Guest Post by Sheri Clark, Retreat Attendee & Circle Member
~My boys enjoying the magic of listening to the sunset with Bagpipes in Southampton.
Music has always been central to my life. I love music. It brings me joy and beauty. And when I discover the story and meaning behind the music, it touches my heart even more.
The sound of my dad and my uncle playing guitars and singing was always the best part of any family gathering. My grandad was always singing a song or making one up in whatever he was doing – I really did believe that he was “going to the garden to eat worms, yum yum”; it was a way that he could make any situation seem lighter. I sang Little Rabbit Fu Fu with my best friend (giggling) until we drove our parents crazy.
Some of my early lessons on acceptance, tolerance of differences and music as a political forum came from music. My mom took me to see Boy George when I was 7 years old at Maple Leaf Gardens. I didn’t understand why people thought this was a big deal for a very long time! Some people thought I was too young to go, and some people had judgements about Boy George’s sexuality, fearing what I was being exposed to. I was exposed to music and unconditional acceptance.
I remember having a discussion with my dad while driving on the 400 about Twisted Sister and other 80’s hair bands, about why the men wore makeup and big hair as a form of expression and rebellion – and that it was ok. I learned about the apartheid in Africa because of a Paul Simon album. Straight Outta Compton inspired discussions about racism at school and at the dinner table. Who knew that these discussions would lay the foundation for my education and career as a social worker and psychotherapist!
All of these musical moments keep me close to important people in my life. Whenever I miss someone, or when I am trying to remember something, I know I can always turn on a song and be connected.
As I hopped in the car today after the necessary grocery trip, I am greeted with the familiar Belinda Carlisle chorus “Ooo, baby do you know what that’s worth? Ooo Heaven is a place on earth”. I laugh, then I sing. I hadn’t heard this song in many years until this past summer. As I departed the Heart Blossom of Shamanism retreat, I was greeted with the same song.
There are so many adventures that accompany the journey within my heart, while in circle, and travelling on the road to and from the northern edge of Algonquin Park. One of my favourite parts of the trip is when I enter the spot on the highway where my usual radio stations don’t come in. Sure I could pop on my music, or see what Spotify has created for me. But instead I push the arrow button on the radio to scan and find the soundtrack for the retreat. I find myself listening to songs I have never heard because something caught my attention. Or I am singing my heart out to a song that I haven’t heard in years, but still remember all the words to. It brings me such joy to know that somewhere out there, someone is saying a prayer – and remembering and singing songs from the soundtrack to my life.
In Nature, I am reminded that there is music everywhere when we take the time to open our hearts. It comes in the hum of the trees, the rustle of leaves, the chatter of the animals, the call of the loons, the buzz of the bees, and the underlying heartbeat of the land.
Gathered in circle, everyone gradually picks up drums or rattles while someone lets Grandmother Drum anchor the music of the moment. At first I was timid and afraid to reach for a drum. And then I took the risk. Oh my! It’s a heartbeat, my heart, the heart of the group, and the mother earth. I can feel that drum beat everywhere.
In circle, I am always amazed at the songs that seem to come out of nowhere. As discussions happen, I notice song lyrics and tunes going through my mind. So, when someone began singing “Let It Be” in the sauna, I was hardly surprised; I had my Beatles “Let It Be” shirt packed and waiting to be worn the next day. I have known and loved this song for as long as I can remember. For the first time ever, I took a chance and began to sing when the group was struggling for lyrics. I have lived according to some firm rules around “I don’t sing”, and with the breaking of this rule, I was accepted. There was no judgement. I was briefly annoyed that I couldn’t remember the words even though I know them all. But I was able to let it be and just go with what we could find.
Just before arriving at my Heart’s Blossom, I heard Elton John’s Candle in the Wind and it rang truer than ever before. We are only here for such a short time, not all of us will be legends. But we can be part of the soundtrack or symphony of one life or many lives. Music survives. Music links me to memories. Music inspires me. I now know who to turn to when the rain sets in. The right music always finds me. I am taken back to important memories throughout my life, and music creates new connections to my recent experiences. It is through music that I can always return to my heart and I am grateful.
One of my favourite things to do is to go outside, in nature, either early in the morning or in the evening and listen. There is music everywhere! Harmonies, melodies and rhythms.
What would it be like to close your eyes, and listen to the heartbeat of the land around you? What does this feel like, look like? How does this soundtrack of the heart influence the tone of your day?
Dance, hum, sing and add whatever harmony feels right for you in this beautiful song that surrounds us, and let it be…
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