Sotto Voce ~ A Single Soft Voice Can Change The World…

Sotto Voce: Singing or speaking in very soft tones…
Beloved Friends…
I have been going through a cocoon time since the death in our family, and going deep into prayer, study, meditation, reading, and soul-searching, and what I want to share with you today is this…
It comes to me that there are so very many dear people all around the world who want to help, want to make a difference, want to live compassionate lives of service even if it means taking a wonderful meal to an elderly person, or helping a child, or working in a soup kitchen, or traveling to the other side of the world to work with an organization that is working toward helping the poor and survivors of devastation, poverty, and and illness beyond what we can imagine. We mainly think only of the latter larger things, or if it comes to donating to a cause if we can only give $1 or $5 we think it won’t make a difference knowing that there are some that give thousands. Write your check for any amount that you can afford, and if it’s $1.00 say, “I send this with all the love in my heart.” I can tell you that the benefits of that dollar, sent with love, multiply one hundred times over, simply because you gave it from a pure heart.
I can tell you that working with non-profits for decades now that those dollars and nickles and pennies add up to such large sums they can feed a village. And we needn’t feel that the things that we can do are too small to matter. Take that meal to an elderly person, visit a nursing home and adopt an elderly soul who has no visitors, or work with the humane society or a rescue organization to take puppies or kittens once a week to visit these dear ones who feel so lost and alone. It can make more of an impact than you will ever realize. If you have a friend that has just had a baby, offer to clean her house and cook a meal for her. Having had three children I can tell you this means more than you can imagine. Offer to babysit so that the mother can get some rest or precious time to herself. There are so many things that you can do, countless things. If you can’t think what you might do, start a journal. Like the wonderful book, “The Giving Tree,” write down every single thing that you have to give, every talent, every skill, and think of the things you love, or are able to do. Put them all together and you will immediately see and understand the ways that you might help. Keep on with that journal. It will be a precious treasure. Remember to write, afterwards, about how you felt, the joy it gave you, how it gives your life more meaning to give something of yourself. It doesn’t take money and very little time but it can be life-changing for both the recipient of this kind act as well as yourself.
Sotto Voce
As I grow in in age –58 on April 30 — I learn to speak softer and softer, and what I have to say I say more simply so that it may ease into one’s consciousness almost imperceptibly. Were the days that I wrote so headily in metaphor, writing poetic prose, and I revelled in it, and some of it was very good, but, the older one gets the more one realizes that it doesn’t take a crowd of people, or millions around the world to make a difference. We need, more than ever, for people to take up the gauntlet and commit to at least one act of compassionate service every single week. And your one lone voice, soft and perhaps unseen, will change the tides of gentleness and kindness the world over.
If you don’t already know this, let me let you in on a little technique that almost always works, with a child, with an audience, with the people around you, at the office, anywhere where the tension is high, people are shouting and chaos is causing each person to spin off their axis. Even a small child will get this. When they are screaming at the top of their lungs, don’t scream back. Sit quietly, take a deep breath and let your body relax, look with soft gentle eyes into theirs with a slight smile on your face, and then lower your voice almost to a whisper. Whoever is before you in that instant will, finally, wind down and almost strain to hear you. Speaking softly will bring a situation into control far more readily than screaming back.
We are one person, with a soft voice, a tender countenance, and we can change the world. If I am only one, then I shall use all that I have inside of me to do whatever it is that I can do. And I will tell you that I love you, and you won’t believe it, but I mean it. Picture this…
I am standing in front of a crowd of people. They are rowdy and shifting around in their seats, and not paying attention. Do I make a loud sound, call out over the speakers for them to be quiet, then tell them to “Sit Down!” No, that is never really effective and sets a tone for the time you are sharing that isn’t loving or positive. I will stand at the microphone silently, and wait. Soon I will say, very softly into the microphone, “Hello..” after a moment or two people start to settle down, and then I say, again softly, “I love you.”
Now this either makes people acutely uncomfortable or fills them with disdain and disbelief. The word is both bandied around so much it has lost it’s meaning, or people think “I love you” has only romantic connotations and to say it to them is rather embarrassing and out of line, or just plain void of meaning, so I go on…
Let me share with you what I mean. I am one person up here and you are perhaps thousands and no, I do not know you personally, but I know that we are all connected, every single one of us here, every one around the world. I love you because you are my brothers and sisters on this planet, we share the same earth beneath our feet, breathe the same air, perhaps the same neighborhood or office or family or circle of friends, and even the strangers on the street, the checkout lady at the grocery store, or a frightened little dog or cat just waiting to be loved, and held, and given a home, we are connected to every living thing on this planet, and to feel love, and offer a small kindness, anything at all, to a single person, comes from love. This act of love is offered, or given, with no expectation, with no need for recognition, in fact it may be done anonymously. With each act of such kindness our hearts open a little wider. If we are to save this planet and everyone on it, human, plant, animal, mineral, down to the minutest being tinier than our eyes can see, we can start with a simple small kindness. You are perhaps shaking your head in disbelief, but I know this is true. The energy of loving-kindness is powerful and miracles occur. You don’t have to believe it, you simply have to do your one small act, whatever it is, each week.
Now, as I am still standing up here before you, I am going to ask you to do something that might strike terror in your heart. I can say this because I have gone to lectures or conferences or even church services where we are actually asked to DO something. We don’t want to get out of our seat. We don’t want to DO anything (Being a shy person the worst, for me, is if the speaker does something dreadful like ask us to dance about or do something physical. I want to become a bug under my chair!). But I am going to ask you this as a simple exercise and you don’t have to believe it or understand it or even want to do it, it will only take a minute or two, and I can guarantee you you will be changed. Maybe not something you realize and feel right away, but I can guarantee you that it will stay with you, and create perhaps even the most infinitesimal movement inside of you, something so small that you won’t even realize it. But once you start, the ball starts rolling, and it might take a year, or 5, but make this a practice, even a game among friends at a get together asking that they try with all sincerity and then it can be dropped and no one need to dwell on it or mention it the rest of the evening. Please stand up…

