You Can’t Always Get What You Want, But. . .

You Can’t Always Get What You Want, But. . .

Following your dreams is something you are called to do. Each of us is called to follow our heart’s dreams.

Yet following your dreams is often approached in a totally wrong-headed way. A way that produces a great deal of suffering.

Your dreams are here to lead you on your heart path. Each of us must walk that path if we wish to live our fullest, richest, most fulfilled lives.

We are encoded with these dreams to such a degree that we cannot be truly joyful, if we refuse to follow them. That would be like an acorn trying to be something other than an oak.

Yet, following your dreams is not about getting everything you want.

Despite what so many “manifestation” teachers try to tell you. Trying to get everything you want is just grasping. It leads to immense suffering, as the Buddha taught.

Following your dreams is not about trying to be the “perfect” you or live a “perfect” life. It’s not about trying to fill up a deep sense of inadequacy or lack that can never be filled. Because those are lies.

You are already whole. You are enough and you have enough.

Yet there are things your soul longs to be and do, to express and experience. And these lead you on your heart path to make your contribution to our world.

Give Up the Dream of Control

Following your dreams is not about “manifesting” your desires in the sense of controlling your world.

The acorn gets no assurances of the future of the oak tree, how big it gets to grow, whether a storm will split it in two, whether anyone will ever see it.

Walking the path of your dreams does not mean you will get the girl or boy, the big house or fancy car, or even the book deal or art show—although you may get all those things and more.

This is the shocking truth many new age teachings don’t admit:

There is no guarantee of actually realizing the dream as you first imagined it.

There is no promise of success, abundance or safety.

But the surprise we discover on the path of dreams is: That’s not what it’s all about. There is something better.

Your Dreams Lead to Your Greatness

Your path of dreams is your heart path. It is about following your soul’s callings, giving what you uniquely have to give, playing your part in the whole.

Following your dreams is about growing into the fullness of who you are and can be.

Your path of dreams will ask you to shed the false beliefs and wounded self, to face your fears and shuck your laziness, all your clever subterfuge.

Your path of dreams is here to lead you to your greatest self.

It is here to challenge you and push you to grow, to heal and to shine. You cannot hide out on this path or play it safe or keep everything easy and comfortable.

Much Will Be Required of You

Your true heart’s dreams will ask everything of you.

Our true dreams require tremendous courage, devotion, care and persistence. They require inner strength, love, creativity and willingness to partner with others of like mind, to find your place.

They require your willingness to partner also with a field of Life greater than your small self, to recognize the limitations of the small self, the false self, and to live from something far deeper and more magnificent.

Many new-age teachings promise that you can get everything you want. They encourage you to feed your fear-based ego desires for money, possessions, prestige and, most of all, control.

But that is not the path to freedom and joy.

The path to freedom and joy comes from listening to, and following, your heart’s deepest desires, those yearnings that may terrify you even to admit.

And following them not out of the promise of arrival, so much as out of a willingness to go on the adventure.

You follow your dreams out of a love for the journey, the process and all the rich gifts it brings, gifts you cannot predict at the outset. There is no arrival point. That is one of the things you discover on the path of dreams, one of the many things that will set you free when you follow your heart path.

You follow because you have to, because that is who you are at heart.

You Get What You Need

I’m not saying that you will not realize those dreams that are in your heart.

With a combination of clear vision, commitment, devotion and attentive care, along with a healthy dose of surrender and partnership with the All, you can co-create extraordinary things in your life. Things that will bring great blessings to you and our world.

When you get clear on your heart’s true desires, you are in partnership with a force of Life larger than you, a force that is supporting you in unfolding in your gifts. When you clear the path to those desires by doing your inner work and taking steps to bring them to fruition, you greatly increase your chances of actualizing your dreams.

Using the processes that I teach, I have been able to realize remarkable dreams and create a life of passion, purpose and deep play that has been astonishing in many ways.

It has also been full of challenges and hard growth. Many times it has brought me to my knees, and still does.

