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Everyday Spirituality with Chanda Rule | Everyday Spirituality | connect.faith
With feet rooted in gospel, a heart filled with soul, and a voice touched with jazz, singer and songwriter Chanda Rule has been weaving stories through song, humming melodies, and bending words since her childhood.
A published writer and host of The Courageous Voice podcast, Chanda also uses her music for community building and communal healing. Her stories combine original narrative, poetry, sacred text, liturgy and music. We welcome her to Everyday Spirituality from her home in Austria.
Everyday Spirituality with Chanda Rule
Debbie Bronkema: [00:00:00] This is Everyday Spirituality, a podcast where we explore the stories of people whose spiritual practices fill them up for the journey of everyday life. I’m Pastor Debbie Bronkema, leader of an online community called connect.faith. We’re creativity, spirituality, and justice meet. Music and production by Evan Closser.
This is Everyday Spirituality with connect.faith. I am Debbie Bronkema and I’m here today with Chanda Rule. Chanda is a singer and a songwriter. She hosts our own sister podcast, "The Courageous Voice." She likes to create community, provide opportunities for people to heal and to explore their own voice, and she uses her gifts of writing in just so many ways. Lately, a series of songs, call "Let The [00:01:00] River Flow" that she co-wrote with Ike Sturm. We are really excited that you are here today! Thank you.
Chanda Rule: Thank you! I’m so excited to be here as well! Thank you for asking me and for having me today.
Debbie Bronkema: Absolutely. So Chanda, you’ve been part of connect.faith in lots of different ways for a long time. You’re the dot [on our community map] in Vienna, Austria, that we love to celebrate!
Chanda Rule: Thank you!
Debbie Bronkema: It’s been very fun to get to know you over this time and I just wanted to ask you, how did you get started with singing and songwriting?
Where did that come from in you in the beginning?
Chanda Rule: Oh, I think that seed was planted in me by so many things. By my mother, for one. I have been singing probably since I could create sounds because my mom just sang with me all the time. And I just watch how I parent my child and I think it’s just, there’s always music and there’s always singing. So [00:02:00] I imagined that it was the same way for me. Everybody around me was singing and everybody went to church, and church was the place for singing. So between church and my mother. And like old school, black church meant like, it was all the time.
So that was at least 75% of my life experience. Yeah and I think most of the people that I grew up with had a similar family structure. So we were always singing and that’s how we played. We sang together. I sing with my cousins and my friends and it’s just always been part of life.
Debbie Bronkema: I love that that’s how you played, yeah.
Chanda Rule: Yeah.
Debbie Bronkema: That’s wonderful. That’s wonderful.
Chanda Rule: Yes. Oh, and the writing! The songwriting also started as a kid. Actually the true story that is just coming to me right now is, you know, my parents were old school, so they weren’t like super, super, super strict because their parents were super, super, super strict, but they were pretty strict.
And so things like having an opinion or talking back, those things, I didn’t do those things. [00:03:00] But I would write songs.
Debbie Bronkema: Oh! Oh, that’s good.
Chanda Rule: Yeah, about what I wanted to do and what I didn’t wanna do and what I thought was mean!
So I guess those are my very first forays into songwriting.
Debbie Bronkema: Yes, using your voice in a way that was safe enough to use it. I love that.
Chanda Rule: For a while.
Debbie Bronkema: So when you started to think about The Courageous Voice and that whole concept, can you tell me what are your hopes and dreams about that?
Chanda Rule: Oh, well, that started twofold. For me, a courageous voice is the authentic voice. And this is something that I have been really working towards. How to really present myself in a way that’s completely authentic and feel comfortable with it and not feel like I have to sugar coat or like, you know, make nice with certain things.
