Slay Your Dragons - Malcolm Stern

From Stardom to Inner Harmony: Embracing Life's Contrasts Through Music and Healing

February 13, 2024 John
From Stardom to Inner Harmony: Embracing Life's Contrasts Through Music and Healing
Slay Your Dragons - Malcolm Stern
More Info
Slay Your Dragons - Malcolm Stern
From Stardom to Inner Harmony: Embracing Life's Contrasts Through Music and Healing
Feb 13, 2024
John

Send us a Text Message.

Imagine the spotlight, the pulsing rhythm of chart-topping hits, then the hush of inner peace—Sarah's life is a symphony of such contrasts. Once a demure figure in the back of a classroom, she ascended to pop stardom with a dance remix that made Whitney Houston's classics pulse anew, only to transition into the healing silence of sound therapy. Our conversation with Sarah is a revelation of resilience, a tale of finding one's voice not just for the stage but for the soul's deepest calling. It's a narrative that echoes my own brush with vulnerability during a health scare, showcasing the universal rhythm of recovery and rebirth that music so often underscores.

This episode strikes a chord on multiple levels—how music serves as a bridge to nature, to our raw emotions, and to each other. The resonance of a single song can open floodgates of tears or, as Leonard Cohen's concerts did for many, create an atmosphere of shared introspection. We travel through melodies that marry spoken word with song, like the lyrical wisdom of Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet," and embrace the teachings of Ram Dass that guide us in transforming personal dragons of shyness into allies. Join us as we celebrate the harmonies and discords of life's journey, the continuous learning through laughter and poignant insights, all to the soundtrack that plays in the background of our shared human experience.

Produced By https://www.onlinevents.co.uk

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Send us a Text Message.

Imagine the spotlight, the pulsing rhythm of chart-topping hits, then the hush of inner peace—Sarah's life is a symphony of such contrasts. Once a demure figure in the back of a classroom, she ascended to pop stardom with a dance remix that made Whitney Houston's classics pulse anew, only to transition into the healing silence of sound therapy. Our conversation with Sarah is a revelation of resilience, a tale of finding one's voice not just for the stage but for the soul's deepest calling. It's a narrative that echoes my own brush with vulnerability during a health scare, showcasing the universal rhythm of recovery and rebirth that music so often underscores.

This episode strikes a chord on multiple levels—how music serves as a bridge to nature, to our raw emotions, and to each other. The resonance of a single song can open floodgates of tears or, as Leonard Cohen's concerts did for many, create an atmosphere of shared introspection. We travel through melodies that marry spoken word with song, like the lyrical wisdom of Khalil Gibran's "The Prophet," and embrace the teachings of Ram Dass that guide us in transforming personal dragons of shyness into allies. Join us as we celebrate the harmonies and discords of life's journey, the continuous learning through laughter and poignant insights, all to the soundtrack that plays in the background of our shared human experience.

Produced By https://www.onlinevents.co.uk

Malcolm:

Welcome everyone to the podcast Slay your Dragons with Compassion, and I've been getting some fascinating guests on my program, which I'm doing in conjunction with online events. It's a really fantastic organisation. It's so nice to work with and we are looking at seeing how people slay their dragons with Compassion, which is the title of my book, and it's really how people have come through different scenarios where they found resources inside themselves and most people have gotten amazing stories to tell. As they say, truth is often much stranger than fiction. So Sarah is a very good friend of mine from way back and her story is quite extraordinary, as we will find out in a few minutes as we go along.

Malcolm:

But Sarah started life as a teacher for a long time and then had a hit record. She had a hit record with Whitney Houston's I Will Always Love you set as a dance version, and it just smashed it. It got into the charts. She goes on top of the pops and for a while she became a pop star and big changes since then, sarah, so perhaps you could share a little bit for us about where your journey led you.

Sarah:

Yes, well, thank you for inviting me. First of all, it's lovely to talk to you in this way. So, yes, I went from being incredibly shy to being able to hold an audience of thousands, and that was a journey in itself. Going from barely able to speak to an audience to actually being able to be on a stage with 52,000 was the biggest live audience and then, through live TV, actually reaching millions. So that in itself was a big journey.

Sarah:

That was about finding my voice and having the being able to take the space on a stage, and that is what I now teach others is to find their voice, but in a wholly different way. It's not about being in pop music, and the pop peers were, for me, were really, really exciting, but also incredibly challenging, because it was very much about pleasing other people. It was about doing what I thought other people wanted me to do, be what I thought they wanted me to be, and the pressure was enormous and because I wasn't really confident in myself, my own self worth and value, I listened to others and paid attention and did whatever I could to please all these people, which was a lot of people, and what it meant was that I was further and further away from my natural self as I was playing this role.

