Shana Tovah, everyone. It's almost Yom Kippur!
I was teaching yesterday, talking about breath to my wonderful student, trying to explain the importance of expansive breath, from the front, back and sides. When I take the time to focus on my breath (which if I am being a good girl, I do as part of my warm-up), it is like I am transforming myself into a kinder, gentler, more centered human being. I feel the healing power of breath flowing though me, and a sense of calm washes over my usually crazed and neurotic mind. It is so much more difficult to sing in that busy-minded state, and there is so much more room for art in the other. Not only do you need the energy and support of your breath to make vibrations that are both beautiful and powerfully healing in and of themselves, but you need it to bring you to...I trail off...and a phrase I heard literally hundreds of times growing up pops into my head. I haven't heard it in years, but for some reason, there it was.
"Let us come before the throne of grace."
Never ever had I actually thought about what that meant to me before. And I was so shocked to hear it again, in my head, literally out of no where. When I was a kid, it was a hackneyed phrase that ministers always used in church to introduce nearly every prayer. Because of that, I never took a second to think about it...What is the throne of grace? What does it mean to come before it? Who will be there to extend grace to me? What does grace mean to me, and WHY did it come up when I was talking about breathing?
Then it occurred to me that during Yom Kippur, we talk about a holy being who is able to expiate us, from whom we beg forgiveness for all the ridiculous mistakes we've made throughout the year. We open ourselves up and admit what has gone wrong. We admit that we're not perfect. We admit that we still have a lot of work to do. That we could work harder at getting rid of the selfish inner dramas that keep the light from shining through us.
My idea of a holy being has changed over the years. He used to look a certain way to me, and now, he is not even necessarily a he to me any more. But I know that when I am drawing in and expelling my breath in a mindful way, I feel that intense peace, I can feel the vibration and energy of my own body. I feel like I am coming into a place of grace, of forgiveness, of okayness. I know that that is the place I have to be to do my best work as a singer, to get rid of any that would impede my ability to give of myself to the audience, to my students, to my friends. To be more than just a well-trained voice (see Thursday's first post) throwing out a resonant series of pitches, there is a lot of preparation involved.
Yesterday's little epiphany showed me how to repurpose an old phrase that has its emotional and psychological hooks in me. I think I know now that to come before throne of grace means to go to the place where my little soul stream connects with the big river, it is a place where all the unmerited favor I will ever need is there for me to wallow around in. And it is a place I can go whenever I need to.