Sunday, April 25, 2010

messages from within

Several years ago I made an interesting discovery.  My psyche not only reveals concerns, answers to questions, solutions to problems, indications of growth needed, by means of dreams - but also by means of songs or poetry that come, unbidden, into my mind. 

So I have learned to pay attention when I find myself humming a particular tune.  I add in the lyrics and see if there is a phrase or two that resonates with my life or concerns of the moment.  A few times the message was startling and helpful.

For example, several years ago I had been feeling somewhat depressed.  I assessed my immediate situation and determined I probably needed to make some changes - as it was surely my current life that was making me blue .... or so I thought.  I had noticed I had been aware of silently hearing a particular old tune in my mind.  I could not immediately pin it down or call up the lyrics. 

One day in a flash, the lyrics came to me and it was a very old song.  How perplexing that such a tune would occupy my mind.  Then it occurred to me that it was a tune from an old movie that my father had taken me to as a young child - "Moonlight Bay".  One of the lines was "... you have stolen my heart, now don't go 'way ...". 

And then the penny dropped.  My father did "go 'way" permanently when I was young.  Humming this song now during this period of mild depression was about a longing for my father - NOT about my current life situation.  I did not have to reconstruct my life, I had to do another level of grief work around the loss of a parent. The melody was from a movie I attended with my father and it pleaded 'don't go away'.  Thank you psyche!!  What an important message.  The little girl in me still had more grieving to do.  I cued into its prompt, did the psychological work required, and the blues evaporated.

After a few such messages from my psyche I now pay close attention to songs I hum.  Of course, if you just heard a song played and start humming it, it is probably not particularly significant.  But if a tune arises seemingly of its own accord - stop and take note.  What are the lyrics?  Is there a message there that your mind is using to get your attention - to console you - to elucidate you - to remind you - to warn you?

I occasionally find myself humming the old Eagles hit "Desperado".  There are so many good 'messages' in that song, and different ones have hit home to me at different times.   Last week, I found myself humming it and it was the line about 'coming down from the fences and opening the gate' that was so applicable to a current psychological impasse.  Here are the lyrics - perhaps they will resonate with you too. 

(The photograph below is of a stone gate on our property.  I have overlayed it with other photographs - one is blue beads - which gives it a rather ethereal look.)


Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
You been out ridin' fences for so long now
Oh, you're a hard one
I know that you got your reasons
These things that are pleasin' you
Can hurt you somehow.

Don't you draw the queen of diamonds, boy
She'll beat you if she's able
You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet.

Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can't get.

Desperado, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home
And freedom, oh freedom well, that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone.

Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine
It's hard to tell the night time from the day
You're losin' all your highs and lows
Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?

Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it's too late.

~Don Henley; Glenn Frey
The Eagles 


  1. That just happens to be one of my favorite songs of all time.

    You know, that happens to me, having a song run through my head for no reason. My immediate thought is usually...where the hell did that come from? Well, now I know. Thanks Bonnie. I'll pay more attention next time.

  2. Hi Bonnie,

    The gate photo is gorgeous. It looks like an impressionistic painting. I was humming Christmas carols yesterday. I was actually annoying myself. 'God and Sinners reconcile...' I will have to think about that.

    I wondered if you noticed the ghostly orb floating in my Pashupati photo. It's the first photo all the way at the top. I don't usually see that in my photos but I saw it all the time in my Nepal night photos. Just dust right? Thought I'd ask you because you do such neat things with photos.


  3. what a great song...i do that too with songs and little snippets from books, or periodicals...i usually capture them to look back through later...lots of inspiration there...

  4. I find the same happens to me. But also something else...often while I am doing mundane things around the house, I find I make up my own little songs and I really love that. It has a different effect, sort of energizing rather than insightful. In any case, our phyches are amazing, aren't they?! Have a great Sunday! Love, Silke

  5. A lovely posting, Bonnie, one with great insight. Examining the music we hum, sing, or listen to can be very telling about where we are at the moment.


    Great,great post. WOW!! And yes, songs/music are so reflelctive of our mood or situation - and I have a lil titbit of info for you.