Now, in this crowd you may have come with someone you know or there may be strangers on either side. It matters not. In the way that I spoke of above, a gentle, innocent, compassionate moment, turn to the person to your right, look them straight in the eyes, rest your hand softly on their shoulder, and, looking in their eyes, say, very simply, “I love you.” No embarrassment or hemming or hawing around, as simple as that. I love you. Don’t hug them, don’t try to hold their hand or touch any other part of their body. That can feel invasive and too personal. A hand touching the shoulder so very softly that it almost can’t be felt, a genuine, gentle look in the eyes, and with the softest voice possible say, “I love you.” Let it sink in for just a few seconds, nod with a soft smile, and then turn to the person to the left of you and do the same thing. You need not say anything else to this person, in fact it’s better that you don’t, so that the simple act of a selfless statement of love for our fellow man/womankind is felt with no strings attached, wanting nothing in return, simply because they are standing in the same place and space as you are, and they wish you well. If you are here with me, at the very least, you wish those around you well. You needn’t have a personal relationship with them, you will likely never see them again unless they are family or a friend, but even if you do know them, if you do this very sincerely, from the heart, and do not dwell on it but simply take your seat again, moving slowing and silently and feeling the awe and the reverence around you, you will begin to understand universal love. Take this in deeply, let it seep out of you into the world in any way you can. We are thousands, we may become millions, we can change the world with one simple moment, a light touch, gentle eyes, and the words “I love you.”

And so you sit back in your seat and I share with you the journeys I have taken and the work that I hope to do in the world, what I have discovered, and, being a pilgrim, a seeker, a teacher, and one who has dedicated my life to compassionate service, I will speak gently and from the heart, and I want, more than anything, for you to realize that you are never alone, and yes, you are always loved. And you see, someone doesn’t have to say it directly to you, you can feel it many ways on countless days, but it truly is a more loving and powerful gesture to give than to receive. And so if you feel lost and lonely, ask yourself what you might do for someone else, and do it. 
And so as you leave here today carry this in your heart. If you never see the person again with whom you have engaged remember the resonance of the moment, and, as you walk through the world, feeling the tenderness within, do acts of love and kindness wherever you can. It can be as simple as picking up something someone dropped, handing it to them with a smile, and walking on. Too many of us never start because we feel that we are just one person and can’t make a difference. We can, we do, we will. Now, and always. 
And so I bend into the microphone one last time, and, speaking just above a whisper, with you now almost on the edge of your set so that you can hear me, I will tell you, with all my heart — and now you will understand — that I love you, and that when I say that it is not empty and meaningless. I mean it from my heart. It matters. 
I love you dear friends. I will meet with you again soon.

Make this the year your resolutions come true!

Make this the year your resolutions come true!


  1. Beautiful Maitri. I’ve missed you and again I am so very sorry for your loss. You’re such an amazing person, so very wise but very gentle. I can hear your soft and gentle voice through the very words and manner in which you write. Very powerful yet, soft. I wish I could be more like you my friend. Take care Maitri.

  2. Sorry for your loss. I am glad to see you back. I have missed you.

    Hope your pain will ease as the days pass and that you will come back to blogging again.

    Love you and praying for you.

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