Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

Singing German in a Big Stone Church

August 16th, 2012 2 comments

In little over 10 weeks, I will have sung (however amateur) a most magnificent and intensely challenging choral work called Ein deutsches Requiem, nach Worten der Heiligen Schrift – A German Requiem, to the Words of the Holy Scripture.

Johannes Brahms wrote this huge work of seven movements in 1868 and on August 25, 2012, the Summer Chor, directed by Alison Nixon, will present Brahms’ masterpiece in a big stone church in downtown Vancouver.  Even if you don’t believe in God, or you don’t think you like classical music, I really do think that there is something special in this event that almost anyone can enjoy.  Imagine producing an expression of your thoughts and feelings in a manner that resonates with so many, it gets reproduced 144 years after its creation.

SummerChor 2012 Concert Poster

Contrary to the words we sing, it does not feel like we’re singing about or to God in the same way when we sing hymns in English.  Once I actually mark my music with translations, this may change.  But really what I mean to say is this sacred music is in a class of its own.  Despite the language barrier, the music, sung in all four choral parts with piano and organ, offer up a journey of the human spirit through valleys and sunsets.

We started rehearsals in June, and for the first rehearsal I listened; barely singing a note due to an overwhelming sense of incompetence.  There is so much to coordinate: pitch, placement of vowels, making sense of German, rhythm, breathe support, dynamics (is it soft, quick, loud, lyrical etc.?), looking at the conductor and the music.  And then there is the fact that one singing does not really hear how one truly sounds. If you have ever recorded your voice, played it back and heared a voice slightly different from what you hear when you speak, you will know this to be true for singing as well.  It is the only musical instrument of its kind with the complication of human anatomy for producing and perceiving sound.

As we start rehearsals with the Dunbar Heights United Church Choir in September, more reflections to come on the process of learning to sing classical music.  Until then, come listen to Summer Chor at:

St. Andrew-Wesley Church, Burrard & Nelson                   Saturday, August 25, 2012, 7pm

Tickets at the door $15 (or $10 in advance until Aug. 22 from a choir member)

Renewing Vows to Artistry

June 21st, 2012 No comments

Today I contemplate what I would do with my time if I knew I would not fail and financial security were guaranteed. Art. The making of it, learning different disciplines, sharing the knowledge through teaching, performance, and facilitating collective art-making.

Why Art?  It’s often thought to be a bonus elective in schools, an activity we do “if we have time” after the very important tasks of running a household, business or community.  Because so many enjoy it and common is the belief that earned income must come through difficult unpleasant work, then it is quite understandable that we would think of the Arts as play for children, not for an adult serious about making a living wage.  And while it is feels good to write about it, there are uncomfortable challenges that come with choosing an Arts discipline as a profession.  Admittedly, I have had my moments of wishing that I could be someone I am not for the ability to take the well-worn path of other occupations with plenty of employment to go around and minimal risk.

The Arts, for me, is where the discovery of Self and Other meet, have a conversation, make-up alternate possibilities from our current reality and then dare us to live differently, sometimes more bold and hopefully, less afraid. It’s important work!  How else shall we communicate our inner world to the outer world but through the arts?  And were it not for this communication between inner and outer worlds, how else could we evolve our minds, our thoughts, indeed, our actions which create the world we experience?

Many people say they want a happy experience in this life.  Many want a clean world, a peaceful world, a joyful and loving world, but how many believe that the Arts practices are an important part of creating that?  Who of those protesting corruption, violence and environmental destruction will persist in advocating for the Arts?  It’s a connection not often made clear with of generations of programming about what gets desirable, monetized results in our industrialized society.  I believe the value of our artistic expression and creative thinking in general, is immeasurable, like the Self from which it emerges.  To protect the beauty, peace and joy in the world is to propagate the belief that the Arts are a vital lifeline for humanity.

The closest thing I know to marriage is my commitment to artistic expression.  Perhaps this marries me to all of humanity.  And like all marriages, it is the choice to renew the vow on a daily basis that makes the commitment real.  Today, I vow to honour my wacky artist self and persist in arts practices.  What do you do to strengthen your Artist?

Pass the Media Pass

September 27th, 2011 No comments

Since September 9th, when we published my first blog/video post for isCleaner’s Uplight series, I have keenly been adapting to being regularly involved with the clean energy sector as a writer and video collector.  That is to say, I write articles and capture videos of people and things I find of interest and inspiration that relate to clean energy.  The series of posts is called Uplight, after the word defined below.  It’s not yet in the dictionary because I just made it up a few weeks ago.

up⋅light [uhp-layht] verb – to illuminate a subject or perception that encourages evolved thinking and action towards sustainable change.

