This Original Voice

Cliff Penwell

Each of us is born with an original voice, but most of us are convinced at a young age that it isn't "anything special." Slowly, slowly we begin to believe that we are just the same as everyone else—or worse. Or we forget that our voice is part of a larger Sounding and, in the attempt to be unique, we find ourselves isolated and misunderstood.

My life's work has been about helping people find that original voice. I realized a number of years ago that all my various life paths—education (English / editing), work history (teacher, minister, consultant) and practices (writing poetry, leading spiritual retreats)—all conspired to help me understand the challenges of voice, and to give me some skills and gifts to turn raw expression into a refined means of transportation.

Cliff Penwell

You may recall the old saying, "The best fertilizer is the farmer's footsteps." That phrase came to mind the other night as I was planting a new lawn, spreading seed over a strip of ground I recovered from an old weed patch. Because I didn't have a roller to press the seed into the soil, I decided to walk the patch in my bare feet. I hadn't thought of my feet as rollers—let alone fertilizer—before, but on that moist evening as I pressed my toes and heels into the seed, I understood the words blessing and presence in a new way. And that's what we are reaching for with OriginalVoice: a place where we can let our experiments with our voice and our conversations be used as fertilizer, or compost if you will, to grow a new crop of creation.

What exactly do I mean by original voice? I intend it to have two meanings: the first has to do with the unique "voice," or central message, each of us cultivates over a lifetime. It's the "who we are" part, made tangible in the way we speak, write, dress, walk, dance, paint, cook...any of a thousand ways. The second meaning borrows from the roots of the word original itself: origin, which in turn emerges from orient, "to rise." In other words, OriginalVoice is about what rises from the ongoing point of origin in us. Ultimately, it's about being aware of what happens just before the tangible is given voice.

This community is for exploring that space and for creating the kind of setting together in which you'll want to experiment with and share your authentic voice. It's a place to hear "what we sound like" in the company of wise and understanding friends who will hear (or see) you, challenge you and encourage you. It is not for the faint at heart, though; the unifying factor here is the willingness to see and be seen for who we really are.

Some years back, I lived near Loveland, Colorado, home of the world's largest annual outdoor sculpture show. Because I had a few friends who exhibited, I usually attended, though not always eagerly. August in Loveland is not usually a special time for me: it is hot, hay fever season is at its zenith, and the town is crowded. Many of the pieces displayed are in the school of what artist and author Peter London might call "secondhand art," work that grows from an inherited rather than chosen (or original) approach. Pretty, yes. Commercially appealing, yes. And mostly derivative—row upon row of rock, bronze and wood, fashioned into depictions of beasts, children or pets. Yet here and there, hidden among the workmanlike replicas of eagles and dolphins and horses, stood real works of beauty, full of light and breath. Their creators had found their voice and given it to their creations. And that's what we'll strive for here: a sanctuary for the original in each of us, and all of us.

So that's our vision here at OriginalVoice. How about yours? What kind of community would make you want to join in, to take the risk of being seen? And when (if ever) have you been in the company of others who encouraged and challenged you to be authentic, original? We’d love to hear about your experience, as well as your wishes. What have you experienced, and what do you long for?

Comments (21)

 Thank you Cliff and others for creating this space of beauty, inspiration and expression. I find it easiest to hear my own voice when I am singing in harmony with others as I feel I am doing with you. Blessings to you all, Sarah


 Many thanks, Sarah, for adding your voice and getting the choir started!


Reflecting back on my own years of insanity and what has enabled me to find the way out of that unhappy state of conciousness it has come to me quite clearly just what exactly the person who has become insane needs if he is to really find himself and it is really very simple and can be summed up in the simple statement "agreement with somebody else about something that is true "this simple statement will prove the truth that sets you free from all delusion but only if you can let it and its realization become the most important goal you have. There are degrees of course or substitue patterns which carry a higy degree of fundemental truth in them but do not have the absolute clear tone of the final goal of the true seeker after the his authentic self. the higher the density of the quality of absolute truth a concept or phrase can carry the more useful it is in the successful living of life in the given scheme of things here on earth with which we must all live. Of course no words or language on it own can actually reveal the essential quality or characteristics of the truth unless it is deeply lived and thus realized in ones own experience then one knows the truth for oneself and if it is infact the trutin a fundemental sense one will naturally find that one shares agreement with others who also have come to know the truth.The main problem for anyone who would know the real facts of life has been the prevelance of vast quantities of truth in the mass that is only actually true at a rather shallow level and cannot be depended upon to the degree that one would stake ones very life upon it and find it safe. Put in these terms it becomes clearer why the truth we know must be absolutly trustworthy. If we know fear we do not know the truth. Fear does not exist at the level of the true being which is the fact of true idrntity. At the core of each person is the radient being of light whose character is characterized by love and this the true natures essential quality gives us the information we need to begin to ressonate harmoniously in agreement with the core truth of life.Unselfish or true love is the quality whose expression we must seek to master if we really want to find that perfect freedom to live gloriously and fulfilled here on earth People who are not living true to this their essential nature must find agreement with at least one other human being at the level of the incomplete truth that they have both accepted otherwise they will go mad.The world is filled with people desperate to find and keep connected with other people on the basis of incomplete truths which are really not at all harmonious with the fundemental or core truth. Carl Jung has said that the schizophrenic who finds somebody who understands him is no longrr schizophrenic and this is to a fair degree true because being understood by another indicates agreement with the other at the level where there is mutual understanding however if the shared agreement is not meaningfully rooted in the essential fundamental characteristic of life which is love its healing potential will be only partially realized.In general people everywhere settle for incomplete truth in their agreement with others and on this basis though they can just about eke out mere existance in mainly miserable lives many feel compelled by the promise that most people do sense at some stage in their lives to project the fulfilled state of life off into some future imagined realm to which they will go when their body has died, and many people rather desperately agree with this idea. Because the false idrntity is the only identity most people know and because the truth is however veiled present at their core a restless fearful condition of existance is the main experience known by the false identity which cannot completely hide from itself the fact of its own impermanance.

Noel Gaughan

Dear cliff and all reading here I have found acceptance for my voice of which the above is an example on the Website "Holistic Recovery from Schizophrenia where I have been abble to comment freely for a little time now.






Sabrina Warren

Vickie Figueroa

Sarah Ballard

Chelsea Wallace

Chelsea Wallace

Sarah Hughes

Ann Weaver

Sarah Carlson

Sarah Carlson

Sarah Carlson

Sarah Carlson


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