A dear friend told me her recurring childhood nightmare, of opening her mouth to scream and no sound coming out. Of being rendered voiceless. But this nightmare betrayed her waking reality, as a girl growing up feeling unheard, seeping in to haunt her dreams at night.
I wept when she shared this with me. For her as that little girl with the soundless scream. And unexpectedly, for me as a little-girl-now-grown-woman who is still learning to open her mouth, let alone project her voice. To name her needs, her hurts, her anger, her fears, her desires. I was - and still am - the girl who muffled sobs in her pillow, trying to contain sound before it reached someone’s ears. Who learned, for one reason or another, to make herself smaller, quieter, more agreeable. Who learned to read everyone else's needs and not her own.
You see, I was nearly born a listener. But I’m just now practicing how to speak from the depths of me, without editing and cushioning words until my voice is swallowed.
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Finding our voice begins, as yoga meditation does, on the mat. That place where we are fully present, coming home to ourselves. That thin cushion between our sit bones or the soles of our feet and the earth, which holds us up, and our awareness of our full weight bearing down upon it. Or just as likely, it can begin in child’s pose: face down, fully resting pose, arms outstretched in surrender. Here, with eyes closed, we’re ready to come awake.
It starts as a flutter of knowing. An awareness of heart beating, blood pumping, emotion coursing through veins and pathways of flesh and bone. We are a cauldron of life and we are starting to pay attention. The way we begin to listen to what our bodies are telling us, we scavenge for words to pair with feelings, to give form to the opaque masses. We call forth words from the deep of us in the form of breaths and our chests expand and contract, ever lengthening as voice emits. Even without words, the sound releases courage in vibrato.
The breath, the word, the voice generated from deep in our bellies slows, slows, slows - and we expand.
This finding our voice is a journey of curves, high arches and low dips, not lines drawn in perfection from here to there. It’s a bending and a stretching, a bowing and a rising, a breaking and a mending, an opening and a lifting of our hearts upward. It’s an unfolding into vulnerability, to that very real pain of being unheard, unseen, misunderstood. It’s an unstifled cry, a scream that empties our lungs and fills us back up again, a plea from vocal chords on fire. It’s anger and forgiveness, learning when to hold position and when to release.
It’s a merging of body and soul, our past and present selves, cradling us in the now as we forge the way of becoming.
We practice breathing-speaking in the daylight and in the dark. It matters not because when our eyes are closed we see more clearly, lit up from the inside. Still, we light our candles, turn our mats to face new directions, open windows and prop our backs against the walls. We balance, we fall, we bruise, we rise again.
We gather words in breaths of quiet strength, and open our mouths.
Joining these words with the Kelly and the Small Wonder community