In response to my recent activity someone said, “It sounds like you are having a career change.”  I disagreed.  I’m still very committed to my other artistic practices on stage and in studio.  It’s great to be learning about all the various applications of my artist voice, as I discover them through curious new ventures.

I have a stack of dvd movies I need to watch before they expire and a closet crying out for order, but last night I chose to explore possibilities at the BC Women in Energy Network launch reception.  Never have I imagined that I would be at such an event, or any event wearing a media pass. Like a child who discovers a new ability, I want to do it again, again!

Here is what I thought of it…

Follow me on twitter to get updates on the latest Uplighters

Send me a message if you have a story you think is worth uplighting.   Thanks for visiting!

My Kingdom for Feminine Influence

August 31st, 2011 No comments

After spending the last four weeks as the only woman on a production team, I have learned a fundamental lesson about the importance of influence.  Influence is not the same as giving direction or having authority. The title of director, manager or producer come with the ability to influence and lead a group, only if those individuals are willing to be led by that person. It has been my experience in working with masculine-dominated teams, that if you want something done, give the idea to the one that all the other males respect and follow. And by give I mean, find a way to allow that person to take ownership of the idea/solution that you offer and detach from any need to take credit for it, voice it or be rewarded for your contribution in any way.  Why?  Because unless that male is more evolved and enlightened than the vast majority, a woman is unlikely to get the credit that she deserves.  The fundamental difference between the gracious woman and the immature version of her: the gracious woman is not bothered by the male taking credit for her idea because the reward is in knowing her truth, not in what others think.  The reward for her is in self-mastery and the calm of humility that is much deeper than a pat on the back or peer recognition.  While it is nice to be given tribute for one’s ideas, and it’s fair and reasonable to want that; there was a great deal of satisfaction in my experience when someone else aligned himself to my desire and made it his own.  And because of the level of respect the males had for him, the suggestion was embraced. How do I know that it would not have been taken in the same way if it had been me who spoke?  Because that strategy had already failed me on several attempts.  In fact, I might go so far as to say, that strategy has failed me most of my life.

The discovery of how a quiet one-to-one dialogue can yield the exact result I wanted with the larger group, was a surprise and a great relief.  No longer do I think that I need to be the one to directly speak to a problem.   In fact, I’ve learned that sometimes, it really is counter-productive (with some people!) to take a direct approach.  My preference is to be direct but I don’t control how people do with that, so I am learning to adapt with what IS, not how I would like behaviours to be.

Releasing attachment to “being right” and to “getting credit for my work” felt like I stepped more firmly into the wisdom of feminine influence.  A truly satisfying step.

Walking towards mystery

April 30th, 2011 No comments

In late September 2001, I arrived by foot at the beautiful city Santiago de Compostela.  I had walked the Camino with the sole purpose to arrive in 30 days.  It was a mystery what awaited me, and yet, it had not once occurred to me in all the hours of walking, that I might not appreciate what was at the other end of the long expansive trail.  It is now ten years since I’ve walked the Camino and it still remains a very cherished accomplishment.  Simple in method, I walked.  Profound in its result, my heart and soul took flight.

When I think about that time on the Camino, I remember a few lessons I wanted to apply to life beyond the scalloped marked trail:

1)  There is no escaping my humanity. Regardless of how much money, knowledge or status anyone brought with them to the Camino, it would not make any pilgrim immune to blisters (or some other pain) during their way.

2)  My arrival is in my choice to walk each day. Camino pilgrims I met were very helpful.  There were not many young women travelling solo so people often offered to be of assistance on anything from cooking me a meal to translating the world news about 911.  But no one could do the walking for me.  As painful as it was some days, with twice the weight recommended for my body, I was the only one who could put my left foot in front of my right.  My options were clear – walk, or stay still.  Keep walking. Rest!  And repeat…left foot, right foot.

3)  Assumptions and expectations are unnecessary extra weight; let them go! When I first started walking I thought everyone on the Camino would be going the distance to Santiago, but I learned that some walked for a weekend, a week or a month.  Less than a dozen among hundreds of people I met along the way actually planned to walk the full distance between Roncesvalles and Santiago.  And yet, the quality of experience with each person was not diminished or enhanced by the quantity of time we shared together.