But the path of dreams is not about trying to control life or handing the Universe a shopping list of your small self’s desires and expecting them all to be fulfilled. It is not about safety and security from the perspective of the limited self.

Following your path of dreams is about a deep sense of fulfillment, about connecting with the joy and freedom that are your true nature, and giving the gifts that only you can give.

If you would like to learn the time-tested tools and practices I teach to walk your own heart path, and get expert help on that path, check out my Creative Life Coaching & Creativity Mentoring, and sign up for a free Discovery Session with me.

Your Breakthrough Dream Part II

Your Breakthrough Dream Part II

In my last post, I shared with you the powerful tool of the Breakthrough Dream as a way of co-creating the life your heart desires. If you missed that post, click here to read it first. Today, we continue with part II.

In this post we explore how to discover your Breakthrough Dream, types of dreams, naming your dream clearly and committing to your dream.

How to choose a Breakthrough Dream

Your Breakthrough Dream might be a specific piece of a larger life dream that could be accomplished in a year or so. For instance, if my dream is to be a painter, I might choose to have a gallery show this year.

Or your dream may be something else that feels like it is needed in your life or is calling to you now, such as improving your health or repairing your relationship with your children.

The most important thing is that your Breakthrough Dream will inspire you, feel right, exciting or vital to you, and most likely scare you.

Any dream that is close to our hearts scares us because it matters to us deeply and it asks us to grow. If your Breakthrough Dream does not scare you at all, you may not have the right dream.

Your Breakthrough Dream should not feel heavy or burdensome like something you should do but do not want. Nor should it feel arbitrary, like you are just coming up with something. It should call to you, feel right to you, and feel like it would be wonderful to attain. If you sit with it for a week or two, it should feel clear that this is truly something you deeply desire that is calling to you at this time.

Some questions to help you find your Breakthrough Dream

1) What one single change in some area of your life would represent a leap for you, a breakthrough to a new level of being and living? What would bring you more peace, joy, fulfillment or open up new vistas for you?

2) If you could change one thing in your life that would make the biggest positive difference right now, what would it be?

3) Is there one thing you are really longing for in your life now that, when you think about it, lights you up and probably scares you? Is there something you would love to be, do or have that you are afraid to admit?

To be most easily worked towards, the Breakthrough Dream would be a SMART goal. Your Dream may not fit that criteria and that is fine too. Trust your heart on this.

A SMART goal is:

Specific—it’s clear what the Dream is and it’s singular.

Measurable—an outside person could easily tell whether or not you realized your dream

Attainable/Actionable—it’s humanly possible for you, even if it’s a big stretch and you don’t know how. The A could also stand for Actionable—it’s possible for you to take action toward it.

Relevant—It matters to you, it’s meaningful.

Time-based—You’ve put a time marker on when you’d like to see the Dream accomplished, understanding that life may show up differently.

Some examples of Breakthrough Dreams might be:

  • build a cabin
  • write a draft of a book
  • become vibrantly healthy
  • meet my soulmate
  • have a solo art show
  • go on a 3-month trip to Bali
  • learn to sing
  • explore my creativity
  • start my own business
  • get out of debt
  • discover a career I would love
  • uncover my joy

Beingness dreams and Doingness dreams

Your dream might be a dream that involves doing, such as writing a book or starting a business or going to graduate school, or it might be more of a Beingness dream, such as deepening your connection to Spirit or discovering your true gifts.

Both kinds of dreams are wonderful. It can be harder to find action steps toward a Beingness dream and be clear about how you know if you have reached it, but these can still be excellent Breakthrough Dreams. If you choose a Beingness dream, you will simply need to define some consistent steps you can take toward it, ways to keep it alive in your daily life and cultivate it, and some measures of success or progress for yourself.

You don’t need to know the how

Many great dreams get stopped in their tracks because the dreamer said, “but I don’t know how.” If Martin Luther King, Jr. had said that, we would not have his amazing “I Have a Dream” speech, nor, more importantly, would we have all of the radical actions he took to fulfill that dream.