So this is something that I’ve been working on for a while. [00:04:00] And I saw, because I’m a vocal coach, and I saw that this is something that in a different way, trickled over into a lot of the issues that my students were having. You know, they would go and they’d be like, "Oh man, I had this song. It was so good at home. It was so good in the shower." And then they’d come in front of me and they were so nervous. Or they would have a gig and they would like completely freeze. And so we started to really talk a lot about this concept of what it means to sing courageously. And for me, a courageous singing voice, for them at the time is, "Okay. So how do you walk with that fear onto stage and not feel like you have to push it away? Or that it’s like a one or the other?" So it just became this conversation that was always happening. And then I realized that, okay, this is not two different conversations, right? It’s all together.
How can I be authentic in front of other people, in front of myself? You know, sharing my song, my voice, my words, my art. And so that’s how. [00:05:00] That’s how this was born. And it’s my hope that I’m able to, through the podcast, through, through a conversation, say something that’s inspirational. Or through my coaching that there’s something, cuz I often have them journal and we have other exercises meditation, that there’s something that really will propel a singer or an artist forward a little bit more in being able to share themselves more authentically.
Debbie Bronkema: That’s awesome. I love that answer about The Courageous Voice, where it came from and where it’s going. And I’ve been having fun listening to your interviews with people and all the different people that have decided to say yes to exploring their voice in conversation with you.
Chanda Rule: Thank you. I’m loving that. And thank you for making it possible!
Debbie Bronkema: Oh, absolutely. Connect.faith is excited about it! I also wanna ask you about your own spiritual process, just in terms of [00:06:00] how do you balance writing and being a mom and being a performer and doing a podcast. How do you find balance, if you find balance?
Chanda Rule: Oh, this is so interesting! Balance is like the buzzword of the past few weeks.
Um, you know, wow. I struggle with finding balance and what I ended up journaling about today, about this concept of balance, is that I think that what I imagined balance to be is probably not balance actually, now that I’m saying this. And I think that what I’ve always imagined balance to be is this perfect like delineation, like, "Now I’m going to do this and I have enough time for this, and now I have enough time for this." And I think that what is happening is that, I don’t know what the mathematical term of this is, it’s like the pendulum swing?
Debbie Bronkema: Okay, okay. [00:07:00]
Chanda Rule: There’s a lot of it. So I would say like, maybe for writing for the past few weeks, I was like on it. Like, you know, every morning I was like, "Let me find another cafe. I’m putting in my little 20 minutes that maybe’s gonna be 30?" I don’t know. Right? And then the weekend. We had a long weekend and then it was just like, "Okay, nope."
And then my son got sick. And so then like, okay, he’s taking the priority. So this is interesting. But the interesting thing about the podcast is because I don’t feel like I’m working alone with it, it’s been like a constant, right? So I guess the answer to that is, the things that are steady in my life are things that I am really working in some sort of community with. Cuz I really, really, really need that. I need it. Like if I don’t have it it’s like, okay, podcast happens for a good month, really strong, and then like two months, I’m like, "Oh my God, I over did podcast. Now I need to…" So finding a community is really helpful for balance. Really I’m still [00:08:00] struggling. I will like really kind of go hardcore on something and burn out and then there’s something else that I have to go hardcore on.
Debbie Bronkema: So the balance is like, if you looked at a month at a time, you might have balance. Just don’t look for a day.
Chanda Rule: Yeah, no, no, no, no, no, but it definitely. It’s like a Teeter- totter.
Debbie Bronkema: Up and down. Yeah. Yeah. So what is your process for writing? How do you go from the blank piece of paper to the poetry and the lyrics and the stories that you tell?
Chanda Rule: Whoa. Yeah, this is interesting. I have a new process. That’s why I’m saying it’s interesting. Cause I’m having a new process right now.
Before, I think it was just the commitment to show up. And I think now it’s the same, but before it was a commitment to show up and I didn’t have any structure around it, I would just kind of sit.
So like on this last project that I did with Ike, the "Let The River Flow," there was one poem in particular, like this has never happened before. There was a day, the [00:09:00] entire day. Like I remember the sun coming up and going down and I was sitting in front of the screen, just sitting.
