the wee hours of the morning, warmly comfortable nestled under my blue and yellow quilt and I’m barely aware of the early morning dawn birds just beginning their Spring concert.  I’m floating in that magical realm of almost, but not quite awake, slowly replaying the film of my last dream, which must have included elements of my used to be marriage because suddenly and seamlessly I’m in Starbucks ordering my soy, no-water chai tea latte and in walks S., otherwise known as The Other Woman, or during those dark tsunami days (and some days since) as Witch Woman.  So named because even then, even so wounded and full of unrecognized anger I could not bring myself to give her the name that rhymes.

I’ve been here before, in this netherworld of Active Imagination.  In this particular scene.  Always in Starbucks.  Always ordering or waiting for my chai tea latte.  Sometimes with a friend, but most times alone.  And always, always, always unprepared to run into her.  Mirroring my awake fear.

What will I say to her when first I see her again.  After.  After she deceived and lied and manipulated and connived and betrayed.  So many Ands.  After she lived for two years having an affair with my husband while making nice Safeway small talk with his wife.  So many Afters.  What will I say to her?  It’s been six years since I woke up to see the Red Bird of Betrayal flying over my life.  Six years since my marriage blew up and six years since I’ve seen Her.  We live not far from each other, yet since I gave her my husband, I have yet to run into her again.

In all my other reverie world Starbuck encounters, my words don’t come as I want them to.  In that, I mean my shadow self always steps forward and disempowers me by blaming and shaming.  My Wounded Child and Victim join hands crying out and pointing fingers,  “You are a Black Hole sucking energy from everything around you, spewing out toxic free radicals in your evil witchy wake!”

Once again I’m at Starbucks, this time I’m waiting as the barista makes my drink, when I turn around and there She is.  I’m the director in this Active world of Imagination, so she stands silently.   Caught.  There is no more avoiding me.  I have my BlackBerry in one hand, to appear important, supported and needed.  I hold the silent support of all my contacts in my hand, my big, huge team is fanned out invisibly behind me.  My other hand is warmed by my soy, no-water chai tea latte, a symbol of my own self-love, care and nourishment.  I’m standing in Starbucks, where I often sit to journal or to write.  We are on my turf here.

  I turn to her and say, without attachment, as if observing my thoughts as in meditation, “What you did     was wrong.  The pain you caused was overwhelming, not just for me, not just for my four children, but it rippled out further than you can imagine.  You acted without any care or compassion.  You lied, deceived and betrayed.”  I look at her and shake my head, turning to leave, “It was inexcusable and so very, very wrong.”

“Can’t you let it go already?” She demands, “You should learn to forgive and forget.”

This time my answering words come without force, without conscious thought, through a channel of Grace of understanding.  I am looking at her with sadness and compassion, finally seeing that she is buried so far underground that she can’t see the light of Truth that surrounds her.  “You have no idea whether I’ve forgiven or not.  Forgiveness has nothing at all to do with you; it’s something I do completely for myself.  The truth of what you’ve done can live side by side with Forgiveness.  One does not negate the other.”

Then I’m climbing a sturdy, narrow, wooden ladder and with a hammer I have broken through the ceiling so that the ladder can now rise higher and higher through the jagged opening into the sunlight above.  “I’ve broken through!” I exclaim with a smile just before I wake up.

I chuckle as I think again of the ladder leading to my “break through.”  I’ve been searching and working on Forgiveness for years and finally ‘get’ it.  I don’t need to forget the Truth of my wounds in order to Forgive.  I don’t even need to release the pain of those wounds, I need only to detach.  To release means simply to ease out the hook of attachment and let my emotions swim and swill in the swamp with the rest of life’s injuries.  If needed for my work as a writer or actor, I can cast a hook into that swamp and reel it back up.  But this time I’m in conscious control of the fishing rod and can choose which worm to catch and when and where to release it.       

I’m not finished with my forgiveness work and it will remain a daily practice, but now I have a strong foundation to support me.

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Filed under Dreams, forgiveness, Spirituality

Freeing The Voice From Within

By the time I walk up the flight of stairs and into the room I’m working to shake the uncomfortable feeling that I’m late and the built-up frustration over finding the place in the first place.  I unzip my favourite short, red boots and leave them at the door and walk into the room, glancing around as I take off my raincoat and hang it up.  I see a slim man sitting yogi-like on a square brown cushion, his back against the wall, and he looks so at home that I wonder if he’s an assistant.  I have no idea what to expect with this weekend voice intensive and I have more than a bit of resistance and fear.