You do not need to know the how of your dream. You only need to know the what, what your dream is. The dream will show you the how as you declare it and begin to take steps toward it.

Please do not limit yourself to dreams you feel you know you can have—safe, small dreams that neither scare you nor light you up. Do not limit yourself to dreams you are sure are within your power. Notice that Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream relies on many people coming together.

Dare to dream big, but dream from the heart and soul, not from your head, not from your hungry ego, not from what the culture-at-large claims success looks like.

Wording the Dream

Come up with a simple statement of the dream that is worded in the present tense, as if you are already living the dream, that includes you in the dream, and that uses emotionally evocative language.

Also, keep the dream focused on one thing. Do not try to cram several dreams into one dream. This sends confused messages to your subconscious and generally yields less potent results.

Here’s an example of one of mine: “I am holding my beautiful published book of poems in my hand. Fierce Aria has been lovingly shepherded into the world by a wonderful press.”

I chose this dream in 2018 as my Breakthrough Dream. My book was accepted by a press in May of 2019. Although I chose a new Breakthrough Dream for 2019 because I felt it was time to choose a Beingness dream, I continued to work on this dream as well. And I am still working on it, as now there is much to do to promote the book. In fact, I might choose bringing the book into the hands of readers as my Breakthrough Dream next year.

Committing to the Dream

Once you have chosen a dream, it is time to commit to it wholeheartedly. Declare your dream to yourself and the universe. Create a ritual of planting your dream seed.

Now the challenge is to keep it in your consciousness and stay in consistent action toward it throughout the year. As I have written elsewhere, it is not enough to get clear on the dream, name it clearly and commit to it, we have to also be in motion toward it. This is our offering to the Universe, which then responds in kind with support, synchronicities, guidance, necessary challenges and blessings. Read my post The Dangers of Wishful Thinking: Nothing Changes If We Don’t Take Action here.

This is where hiring a life coach can be enormously helpful. So that you have the structures, support, skills and accountability that any big dream needs to thrive.

If you are interested in learning more about how working with me as a Creative Life Coach can help you walk your unique heart path, realize your dreams and experience profound breakthroughs in your life, click here to schedule a complimentary Discovery Session with me, and we will explore together.

The Breakthrough Dream

The Breakthrough Dream

The Breakthrough Dream: A Radical Tool To Create the Life Your Heart Desires

In my Creative Life Coaching and in my Living Your Dreams class, I share a potent tool that brings profound focus, momentum and satisfaction to creating your heart’s desires.

That tool is called the Breakthrough Dream.

The Breakthrough Dream is a dream that, if achieved, would be a real breakthrough for you.

At the start of each year I choose a Breakthrough Dream as a focus for the year ahead. I like to choose a dream (desire/goal) that could be accomplished in a year’s time or in a few years at most.

Discovering this tool has led me to co-create dreams that I have deeply longed for and that have brought incredible joy and richness to my life, dreams such as finding and marrying my beloved and getting my book of poems published.

This act of choosing one, and only one, Breakthrough Dream and naming it clearly is radical and powerful in itself. And, for most people, it is quite challenging.

Choosing the Breakthrough Dream does not mean that you give up all other dreams, desires or goals for the year. But it does mean that you choose one primary dream as the core of your focus this year. It requires you to get clear about what is truly in priority for you.

Why do this?

The Power of Focus

focus on the breakthrough dream

Choosing a primary focus for the year and committing to it wholeheartedly aligns our energies. It sends a clear message to the universe.

We are far more likely to invite positive results, when our intention and actions are clear and aligned. Whereas, when we disperse our energies in too many different directions or do not make any choice at all, we are likely to invite mixed results that may not be at all what our heart desires. 

