Sunday, September 09, 2018

1019. Breath

It’s been almost a year since I wrote anything here, and it feels like long-overdue time to pay a visit. All has been well, considering the current bizarre state of this country. Still doing everything I’ve written about, and much more. I continue to blessed to be able to volunteer as a hazzanit at High Holy Days services. Since I started doing so—15 years ago, ack!—the cast of characters has changed only a little, pretty amazing. But, as Epictetus said, “Nothing endures but change,” and this year at my synagogue has been proof of his wisdom. The are fewer services where singing is needed; a number of musicians and longtime volunteers won’t be back; an intern with a beautiful voice has been added to the mix. All this, all at once, initially felt like great upheaval. (It is not, really.) Then my usual duties were reduced just a bit, and it was like being back in middle school: They don’t like me! (Why is it so hard, at times, to remember that I really did graduate 8th grade a very long time ago?)

Just as I was coming back to my senses, and remembering to actually see the reality of the situation vs. the stories stuck in my head from decades ago, I was offered the opportunity to work with a professional singer who was coaching all the rabbis, too. Free voice lessons, what did I have to lose? They were amazing. Among other things, I learned that you can think you know how to do a thing the right way because you’re doing it exactly they way you learned, but in fact that way is no longer the right way FOR YOU. I re-learned—re-remembered?—the correct way to breathe, and that one’s diaphragm is in charge of the whole show. (Well, almost; one’s mouth and tongue help, too.) Net result: I hope and pray that singing will be easier and more fun than ever, and that I'll feel more confident about the sound coming out of my mouth. So the lesson for me this Elul, this month of reflection: breathe. Breath, I knew, was the magical elixir when facing doubt or worry; these past few weeks reminded me that it's just as magical when trying to translate God’s words into God’s music. “Nishmat” means both soul AND breath. How lucky I am to be a human that breathes!

Wishing all who read this a new year to come filled with unending air in our lungs, expansive sky beneath our feet, and boundless breath within the sweetness of the chambers of our hearts.