BuildaBridge Restorative Teaching Artist, Singer/songwriter, ESL educator (& much more), Todd Henkin co-led BuildaBridge's Recording and Production Program this summer at CAMcare, a community-based medical organization in Camden, NJ. Todd helped facilitate workshops that channeled participants verbal and non-verbal thoughts and feelings into song. This program is a part of a partnership with Rowan University.
THE GUEST HOUSE by RUMI
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
Elijah (name has been changed) smiled like someone who’d seen the ocean for the first time as he listened to the track he’d be recording over with his voice and lyrics. As someone who sometimes struggled to get out the sentences he wanted at the same speed of his supercharged creative mind, he’d finally found a way to get a track down, a full song, a full idea not truncated by the present moment or the onslaught of thoughts and distractions. This was a foundation, or an empty house in which to pour his emotions; a guest house as Rumi wrote, cleared out to welcome “some new delight.” We’d created a class where ideas, emotions, doubts, and acceptance were welcome. We cheered him on in a makeshift vocal isolation closet in the health center as he took steps towards welcoming himself. As a teenager, one can only imagine the kind of feast needed for every hungry guest.
In our guest house, we learned how music shows up, as lifeblood, as healer, as loud distraction from sorrow or hardship, as inner voice, as lifelong compass. Our writers spoke of homelessness, of heartbreak, of the need to be healed and be a healer while holding our patience. We blacked out news articles to see what words we find inspiring even in the mundanity and sadness of the news cycle. We looked around us and made loose connections of words strung together in ways that would rewire our minds. We wrote freestyle verses about technology and love and hope in which some expressed surprise even at their own minds when doors that had been thought shut creaked open. There was no lack of confidence and there was giant doubt eating pizza at the same table in our guest house. We welcomed it all and as we recorded, everyone had a seat at the table, and everyone sang.
In the words of another ancient poet Hafiz “There is no place in existence that ever became sacred until something sang there.”