For the Love of Music

Bloom Project
Bloom Project

Today, in thinking about which ‘night out’ of 2009 was the best for Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009 Blog Challenge, I realized just how much music has to do with enjoying an evening out for me. More than anything, I get so much pleasure from hearing live music, or dancing to music, or both. All three experiences that made it to my final selection revolved around music.

In the end, though, my choice came down to passion, love, creativity and synergy. I love passionate performances. I love creative expression and synergy between performers. And, I love it when musicians play from the love in their hearts.

My favorite night out this year contained all of these things. In an intimate live concert with Bloom Project, at a small church in Berkeley, I became a fan of improvised music. The October concert was an improvisational duet with pianist Thollem McDonas and saxaphonist, Rent Romus.

These two men are incredible musicians. They are so good at improvisation, that you feel both the synergy of musicians playing as if they have known each other their entire lives, and the flow that comes when perfromers are completely in the moment, perfectly attuned to each other’s next impulse.

Thollem McDonas
Thollem McDonas

Thollem is an amazing pianist, and he is my brother. He is actually my half-brother, as we have the same father, but different mothers. Life is funny. In 2008, both our mothers passed away. When you arrive at the home page of Thollem’s web site, you see a dedication to his mother, Geraldine. Gerry, as we knew her, was a pianist, too, as well as piano teacher who taught for decades. Thollem comes from piano genes, as my father plays as well.

What made this night so special was something less tangible than the incredible music. In listening to him play, I could feel something deeper and richer in his music than I had ever heard before in his concerts. As I sat listening, I was carried back to his mother’s memorial service in early January of this year, when Thollem played Clair de lune live, dedicating the song to his mother. In the five minutes or so that Thollem played that day, he poured out his heart into every note he played. Each note was filled with so much love for his mother. This love was present, again, in this evening concert.

As in most beautiful magical moments, something came together for me that night. Something so simple. I listened to the love for music that infuses Thollem’s notes and I felt his love for life, his love for his mother, and my love for him. This music itself was beautiful, and the experience was unforgettable.


Both/And | Yes/And


IMG_6728I’ve noticed a curious thing as I inquire more deeply into the awakening Feminine. There seem to be two (at least) threads of conversation around the Feminine: awakening feminine consciousness in both women and men, and finding balance within our own beings between our masculine and feminine aspects; and, women awakening to their own unconditioned, organic way of being, and the natural power that comes from this energy becoming conscious. Unabashedly Female is a place to converse about the latter, to discover together what is coming into consciousness solely through women.

Most of the time, I read about the former, feminine qualities that both women and men are finding again, such as receptivity, collaboration, relationship and a host of others. When this is the conversation, women and men are included together because these aspects are part of coming to wholeness in every being.

Many times when I speak (or write) of the latter, as in this blog, I ‘hear’ people being in the either/or mindset, a mindset that comes from the culture we are swimming win, one based on a patriarchal perspective. Ubiquitous in this perspective is the notion that things are either/or: that one is either for or against; that either something is true or it is not true; that if I speak of one thing, then I am negating its opposite. This either/or perspective shows up often when I write about women and re-discovering our own nature, that of the sacred feminine. It’s as if our conditioning as women tells us we can’t or shouldn’t look at ourselves with curiosity and wonder as different than men. Or, perhaps it is old conditioning about needing to support everyone else rather than seizing the opportunity to REALLY give ourselves time for reflection and meditation on our own nature. Or, maybe it is based on fear and is a way to avoid the looking within that is necessary.

When I write of women being loving and compassionate and wise, I am not negating that men can also these things. When I write of the ‘Mother’ being absent from our culture, I am not saying that the ‘Father’ has been truly available to men.

What I know to be true is that a compassionate, relational humanity is based on a both/and model. In the humanity model we are opening to, one that is becoming more balanced between the masculine and feminine, we will see from a perspective of both/and, where we agree that we are different beings because we are different genders. Through this perspective we celebrate all of life and the differences that flow through our experience because the spirit we are flows through different gendered bodies.

Celebrating differences is celebrating the diversity of nature. It doesn’t mean continuing the sense of separation or the better than/less than  that has been a hallmark of our patriarchal culture. Instead, celebrating the organic truth of our nature allows us all to bring our full selves to the world, to honor the elegant unique simplicity of our design.

The idea of both/and is becoming more prevalent in many places, but I first encountered the power of it in an improvisation class I took a few years ago. We did an exercise called, “Yes, and” where you willingly accept the last improvisor’s choice of action and build upon it with your own. IN other words, you don’t block what they just brought to the experience, but rather build upon it. This experience was an amazing learning opportunity for me in two ways: 1) I got to see how conditioned I was to block, to take in another’s experience and want to change the direction, say ‘No’ to it, find some problem with it, or to see it as an opportunity to disagree with it and come up with something better. While most of this was pretty unconscious for me, the exercise brought it out. 2) By having to accept where the improvisation was going, which meant accept the other’s choice and position, and then finding a way to build upon it and move from it forced me to acknowledge the other person’s AND their experience and find a way to create and collaborate with inclusiveness. It was an experience of connection rather than separation, opening rather than closing off.

I see Both/And | Yes/And as two very similar world views we can hold in these times of deep chaos and churning. There is no limit to what we can create together as a world of human beings yearning for peace when we come together, when we honor where the other person is, when we act with reciprocity and empathy.

What if our design as woman and design as man is exactly perfect?

What if under our conditioning lies the intelligence of our being, an creative and cooperative design that fits together like a 7 billion piece jigsaw puzzle?

What if our solution can only come out of a clear seeing of all that exists right now and a new possibility that can come from everything that is here?

Our evolution as humans depends on the power of Both/And. It depends on the full flowering of the female gender and the male gender, blossoming out from the constricted conditioned attitudes we’ve been holding.

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