    On the album cover of Desparado? My husband is in the group shot on the back - he is the one with the big hat!!

    love to you

    p.s. we are musicians here so music is so atune with our lives - I play drums and sing back ground harmonies, and my husband is a singer songwriter, classically trained pianist and guitarist and also hs produced CD's for local talent.

  7. I don't often have songs 'singing' in my head but I will take you advice if I do. That gate is very ethereal. I should try something more ethereal with my photos.

  8. HI AGAIN-

    I also wanted to tell you that the beautiful gate looks like "Heaven's entrance gate" :-)

  9. OK, Bonnie... now this is just weird! I was reading your post & thinking... hmmm, interesting... but when I got to the section of your post where you mentioned Desperado, I thought "whoa..." When I was throwing pots on thursday, this song was going through my head & I just started singing it out loud (there weren't too many people in the studio, so I wasn't too worried about the fact that I can't actually carry a tune) - it was DESPERADO!
    Interesting... I'll have to do some thinking about this.

  10. You know...I never thought about it that way. That humming an old song might be a "clue". I will have to pay better attention. Thanks

  11. A very interesting theory Bonnie, and one which I shall bear in mind the next time my brain gets hooked on a particular tune.

  12. I am occasionally visited by songs and am left wondering what brought them into my mind, because once there they show no great desire to leave.

    Had I heard the song recently on the radio, caught a snatch of it being whistled by someone in passing, been dreaming of of in the night?

    Now you've given me a new tool to use. And a wonderful image to recall in that striking photo of the gate.

  13. Hi Bonnie

    I love the Eagles...

    and enjoyed your post. I have noticed many times how pieces will jump out of books I am reading just when I need them, or an image will connect with a feeling to elucidate a concern...or a slip of the tongue will reveal a corner of my psyche ...I love the secret ways of the inner world...

    Happy days

  14. Wow! You are such an amazing teacher!

  15. Fascinating! Now I'll pay attention to the songs that pop into my head and see what they have to say.

  16. Desperado a favourite of mine.

    I too, feel music speaks to my soul but had not thought of it from my soul.

  17. Isn't it wonderful the way music expresses our deepest parts and longings? I love the way you identify that! So wise! And encouraging! And I have to echo the sentiments of others here...that was an amazing song when it was first written, and it has stood the test of time! Still a favorite! You are wonderful! Thank you for this superb post! I am all smiles just thinking about the way music weaves its way through my life! You are an extraordinary lady! Love you, Janine XO

  18. bonnie thanks for this thoughtful and insightful posting. listening and seeing what is being shared inside our experience is such a challenge given the day's fullness but its so worth it as revealing the work we need to focus on. steven


    5 awards on the bottom of the post,

  20. Wow! That happens to me, too. I love how our minds/souls/hearts work that way. So good that you listen and take heed!

  21. Wonderful post, Bonnie. I have an online friend who used to tell me that I was "a hard one" because of that song.. and the fences upon which I sat. I do think that there's a lot to be learned from what goes through our minds.

    For some reason, Frank often whistles or hums Aquarius when we're playing cribbage or some other card game. We're both trying to figure that one out.

    Love how you used the two photos to create texture.

  22. 'Come down from your fences, open the gate...' speaks to me. Interesting point about being sensitive to the rhythms and songs within you.

  23. What an interesting concept. I am going to pay more attention when I catch myself humming or singing an old song, not one that was on the radio recently!

    I love the photo and the special effects!

  24. So now, besides humming Desperado for the rest of the day, I will also be paying closer attention to what I hum! Thanks for opening that window! I've done that trick with books - opening a random book to a random page to see what it might have to tell me - but had not thought about examining the songs I was singing.

  25. congratulations on the POTW from Hilary.
    She has a good eye.
    This is absolutely something to ponder. I'd never put it together.
    Thank you, and the photo is lovely.

  26. Very thought provoking... I love music and lyrics... I think I'll take your suggetion here.
    Thanks! Have a great day :) The Bach

  27. Oh, "Desperado", I love that song! :)
    Keep listening to what your mind wants you to hear. We have all the ansers to our questions within, we just need to pay attention.
    Loved this post. Congrats on the POTW from Hilary! Love/ Jo.