Debbie Bronkema: Wow!
Chanda Rule: I was just sitting. I had a deadline with that and I just, I had to make the space. And so I think at the core, it’s a "space making" because sometimes I show up for that space and there’s like so much. And sometimes there’s nothing. So that was an extreme.
But recently I’ve changed my writing process, which is really working for me. Cuz that was working before, by the way, like creating space, whether I like procrastinate for a couple of days and then just like, "!!!!" on like day five.
Debbie Bronkema: Yeah!
Chanda Rule: But now, I’m doing this thing where I just show up every day, no matter what.
And it’s only like a tiny amount of time and I never thought that would work for me cuz I’m like, "No, I need like an hour to like let the juices begin." No, but now it’s just like, "Okay. 20 minutes and just write."
Yeah, your brain gets primed that this [00:10:00] is the time I do this and yeah!
I love it. I love that. And I love stopping at a certain time, no matter what. And especially when it’s like a juicy time, because then it’s not so much the next day to like jump back in. It’s like, "Oh yeah, it’s the juice. Let’s keep going."
Debbie Bronkema: Right, right, right. Yeah. Some people say that, "Oh, I have to stop at the end of a story."
I’m like, "But then you don’t have the hook to get you started the next day."
Chanda Rule: Is that what you’re doing too?
Debbie Bronkema: Yeah, that’s what I do too. Yep! Mine is, if I’m doing fiction, it’s 250 words a day.
Chanda Rule: Okay!
Debbie Bronkema: Which takes about 20 minutes. Yeah, 20 minutes to half an hour. And it’s not edited 250 words.
Chanda Rule: Exactly.
Debbie Bronkema: 250 words. And then the editing comes later after the whole story unfolds. But yeah, I love doing it that way. Now there’s other projects I do where I’m working to a deadline. And for those it’s more, "Okay, here’s the paper, and there’s the [00:11:00] deadline, what’s gonna come out?" But so far that usually works. Usually.
Chanda Rule: Yeah.
Debbie Bronkema: Yeah. And you know, the pastor part of me, "Sunday always comes." So then it’s done whether it’s done or not. I know that you went to seminary, right? And I’m wondering how you feel that education has impacted your life in these last few years. Once you moved to Austria.
Yeah. I mean, completely, actually.
And more so with the writing.
Chanda Rule: Because I wasn’t, I mean, I was doing a bit of songwriting, but I wasn’t really writing anymore. And that whole process of writing sermons got me into this new mode and just remembering how much I love this. I love research and I can get caught up in research and all this stuff.
And when I was in seminary, my advisors really, really pushed me to get out of that. And [00:12:00] they’re like, "No, you’re an artist. You’re a creative person. We don’t want this standard form of sermon for you. That’s not, you like go push, push, push." And so I’m really appreciative of that because it really just got me.
I found something that I love and I will say something new because I wrote a while ago. I mean, I studied journalism in undergrad. So I was writing then, and then I kind of didn’t like it anymore. So, you know but yeah, I love this. I love writing these stories. And, you know, I think when I moved here, it was a bit disappointing because of the language, I couldn’t really go forward with it immediately.
And people are like, "Oh no, what is that? No, what is that you’re doing? Nah, no." But in the past few years it has found its way back, which has been amazing, really.
Debbie Bronkema: That’s awesome. That’s awesome.
So I see you on social media posting about joy. Can you tell us what [00:13:00] that is about?
Chanda Rule: Yes! So I started that, I did it for a year, pretty faithfully. And I started it maybe at the beginning of last year. And I did it because my therapist actually, I was feeling so stuck and she’s just like, you know, well, we’re talking about like expressing myself authentically. She’s like, "Well, maybe you can like, do something on social media!"
I’m like, "No! I don’t wanna do that. Like that’s… no." So then I just kind of started these little tiny posts because we were on lockdown and then Vienna actually had a Black Lives Matter march, which was humongous here. I didn’t even know there was so many people of color here until I went to that March.
