Taking Refuge by Sarahjoy Marsh
"Life comes through us in sound and movement, in silence and stillness, in majesty and vulnerability. Its possibility of expression unbounded."
Today I had my first singing lesson! It was a joy to match the pitch of my teacher’s deep, melodic voice. It was also terrifying to open my mouth wide, though there was a thrill in letting go. Letting go my well trained embochure from 10 years of playing the trumpet, not to mention my 32 years of socially well-received facial expressions: the smile, the laugh, the wink of recognition, the serene face of a meditation student, the contemplative expression of one who is considering her life deeply!
Each time he sung the pitch and asked me to open my mouth wider, I felt the smirk of embarrassment and the laughter of being seen in my vulnerability. My lips draw easily into a smile, whether I am happy, embarrassed, bashful, enthusiastic or even angry. I tend to unconsciously make the facial expression that best suits the person I am with, not wanting to rock the boat! That boat might be anything—our connection, their perception of me, their uneasiness with something I’ve said, you name it. And yet, I’ve noticed that running on this habit makes life get smaller and smaller.
Each time I reached into a new pitch with the skillful guidance of my teacher, I could feel my throat opening to deeper possibilities of expression. Just as with every sun salutation, where my body cycles through new inner horizons, each stretch of my voice encouraged a wider exchange with life. Some mornings my sun salutation is prayerful, others more celebratory, some slightly mournful, but each one a road to homecoming. “I am singing the cold rain, I am singing the winter’s dawn, I am turning in the grey, cold morning of my life, toward home, always toward home.” There is no limit to this expression, and none more appropriate than another. When I take in the glory of nature, the thing that impresses me the most is the sheer authentic and intricate manifestation of each leaf, not trying to be a flower, but enjoying its utter leaf-ness. Why spend time trying to fit in?
Life comes through us in sound and movement, in silence and stillness, in majesty and vulnerability. Its possibility of expression unbounded. Opening to the full resonance available to my voice in those moments, I tasted the majesty and fullness of life’s expression. Short lived, perhaps, because my breath only holds out for so long, but powerful, and yet, impersonal. I did not have the sense that I was creating this song, but rather that I was enjoying being used as the instrument of song.
When I come to realize that all of life’s expressions, not just around me, but through me, as me, have a momentum and a permission that is neither driven by nor granted by me, I get to see the birth, the song and the death of that expression in the larger context of life. I see that any expression is possible. I am not bound by this personality, nor that social structure. Being myself becomes the greatest blast I could ever have, for there is freedom and spaciousness as I open to limitless expressions. It also becomes the most silent and still experience of life as I watch the bursting forth of spring and the retiring of a moon waning, and realize that what drives the flowers to bloom and the planets to revolve, is the same majesty that breaks into my spontaneous laughter or poignant tears of intimacy.
“For sixty years I have been forgetful, every minute, but not for a second has this flowing toward me stopped or slowed. Today I recognize that I am the guest the mystics talk about. I play this living music for my host. Everything today is for the host.” —Rumi
When I practice yoga, as well as when I teach, I come to see each pose, every gesture that we make, as an expression of “this which flows toward us”. When we open fully to this “flow” and allow our physical expressions to be guided by that, we find ourselves coming naturally into alignment with our hearts and the pulse of life. Each yoga pose, like each note on the scale that I sang today, opens a new avenue in the body’s expression, and ultimately, a new landscape for which the heart may sing its gratitude.
May all beings open to the limitless, in their voices, in their bodies, in their hearts. May this bring reverence, appreciation, silence and stillness.
Sarahjoy Marsh is a founder of The Sanctuary, A Center for Yoga, Dharma and Healing Arts. She is dedicated to the heart’s awakening through yoga and meditation. She can be reached at 503-552-9642 (552-YOGA).