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Mentors and Integrations. Courage is a Quality of Music Makers


This beautiful word is not literally translated as powerful, brave, or even strong. It means "with heart", which means that within it is our vulnerability.

I feel great appreciation for the sweet energy that was collaboratively created at our last Qualities of Music Makers workshop focusing on Attentiveness and Listening.

Amazing Biodanza facilitator, Samba dancer extraordinaire, longtime educator, poet, friend, and sweet/wise being Mirjam Krohne grabbed me after class to share something about her experience:

“This class on attentiveness and listening was different from the other ones in it’s subtlety – I felt as though I was being tuned by my inner angel into a new harmony inside my spirit body, my physical body. I saw colors that were vibrating, shifting things within to align me into harmony with who I really am – the new person I am becoming in my transformation. The gentleness of the chimes at the beginning set a trajectory which was about really being in harmony with the group, so that we listened a lot more to the vibrational qualities of each voice and what they were communicating.”

I am always, seriously – always in awe at what happens for folks when we come together in an attuned collaborative vocal improv space. I feel so grateful to become aware of these experiences because many of us have wounds around expressing our voices, and this is not just about singing.

1992 brought the completion of a 1.5 year long deep- dive into the creation and tour of Teens Kick-Off with the sage, gentle, curious, sincere, and incredibly insightful playwright, director, and now author, Leanna James Blackwell facilitating us in a collaboratively created production sharing our addiction and recovery stories as teens – with an amazing cast of people whom I still adore. This led me to a workshop with Leanna and Trager Bodywork practitioner, actor, creative space holder extraordinaire, truth teller, and all around love warrior Harris Zeff – an entry point into a deep dive of self-love practices that formed my being deeply. I counseled with Harris for many years until he sadly died of complications related to cancer of the trachea.

During that time, he gave me a book called The Book of Qualities by R. Ruth Gendler (now my neighbor and friend!) which became an instant favorite and part of my contemplation on the Qualities of Music Makers. This book allowed me to see these varying qualities, parts of my being, with more tenderness and humor.

In 2001, enter Karla McLaren’s Emotional Genius – currently re-written with the new title The Language of Emotions. Mic drop. Dang. Fuck. Whoa!!! The book I had been longing for most of my life. A book that helped me befriend every emotion, no matter how challenging, and see the wisdom of their presence. Rather than pushing challenging emotions such as panic, envy, the suicidal urge, frustration (and for many people pleasure!) away, I learned to find the gift they bring me.

FUN FACT: Karla and I co-created a workshop called _Harmony and Empathy: Cultivating Your Collaborative Voice_ stemming from our mutual love of music, harmony, and respect for emotional awareness in relationships. It was a true honor for me to get to collaborate with a mentor and soooo much fun!


At a time when I was experiencing a lot of blame towards a difficult situation, Matt Kahn came into my field and created a turning in me with his message “Everything is here to help you”. I could not find a capital F big enough to finish the phrase “ uck you!” when I heard that. Holler if you relate!

If I held it simply as “tough love” or some “spiritual bypass” bullshit where my feelings were not in the mix, then this was not so different from the lack of acknowledgement from perpetrators in my early life. The fulcrum of turning is when I encounter my experience with total empathy and care. From there, my wisdom and skill can come in and say **“is there a better thought than the one I am having right now about this?”.**

Turning has become the operative word to describe my path from fear to courage, from blaming to responsible.

How do we turn resistance into acceptance without bypassing the wisdom in the resistance? If I use my knowledge and skill to reframe a situation, does my body come along for the ride?

Because when NO speaks, the mic drops. Done. You not be collecting $200 at this moment.

This respect for the NO is the deepest self-love I know. I still override it sometimes, and when I do, it is suckville for me. When I listen, I might feel relief as I pause, or turn in another direction. I might also then be met with anxiety if this NO has an impact on another - aaaahhhhh…my opportunity to love the scare out of me and turn to love. I am forever and ever holding myself no matter what happens outside of me. I am not telling you this, I am saying it to remind myself that it is only with the deepest care that the step by step walk can lead me to the leap of shifting my mindset, and in that care is also a fierce mama bear that nudges me to risk a bit - holding me every step of the way - until I am safe within.

I feel a huge level of yummmmmm in my body right now as I share this. A feeling of having integrated something a long time coming - like finding the missing pieces of a puzzle or cracking a code.

After the inner tending of feelings, this question “how is this here to help me?” allows me to turn my no into a yes - even if just a little bit. For me, this is not “everything happens for a reason” or “it’s part of your life path”, or “you chose this before you were born” because we can never know if these ideas are true.

What I do know is that if something happens that is wonderful, it is here to help me in allowing myself to experience joy. If something happens that is painful or challenging, it is here to help me by showing me where I can learn and grow, or shed light on something I was unable to see.

After many years of dipping my toes into the Whirling Practices of the Sufi with my beloved friend, teacher, and musical collaborator Miriam Peretz, I had a breakthrough last week where I turned faster and longer than ever before without feeling dizzy.

I found my way in through the breath. In this turning towards my heart, I fell into a stream of love as the breath aligned with my intention to surrender and this river carried me down into the most still ecstasy I have ever felt. This turning beckons me every day now.

The COURAGE of tending, then turning to the YES is the flow of life.


I started somewhere too. Every class, every lesson, every scheduled practice, every wrong note, every missed beat, every moment where I got it! every risk of getting on stage, every moment of sharing an idea - in a world that can be so competitive, so harsh, so ruthless…how do we find safety and courage within so that we may live fully in this moment - so that we may expand?


Singing means

falling down a million times

and getting back up.

No one arrives at their flow

the first moment they open their mouth.

You must simultaneously discipline your practice,

and abandon yourself wholeheartedly

to the story you offer the spirit of sound,

inebriating your heart.

You must balance at the cliff

where melancholy meets eternity,

and joy meets madness.

We who sing, reflect the movie

that tells the story of the truth

in the hearts and souls of living creatures.

Let the listening bring you back to yourself.

©Renée Benmeleh 2010

Singing is a vulnerable act of the heart!

Opening our voices not only brings up whatever thoughts and feelings we have about our musical abilities, it also opens our hearts.

I encourage you to step a bit beyond your comfort zone and open your voice or sing because it is a curative undertaking for yourself and humankind.

Regardless of your desire to perform or not, let's love the anxiety, and courageously turn towards more yes!

I'd like to give you a taste of the inner expansiveness obtained through years of yearning for flight - the forever yearning to liberate the shame from my being, I’ve packaged it as an edible for you - come and sound nourish your way to the foundation of your flight!

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