As many of you know, St. Hildegard wrote many letters. This month I would like to start out by sharing a section from one of my favorite of her letters. This is a section from a letter she wrote to a young Benedictine nun, Elizabeth. When St. Hildegard wrote her this letter, Elizabeth was severely ill, partly through her own excessive asceticism.
“O daughter of God, out of your love for God you call a poor creature like myself, ‘Mother’. Listen then to your mother and learn moderation! For moderation is the mother of all the virtues for everything heavenly and earthly. For it is through moderation that the body is nourished with the proper discipline… When there are unseasonable downpours, the fruits and vegetables growing on Earth are damaged; when a field has not been plowed, you do not find good grain springing up; instead, there are only useless weeds. It’s the same with a person who lays on herself more strain than her body can endure. This is a sign that the effects of holy discretion are weak in such a person. And all of this immoderate straining and abstinence bring nothing useful to such a soul.”
What does St. Hildegard mean by “the proper discipline“? This month, I have been thinking about the breath… we breathe in and then we breathe out… I know that I can often focus for long periods of time on the in-breath and just forget that I must breathe out! I, too, find that “the effects of holy discretion are weak” in me. One of my recent prayers has been, “God, please show me today how to breathe out.” Or… in the words of St. Hildegard’s letter: “God, please show me today how to not lay on myself more strain than my body can endure.” And the guidance comes: “Go for a leisurely walk for thirty minutes. Watch the Olympics. Take some time to enjoy the flowers in your garden. Order take-out. Ask for help from family members. Go to bed early. Take the scenic route. Don’t set an alarm tonight. Say no!”
Breathe Out was the theme at our August Tap Into Transformation. David and I chose to create a dance to one of our favorite pieces of music. It is called “Sigh” by Praful. I invite you to find a peaceful spot, close your eyes and focus on your in- AND out-breath while listening to this song.
And then I invite you to do what the participants did at Tap Into Transformation and that is to draw what out-breath means to you. I had this vision of me resting surrounded by Nature, held by the Earth, Warmth and the Ocean. Such peace! I drew this vision that night, and I encourage you to draw what ever comes to you when you ask yourself what breathing out looks like. I also encourage you to share your drawings with me.
Breathing out is also really important to do with those people we are close to in our lives. In August my husband, David, and I took a trip to Oregon. We celebrated our fourth anniversary with a scrumptious seafood dinner on the banks of the Columbia River in Portland and then took a leisurely drive along the Oregon coast from Cannon Beach to Newport. Here are some photographs from our time by the water.
Beach in Newport, Oregon
Haystack Rock at Cannonbeach, Oregon
And then we drove to the Zimbabwe Festival at Western Oregon University in Monmouth. For four days we lost sense of time. We breathed out as we immersed ourselves in the music and people of Zimbabwe. One of the highlights of this festival for me was meeting and taking an mbira class with Moyo Mutamba. Moyo grew up in the Ndau/Karanga-speaking areas of Zimbabwe, immersed in muchongoyo, maduda and ngororombe drumming and dance. He fell in love with mbira from hearing his great-uncle play at family gatherings and from recordings of gwenyambiras on ZBC Radio 2. Since 2007, Moyo has been teaching and playing mbira in Canada, combining mbira with storytelling. Moyo is the co-founder of Nhapitapi Mbira Group. In addition, Moyo is a PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. His work focuses on indigenous cultures, ceremony and ritual and their relevance to education in general.
One of the most sacred moments at the festival was playing the song “Pfumvu” with Moyo in one of the courtyards of the university. David filmed our playing. I invite you to watch this film and breathe out! (CLICK HEREto view the video.)
As you move forward into these fall days, I encourage you to find ways to breathe out deeply at least once every day!
Happy July!!! I smile when I think about what happened for me on July 4th this year. My 21 year old daughter Alicia, who is home for the summer, went out and bought some fireworks, and for the first time my family set off our own fireworks! As I experienced the colors and noise and excitement of all four of my family members (myself included), I rejoiced. How glorious to feel something being ignited and then after what is a moment of incredible anticipation to see and hear the bursting forth of color and light.
This month I want to share with you some of the color and light that is bursting forth in my life.
On July 1st, David and I hosted our monthly Tap Into Transformation. David created a choreography to Bruno Mars’ hit song Uptown Funk. Listen to this song and imagine tapping along.
I tell you, the bass vocal line that starts the song always sends a joyous flow of energy through my body. I dare you to sing along with the opening vocal and find some moves with your body that enables the joyous energy to flow. It’s the best! All of us that attended that night felt the joy in our bodies.
