It can’t be just about the writing anymore.
I pulled up at 6:20 pm last night to a location that was unremarkable in comparison to its name: “The Shrine of Holy Wisdom”. Without the sign on the door, it was simply two curtained, storefront windows in a strip mall behind another strip mall — a real “commercial property nesting doll” situation.
It was the kind of place you pass while looking for the UPS Store and consider for a moment that it could be a front for some seedy enterprise, before you forget about it completely.
I was there to meet a new friend for a Reiki/Breathwork/Sound Healing event called “Sonic Sophia”. Mystical healing arts haven’t previously been on my radar but I am going through some major life changes and looking for new avenues for growth and connection. I love novel experiences and this one was particularly out of my element, so I was happy to run the experiment.
The promotional material informed me that I would receive “guidance into a conscious vibrational experience in a multi-dimensional evening that includes: an introduction to the healing frequency known as Sophia Synergy Reiki, conscious breathwork to calm and heal the nervous system and enhance receptivity, body prayers of the Aramaic Yeshua, and deepening the sound immersion with the planetary gong.”
Of course, my first question to my new friend was, “What’s the attire situation?”
“Comfortable” was her response.
I settled on black leggings, black tank top, black hoodie, and black flip flops. It was a little on the nose, even for my “You can’t see me — I’m hiding” aesthetic, which is my go-to when I’m unsure of my surroundings.
When I walked in, two women were in the lobby to greet me. It could’ve been a lobby in any of the yoga studios I frequent: small, colorful, a few couches, some oils for sale. They looked at me expectantly and, after what felt like an awkwardly long time, I said, “I’ve never been here and I’m meeting a friend.”
“Welcome!”, they said in unintentional unison.
One of the women was shorter with a hearty build. She had black curly hair and a warm countenance. The other woman was like looking into the future 20 years, and when we met each other’s eyes there was instant recognition and familiarly. She was tall and slim with regal silver hair and a collar bone so significant, I had only ever seen one other like it in my life — in the mirror. She stood up to greet me and I felt simultaneously intimidated and safe.
I could see her ribs through the skin of her chest, like mine. I’ve been struggling to eat for the last two weeks or so and I wondered if the formation of a step-ladder over her heart was the tell for her pain, too.
The curly-haired woman directed me to remove my shoes before entering the sanctuary and the sprayed me with “grounding spray”, which they told me would promote healing. I had to duck down because either she was so short or I was so tall that she couldn’t reach over my head to get the job done. Laughter is fantastic for breaking tension…and healing.
I was directed through a dark hallway that was longer than I had considered possible given the limitations of the strip mall configuration and passed through a pair of carved, solid wood doors into the dimly lit sanctuary.
It was oddly beautiful — lots of blues and greens and yellows. There were countless orbs and other mystical symbolism, most of which I didn’t understand the significance of. One mural was clearly Jesus Christ and that surprised me. It seemed so conventional for such a radical space. That and he was sharing the sanctuary with other deities and I had always thought his followers adhered pretty strongly to the, “You Shall Have No Other Gods” commandment.
There was an altar at the very front of the room that was partially obscured by a large gong, and two rows of chairs were arranged in a semi-circle with floor space open in the middle. Two musicians were playing primitive looking instruments that I didn’t recognize, which were giving off strong vibrations.
My new friend was sitting in the front row and I joined her. There were about 15–20 other people there. We sat quietly, observing and a little afraid to speak, which I didn’t realize the irony of — given we were at a sound healing event — until just now.
I have this conception of what people who attend this sort of mystic healing rite look like: wise eyes, peaceful expressions, long hair, and flowy clothes that I’m not sure where you even buy them. That expectation didn’t materialize. They looked like people I would see in line at Old Navy. They looked like me. They looked like everyman.
When the healer entered, I was surprised at his appearance as well. He wasn’t anyone I would’ve taken notice of on the street. Average height, average build, 50-ish years old wearing jeans and a brown t-shirt. It was comforting but admittedly a little disappointing.
He closed the doors and the event began.
Standing in front of the gong, the healer started by welcoming us to the circle by asking if there was anyone who had not done some sort of “energy work” before. Only me and one other gentleman raised our hands. The healer looked at me curiously, as though he was surprised.
“Nothing?”, he said, and proceeded to list off about 10 practices I didn’t recognize until he got to yoga
“Yes, yoga. I do lots of yoga.”
“Okay…I sensed there was something.”
The “sense” was probably visual and had primarily to do with the way my body was contorted into a pretzel sitting in my chair.
Next question, “Does anyone here not like using their voice?”
