Thursday, January 08, 2009

Harmony as a spiritual practice

Yesterday afternoon during our Bayview Sound rehearsal, we were working on a new song arrangement (Whiskey Evening, by Maria Dunn) and testing harmonies. The house we were meeting in has an empty room which is almost a sound chamber, so we went in there to stand in a tight circle and sing the chorus of the song a cappella, to hear how the various parts sounded together. We've done this before but it didn't hit me quite as hard then as it did last night.

I've expressed before my strong visceral need to make music. Without that opportunity, I tend to become too focused on minutiae, on externals, on angst. I don't even realize how much it affects my happiness to be without the opportunity to make music. I don't mean listening to music. That doesn't have the same effect. I need to be making music, alone or with others.

This often manifests in my singing harmony to the songs I may hear on the radio or CD player. I gravitate toward making harmony, rather than singing lead, though I do like to sing the melody. I've described myself in the past as having an alto nature.

I think it's more than that. I dug out my old copy of "Four Spiritualities", my colleague and friend the Rev. Peter Richardson's book linking Myers Briggs typologies to spiritual nature, and refreshed my memory about my ENFJ personality type and its spiritual nature.

Not surprisingly, that chapter---about NF type---is entitled "The Journey of Harmony". Here's part of that chapter:
"The native spirituality of the Journey of Harmony concentrates in six manifestations of the ... NF personality type: 1. the quest toward authentic, actualized selfhood; 2. mystical harmony; 3. a life attitude of expectancy; 4. the importance of openness to healing and the place of the dream in this process; 5. social idealism; and 6. focus on process in relationships, familial and social."

Those of you who are also NF types may recognize yourselves in these six characteristics. I certainly do. But it's the "mystical harmony" one that leaps out at me. There is a craving in me to find the place where every voice fits, the musical line that works in the lovesong or the lifesong. I want others to find a place where their voice fits; I want to hear how it works with my voice. I want to experience the exquisite beauty of voices in harmony, the unusual note that somehow brings either movement to the song or resolves it in a creative way or ends it in a chord of meaning. I want all this both physically and metaphorically.

Last night, listening to our voices blend, Lynn on tenor, me on melody, Neal on baritone, Debbie and Richard an octave apart on the same line, I felt----well, I can't even describe it. The sound resonated in me so powerfully that I felt transported into another realm. The words of the song are meaningful to me as well, describing an experience of remembering an old love now gone, and singing it with good friends increased its power to goosebump level. It became not just a great song and sound but a true spiritual experience.

I'd suggest to anyone curious about spiritual pathways and interested in Jungian typologies that they find Peter's book at the library or through a local or national book store or the UUA bookstore. It's published by Davies-Black Publishing in Palo Alto, CA. It's a wonderful guide for understanding why different people are attracted to different spiritual and religious paths. And that in itself is a mechanism for finding harmony!


Anna Banana said...

I'm INTJ, but only J is strong, the others are borderline. I hadn't thought about making harmony as a physical need. Great that you recognize it. Wish I'd recognized my need to sing a lot earlier.

Mile High Pixie said...

Isn't it funny how singing acappella could be a metaphor for the human condition? We have to work together, blend together but each be a unique voice, and do it wall without a lot of accompaniment? My hats off to you for the challenging work you do, both singing for fun and helping your fellow humans sing "in harmony."

ms. kitty said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Anna B.

Pixie, that's a great metaphor! Thanks for contributing it.

Mossyrock said...

Thanks for the recommendation of Richardson's book. I got it, and have found it to be rather handy.
I can see where it will continue to guide many facets of my ministry -- and improve understanding of my loved ones :o)

- An NT (Journey of Unity)

ms. kitty said...

Mossyrock, I'm interested in your screen name. I was born during the time my dad was the pastor of the Mossyrock Community Church in Mossyrock, Washington. Are you from around there or is there another Mossyrock somewhere, or is that just a word you liked?

Mossyrock said...

I chose the name Mossyrock because its symbolic of how I experience key parts of my spirituality. There's something about moss and rocks that speaks to me in a deep way.

I've been through Mossyrock many times. I'm glad to know of your history there.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Mossyrock, for sharing your history. I haven't been back to Mossyrock for awhile; I ought to visit again.