The Type A Personality and singing

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. 

Any takers? 

The Treasure Chest (The Heart)

We can’t really speak about the Treasure Chest of the Heart without the presence of Compassion being close at hand.  For the heart to shine open we really do need the support energetically of the lower 3 floors as foundational stepping stones for the openness of the heart to be real and not fabricated.  

This fabrication of ‘having our heart open’ can be so intoxicating is this new age world of ‘positive thinking’ but can leave people feeling spent and depleted with too much energy going outwards under the illusion of being helpful and loving. 

“Only in my body do I know the difference between and act of love and an act of sacrifice.’

The grounding of the root deep into the earth allows for the flowing and safety of our emotional nature to be held inside of us which then stokes the fire of desire and the will of the solar plexus into action for us to have what we want in our lives.  A new job, home, partner, etc. 

Because of the authority issue in the fireplace and anger that has a hard time getting met and heard with this compassion (calm-passion), the energy can get cut off before it’s able to expand the heart with any desires of getting or having what we want.  

Because of the unmet needs and potentially unhealed traumas in the early years the energy of expansion pulls downwards towards the earth as opposed to upwards towards the heart.  The real deep workof healing is to heal these lower chakras, and this is where compassion is needed the most.   

To have such a great deal of compassion inside of all of this is crucial, but tricky to do given what was likely mirrored in childhood, maybe phrases such as ‘just get over it‘ and ‘ let it go, it’s in the past.’ The heart can heal and bring home the lower 3 floors along with help from the upper realms.  Understanding from the crown chakra, clear seeing from the 3rd eye and the ability to speak our truth about how we’re really feeling from the throat.  

The heart requires the breathing room, the love and the healing of the above and below chakras to really be able to stand anchored and grounded in the middle and embrace ourselves (all of our Selves) in her/his great, loving, expansive arms. 

When we consciously begin to awaken the heart through meditation, visualization, healing our relationships within and without the life-force energy naturally expands forever growing upwards and downwards in all directions like a tree of life. 

Enjoyment, Play & Danger

I write this to begin the discernment between Play, fear and anger and the fine line that it is to young developing minds.  To re-wire the brain for a discernment between the two for the reclaiming of play, enjoyment and singing with freedom. 

I also write this because I often hear students say that they just want to ‘let go’ and ‘just sing’ and they don’t know why they can’t and so a deep self criticism sinks into them.  There is also a great deal of ‘self-help’ courses and so on that advocates for this ‘just do it!’ kind of carelessness which further breads the inner self-loathing. 

For singing to be enjoyable it requires a healthy relationship with play, relaxation and trust.  To sing freely requires, you guessed it, freedom.  Which brings us to take a closer look at the experience of play in one’s past history and what the relationship was like at that time.  

The ability of the lack thereof to play and be in the moment is set in childhood and begins with Mother and infant.  The attention and smiles of Mother playing with the baby develops a trust within the baby which, if not injured will develop over time on the playground with other children. 

The playground – the ground of play and trust that is a development which sets us on a course for relaxed success in adult years.  We have an epidemic of anxiety, depression and trauma that just seems normal these days for people to be on medication and be diagnosed with some sort of mental illness.  

I digress. I am writing this for the love of singing and the uncovering of what is in the way for students and myself.  I have written much over the years about the forthcoming injuries that teachers, parents and other children have on the precious play experience in music.  

In Jill who was told she couldn’t join the choir because she was too loud in the choir and Brian who could join if he stood at the back of the group and mouthed the words.  All of this is a growing experience that is to be learned from if it is held in the right light.  There hasn’t been the ‘right light’ on this, like ever.  

What is quite intact in our society is Competition.  Competition is Play’s dark cousin and doesn’t leave a lot of room for play, relaxation and enjoyment.  I prepare a number of students for singing competitions much to my chagrin as I don’t believe they should be competing with their friends with the sound of their voices which is so personal and unique to each one of them.  It sets of a life of pitting against each other, but I suppose school in general prepares much more of this.  

Play is a natural instinct that occurs inside of the moment with no goal or purpose in mind, none, whereas it’s quite clear what competitions goal is, to win.  I am not saying this is a bad thing I’m just saying that there is a spectrum of balance here which is lacking in it’s fullness. 

The other aspect of the child’s psyche that gets developed within this play-danger-competition paradigm is the warrior.  The part of us that comes in to protect and fight for our rights in every way.   Over the years I have noticed two kinds of people who see me for voice lessons; the over developed warrior and the frozen warrior.  

The over-developed warrior voice – pushed and over worked (the belter)

The frozen warrior – struggles to get sound out

Neither is wrong but only needs the inquiry of the singer to look at where they are living on the spectrum of dark and light – play and competition and danger. 

When competition has no balance of collaboration and play then it can get locked into the warrior energy as the only identification with a person.  I see it all the time.  

The person comes in and immediately I can see they are locked and loaded to sing!  The opposite side of calm, relaxation and playfulness having left the building a long time ago.  

Then there’s the other side, to be fair, that enters the room with the frozen and crippled warrior fully functioning and identified as ‘this is who I am.’

One side is applauded and awarded and the other is shamed and blamed. 

When the warrior has locked out the collaboration of cooperation and play then relationship between two people is at odds.  Hence the state of the world today.