Jill was a successful person in every way. She loved her job as a business professional and was on the top of her game in her life, and, as many people like Jill she had a bucket list. On that list was a desire to sing a song on a stage and feel the joy and freedom singing brings . Another goal, another check mark to check off in her bucket list of accomplishments.
She came to see me with huge enthusiasm that this would be like everything in her life – if she applied herself and pushed hard she would succeed. When Jill first stood in front of me with her obvious zest for life I asked her to take some slow deep breaths and be in the room.
This might’ve been Jill’s first cue that this might not be as easy as it seems, slowing down wasn’t really Jill’s speed. She wanted it fast and now. It was then that I saw the first signs of frustration and disappointment in her eyes and body mannerisms.
‘This is not starting well,’ I could almost hear from her body. The next exercise was to inhale a breath and exhale out a sigh. And again. And again, breathe in and open the mouth and sigh out a nice full sounding sigh. Jill’s second cue that this was not going the way she planned, and my cue as to how much tension she had in her body.
Then I asked her to sing a simple phrase which she did and put her all into it again revealing the ‘inner pusher’ at its best. She repeated the phrase a few times and each time Jill attacked that phrase like it was the last thing she would do.
And then I said the thing that topped it all off, ‘what are you noticing in your body?’ In that moment it was as though Jill had not considered the possibility that she had a body and that someone should ask her to notice it. Her body was filled with tension, rigidity and unbeknownst to her locked in a fight mode.
She told me that she didn’t really feel her body, she knew it was there but she didn’t know what she felt and looked at me like I was crazy. Another cue to me that her body was a machine and not an instrument for her beautiful voice.
Now I think you all get it by now. You know them, maybe you’re one of them, a perfectionist with a strongly developed inner pusher and critic that keeps you moving through life. Society calls them Type A’s, like that explains it, and secretly we all kinda want to be them because somehow they have figured out how to ‘get over themselves’ and push on without anything stopping them! Well until they burn out….
There is a hiding and appropriate protection that happens with most people in their daily lives but when it comes to singing and voice training that just doesn’t work. Everything gets looked at and brought into the light for re-negotiation and a letting go of control. To allow an inner flowing to happen in the voice rather a pushing of that inner flow.
We are all walking around with many defences that for some look like Jill, highly functioning and ‘in control‘, for others it might look like a shyness or introversion or ‘out of control‘, and for some a blankness, an impersonal removed stance in life, ‘an abdication of control.‘ We all have defences and operating systems to keep us moving along that came in when we were quite young and they aren’t going anywhere unless we meet these parts or selves and undergo a re-negotiation process. This is the work of Voice Dialogue, a study of our inner Selves.
There is a precision that is required to be a singer that is more like training to be a martial artist or a buddhist zen monk or maybe the two put together. We can’t try yet we need to focus and work, but not too much, to get out of the way but to be in the drivers seat, to intend on where you need to go but don’t overwork. Feel your body, open every part of you but keep yourself nice and contained. It seems like a huge contradiction!
Becoming a master at anything requires this kind of focus and attention. The tone of the voice needs a balance of light and dark, yin and yang, treble and bass that is then reflected outside of us. This balancing act requires an inner balancing of ourselves first and foremost.
We live in an instant gratification society and I see it a great deal when new students pop in to see me for the first time. We are so trained for it to happen right now, but not do the deep work that is necessary. This training is not for the faint of heart. To be a singer, or to allow the singer to be you is a full meal deal, body, mind and spirit.
We have to become blank slates for our voice to be able to move around inside of us like we are the building and our voice is the elevator. The elevator moves up and down inside of us without the building helping or hindering the movements but simply supporting them. We need to be empty of judgements but full of willingness and emotional intelligence. We need to be our own curious scientists lovingly looking within for understanding. And most of all a deep need to want to awaken to who and what we truly are.
And yes of course Jill can just get up there and belt out a song and check it off her bucket list, why not anyone can, everyone has a voice and we can all sing. There is no need for anyone to do what I speak of here unless they are really called to evolve, expand and welcome a whole new paradigm for their life that is then expressed through the unimaginable beauty and silvery nature of the voice.