“with heart and mouth”
For the past twenty years, I have been studying and singing the music of medieval visionary Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179). Her music and spiritual legacy have been woven into the fabric of my professional life since it began. One of my mountaintop professional moments involved my singing one of Hildegard’s most wildly ecstatic chants on national television for President Obama’s second inaugural prayer service at Washington National Cathedral.
Her music is potent, tapped into a source that is both deep and high. Recently I came across a passage in one of her visions that I wanted to share with you. It struck me so clearly, and is clearly related to the act of singing. She says:
“Praises must be offered unceasingly to the Supernal Creator with heart and mouth…”
– Hildegard von Bingen from Scivias, Book III, Vision 13
In her vision, Hildegard describes a symphony of heavenly beings that praise the Creator and creation. But I believe, in this quote, she is referrring to us. You and me. Human beings. Music was such a profoundly important aspect of Hildegard’s life, as much as it is for us. And as she channels her vision to us, it is clear that our role, as human music-makers, is to offer praises.
With heart and mouth.
This is elegant and soulful. It resonates with every fiber of my being. I see this as the purpose and function of the Sacred Voice, and its very personal manifestation within our lives. This looks different for each of us.
But let’s be frank. It is woefully easy to become side-tracked. We become so easily distracted!
How can we stay centered on the deeper purpose of our singing?
It is simple, but not easy: we learn how to focus our awareness in order to focus on our purpose. Awareness heightens the senses and calms the thinking mind. It connects us with our instrument, and keeps us focused. It supports our will, when we encounter our fragility.
As I teach in the Studio, we focus our awareness on our heart. The heart is the seat of the Sacred Voice. It is here that we are both connected to our divine source, and here that we experience that longing to praise the very same divinity.
The sacredness of our voice, as I observe and experience and speak of regularly, is easily eclipsed by 1) our distracted minds, and 2) the hurt places within us, covered over by protective emotional armor.
However, that sacredness can be accessed at any time, simply by an awareness practice that instantaneously connects you with your heart center. And your singular, magnificent, deeper purpose.
The heart and mouth are wedded. Your voice is powerful and sacred. I believe our work is not in finding out whether or not our voice is worthy and capable. But rather to allow its innate, divine nature to flourish and flower right here, right now.
Distractions abound. Stay focused, dear One, on your purpose.
IMAGE: Illumination from Hildegard von Bingen Scivias (12th century)