spirtual path

Carry On

So a couple of nights ago, I was cooking dinner for my live-in family like I often do. I love being in the kitchen, and I love listening to music while I cook. “Rock Me Amadeus” came on, and I began to reminisce a bit. I told my wife that I had searched for 30 years for this particular version of the song. Today, it's known as the “Salieri Mix”, but in 1985, on that cassette tape I had in upper elementary, it was just “Rock me Amadeus."

When I bought a CD of the Falco 3 album several years ago, I was disappointed. The version of Rock Me Amadeus was not the version I loved so well. This began an exhaustive search for my beloved version of the song. Year after year I was unsuccessful.

I recently discovered that in 2016, a 30th anniversary album of Rock Me Amadeus was produced. At last! There it was! Track 2: Rock Me Amadeus (Salieri Mix)!

As I was relating the story of this journey to my wife, it hit me… I've had similar relationships with several songs over the years.

Songs that for one reason or another connected with me on a soul level. Songs like Kylä Vuotti Uutta Kuuta by Värttinä, and The Thing by Phil Harris.

The stories of how those songs came to me are for another time.

I learned about the concept of carrying songs by participating in song circles for the past few years. I realized I had been carrying these songs for years.

It was at that moment, standing there in our tiny kitchen, cooking an amazing cabbage dish, I was overcome with chills. I've heard some people called them "truth tingles." The idea is that in those rare times when we stumble across a concept that resonates so completely with universal truth, our bodies and minds are overwhelmed with physical sensation. Usually for me, this type of sensation send chills down the back of my neck, and maybe makes the hairs on my arm stand up.

This time, my entire body was overcome by the tingling sensation.

I realized, I am a carrier!

While at Music Medicine training with Christine Stevens, I learned the concept of carrying drums.

A friend at that training brought a powerful, and unique drum with her. The voice of this drum inspires community, and togetherness. We discussed the fact that my friend does not own this drum, but rather carries it. She has been entrusted with the responsibility of caring for and sharing the beauty of this drum. Eventually, she will pass on this responsibility to another.

In that one moment, while cooking cabbage, I realized that I have been carrying many things for many years.

I am a song carrier, I am a drum carrier, and I am a story carrier.

While working as a music therapist in long-term care, and hospitals, I learned about the responsibility of carrying stories. People would often share their stories, or part of their story with me. With honor, I was able to bear witness, and when appropriate, share their stories with others.

Of course, with this new realization, comes a greater sense of responsibility.

I have known for years my life was to be a life of service. I realized quickly that the songs, drums, stories, and medicine I carry are not for myself. I carry them to serve others.

Maybe that is why I often end prayers with something I've read is a favorite of the Dalai Lama: guide me, and heal me, so that I may be of greater service to others.

What do you carry?

What gifts are you meant to share with this world?

To quote Manifesto by Nahko and Medicine for the People, find your medicine and use it.

Carry on my friends.

Responsibility on My Spiritual Path

I am blessed that my professional work and my spiritual work are so intertwined right now. Every day, I get hundreds of years of combined life experience and wisdom, shared freely with me. I have learned more about the human condition in the last few weeks than I ever have in a classroom. I also get to witness hope, determination and perseverance through sometimes incredible odds. As with all things in this world, balance must be maintained. There is a price to be paid for this extraordinary gift I receive.

I also bear witness, daily, to the depths of human suffering. Substance abuse, shattered lives, broken relationships, self loathing...suicidal ideation...

Somedays, it can be overwhelming. Somedays I end up in my office, or in my car at the end of the day, and I cry.

I cry, not for myself, but for those I work with every day. I cry because bad things happen to good people. I cry because sometimes, good people make bad choices, again and again. I cry because all I can offer is the wisdom I have been entrusting with, the knowledge I have gained and a compassionate heart, open to the joys and suffering of those I serve...and I cry because sometimes that is not enough.

So many of us in service to others start our journey with an enthusiastic and fearless, "I can save the world!" attitude. We tell ourselves that yes, others have tried to save the world, but I am different! I am special! I can actually do it!

Sooner or later, we realize there is only so much each of us can do. We realize that our good, heart centered intentions can only stretch so far. We realize, that no matter how enthusiastic and compassionate and service oriented we are, some days we end up in the car crying.

But do not let yourself be disheartened my friends.

We can create positive change within our communities. That may mean our community of residence, our spiritual community, our social or peer community. Each act of kindness, each act of compassion, each time we smile at a stranger, counts.

Put your passion, and your compassion and your humble servitude into each day, and most days you will notice the subtle shift. Energy becomes lighter, people frown a bit less, moods improve.

Some days you will cry. Most days, you will say to yourself, "Today, I lived in a good way."

For me, I chose my profession. I chose to be a music therapist and a teacher. I did not, however, choose my spiritual path. It chose me long ago, but it was with the speed of a giant sequoia, or a mountain, that I answered the call. Though I did not choose the path, I accept the responsibility of what it means to walk that path. At times, that means taking on the suffering of individuals, or my community (in all its forms), so the suffering is shared. The goal is to transmute the suffering into some measure of peace. The burden is shared and thus lessened.

I am learning just how difficult this can be, but I am also learning how to take care of myself so I can better serve others. This is my responsibility, and I will humbly serve with each breath in this lifetime.

Some days I cry, but as a valued teacher once said, this is long, long, long work that we do.

So I try to live each day in a good way, and try to remember that this is not about me...this is about service to others.

Aho.