This weekend I was extremely fortunate enough to have been able to attend my local Unitarian Universalist Spirituality Retreat. The theme for this retreat was Sound and Music. Singing in front of others or even with others has been extremely difficult for me all throughout my life, even though I love singing and music is general. I knew that I was going to do whatever it took to really push myself this weekend and explore this issue. I was at times really timid and certainly challenged out of my comfort zone, but I still felt safe. The entire weekend I was safe. No one was there to ridicule another. No one was held in higher esteem of another. No one was untrustworthy. These may seem obvious to you or not, but to me these were huge revelations that hit me like a ton of bricks.
It was not as though I were ever told I couldn’t sing. On the contrary I was praised as a youth for singing. I guess that standing out amoungst the crowd has just been something I grew up as. My youth was different than the masses and I always wanted not to stand out. Rather, I wanted to be invisible and just do what needed to be done. But circumstances as they were, that was just not in the cards for me. So, I guess that carried over into much of my life, including areas such as my art, singing, and opinions. These were the most challenging to me. They are open expressions of myself for others to make their judgements upon as good or bad. Since that is not the intent that you enter into these actions with, I guarded them against the world by shying away from public speaking, exhibition, and particpation. This wall is a barrier so thickly enforced now that the slightest release brings such a flood of emotions that it feels as if I have gone crazy and have no control over my senses or sensabilities. Knowing this while entering into this weekend of exposing myself, I went in gaurded to the hilt so I wouldn’t break rather I could absorb all the intellectual aspects of it all then in my own time I could delve into the exercises on my own time without fear.
Well, that is not exactly what occurred.
A few observations stood out to me. Each person came for totally different reasons. Everyone felt as though they were putting them self out there on the line. We were all there to enjoy ourselves. We were all there to make connections with new folks and to deepen the ones we already had. No one was there to be hurtful! Out of nervousness of the tasks we were asked to do we broke out in jokes and laughter to ease the tension that occurs when we have to expose ourselves vocally and individually. It was challenging but exhilerating at the same time. We all managed to get through the exercises and was joyfully surprised at how fufilling the experiences were. In a playshop I attended in particular I found my self challenged beyond any comfort zone I thought I might have had there. Improvisation with an individual sound added upon each others sound within the group. I couldn’t find a sound to fit. I couldn’t let my self stand out. I couldn’t find a sound that wasn’t words. I couldn’t keep up with the changes. It all came down to risking myself and making something clearly all on my own accord to shape a whole as a group. I did end up finding an exercise that gave me enough comfort that particpating was easier for me to grasp. I got a lot out of this playshop. I found that the poeple in this playshop to be so extremely helpful and caring and supportive even in those times where I was just pushed beyond my ability to particpate. The discussions and the play we entered into during that class will stay with me for a very long time. I knew this fear of risk is also a factor in my difficulty with terms such as “faith” and “God”. I am not sure if the folks in the group with me knew how connected this was to me in other areas of my spirituality.
Have you ever had your name sung to you by all your peers? Well let me tell you, that is one experience that truely speaks to your soul. That is really all I can say about that. Beyond profound!
The poeple, the tasks, the play, the place…all these were factors to making this a most spectacular weekend. I have so much to absorb still and decifer. I came away from this experience with so many tools, but most importantly I found a community that I can be somewhat ungaurded and allow myself to stretch beyond me and to practice being me with.