4) Learn to speak more languages! At least one more than English! Sadly, I have failed in learning this lesson.  I met so many amazing people from Europe, Australia, South Americas; mostly everyone except North Americans and British spoke more than one language. Here is my pledge…before I am 40,  I WILL learn a new language!  If not, I will walk the Camino again to teach me again, why it is important!

Categories: Down the Rabbit Hole, Learning, Travel Tags:

Apprenticing in Playback

April 26th, 2011 No comments

Over the last couple of months, I have spent a few evenings playing with troupe members of Vancouver Playback Theatre, and I was just invited to be an apprentice with the troupe, with intention to become an official member.  It is a form of theatre that is highly improvised and driven by lived experiences within our communities.  I originally studied Playback Theatre with its Founder, Jonathan Fox, when I was practicing drama therapy at NYU.  VPT has different forms from what I originally trained in so before I become a full member, I’ll have a period of apprenticeship to learn the new forms.  The only other place that I have practiced Playback Theatre outside of Vancouver and New York City is in rehearsal with a troupe in London, UK.  Similar to Tai Chi, it is a discipline that has found many practitioners & students around the world!

Recently, I performed with VPT as a guest artist at a volunteer appreciation event celebrating those who give of themselves to help newcomers to Canada adapt and thrive.  It was fun and rewarding to meet a vast array of people from many different cultures, all committed to important and meaningful work.

I’ll post upcoming Playback performances on the events page.  Thanks for visiting!

Categories: Learning, Performing Arts, Theatre Tags:

Whale Shark Swim

April 20th, 2011 1 comment

Each year between June and September, the mighty Whale sharks migrate to the coast of Mexico near Isla Mujeres (north of Cancun), and this June I will venture out into open water to swim with them.  This grand aspiration began in February 2009 when I went on a spiritual journey guided by the wonderful Shaman Healer, Angela Prider, of the Heart Quest Healing Collective in East Vancouver.  With rhythmic drumming and her powerful intuition, she helped to connect me with my Power Animal, a Whale shark.  It was the first I had heard the name and her first bringing one up.  Since then, I have had a thirst to learn as much as I can about Whale sharks.  They are beautiful and mighty, gentle and elusive.  They have no natural predators and they also do not prey on other fish.  It is truly amazing that the largest fish in the ocean lives solely off plankton.  Sadly, humans have evolved to killing them to a state of vulnerability to endangerment; we are their only predator and also their greatest hope to replenishing their population by stopping the harmful fishing and finning practices that are devastating their numbers.

Over the next two months, I’ll be brushing up on my Spanish and swimming in preparation for the trip. I am not a confident swimmer in the pool so I think I’ll need to take lessons to prepare for the open water. Accompanying me will be Kayli, a fellow performing artist from Kuala Lumpur and Viola, an architect from London, England. Thanks for visiting and I hope you’ll come back to hear more about how the preparation and the trip unfolds. TA!

Knowing What You Want: the Journey

April 3rd, 2011 No comments

My heart has hijacked my life and is holding my rational thinking hostage.  Sound like something familiar?

Since an experience in 2010 that we’ll call here the “intuit experience”, I find that no matter how hard I try, I am unable to apply the usual safe, straight and narrow path of conventional progress.  Specifically and especially with my strategies for career, but also with most things important.  If my ‘heart’ is not 100% in agreement with an opportunity or choice, something goes wrong.  Something unexpected and unpreventable happens, resulting in conflicts of commitments or curiously spontaneous cancellations in an almost magical manner.  Some might describe these occurrences as divine intervention or serendipitous.

The details of the intuit experience are not the window into what I’m exploring here, I just felt the need to give this changed experience of myself a starting point.  For some people, I think such a change often happens following a severe loss of some kind.  A loss of a deep attachment to a person, to an identity, a great loss of health or ability; in my case, a loss of perspective.  It’s been frustrating to think I want one thing and then to discover, by the mischievous and irrational handling of my heart, that I actually want the impractical, the inconvenient, the unexpected and unpredictable.  For a Virgo who takes pleasure making lists and organizing life into neat piles of labeled transparency, this change of leadership between the looping analytic mind and the heart-wheeling impulses has called forth my greatest efforts in building patience, self-compassion and humility.  I fumble daily and slowly do I learn.

