Guest blog post by Noe Venable from San Francisco.
A QUESTION ABOUT SINGING
Recently, someone asked me a question. Her question was this:
I am a songleader leading groups of people in chant as spiritual practice. I love singing, and I sing quite freely when alone. However, I notice that when singing in front of others, I often hear a voice of self-doubt, telling me that my voice isn’t good enough. How can I become more free of that voice, so I can better serve as a conduit for spiritual song?
I have a lot to say in response to this question, as you might imagine!
Here are a few thoughts for today:
The first key to letting spirit through unobstructed lies in accepting that your voice is your voice.
If you play the tuba, you’re never going to be able to make it sound like a piccolo. If you play the bass, it’s never going to be a guitar. So it is with voices. Every voice is different.
Just as every soul has the potential to open to receive and transmit divine love, so every voice has that potential.
Wherever you’re at in the technical development of your voice, on a soul level, your voice is exactly as it needs to be.
In fact, technical development, while a good thing for other reasons, has very little to do with how connected you are to the Flow (God/dess, Life Itself, choose your word…)
Some beautiful voices are technically precise, but are disconnected from the flow.
Some voices are scratchy and imperfect, but they are shot through with something so powerful that when you hear a single line, you feel yourself stirred in a place beyond words.
Some voices are in between. It might be what you think of as an “semi-ordinary voice.” But there is something in the person that you can’t quite put your finger on.
Something that compels you to listen.
I think of myself as someone like this.
If I could have chosen a voice to be born with, I probably would have chosen a different one.
I’ve gotten a lot of criticism over the years about my voice.
One of my areas of growth over the last two years (and still a work in progress) has been the radical acceptance of my voice.
Imperfections and all.
Meeting and transforming those voices that come up sometimes, those voices internalized from critics, former teachers, or others who expressed that they’d prefer me to be something other than what I was.
Learning to tell myself, I release my attachment to what anyone else thinks of my voice. For good or for ill.
What matters is what I think of it.
So I choose to love it.
I choose to love it like I would love a child. Unconditionally.
Because I love it, I am also committed to keeping it healthy it and giving it what it needs to grow and thrive, so I do work on improving my technique.
But I start from here: loving my voice as it is.
I won’t try to turn my voice into someone else’s voice, just as I will not try to turn myself into someone else.
Try this visualization (for your voice, or for any other tender, expressive part of you that you find yourself speaking unkindly to in your mind.)
Picture yourself walking in the woods, when you come upon a small clearing.
You hear a cry, and you realize that there, in the grasses, is a child. The child is alone. Looking upon it, you feel a powerful tenderness.
The child is hungry, so you take it in.
You care for the child like the best parent you could be, maybe like the parent you never had.
Each day, as you tend to this child, you feel its purity, and also its vulnerability. You realize that you have a chance here – a chance you never knew you’d have – to do it all differently.
All the love and acceptance you ever longed for, you can give to this child.
This child is your wild and sacred self.
Your essence.
How would you treat this child? So dear and true, so wild and impossibly itself?
Treat your voice like that.
With tenderness. Acceptance. Belief. And love.
Cultivate self – compassion.
This is the place where Spirit streams through.
You are enough.
Feel inspired to join a choir? Try out Sing Portland’s free zoom singing every other Friday evening. Or join three choirs (improvised music, oral tradition or pop songs) for the price of one (Pandemic special). We’d love for you to raise your voice with us.