Think of it this way. If I go to the coffeeshop and say to the barista, “I’d like some kind of beverage,” I’m either going to get whatever is easiest for the barista to give me, or more likely, I will get nothing, because she does not know what I really want. It works the same with our heart’s desires.

person in overwhelm

One of the reasons many of us do not have more success co-creating our dreams is because we are so scattered. We refuse (or are afraid) to choose, to narrow our focus, to get clear, and simultaneously we neglect to fully commit to a dream.

Many of us are afraid to commit to a dream for fear of being disappointed or failing or choosing wrong. But that fear keeps us engaging in half-measures and flitting from dream to dream, goal to goal, project to project without ever enjoying the passion and fulfillment of deep engagement and of actually reaching our dreams.

When we choose a Breakthrough Dream, we get our whole self on board. I have found that this level of clarity opens up all kinds of energy and momentum, not only for that dream, but all over my life.

What if it doesn’t come true?

Life is full of surprises and shows up in unexpected ways. But the path of your dreams is not just about fulfilling them. It is about growing into the fullness of who you are.

Your chances of reaping the harvest of your dreams is far greater if you clearly choose and commit to a dream than if you do not. Either way, you will learn and grow a great deal.

Sometimes in the process, you may decide you no longer want the dream. You may discover you were pursuing it out of some motive that does not come from your heart or soul, such as a need to prove yourself to your parents.

In the process of letting it go, you find freedom and a clearer connection to what does matter to you. Or sometimes on the road to your dream, Life shows you a different path. That too is success.

What if I choose the wrong dream?

Moving towards the dreams of your heart and soul is ultimately about growing into the fullness of who you are and sharing your gifts with the world.

This kind of dreaming is about experiencing the innate freedom, wholeness and joy that you are, and transforming what comes in the way of that.

So, when I teach, we practice tuning into our hearts and souls, listening deeply to the still small voice within that is guiding us. And I help you hear what that voice is saying, to name a Breakthrough Dream that has real aliveness and meaning for you.

As you move toward your Breakthrough Dream with clarity, commitment and consistent action, you may find that you no longer want the dream. If you are truly losing interest in it, rather than simply getting scared or losing faith in yourself, then it is time to consciously release the dream and choose a new one. Nothing wrong with that. You have freed yourself of that dream and now have more space within to create what is truly aligned with your heart.

If you feel relief and happiness in letting the dream go, and joy in choosing another, go for it!

But if you find yourself wanting to change your Breakthrough Dream every month, then you need some support in finding what is really in your heart and in releasing the inner blocks that keep you from following it.

What about my other dreams?

When you choose a Breakthrough Dream, you are not abandoning any other dreams, desires or goals. You are simply creating priority and focus. In my experience, priority is a key not only to achieving our dreams, but to living a sane, balanced, joyful life.

We cannot do everything at once. We only have so much time, energy and resources. So we have to make choices. To live a beautiful life, I recommend making choices that come from your heart and soul.

You can work towards multiple dreams, goals and desires in a year. I certainly do. The Breakthrough Dream simply asks you to choose your #1 focus out of those, the one that will give you the most at this time or is the most vital, alive, exciting or important to you now.

In committing to the Breakthrough Dream, I find that I get so much more clear about my priorities throughout my life. I am less likely to over-extend myself. I also find that other dreams, desires and goals gain momentum and have an often magical way of coming to fruition.

In my next post, I’ll share with you how to choose a Breakthrough Dream, the different types of dreams, and how to support the dream coming to life. Stay tuned!

If you are starting out on the path of dreams, seeking your passion, joy and unique gifts, or have come to a crossroads and are wondering what your next step is, there are few better gifts you could give yourself than to sign up for The Artist’s Way. I’m leading a new group in Nevada City.

If you don’t live in the area or are ready for deeper support for your dreams, discover how investing in Creative Life Coaching could change your life.

World as Friend: A Radical Shift

World as Friend: A Radical Shift

I wrote this post a couple of years ago after having a startling experience. I never shared the post at the time. It seems particularly relevant now in the wake of my poetry book recently being accepted by a publisher. I hope it inspires you.

