The simple Art of Being…versus Projecting

Now and then a student comes to me with fear in their eyes and a sense of desperation in their being. They are in a competition and are competing with all shapes and sizes of voices.  The looks says, ‘I need to have a bigger (aka louder ) voice, can you help me?’  They are being asked to PROJECT their voice and they don’t know how.

Singers project what is inside of them outside of them for others to hear.  Not unlike a projector projecting a movie in a theatre does.  It is reflecting that which is naturally inside itself.  The problem that I see over and over which brings fear to students is that they are being asked to project more of themselves than they have, or are ready for.  So they develop ‘the inner pusher.’  This pusher pushes out a voice and pushes out any softness, vulnerability and authenticity that is so important for a singer to have and express.

If you asked a cello to project it wouldn’t know what you are talking about.  It would say, ‘I’m just playing myself!   I am made of the wood and the stuff that I am, and that’s what I’m ringing.’  The cello is simply resonating and playing it’s body, it’s instrument.  It’s a reflection of it’s own connection, or, lack thereof.   The same goes for a voice.  If the student is resonating her body which includes her head, chest, belly etc then this connection to herself is then reflected outwards to the audience.  Projection is an affect of a good connection to Self.

All the anxiety, this performance anxiety and fear shows up in this ‘need for projection‘, which could also be said, the ‘need for perfection.’   The kinds of muscling and contorting that occurs within the body as a result of working hard to project can sometimes never be undone in a voice or a body.  This false projecting is so identified with success and pleasing others.   When a student gets that all they need do is to connect with themselves and feel what is naturally inside of them and to sing and ring themselves, it is a revelation to them. 

Projection happens as a natural by-product of connection to ones self

and a natural need to express the feelings inside.  

Take Zoe a young girl of 15 eager and ready to join a competition and express her natural abilities.    She stands before me all doe eyed and what I perceive as being ‘checked out’.   But I’m about to be blown away by this ‘understated young lady’, and she is about to put me in my place thank you very much.   At first I’m like the audience or the judges who are carelessly sizing up their victim for the chopping block but then, IT happens and she slips into herself and sings.

I feel her.  It’s like I know her instantly.  In a heartbeat we are connected.  And not because she is trying to connect with me, or to PROJECT.  She is tenderly doing her thing and I’m there, the innocent lamb at the slaughter of this young ladies beautiful and powerful voice.  I am so affected by her that I can barely contain myself from crying.  She is filled with love and beauty and her voice is reflecting her directly.

But my heart sinks because I know that they won’t get her.  And she tells me with tears in her eyes that her coaches and judges want her to, you guessed it, PROJECT her voice.  They want her voice to be bigger than she is or that she’s ready to be.

They tell her that her voice is too small and she needs to

‘get it out there’ and ‘project.’  

I know they won’t pick her because her voice and her being is not BIG ENOUGH and she can’t compete with the voices in the competition who can ‘throw themselves at the audience‘ in sacrifice of their young, tender and vulnerable parts.  I see it all. The. Time.  Young girls and ladies pushing their tenderness and beauty away for bigger, louder and stronger voices.

But if these judges could just be still  enough to sense the beauty and absolute genius in this girls voice then she would win, hands down, she would win.

I tell her I can help her expand the beauty in her voice but that it will take time and care, that she has to grow into herself and her voice.  I say this competition will pass and life will move on and over time other things will become important as well as this and that what she has right now is innocent and precious.  I encourage her not to ‘step on herself on the way to getting herself.’  She smiles and understands.

A girl can only hope. I tell her that she never has to be more than she is, and that she is enough and I guessing I’m telling myself that.  Sigh. She hears me, we have a moment, and she gets that I get her.

 

 

 

 

 

Performance-Rejection Anxiety

Over the years of performing and teaching singing I have seen many a singer stop performing because the anxiety of being in front of an audience.  I would like to shed my own light on this dreaded-stop-you-in-your-tracks fear that I have also experienced in my life as a singer.  

There are many levels of this anxiety that range from a mild annoyance to a severe, paralyzing dread when stepping onto the stage.  Some cases can be dealt with by simply practicing and addressing any technical issues that might be causing this anxiety.  Some people might require a slight tweak in their approach, and, some might need to face something deeper in them that is crippling them.  This is what I speak about here.  This something deeper.  

