For those who do not know, Mattie Sepanek was a poet, peace activist, and visionary, who passed away in his 13th year from complications due to Dysautonomic Mitochondrial Myopathy. Mattie's short journey was unlike most of ours, as he spent much of his life in a wheelchair, hooked up to a ventilator, oxygen, and the monitors that kept him alive. In spite of this, Mattie had a drive for life that inspired many, and an insight into the best of humanity, which he shared in compilations of poetry he called Heartsongs.
While Mattie's influence lives on, through The Mattie J.T. Stepanek Foundation which was started to spread his messages of peace and humanitarianism, for me, Mattie primarily serves as an example of someone who was not afraid to show up and share his truest self with anyone who would listen. Mattie intuitively knew that each of us has a song in our heart; something to express that is unique to each one of us, and that the world would be a better place if we allowed ourselves to connect to this song and share it freely. He chose to express his heartsongs publicly, with five published books, and appearances on Oprah, but the benefit of us showing up and sharing our heartsong can be equally valuable in a private moment with a loved one, or a conversation with a friend.
We have all felt the power of sincere and heartfelt exchange at different moments in our lives, and recognize its importance at some level, but all too often I talk to people who feel disconnected from the song of their heart. Fortunately, using music and singing, people can safely explore their heartsong, reconnect with it, and express themselves in an entirely new way.
It's interesting that Mattie chose to use the words Heart and Song to describe his work. heart immediately evokes feelings of love, emotion, sincerity, or passion, and the word song, in this context, feels like free and natural expression.
Like Maddie, I believe we all have a heartsong which can express itself in a wide variety of ways: through music or singing, art, inventions and ideas, or dedication to a cause. Regardless of its form, I believe our heartsong always has a foundation in goodness and freedom. It may not always be a happy song, but it's always a sincere song. And I believe it wants to be sung.
Often students come to my studio with a strong need to connect more deeply with themselves and others, but experience a block when it comes to expressing themselves. It's not hard to figure out the reasons for this. We learn, starting as young children, that it's safer to keep our opinions to ourselves, to tow the line, to not rock the boat, to keep a stiff upper lip, or to be seen and not heard. Should we risk vulnerable self-expression we face being shut down, ridiculed, or even reprimanded. People who have their voice hushed throughout their lives, especially in childhood, wonder why they have such a difficult time connecting with their own voice, or feel so disconnected from the song in their hearts.
When a student or program participant finds the connection, often with that first freely expressed note, it's as if a flood gate opens, and it can be a profoundly life-changing experience. For some people, it's the first time in a very long time, they have truly let their voice be heard. This is one of the reasons I continued to be awed by the power of change, singing can bring to a life, and why I love the work I do so much.
The following series of questions, and a short video exercise, was designed to give you the opportunity to explore the expression of your own heartsong. Please keep in mind that the questions are not related to your skill (or perceived skill) as a singer, but intended to be an exploration of some of the core principles of heart-centered singing. If you have an experience related to these exercises, or the expression of your own heartsong that you would like to share, I invite you to contribute in the comment section below.
(I have chosen to moderate the comments posted to the blog, to make sure the forum remains a safe and positive experience for everyone. I will be notified as soon as you post a comment, and once approved, the comment will visible below this blog posting.)
-Do you believe you have a Heartsong? If you do, how easy is it for you to hear it, or express it?
-Alone, if you were to sing a note or simple melody from a heart-centered place, how do you think the sound would differ from a note sung with nervousness, uncertainty, or shyness? (I think of the latter examples as brain-centered singing)
-If you were to sing the feeling of sincerity, what would it sound like?
Video - The Silent Song.
I would suggest you do this exercise alone, so you don't feel self-conscious. Self-consciousness and self-judgement are the fasted way to disconnect you from this exercise. Pause this video at any time if you would like to continue any part of the exercise for longer than demonstrated on the video.
For more information on Mattie, and all the great work that is being done through
The Mattie J.T Stepanek Foundation, please visit the website here. http://www.mattieonline.com/
Thank you Mattie, for sharing your Heartsong with us all.