I am convinced that our hearts are made to heal. Instead of carrying around habitual suffering, our hearts can be cleaned of the hurt that we have lived through. Not only does this free us up to be more full of life, but the whole process can be enjoyable when we use artistic expression as our means of healing. My musical journey has been a simple practice that changes old pain into compassion and bliss.
For me, songwriting has been a discipline that I call cardio spelunking. It is a deep dark adventure to retrieve bright treasure, and it would be frightening if it weren’t for music being right there to hold the flashlight.
Each time I feel a song coming on, I make the assumption that my heart is calling me to a place inside that has been waiting for me to come exploring. The rules of songwriting apply, but with a deeper purpose. I use my subtle musical discernment to follow the feeling down into the deeper layers where the clues to a bigger truth are found.
When the intensity of the music interacts with whatever stored hurt I find, there is some kind of emotional alchemy that transforms dusty memories into the finer elements of compassion and forgiveness.
As I harmonize words and melody, I keep trusting in what I feel, and gradually I craft a song that not only moves me, but actually moves me in the direction I want to go, because a song can transport me to a different way of seeing this world – through the eyes of someone much wiser, someone further along. The emotional perspective I get from a song sets my sights on what is possible to feel, like being able to look down on a vista I haven’t even hiked to yet.
When that happens, I have evidence that this new way of seeing is attainable, and that gives me the determination to keep taking steps toward it. Song by song, music clarifies what I am aiming for in life.
When all this started, the bliss I felt in music was like an oasis in an otherwise barren landscape. Nothing felt as good as a good song did. I wanted more of that feeling. But when I tried to pump out more songs to quench my thirst, the well seemed to run dry – as if telling me that I was missing the point.
So instead of just wanting songs, I asked music to teach me to navigate toward how I wanted the rest of my life to feel: Let writing be a way to know my heart and focus my yearning.
These days I enjoy using the craft of songwriting like a hiker would use a compass. I know that it is not the destination, but it does line itself up with something bigger than the whole world, and I trust that alignment.
For me, it’s been songwriting. For you, it might be some other artistic expression that you love most. But when we study our deepest joy carefully, as if it were our heart’s treasure map, we discover that wherever we search, we are searched for. There, in the microcosm of the work we love, we find the oracle of our heart, beaconing us toward our best future.