Sunday, January 10, 2010

Grist For Our Mill

Last night after the sangha (our Saturday evening meditation group), I went to a friend's house a played music with six other musicians. Our hostess, an excellent singer/songwriter who has toured the world as a professional musician, had double mastectomy surgery only ten days before, and this gathering was part of her healing and recovery. 

Playing music with a group of good players is an extraordinary experience. I've played guitar since I was 8 years old, but only in the past two years have I known what it is like to jam with other musicians of this high caliber. It is meditative, transportive, and fun all at the same time.  

Staying with our hostess during her recovery is an old friend, another singer/songwriter from Woodstock, NY, named Penny Nichols. I usually do not mention names in this forum, but I want to draw attention to a song that she wrote when she was in the midst of her own healing journey through surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and beyond. The song is called Grist for the Mill (at the end of this blog is a link to an MP3 download).

We had to do it twice. It's that good a song, to be sure, and worthy of a reprise, but we needed a second pass because Penny could not finish it the first time through when the tears began to flow. So with the initial attempt serving as a rehearsal, we hunkered down to doing the song justice. Each one of us tried to be as accurate as we could, treating our vocal and instrumental components with care and love. It felt like we were studio musicians on a session, working together as one unit to lay down a very special track - we wanted it to be really good.

And it was. After the last notes faded into the ether, we sat in silence; teary eyes closed, souls refreshed. Music has the power to heal, and in looking around that little room it became obvious that healing that occurred. The word "heal" has in it the root of "whole." We were a whole; we were one.

Healing does not always mean the absence of disease or illness, but the awareness that, no matter how bad things get, we are always essentially whole, and that wholeness can never be threatened.

Grist for the Mill, by Penny Nichols:
Bring it in, bring it in,
It's all grist for the mill.
What comes out is the sweetest flour,
Fills me up in my darkest hour.

Bring it in, bring it in,
It's all grist for the mill.
Cast my tears in a river of sorrow,
Turns the wheel and feeds the sparrow.

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