Suzanne Sterling Weaves Her Gifts To Create Change
By Megan Warren-Henderson
Suzanne Sterling is an ecstatic vocalist, innovative composer, teacher and invoker of the sacred. Both as a performing and recording artist, as well as a facilitator of transformational workshops and intensives for many years, Suzanne has received critical acclaim.
Called a contemporary “musical priestess," she creates sacred and participatory ceremonies for large gatherings and festivals worldwide. As a voice for joyful and sustainable activism she has created trainings and curriculums for numerous communities, is co-founder of Off the Mat, Into the World® with other yoga luminaries, Seane Corn and Hala Khouri.
I had a chance to speak with Suzanne on the phone. And what began as a conversation of awe, as I listened to her litany of accomplishments become more of like a conversation with an admired and dear old friend. Suzanne is easy to speak with, her voice is confident yet with a soothing cadence that inspires and calms at the same time. What she offered, with her words, I found so crucial right now, so necessary.
Suzanne is currently weaving all of her skills, as a yoga teacher, a musician, a ritualist and an activist into Voice of Change, which is a combination and culmination of her life’s work.
Suzanne sees that the part of the sickness in our culture is our lack of self expression as part of community. People really want to sing, and we are hardwired to sing, but most of us have some type of wounding around it. Voice of Change encompasses this idea that it is medicinal for us to come together and sing and move together with the full instrument of our bodies and our voices. Yoga plays a big part in that because yoga is helping us to remove the blocks to our life force. When we have the life force running through us, the whole system becomes healthy. A lot of times that doesn’t include moving the life force through the throat which is a huge piece and essentially a really strong piece for women.
My job is the access point. To bring people into a place where they really can transform. Where they can go beyond the withdrawal and the self criticism, and the protectionism, all the things that keep us disconnected from each other. My job is get beyond resistance so that we can be together in a present way.
On culture and life force
When Suzanne travelled the world doing seva, or humanitarian service work with Off the Mat, Into the World, in a lot of places there was an indigenous way of gathering that includes singing, dancing and ritual. Suzanne believes we are hard wired to sing. We have civilized ourselves away from what is actually healthy for us. We need to, especially when times when get tough like now, we need to be able to grieve together. We need to be able to rage together, to be in joy together and celebrate together. Where in our lives, that are very tucked in and controlled do we get the chance to actually express the intensity of emotion that moves through us. And if it doesn’t move through us, we can be shorted, making us sick.
When we do the yoga or any awakening practices, we get under the conditioning of our culture, of our religion, of our families there is an authentic self. And when we speak from that authentic self, people listen really differently. There is a whole science behind why living in constancy with our truth is really healthy for us.
On the #metoo movement
We watched it happen with the Weinstein scandal. All of these women that have been silent for years, coming forward, and the power of that truth telling. It can permanently change culture if we continue to come together, and we make ourselves available to a deeper sense of truth and authenticity.
On teaching yoga and the art of the voice
Yoga teachers need to be reminded over and over again to trust their own experience. There is a lot of pressure in the yoga realm that relates to “perfectionism” and our “inner critic”. We feel like we have to represent something that maybe isn’t real to us.
One of the things that I do at yoga teacher trainings is try to get teachers to tell their own story from their own voice. Why are *you* in yoga? How was *your* life transformed through yoga? Why do *you* want to share this with other people? Start there. That is the basis of *your* yogic wisdom.
On the changing yoga culture and Off the Mat
The yoga culture is changing. Our trainings connect people and their yoga with the issues in the world that they are passionate about so that they can make a difference.
There needs to be a focus on how are we using our yoga practice to change not just ourselves, but the world. I think one of the next big steps for yogi’s and the yoga community is to get into positions of power, or political office.
We have had the privilege to heal ourselves to some extent and heal some of the cycles of violence that we inherited. So, now is the time that we rise up to these positions of power, where we can really make the changes that we want to see in the world!
To learn more about Suzanne Sterling visit suzannesterling.com.