the record goes round and round

 

Hi, sweet blog reader; it’s been a little while. I’m sorry for the delay, but I’ve been a bit distracted trying to untie a deep knot inside my being. So far, despite my crazy efforts, no threads have come undone. Maybe one of these days I’ll remember that shifts tend to happen when I stop efforting so hard, but today doesn’t seem to be that day, so let me share my messy process with you instead.

For the past year-and-a-half I’ve been working on my second album, Touch the Sky. The entire time I’ve been working on the project, I’ve been burning—just burning up from within. The process has created so much friction and brought up so much pain that I’ve been unable to see beyond it. Lately, as the CD gets closer to being done, things seem to be getting more intense.

Have you ever tried to birth something into the world, but been unable to do so? That is what’s been happening for me with this album. I’ve had a vision for it, but I haven’t been able to manifest that vision into a form that feels right. It’s been so frustrating and has triggered all sorts of unhealed wounds that I never even knew I had.

As you may or may not know, I have only been making music, singing, recording, and all of that for less than three years. Three years is not very long in the grand scheme of life, and I’ve hardly had a moment to catch up with myself. It’s like my dharma (sacred work) just came out of nowhere, swept me off my feet, and said, “Baby, you’re mine! Let’s go!” And before I knew what was happening, we were off and running into a completely different life than I ever imagined for myself.

Since that unfolded a few years ago, I went from being totally unclear about my path and praying like mad for some direction, to writing songs, learning an instrument, producing albums, performing, and doing all sorts of other things that scare me. The journey has been wild and beautiful, but I have to be honest—making this second album has been nothing short of excruciating. When I started the process, I had no idea how much it would stretch me beyond every comfort zone or make me face my weaknesses. What started out as an innocent desire to record some songs turned into a descent into the underworld of my mind where the ferocious beasts of fear and self-doubt have tried hard to take me down.

Basically, this experience has shined a light on some dark, unconscious parts of my psyche and catapulted me into a deep healing process. It’s been such a lonely, confusing, and humbling journey. Since I haven’t had a producer or collaborator to work with, I’ve had to hold everything alone, and being new at this, I’ve made a lot of poor decisions and humiliating "mistakes". But how could I not screw up when I’m learning how to do all of this music stuff on my own? I don’t have a mentor, manager, or machine pumping advice, support, or funds into my project. I just have a vision, a deep feeling heart, and super sensitive ears.

What I'm starting to realize is that this whole album process has very little to do with making an album and everything to do with the growth of my soul. I don't think life cares too much if I put out a nice CD. I think life wants me to wake up. How could it be any other way?  After all, the divine Sanskrit names that I sing are imbued with the highest vibration of love. This potent vibration can’t help but grate against the resistant, fearful, lower vibration aspects of my ego. Isn’t that the point? It’s often the most sacred, auspicious things that show us our stuff. I’ve seen this happen with my guru Amma for years. She embodies such vast love that whenever I am around her, it’s like looking into a magnifying mirror. Usually it’s awe-inspiring, but it can be agonizing too because her light illuminates the places in me that aren’t illuminated, and that isn’t always comfortable. I guess something similar has happened with this album. Working on the project has been like staring into the looking glass of my mind and seeing these very old, hidden pockets of self-judgment and shame.

Still, somewhere beneath the veil I know this is just a play. When I question, “Who feels frustrated? Who makes mistakes? Who makes music?” I don’t get an answer. That’s probably because there is no solid person having this experience, which is a huge relief. When I step back from the drama, it’s clear that none of this has anything to do with “me” at all. And perhaps that stagnant, illusory sense of doership is what’s being wrung out through this process. I feel so totally out of control because, in some sense, I am out of control. If it was up to me, this CD would have been done many months ago, but that’s not the situation. So who’s in charge—my ego, or the intelligence of life?

Recently I read a quote by Sri Prem Baba that touched me deeply: “This is how we may ascend: by placing our gifts and talents at service of the common good. Then suddenly it is no longer you who are in service: it is God who uses your talents. There comes a moment when the ego needs to be sacrificed along with its personal desires, because in this phase we’re no longer being led by the wounded child. We are no longer dealing with self-development, but rather with how to become pure channels of love. In this phase the ego has no power, it can’t control things any more. Now your main challenge is fear, the fear that you will turn into a little leaf that the wind can take wherever it wants.”

This passage articulates how I feel so well. There is nothing I'd like more than to be a pure channel of love, but, in truth, I am a bit scared to completely let go and trust that life is creating through this vehicle called "Carrie" in the perfect way, at the perfect time. Even though in my depths I know this is the way things really are, it's hard to see when my human angst looms so large. But perhaps becoming a true channel is not about getting out of my own way so some flawless creation can emerge, but rather getting in my own way and learning from that. You know what I mean? Who said that learning to become an instrument for beauty and grace actually looks beautiful and graceful? Maybe it doesn't. Maybe it looks like a total disaster, but in that so-called "disaster" the small self is being refined and transformed into something more magnificent than it could ever imagine.

All I know is I’m learning how to be patient, how to trust the way things are, and how to forgive myself for screwing up. On the most basic level, I’m learning about self-acceptance. Plain old, powerful self-acceptance. And, like it or not, the only way to learn it is to get in touch with the things about myself that I consider unacceptable, and love them fully. At the end of the day, that’s exactly what this album journey is asking me to do: accept myself. Not some half-ass self-acceptance, but a total acceptance of everything about this thing called “me”. Yes, I need to accept my neuroses, my weaknesses, and all the aspects of my personality that some might roll their eyes at or whisper about behind my back. I need to stop whispering behind my back and criticizing my imperfections. Ineed to embrace my totality—blemishes and all.

Sweet blog reader, I’m just being honest with you here. Oftentimes our culture emphasizes finished products, not processes, and that’s unfortunate. We’re taught to keep the messy details of our life hidden and only part the curtains when everything is polished and refined. But that’s not real life. Real life comes with setbacks and obstacles, chaos, confusion, and moments of doubt and despair. That soul-squeezing work is simply part of the path and it, too, is beautiful.

So here I am—with no clue when my album is going to be done, or when I’m going to emerge from this creative wilderness. But the truth is, it doesn’t really matter. Something huge is happening and I can feel the boundaries of my small self expanding little by little, becoming more spacious. I can feel the knot of my self-concepts relaxing and my self-judgment softening. What else matters in the endless end?

I so look forward to sharing the fruits of my burning with you whenever they ripen. In the meantime, please know how grateful I am that your loving eyes have landed on this page. Thank you for existing, and for reading this.