I just lied.  I do have some idea of what to expect, and that’s exactly why I have some resistance and fear.  I’ve taken more than my share of voice classes, and by this I don’t mean singing classes.  Although voice work benefits singers and complements their practice, let’s be very clear – this is NOT a singing lesson.  I mean voice work as in finding your natural, true and honest voice in all its powerful, resonant magnificence and vulnerability, whether through song or spoken word.  It’s the ‘powerful’ and ‘vulnerable’ part that creates the spark of fear and resistance within me.  And also because I don’t yet know how ‘safe’ this room will be for the exploration that is to come.  I’m taking steps into the unknown.

A man strides towards me, holds out his hand and looks me in the eye, “Hello, I’m Noah.  Welcome.”

“I’m Terri,” I smile back.  I recognize Noah Drew from his picture on his website and feel a bit of the fear slip away.  I look at the others gathering in the room, and am comforted by the same look of unknowing on their faces – we are in this together.  This eclectic little group of us, four women and three men, plus Noah and his assistant, Melinda, who is a kind looking woman slightly older than I am, NOT the cushion sitting yogi man as it turns out.

Noah’s website says, “Fitzmaurice Voicework is a highly physical approach to vocal training, that helps you communicate your thoughts, intentions, and feelings, with a free, flexible, and potent voice.  The work combines classical voice training with adaptations of yoga, shiatsu, Reichian bodywork and other body-based meditative practices.  It aims to increase freedom of breath, resonance, power, spontaneity and emotional connection – the full range of humanity that can be expressed in the voice.

The Destructuring phase of the work involves freeing body and breath from chronic tensions and “programmed” patterns, to allow deep spontaneity and presence.  In restructuring, we channel the wild impulsivity stirred up by the Destructuring into an open, healthy, supported voice.”

I’m always fumble-mouthed when it comes to describing to others what it is we do in voice classes.  My non-actor friends always assume I’m learning to sing.  I wonder, would I notice that I needed voice class if I weren’t an actor?  For me, the scene study and character study work that I do as an actress is what points the way to the inner Self work that I am called to do.  I don’t want any of “my” problems, tensions, blocks to get in the way of telling the truth of the story, in honouring the playwright’s words.  I need to get out my own way to let the truth come forth through my body and my voice.  And sometimes that means doing some heavy excavation work.

I’m playing Theresa in a scene from Shelagh Stevenson’s “Memory of Water”, a play with high-stakes, high energy and intense emotion and I can feel the front of my throat constricting at the height of the scene.  Instead of the beautiful potency of the emotions coming through, my voice is instead coloured with a shrill crawing, closing out any of the soft, underbelly tones of vulnerability.

I allow myself a moment of frustration, but only a moment.  What before might have derailed me for months, now guides me to my next task; more and regular voice work.  Through years of inner work I’ve learned that an expression of powerful intense emotions, especially anger, causes a constriction in my throat.  The ‘flight or fight’ response kicking in. After many years living with an emotionally abusive and unavailable husband, I learned that strong emotions are never to be expressed.  They were the sign of a very unstable individual, namely me.  Despite the years of inner emotional and spiritual work I’ve done, my body still re-members.  My body is telling me that I now need to do some physical ‘destructuring’ and ‘restructuring’ – to learn another way of being.  A more balanced and truer way of being.

So I say thank you to my throat for protecting me for so long, but it’s safe to let go now.  You can rest.  I spend the rest of the weekend surrounded by the courage and compassion of our little group of intrepid voice explorers as we each work to free the electrifying honesty of our voices.  We lie on mats stretching and moving and voicing all manner and shape of sounds.  Bringing breath to parts of our body that have long been starved of oxygen.  Here, in this small studio there are no ‘ugly’ or weird sounds.  We move about the room voicing and babbling and sometimes bringing forth our chosen song or monologue.  Seeing, hearing, breathing, exploring.

Noah leads a class in a destructuring exercise. Image from his website.