I’m like, "Oh my gosh, this is amazing!" And my son was there with me and he was marching, he had his little posters up and he was leading songs and it just, I was just so happy. I was so happy about it. And [00:14:00] so I did a post and I said, okay, well maybe, you know, maybe I’ll start with this with this joy.
And then I think around the same time in the States, there were so many police killings happening. And then there were all these marches and there was fires. And then there was like, Trump was all over the place all the time.
And, you know, it was so much. There was all this stuff happening and there was this conversation amongst friends about how and what they were talking to their children about. And how young should your child be when you first have the police conversation with them?
If they are a boy specifically of color. And I was like, "Oh my God, like, I, I cannot." Like, it was so overwhelming to me. And I was just like, okay, well, my act of resistance is this: "I’m not! I’m not gonna do this! I’m gonna tell my son, like stories of joy and positivity for as long as I can!"
Right? And not in a sense of putting on rose colored glasses, but in the sense of like, "No, this is not gonna be the definition of what life is. Period."[00:15:00] And that’s where that came from. And I’m like, "Okay, I want expressions of joy and no, it doesn’t have to be me smiling every day, but that’s what this is going to be."
And I wanted that to combat like all these other messages that were telling me, "No, you can’t be joyful. No, you must leave your house and be afraid. No."
Debbie Bronkema: Yeah. Yeah.
Chanda Rule: So, yeah. That’s where that came.
Debbie Bronkema: Wow that, well, and it’s joy. It’s not happiness. It’s not, you know…
Chanda Rule: Exactly! Yes. This is stuff that like my grandparents, my grandmothers used to always talk about this. About, you know, this joy, and this was like linked to different biblical scriptures of this unexplainable joy.
This "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning." Right? It’s just, it’s just like the sun is just rose, whatever was there still there. Right?
Debbie Bronkema: Right.
Chanda Rule: This unexplainable thing and yeah. Yeah. It makes me fiery.
Debbie Bronkema: Oh, that’s great. That’s great! And your son is how old?
Chanda Rule: He’s eight.
Debbie Bronkema: Eight?
Chanda Rule: [00:16:00] Yes!
Debbie Bronkema: Ah, so he’s asking questions and getting interested. And do you find, he points you toward joy?
Chanda Rule: Yes. And this is unexplainable joy. Yes. Cuz he gets on my nerves right now! But yes. Yes. He’s just like a bundle of energy and questions and, yeah. And you can tell, like, I didn’t wanna have like a lot of boundaries on, and I wanted him to be able to feel free to express himself and like, yeah, it makes parenting a bit harder and challenging. But…!
Debbie Bronkema: But yeah, eight is a time when they’re curious and they remind you what we stop looking at.
So yeah, it’s really, really fun. So, what feeds you spiritually now?
Chanda Rule: Hmm. Okay. Right now specifically, I will say quiet time, [00:17:00] meditation, journaling, definitely. And I have been practicing yoga and what I love about, man, I love yoga so much. And this whole focus on self knowledge and having a spiritual practice.
Right? But right now, specifically, I’m spending a lot of time with that.
Debbie Bronkema: In the quiet? What kind of meditation do you enjoy?
Chanda Rule: Well, actually, I sit. I just have a sitting practice. Actually, this is funny, cuz I just interviewed this guy, Jahson, on my podcast and he introduced me to this Gamma Ray meditation, which I’m loving!
Debbie Bronkema: Really?
Chanda Rule: I absolutely love it!
Debbie Bronkema: Tell me about it! What little bit can you explain about it?
Chanda Rule: Well, the little bit, he’s a scientist for one. So the way he explains stuff is like, always like a little bit out of my grasp.
But, so he was talking about the different[00:18:00] modes of the brain. You know, when you’re like light sleeping and then the deed sleep and the REM sleep, they all have these different names.
Debbie Bronkema: Okay.
Chanda Rule: But gamma is in the opposite direction. So it’s supposed to be when your brain is extremely like active in a way, but not like chatty active, but I guess vibrant.