Performance Anxiety that comes from a deep hidden fear of being rejected and judged by the audience.  It could be also called Rejection Anxiety. 

Singers who have this anxiety are afraid of the audience rejecting them by judging them harshly like Simon on the television show American Idol, who has no mercy when it comes to the Soul Threading of a human being.  

I know this sounds obvious, the fact that the singer is afraid of the audience bit, but to the singer it’s very complex and kills singers in their tracks from ever sharing their gifts with others, and, sometimes with even themselves.  

In my experience it’s because there has been some kind of rejection in their past has been left unhealed and then gets projected onto the audience.  This feeling is so big that the singer is certain that it is coming from the audience.  Projection being the minds way of protecting the performer from this big-bad-feeling that’s in them from their past.

I have heard these slights and hurts over and over when I say to my students, ‘what do you think the audience thinks of your voice?’ and they share the awful rejections and judgements that this seemingly cruel audience is saying about them.  

Take one of my students Amy who suffers from this anxiety.  Amy is an extremely talented young singer and very confident in her singing but when she gets in front of the audience she starts to shake and wants to ‘back up’ from them, and actually does physically backup. 

I ask her why she wants to back up and she says she doesn’t know but everything in her say’s ‘Back up! Danger!’  After a short conversation we run into the ongoing rejection of her Father in her life which leaves her with this huge feeling of rejection and self doubt. She of course doesn’t recognize this big ‘back up’ feeling as having to do with her Father, she just assumes it means there is something wrong with her for feeling the way she does.  

This big feeling and seeing the audience makes her back up.  Her projection of rejection from the audience is trying to back her up away from the feeling and potential threat of the rejection happening again. 

She tells me there must be something wrong with her and she has to change herself to be accepted by her Father. She feels a huge expectation to be more than what she is when she is with him and feels she needs to be really, really good so maybe he will love her and want to spend time with her.  

I say to her does that mean you have to somehow change and not be yourself in front of the audience to be accepted by them also?  And that to be accepted by the audience you have to also be responsible for them by making them happy?  Somewhat shocked she puts the pieces together and says yes.  

She says for them to like her she has to give them what they want, or be what they want.  I interpret; in order for my Dad to like me I have to give him what he wants or be what he wants me to be.  And so she works really hard at trying to figure out how to be that. 

Kids don’t have the option to think the parent must be wrong, their brains are not wired for that yet.  The child has to think that she is wrong because their survival depends on it.  To think that a parent is wrong is not possible, they might get confused about the behaviour of the parent, but not think they are wrong. This is where the wiring gets all messed up around rejection, abandonment and the taking on of shame and blame in ones life sometimes for-ever. 

And when shame steps onto the stage it usually sticks around for a long time.

I ask Amy to put her Father in the chair opposite her and tell him how she feels.  She tells him how he made her feel when she didn’t see him for long periods of time and says bravely ‘you are the parent and I am the child and you are supposed to look after me!!! 

Now it’s not always this easy for sure, but with patience and care we can find the cause of this anxiety somewhere and start to slowly walk back from it towards the innocence and beauty of the performer and being on stage. 

Singers who have this performance or rejection anxiety feel responsible to the audience in a confusing mix of emotions that are hard to understand.  And what’s more is most of them will never get past the ‘there’s something wrong with me’ part into the deeper reason.  So most get to work perfecting their voice and trying hard to make no mistakes.  This is very Hard Work, to say the least. 

I see it as though there is a Storefront that comes in-between the singer and the audience to shield the singer from the seeming cruelty that the audience is offering up.  This is the protection that the singer needs to protect her vulnerability from being rejected, again.  This storefront is also in cahoots with their inner-judge which is doing the backstage work of rejecting her before the audience does.  Oh boy. 

When these feelings of rejection exist as a sense of ‘this is who I am’ versus ‘this is how I am reacting right now’ then everything is seen and coloured within a fish bowl lens of rejection and judgement that is unconscious. 

So what to do?  How does one cope with the big giant feelings that rise up when faced with facing an audience?  This is no small thing and there are many ways tender ways to approach this. I like to re-create this Rejection Anxiety in a safe and supportive situation to feel through whatever arises in that moment.  So I set up a compassion audience consisting of, you guessed it, compassionate people for the anxious singer to be in front of.  

