Going Beyond Roles, Part 2: Tonality, The Music of the Soul


In a free and clear space, listening can bring to us the music of another’s soul. This can be heard not so much in what someone says, but in how they say it and in what is behind what they say. In each case, behind the content of words is the expression of the soul — the reflection of an attitude toward life, toward love, and toward the nature of reality. The subtle music of another’s soul does not appear as content, but as tonality — the tone of voice that is used to convey what a person wishes to express.

The music of the soul declares itself because it cannot do otherwise. It can be unconscious in the person who is speaking, but it cannot be absent. This is because each person is a soul, wending his or her way through the challenges and opportunities of life.

Tonality is a mysterious thing, and the quieter we become inside, the more we can hear it. It has the richness of all the colors of the autumn leaves, or of flowers in the spring. Some people’s voices, in fact, have the tonality of falling leaves, and are filled with a sense of things coming to an end — of hopelessness or despair.

Some are filled with the fragility and lack of firmness of a newly budding plant, not quite erect, not quite greened-up. These are the souls that are waiting to grow up but who don’t feel quite ready.

Some have a breathy-ness in their words so that the end of each word is not distinct, and sentences trail off into the distance. Here are souls whose feet are not quite planted on the earth, who need to learn more about being grounded in time and space.

The richness of tonality comes to us when we can really listen to another, to their music and their rhythm, and hear what they are saying about life and about themselves. Within ourselves, in order to hear this, we must be empty and we must be receptive. If we have agendas or needs as to what we want to hear, or hope to hear, or are afraid to hear, we will be waiting for our thoughts to materialize, and will not hear the voice of the one who is actually speaking.

The music of the soul declares itself because it cannot do otherwise. It can be unconscious in the person who is speaking, but it cannot be absent. This is because each person isa soul, wending his or her way through the challenges and opportunities of life. How one perceives the journey is indelibly imprinted on the heart, and therefore on the way one speaks. This makes the communication of others powerful. It also makes our own communication powerful.

With words, we can reach another’s heart and touch them in a way that often physical touch cannot.

With words, we can convey that we are with someone in a way that the outer form of a conversation does not necessarily show.

Words can be more or less connected to our hearts. If our intention is to participate in the healing of others and in the expansion of love in the world, then our words will seek to find a permanent connection with our hearts, no matter where we are, no matter what we are doing. It does not matter if another person is not speaking to us consciously from their heart. What matters is that we make the choice to let our music be heard so that the message can be given life — the message of love and tenderness.

Often, the tone of a person’s voice reflects not only the state of their soul and what it longs for or is learning, but also undercurrents of the personality. These undercurrents are always present, even when someone is trying to conceal them. This is why children know so much about who they feel comfortable with and who they don’t. They feel the undercurrents without knowing what they are feeling or why.

It is also how we register what people are really like — not through our minds, but through our intuition. We hear who they are, and can tell based on our hearing, whether we can trust them or not.

Anxiety, irritation, superiority, impatience, anger, judgment, self-doubt, fear of failure, fear of self-expression, lack of hope, the desire to withdraw — all these can be found in another’s voice as part of their tonality.

The need to remain identified with a role as the shape of identity can be registered as if on a musical scale, from tightly-bound on one end, with noconscious separation of identity from the role that is being played, to loosely-worn as a piece of clothing is loosely worn. Generally speaking, those who are more awake, spiritually, wear their personalities and the roles they play more loosely, so that they can step out of them if given an opportunity.

When we engage with someone who is tightly-wrapped, we can still try to listen to the music of their soul. We can still try to see who they are underneath what they are saying, where they have been and what they have learned.

If we believe that the content of their words is the most important thing, then we will be focused on trying to find content that matches, and often may feel uncomfortable in doing so. If, however, we believe that the meta-communication — the communication above the content — is the most important thing, we will ask ourselves: What is this person really saying to me? Why are they speaking?

Very often in a tightly-wrapped person, we will come up with the answer that they are speaking in a tight way because that’s all they know how to do. Rather than arousing irritation, this knowledge can lead to tenderness, to a desire on our part to help free them from the tiny space in which much of them is living.

If we are free within ourselves, then wherever we go in the world, we will be listening to the music of others’ souls, for it is always playing.

If we are not needing someone to speak to us in a certain way, if we can just listen and look, we will hear the sounds of Creation playing through the lips of every person we meet. We will feel the voice of God’s diverse expression coming to us through all the many forms of existence we encounter. This can include the non-human world as well, but it is particularly true in the human realm where consciousness can assume such a range of diverse expression.

Each voice that we hear is trying to tell us where it is on its spiritual journey, and simultaneously, what it needs in order to go further.

Sometimes the voice of the soul gets blocked out by the forcefulness of the personality. Sometimes the personality’s voice assures us that it does not need anything from anybody. This is hard music to listen to. The voice that lives in isolation with a relative lack of love, that seems to be bent on remaining in isolation and choosing to not love, is one that warrants sadness, for this voice no longer believes that anything else is possible.

Of a different nature is ‘hardness’ as a tonality. Hardness has a brittle, sharp, or flat sound to it, as if a person wants to be finished speaking before they are, or as if speaking itself has lost so much of its connection with the heart that communication is merely functional — about dealing with the practical matters of life but not about the depths of life. It can be quite difficult for one attempting to be intimate with such a person, for hardness generally repels softness. It is a fearful, defensive posture whose purpose is to remain hard. Yet, if by the miracle of intention, we remain soft with those who are hard, believing that they could be different, we have the best chance of penetrating this defensive layer and helping their soul to emerge.

Critical in this effort is our motive, for in order to be successful, it must be a genuine desire to help another that motivates us, rather than a need to have them act differently toward us because we are uncomfortable or angry. Most children know when someone is sincerely trying to help them. So do souls who are covered over by their hardened personalities, even when they do not show it.

In order to witness tonality, we can learn to hear it by listening more often, by speaking less, and by deeply understanding that all that is truly alive is God’s creation, and whatever is not alive is self-protective — a defense, an armor, a crust, a synthetic element that does not breathe and that prevents air from getting to the soul in need of it. Viewing things in this way, we can be sympathetic in the presence of hardness, and can strive to find ways to hear the slight, frail voice that may every now and then emerge from behind the hardness to say: “I’m still here. I just don’t know a way out.”

To recognize others as tightly-wrapped in their roles or in their hardness is to recognize souls who are trapped, without enough air to breathe. This does not mean that if offered a way out, at any given moment in time, that they will take it. Some are too accustomed to imprisonment to do this and have forgotten that there is an ‘outside’ to go to. Some are afraid of change, or of getting bigger, or of being free. But if we recognize the tonality of entrapment, we will do our best to assist in the process of helping such souls become free of the prisons in which they have set themselves. We will do it by staying soft when they are hard, by remaining open when they are closed, by being kind when they are not, and by not needing them to become different for our sake.

Our recognition of the life of souls leads us, inevitably, to be able to hear the music of the soul in many areas of physical life, but especially in the spoken word. In embracing a sacred life, let us embrace the sacredness of other beings, even when they do not do so themselves. This is the way in which we help God with the process of Creation — by participating with a full heart and full intentionality in the expansion of Life.


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