There Are No New Thoughts

How liberating to know there are no new thoughts!  Everything we ponder has been pondered before.  Think about it.

Barring great pioneers such as Albert Einstein, the rest of us should not expect to bring brand new knowledge into the world.  New collections of ideas maybe, but not new ideas themselves. We all borrow or steal ideas from each other as a matter of course.  This is the way of it – across time and across the human condition.

Both Byron Katie and Elizabeth Gilbert discuss this topic in their work.  “There are no new stressful thoughts,” Katie says.  Gilbert agrees: creative work consists of recycled and re-purposed thoughts uniquely brought together.  We are not working with new materials here, people.

So, why would the idea of “no new thoughts” be liberating and not depressing?

Because it takes the pressure off.  If we are trying to be *totally original,* then we miss the opportunity to enjoy creativity itself.  Who planted the idea in our collective psyche that in order to have worth we need to make new discoveries?

Have you ever wanted to write a piece of music or sing a song, but stopped yourself before you ever put down a note?  Because you knew it wasn’t going to be “original?”  (yeah, me too.  we all do it.)

But, that thinking doesn’t make sense.  What’s the purpose of being creative?  It’s to experience being creative!  By embracing that there is nothing new under the sun, you are suddenly free to . . . create, or teach, or even . . . love.

We can also take a great deal of comfort knowing we are not alone.

Let’s use voice teaching as an example.  Justin Petersen writes a blog on historical pedagogy that angles to show how, on some level, nothing much has changed.  He loves hunting down historical texts on voice pedagogy, and observing them through a modern lens.  Guess what?  They were saying the same things about voice and voice teaching we say today.  Again, no new ideas.

For all the voice teachers in the house who feel alone, confused, and adrift in their teaching practices, I guarantee you are experiencing the same things voice teachers have experienced across time.  The voice is complex and mysterious.  We could all stand to read up on what the ancient Greeks had to say about voice, as well as leaf through modern science journals and method texts.

Justin offered me a great piece of advice the other day – for every modern book, read 3 old ones.  And if you don’t have time for that, at least one old book for each new.

Anne Karpf’s research on The Human Voice reveals that Greek vocalists utilized three different kinds of teachers.  One each for resonance, intonation, and inflection.  Again, all concepts of voice training we drool over today.  And again, nothing new.

May this post allow you to enjoy thinking the same thoughts that have pervaded human consciousness across time.
May you feel relief knowing you are not alone.
May you let go of trying to “be original” and just enjoy being!


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Why Are We Terrible at Breathing?

I’m sincerely asking: why are we terrible at breathing?  Why don’t we spend time practicing?

There are endless free resources about techniques and health benefits of breathing.  This post aims to posit questions about why we are terrible at it.  Terrible meaning not paying attention to it, and therefore not practicing it.  We meaning the collective we.

There may be a lot of reasons, but here are a few ideas to get the conversation rolling.

The primary reason we might be terrible at breathing is because the thought of having poor skills or awareness about something our bodies do automatically sounds ludicrous.

The ego will judge the above question seriously flawed and dismiss it before we even realize what’s happened.

Truth: our bodies breathe for us.

At night while we sleep.
After we’ve passed out.
All day long without a conscious thought involved.
Breathing happens.

Truth: the body is very good at breathing.  It is just how we do.

You can see how the concept of “getting better at breathing” can be shot down instantaneously by the ego, right?

Is this why we basically ignore breathing?

Do we ignore breathing because our minds won’t allow us to experience things that are “too simple,” or “too easy” or “automatic?”

“Why pay attention to breathing when I don’t have to?” says the ego. So, it doesn’t.

What Happens if We Start Paying Attention to the Breath?

In order to get better at breathing, we must begin at the beginning.  Albeit breathing is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, it can also be directed.  It is both automatic and controllable.

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Why “Giving Up” is a Good Strategy

We all deal with difficult circumstances at some point in life. Money woes, relationship trials, career dilemmas, health issues; the list is long and all too familiar.

What this post aims to address is why giving up the internal (psychological) struggle is worth it.

What’s the Problem?

If everyone experiences challenges, then what’s the real problem here? If our circumstances and stories are played out over and over and over across history (because, let’s admit, there is nothing happening to you or me that hasn’t already happened a million times to a million different people), then why struggle with them?

Why continue to suffer when the story is so utterly stale and boring? It doesn’t make sense! I don’t know about you, but I only watch a great movie 2 or 3 times. After that, I’m cool. Got it, moving on. Right?

Why do we humans keep playing out the same old stories over and over again? Why do we continue to struggle when the story of struggle is SO yesterday’s news? Isn’t there something else to do down here on planet earth to do?

(Take this moment as an opportunity to admit that most of us put up a mental fight with our circumstances most of the time. It’s the normal way of the world.)

Here’s one, small example of how we get stuck in our own mental struggles:
Ask yourself – I am reeeeeallly the only one who has ever gone through this particular situation? (ie, “this problem”)

Then ask yourself:

Can you absolutely know that that’s true?
And how alone and stuck and tired does that make you feel to think that way?
What kind of awesome would you feel if you could let that “problem” go?
Who would you connect with?
What ideas and solutions would you discover if you could “give up” the idea that you are suffering alone?

Sometimes I think that the only real problem is the psychological struggle we humans put up against . . . oh, you know . . . everything and anything. You name it, we will find a way to struggle through it. Even the “good” stuff!

Which is why I think “giving up” is a good strategy for getting through life.


Most spiritual disciplines extol the virtues of surrender. Why is this? And what do they mean by surrender? Why is surrender such a key element in major spiritual practices? Is it because psychological and emotional surrender is the only place we can truly experience peace? Why do we need to experience peace?

These are big questions with answers that can only be found inside yourself.

You could say, however, that surrendering to the circumstance at hand is a lovely place to start dealing with any “problem.”

You could say “giving up” is the open field of sunshiny freedom where truly creative solutions and wisdom frolic about and beg us to dance.

That’s a lot to digest. So, take a smoke break here if you need it.

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A Singer’s View of Voice Problems

by Guest Author
Brittney Redler

“The only thing better than singing is more singing.”
~Ella Fitzgerald

I was diagnosed with nodules when I was in my Masters’ degree – for classical voice performance. When I was in the ENT’s office, I realized that I didn’t know anything about how my voice worked. Not really.

Sure, I’d been taking voice lessons since I was in high school, sung in choirs forever, and I had even taken one semester of vocal pedagogy. But that didn’t teach me about my voice. I just hadn’t been paying attention.

So here I was in this chair – alone – crying. I barely heard what the ENT was saying. I just didn’t know what this meant for me – for my singing career that hadn’t even started yet. I heard him say that this was most likely caused by “vocal misuse and abuse.” This is, as I know now, an unfortunate standard line still used in too many clinics. I was doing everything that teachers and coaches and conductors told me to do! How was I abusing my voice? I went on immediate and complete vocal rest, found a speech therapist, and dropped out of the lead role in the opera. (And then had another night of crying about that.)

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Time and Healing the Voice

When I was cleaning my office the other day, I found a fortune.

You know, one of those little white slips of paper that we all look forward to inside a Chinese fortune cookie?  It was under a chair, and looked as if it had never been touched let alone folded inside a cookie.  Strange.  How did THAT get THERE?

It read: “Time heals all wounds.  Keep your chin up.”

Because this little piece of paper was a random fortune found under a random chair, it got my attention.  I have been thinking about time and healing for weeks now.

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