After the dancing we enjoyed a delicious meal catered by Moe’s Barbecue.Oh my, was it yummy! For those of you who live in Boulder, really, go by Moe’s barbecue and have lunch one day. The food is scrumptious. David and I went by and had the catfish with beans and mac n’ cheese while watching one of the European Soccer Cup matches on the big screen TV one day this month. I was in heaven!!!
After dinner I led our group in a guided meditation. After helping folks relax their bodies and quiet their minds, I invited them to enter into a magnificent garden and to explore all the plants they found there. Each participant then connected with a special flower that was especially calling to them. They spent time with this flower, taking in its beauty and fragrance. Then they listened. The flower had a message just for them. Here are some of the messages the flowers shared that night:
I am too shy to talk.
Be like a firework!
Expand your own colors.
What is a special flower in your inner garden saying to you? My special flower was a sunflower and its message was: “FOLLOW THE LIGHT!” Here is a photo of the sunflower I drew that night.
Another way that I am bursting forth these days is through my new blog series. As most of you know, I have been a student and performer of the music of St. Hildegard of Bingen for over two decades. St. Hildegard’s music is described as monophonic; that is, consisting of exactly one melodic line. Singing her melodies over the years has given me strength, healing and profound inspiration. I have now begun a blog series to share specifically how five of St. Hildegard’s songs have helped me in my life and to give suggestions for how to use them in your life. To find out more, go to my blog.(Click here to visit the blog.)
The brightest light and color that is bursting forth in my life these days is being created by my work with the Kutandara Center. The Center was formed in 1999, after the directors, Randy and Amy McIntosh, fell in love with Zimbabwean music and wanted to share their passion for this music with others. I am currently part of two bands at the center, and this month I have been performing almost every weekend. On July 2nd and July 16th I performed at the Louisville Farmers Market. On July 24th I will be performing at the First United Methodist Church in Boulder during their Sunday service. For those of you in the Boulder area, I would love you to join me and Titandare at FUMC on July 24th. The service starts at 10:30.
The great treat at the Kutandara Center this month is a guest artist/teacher named Simbarashe Kamurivo. We call him Simba. Simba grew up playing the marimba in Zimbabwe and came to this country to study. He recently completed a graduate degree in Choral Conducting at the Greatbatch School of Music and is beginning his second Masters Degree in Ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University. He has also served as the instructor of Simba Marimba, an African Marimba Ensemble at the Eastman School of Music.
Simba has been working with both of the bands that I play with. His focus is on showing us how to share the joy of this music through connection with our audiences and incorporating more body movement into our playing. And it is perfect timing! As you know, I will be performing with Titandare at the annual Zimbabwe Music Festival in Oregon next month, and it will be so wonderful to have all of Simba’s joyous teachings under our belts as we head to Oregon.
My favorite of his teachings is the following: “Every morning, when you wake up, go to the mirror and put on your happy face. Yes, put on a huge smile and look at yourself. Then bring that face with you as go through your day….especially when you are playing the marimba!”
I encourage all of you to give this teaching a try! I am not kidding, get up in the morning and start your day by smiling at yourself in the mirror. Even if you don’t feel like it… SMILE AT YOURSELF… I guarantee that if you do this consistently every day for two weeks, you will start to feel happier, and that happiness will begin to radiate out to others in your life.
So as we move beyond the fireworks of July 4th, I want to encourage you to keep sharing your colors and lights. If you feel like taking a moment and letting me know about the color and light you are sharing with others, I would love to hear!
I vividly remember the day I discovered the healing power of St. Hildegard’s music. I had recently joined a local choir and we rehearsed every Thursday night. At the time, I was teaching full time, and on Thursday we had our faculty meetings, so I was done with work at 5:30, would grab some dinner and then make my way to choir rehearsal. I would show up, tired to the bones.
Our director had chosen to do a concert of music written by female composers and so one night I arrived at rehearsal at the church and he passed out the new score we would start working on…you guessed it…it was the music of St. Hildegard of Bingen. We were singing her song: O Jerusalem in its original form. St Hildegard’s music is described as monophonic; that is, consisting of exactly one melodic line. And so the entire choir sang in unison. As we sang through the song, I felt a sacred energy fill the church as well as my body. It literally felt like I was being plugged into a source of power and life. My energy returned and by the end of that rehearsal, I left the church full of energy and joy. I was ready to take on the world!
Wow, what had happened? How was this possible? I knew that the music was the source of the amazing transformation in my energy. I was hooked. From that day on, I was drawn to St. Hildegard and her music. I knew she could help me in my life. And that is exactly what has happened.
