Too often, we cling to the easy route, fading into the wallpaper and the background, not stepping up or speaking out, not asserting our voices.

Yesterday, I spent an hour in a workshop with Moses and Zeina from I Love Yoga, where they asserted that everyone has a voice that the world needs to hear. The entire workshop focused on chanting Hare Krishna in call-and-response and passing the microphone around the room so that every single person there had a chance to call out the chant to the rest of the group.

Now, I love speaking to crowds, I love teaching, I run a company and I manage a lot of people’s lives. But if you ask me to stand at the microphone without any warning, I may shake my head and say you’re crazy.

Which is exactly why I stayed.

Here’s what my mind sounded like during the workshop:

No way am I singing into a microphone out loud. This workshop is stupid. I hate my voice. Or maybe I don’t hate my voice but other people do. What if other people do? Who cares. Screw them. My voice NEEDS to be heard. 

Dammit, I’ve spent how many years strangling my own voice or letting others do it. I guess this workshop is brilliant. 

I leaned over to my dear husband at least twice (probably three times) and said, “Do you really want to be here?” He nodded emphatically. I tried to make it about him – when it was really about me.

Damn him. He’s doing this to make me do it and not run away. Damn him. Why does he know me so well?

The microphone traveled the circle as the harmonium played, the drum beat a catatonic rhythm and a gorgeous girl in orange flowy pants shook an egg filled with rice. I sat cross-legged on my chair. I shifted my legs to put my feet on the floor. Back up to cross-legged.

The microphone was getting dangerously close.

There is a mystical force inherent in chanting that, whether you say the words or not, if you’re merely in the room, the ancient magic of the chanting overtakes you and seeps inside. The chant started off limping along and then grew in force to be a gale wind. Eventually it was the swirling of an elevating tornado that pulled everyone in that room inside it, like a hug.

Voices grew louder, like waves dancing on Lake Michigan in a storm. Swelled and fell, swelled and fell. Every time someone took the microphone, people applauded. When someone was obviously nervous and hiding inside a quiet voice, people hooted and clapped their approval for the bravery of working through the discomfort.

I looked around the room and at first, though, I’m not one of these hippy-dippy folks. This isn’t me. I’m an observer. This is weird.

Later, I felt a kinship with the hippy-dippies, and realized the weakness in judging others.

There were so many different bodies and faces and ideas and living, breathing, heart-beating humans there. The point of it all – the reason people come to festivals like this and why people chant at all or do yoga or search search search for that very thing that will make them feel OK with themselves – is to get past the surface, the measly, imperfect, judging surface – and penetrate the depths of the soul.

The more you do this, the more you take the microphone, banishing nervousness about how wobbly your voice might be, the closer you get.

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