When a woman in a certain African tribe knows she is pregnant, she goes out into the wilderness with a few friends and together the pray and chant and meditate until they hear the song of the unborn child. They recognize that every soul has its own vibration that expresses its unique flavor and purpose. When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud. Then they return to the tribe and teach it to everyone there. When the child is born, the community gathers and sings the child’s song to him or her. Later, when the child enters education, the village gathers and chants the child’s song. When the child passes through the initiation into adulthood, the people again come together and sing their song. At the time of marriage, the person again hears her or his song. Finally, when the soul is about to pass from this world, the family and friends gather at the persons bed, just as they did at their birth and they sing the person into the next life.
When I have shared this story in my lectures, a fair amount of people in the audience are moved to tears. There is something inside each of us that knows we have a song and we wish those we love would recognize it and support us to sing it. In some of my seminars, I ask people to verbalize to a partner the one phrase they wish their parents had said to them as a child. Then the partner lovingly whispers it in their ear. This exercise goes very deep, and many significant insights start to click. How we all long to be loved, acknowledged and accepted for who we are!
In the African tribe there is one other occasion upon which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or aberrant social act, the individual is called to the center of the village and the people in the community form a circle around them and sing them their song. The tribe recognizes that the correction for the antisocial behavior is not punishment. It is love and the remembrance of identity. When you recognize your own song, you have no desire or need to do anything that would harm another.
A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it. Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly, your wholeness when you are broken, your innocence when you feel guilty, and your purpose when you are confused.
One summer when I was a teenager I went to visit my cousin and her family in Wilmington Delaware. One afternoon she took me to the community pool, where I met a man who changed my life. Mr. Simmons talked to me for about ten minutes. It wasn’t what he told me that affected me so deeply, it was how he listened to me. He asked me questions about my life, my feelings and my interests. The unusual thing about Mr. Simmons is that he paid attention to my answers. Although I had family, friends, and teachers, that man was the only person in the world who seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say and valued me for who I was.
After our brief conversation I never saw him again. I probably never will. I’m sure he had no idea that he gave me the gift of a lifetime. Maybe he was one of those angels who show up for a brief mission on earth, to give someone faith, confidence, and hope when they most need it.
If you do not give your song a voice, you will feel lost, alone, and confused. If you express it, you will come to life. I have also done workshop exercises in which everyone in the room is given a piece of paper with the name of a simple song on it, such as “Mary had a Little Lamb”, of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” In the whole group there are perhaps eight different songs, and a half dozen people have the same song named on their paper. Each person is then asked to mill around the room while they whistle or hum their song. When they find someone else playing the same song, they stay together until they find everyone who is singing that song. Thus they create small groups that serve as foundations for the duration of the program. Life is very much like this exercise: we attract people on a similar wavelength so we can support each other to sing aloud. Sometimes we attract people who challenge us by telling us that we cannot or should not sing in public. Yet these people help us too, for they stimulate us to find greater courage to sing it!
So find ways to let your life remind you when you are in tune with yourself and when you are not. When you feel good, what you are doing matches your song, and when you feel awful, it doesn’t. In the end, we shall all recognize our song and sing it well. You may feel a little warble-ly at the moment, but so have all the great singers!
Just keep singing and you’ll find your way home!
In his article called ‘They’re Playing Our Song‘
In summation, is a quote by Henry Van Dyke:
Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.
I had read this essay a long time back. Today a dear friend mailed it to me again. I had to share it for I feel blessed.
Dagny, I am so curious about this post!! I’m not sure how to take the note at the bottom correctly, where it says “Author Unknown” – I’m wondering if that refers to the sentence “Just keep singing…” or to the whole post?? (so I’m wondering if YOU wrote the post – or are sharing an anonymous essay – so easy for me to get confused – lol).
I read the story (and near fell to my knees when I read it!) about a tribe singing to a member who committed a crime in a book by Pam Grout (love her work!) – and I have the quote “A friend is someone who knows your song and sings it to you when you have forgotten it.” (from a Girl Guide song) right in the middle of a poster/dreamboard I made about my business years ago — and those are the words I am reminding myself of over and over again as I write up a page about the Square-Peg coaching services I am bringing back…
It would just thrill me to know that you wrote this–but then, it thrills me to know that you put it up here — whether you wrote it or quoted it. Thank you so much for this gorgeous reminder to BE someone who listens for the songs of others – and to sing our own song!
I did not write this at all. All I have done is to post it here. The part that got ‘into’ me this time was the way the tribe would sing the song to a person if ever he behaved in a anti-social way. What a beautiful way of reminding a person of what his true identity..! What a way to bring him back to the core of him where love, self-respect and dignity live. What a marvelous way to guide someone towards self-governance… and to do it with empathy and compassion… in complete acceptance and non-judgmental way..! I was so moved by this that I felt like sharing it.
You not only remind people of their songs Karen dear, you also tell them how beautiful it is. There is so much validation in your ‘listening’ as you encourage someone to sing their song… that one feels blessed. I know I do… whenever I talk to you. You see Karen, it is not only that you listen with total involvement… that is important surely. What makes me feel particularly wonderful is to know that I won the attention of someone with discernment. 😀 Now now, don’t turn red…! 😀 😀
I’ve come across this essay before and each time I read it I am moved. Thank you for sharing this here! xoxo
Luna… 🙂 A thing of beauty…. 😀 😀
I read this essay with much interest. Thanks for posting it.
