The first time the poetry class met, Madame Inez passed around a small, velvet, drawstring bag and invited each student to reach in and blindly select one of the items inside.
With eyes closed we came to know our chosen objects by touch. She instructed us to slow our breath and make our movements very small in order to become present with the strange items that we held in our hands. We were a class of 20-somethings in a kind of meditative state adoring things from acorns to orange rinds.
Madame Inez had a huge collection of these techniques, and she spent the semester using them to send us into far-flung corners of our hearts and imaginations. With skill, patience and a little coaxing, she sought to draw out the variety, color and truth of our poetry.
My poetry wasn’t necessarily “good,” but that doesn’t seem to be what mattered. What was important was how the practices and assignments led me to parts of myself that were as-yet undiscovered, and then offered me a way to give voice to what I found there. I wrote poems about sexuality, drugs, and the 1991 version of gun violence. I wrote about Greek myths and road trips. I wrote with humility to honor Native American people and their pride.
Under the wise and loving guidance of Madame Inez, I discovered the voice that helped me stake my claim as a young woman finding her way in the world. I found my way into a more fully expressed version of myself.
And this is the thing about communication. Whether you’re writing poetry or press releases, the way you communicate has an impact on how you experience life. Communication is at the core of every relationship, and relationships are the connective tissue of life.
Your communication can never be separated from the totality of who you are – an emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual being. And when we drop into communicating with our fullness, our essence, our inner poetry and truth, this has a material impact on our relationships, our work and our lives.
So how, in a non-stop world where pressure rules and poetry is so little read (let alone written), how do you harness the power of communication as an expression of your best self?
You treat communication as an act of Love.
Are you still reading?
Did the “L” word make you bristle or cringe a bit?
Do you feel kind of uncomfortable or vulnerable with where I’m going?
I hope you’ll stay with me.
You already know that Love – present in every aspect of life – is the lifeblood all of our relationships – ALL our relationships – the ones we have at home, at work and at play. And, because relationships and communication are inextricably linked, when we talk about communication, we must talk about Love. There’s just no way around it.
When you start to embrace communication as an act of Love, you bring more integrity, power and cooperation to every aspect of your life. You start to shift the bedrock of how things happen. You start to see how tuning, improving and practicing Authentic Communication can make everything about work work better and life unfold with less effort and more clarity.
You create more transparency with productive, creative, thriving collaboration. You express your highest and best self in every environment. You get things done with ease and joy. You get real about your humanity – about being a person who has feelings and seeks ways to relate to other people who also have feelings. When you embrace communication as an act of Love, you launch yourself into a fuller and more authentic expression of yourself – clear and true.
On that first day of Madame Inez’s poetry class, the item I pulled from the bag was the shell of a moon snail –slate gray with a rainbow-colored spiral circling in on its eye. It was such a pretty thing that I asked if I could take it home. Today I keep it on my bedroom dresser – a daily reminder of the care of a beloved teacher and that my communication is most powerful, effective and even effortless when it comes from my heart – when it is an act of Love.
“Eking Out the Voice” is the name of the collection of poems that I wrote in Madame Colette Inez’s poetry class at Columbia University in 1991. I am humbly grateful for the profound influence she had on my life. Madame Inez died in early 2018.
Here you'll find some of my thoughts about communication, contemplation, yoga, life and various other topics. Thanks for giving them a read.