Listening for What the Voice Has to Say

“Give up defining yourself – to yourself or to others. You won’t die. You will come to life. And don’t be concerned with how others define you. When they define you, they are limiting themselves, so it’s their problem. Whenever you interact with people, don’t be there primarily as a function or a role, but as the field of conscious Presence. You can only lose something that you have, but you cannot lose something that you are.”
-Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose

One of my favorite experiences in the voice studio is listening for what someone’s voice has to say.  Let me explain –

Many years ago Tom Blaylock, of the Northwest Institute of Voice, taught me how to listen to a voice instead of superimposing preconceived ideas or judgements onto it during a voice assessment.  This requires the judgemental mind (ego) to take a back seat so one can relax and observe.  The observation period of an assessment often requires closed eyes in order to focus entirely on the sound and empathic/emotional feelings associated with the voice, with some quick visual checks to see if what is heard matches what can be seen in the body.

We are talking about 3 levels of helpful information here: auditory, empathic or feeling perception, and visual.  I realize not everyone feels empathically, so that element might not exist for you.

If I am successful in truly observing a voice, it will speak volumes about what it needs and where it enjoys “hanging out.”  Often this manifests as a female voice demonstrating a joyful and free expression much higher in pitch than would be expected based on the client’s description of their vocal experience.  Or, a voice demonstrating resonance in clusters of notes that surprise the singer because they have never been experienced before.  These are just two quick examples.

Here’s the trick to getting into what I call observer mode: you have to let go.

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Finding Freedom in Music, in Life

There are two fundamental aspects regarding the experience of freedom in musical performance that deserve more attention: practicing in a state of ease, and mastering skills.  These same ideas apply to all of life, and musicians give us a window into how we can experience freedom in our every day lives and practice as well.

State of Mind Matters

The feeling of freedom is closer than we all think.  It can be felt – right here and now – because it is a state, or a mindset.  A sense of more freedom can be achieved by sitting down and taking a deep breath, or thinking of something lovely, or hearing a joke.  Even a mild sense of relief in the moment can bring a feeling of more “freedom.”

That being said, in what state of mind do you practice your instrument or voice?  Is it filled with anxiety, tension, and fear?  Is it fun?  Does it make you feel better? Does it make you feel sick to your stomach?

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Facing Pain, The Greatest Teacher of All

#howthelightgetsin

“Most of us do not take these situations as teachings. We automatically hate them. We run like crazy. We use all kinds of ways to escape — all addictions stem from this moment when we meet our edge and we just can’t stand it. We feel we have to soften it, pad it with something, and we become addicted to whatever it is that seems to ease the pain.”
Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heartfelt Advice for Hard Times

There are a lot of books out there dedicated to the subject of managing pain.  Psychological pain, I mean.

One of my favorite authors on the subject is Pema Chodron.  She was a huge part of my healing after divorce and through finally reckoning with the reality of my life.  Pema isn’t afraid of pain.  She reminds us that painful situations are not the problem.  Our thoughts and beliefs are.

One of my preternatural gifts is the ability to face horrific emotional pain, learn from it, and move on.  That’s also what I enjoy most about my work – helping others face feelings that seem insurmountable.  Although, lately I’ve been deeply challenged by this little thing called life and have had moments where I wasn’t so sure I could keep going.  (My reason for wanting to write about this subject.)

Life feels like a lot of work. Because it is.

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How to Get S**t Done and Feel Good About It

“Done is better than great.”
~Dr. K. Sherrod

I’ve been running on this idea that “done is better than good” ever since reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert.  (Please reference my Big Magic posts if you haven’t already.  Her ideas liberate the creative mind.)

I’m upgrading “done is better than good” to “done is better than great”.  Because, and let me be totally vulnerable with you, I have spent most of my life shooting for GRRREAT which has stopped me from completing many, many creative projects.  If you set a goal of P.E.R.F.E.C.T. then you’re liable to 1) give up in a heap of tears and shame 2) flitter around in fits of avoidance and business (read: busy-ness) or 3) just keep working and working and working and working and working and never get jack s**t actually accomplished.  Bottom line, you never hit the “finished” line.

Again, let’s remember: done is better than great.  Dr. Sherrod might go a step further and say that “good enough” is indeed good enough.  I personally love how saying “good enough” feels!

Please be aware, I’m not advocating for crappy work.  There are few people out there who take the above concepts a bit far and produce work that deserves a few more minutes of attention.  (Just a few, dude, pleeeeease just 10 more minutes of your time.)  And let’s face it, there will be people who say the same thing about this post too. So be it.  At least it will get published or to it’s finished line.

What’s the point of all this “good enough” talk?

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Making Room for Healing

#howthelightgetsin
~Kirk Schafer

Making Room in Small Ways

One way I’ve seen people heal from voice trouble is by letting their healing creep in one little bit at a time. They make little pockets of space for better thoughts, better habits, or better intentions.  They make room for healing in small ways that eventually add up to the end goal.

We are creatures of habit, would you agree?  So, sometimes trying to make all the changes all at once fails us.  (Not just sometimes, actually.  Most of the time.)  We benefit from making small adjustments toward healing in our attitudes or perceptions coupled with small actions because [small attitude adjustments + small actions + repetition + time] wins the race.

The people who succeed at “getting better” start by seeing a few things that are already going well, in spite of their current problems.  And to me, that is also a way to make a little room for healing.  We can all start where we are, and calm down enough to see all is NOT lost.  It never, ever is!

Lifting Weights

Maybe this is a good place to mention that I’ve passed the 10 month mark on my weight lifting journey.  May 11th marked 10 months of being in the gym 4-5 times per week.  And guess what? I’ve only lost around 5 pounds, depending on the day.

My old self, the one who loved punishing me for . . . well, anything and everything . . . would be having a field day with this tiny number.  “Only 5 pounds???  Seriously???”  I can hear that voice, that tone, and I can feel the guilt and shame a comin’ on me. Laaaawwwwd.  (My heart hurts just remembering when I used to speak to myself so harshly.  Not a fun experience that was, Jedi!)

But, now that I’m better at being kind to myself, I’m making more room for my healing.  Tiny, little places where I feel good about what’s happening which then allows to keep going with the plan.  In other words, I’m choosing to admit a few things.

  • I look a little different.
  • I’m eating better because of my new routine.
  • My skin is glowier.  (not a word, I know, but hang with me.)
  • I am physically stronger.
  • After 10 months, there are some fundamental changes in my musculature.

And, did I mention – I feel better.  Sweet Jesus and Brother Buddah, I feel better in my body.

Which, if I were only looking at the scale, would not be important.  I would have stopped going to the gym months ago. Fortunately, I’m learning how to make room for healing with these tiny thoughts and simple daily actions.  Which will get me to complete(r) physical healing in the long run.  (completer is also not a word, man, but i thought it was funny so again – hang with me)

What does feeling better have to do with it?

Feeling better is kind of everything.  Especially when it comes to the voice.  We owe it to ourselves to find little places where things are working and feel good, and build from there.  Otherwise it’s easy to just give up or go away.  Rebuilding vocal function is not always easy, and the road not always smooth or straight.  From what I’ve experienced with clients it is usually pretty bumpy and curvy, which is also why I decided to start lifting weights – to see what it feels like to work on a physical goal that feels “impossible” at the outset.

Some of my most successful clients are the ones who cling to their small victories, and avoid going down the rabbit hole when (on the surface) things are not so hot.  We all have times where we feel discouraged or hopeless, but if we can find ways to make room for healing – even with little, tiny, better feeling thoughts – we are on track.  And that might make all the difference.

 

 

 

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