And as I have become intimate and familiar with loss, endings, death, I have become further connected to the core of what I value in life and to the rhythm my life.  I have been very frustrated when sitting with ambiguity and indecision, often delaying or avoiding action.  I have struggled with the simple, yet perplexing question, “What Do I Want?” with all things small and significant from what to eat to how to earn a living, to where to live, and who to love and how to love what I do.  To value an experience, a state of being, a career or a connection to other, is to experience the journey of being without that which we value.

A friend recently gifted me with one of my favourite books, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran.  My attention to his poem on death inspired me to finish this entry that I had started almost a month ago (thank you, Harpal).

These words from the passage on Death offers perspective in times of feeling bewildered, directionless or alone:

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

I am reminded that I am but a visitor in this big beautiful world, and

I have been here before.

Why Theatre? Revisited, II of II

February 25th, 2011 No comments

I’ve explored corners of an emerging field (applied theatre/drama) that in highschool, one couldn’t even imagine would exist. That is just three years before I would be a student of it.  Like pioneers to a new land, it has been an arduous process of studying and cultivating the rugged terrain as an applied theatre practitioner.  A process probably made more difficult by my stubbornness, insecurities and expectations (a.k.a. impatience); all very limiting to a process of cultivating a creative style, learning to teach while honouring my own unique voice amongst the expert opinions.  This privileged challenge of navigating unchartered career waters has been made possible by my having participated in drama, acting, musical theatre, recreational dance, and music/band classes in my teen years, when forming a sense of self is the only thing that is of any true significance.

The arts activities that engage and develop the right-brained abilities such as harmony, aesthetic, metaphor, story, and design, are traditionally considered to be fringe benefits in the schools referred to, in this cleverly animated talk.  Now, we are in the dawn of an era that demands more of the right-brain aptitudes, demonstrated in the highest grossing industries such as culinary arts, cosmetics and fashion, but mostly by the degree of problem-solving our world requires for our survival!  I agree that the ARTS professions, and therefore our civilizations, have not been served by the industrial era’s school system in a manner that is sustainable.  Seems obvious now that we also recognize that the industrialization of production and consumption are no longer sustainable.  I feel so passionate about opening up the creative channels in our schools and workplaces that I could probably obsess about it for years to come!  So for the sake of getting through this blog post, I’ll curb my enthusiasm here to introduce you to the third inspiring video of my day that re-affirms why I choose theatre and dramatic arts over and over, wherever I end up, doing whatever it is I do.

Sir Ken Robinson, a visionary on education and creativity follows his 2006 TED talk with this witty talk about a learning revolution; the waves of which, led me to study drama therapy at New York University in 1999.

What Sir Robinson refers to is a revolution that has been a few decades already underway, beginning with a few enlightened masters; their efforts often ignored, resisted and belittled by many.  The movement to change how we teach children persists in as many ways as are needed to serve the diversity of the many ways that humans learn.  I hope you enjoyed these videos as much as I have enjoyed reflecting upon them and posting here.

A deeply heartfelt-appreciating hug to all my teachers who inspired me to question, seek, express and grow!  And thanks for visiting my online playground!

Language Learning

February 21st, 2011 No comments

It is not obvious, but English is technically my second language.  For the first two years of my life, the language I heard was the Filipino dialect, Tagalog. Then we moved to Canada just after 2 years and I started to hear more English.  In this video Patricia Kuhl speaks about the linguistic genius of babies and their findings really make sense of how I remember experiencing the world with two languages.

By the time I was 4 years old our parents were speaking less Tagalog at home because my older brother and I would make our half of the conversation in English.  I think we realized in our new environment that English was the preferred and most widely used.  Because the tagalog language is a collage of different European and Asian language sounds, learning French in high school and beginning Spanish in adulthood had a very natural feeling, as if my brain has been waiting for me to engage those sounds.

Recently, I have become more and more keen to learn Mandarin.  I enjoy traveling and hearing other languages so I feel frustrated with my linguistic limitations, especially when I was in Taiwan in 2007.  My interest in Mandarin is a bit surprising because 4 years ago when I was immersed in it, my interest in learning the language was very little.  I didn’t think it sounded nice, but now I’m associating people to the sounds of Mandarin, just by living in Vancouver and having friends who speak it.  I like to think that if I am ever to raise a child, I would expose them to other languages as much as possible within the first 7 years while the brain is wide open for possibilities.

I am working on reading and listening to Spanish, but I think what would really be effective is to go to warm, sunny Mexico for a few weeks had have the immersion experience!