In this blog series, I am going to write about five of St. Hildegard’s songs:
O Viridissima Virga
O Virga Ac Diadema
O Frondens Virga
I will share how each song has helped me in my life and give suggestions for how to use it in your life. For now, I suggest you create a sacred space some where in your home. It should have a comfortable chair or pillow for you to relax in. Find a little table and put a candle, some incense and some images or objects that nourish your senses on the table. Fresh flowers are perfect as well as your favorite stones. Of course if you have a special spot in nature, where you feel inspired and peaceful, that would work well too. Just think about where you would feel most able to relax and sink into some glorious music and inspiration.
“Stay tuned.” We will start with the Kyrie next week.
Greetings from Europe! I am currently in London, England, with my son Joshua. We are spending three days here before traveling on to Switzerland to visit family. This trip is a dream come true. For years I have wanted to travel with my son, just him and me. I love just being with one other person at a time. I find when I can totally focus on connecting with that one person a greater depth of connection is possible. Such a gift! Josh is currently sound asleep (teenagers do like to sleep in) recovering from our transatlantic flight. We are staying in a hotel smack in the middle of London’s West End. This afternoon we will be seeing The Jersey Boys at The Piccadilly Theater (Josh’s choice) and tomorrow we will be taking the Big Bus Tour to see the sights!
Where are you choosing to focus these days? What is really important to you? As many of you know, I have been dedicating a lot of my time and heart forces to learning to play the marimba. This year in addition to continuing to play with the group I have been playing with for four years called Titandare, I also started playing with a group of more advanced marimba players… So every Tuesday and Thursday night I am playing the “wood that sings”. On June 5th both groups performed at the Shine Restaurant in Boulder. Those of you who were there experienced the joy and power of this fabulous music. Titandare played first followed by the Repertory Group. The Repertory Group has this name because we are learning all the songs that the band Kutandara plays. Kutandara is the leading band at our marimba center and performs regularly all year long. Members from the Repertory Group are invited to substitute for members of the Kutandara Band when needed. What a thrill it is to play with the other members of my two groups. My marimba experience feeds me in so many ways. There is such a connection between the players… It takes lots of practice (individually and collectively) to be able to play the songs we performed at Shine. During the process of learning the songs a group of marimba players has to come together as one unit in order for the groove of the song to really come alive. I love this coming together. It requires everyone in an ensemble to really listen to the other players and all this while playing their own part… For those of you who didn’t get to attend the concert, I suggest you listen to the concert while cooking dinner one night and dance along! Enjoy!!! (Click here to view the video.)
Another focus of mine is tap dancing! As most of you know, tap dancing has been a source of profound healing for me. I started tap dancing fourteen years ago solely because I knew it would help me heal what at that time was a pelvis frozen in pain. In those days I could barely move comfortably let alone dance. I marvel today when I think back on those times, realizing how far I have come! Today, not only can I move comfortably, I can move in tap shoes AND keep up with the likes of my magnificent husband David Sharp!
This month at our Friday night Tap Into Transformation our theme was boldness. We danced to the fabulous song Mack The Knife... looking and feeling so slick and strong! I loved watching the dancers grow in confidence as the evening progressed. David has such a gift with people, getting them to feel at ease and willing to put real “soul” into their dancing! By the end of the evening every one was smiling… what fun to do the final dance together. Click hereto see the dance we did that night!
After dinner we played a game with Sharpettes (David’s wonderful form of three line poetry). David and I created ten Sharpettes for people that we consider to be bold. Here are some examples from the evening:
Moonstruck actress, I got you babe
Like a singing diva with outrageous clothes.
A futbol star, Brazilian joy
Like a wizard, kicking spectacular goals.
And now two more without the pictures. Hint: They are related to the two countries Josh and I are visiting!
Prime Minister, British leader
Like an Iron Lady leading the way.
Crossbow in hand, yodeling strong
Like an alpine guy shooting apples off heads.
A special gift will be sent to the first person who emails me the correct answers to all four Sharpettes!
In closing I would like to let you know that after years of being asked to teach tap dancing by countless folks, David has now started teaching tap dancing during the week at the Viriditas Studio!!! He is teaching adults on Monday and Wednesday nights from 7:15 pm-8:30 pm and youth on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10:45 am – 12:00 pm (noon). He is also doing a series of camps for children in July (July 6-7, July 11-15 and July 25-29.) It is not too late to join in the fun. Those of you who are reading this and getting excited thinking…”Oh my God, what fun it would be to study tap dancing with David!” All I can say is, “Pick up the phone and CALL THE DUDE!” His phone number is 408-396-5279. If you would rather email him, his email address is email@example.com.