When these feelings are met with love and acceptance that’s when everything changes.  This outward initial meeting of love then has a chance to move inward to slowly begin to replace the rejection and pain.  This thing that we don’t talk about.  The thing that most people in charge of dolling out the advice don’t have either.  People don’t prescribe what they don’t know about or can’t feel for themselves.  

There is nothing scarier than facing feelings of rejection on a stage with people staring back at you, watching you do it.  These big feelings make you work really hard to do two things; fight the feelings from taking you over, and, doing the job of singing and delivering a song. 

This was my experience for many, many years of singing and performing.  I created huge blocks in my voice and my body which slowly stopped me from singing for a while because I thought I was never going to be a good enough singer.  In other words I thought I was the problem and that I was never going to be good enough.  I blamed myself for the failures in my career.  Failing is one thing but being a failure is another. 

Being a singer offers the possibility of true healing of some really deep rejections and hurts that all people have in their lives.  Some singers are able to channel this energy without the anxiety stopping them onstage and some, well can’t.  

Whoever you are and however you have been wired is okay, really, really okay.  As I have said to myself and others many times, ‘there’s a way back and there’s a way through that doesn’t leave behind any part of you.’

Deep Rest

Anna Beaumont (written in 2016)

I am lying in bed on a Thursday afternoon.  I feel a huge relief at this flat out surrender, however, at the same time there is this nagging feeling that, ‘I’m doing something wrong’ chatter nipping at my heels again and disturbing my much needed peace.  I could feel justified with a head cold, or the flue, but this is something else that no Doctor could find a label for and I’ve long ago stopped leaning on the medical system for their ‘oh so careful diagnosis’.  I’m listening to what my body has been trying to tell me for quite a while.

I am giving in to what my instinctual body knows better than I.  Deep Rest.  A while ago I was teaching a young student about 14 years old and he said to me, ‘I think I’m depressed.’  All I heard out of his mouth was, ‘I need DEEP-REST.’  That was my first clue that my instincts had gone through another person to get the message across to me.  And, yes now that’s really what I think depression is, the need for DEEP REST, or, a DEEP RESET. 

I can feel an awareness of what is needed for me. This deep reset is widening my view and softening my gaze.  I realize know that I have become over-focused and vigilant and have been locking out the joyful movements and spontaneity’s of life.  This feels like a tight pressure in my head and a sort of scrunching of my brain.  It’s a compression of sorts, in my classes I use the image of a coffee bodum with the nob pushed all the way down into the coffee grounds.  

Having taught singing for over 20 years and witnessed so many in this ’scrunching compression’, I can now recognize this in me.  It’s easy to lose ‘sight’ of the ‘wide-angle lens ‘ of flow and ease of simply, Being.   And it seems Advil is not the answer. 

I am after all my Father’s daughter and inflicted with a need for approval and validation for my ‘look Pa no hands!’ kind of approach to life.  This need to perform circus tricks and high-end puppet shows to get the love and glory. 

Some would call this stress and then call it a day.  I call this an opportunity to widen my view and to un-scrunch into this wide-angle lens of Being and gain more of my true, loving essence and aliveness.  

When I come out of it, the compression, and move about freely again I get a lot done and my focus is sharp and full of intent.  This feels great to feel accomplishment in the work that I love to do.  This is of course is assuming that my focus and tasking is on something that is taking into account True vision and the big picture.  It has elements of it, this big picture thinking, and because of the nature of my ‘out-of-the-box’ work that I do in expression and energy work I have always assumed my vision is there, clear and on target.  

There is some true vision there yes, however because of my over-focus and narrow sightedness I have lost sight of the big picture in my life. I wonder if I ever really had it?  Over-focus and a go-go-go state of mind can only trip wire me into the urch, STOP!  This ‘stopping’ is necessary but even when I’m stopped I’m not really stopped, I’m spinning around beating myself up for what I’m not doing, what I should be doing.  What will my next trick be?

And so I sit now, I lie, I am learning to just be.  I thought I was really good at this and yes I am for sure better at this than most because of the nature of what I do for a living, but my body knows better than I.  As I sit here, I can feel my Being Self taking up more space inside of me really bringing a rest to my mind and body.  On the flip side my doing self is wrestling with me, fighting me every step of the way in its attempt to get back to the habit of trickery,  spinning wheels and going nowhere fast.  