Malcolm:

I think that's what happens with celebrity and I've seen that with quite a number of people that I know and they become celebrities. They lose themselves because they're not expected to be the flawed human being they obviously are, but they're meant to project an image. You will have obviously had to project an image and of course you're a very attractive woman and you would have had all of that projection thrust upon you and you've got an extraordinary voice, which we'll hear a little bit later on, apparently, which is going to be wonderful. So you've got real gifts to bring. But you've managed to turn around the very worldliness of being a pop star. And you were a star under the name Sarah Washington, might you? Yes, I was, that was your stage name, and I mean you wrote some lovely pop songs as well. But your life has taken an extraordinary turn. So what led you to move from where you were, which was into sort of stardom and sort of like thrust out on stage and looking very glamorous, into being something quite different, a journey?

Malcolm:

must have taken place for you.

Sarah:

So indeed it did. I came across Chris James. I had an illness that was not life-threatening but actually made me need seek some healing, and I found Chris James, who was a sound healer, and I was so touched by the beautiful sounds that he was making and the way he sang, but particularly the sound healing aspect, and I was so touched by it. It touched me in a way that no other singing had before. So I trained with him and after that training literally three months after I'd already started to run some trial workshops in sound healing I discovered I had a very aggressive second stage breast cancer and at that point my world came crashing down because I was told I had a 30% chance of surviving.

Sarah:

I was 41. I was still, maybe naively, but hoping that I would have a child and I was told there was no way that was going to happen and I'd lose my hair and all sorts of things would happen. So I had to have the most ghastly treatment. But even as I was being told what was going to happen and their prognosis of not much chance of surviving well, I mean 30% a little voice inside said don't worry, we're going to go on the most amazing healing journey, and that I listened to, that, I heard and that really was the journey, was starting to tune in to that voice inside.

Malcolm:

It's very funny because I've interviewed quite a few people on this podcast and I think that still small voice that lives inside us will often come at times of adversity. So I interviewed recently a chap called Bill Murther who was drowning and the voice came to him as he was drowning and it was quite extraordinary. So I really hear and I saw. In fact, when I had a heart attack I was in the ambulance on the way to hospital thinking I might die, and some peace came over me. It's almost like a voice came over me that said be still. And I was still and I was in quite a blissful state even though I thought I could be dying. So I'm hearing that we have something bigger than us that comes through us, that guides us and directs us into what we can become. And what you've become is quite a different trajectory from what you were on, but what you've become is something that has brought a lot of joy and a lot of healing to many people through your work on sound healing.

Sarah:

Yeah. So I remember sitting in the consultants office and him telling me all of this stuff and that voice was there and I don't think I'd ever heard that voice before, or if I had, I had pretty much not taken much notice. So the work since then has been about helping other people in my own journey of healing and finding a different place of expression and songwriting in particular, helping others to really connect deeply inside and find what they want to say, find what their message is or what essentially it's about what we need to hear, and then it's about sharing it with others. And what I discovered was that the songs that I wrote after I recovered from that first lot of cancer were from a wholly different place. It had no pressure on me whatsoever, no record company, no manager, no public to please. It was purely for my own healing. And then I discovered, when I shared those songs from that deep place inside, from the place of authenticity, that others responded it touched others.

Malcolm:

And I think that's the magic when we touch the place of authenticity. That's when it's almost like we can't deny that we're on a track that then feels appropriate. And I've watched you stand up in front of large crowds of people in a very different way now and holding a space where there's a welcome to the voice. And I know for a lot of us we were told as I say us a lot of people what didn't happen to me. They were told to mime at the back in singing classes because their voice wasn't good enough. And I know that you encourage people, no matter what their voice is like, to find their true voice, don't you?

Sarah:

I do. I do Because for me, singing is not so much about getting the notes right but really connecting to your voice. Everyone has a unique vibration in their voice, in their being as well. But also through sound healing we connect to the universal sound and it takes us beyond personality and connects beyond the everyday. And that's about union, and one of my songs is very much about that.

Malcolm:

Well, we're going to have a listen to that in a second, but I just want to say a little bit about that whole thing of being in alignment your internal promptings, with your internal direction, and there is something. It's almost like we've become much bigger than we could be as a personality. It's almost like I often feel when I'm running a workshop. I feel often overshadowed by something which is incredibly wise, which is not me. I have access to wisdom, but I don't walk around in a place of wisdom and yet when I'm in that energy field, I find that place of wisdom.