My hand went up again, more tentatively this time, like I was reaching into a box that I thought might contain spiders or a snake. It felt like a vulnerable admission. He smiled as he looked at me again and softened his tone, “Your voice has extraordinary power to heal. Will you try?”
“I will”, I said quietly.
And I did.
The very first thing we did was set our intentions for the night. They could be anything. Anything we wanted to grow or release or work through.
I wanted to release grief and start healing my once again broken heart. I let go of the man I love on Friday. The one that helped me grow in so many ways.
And I knew it would be one of the most painful losses I will ever experience. Even publishing this hurts. He would always clap the most for my writing on Medium and was my biggest fan.
Now it’s so quiet, having no one to share the link with.
But I’m learning that relationships shouldn’t hurt that much. Challenge is always good. Pushing for growth is positive. Pain inflicted out of fear, however, is not okay inside of a loving partnership.
As much as I am hurting and want to lay down and give up, I set my intention to find the strength inside of me to process my loss and stay standing. To remind myself that I have bones. And muscles. And wings. And a big, beautiful, loving heart. To remember that a dragon doesn’t need a master to command it to fly.
For now at least, I can command myself — but I have to find my voice first.
The sanctuary was made even dimmer and, over the next two hours, there was conscious breathwork — which I knew a bit from yoga — and Reiki, which is where trained healers move energy around a room. There was music that caused deep vibrations in my body, guided meditation, and visualization exercises to try to break up any blockages. The healer led us in chants. He explained the different parts of the body where energy gets stuck and told us about how that can cause illness. He prayed over us and anointed us with oils, which we held over our noses and inhaled.
I cried through at least 80% of the event but, interestingly, I was not ashamed or embarrassed. The first hour or so, I sobbed silently, conscious of the people around me. But at the turn of the second hour, something broke free and I cried openly. I let the tears pour down my face without wiping them away. They soaked my shirt and my blanket. I let my intentional breaths be sniffly and staccato.
At one point, during a “release” phase, he played the India Arie song, “I Am Light”
“I am not the things my family did.
I am not the voices in my head.
I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside.
I am light.”
Her gentle, powerful voice washed over me as I laid on the floor in child’s pose and sobbed. I let my pain spill onto the floor to be swept away by the Reiki healers.
The event was remarkable in that it didn’t feel like two hours and, for the most part, I forgot that I was in a room of strangers letting my most intimate grief show.
Somewhere in that time, with the dark and the healers and the music all around, I felt my voice inside of me. Felt it…it’s vibrations. Feeling it from the inside was SO different than it sounds on the outside. It’s so strong and powerful inside of me…and so weak by the time it hits the air.
As the lights slowly came back on, he welcomed us back into the circle to debrief on our experience.
The healer asked several people, including me, to share with the group how we were feeling. I replied in a voice that I didn’t immediately recognize, “heavy”.
My words were stronger than before. And even though it didn’t feel like the “right” answer, I was able to say it without hesitation. He had asked a couple of other people who said, “Joy!” and “Light!”
He smiled knowingly and said that that was how he felt his first few times, too, and that its a sign of the strength of my voice growing but being blocked by fear. His assessment didn’t sound wrong.
After we reflected on our intentions and closed the ceremony, the healer approached me and asked if I had any questions. I did. I told him that I am a writer and that I have found much of my voice in the written medium and asked if he thought that is enough to help me heal.
He told me that writing is certainly part of voice but for full healing, it’s not enough. He said I have to use my actual voice and its vibrations to access my strength. I have to speak out loud and be heard. He said that he can feel the energy and power in me and that I have an incredible tool to heal myself…but that the fear will hold me back.
He’s right and that’s something I’ve known deep down for a long time.
I’ve never shied away from performing. I was a competitive gymnast and a cheerleader and a dancer and a model and a college volleyball player.
And none of those things required me to speak. Just like writing doesn’t require me to speak.
Next week, I’m starting a workshop at a local bookstore. It’s for storytellers. We will workshop stories to tell on stage and then get up and tell them — with our voices instead of our fingers.
We will speak them out loud into a microphone to an audience who expects to be entertained.
To say that I am terrified is an understatement. I honestly don’t know how I am going to do it, except to just put one foot in front of the other and hope that my body can go on working when my heart beats right out of my chest. And prepare myself to be okay when my voice cracks or I forget what I am saying mid-sentence.
The healer is right that my voice is not just my writing. My writing I can edit. I pour over those sentences to get them just right before I share them.
Speaking is me in real time. Live. It requires confidence that I have both things to say and the ability to say them. I will be up on stage in that spotlight…speaking myself naked.
And it will be healing, just like my writing.
I intend to find the whole of my Voice this time.
I can’t wait to hear what it sounds like once I finally let it out.
Previously Published on Medium