  28. Congrats on the POTW mention from Hilary

  29. the soundtrack to our lives I call it

    your photo is stunning

    have you heard Linda Ronstadt's version of Desperado? It's amazing

    congrats on POTW

  30. Interesting idea, I must try it next time I find myself humming.

    You DID win an award from Hilary, and deservedly so.

  31. Bonnie, I'm curious about something you said and wonder if maybe you can elucidate.

    You said, "I had to do another level of grief work around the loss of a parent...The little girl in me still had more grieving to do. I cued into its prompt, did the psychological work required, and the blues evaporated," and I wonder what "grief work" entails and how one goes about undertaking psychological work on one's own. I tend to process everything through writing (oh my journals are such repositories of weirdness that most closely resembles self-pity!), but I'd be interested in hearing about other methods.

    In addition, this raises the question of your having been trained in psychology/psychotherapy, how you balance between the two perspectives - the "natural" or inherent response to experiences and the "ah, yes, my feelings are a text-book case of xyz...

    Sending you warm-weather wishes,


  32. Hi Neighbor: Great questions. I would like to give you a brief answer here and ask if you would agree for me to post your question with a more complete answer, down the road? It could, perhaps, be useful info for others too. Let me know what you think ...

    As you suggest grief is something humans do organically and I believe if we are not too 'repressed', the psyche processes its losses both consciously and unconsciously (without our have to actively work on it).

    As well, no two people will process their grieving in the same way or with the same timing. Expression is key and there are many ways to do that - writing is a great way.

    While we need the comfort of our social network, we also need to carve out time alone to grieve. We need to pay attention and welcome our feelings and give them room to be. This is often called 'presencing'. A good way to do this is to allow your body to take the lead. Where do you notice the tension of grief or of emotional pain in your body? Bring your attention there. Sit with it. Allow it. Tell it you understand its need to be there. If you are willing - breathe into the pain. Don't hold your breath (that is a way we suppress pain). As you do this allow your awareness to see if the bodily feelings shift ... and what emotion arises ... and then be with that ... As Steven Levine says: use your heart to hold your pain, and heal it with all the love contained there.

    If you can, keep your left brain, analytical self out of the equation. Simply be with your pain. It simply need acknowledgement and you as its witness and principal comfortor.

    Emotions move and unfold when we allow them to be - when we 'presence' them.

    When I work with a client, the above is not the first step. People usually first need to tell their story of loss and pain. Healing is happening in the telling - with an outside 'witness' - the therapist. Here the mind is involved. Then, once they feel they have been understood, it is my job to help the client tune into their deeper feelings and their body which is often ignored in the process and which is often the place where old grief is held - the body.

    I'm sure you noticed how people who never go to therapy do this telling of their story naturally, over and over again. The story of the illness, death, accident, abuse. Therapy might just help someone move through it a little faster.

    So much more I could say, but must sign off now.
    One of the best books on grieving and healing is Wayne Muller's "Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood". It is full of concrete suggestions and exercises on how to heal (grieve) old wounds.

    As for your last question - I think the way you formulated it, holds the answer - I allow it to unfold organically and if theory pops into my head and I think it might be useful, I apply it.
    However, I try not to over analyze myself - would probably have to commit myself if I did that!! ;-)

  33. Bonnie,

    hearing about the process is very interesting. All that you mention makes a lot of sense - as does the fact that we can process grief naturally, but that with some understanding of the natural stages, it's possible to provide an assist.

    I'm about to sign off, but I will come and re-read this tomorrow and write down the book title to look up at the library. And definitely, I would love to read a full-grown post on this. :-)

  34. I get 'talked to' as well as 'sung to' - and very often by people's post in Blogland. In fact, exactly the way this one has spoken to me today! Thanks!

  35. Congratulations on your POTW honor. What an interesting post...I actually have a nameless tune running through my mind on an almost daily basis. I have no idea what it is. I've hummed it to my husband and he doesn't have a clue, either. Now I'm REALLY curious!


Comments are always read and appreciated.

(I am grateful for all awards received. However, I ask that this be an "award-free zone" and meme-free zone. Thanks for understanding!)