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.”– Louise L. Hay

I had a breaking open the other day, beautiful, startling and deep.

For months I have been sending a manuscript of my poems out to presses to find its rightful publisher. Suddenly, I saw how much I was expecting not to find a publisher, assuming that no one could possibly want it.

This is despite the fact that I have had many poems published in journals, been invited to read at literary events for years, received heartfelt appreciation from enthusiastic audiences and even encouragement about this particular manuscript from noted editors.

I see how often I have unconsciously expected to be rejected, shut out, not wanted or just not understood.

It is an old pattern. I anticipate that others will not want what I have to give. And so I sometimes attract those very results I fear.

But here is what came to me suddenly, not just as an idea, but as a deep wonder and inspiration.

Changing the View

What if the whole world is my friend and I behaved as such?

What if I went through my day as if I knew in my bones that I was loved by all of life.

Not in a full-of-myself way, but beautifully empty. Having “no-self,” the way a tree does or a sky. Open, generous, received and receiving.

What if I cultivated a deeper relatedness, a calm sureness and bountiful love for self?

What if I let my star rise, my flower open, unperturbed? What if I let myself be fully loved and embraced? What if I believed in the value of all I am doing?

Letting in Love

If my voice is actually needed here, if I am given these words for a reason, if I am given my love of music for a reason, how do I embody this knowing?

For years I held myself outside the sanctuary of a deeper love, not love from another person, but LOVE itself. And because of that, I have been fearful of so much, constructing imagined catastrophes, feeling I have to do it all by myself.

Golden sun bathes the treetops. We wait for love, while the whole day paints itself lavishly before us. Now I am peering through the curtain, beginning to see something that rends me open.

What if I could allow myself all this grace?

How Might Your Life Change?

How might your life be different if you knew in your bones that you are loved, wanted, accepted and needed by Life?

If you behaved as if you knew this?

  • How would you move differently in the world?
  • What would you do that you have not been doing?
  • How might you be different in your relationships, your creativity, your work, your finances, your play?

Write in your journal, allowing yourself to explore this. Then…

Practice Living As If

Try it on today, even if you are not sure it is true. Commit to acting as if it is true.

See what miracles arise, what synchronicities come to bless you, what revelations present themselves.

See how you feel differently in your heart, how your posture and movement change, what new choices you make. How you become a blessing to others as you stop worrying whether you yourself are loved.

Behave as if you are the beloved of all of Life.

You can play with “what if” statements in your journal and in your thoughts to open yourself to new possibilities.

We often use “what if” in a fearful way, imagining the worst, as in “what if I fail?” Try using “what if” to bring you into expansiveness, wonderful new ways of being, openness to blessings. “What if I knew I was wanted and needed here, loved, a blessing and blessed?”

Try taking this on right now inside yourself and share what comes up for you. How does it feel in your body, your heart, your mind, your spirit?

To Authorize or To Abandon?

To Authorize or To Abandon?

To Authorize or To Abandon:
How Do You Know When a Work of Art Is Done?

How do you know when your poem or novel, your painting, symphony or dance piece is finished and ready to be shared with others?

How do you know when it is time to stop revising, tinkering, perfecting and let it go out in the world?

My friend Sands Hall, novelist, memoirist and teacher, tells a story about someone asking the Pulitzer-Prize winning novelist Richard Ford that question:  How does he know when a novel or short story of his is done?

He responded, “When I have authorized every word.”

Author, Authorize, Authority

When she tells the story, Sands Hall notes the etymological connection between author, authority and authorize.

To be an author (a creator, originator) is to authorize what you have written (“give formal approval or sanction to,” also “confirm as authentic or true”), in other words, to assume authority (command, power, “capacity for inspiring trust”) over the material.

Certainly, this kind of manic care in the details is something I have learned to practice as a poet, to question every word, every comma, every line break, every formal choice. Is it exactly what I mean? Does it serve the poem? Is it the best choice I can make in that spot?

