Saturday, July 4, 2015

Parashat Balak: Song, Body, and Soul

In this weeks Torah portion, the sorcerer Bilaam is on his way to try and curse the Jewish people, when his female donkey refuses to take him any further. She has witnessed an angel that is blocking the path, which her master fails to notice. Three times she refuses to budge and is beaten, until Bilaam's eyes are open and he is able to understand what has been going on.

Rabbi Shefa Gold writes of this episode, "ALL OF US ARE BURDENED in some measure with the belief that body and spirit exist as two separate realms. Because this belief is buried so deeply, we may not even know it is there. But it is a lie that exacts a steep price and bars us from touching the fullness of what it means to be human which is to be a “holy animal.”

painting by Sheva Chaya
This week I had a chance to explore the meeting point between this kind of body wisdom and the voice. I was teaching a student and we did an exerise where we focused on a place in the body that was hurting, stuck, or in some other way asking for attention. The instruction was to either sing to or from that place, improvising, exploring what this place has to say and what it needs. Release? New energy? Oxygen? Love?

When I demonstrated this process, I connected to my lower back which had been hurting for a few days. To my own surprise, my voice as expressed from this place of pain had a different quality than my "normal" singing voice. It was actually richer and more harmonically dense in its overtone scale. It had a kind of raw power to it that carried on its own momentum, and, as I was singing, the whole paradigm of judgement that had followed this place of discomfort was suspended. The pain was no longer something that I wished would simply dissapear; instead, it became an interesting sensation that opened up something new and unknown, and even powerful, inside of me, that came through in my singing. I have actually experience in the past something akin to this, where singing freely in the center of a circle of women caused physical pain (that was probably emotional in origin) to simply dissapear. Another time, a woman in a singing circle was suffering from a migraine headache. When I shared a song, her headache went away.

May it be Hashem's will that we learn from our bodies and their many messages, and that we receive our healing from the highest medicine: music, and our own mysterious voices. Amen.

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