When I was much younger and was sitting around playing guitar and singing with people, I used to think “I wonder what’s the harmony for that”. Sometimes I’d bravely add a note or two.

What I have learned from composing and arranging music is that there are 10,000 harmony lines. There are some I like, some I don’t. Some I like while *others* don’t. Some that are easy to write or to sing and come so naturally it is like a stream of incense floating across the room. Others that are so challenging that it takes months to figure them out.

And it’s not just like this in composing, it’s like this in life. No two melodies alike, no two lives, and the number of ways they can go together – or don’t – are endless.

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I know why the caged bird sings

by Maya Angelou

A free bird leaps on the back
Of the wind and floats downstream
Till the current ends and dips his wing
In the orange suns rays
And dares to claim the sky.

But a BIRD that stalks down his narrow cage
Can seldom see through his bars of rage
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with a fearful trill
Of things unknown but longed for still
And his tune is heard on the distant hill for
The caged bird sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
And the trade winds soft through
The sighing trees
And the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright
Lawn and he names the sky his own.

But a caged BIRD stands on the grave of dreams
His shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
His wings are clipped and his feet are tied
So he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings with
A fearful trill of things unknown
But longed for still and his
Tune is heard on the distant hill
For the caged bird sings of freedom.

If we imagine our being as a room of any size, it seems that most of us know only a single corner of that room, a spot by the window, a narrow strip on which we keep walking back and forth. It gives a kind of security. But isn’t insecurity with all its dangers so much more human?

We are not prisoners of that room.

Rilke – Letters to a Young Poet

Caution and passtion live on opposite ends of block, and live very different lives. One can’t fault either of them, because they come by their lifestyles honestly, and there is a lot to be said for both. And since our human bodies and beings are wired for both caution and passion, we should be respectful. But which end of the block do we want to live on at this point in our finite lives?

Caution tells us: stay put. Things aren’t too bad now. It’s OK. But if you take a risk, who knows what will come out and bite you? Passion says: check things out, go exploring. Things could be even better.  Who knows what opportunities lie around the next corner? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Caution says: If you express yourself brightly, vocally, people might not like you. You might get rejected. You don’t know what you really think anyway; maybe you’ll say something stupid. How awful. Passion says: you have a voice, use it. You feel strongly about something, say so, act on it. Who cares in the end what other people think… what do you think?  If they don’t like it, let them deal with it. There is room for lots of voices in the world, including yours.

Caution says: If you let go of what you have, you might never get it back. You will be worse off than you are now. It says: we live in a world where there is not enough to go around. It is better to have half a meal than none. You can make this job work. You can make this relationship work. You can make this living situation work, you guess. You have to anyway. Things can get pretty chaotic, and at least you know where you are now, you have figured out how to live with it. Who says there is anything better around that corner?  Passion says: what do you really want? Is this your heart’s true desire?  If you listened to yourself, truly, what would you be doing, who would you be doing it with?  It wonders, is this how you want to be spending your precious minutes?  Passion says: life is opportunities, and if you fall and scrape your knee, well, that was to be expected; now pick yourself up and go play some more.

Caution tells us to look at what we actually need, and counsels conservation. Passion tells us that what we want and feel matter too, and it says hopefully that there is lots out there for us, if we go find it. And we can.

Which end of the block are you living on?  How did you get there?

Brian Grady, Ph.D. R. Psych.

“I am Me. In all the world, there is no one else exactly like me. Everything that comes out of me is authentically mine, because I alone chose it — I own everything about me: my body, my feelings, my mouth, my voice, all my actions, whether they be to others or myself. I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistakes. Because I own all of me, I can become intimately acquainted with me. By so doing, I can love me and be friendly with all my parts. I know there are aspects about myself that puzzle me, and other aspects that I do not know — but as long as I am friendly and loving to myself, I can courageously and hopefully look for solutions to the puzzles and ways to find out more about me. However I look and sound, whatever I say and do, and whatever I think and feel at a given moment in time is authentically me. If later some parts of how I looked, sounded, thought, and felt turn out to be unfitting, I can discard that which is unfitting, keep the rest, and invent something new for that which I discarded. I can see, hear, feel, think, say, and do. I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive, and to make sense and order out of the world of people and things outside of me. I own me, and therefore, I can engineer me. I am me, and I am Okay.”

– Virginia Satir –

Take some time today, and another day, and another.

Take some time today to find yourself.  Sit quietly. Do nothing. Turn your attention to yourself, inward. Just be. Feel what you feel. Think what you think. Receive the sensations of your body. Drift away, and come back to yourself. Feel into your worries and preoccupations. Feel into your body into those places that get tight with excitement or dread. Feel into your body where sadness condenses like November rain clouds. Hear the voices of your fears and judgments. Feel the release and the peace if that comes. Be with it all. Your fullness and emptiness. Your wisdom or confusion.

Don’t try too hard. Being with yourself has no specific goal. Don’t worry about trying to do something right.  For now, no need to figure it out. Just be.

Take some time today to be quiet and to discover who you are beneath the plans you have woven and the busyness you have committed to.  Beneath the person you want yourself to be. Or that others want you to be. Be yourself for a little while.

Take some time today with yourself. To be.

Brian Grady 25 Mar 09

The Five Freedoms
By Virginia Satir

1. TO SEE AND HEAR
What is here,
Instead of what should be,
Was, or will be

2. TO SAY
What one feels and thinks
Instead of what one should

3. TO FEEL
What one feels,
Instead of what one ought

4. TO ASK
For what one wants,
Instead of always waiting
For permission

5. TO TAKE RISKS
In one’s own behalf,
Instead of choosing to be
Only “secure”
And not rocking the boat