Beware of Perfectionism

And yet the goal of authorizing every word or gesture or musical note is an ambitious one, and one that could leave many artists stalled at the gate, never completing a work of art, sometimes never beginning one.

Perfectionism and fear of finishing are two of the major forms of creative block I have identified in the artists I have worked with.

Hence, this ideal may not be the best one to aspire to, especially early on in your art-making life. When starting out or re-starting, I believe it serves you better to generate more art than to obsess over any single piece. It is important to get the flow going and keep it going. And also to keep your joy in the process alive.

Photo by Senjuti Kundu on Unsplash

But, as a beginner or intermediate artist (or really at every stage), it is also very helpful to get feedback from others. We cannot see our own blind spots. We cannot see our own work clearly or how it affects others. So, getting good feedback from those who understand our work and have deep knowledge of the art form or are lovers of the art form (audience members) helps us grow as artists and refine our creations.

There is a balance to be struck between being a perfectionist who never lets anything be finished (artistic constipation) and being in love with everything you create without working to hone it at all (the dilettante).

Or Do I Just Abandon It?

Contrast the approach of authorizing every word, then, with this famous quote by the French poet Paul Valéry: “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”

This is the popularized, abbreviated rendering of what he actually wrote (as translated by Rosalie Maggio in The Quote Verifier and posted on QuoteInvestigator.com):

“In the eyes of those who anxiously seek perfection, a work is never truly completed—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned; and this abandonment, of the book to the fire or to the public, whether due to weariness or to a need to deliver it for publication, is a sort of accident, comparable to the letting-go of an idea that has become so tiring or annoying that one has lost all interest in it.”

Celebrated poets W. H. Auden and Marianne Moore, both of whom revised their work obsessively agreed with Valéry on this. At some point they simply moved on from a poem, having done all they could.

So, which is it? Do we authorize or abandon? How do we know when our work is done?

It Is Different Every Time

For every artist and for each work of art, you will have to answer this in your own way.

I was once hired by a writer to edit his work, and when we met the first time he told me he wanted some objective standards by which to measure if his work was good or not. He was dismayed when I told him, “There are none.”

In my experience, with some pieces I feel they are done. There is a sense of completeness and harmony, of having more or less achieved what I set out to do. Occasionally I feel a piece is perfect in itself, in its aims and construction, only to later revise it, when someone points out a new suggestion or a blind spot.

More often, I reach a point in revision where I realize that any further tinkering is likely to kill the life in the piece. That, like the mistakes intentionally woven into Persian carpets so that they do not aspire to God’s perfection, the moments of awkwardness in my poem are a part of its aliveness.

I love editing and tend to revise my poems and essays many times, sometimes radically, sometimes just changing a few words or punctuation marks, sometimes I do this for years. In fact, it is often hard for me to read something I have written and not start tinkering with it again.

But with some pieces I feel too distant from the moment of creation to keep working on them. I cannot re-enter the life of the piece. I have to let them stand as they are, in all their imperfections, as a small monument to the time, place, impulse that formed them.

I have, on many occasions, made changes to a piece only to wind up, weeks or months later, reverting to the former version, realizing it is better. I do not consider this effort wasted, however, as the act of revising and re-revising teaches me things about art and my own aesthetic.

When performing music or dance, the deadline of the performance forces me and my collaborators to call a piece done, at least for the time being. In fact, in the groups I work with, we find we need those scheduled performances in order to focus us and bring work to some state of completion. So, we often set performance dates before we even begin making pieces or early on in the process.

Because I am both an improviser and a composer, I experience making art both in the moment with no chance to revise it and lingering over the construction of pieces for months or years. I love both processes, and both have enormous value and validity.

Do Your Best and Let It Go

So, the short answer to the question this essay began with is: You don’t know.

You make your best guess. You work as long as you can given your deadlines or your abilities. You set it aside and come back to it if you can with a fresh pair of eyes and ears. You get feedback from trusted others. You work as long as you can without killing the life in the piece or your own enthusiasm for art-making. (Please be sure to keep that alive!)