It’s the last exercise on the last day and once more the fear begins to slowly spread tentacles throughout my diaphram, threatening to squeeze my breath up into my chest.  A boa constrictor wrapping his way up to my throat.  We are sitting comfortably on the floor, some on cushions, some stretching out on yoga mats.  I take my water bottle and notebook and set my meditation cushion against the wall beside Steven my brave new yogi sitting friend.  I need to feel the support of the wall behind my back as Noah describes how to approach our last performance.  We each have fifteen minutes to explore the stage area.  We are in complete control right down to ordering our fellow class members to not pay attention to us if that’s what we want.  We choose when to be the intrepid voice explorer, listen to our bodies and step onto the stage when we feel the electric impulse to move.

I wait until there are only two more of us remain, moving before the fear can paralyze my muscles.  When I am performing in a play or on set acting in a film or TV series, I might have a flutter of butterflies flittering through my body but I never feel fear.  This, however, is entirely different flock of flying creatures because I can’t hide behind a character.

“No one pay attention to Terri!” Noah calls out as I unfold from my cushion and walk to the middle of the stage area.  I walk slowly and turn around to look at the bowed heads of rest of my classmates.  A couple are writing quietly in notebooks, several more rest their heads on their arms.  No one is looking at me.  I turn my back to them and breath deeply down into my belly, swinging my arms and jumping softly up and down.  I glance back at my still inattentive audience and am amazed at how relaxed and free I feel.

I stand facing them, close my eyes and start voicing, gliding up and down, becoming a roller coaster starting deep in my abdomen and soaring up to the roof of my soft palate.  I close my mouth and hum, imagining the sound vibrating behind my eyes, out the back and top of my head, the back of my throat, filling the satellite dish behind me and bouncing back out to the front of the room.  I play with a few lines of my monologue.

“Who can find peace in such extreme times

Ah, wretched man! Would I had died a maid”

“I want Gordon to pay attention to me.” I demand, and smile back at Gordon as he raises his head to watch me.  I notice a frisson of heightened excitement in my chest and bounce on my toes and shake my hands to let the feeling run through me rather than get stuck.  I try a few more lines.

“Ah, wretched man! Would I had died a maid

And never seen thee, never borne thee a son”

Before I know it I’ve spent fifteen minutes playing with my voice, my body and with the attention of my audience.  I have just the men pay attention, then just the women, sometimes all of them and sometimes none of them.  I ask them to see my heart, to find something in me to love, to find a piece of joy in me.  I crouch and whisper, I stand back and become loud.  My throat opens to allow the anger and love of Shakespeare’s Margaret to stream out.  I feel completely relaxed and at home.

“Can I work with you?” Noah asks, and with my happy “yes” he offers me small suggestions.  He brings my attention to when I lean forward at the waist for emphasis, which causes my voice to constrict, then to the slight forward thrust of my chin.

“You are the Queen, make them come to you,” he advises.

I move to the far back of the room and begin again, moving my hand to the base of my head to remind myself to keep pulled up and not thrust out.

“Who can be patient in such extremes?

Ah, wretched man! Would I had died a maid

And never seen thee, never borne thee a son,

Seeing thou hast proved so unnatural a father

Hath he deserved to lose his birthright thus?

Hadst thou but loved him half so well as I,

Or felt that pain which I did for him once,

Or nourish’d him as I did with my blood,

Thou wouldst have left thy dearest heart-blood there,

Rather than have that savage duke thine heir

And disinherited thine only son.”

I have no problem finding the breath for Shakespeare’s long stanzas, in fact I don’t even think about it, it just happens naturally.  I can feel my voice vibrating in my eyes and my throat remains open and relaxed right to the end of the angry, emotional speech.

“Wow,” Noah says simply, “what a powerful voice.”

I can feel the power of the vocal vibrations throughout my entire body as I performed my monologue.  It feels like release and complete freedom.  Release and freedom from that internal, oftentimes unconscious, internal Judge that constantly passes sentence on every word that comes out of my mouth.

This is what voice work does for me.  It offers liberation from a lifetime of constriction and brings breath to parts of my body that have been long starved of oxygen.  It loosens and dissolves the mask of protection that has become so a part of me that I’m not even aware of its tight restrictions until it’s gone.  It allows my truth to be spoken without impediment.  It offers a path to awareness and healing.

 

 

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Filed under Archetypes, Theatre, Voice