If you travel back far enough in your memory, I’ll wager that you can recall the exact moment when your voice was silenced. There was a pivotal point when someone reprimanded you for speaking your mind, and you recoiled a little, questioned the validity of your argument, doubted your worth, and learned that silence and quiet submission won approval from the adults in your world.
This happened to me at a Bible study when I was about nine years old. My parents and several of their friends had begun meeting weekly at each other’s houses, having recently left their church over a dispute that I never fully understood. They were like wandering nomads in search of a home, and no other church would have them. The stain of breaking off from another congregation was too great in a small southern town that lived and died by family ties and tradition.
Thus, I found myself in the midst of these outcasts, huddled together in someone’s mobile home on a winter’s night, listening to their views on the Apostle Paul’s letters. They were reading the King James Version, believing it to be the exact and unquestionable word of their fierce, punishing, and distinctly male god. I was quite bored with it all, until this verse came up for discussion: “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” (1 Timothy 2:12)
I was a budding feminist even then, and I could feel white-hot flames building up within me, spirals of energy that were wrapping around my solar plexus and rising up into my heart and my throat. If I didn’t say something, I would spontaneously combust right before their eyes. So the fire transformed itself into words, and I uttered: “But that isn’t fair!”
I was a nine year-old girl telling a group of adults that their beloved book contained bullshit. The men most likely viewed my challenge as proof that women absolutely should be silent. They were accustomed to being the authority at home and everywhere else in the world, so Paul’s model suited them just fine. The women knew deep in their core that I was right, but none had the strength to stand with me on this issue. Their inner fires had been doused long ago, and I felt betrayed by their lack of support. The discussion moved on to a less controversial topic, and the parental units reprimanded me later for speaking out of turn and embarrassing them.
So many women have stories like this one. The details and circumstances may be different, but what we internalize is the same: our thoughts and feelings on a topic don’t matter, it’s okay to be seen but not heard, and the way to avoid potential shame is to remain silent.
In my local Wise Women’s Circle, we counteract our cultural programming and open up our voices by practicing council sharing. This comes from the Native American tradition of using the talking stick, or speaker’s staff, which is passed around from one person to the next in the circle. Whoever has the talking stick has the floor to speak without interruption. Rather than using a stick or a staff, we use a special bowl or a smooth stone, which has more feminine qualities. While a woman is speaking, the rest of the circle holds sacred space for her and listens actively without needing to respond or offer advice. We just listen. She may be crying, stuttering, shaking, or raging, but we keep listening as long as it takes for her to speak her truth. There is healing and freedom in expression, in being supported, in feeling loved. This is a gift that women can give back to each other. We can heal our voices, one story, one circle at a time.
Freeing the voice also involves intense work on the Vishuddha chakra, the throat center, which is where “the thoughts and emotions of the heart convert into audible sound. When Vishuddha is activated, the voice takes on a profound power and beauty, penetrating and vibrationally transforming the hearts of those who hear it” (Redmond, 63). Imbalances in this chakra can show up as physical symptoms, such as:
- chronic sore throat
- mouth ulcers
- thyroid problems
- neck pain
- speech defects
There are also non-physical symptoms related to a fifth chakra imbalance, such as:
- difficulty in expressing yourself
- social anxiety
- saying things you later regret
- talking others into the ground
- difficulty in telling the truth or telling white lies
The goddess I associate most with the throat chakra is Athena, particularly for women who are having trouble with finding their authentic voice. As a wise, assertive warrior queen and patron of the arts, Athena helps us stand up for our beliefs, surmount our fears, and bring imaginative concepts into reality. Working with Athena and her associated symbols (owl, golden shield, spear, spindle, etc.) is one approach to healing.
Other simple methods that can help are:
- Gemstone Therapy: Meditating with blue lace agate, chrysocolla, and angelite have been helpful to me personally.
- Daily self-treatment with Reiki
- Vocalization: Chanting the vowel sound a as in game or chanting the bija mantras for all seven chakras. Humming or singing anything is healing, especially when you aren’t concerned about how it sounds to others.
- Affirmations: Write some personal affirmations that you can truly believe in, and repeat them upon waking and shortly before going to sleep. Example: I speak from the heart and let the truth be my guide.
- Journaling: Sometimes it’s easier to “speak” on paper, which is something I relate to quite well as a writer.
So, what became of that little nine year-old girl? I grew up and found my voice (despite the church’s attempts to suppress it), because you are reading my words right now. I am slowly getting better at allowing my inner teacher and wise woman to speak to groups. If you put a guitar in my hands, I’ll write songs and sing my heart out.
And I still work on expressing my truest and highest self all the time.
Can you recall the exact moment when someone stripped you of your voice? How did that one incident affect your self-expression and creativity? What did you do to heal yourself? Please comment below if you’d like to share your story.
Redmond, Layne. Chakra Meditation: Transformation through the Seven Energy Centers of the Body. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2010. Print.
© 2016 Jennifer R. Miller