And then you bless your creations and send them out in the world to make their way, so that they can bless others.

Chime in here: How do you know when your work is done?

My Big News! A Dream Come True

My Big News! A Dream Come True

I am over the moon!

My full-length book of poems, Fierce Aria, has been accepted for publication by Finishing Line Press. Whoo!

The book will come out next Spring, but pre-sales will start soon.

I started work on assembling this manuscript back at the start of 2010. It’s been a long and winding road. Loads of twists and turns, loads of challenges and growth, blood, sweat and tears.

I am finally realizing my dream of being a published author. I’ve been published in literary journals and on blogs for years, but to have a book of my own is huge for me, a major milestone in one of my life dreams.

I have learned so much in the process about poetry, revision, working with editors, presses and publication and contests and more. Also about persistence, fostering creative community, and realizing our dreams.

I’m eager to share what I’ve learned with you.

If you want an inside view of my creative journey from first draft through revision to publication, if you want to hear the juicy details of the ups and downs, and get to read some of my poems, I urge you to join me on Patreon now.

Patreon is where I share my work and process in an intimate way with my besties, and I would love to share it with you.

I’d love to be able to thank you publicly for being part of my creative community.

Your support and companionship here on Brilliant Playground mean a lot to me.

Maxima leaning on a tree

If you join me on Patreon now at any level, you get your name in the acknowledgments of my book and loads of other goodies along the way!

For as little as $3, you get your name in lights (well, ink), my undying gratitude, and insider access to my work and creative process. And you get to be a bonafide patron of the arts. How cool is that!

I cannot do what I do without you. I’d really love for you to join me there, get your name in my book and other great rewards and show your support. Will you?

You’ll be helping me reach another important goal, getting my first 100 patrons on Patreon, which helps me keep creating and teaching.

Please take a moment to check it out:

https://www.patreon.com/maximakahn

To your creative blossoming,

Maxima

Singing Our Way Home

Singing Our Way Home

One of the tenderest and most beautiful moments in my mother’s final days was the night before she died.

My brother Josh sat singing to her for hours as she lay breathing raggedly, eyes closed, sunk deep into herself. And one by one all of my siblings and me, our spouses who were there, two of her caregivers, all clustered around her bed in the small darkened bedroom, sitting on chairs and on the foot of her bed, touching her body with love, while Josh continued to sing.

May the longtime sun shine upon you,
all love surround you,
and the pure light within you
guide your way home.

That was one of the songs he sang over and over, singing our mother’s soul home.

It occurs to me that singing each other home is one of the greatest gifts we can give in this life. Not just at the moment of death, but all through our lives from birth onward.

I’m told in aboriginal Australia, every person has a unique song, which the elders hear while the child is still in the womb. (At least I’m told it used to be this way.) The whole tribe learns this song and sings it to the child as he or she grows, when she falls or he cries or needs reminding of who he is. Singing her home to herself.

holding hands, touching with love

Whether in music or poetry, through our dancing or teaching, counseling or healing or simply touching each other with love, whether through firekeeping or by listening deeply to another, singing each other home to our souls is the highest expression of each of these arts and a priceless gift.

If we remember this as our purpose, or part of it, while we are making art or cooking a meal or talking to a stranger, we can elevate our lives and the lives of others immeasurably and do a great service to all life on this planet.

We can help to sing Earth home to her soul, her radiant, healthful aliveness in the web of life, through our rituals, our honoring and gratitude. We can do this for all things, whether supposedly inanimate or animate.

And thereby we renew our world. We sing the creation into its fullest expression. We guide our way home.

Singing our way home to ourselves is something we cannot do alone. We are designed to need others to help sing us home—whether they be human others or animals, plants, weather spirits or angels. We are part of an intimately interconnected web that we are required to depend on for life.

As humans we are given the unique quality of forgetting who we truly are, losing our way home. Our myths in all cultures throughout time tell of this getting lost, forgetting and remembering, finding our way with the help of others.

