10th July 2023 Imagine If There Were A Greater Purpose Than Just How Good You Sound?
Having spent from the age of eleven when I was first introduced to proper 'singing for performance', and seeing this all the way through until I was in my early thirties, a fully trained and by then, a professional opera singer where I had enjoyed contracts at Glyndebourne Opera, Zurich Opera House and a number of relatively high profile gigs worldwide, I was conditioned, truly conditioned, to think ONLY about the quality of the sound I was producing, to the extent that, if that aspect wasn't in place, I was truly and deeply unhappy. The sound of the voice was all that mattered. Of course, there was musicality and performance skills, being good to work with and so on, but at the end of the day, if the voice didn't work and sound good, there wasn't much point. The ability to rock up to wherever you had to perform and literally switch it on, was paramount. I remember many a trek across Europe, an early flight to sing for an agent in Germany at 9am, warming up and doing vocal exercises on the street outside because there was literally nowhere else (and when you've been up since 4am, taken a plane and a taxi, trying to speak your very best "Deutsch," you definitely need a quiet place for a moment to get head and voice working in the same direction)!
The pursuit of perfection actually got in the way of perfection. The fear of getting it wrong, the fear of not being good enough, not perfect enough, and constantly having to prove oneself to the next agent, the next singing teacher, the next audience is a lot to handle, especially in the years pre-thirties. I had only ever known singing. I had literally devoted my entire youth to singing, performing and music making and loved it. I had gone to the most prestigious colleges, had the best international training, and yet, despite the love and all that it gave me, underlying the confidence, was fear. I didn't know that at the time. I was able to push it very deep down inside of me, and like the natural actress I am, just put it down to performance nerves and brush any intense signals of anxiety and a plethora of red flags aside.
I am eternally grateful for that time though as I learnt so much about performance psychology first hand, the effects of fear and anxiety on the voice and nervous system, the inner dialogue and the feeling of being completely misaligned with what I had always wanted to do. Knowing on all levels that I was meant to sing and vocalise and bring this to people, but not realising how, thinking that the performance world was the only way. There were many mountains to climb, even down to the teachers I worked with at music college, and realising now, that the whole environment was so fear based. Being incredibly sensitive, I understand now so much of what went on. Having taught very briefly a few years ago at a performing arts college in London, and being surrounded by students and teacher colleagues stuck in fear (and not knowing it!), I knew I had made the right decision 15 years ago, to put my time and energy into Healing Voice work. Hopefully to be here for those that leave the profession not knowing where to go and what to do. Knowing it's not for them, but also knowing that voice IS! Making a career out of sound and voice healing has been very easy for me, as how could I ever teach a singing lesson, a coaching session or anything for that matter without it being sound healing? If we truly acknowledge the principles of sound and healing, how can any interaction be fuelled from fear?
And so here I am, and the reason for this blog was sparked last week, when, after several enquiries into healing voice work, and being amidst some colleagues who were feeling insecure about their vocal sound, I felt it necessary to put down a few words. So here it is...
If we are working with our voice for healing, we are not thinking about whether our sound is "bad" or "good". Unlike the professional performance world this is not something that actually matters. I have taught the College of Sound Healing Voice Practitioner training for some years now, and those that say they can't sing, are delighted to find that what they need to do is SOUND, and unless you are clinically mute, we can all sound! Now don't get me wrong, we must learn to breathe as nature intended, we need to make some physical adjustments if their are blocks and tension, but this isn't anything to do with performance, this is actually to do with aligning the physical body so it can vocalise effectively. There is a HUGE difference. I have posted on social media before about the number of people that come to me seeking sessions, who are convinced that they have a block in their throat chakra, only to find that it clears up almost immediately when a few physical adjustments are made and PRACTISED. This is another point. Using the voice regularly in alignment, is key. Voice use happens when a set of muscles have stamina and coordination. If you are not working regularly with the voice, don't expect it to work with you. You wouldn't try to run 10K without practice, so why is it any different for the voice? When we use the voice for healing, we are truly embodying OUR vibration, the vibration of all that we are on all levels of being. We are after all, vibration, resonance, frequency. By that, I mean that everything in our body we perceive as solid, is actually a mass of vibrating particles (basic physics). It is therefore understood, purely scientifically, that we are energy and therefore have a frequency. We are in fact SOUND. So if we are sound, what is our voice?
In my opinion, the voice is a composite frequency, a reflection of us as a whole. So what about we take responsibility for this sound, this voice we are creating and accept that is personal to us, that we as vibrational beings, might be able to sound from the soul and bring that into this world for all manner of healing objectives, and if we did, does it matter how we sound? I find that it's often a case of educating the listener, not just the vocalist. People are all so hung up on the judgment of someone's sound.
The biggest thing about switching from performer to voice healer, is the removal of the ego. That will mean different things for different people, but it often involves a period of despair as the ego shifts perspective. However, it also means a pure ACCEPTANCE of self. This is why the voice can be used so powerfully for personal development. When you work with your voice, who are you doing it for? Yourself? Or the people you are sounding for? If you are working truly to align your voice for yourself and your own development, you will open the doorway to healing on all levels of being. If it is for someone else, you close the door right there. This is the hardest aspect of vocal coaching for me now. I am lucky to be able to pick and choose where I work and with whom. I have maintained two days a week teaching singing at a private school where I have been for quite sometime. There I teach technical voice, fix voices, develop voices, but the ones that continue through the years, are the ones that come from parents who love the personal development they see in their kids, and accept that singing provides a space for wellbeing, and self-expression for their children that they might not find elsewhere. They are not the parents that drill their kids in exams every term, and get stroppy if they ONLY achieve a merit instead of top distinction. Rant almost over, when did a pass become something to be upset about???? Ok, I've finished but in all seriousness, the kids that are ALLOWED to do it for themselves, rather than for their parents, the grades, their teachers, to look good, are the ones that are reaping so many, many benefits.
So, coming full circle in my life, I often look back and wonder how I would have felt if instead of setting the intention for perfection in my voice and performance work, what if I had set the intention for the healing, joy and uplifting of those that were listening to me? What if my singing and sounding had had a Higher Purpose back then, rather than just an ego based one? Healing is a circle. If we send it out, it comes back to us. As my Grandmother used to say, you can bring happiness to thousands just with the sound of your voice. I am truly grateful for all my experiences in the world before voice healing, and acknowledge that the diverse areas of work I am involved in now are because of my early experiences and trusting in what felt right. In knowing the fear, we appreciate the liberation. In knowing the ego, we appreciate the authentic self and from that, the authentic voice.
I hope this offering provides food for thought for anyone out there that needs it :)