D’Angelo and The Heart

Last night I had one of the most intimate experiences with myself that I can remember, partially thanks to D’Angelo and partially thanks to the state I was in when I went to his show and my ability to let myself be taken there with his music as my muse. I grew up listening to a bit of his music, knowing my mama liked him, and having an awareness that he was one of the most bad ass musicians around. Other than that, I was sure I would be pleased but I wasn’t too sure what to expect.

I bought myself a ticket at the last minute because I simply couldn’t resist. He was coming to my vicinity and I knew I had to be there. I paid what I thought was too much for the ticket, and took myself on a date on my own without any company. After the experience I had, I think I would have paid five hundred dollars or whatever they asked of me for that ticket. Because it connected me to my heart in the most particular way that I haven’t felt in quite a long time. There was a bit of luck in my attending the show right after a good long dance. My body was prime for it.

As a therapist, sometimes I understand the concept of compassion fatigue. At times I’m afraid of being so loving to everyone. There are moments when I disconnect from my heart because it feels tired and tender. There are times when I’m with loved ones or clients and I’m very connected to my heart. That connection comes with aches, hurts, longings, wounds and feelings of love and care that make it feel almost too full.

D’Angelo blasted that falsity wide open. It was one of the most heart centered performances I had ever seen. All performances, not just music. I left his show feeling as if my heart were pure and 100% clean. No dust. No hurt. No longing or past wound. No attachments or expectations. Simple beat of the heart. Simple sensation. Simple understanding of love on an entirely different level. This may have been one of the biggest gifts I’ve ever received, and in a very unexpected moment.

I’ve only been moved to tears by live vocalists a few times. I’ve been to a lot of amazing music and talent oozes from the performers. The music is lovely, and sometimes I feel disconnected from it because the performers seem to be going through the motions. The way I connect to a lot of music is through more instrumental pieces that tug on the heart strings. There was one band that brought me to tears that was pure rock and roll and intensity. Seeing Future Islands was a wildly different and also beautiful experience. The singer was animated and so engaged and so full of pain. That was one of my first feelings of being tapped into my own, the singer’s, and the collective pain body. Very profound.

This D’Angelo experience was like nothing I’ve ever known and the way I worked with it felt quite new to me. When I thought about writing and sharing it, it felt too tender and vulnerable. So I decided I should probably write it and share it! The way this man showed up simply blew me away. Yes he had a full band (10 people! that’s a big band and it was quite the show). Yes he had a cool jacket and his guitar was completely bedazzled with a lot of sparkly business. And yes he is a great mover and dancer and crowd pleaser. He knows how to work it.

The thing was, anybody can do all that. Underneath all of it, there was love and affection. Connection. Availability. To the audience. To his band. To the people he must have been singing about. To himself. His presence and connection in his body was electric and so potent I thought his spirit may simply rise out of his body. When he sang “I will never betray my heart” and did the sign language along with that chorus line every time he sang it, I couldn’t help but feel intimate with him. And probably the other 200 people did too.

This was not spiritual bypass love and light. The back of the T Shirt that was being sold for him read “All we wanted was to talk, instead we got outlined in chalk. Black Messiah”… Enough said. Obviously this man understands and knows pain and suffering. Because he knows himself, he found a way infuse the room with love that literally felt like a spell and magic.

This is how I worked with myself to get to the point where I experienced the intense sensations of connectedness, love, feelings of appreciation for myself and my body, and such a juicy sensuality that I will be forever thankful for:

* I worked with my breath. There were a few times where I wasn’t breathing easily because the more I breathed deep, the more it put me in touch with sensations of tenderness. I took it in at a rate that I could handle and let it get deeper with gradual progress.
* I touched my body. I comforted myself, put my hand on my heart and felt the beating. Let myself feel the fibers of my heart that had been avoiding connection, harboring resentment and judgments.
* I kept my body moving at a pace that helped me feel connected and fluid. I did things like wiggle my jaw if it got tight. I let my pelvis rock if I began to clench my muscles.
* I didn’t talk with anyone and let my eyes close if I needed less external stimulation.
* I engaged my pelvic floor muscle which sparked aliveness in my womb, feelings of tingles and aliveness into the rest of my body.
* I let my tears flow. A few times my throat got so tight because I was holding my tears back. Letting them come cleansed my heart and softened my throat constriction.
* Most importantly, I stayed with the sensations in my heart. It wasn’t very difficult, I felt as if I couldn’t get away from my heart as I witnessed presence in him and myself. Even with all of the makings of a great show and entertainment, him as a solo act on the stage would have been enough. He was the core, radiating love out to the masses in one of the more pure ways I’ve ever witnessed.

I was very aware that there didn’t seem to be anyone else around me having a similar experience as I was. That’s frequently an experience I have at music shows. The amount of times I got bumped or stepped on never fails to be annoying. Could you not feel that you just stepped on someone’s foot? Ouch. But even as I watched people in all of their behaviors, and noticed the clouds of marijuana smoke waft into the air above the audience in massive amounts and that almost everyone seemed to have alcohol in their hand, I could see that he was serenading each and every heart in that room…even if they didn’t know it. And that’s power.

I thought about going home and reading up on D’Angelo to find out more. So much had changed from when I had last heard. It’s always such an interesting experience when I think I know about something or someone, and if I can be completely open without expectations, I am almost always surprised by just how much I didn’t know. I remembered him as being mostly a vocalist and more rhythm and blues – ish. This was a full stage / band and more rock and roll infused jazz. I was curious, but by the time I landed home I was floating in feelings of goodness and I decided I wanted my experience and writing of him to be true to my actual experience of him. Not what the media says about him. Not what any other information I might come across would say. I wanted my experience to be that pure, because it was perfect and not to be touched. And I know it’s a big deal for me to say that I find him beautiful and perfect. As a white woman, some people might think I’m not supposed to say that about a black man. But I will say it loud and proudly and want to be very clear that I intend to use my skin privilege to work against any stigma surrounding the idea of a white woman expressing admiration and appreciation for a black man. D’Angelo owned himself in his presence so perfectly, and I applaud that.

I will leave you with a memory that ties in so beautifully to this story with a little more history. When I was a teenager, I remember watching the “Untitled (How Does It Feel)” music video by D’Angelo with my best childhood friend. If you’ve never seen it…take a few minutes to go be with it 100%. The vulnerability is profound. At the time, our jaws dropped. I had no idea what to think, or feel, or what to do. What I didn’t know then, but I do know now, is the seed that video planted in me. It opened me up to a new possibility. The song is about intimacy and without a doubt makes one think about sex. Somehow, through witnessing him in the video (he is without clothes on, in a completely blank space, singing to the camera), I saw that there is a chance for love, intimacy, sex, and sensuality to be about presence. To be about our bodies. To be about connection and feeling. To be about being vulnerable and naked (metaphorically and physically) with another. That was over 15 years ago….more than half of my life in years. All these years later, I believe the idea that video planted was re-ignited and re-inspired as I witnessed him make love to the audience.

So this serves as a thank you to D’Angelo and to myself and to all of my teachers for showing me how to be present with my body, soul, spirit, tenderness, and my heart. Without all of those pieces, this could have been just another music show. Instead, I received the swelling of my heart so big that nothing was left except purity. Pure is the only word I have for it and it can’t even do it full justice. That is a gift I never even knew was possible, and I hope you know that it is and perhaps you can feel it too.

Until next time, with love, Alicia

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About Alicia Patterson

Alicia Patterson is a Psychotherapist / Dance Movement Therapist, Birth Doula, Energy Worker, Dance and Yoga Facilitator in the Boulder / Denver area.
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