Music has always played an important part of my life for as long as I can remember. In fact, it begins with my name!

Often when introducing myself I am asked if my name is a result of The Beatles hit “Michelle.”

Michelle, ma belle These are words that go together well My Michelle… Although I do not know the answer to this question, it could very well be possible, as the song became a hit within a few months of my birth, in 1967.

I may not have grown into a Beatles fan, however, I have grown to be quite a fan of music. It’s been a tool of therapy for me. There aren’t many times when you will find music not being played in my car. My husband used to jokingly ask me when I pulled up in the driveway, what concert I was at -his way of teasing me about playing my music too loud. -I’m sure if we asked my kids, they would share their equal frustration with you.

There are some songs that can immediately take me back in time. Oddly enough, the best way I can describe is with a song; Trisha Yearwood, The Song Remembers When. The lyrics go like this; 

I was standing at the counter

I was waitin’ for the change

When I heard that old familiar music start

It was like a lighted match

Had been tossed into my soul

It was like a dam had broken in my heart

It goes on to say…

And even if the whole world had forgotten

The song remembers when

Reflecting back, pre covid, I was working inside various prisons throughout the State of California, doing program work with the people incarcerated. These drives would be anywhere from 3 to 6 hours long, depending on the location. Music would build my anticipation getting there, give me ideas on inspiration to share, and remind me of the painful memories I experienced being inside, reiterating in my heart, why I do the work I do. 

While being inside we would play up beat music to engage the people and hype the crowds. Dancing in prison was always the best part. Seeing families dance together, often for the first time in decades, even for the first time, or who can ever forget witnessing  the OG gangsta group of men getting their groove on while singing and dancing to, Tyler Swift “Shake It Off.” This is something that would bring a smile to anyone’s face. -Well, anyone with a heart, that is!

Then there is that dreadful ride home. You know, beat tired, hungry, smelling like “prison” and feeling heartbroken and inspired all at the same time. The return drive is where I process the guilt of being able to leave, the sadness over the ones who deserve freedom but cannot get it, and the grief over those who just don’t ever seem to get it. 

There is something magical about having the windows rolled down, wind blowing in your hair, and singing the words to your favorite songs as loud as you can. It’s like all the prison melting off me piece by piece as I take the time to properly process each feeling so I don’t take untreated feelings home to my family. (Other words; a wound up, lashing out mother/wife)

Similar, there is an abundance of courage and power that comes from hearing a song like, Girl On Fire, by Katy Perry. 

Oh, she got both feet on the ground

And she’s burning it down

Oh, she got her head in the clouds

And she’s not backing down…

Looks like a girl, but she’s a flame

So bright, she can burn your eyes

Better look the other way

You can try but you’ll never forget her name

She’s on top of the world…

I resonate with these words. On so many levels. It hits to the core that I will not back down. This journey of life after prison can be extremely challenging at times, but I always have hope that I will succeed. And no one can ever dull my flame, without my permission!

Additionally, during a family trip to Colorado to visit my grandson a few years back, we were in the car driving back from dinner when Sorry Not Sorry, by Demi Lovato began to play. A song that my son sings annoyingly loud. (Not sure where he got that from, lol) In the chorus there is a line that says “You fuckin’ with a savage” -only I thought it said, “you sad bitch,”- so you can imagine the fun they had clowning me when I, equally annoying and loud, sang the wrong chorus. To this day, there isn’t a time one in our family can hear this song play, whether we are all together or separated, that the memory of this car ride doesn’t flood our mind. Consequently, creating a small but meaningful smile to our face.

Then of course there are those songs I have requested to be played at my funeral. True story; I am obsessed with planning my funeral! I imagine everyone smiling as they sing the words to Ghetto, along with Elvis Preslely;

People, don’t you understand

The child needs a helping hand

Or he’ll grow to be an angry young man some day

Take a look at you and me,

Are we too blind to see,

Do we simply turn our heads

And look the other way, 

And of course all the tears that will be shed in the end while a beautiful version of Amazing Grace is being played. Dramatic, I know. Just like me.

Most recently, in my journey to healing, I have begun a Kundalini mindset practice. This is a religious type of experience within the Hindu tradition.

When awakened, Kundalini is described as rising up from the muladhara chakra, through the central nadi (called sushumna) inside or alongside the spine reaching the top of the head. The progress of Kundalini through the different chakras is believed to achieve different levels of awakening and a mystical experience, until Kundalini finally reaches the top of the head, Sahasrara or crown chakra, producing an extremely profound transformation of consciousness.[8]:5–6  –Wikipedia 

In this practice we use a mantra;  RA MA DA SA, SA SAY SO HUNG. Ra is the sun, Ma is the Moon, Da is the earth, and Sa is Infinity. Say is the totality of Infinity, and So Hung is “I am Thou”. “Ra Ma Da Sa” is the Earth Mantra. And “Sa Say So Hung” is the Ether Mantra. 

From the moment I heard this beautiful mantra, there was an energy that pierced through my soul. In spite of the fact of not knowing the pronunciation, or even what the meaning of the words,  I felt an immediate and powerful connection. Indeed, the minute it begins playing during our morning meditation gathering, I instantly recall that first experience. If not in my heart, always my mind.

Likewise, as mentioned earlier…the song remembers when.

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