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“I know well what I am fleeing from but not what I am in search of.” – Michel de Montaigne


I am fond of saying that I never know what I’m looking for until I find it. I guess maybe that’s why I hit the road alone recently, using airline miles to buy a one-way ticket to Madrid and filling in a three-week itinerary from there, flinging myself around Spain, into Portugal, then to Vienna, Berlin and, finally, to a little resort town on the Red Sea, in Egypt. One has to look to find.


I visited friends, saw mountains and rivers and seas, and visited amazing art shows and museums.

I listened to a variety of beautiful traditional music from flamenco to fado to classical (Mozart music where he played in the Schonbrunn Palace in Vienna.)



I heard some incredible jazz led by a German Jewish pianist I’d met through my musician friend Joe Hertenstein, who so graciously hosted me with his lovely wife Daisy in Berlin. At the B Flat, Julie Sassoon and her band offered up healing harmonies to my heart, broken as it was with images and stories from the Memorial to Murdered Jews I’d visited that morning. The museum features Julie’s family, surviving members of whom, including her parents, fled to England. It was pure synchronicity that I was able to hear her beautifully explore the anguish of her family history in song on stage, much of it impeccably improvised.


I stayed with dear friends in Madrid and Berlin, and otherwise spent my nights in youth hostels and an inexpensive apartment near my friends in El Gouna, Egypt. I had never backpacked through Europe and it occurred to me that I desperately wanted that adventure. Despite being referred to mostly as "youth" hostels, older people are still allowed it seems, though we are greatly outnumbered. But the price is right, and the atmosphere: I spent a mere $500 in lodging over three weeks’ time, and met so many lovely people, some forever friends. The hostels in Europe have become communities, offering events and meals and camaraderie the likes of which solo travel in hotels does not typically afford.


My sister asked me before I left what the impetus was for my trip and I answered her nonchalantly, mentioning how my friend Nuria had asked me when I was coming to Madrid. Later, though, it occurred to me that the impetus was actually my lack of impetus. I felt a serious lack of motivation to get moving during a blah New York winter, and a tickling desire to flee from the seeming constraints of being a middle-aged mother whose beloved children have flown the coop, an “empty nester.” The moniker speaks only to what one has lost, not what one might discover anew, and as usual I find myself looking to rebel against the popular notion.


There are no limits, except those imposed by my aging bod, walking miles on cobblestone streets and sleeping on planes and trains. (Why I had romanticized an overnight train from Vienna to Berlin, 15 hours in a seat, nothing to look at but my own reflection in the darkened window, I’ll never know.)


There’s no time like the present to seek and find, to get to know oneself, to share what one learns. In an online Raja Yoga class through Peace Village in upstate New York that I’ve begun since my return home, the fifth step of meditation is to Become an Instrument. The teacher offered up that one’s “spiritual wealth increases as you donate to others.”


I smiled recalling the sound baths I gave to other travelers on my journey in the sun-dappled inner courtyard of the lovely El Granado in Granada, Spain, and on the rooftop of La Banda overlooking the top of the Cathedral one bright afternoon in Sevilla.


My mind returns to the sounds I nervously offered my longtime friend in Egypt on his lovely deck. Raed El Khazen, a wonderful guitarist and producer, had some thoughts when I asked for his review. “You need to stop, and listen…” he pointed up at the cawing birds. “Pause. Let what’s around you dictate, play to that.”


I have returned with renewed zeal to listen and share, in both words and sound.


This Sunday, April 2nd, I will return to The Shirley Project Space for an 11:30 a.m. sound experience to embellish the highly arresting undulating Site Lines exhibit by artist Rachael Wren. Space is limited. RSVP to Sarah@TheShirleyProjectSpace.com.


In addition, I will host a group sound bath at my home on Thursday, April 13th at 7:30. $20 pp, RSVP to stephsthompson@gmail.com.


Baby Jam returns after next week, exact details TBD.


I continue to offer private group and individual sessions. I have been pleased to see the affect of offering sound to companies on retreat and believe in the power of drums and sound meditation to help people connect to themselves and others. Please reach out with requests.


I will always flee from the restrictions of age and stage, from any self-limiting or societally-limiting notions. I will always journey near and far in search of something that feels right when I feel it. I hope that you will join me in this.


XX

Steph

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