Thursday, February 19, 2015

Forget Lent III: Softening and Unlearning

A few years ago I wrote Forget Lent: Practice Being Love and Forget Lent II: Practice Showing Love. Simple is enough. While pondering a simple tune for this year, Open My Heart dropped in for a visit. It may be a simple tune, but it's not the easiest practice. I've been working with it for almost a dozen years. It shows up on its own once you install it. You can use it both with and without people. It will set up shop in your heart, start spinning, and take you to places you didn't know you needed to go. At least that's how it's been working for me. We are a fragile species and have so much to unlearn before we can begin to open our hearts to one another. Over the years, singing Open my Heart has helped me to peel away layers of thoughts I told myself were protecting me. They weren't. Patterns that worked yesterday look like unpleasant defenses today. Practicing this mantra has taught me to not cling to the ground I think I know because there is no ground. It doesn't exist; and I will be okay. Practicing Open My Heart has helped me to maintain hope while feeling despair, and to keep on following the way of love. I think it's made me a happier and saner human; nicer to myself, to you, to crying babies and moms on airplanes, and also to those who grieve me. It was adapted from a mantra to the Buddhist goddess Kuan Shi Yin in a moment of need, and has deepened my capacity to both be and show love. Don't get me wrong; I have a long way to go. This year I'm heading obliquely toward Empathetic Badass.

Sing the top line and notice what happens after a few days, weeks, months.
Learning and leading it are a matter of lining out the parts and getting out of the way. Listen here for one way. There's a recording of it on HARC: Inside Chants, available here or on iTunes or wherever you like to purchase your music. If you'd like to license it for your people, there's a transcription of the recording available here

Lemme no how it's goin' in the comments below.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I will give you rest

A tune to settle monkey mind. Even if it spins out of control with harmonies, they'll quiet soon enough and you'll find that calm, stable place deep within.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Another World


The text is adapted from a quote by Arundhati Roy, one of my heroines. It was printed on a postcard I was given at Mary Busby's lovely Sagrada Sacred Arts, an indie gift and bookstore in Berkeley, CA. Many times a tune will leap up at me while I'm praying on a person or situation, and this tune is one of those. Click on it to enlarge.

Here's the complete quote from Arundhati Roy's Wiki page, with the hint that it comes from a speech:

"Another world is not only possible, she's on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe." - Arundhati Roy

If you like this melody, sing it when you can't afford to be in doubt. Might help. If you want to sing it with others, make stuff up, or, there will be some parts soon here: Square Market site, and look for Another World under Sheet Music. Enjoy.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Holy Innocents

Once in a blue moon, someone asks if I know any tunes for the Feast of the Holy Innocents (Dec. 28th). Hymns for the Holy Innocents are scant, partly because the biblical story most likely did not happen, and partly because there are still people around who want to limit the definition of "innocents" to infants killed by kings who feel threatened. Mostly, though, it's just a huge bummer to bring up the topic of lots of dead babies during Christmas week (Darling, can you pass the chocolates?).

I rarely see more than passing reference to the observation of the "Feast" of the Holy Innocents in hymnody, except Coventry Carol, (bye bye lully lullay?) and a verse in the zipper hymn for saints By all your saints still striving, which is so lame I can't bring myself to print it here (#232 in the Hymnal 1982). The gist of it is Rachel should cease her weeping, and God's got a good supply of crowns for all the dead babies who are better off now that they're at peace. Grr.

It's not as if the murdering of innocents isn't still going on by people who feel threatened, so why are we still surprised 2,000 years later, that the powers are still behind it in the most systemic and roguish ways, gunning down unarmed people on their streets and in their homes? How long will it continue? When will we rise up and make it illegal to kill unarmed citizens? I do not know, and most hymns for this day do not lend courage for this context, but rather make me wanna rage and scream about sugarcoating past realities, which of course gives us an out when we'd rather ignore present realities.

Each of us brings the gifts we have to the tasks at hand. My gift is melody, and the task as I have discerned it, is to write and pray the kinds of tunes I do not see or hear in the world or the church and share them in the hope that they might sink in, and we may all draw closer to seeing God in one another. Our lives together and unconditional love are so important that to forget to sing and pray about them from the heart with one another is to stall movement toward the realization of a beloved community. There are great depths to be plumbed before we can find the unity we co-create and cease our projections and judgments of one another. We must learn to communicate: to set aside intentional time in which to do this together in our communities and also in our homes, to invite all the stakeholders to the table, to encourage one another to speak our truths, and to find skillful paths through the knee-jerk reactions of fear, silence, and exclusion. Our lives depend on it. Hatred will not cease until we do it. Our children deserve to know that life is not a tug of war with a win/loss column. It takes showing up, slowing down, and hard work, which when undertaken with honesty, patience, and compassion, creates plenty of love to go around.


I wrote this tune for this text in 1983. The text is by Rosamond E. Herklots, and it's one of her best. If you can't read music, please read the text below (click to enlarge). The tempo is somewhere around 104 beats per minute. If you play it on guitar, see the last measure for a hint, and if you play keyboards, in my head it flows like Schubert's Gretchen am Spinnrade.