In my adolescence, which lasted well beyond the teenage years, I took LSD more than a hundred times. That I emerged from dangerous drug use relatively unharmed and am here now, with (most of) my brain cells (seemingly) intact, is somewhat of a miracle. I thank my angels for protecting me from my own foolishness during that time. Yet, while under the influence, I occasionally experienced coming attractions of the gifts that would be developing later in life. Like divine carrots, glimpsing these streaks of gold inspired me to dig deeper in my quest to excavate the precious treasures within.
Usually, I took along a spiritual self-study course, A Course in Miracles, to refer to during these psychedelic field trips. LSD literally made the book come alive for me. (Have you ever seen a book breathe?) I remember picking it up during a particularly hairy hallucination and turning to a lesson stating, “I am upset because I see something that is not there.” Instantly the snakes slithering into my space became butterflies. Other phrases from A Course in Miracles that were handy to refer to in a psychedelic pickle were: “I could see peace instead of this,” and “Forgive, and this will disappear.”
During many of these experiences I would pose questions to the universe, and answers would appear in my mind in song. The music sometimes sounded like big production Broadway show tunes, and the lyrics addressed my questions profoundly, poetically, playfully, and always in rhyme. One time I asked, “Why does guidance always come to me in song?” The answer went something like this:
We know you well, and love you oh so dear
So we speak to you in the language you can hear
Some listen best in silence or through art
But music is the language that speaks to your heart!
I began experimenting with asking questions and listening for the musical answers when I was substance free. Over time, as I learned to trust that the songs were always streaming live to me, I found that I didn’t need drugs to get online, and also that this gift of guidance was not meant for my ears alone.
One day in 1986, I was at the Tucson airport waiting for a flight when I decided to take out my guitar and sing to pass the time. Two other passing guitarists stopped to join in on the fun and back me up. Soon the three of us were surrounded by assorted travelers with an ear or a voice to lend to the jam session. We sang everything from classic Beatles to John Denver’s Leaving On A Jet Plane. At one point, I was afraid that an approaching airport supervisor was going to tell us to stop, but instead he playfully asked if we could entertain there on a daily basis!
I was taking requests from the crowd, letting them direct me, delighting them with my repertoire. (I have been called a human jukebox!) At a certain moment, I experienced a nudge from somewhere inside me to sing Amazing Grace. I squirmed, not wanting to wax religious and possibly rub a few people the wrong way. Yet my ego’s fear was no match in that moment for the promptings of Spirit, and I let go of my concerns long enough to initiate a powerful rendition of the song, joined by most of the crowd, which had been steadily growing in numbers. When we were done singing, a man came up to me with tears streaming down his face. He told me he’d just come from his mother’s funeral. Amazing Grace, her favorite song, had been sung there. “Just now when I heard it again,” he said, “I felt her presence. I heard her telling me she was quite all right, and that she would always be with me.”
Silently I thanked the universe for using me as an instrument to touch this man’s heart. I also admitted that I would love to be used like that more often!
Music had always been a source of great joy for me, but it was beginning to show up as something I never knew it could be – a delivery system for guidance, healing, and transformation. I found I could open myself up to other realms and become a singing telegram for people. Often the words would address relevant issues that they were dealing with that I had no way of knowing about beforehand. At the time, I was living in a study community for A Course in Miracles, and my housemates and friends were grateful to be guinea pigs as I experimented with this most unusual gift. Was I channeling, improvising, or just exercising a heightened sense of spiritual spontaneity? I had no role models or teachers to assist me, until Michael Stillwater came to our community to facilitate a weekend workshop.
Michael had been doing healing work with his music for many years. He shared his own wondrous ability to intuitively create songs for each person in attendance. Watching him work was like seeing a preview of my future self. I asked him for help to bring my own expression out of the closet and into the world. The song he channeled was just the right medicine I needed to go deeper into unwrapping the gift I had been given to give.
I became an instant Michael Stillwater fan. Purchasing his entire collection of recorded music, I learned all of his songs on the guitar, copying his voice and guitar style as best I could. I even went to Hawaii to take part in a retreat he was co-leading. One day his wife, looking for Michael, walked in on me while I was playing one of his songs. She was shocked to find it wasn’t her husband singing. It was quite a thrill for me, to sound that much like my musical mentor.
But I was also finding and expressing my own sound and style, which was even a greater thrill. One evening I was finishing a concert in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. It had been very humorous, and the audience had exhausted its cheek muscles. Everyone was getting up to make a run for the snacks and/or to purchase my recordings, located strategically right next to the food. I heard a commanding voice in my head, as clear as a bell, saying, “Sit people back down in a circle and ask for a volunteer.” Before my mind had a chance to debate whether this was truly a voice to trust or a brain spasm from my days of psychedelic overkill, I asked everybody to gather on the floor. I invited someone into the center to receive a song. She spoke a few words about what she wanted support for, and then lay down. People lovingly placed their hands on her, and out of me came a supportive musical message. Everyone was stunned, including me, by the poetic beauty and power of what came through. Other people wanted in on the action, and many other songs followed. When I put down my guitar at midnight, I was aware that I had just turned a corner, and that my music and my life would never be the same.
How does it happen? It’s still somewhat of a mystery, even to myself. How it happens is not my business. My business is to empty my mind, trust, and let it happen. The songs come through without effort. I get a kick out of other people attempting to explain it. In corporate and business circles they call it thinking very fast on my feet. In spiritual circles they call it being a clear channel, tuned in without interference.
My reception is not always static-free. One time a man doing a session with me asked for a song to encourage him as he learned to speak up more in his life. His name was Mike, and he had a Jewish last name. I mention that because when I started to strum the guitar, the music that I felt moved to play was none other than Silent Night. That was quite unsettling to me, given his ethnic background, as well as the fact that the music for these in-the-moment creations was usually fresh and original, not borrowed from a Christmas carol. So, in the ensuing moments of strumming the chords, there was a noisy protest going on in my head. My ego was assuming there had been a mistake in song selection, and attempted through sheer will to get my fingers to change direction. But they stayed the course, and in a second or two I would have to begin singing. This man wasn’t looking for an instrumental guitar version of Silent Night. Suddenly I had the first words in my brain and everything snapped into focus. I started singing:
No more silent Mike, no more silent Mike
Use your voice, clear and bright
Speak your truth and your truth sets you free
To love yourself unconditionally
Speak from your power and worth
Reclaim your power and worth
More verses followed that addressed other issues he was working on. When I was done, I opened my eyes and looked at Mike with tears streaming down his face and knew that it had been perfect for him. That session inspired me even more to let the voice of doubt fade into the background, and to let the songs of creation simply move through me.
Nowadays, I am using this form of expression to create gifts I call Song Portraits for everything from birthdays to weddings, graduations, anniversaries, gifts for the dying, and memorials.
The trust and ease that I enjoy while letting this gift flow is exhilarating. it is my deepest calling to let the rest of my life be as effortless and born in the moment as when these songs come through.
Here is a song about following my calling.