To be able to express yourself is a basic human need. When we express we connect with another. Heart to heart. Mind to mind. There are as many ways of expressing ourselves as there are rivers. The spoken word is just one of the might rivers of communication. We can also: dance, build, touch, paint, cook, craft. The rivers of expression are endless. The word voice has some interesting roots. It comes from the Latin, vox, meaning, "to voice, sound, utter, cry, call." But it also comes from the Sanskrit, vacti, meaning "speak, or say", and vacas, meaning word . The ancient Indian Goddess Vac was the Goddess of the sacred word. She spoke the world into existence. Similarly, the bible reads, "in the beginning was the word, and the word was with God." In many ancient myths the world is created by the voice, or by the word. So to be able to voice is the first creative act.
When we are able to express our selves we are often at our happiest. Then things flow. Our bodies, hearts and minds work together, and we connect with others. The great American Psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote that, "almost all creativity involves purposeful play." Children love to play. When I was a teacher trying to teach fractions on a hot Wednesday afternoon, the children would erupt into life when given their 5 minute break. They would chase each other, run and shout. They would move about wildly. It was like spring bursting into life, after a long, cold winter. Of course, they didn't need to be told what to play. They just played. Somehow along the way, adults become forgetful. We lose the ability to play. That is unless we actively choose otherwise. Thankfully, we can never completely lose the urge to play, anymore than we can lose the ability to express. The arts can re-open the door of the heart to play.
Dancing, singing, painting, sculpting, theater, mime, clowning, martial arts, crafts, photography. Whatever helps us express an impulse is art. The urge to express, to voice, to connect what we think, feel, or dream, to another person is a deep human need. To meet this need, we have to play. Play is a necessary activity. Shakespeare wrote, "this above all: to thine own self be true.'" Being true to yourself is about knowing what you want and need, and finding 'the voice' to express it. Not knowing what you want goes hand in hand with being unable to express yourself, being unable to play. My journey into my voice has taken me into some unexpected places.
As a young and sensitive folk singer I would probably have looked down on boxing, and considered it something for thugs. About 10 years ago, through The Cooper Brothers Boxer gym and my friend Colin Room I expanded my vocabulary. When I first went to a boxing gym I felt intimidated and out of place. The gym smelt of sweat. The men looked really tough. I was out of my comfort zone. I didn't have the right clothes. I liked poetry, peace and the guitar. Not fighting. Yet, I had a deep need to explore the 'art of boxing'. It was a new way of moving and interacting, with different rules and expectations than those I was used to. It was very exciting, and carried with it a tremendous sense of freedom. Boxing opened my mind to a whole new world. Through boxing I found a 'voice' i didn't know I had. I found a voice that could duck and weave, block and hit. I remember sparring with a 20 stone giant gypsy that could have squashed me like a fly. Instead he showed me how to move. He played with me, he allowed me to find strength, he showed me that I was capable of much more than I imagined. Sparring with him gave me courage.
Boxing helped me deepen my sense of self. It enriched my vocabulary of experience. That's what the arts do. They help you find your voice. Your authentic self. The arts are pathways to happiness. For bringing you to yourself, so that you can join with others. The arts build bridges from heart to heart. Think about the music you loved as a teenager. Remember the excitement of sharing a favorite song with a friend. The thrill of listening together. That's what the arts do. They bring the experiences of the heart together. They reconnect us to our voice, so that we can connect with others.