Malcolm:

And again, I've seen that for you and we've worked together quite a lot and my message is very often through psychodrama and through visceral body sensation. Yours is very much through the voice and also through the body, and I think what I'm most aware of and the first time I met you, I was aware of hearing the beauty that you bring to your singing. You're no longer singing in order to sell records. You're singing in order to let out the very melody that lives inside you and wants to be born, and quite simple words. And yet words are very powerful. So we're going to hear one of your songs, I believe.

Sarah:

We are. Yeah, it's interesting what you say about letting out, and it is about letting out and I think that's so important. It has been a huge part of my healing and journey is no longer suppressing my authenticity, my truth, my what I need to say, my dreams, whatever I think. The suppression of that is what can lead to dis-ease, and the very thing that I experienced in the depths of the cancer journey was connecting to the essence of life and feeling pure love, and that's what I call my album. But when everything's taken away which it felt like it had been, because I was so in the moment and I had to be, and I've had cancer three times thank goodness not since 2010, which is now 40.

Malcolm:

I just told slow down a second, because you rushed through that last bit.

Sarah:

I did yeah.

Malcolm:

That's very profound because it'll also be inspiring to others who've had to deal with illness. You've had cancer three times. Each time you've had to deal with the fact that your life was on the line, your body was going to be severely tested, both with drugs and with all the stuff that goes on to chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and also with quite heavy drugs, and so you've had to come through something, and it's been a long time touch, but hopefully that you're done with your journey or you've done with that particular part of your journey. But we do get educated by adversity. I think that's one of the things that's coming through in this podcast. Here is how adversity will actually bring us something that we don't know yet.

Sarah:

Yeah, what I want to say is that in each of those journeys, what I experienced was only love remains. When everything else is taken away, or when I was facing the potential of dying young and dying from this disease, there was only love. And that does sound a bit cliched, but it is honestly the truth that that journey brought me to the very essence of life itself and a pure love for it and awe of it and the sacredness of it. But then I think singing and songwriting from that place can do that too.

Malcolm:

Well then you're transmitting love, and I find that with psychotherapy, now that I, what I realise is that good psychotherapy is love. It's not clever knowledge of Freud's theory or Jung's theory, it's love. And when we transmit that love then we create change in people around us. So hopefully we're going to get a little taste of transmission from you now with this song All of Nature. Is that the song we're going to sing?

Sarah:

Yes, I thought I'd sing All of Nature, because this was the first song I wrote after my recovery from the first cancer and it's very much about that recognition of the oneness of all things, the essence of all things on this planet. And, my goodness, don't we need to hear that now in terms of, you know, really respecting and honouring every life form, all of Nature.

Speaker 2:

Every flower, every blade of grass, every tree with every single leaf, lives inside, here in my, here in my, here in my, here in my heart, inside, here in my, here in my, here in my heart. Every birdsong, yes, every melody, sings inside me. Every creature, great and small, from earth, from land, from sea, rules through me, here in my heart, inside, here in my, here in my, here in my, here in my, here in my heart. And every child born, every child yet to be, moves inside me. Every sister, mother, father, love or brother, inside here in my, here in my, here in my, here in my heart, inside here in my, here in my, here in my, here in my heart. All of nature, all of nature lives inside here. All of nature, all of nature, all of nature lives inside our hearts, here in our hearts, here in our hearts Beautiful.

Malcolm:

Thank you so much. I noticed my eyes started to tear up as you started singing. It's just because you actually carry the essence that you're talking about, of being at one with nature, which is actually ultimately what we need to become if we're going to find our way to the next stage of evolution, I believe we have to let nature guide us.

Sarah:

Absolutely, and a lot of my work is in nature now in the New Forest, and it's very much about song and connecting with our hearts and the essence of life and nature.

Malcolm:

It's hard to get back into words isn't it, after that interlude, of going into the song, into the essence of a song that you just sung?

Sarah:

There's something about putting melody to your innermost thoughts or feelings or insights or whatever it is putting melody into it, and it's as if the soul takes flight as it hears that music. And that's my passion is to help people do that themselves, whether they're musical or not, and bring their songs into the world.

Malcolm:

It's funny because we don't realise often how much music is a part of, is the backdrop to our lives and, interestingly, I discovered Leonard Cohen really discovered him through you, because we went to a concert in 2009. I'd been aware of him as a sort of like a poet and a singer, but in 2009, we went to the concert live in London, which was the album that's then been created, and I realised I was in the presence of someone who was creating an absolute sangha, a community with 15,000 people in an audience, and we were spellbound listening to him and that music has stayed with me, and also hearing your music. You've written lots of beautiful songs. You've also done an album of Khalil Gbrans, the Prophet, as well. Can you tell us a bit about that and the inspiration for that?

