Listening with the Ear of my Heart

In this guest blog Virginia Schenck, vocal artist and tour leader for our upcoming Ireland journey, “Sacred Singing Journey of Ireland”, she reflects on the importance of listening to the inner voice of the world. She also examines the work of renowned spiritual singer and special guest on her upcoming Ireland journey, Nóirín Ní Riain, and what it means to listen beyond.


“The longest trip you’ll take is from your head to your heart,” we often hear – but you have to listen along the way and keep listening!

I’ve been encouraging myself to listen so much more this year, with My Year of Listening focus. I want to dig deeper, uncover even more of the core of me. To honestly BE in this crazy world, let alone sing, it’s the inner voice that I’m after. I want to move people through my art, and to do that, I must be moved myself. If I’m not moved, I’m bored, an artistic restlessness sets in. That always leads me back to listening, listening, listening.

So what’s next? A retreat, or a good deal of silence.

I am no stranger to retreats, and as you all know, love leading them. The 2017 Winter Solstice Singing Journey Retreat based in NY was all centered on Sounding and Listening Within.

My Irish friend, Noirin ni Riain, who guests with me on my Ireland Singing Journeys, has a marvelous book entitled Listening With the Ear of the Heart that I’ve been rereading in preparation for October’s trip. The title is her musician’s spin on St Benedict’s teachings to “listen carefully…and incline the ear of your heart”. How else could I possibly listen to my heart’s desire, the messages from my subconscious, or the angels whispering in my ear?

Practice listening near Glenstal Abbey as Nóirín Ní Riain treats us to her homemade scones and we will learn everything from Sean-nós singing, ritual chants, to the tradition of keening – the sonic grieving for the dead

Ireland’s acclaimed spiritual singer, Noirin sings everything from classical music to Gregorian chant, traditional Irish sean nos singing to keening, the Irish wailing for the dead. She calls her work Theosony – a combination of “theos” = God, and “sonos” = sound. Listening to the sound of God, or the universal in us all. She says:

“Listen to the breath of God. Listen to Muhammad, Jesus, and Buddha.

But don’t get caught up in the names.

Listen beyond the names. Listen to the Breath of God.”

The remarkable Cliffs of Moher, this fantasitic sight is sure to heighten your senses! Make sure to listen as well as look!

Noirin and my Irish friends would call this listening to the anam chara, or soul friend.

In India, this inner hum of life is Nada, “the life principle or creative breath of humanity that comes from vibrations that can only be heard from within.”

The great Irish writer, John O’Donohue, encouraged Noirin while writing her thesis:

“Always give yourself the opportunity of silence…Every single sound has silence beside, behind, before and within it. Begin now to develop what I sense is your unique listening  blessing in order to hear the silent song of your own wild spirit.”

What’s calling you? Are you Listening? Can you hear it?

Are you giving yourself space and time for Listening?

The Silent song of my Wild spirit that draws me to the rocks of Ireland, waves crashing on the Atlantic east coast, and sparrows singing on the hilltops of Italy is calling me to get quiet, chill out, be playful and “grow hairy, fanged, and clawed,” as I say in my poem “Howl at the Moon”.

July will find me seeking the wind blowing though my hair. How about you?

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

– Mary Oliver, “The Summer Day”


Are you listening?

Digging deep within history, time and place, embracing, learning, and creating anew, may we bring our best voices forward. In this way, we make every moment Sacred. Every song is Sacred, every moment Sacred. Listen, and listen deeply, we will. Silence is as much a part of music as the notes and sounds themselves. The inner singing must come out for our health’s sake. Then there are the sounds around us of our environment, our families, friends, neighbours. Listening both within and without, we will invite the sounds of Ireland to inspire us.

In October 2018, we invite you to join vocal artist Virginia Schenck, with special guest, Ireland’s celebrated spiritual singer, Nóirín Ní Riain, to explore the voices, sounds, and sacred sites of Ireland. All singers and listeners welcome!

Let Ireland inspire you, listening and learning from her indigenous voices and exploring and joining with our own voices in this mystical, music-filled land. From the iconic neolithic and Celtic site of Newgrange, the hills of Slane and Tara, the Cliffs of Moher, W.B. Yeats’ Isle of Innisfree and the Holy Island, goddess Maeve’s cairn and Carrowmore, the largest megalithic complex in Ireland, to hidden gems of Glenstal Abbey and Lough Gur’s largest stone circle, listen and sing. Learning traditional Sean-nós songs, ritual songs, chants, and vocal exploration and improvisation, let Ireland inspire you and your voice to a richer relationship with your own sacredness and that of Sacred Earth.

Are you ready to listen and to sing the inner song?

Listening to the breath of God

~ Sacred Earth Journeys