Debbie Bronkema: Okay!
Chanda Rule: This is how he explained it. But what I like about it is there’s just these different, it’s just this way of breathing. And I think that I’ve never really latched onto a meditation practice that was, you know, following your breath. You know, for me, it was, you know, I like the ones, you know, notice what this feels like, notice this and then just like a quiet, silent meditation. But I really like this focusing on the breath. I think that’s what it is. Yeah.
Debbie Bronkema: That’s great! That’s fun. Well, thank you! So what other things would you like to share with our Everyday Spirituality people today?
Chanda Rule: Ah, [00:19:00] Everyday Spirituality. Well, just the, you know what’s funny? You know, when I was in seminary, there was something, there were these people in New York doing something called a 90 minute sermon.
Debbie Bronkema: Oh, oh my!
Chanda Rule: I’m sorry, 90 second sermons!
Debbie Bronkema: Okay. That’s a lot better!
Chanda Rule: 90 second sermon. And they had completely revived it and they had this church and I think they were down to maybe like 20 members and they completely revived this community doing these 90 second sermons. And they came in and they did a lecture and we had to do them. And mine was called Everyday Spirituality!
Debbie Bronkema: No way! I feel like this is a full circle moment, yeah!
Chanda Rule: Exactly, exactly. It’s funny, cuz I never would consider this a spiritual practice, but it is. And this is gratitude. And it’s so funny that like, I didn’t mention that because, I don’t know, for me having this really tiny gratitude practice, and this is as soon as I open my eyes, it’s like, "Okay, three things. [00:20:00] What are these three things that I’m grateful for?" And I gave myself a challenge a while ago that it cannot be like a material thing. Like, what is it like, okay, I’m breathing. Okay. My husband’s breathing next to me. I hear my kids snoring, like bam. Right? But, I absolutely love this practice and I feel like it has been completely life changing to me. This simple practice of gratitude.
And when I think of like everyday spirituality, That is it. For years, you know? And it has gotten me through because when I first moved here, I was miserable for a while.
Debbie Bronkema: That’s a big move!
Chanda Rule: Yeah. It’s a big move! I had a prayer partner back in New York and I called her and I’m like, "Oh my God, I hate it here…" You know? We would pray in the mornings which meant we’d call, we’d talk to each other and we’d like, complaine for like 15 minutes and then we’re like, "okay, let’s pray. [00:21:00] Let’s pray about it."
But that was one thing is gratitude. She’d listen to me like moan, complain and cry. And then she’s like, "All right, take a deep breath and look around you and tell me three things that you’re grateful for." And I’m like, "Oh my God. Right! I’m in this like really cute bathroom that is like two bedrooms in my last apartment in Jersey city."
You know? I’m like, "Okay, well I’m breathing and we’re fine." And like all this things. Right? And so I’ve always been able to go to that practice and I’m grateful for it. And I love. And it’s simple!
Debbie Bronkema: It is! And I love the idea of first thing in the morning as you’re waking up to just start the day from that perspective. That’s really, really helpful. I’m really grateful for that. Thank you for sharing it!
Chanda Rule: Thank you, thank you.
Debbie Bronkema: So if people want to know more about you, find you, hear you, where should they look for you?
Chanda Rule: Oh, let’s see. I have a website. [00:22:00] ChandaRule.com, and I’m also off and on Instagram. I’m not on as much as I used to be, but like at least three times a week.
Debbie Bronkema: Okay!
Chanda Rule: And then there’s also The Courageous Voice. You can find me there. I’m posting as well on Instagram.
Terrific. So this is then Everyday Spirituality with connective.faith, and you can find us in all the places you regularly subscribe to podcasts. And if there’s someone you know that might like to hear the stories that you heard today, we’d love for you to share.
Debbie Bronkema: Thank you so much. It was great to have you, Chanda!
Chanda Rule: Thank you. Thank you so much!