These myths or sacred stories are a guidebook to help us live well on Earth, honoring our interdependence, our magical gifts, walking our heart paths, heeding the call of our souls.

Let us remember to sing each other home and to ask others to help sing us home. Let us sing these sacred songs in our art-making, in all we do.


For more on how art calls us home to ourselves, read The Extraordinary Gifts of Poetry and Art, or engage your own soulful creativity with this creative exercise: Create an Ode, or discover your soul’s home in Why the Heck Am I Here?

Living Life as Prayer

Living Life as Prayer

Sometime this past year I set the intention to live my life as prayer.

I have carried this intention, less clearly named, for most of my life.

I remember a summer when I was around 15 or 16 that a young homeless man granted me three magic wishes.

I wished to become a great musician, and to grow closer to God. I don’t remember the third wish.

What amazes me about the two wishes I do remember is they are still my heart’s deep desires, to be a great artist, to dwell in union with the Divine.

My Beginnings

I grew up in a largely non-religious household. My parents were agnostic, philosophers and intellectuals, questioning everything. We kept a few of the major Jewish holidays.

Then, when I was about 10, my parents started attending a very open-minded congregation that was just forming. I did eventually go to Hebrew school for a couple of years and have a bat-mitzvah.

But, throughout my childhood and beyond, my connection to the Divine was allowed to develop on its own in a very pure and personal relationship that my parents found both mystifying and enviable.

Although I have carried a deep closeness with the Divine since I was a child, naming my intention to live my life as prayer has given a clarity, a shape that brings the commitment more fully into my daily life.

What Does It Mean to Live My Life as Prayer?

That is an open question, a generative question, one to keep asking and living into the answer.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” —poet Rainer Maria Rilke

Some Answers

To live my life as prayer means:

To live in deep devotion and connection to the Goddess (the Divine Feminine that we need so much in our world now) and All That Is.

To be a prayer for peace, for love, for wonder, for beauty, for Grace. To embody that in my being and doing.

To infuse what I create with that intention. To listen deeply to the song of the world, the wisdom of the world, and move in accord with it.

To offer up all that I do for a larger purpose and to live in alignment with my highest values.

I think about the life of a monk or nun, but out in the world.

How can I be a beacon of that which matters most to me? How can I serve the Divine in all things, in all moments?

How Do I Practice Living My Life as Prayer?

I aim for devotion in my actions, for deep care, for alignment with an understanding of the sacredness of all things.

I aim for presence, awareness, awakeness.

I cultivate gratitude and appreciation, a sense of the abundance and grace of this life.

And I also let myself feel the deep sorrow, the rage and fear, at all the lack of care and respect for life, all the dishonoring.

I keep repeating my intention to myself to remind myself of it. Almost always when I remind myself, it is a moment in which I find myself forgetting, caught up in the daily and the small self. By repeating it, I hope to return to a deeper connection and intention in my being and doing.

What Does It Mean to You?

Does it resonate with you to live your life as prayer?

What does it bring up in you, inspire in you? What questions does it raise?

If it doesn’t resonate with you, what do you live in service to? What matters most to you? What guides your life?

You might want to explore this topic in your journal.

Remember, these are living questions. Meant to open us into deeper inquiry and awareness, deeper being and living.

May they inspire your life to take on greater fullness and depth and joy.

I’d love to hear your responses here in the comments. Let’s be real with one another, because life is precious and we were given these amazing hearts to connect with.

If you are curious about working (and playing) with me one-on-one in my Creative Life Coaching to help you walk your heart path, I have space to take on a few more people right now. You could set up a complimentary Discovery Session, and we’ll explore together whether we are a good match at this time.

Maxima Kahn is a poet, creative life coach and teacher. She works with heart-centered artists and dreamers, helping them to unleash their creative brilliance and create lives of passion, purpose and deep play. She blogs about the creative life, writing, and artful, soulful living at www.BrilliantPlayground.com.

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