Well, it is now a week later and I am sitting in the lounge at the Zurich International Airport. Josh and I just spent a week with my parents, two brothers and their families. The focus of this trip was for Josh to get to know his extended Swiss family. My father was especially excited to introduce Josh to Swiss culture and took him on a boat trip on the Lake of Lucerne or as the Swiss call it the Vierwaldstaettersee (the Fourforestcitylake!). While on the boat ride they stopped off at the Ruetli, the famous meadow where the founding fathers of Switzerland from the three cantons Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden took the oath and declared independence from the Habsburgs over 900 years ago. Here is a photo of Josh taken by his grandfather at the spot where the oath was taken. What a great moment for both grandfather and grandson. And yes, it was just my father and my son that went on that boat trip!
So I encourage you to spend a few hours or even a few weeks one on one with someone you want to get closer to… extend your love to that person. It will do your heart a world of good!
(Excerpt from Hildegard of Bingen’s Medicine by Dr. Wighard Strehlow & Gottfried Hertzka, M.D.)
The soul is often weakened by the devil’s antics, or disturbed by the darkening of the spirit. Thus the soul loses its clear vision and suffers delusions of the imagination. Negative thoughts entice the devil’s influence to such a degree as to terrorize the soul. The devil will insidiously undermine human thought with delusions and lies. Even saints and holy people may perceive shameful visions, mesmerized by Satan’s sinister laughter. (CC 82,83)
Diabolic dreams and nightmares can be easily remedied and positively controlled with the aid of the pillow filled with wood betony leaves. (see Dreams, Part 4 of 6)
Besides the betony herb pillow, Hildegard suggests the precious stone, jasper, to regulate one’s dream life. Thunder and lightening dreams may announce threatening sicknesses and may even cause sicknesses. Persons with such dreams should take a jasper to bed with them for a longer period of time. The cold jasper placed on the skin is helpful, “Because then the fantastic forms and fiends will fly away and get lost.” (PL 1257B)
In all cases, a natural biological sleep is essential. For all of those who rely on sleeping pills and other drugs, their sleep is not sleep at all. Rather it is anesthesia which severely inhibits the natural dreaming phases and the fluctuating patterns of natural sleep. For these people, we recommend sauna treatments while inhaling chestnut extract. This technique evokes relaxation, while the chestnut cleanses the brain. An aid for those who still have difficulty sleeping is one cup hot wine with one tablespoon valerian root.
Just as the sun is the light of the day, so is the soul the light of the body awake. And just as the moon is the light of the night, so also is the soul the light of the body asleep. Whenever the body of a sleeping person has the right warmth, its marrow will be warmed in the right proportion and degree. When the person is free from the storm of conflict and moral contradictions, he or she will very often see the truth because then the knowledge of the soul is at rest. The moon shines its light bright and clear, whenever the night is free from the turbulence of clouds and winds. But when a storm of various and contrary thoughts controls the body and spirit of the person awake, and he or she goes to sleep with this storm, then that which the soul sees in dreams is almost always false. The knowledge of the soul is so darkened under such contradictions, that it cannot see the truth. The moon cannot shine clearly in a storm of clouds. (CC83, 27 ff)
Are your nights free of the turbulence of clouds and winds? Does the knowledge of your soul shine brightly so you can see the truth?
(Excerpt from Hildegard of Bingen’s Medicine by Dr. Wighard Strehlow & Gottfried Hertzka, M.D.)
Jacob of the Old Testament
When God let sleep descend on Adam, his soul saw in a truly prophetic fashion many things, because it was still free from sin. In like manner, the soul of a sleeping person can also see many things prophetically, if that same person is not burdened by sins. (CC 82,22)
Those light, joyous individuals like Adam and Eve and Jacob, who are not weighted down by sins and vices, will receive heavenly messages and experience prophetic dreams. Such persons are of an extraordinary nature, full of grace and peaceful in character. They seldom have nightmares and more often have enlightening dreams of prophecy. Like Adam’s brothers, it is possible for all of us to receive heavenly messages and experience prophetic dreams.
Because the human soul is of God, it sometimes sees the truth and the future while the body sleeps. It knows what awaits us and sometimes it knows what happens…When thoughts are positive and holy, the grace of God reveals truth to the dreamer. (CC 82, 28)
Have you ever had a prophetic dream?! I would love to hear about it!
COME AND TAP DANCE! JOIN US FOR FUN, FOOD AND FRIENDSHIP
TAP INTO TRANSFORMATION This month’s theme:
June 3, 2016 7:00 – 9:00 pm At the Viriditas Studio 4939 N. Broadway, Unit 65 Boulder, CO 80304
Come step into your boldness as we tap dance to one of the iconic songs of our times! You will smile, laugh and stomp your feet while feeling the joy of dancing to great music while creating rhythms with your feet.
