The Power of “I Am Enough”

Turn right onto Worth Street, and you end up at my house.  This is not a joke.  I really do live off Worth Street.

And this gives me great pause, makes me think, because the concept of worth, even feeling worthy of being here on this planet, is too often impaired or ignored or decapitated.  We (might) have a collective problem in this department, Houston.

Tonight I get to meet with a group of beautiful, rambunctious, super-charged women to talk about their desires and how to live more authentically.  We meet every two weeks and discuss books or ideas that teach us how to be more alive.

Tonight’s theme is about having the courage to say “I am enough,” and exploring how we would make different decisions in specific areas of our lives if this belief were true.  There is a video out there on the ole’ YouTube by Marisa Peer, a fairly famous, non-trad therapist, who suggests that the biggest disease affecting humanity is the single thought, “I’m not enough.”

So, she is asking all of us to turn this around and start saying the opposite: “I AM enough.”  Marisa also suggests that we go ahead and lie to ourselves if this doesn’t feel real.  Go ahead, lie away.  Keep saying “I am enough” and watch what happens in your life.  Write it on your bathroom mirror, put it on a sticky note in your car, plaster it on the walls of your cubicle, she says.  Go ahead.  This is a “won’t hurt, might help” kind of suggestion.

So . . . where are we going with this idea?  It will help us with our voices too.

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It Doesn’t Have To Be Like This

Dear Singers,

It doesn’t have to be like this.  Your voice CAN feel better.

Love,
Liz

That could be the end of this post.  Just a short little love note.  But, this love letter deserves some explanation.  You see, there is this idea out there that (often) nothing can be done to improve a voice.  I’m here to help dispel that myth and share some resources on getting help if you need it.  Over and over I have heard singers say things like, “this is just how my voice is going to be” and I’ll say it again . . . it doesn’t have to be this way!  There are things you can do to strengthen, tone, and coordinate your vocal mechanism in exactly the same way you would train other parts of your body.  Chances are your voice will do more than you think it can, and with some foundational technique work, will give your more than you expect.

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The Three Mechanical Parts of the Voice

Many moons ago, in an auditorium not so far away, I caught a lecture that changed my life.  Dr. Tom Cleveland (an unbelievably compelling human being and voice pioneer) of the Vanderbilt Voice Center gave a talk during one of the music school’s special lunchtime learning programs at the Blair School of Music.  My student, who’s lesson was scheduled at that hour, didn’t have a choice about going.  We were going.  Something inside my soul knew it was important.  How important, exactly, hit me about midway through the talk.  Not days or months later, but exactly during that monumental, way-too-short hour.

He talked about a lot of things, showed video clips of the vocal folds in action, imitated the sound of the vocal folds without the vocal tract, told funny stories, talked about the voice center, referenced his research, and MADE A MECHANICAL VOICE OUT OF A BELLOWS, A DUCK CALL, AND A PIECE OF TUBING.

Wait.  What??  Stop, please.  Dr. Cleveland!  Did you just create a voice out of supplies from your shed??  Did that thing just sing vowels to us??  What is happening, and how do I make my whole life about this duck call/bellows/vowel-tube trick?

In that moment everything changed.  Ba-bam.

Do you remember back in the day when the internet wasn’t fast OR filled with information?  Well, this happened during those days.  Finding out more required asking a lot of questions of a lot of people, and trying to find someone to teach me about voice science that could also handle the fact that I sing jazz.  Back in those days, it felt like the classical singing camp had some kind of lock-down on information regarding the voice, which was a strange realization.  Fortunately, there was a woman at Western Michigan University named Diana Spradling who was a huge (huge) voice nerd and jazz voice teacher.  She graciously gave me lessons and showed me a spectrogram.  (Clouds parted, sun rays from heaven entered.)  It was like finding the holy grail.  A jazz teacher who loved voice science!

But – I digress.  Back to the mechanical voice situation.

Dr. Cleveland showed us that the voice can be understood in three parts: the power source, the vibrator, and the resonator.  The lungs and respiratory system provide the airflow and pressure, or fuel for the voice, the vocal folds cut up the column of air by vibrating and thus create a sound source, and the head acts like a container that resonates the sound.  This very simple model gives us a place to start addressing interactions between the three systems, and how they work in concert.  To this day, I tell every single student this 3-system story if they allow me even 1 minute to do it because if they know about it, they can begin asking empowered questions about it.

The Voice in 3 mechanical parts:

  1. Power Source – Lungs
  2. Sound source (or vibrator) – Vocal Folds
  3. Resonator – Vocal Tract

Got it.

Next: a video to show YOU how to make a voice using a duck call and a piece of tubing.  Stay tuned.

Here is a link to the American Academy of Otolaryngology’s description of the 3 mechanical parts of the voice: Click here and enjoy!

 

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The Magic 4

Background photograph designed by Kjpargeter - Freepik.com

I recently found a style of yoga that has helped me on a fundamental level.  It is called Svaroopa Yoga, and it focuses on releasing the spine from the bottom up.  One of the teacher trainers on the Svaroopa site says, “beginning Svaroopa® Yoga created a ‘revolution’ inside her, in which ‘everything shifted into its right place and it was like coming home to my Self.'”  (Revolution, baby.)  The first poses they teach are called “The Magic 4.”  After doing these 4 exercises for a week, my lower back felt better than it had . . . maybe ever.  And within 4 weeks my upper spine had straightened out so that my shoulder blades were closer together and almost in their rightful places.

Magic?  No, better than that.  Logical + magical = L’magical.  French, I believe.

So, why post about l’magical yoga and risk sounding like an infomercial?  Because this brand of yoga mirrors what I value in good voice training: getting to the functional issues instead of treating the symptoms.

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Voicing Your Values

I just watched a video by one of my clients, Nikki Holguin.  Not only does it speak to THE THING I believe is most important in this world (more love, not less), but it also reminds me how important it is to voice our values. Write them down, say them out loud, give them shape and size.

Once upon a time, in the middle of a divorce and all the emotional chaos that went along with said divorce, I took out a notepad and made a list of values that were most important to me.  Things like courage, integrity, freedom, and kindness, just to name a few.  It was an exercise from a self-help book long forgotten, and it was designed to create a sense of direction via values, not just goals.

What I realized in those days was that freedom was foundational to who I am.  Without it, I start to shrivel up.  But, let’s be honest, who doesn’t want freedom?  The difference for me was naming it and feeling its electricity.  The act of saying I wanted it and needed it gave me the courage to seek it.  It took years to learn to make decisions that actually put freedom above co-dependency and toxic relationships, but had I not taken the first step of naming my values I would have never changed at all.

How does this relate to the voice studio?

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