the loudest sound i’ve ever made

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unpolished thoughts 1/26/2019

Imagine your voice was so powerful that you could lift the roof off.

I tasted this possibility yesterday morning at the Feldenkrais Training Academy in Seattle, led by trainer Jeff Haller.

After watching a video of possibly the most powerful man I’ve ever seen (see the end of this post), we lay on our backs, expanding our bellies as if we had balloons inside.

As you breathe, air enters your lungs, of course, but as your diaphragm descends at the bottom of your rib cage, it also pushes on the viscera of your abdomen.

So the ability to be free in the belly is immensely important to breathing. If the belly doesn’t expand, the diaphragm can’t fully descend and the lung’s capacity to take in air becomes restricted.

If you developed a habit of keeping yourself as small as possible, you might breathe this way.

Breathe in and listen to your belly. Imagine your breath inflates a balloon inside.

A balloon expands equally in all directions – unless there is something wrong with the balloon.

Does your balloon expand more to the left or to the right? More towards the back or the front? More towards the bottom or the top?

In this Awareness Through Movement lesson, we had time to discover all the internal places where we habitually restrict ourselves. Little by little, we explored the space inside of ourselves, gradually discovering how and where to let go.

Then we began to fortify our balloons.

Jeff asked us to press our fingers – then our whole hands – into our bellies, and use our abdominal muscles to push our fingers back to the surface.

Then he asked us to add our voices.


“How low can you go?” Jeff asked in his best Barry Manilow voice.


Imagine an enormous ballroom with 70 people repeatedly pushing out their bellies to make a single, forceful sound.


Each time that I gathered my voice to push it out into the world I could feel more power, even in that moment of preparation.

I could sense how the next sound I was about to make would take up more space in the room than the last one – how each time I would be making more of my presence felt to everyone around me.


“We need to have this availability,” Jeff said, reminding us of the moments in life when a strong voice can be key to our survival.

Then he extended us a rare invitation.

“For yourself, just make one moment that lifts the ceiling.”


In that moment, I remembered the loudest sound I’ve ever made, nearly two decades ago on the streets of Chicago, my hands in cuffs behind my back.


I was being arrested and pushed into a police car right behind my grandfather, David Dellinger, a life-long peace activist.

The slogan I had just shouted was the same one we had been chanting at the entrance to a federal building in the midst of the 1996 Democratic National Convention.

I also remember the names of three prisoner’s names that we had repeatedly chanted: Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Susan Rosenberg.

I had never before engaged in an act of civil disobedience and had never before been arrested.

In my imagination, the police car might well have been taking me off to a torture chamber. I truly didn’t know what was going to happen next and I was incredibly scared.

But probably because David was there, a part of me knew that I was going to be OK.

Something happened inside me then, and the fear momentarily drained away completely. I drew in a breath with all of my being and then released parts of myself that I had been holding in for most of my life.


It was one of only a few occasions that I have experienced time coming to a stop.

It was late morning in downtown Chicago and the streets weren’t packed, but there were certainly people all around.

As I launched those sounds from my throat, it felt like I had filled up all of the space I could see.

My voice echoed off the skyscrapers and returned. Every person in my view turned to look in my direction, seeing me at the exact moment that the cops pushed me into the car.


I didn’t free any political prisoners (Abu-Jamal and Peltier remain behind bars to this day), but I knew I had just imprinted an indelible image into the minds of everyone on that Chicago street that day.

I felt immensely powerful.


Lying on the floor of my Feldenkrais training, more than twenty years later, I felt the same thing.


What do I do with this power?


Where in my history could I go with this power to rewrite my story completely?


Then I knew – and I began to shout at that man.


The man who repeatedly shocked my right arm when I was twelve years old, a “doctor” who was supposedly providing me “therapy” for a pinched nerve in my shoulder. The one who flipped the switch that filled me with so much juice that my arm flew up over my head.

He did it several times.






An Awareness Through Movement lesson can transform you.

But the truth is that your habits can still easily creep back afterwards and steal back the change you have made.

The only reliable way to keep the new feeling you find is with your intention.

Before Jeff released us for a break, I had already decided: this is a lesson I’m not going to let go of.

This is a feeling I want to carry with me me from now on.


Do you remember the moment in your life when you mostly completely expressed your power?

It’s still there inside you.

Do you know what to do to access that power again?

If you did know exactly where to find that power – whenever you needed it – how would it change the way you move through the world?

Are you willing to give yourself that gift?


To experience an Awareness Through Movement lesson very similar to the one described in this post (HUH! included!) check out my audio workshop, Finding Your Voice.


Below is the video that Jeff Haller played for us (we watched it twice!) to underline what it means to be powerfully grounded in the principles of ideal human movement through gravity

(Be sure to listen for how Chen Xiaowang uses his breath in the final explosive moments of this demonstration.)



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