woman in black leather jacket sitting on brown wooden floor

Change of Seasons – Change of Heart // Julie Dean

I love the change of seasons; it gives me a ritualistic time of reflection and renewal. A chance to honor where I’ve been and what is coming, and how I want to show up.

My friend Jess recently told me that Feb. 2nd (Groundhog Day) is a more modern day version of the ancient Celtic holiday “Imbolc,” which is the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. This is the day when the days start to get a bit longer, and my friend Erika confirmed that indeed, Imbolic is a celebration of renewal and rebirth, still active in England where she lives. 

A Season of Grief

Last year during Imbolc, I was starting to come out of a season of grief. 

On top of the pandemic, putting our businesses online, and the ever-hovering political/racial evils and unrest we all experienced, I was dealing with the decline of both of my parents: the death of one and the theft of another by Alzheimer’s. I bought a house. I was robbed. 

By the end of 2021, I was worried. Worried I couldn’t do my job anymore. Worried I didn’t want to sing anymore. I was depressed. I was flattened.

A Season of Renewal and Rest

So I started working with a Grief & Life Transition Coach in 2022.

There was more self-compassion work than I expected in that process. I didn’t realize how much I needed it.  Clarity unfolded, ease of grief came, desires presented themselves. I found joy in singing again. I found a new rhythm in coaching, and was excited to share new passions and insights with clients, and friends.

I made sure I got more than adequate rest. I said “no” to more things that allowed more rest or other adventures/connections. I’ve been conscious of that this winter, even though I’ve had more energy than the previous year. Still trying to honor rest.

I don’t know about you, but I am changed from these last few years. 

A Season of Redefining

When I began to come alive again last year, I decided I wanted to create a world of my choosing. I developed Whole Hearted – Connected Voice Beach retreats for those of my singing clients who wanted to dive deeper into connecting our hearts and our healing to our voices. I’ve become very aware of that symbiotic relationship.

Redefining Performing

One of the ideas that came out of that first weekend deep dive with other inquiring hearts was to redefine performing; for myself, for my clients, for the world. As comfortable as some of my singers are singing in a small group, when it’s just them, all eyes on one individual, there is still  so much fear showing up. 

Around this time of examining performance, I also saw a great documentary on comedian George Carlin on HBOMax. After his 1992 Jammin in New York special, he recognized that for the first time he was more of an artist than a performer.

Distinguishing the difference of delivering art and performing it. Interesting. That resonated with me. I got on stage very early in life. Most of it was for other people. Then, it was just my life. And it was for show, mostly pretending, entertaining. I was a pretty good faker. Check on your people-pleasers!

Eventually, performing felt like a second skin, and the stage a second home. In my song “Up on Stage,” I sing of my love of being on stage feeling like “standing in the sun.” Up on stage, I’m seen. I’m heard. 

I became conscious of this during my healing journey these last few years. And I think of how my insecurities and chaotic childhood made the stage a great place to hide and get that need to be seen at the same time. I was a performer.

Once I started unraveling my trauma and finding my voice in life, I started to feel a new kind of vulnerability on stage that was new to me. Because now I was showing up as myself, making art that was my own, and hoping the world still liked me as I am. I am now an artist. 

As I began to work with my clients on redefining performance, we dug into self-worth, singing as connecting, and soothing the nervous system. Actually co-regulating together on the patio or online, practicing calming the nervous system on each person’s turn to sing. 

Redefining Listening

And we asked ourselves as audience members if we could stop the judgmental dialogue that runs rampant in our minds when we watch and listen to others.

This seems to be the greatest fear: what other people will think of us. Humans are judgmental. It’s how we were taught wrong from right when we were little. 

I have found that my worry about others judging me is less when I’m practicing not judging others. Just catching those errant thoughts that pop in. Noticing, stopping, letting it go. Similarly, I’m a lot easier on myself when I judge others less.

Redefining the Mind-Body Connection

Peter Levine explains that our nervous system (meant to protect us) no longer gets the satisfaction of survival release because of our modern society; that we’ve been disconnected from our bodies, and now put a lot of energy into our thoughts and also confuse them for reality.

“Thoughts, unfortunately, are poor surrogates for experienced aliveness and when disconnected from feelings, they result in corrosive rumination, fantasy, delusion and excessive worry.

Such perseveration is not really surprising as the paranoid tendencies toward concern for potential threat in the face of ambiguity might have had a significant adaptive advantage in earlier times.

Now, however, it is the currency of our judgmental, negativistic super egos. On the other hand, when we are informed by clear body sensations and feelings, worry is diminished while creativity and a sense of purpose are enhanced.” ~ from In An Unspoken Voice

Peter Levine is a psychotherapist who created Somatic Experiencing™, a therapeutic model for trauma healing and other stress disorders. SE is the result of the multidisciplinary study of stress physiology, psychology, ethology, biology, neuroscience, indigenous healing practices, and medical biophysics, with more than 45 years of successful application.

I started my own work with a Somatic Experiencing practitioner in 2014.

Being in touch with my body has been a foundation to my healing, and I’m convinced it has made being vulnerable on stage easier. I don’t feel the need to pretend on stage anymore.

As I was developing these ideas and programs for my clients last year around regulating our nervous systems when we sing in front of others, I found Ruby Rose Fox’s work (and App!) – Muscle Music. I highly recommend her work for artists/teachers in learning about the beautiful connection of regulating the nervous system as performers/artists.

Resources for Navigating Seasons

I’m grateful to be at peace and standing and shining in the sun in this season of my life. 

If you are in darker times and need some light, I highly recommend these resources…

Kristin Neff’s work on Self-Compassion

Somatic Experiencing therapy – Healing

Brene Brown’s new Atlas of the Heart – book & HBOMax series

Kelly Howard (Grief Coach) with KH Healing Arts

Just making the call, reaching out for the help, can alleviate some of the heaviness. Isn’t that the way? I’ve noticed that happens. The resolve to want change, and ask for it, allows the space for the possibility. 

May joy and ease bloom in your art making and singing this season. What would you like to bloom?

If you’d like to know more about my Whole Hearted – Connected Voice beach retreats, click here. You can join me May 5th weekend or May 12th in Sunset Beach, NC. Just a couple of spots left!

I’m also offering a Redefining Performance class Tuesday evenings at 7pm EST, April 18/25, May 2. You can join in person (Charlotte, NC) or online. Contact me to get access! juliedeansings@gmail.com

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