Some time ago, I dreamt of standing atop a small tower playing a big singing bowl. When you strike a singing bowl it resounds like a gong. If you take the time to stir around the circumference of it instead, the sound is gradual. It feels like hearing a song in another room of the house and walking toward it in order to take in its fullness. At the apex of the sound, the player releases the mallet and you listen to the song shimmer and dissolve.
In my dream I am playing the largest singing bowl I’ve ever seen. It is big as a cauldron, and I am stirring around the outside, knowing that an audience is watching. A microphone is positioned above the bowl so it can be heard at a distance, and as I play we all hear a static sound from the speakers that turns into dreadful feedback . It almost overpowers the sound of the singing bowl.
The result of my playing is likely not being enjoyed by anyone any longer, but in the dream I can’t bring myself to stop. “The show must go on,” after all, and I’ve lived by that adage not only onstage but in my life.
My husband David is at my shoulder, and he gently points out that I have the option of stopping. I don’t remember what happens in the dream after that. I just remember the anxiety of trying to play and not getting the result I want, but feeling sure I’ll ruin something if I don’t keep going.
Let me tell you a little more about singing bowls. I have a small one that sits on a donut-like cushion, and the sound is softened and sweetened by the cushion. It adds just the right balance of support and open space to keep the bowl from the harshness of vibrating against a hard surface.
If I hold the singing bowl in my hand, the sound is dampened too much. If I strike it, it will resound, but not as fully.
I have something to offer through this life of mine: call it my song. No one else can sing it; no one else can stir the music from this little bowl.
There is a sweet spot for me to find: a cushion between my instrument and the inevitable friction of my life. The cushion might be writing a blog entry or making dinner for friends. The cushion is pasting magazine scraps onto a collage that no one is likely to see. The cushion is a half hour in the music room singing whatever I feel like singing.
What if I am so concerned about my performance that I can’t stop playing even though life is giving me unpleasant feedback? Do I care so much about getting a shot at the top of the tower that I don’t care that the amplification is hurting rather than helping? Will I listen to my husband’s gentle suggestion or will someone have to drag me off my stage?
I try to play a too-big bowl when I try to reply to all the emails in my inbox at one go. It’s too much for me to revamp our financial plan in a single week or to clean the whole house in one morning. Building my new business will take years, not months, and in the building lies the satisfaction.
Who says my instrument has to be big? Who says a wide audience needs to hear me play from an elevated platform? If I see my life not as a performance but as a life, then I’m not concerned with offering a spectacle. I’m interested in the dance of mutuality. This means favoring playfulness with my voice students rather than sitting back on the laurels of my so-called expertise. This means cavorting with the dog, not just feeding and walking him.
This means asking my blog readers to share their own stories. So here’s a question: what do you do that frees your own song?