We will teach you tap steps… NO EXPERIENCE NECESSARY… AND WE PROVIDE TAP SHOES!
Come join husband and wife tap dancers Jeannine Goode-Allen and David Sharp in their gorgeous and inspiring Viriditas Studio.
Have there been moments in your life when you received some news that just plain made you shout with JOY? This week I received an email that started with the following words, “Congrats! Makorokoto! You have been accepted to perform on the afternoon stage at Zimfest 2016.”
I was sitting in my car waiting for my son, Josh, to join me so I could drive him to school as I read the email and as soon as I read the first sentence, I immediately shouted, “YES!” at the top of my lungs with explosive joy. Right at that moment, my son was getting into the car and asked what I was so happy about. Josh is a composer and saxophone player and we have always connected around our music. He gave me one of his heart-melting smiles and a high five and said, “Great, mom.” It is always a special treat for me when I impress my fourteen-year-old son!
As we were driving to school, I flashed back to the moment 8 years ago when the music of the marimba came into my life… One Saturday summer morning in 2008, I was at the Farmer’s Market in Boulder. I felt like a Mack truck had hit me. The grief my body was holding was so heavy I could barely breathe. And then I heard it: “da-da dink-dink dink-dink dink-dink da-dink-dink.” Music notes like little drops of joy were floating through the rays of Colorado sunshine, gently entering me, and I could feel myself begin to breathe more comfortably.
The sadness I had felt for years was lifting. Like a child following the Pied Piper of Hamlin, I followed the music until I found the marimba band Kutandara. I wanted to stay there forever just soaking in the Joy of the “inanimate objects that sing” (=marimba!).
And now, Titandare, one of the marimba bands I play with will be performing at the annual Zimbabwean Music Festival on August 14th in Monmouth Oregon! Our performance is part of a four-day annual festival which celebrates the music and culture of Zimbabwe. A fun-filled four-day weekend of concerts, workshops, community conversations, a marketplace and more, Zimfest is the largest annual gathering in North America of students, teachers, performers, and fans of Zimbabwean music. Zimfest 2016 will celebrate the theme “Sing-Dance-Play! Tambai Tambai! Dlala-Dlala!” In Zimbabwe you only need one word to say “Play (music)” or “Dance” or “Play (have fun)”: Tambai if you speak chiShona, or Dlala in isiNdebele. To find out even more about the Zimfest, check out the Zimfest website. (Click hereto visit the Zimfest website.)
Here is one of the songs we sent in with our application. It is called Kuri Kwedu. The song tells us that “in the village even the old ladies ululate”. For those of you who do not know, to ululate is to “to make a long high sound with your voice as a way of expressing extreme happiness or extreme sadness.” One of the many gifts of my connection with African music is that it has given me the ability to express more powerfully my deepest of feelings. Here is Kuri Kwedu. Enjoy! (Click here to listen to Kuri Kwedu.)
If you would like to experience the joy of marimba music first hand, please come to the Shine Restaurant on Sunday, June 5th. Both Titandare and my other group Kutandara Repertoire will be performing as part of the Kutandara Annual Student Festival. The Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place is located at 2027 13th Street in Boulder. Each year Kutandara showcases their students, young and old alike, in an open house format in the community room at Shine Restaurant & Gathering Place. Each group performs the material on which they have been working over the course of the school year in 25-minute mini-concerts on the 1/2 hour. Come see me play! (Titandare plays at 1:30 and the Kutandara Repertoire plays at 2:30). Tickets are just $5 individual/$10 family and are available at the door.
There were also lots of shouts of joy at our monthly Tap Into Transformation. How I love starting out each month with this event. This month we danced to the fabulous and famous song called “Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees. This is one of the songs that was used in the movie “Saturday Night Fever”. Yes, you guessed it, by the end of the evening we were all strutting around like John Travolta.
We had a heart-warming conversation after dinner about what makes each of us come alive. For some it is playing the marimba, for others it is tap-dancing, for some it is playing the ukulele or going to Colorado Rockies games (especially when they win!) For yours truly it is all of the above and more!!!
In closing, I would like to share some of my favorite words of St. Hildegard of Bingen. You know that energy of joy…that energy that makes us feel so alive…for me that energy is one of the qualities of God…here is one of the ways that St. Hildegard describes God:
I, the fiery life of divine wisdom, I ignite the beauty of the plains, I sparkle the waters, I burn in the sun, and the moon, and the stars. With wisdom I order ALL rightly. Above ALL I determine truth.
How do you experience the fiery life of divine wisdom…aka JOY? I would love to know.