Sarah:

Yes, so the Khalil Gbrans, the Prophet, is the most beautiful East meets West philosophical wisdom and the words. To me they really helped me understand so much just from his prose. And the first one and you are on that album, so you know the first one was was love, and I thought I wonder what this would be like to speak over music and sing it. And it was so simple. And then you said, why not do some more? And I did, and then we created this album, which is just beautiful and I get that wisdom and I know people who've heard it get it in a whole new way because there's melody and music as well. It's sort of the message gets delivered in a different way and touches us in a different way because of the melody and the music and of course I mean quite a lot of people who are listening to this will know Caligur Brands, the Prophet.

Malcolm:

It is one of those books that everybody seems to have, but just for those who don't know it, it's basically about a prophet who's leaving the shores of his native land and the people come and ask him tell us about love, tell us about friendship, tell us about death, tell us about buying and selling. And he delivers this, these beautiful words.

Sarah:

And you've said it's a music and and performed it a number of times in in some very lovely places like the Great Hall at Finthorn as well the Universal Hall so beautiful, and we're still working on on the second volume of it, and one of the phrases that I know you really like and that I I remember often is your pain is the breaking of the shelf that encloses your understanding, and for me that is what this journey's been about.

Malcolm:

But it's not just about pain, that's just such a lovely line and I wonder if you could just so you've just spoken it. I wonder if you could that, if this doesn't feel too weird, if you could just sing that line for us so you get a feeling of how that lands yes, uh gosh, I haven't thought about this song for a long time.

Sarah:

In terms of melody, it's it's very simple. It goes like this your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. It's not like that, but it's a bit like that that's not the point.

Malcolm:

The point I think I'm trying to make is that I've found that by hearing the sung version, those words landed in me in a way that the written version didn't have quite the same thing. So I think you've been very much. Your gift that you bring into life is is the gift of music, and originally it was the gift that was, that was sort of like, that was taken and used within the very worldly sense. And now what you've done is you've made music something that is your tool and and you're still developing it, presumably as well, you're still working on different angles always, and you mentioned about um Leonard I.

Sarah:

I didn't know, actually, that I introduced him to. I'm very pleased about that, but you mentioned about him creating a sango with 15 000 people and, and you and my work, I I'm looking forward to having 15 000 people singing with me you know, and toning and bringing that healing sound. But song and and mantra singing too with that number would be so powerful. So that's on my list.

Malcolm:

I'm working towards that and that's lovely, because people love to sing. It's like that does release us, doesn't it? It's like, you know, I notice that I can resist it, but then I start singing and suddenly it's like I'm uplifted and I'm lighter than I was it releases us, it uplifts us and to the sacred when it's coming from that place, it connects us to that heart of all things which is priceless that's very lovely and so um.

Malcolm:

So your life has made you on quite a journey, is there? Are there any other things that have been major learnings for you within the context of your life?

Sarah:

Poof. Oh well, hmm, gosh, I'm so in the stories of the pop world and the, and the cancer and the healing sound. I can think of nothing else right now. Life goes on and life, if, thankfully, and life is a constant sort of journey of learning and and facing challenges head on, um, yeah, I think one of the major changes for me is is leaving London and coming to live in nature and and that's not adversity, that's just being that, not just that is being surrounded by beauty and and nature and the resonance of nature which is so powerful for us.

Malcolm:

I think that's very important, that growth is not always about adversity. I mean, adversity will force us into growth, obviously, at times, but I think there's something about making choices that actually feed our spirit, our soul and our essences, that can make an enormous difference in our life. And you know, you're now living in the midst of nature, in a small um seaside. See, it is a hamlet it's a hamlet and a nature reserve yeah.

Malcolm:

And I know there's something. I'm now living in Devon and again also having come from London, and I find that pace of life is very different and that pace of life feeds me. It allows me more time to slow down and tune in to what's around. And, yes, life will teach us through adversity, and I think there is. Our suffering is part of the human condition, and also the suffering of others. The more sensitive we are, the more we're tuned into the suffering of others, and of course you can use your music to bring that through as well. But I'm very aware in these times we live in of the terrible suffering that's there and has been throughout time, when we look at the cruelty that man inflicts on man.