The appearance of doing is intoxicating and it seems the world is in a giant competition of ‘who does the most wins.’  What exactly is it that we win again?  Please refresh my memory, I have lost sight of the goal.  Money, security?  And anyway sometimes, more often than not the things that are getting done are so infected with anxiety and narrow sightedness that there can really be no satisfaction inside of it, it’s all a smoke screen to keep the ghosts away.

And what are the ghosts you ask?  Trauma and abandonment and thinking that because I couldn’t control what happened, whatever THAT is, and that it was somehow my fault.  I. Did. Not. Work. Hard. Enough.  And so, for my whole life I will nip that painful feeling in the bud by….overworking to control that from ever happening again to me!

Of course now, this approach works for a little while, but it does nothing to chase away the reason why your working so hard in the first place.  That slave driver is always there in the background waiting to jump on you again saying, ‘work harder, get it done, don’t be so lazy!’  Sound familiar?  

There is nothing that I enjoy more than sitting and Being.  I long for it, yearn for the nothingness of Being.  As I get older the Doing ness part of me is terrified I won’t be able to retire, have enough money, be successful etc, the list goes on.  As my wide-angle lens narrows I feel this Doing panic about me closing in on me tempting me to succumb to it.  To be like everyone else and work hard at something they don’t enjoy and then retire.  I just know too much now about that panic and what it’s trying to do for me. I won’t be dragged around anymore by this slave driver.

Let me also let the record show that I am not trying to say that Doing is not really awesome and necessary.  It is for heaven sake, but, Doing is the one infected with the trauma and abandonment.  Time for a reset, and, an untwisting. 

I don’t think it has to be one or the other, I think it’s a fine balance and like everything trying to find balance we must allow for balance to be out of balance as well.  At first the pendulum swings back and forth as each part of us, the Doing and the Being parts vi for their space within my space.  I want and need them both, but need to allow for Being right now to own a little more property within me than Doing in order to let Doing know that it doesn’t have to work so hard all the time.  That love, that appreciation, that recognition of Anna, of me, is here within me right now. 

It’s not outside of me, Being knows this but Doing is frantically looking outside for it, this love, this appreciation, this validation, ‘look Pa no hands!’  Being is resting silently within me, looking at me with no needs or wants save for this, now, right here, breathing and connecting to Life.  I can feel a beautiful calm spreading through every cell of my body offering the message ‘it’s okay to relax, it will still be there, let it go, just feel what you are afraid of feeling, let it wash through you, make space for you, for life, for love.’

People recognize me when I recognize me.  People see me and accept me when I step into this role myself, first.  Doing is important and I want more healthy Doing and not guilty, I should be, Doing or performing tricks.  My past ‘failures’ are like ghosts circling me and threatening me with their grim punishments of ‘remember what happened’, keeping me a Doing slave. This has always been an illusion to keep me marching on, like only a good soldier does.  

Don’t get me wrong, I have had many many times of this awareness over the years, I have been accruing Being, allowing for her good graces to have their way with me.  The more Being, the more feeling, that’s just the way it is, so is it any wonder people don’t want to slow down and just Be, because feeling what-has-never-been-felt is waiting for them in the space of Being that is created, to wash the past away, and that for anyone is never, ever, easy.  

I am so grateful for the work I have done for myself to get here and now, and to really feel the ‘here and now.’ It is not for faint of heart, this path of letting go and feeling what’s here right now.  But there didn’t seem to be an option for me, it has been the only way. 

So, Focus at it’s worst is a vigilant slave driver only seeing right in front of its nose giving the phrase ‘nose to the grindstone’ it’s proper due. And at best focus is in partnership with ease and flow and they dance together in perfect partnership, each respectful of the others timing, rhythm and movement, or, need for stillness. 

What if we trusted that life has our best interests at heart?  That there is a plan for each an every one of us that we might not be aware of?  That this movement within us wants to have its way with us for the good of all.  We hear the phrase ‘we are given one life and it’s what we do with this life’ etc, but I like to think that in truth we are given to Life but it’s whether we really allow this surrender to Life to happen. 

As this vigilant narrow focus lets go of its grip within me I can feel a larger view beginning to grow.  A sense of sky and earth, of ground and water, of what is in front of me and, what is trying to make its way known farther away, like a whisper of what is yet possible.  I sense a kindness that is trying to get nearer to me, to guide me to where I’m meant to be going.  In this moment I realize with great, shocking clarity that I don’t know the way, especially in my narrow sight, and that the more I rest and let go of this over-focus the greater my true vision becomes.