Becoming the Song You Are Here to Sing

by Jul 10, 2023

This poem by Rainier Maria Rilke is one of my favorites:

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for

may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,

streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

As a writer, a shamanic practitioner and teacher, this gorgeous poem expresses something I also believe in—the immense power of all the unexpressed potential within each of us. Everything within us that has not yet located its voice.

In the Celtic tradition, it is called our song, a unique and ingenious refrain that distinguishes and identifies us.  A song only we can sing.  A song that helps those lives we were meant to touch, find us.

There have been times in my practitioner work when, in the process of a soul retrieval, I have asked my helping spirits: what part of the soul is this?  Their song, the spirits will answer, it is their song.

The song of a person is a vibrant mix of unexpressed passion, creativity, potential, wonder and awe.  We can easily imagine how precious and indispensable such a soul part would be to the one who has lost it, how much its loss might diminish their work and impact in the world.  But, it isn’t much of a stretch to recognize what a loss that is to us all!

We are always perched on the very edge of revelation, whether we realize it or not.

But, as the poet says, revelation can’t be forced.  The reprieve we sometimes require from the muddle of daily living is gained simply by standing empty in the present moment, and then listening, deeply and without the burden of preconceived notions, until it finds us—that unsaid thing—bubbling up in a liberating burst of healing and shift and insight until it finds the surface of our tongue.

No matter the despair, no matter the clutch of the heartache, there is always somewhere deep within us a well circulating with the wisdom of release and grace.  A well that is fed by the underground waters of Source.  Part of our challenge in life is to bring those waters to the surface and channel them out into the world.

Children are all soul.  This is how we enter our lives—egoless and defenseless—with no foresight into how we will eventually need to suppress what is pure and vibrant and inspired within us.  As we grow, we are educated and conditioned in favor of how others might prefer us to be, in favor of what the world requires and what pigeon hole it has prepared for us. Our limitless potential clashes with a constrained and limited world, in which we must live and, against all odds, thrive.

The world does not know us.  It doesn’t know what’s best for us, or the unique gifts we have to offer.  It can’t know what it has no inroad to, all we have yet to say.  Only we carry the knowledge of that potential, which is indelibly inscribed on our own soul.

I see my work as a practitioner as the delicate act of mining those soul inscriptions. Those silenced, buried, sometimes lost yearnings that have been swallowed up in life’s ceaseless tides, swept away in the backwash of trauma, abuse, suppression, struggle and heartache.

Whenever the wild and unfettered expressions of our young and unseasoned selves meet the constrained and structured world, it is usually the world that wins out.  Our family of origin, the schools and churches we attend, our peer groups, neighborhoods, and community all weigh in and use their respective influences to inform us as to who and how not to be if we ever hope to fit in.

And, fitting in is what we crave most as children.  We are tribal creatures, after all, and our very survival depends upon us getting along, finding a place and fulfilling a needed role.

The role we feel inclined to fulfill is tailored precisely to the work we came to do in this world: teacher, healer, artist, visionary, advocate, etc.  The child who carries the teacher archetype might start out by correcting her family members and telling them what to do; the healer may aim to fix everybody who is sad or sick or troubled in the family; the artist will automatically marginalize himself so he can feed his imagination and secure a good bird’s eye view on life; the visionary will start expounding on needed change in the family; the advocate will defend all the underdogs in the neighborhood, and so on.

But that role will likely not be appreciated.  And, it might not end up being the role we are permitted to play.  The teacher or visionary of new ideas might well end up becoming the enforcer of the old ways; the artist will be pulled out of the realm of the imagination and into the fray of the family, the healer might become the one the family designates as sick and out of balance, and the advocate might well become the scapegoat!

What results from this standard form of social conditioning is the loss and suppression of the human soul and its own unique yearnings, and this is where soul retrieval and shamanic healing can come in and restore the landscape. The stage might be set in childhood, but adult life oftentimes stretches out into a kind of rinse and repeat process we can’t seem to understand or change.

Of course, there is a method to this madness.  We actually learn what it is we seek to remedy and change in this life by first becoming and living it!  The wounded healer learns how to heal others by first healing herself; the artist becomes the incisive critic of human strife by suffering in the oppressive thick of it; the advocate learns firsthand what it is to be blamed and silenced; and the teacher and visionary see more clearly the changes and foresight required in this world because they witness up close its blindness and failures.

Much of life is about finding our way back to the right pew in the right church, and our soul—not the outer world—provides that map.  We call it finding our voice, understanding that voice and what sets it apart.  Learning to obey that voice.

Try this exercise now and again, just to cut away from the madding crowd and begin to tune in to the voice within you. Start by imagining yourself at a crowded beach. Swim out a ways from the shore, and then, allow yourself to sink below the surface of the water. All the shouting and splashing and noisy activity of the world immediately ceases. There is perfect stillness as you descend through the water. Lie there on the bottom of the ocean. (In your imagination, it is perfectly fine to breathe underwater.) Have a conversation down there with all that has been waiting within you. Listen for a while to your song, to what you long to say, to do, to give.  Rest in the grace of your own inner knowing.  If you can hear it here, you can speak it there.  If you can imagine it here, you can do it there.


_________________________________________________________________________________ “I Believe in All That Has Never Yet Been Spoken” by Rainier Maria Rilke was translated into English by Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy from the original German.

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About the author

Jane Burns

Jane Burns

Jane Burns is a practitioner and teacher of Celtic and core shamanic studies, who lives in Southbury, CT.  Her shamanic novel and handbook, Up A Tree, was published in 2014, and she is at work on another novel that is inspired by Celtic mythology.  She remains an avid student of Celtic spirituality and tradition, and can be contacted through her website.
Jane Burns is a practitioner and teacher of Celtic and core shamanic studies, who lives in Southbury, CT.  Her shamanic novel and handbook, Up A Tree, was published in 2014, and she is at work on another novel that is inspired by Celtic mythology.  She remains an avid student of Celtic spirituality and tradition, and can be contacted through her website.
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