Sarah:

We need more than ever to create community and sangha that you talk about in the various ways that we do, and minus through music, song, sound, healing. Yeah, it's community building and one of the things that people talk about is safety, the safety of that that they feel safe there and accepted, being accepted. That was a big part of my journey was in pop. Music was about trying to impress and be something that I thought I was supposed to be, and then the second half of my life is about becoming authentically me and trusting that. That's more than good enough.

Malcolm:

It's all you can be, because no?

Sarah:

one else is gonna be you.

Malcolm:

So you're there, aren't you? And there is something about actually the excitement of bringing through your gifts in life, and I've often quoted George Bernard Shaw, who said that I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. And for me, it's not about because Mark Twain said that your vocation be your vacation, and I note for you that your vocation is music, is sound, healing, are all of those things, and so I don't consider it work, when of course we work, but I consider it bringing through, having the privilege to bring through our gifts.

Sarah:

I agree, and that's why, when people say, do you think you'll ever retire, sarah? Well, no, because what retire for my way of life? I don't think so. It's just going to evolve as I evolve.

Malcolm:

I think what I've discovered is that I have to be more aware of building in relaxation time so that I have to pace myself, but actually it's like I still want the excitement and the joy of bringing through the gifts that I have to give. And you have extraordinary gifts, and you had extraordinary gifts as a pop artist as well. You made a lovely sound, but this is such a different place. I know we talked about the possible title of this segment being from Soul Diva to Sound Healer.

Sarah:

Yeah, or from Pop Diva to Soul Healer.

Malcolm:

The Pop Diva to Soul Healer, yeah, Teaser yeah. And that's really lovely and I can see that your journey does inspire you. I think the other thing is, when we're doing what it is we love, we stay young. I don't mean young young because I'm not thinking we should all look like we're 20 years old and dress up and put Botox in and all the rest of that stuff. But I'm talking about there's something youthful, a youthful enthusiasm that gets through when we're looking at something that speaks deeply to us.

Sarah:

Yeah, I think it's vitality, you know, the vitality of passion for what we do, the knowing that we're really connecting with ourselves and others and life itself, and that passion and that love shines through. And that's youthing, isn't it? That's not youthing, but that's.

Malcolm:

It's rejuvenating, isn't it? It's rejuvenating and vibrant. I think that's the thing.

Sarah:

Well, I have so many things that I still want to do in terms of giving what I can, and I'm always coming up with new ideas, because creativity, as you know from our get-wise, get-creative course together, is top quality for me. Yeah, of a way of life, sorry, I'll say that. Creativity is key in life, isn't it? Because life is creating all the time and we are too whether we're aware of it or not.

Malcolm:

So long may we create, Long may we create, and long may we bring our gifts to the world and be part of the transformation that's so deeply called for in these times. And may we be able. If I was to say to you because the title of the series is Slave your Dragons with Compassion, which of course is the title of my book, also a dragon that you've slayed what would that be? They're just off the top of your head. You don't have to come up with anything brilliant.

Sarah:

A dragon that I've slayed. It's such a strong wording, isn't it A dragon that one has slayed? I think it would be. I think it's to do with shyness.

Malcolm:

I was just thinking that yes.

Sarah:

Yeah, I think it's to do with shyness and wanting to hide. I can't say I've slain that dragon completely, but I've put it in its cage or something. It's not. There is still a bit of shyness in me, sensitivity, but I feel, if not now, then when that statement speaks to me and it's what is there to lose? We're giving of ourselves. I'm helping other people connect and sing and enjoy music and heal with it and from it.

Malcolm:

Well, that's hubby. And Ram Dass says that we never get rid of anything. He's been a great teacher of mine and what he said is that our hope is that they become like schmooze, like little bits of dust or other things that have really oppressed us, become Well. We're aware of them, but they're no longer crushing our spirit and I can see your spirit is alive with the work that you do and the love that you bring to the work that you do as well.

Sarah:

Yeah, as you were saying that, I decided that the dragon's not in the cage over there. It's just this cute little thing playing about.

Malcolm:

Here's a cute little dragon. This is from the Turkish edition of my book.

Sarah:

They put this cute dragon on the front. Actually mine looked just like that, oh great.

Malcolm:

Yes, lovely. Well, sarah, thank you so much. I really appreciate having you on this podcast and, yeah, been very good to see you.

Sarah:

Thank you. It's been lovely to chat with you in this way and to sing as well. It's a great series. I'm really looking forward to seeing it.

Malcolm:

It's a fantastic concept. Thank you very much indeed, and thanks, of course, to online events and to all of the energy they put into this as well.

From Pop Star to Sound Healer
The Power of Music and Nature
Exploring Shyness and Overcoming Dragons