True , a song introduced to a child even before it is born symbolizes the identity of a particular tribe. And the tribe wants the child to imbibe this song deep within and sing it throughout its life. It is a mark of identity of not only the child but the identity of that particular tribe as well. The social groups, peers and family all play significant roles in the child’s upbringing. Hope you agree. 😉
Pls correct me if I am wrong. I think an African tribe doesn’t settle in one place and make it its home, because of many reasons such as drought, invasion of wild animals and enemy tribes into their territory and so on.
So, the song introduced to each and every child born into a particular tribe is sort of constant reminder as to who they are and where they belong to when constant migration occurs …and also, interactions between different tribes could be the root cause of loosing the grip on their songs..their identity as a tribe.
The way they deal with antisocial elements in their group is something that I have never heard of in the so called modernized /civilized part of the word. Instead of pointing fingers and making ad hominem attack against the one who did wrong, they point out only the mistake done and make the person realize the mistake through love and compassion. They then reintroduce the song to the offender..the song that he/she should remember and sing it. The dignity and respect of that tribe depends on the songs each and everyone belonging to that tribe sing..Their mark of identity.
I hope my comment here makes some sense! 😀
have a nice week.
Luv and regds
Your comment, as always, makes a lot of sense. But there is one premise you have got wrong.
The song the tribe sings to a child is not the song of the tribe. It is the song of the child… the song his mother discovered for him while he was still in her womb. My personal experience in this tells me that there are certain songs/ music that an unborn baby relates to. Every child has her own song. When they listen to it, they become quiet and are at peace. After they are born, whenever that song is played to them, they become calmer… even stop crying.
There are some African tribes- specially those whose livelihood is tending animals- who move around in a section of the country. They will go into the mountains or down in the plains. But they have their designated areas… they don’t usually wander far from those areas. Its like having a separate summer and winter residence. 🙂
To remind a human soul of what he is and what he wants to be is a fabulous way of bringing him back to his chosen path. If this is done with love and in a non-judgmental way, it could be a powerful force. Self-governance and self discipline have always proved to be far more powerful than an externally imposed discipline/ governance. At least, so I believe. The job of parents/ educators/ bosses is merely to remind a person of What He Wants to Be… to refresh his own vision of himself. He can do the rest. 🙂
So tell me Bharathi, Will today be the day when you will decide that the quality of your life will consistently reflect the quality of your spirit..? 😀
Love and regards,
“When the women attune to the song, they sing it out loud.”
The above catchphrase like sentence slipped my attention while doing two things at a time..reading the blog and doing my assignment. I thought when the whole community sing in chorus it’s a tribal song and not a child’s song. Anyway, I am happy you said my comment made sense! Porky pies. Isn’t it? 🙂
Well, I am yet to experience the mother and the baby thingyyy :)) gimme a few more yrs to come back and tell you what song I sang to the baby and how it responded to my song!! My mom used to tell me I kicked her so hard from inside. Maybe she didn’t sing a song I liked!! ;))
What you say in the last para of your comment is true. but, can a human soul in a child’s body govern/discipline her/himself and choose its right path to follow without the guidance of parents/peers and teachers? ( external as you put it)
For an adult human soul what you are saying is agreeable..but for a child!!.
As for you question, actually my spirit has two sides one is spiritual and the other worldly. The spiritual side helps/guides me to follow the right path while the worldly one is ever so busy to tempt me to follow its path and be naughty!!:)
But I am a fighter you see! That is why my life is physically, socially and emotionally blissful brimmed with lots of happiness..and I don’t think it is possible without spiritual guidance.
luv and regds…always 🙂
In the first place, a soul is a soul. If at all it has ‘age’… it is surely very old… for it has been around for eons. Hence, when the body is in child state, the soul is already old with the wisdom of many births.
Secondly, the essay speaks of the tribe singing to the person when he displays unwanted behavior. The inner guidance will surely be experienced less acutely by a child than by an adult, it is true. But it also true that by singing ‘his’ song- even to a child- makes it easier to remind the child’s soul of what its true identity is. And when reminded of it, the child’s misdemeanor would surely be less virulent.
I haven’t fully tried this with any of my kids. All I have seen is that they get soothed very easily (as infants and toddlers) when ‘their’ song was playing.
Perhaps I should try it with them even as adults. Who knows, it might actually make a difference. 🙂
I’ll have to wait- possibly for long- for one of them to exhibit undesirable behavior. Lets see…. 😀
As regards my question and your answer, I can tell you only one thing. You don’t need spiritual guidance from an external source. Go within. Trust your soul. It already KNOWS what it needs to know to get to the next level in its evolution. And if it doesn’t, it will automatically attract resources to itself. Just stay open and trusting. You are on autopilot… let it guide you. 🙂
Love and regards,
ah, definitely bouquets for this, Dagny. It’s a lovely story, especially the part about punishment not being quite the thing when someone strays. Persuasion and a deeper understanding work better. Thanks for sharing.
I am glad you liked it too. Such a simple story yet it gives you insights in such multi-layered ways. Pleasure to see you here… 🙂