Important note: this work makes no medical claims, and it is up to you, dear reader, to use any information you find here responsibly and intelligently, toward yourself and others.
All material ©Sing into Joy
Hello again, Sing into Joy world! It’s many months since I’ve written a blog, but our singing/healing journey together has remained a touchstone, and I hope you haven’t forgotten it either.
Several other projects have required a lot of my focus in order to complete them, so this Elf has been busy with writing and designing my first book of poems and photos, and seeing it published (woot!); creating a line of photo-haiga art cards (haiga = image+haiku+calligraphy); completing the promised SongBytes subscription set of mini voice lessons (all of the foregoing items now available in my brand-new Etsy shop, SunriseSongStudio); working with a cast of mostly-teens to make a virtual show with music together (mixing-editing now in progress) in partnership with Healthy Acadia; and editing books by my friend T.A. McLaughlin, the magical sci-fi/sci-fantasy writer.
And now the holidays are upon us! A perfect time to think about Singing into Joy.
This will be a series of blogposts on the same theme, “The Presence—and Presents—of Our Voices.” So I’ll drop in more details about these other aspects of expressing our creativity too as we go along. Once upon a time, I taught an Artist-in-Residence course at SUNY Ulster in NY, called “The Artist’s Voice,” about authenticity in all the arts.
Today, I’d like to focus on the Presence of our physical voices, especially as we head into that holiday season. Gathering together in person is still just beginning to make a cautious return during this year’s holidays. But even if we’re not meeting in person, we’re Zooming and FaceTiming with friends and relations, or calling them on the phone. We’re out in the stores at least a little bit more than we were last year. Some live concerts are taking place, with audience members seated more widely apart than we used to be.
As the tempo picks up, and sociability resumes, what’s the quality of my speaking voice amid all this heightened activity? How aware am I of the sound and sensation of my own voice, along with the content of my speech? That popular word Mindfulness comes to, er, mind (sorry-not-sorry). But focusing on the mind in our languaging leaves out a great deal, especially when we’re making sounds. We make them with our bodies, after all—our breath and lungs, our vocal folds (a.k.a. vocal cords), our muscles, our very bones that vibrate with the sound and help to amplify it.
And of course, we also make them with our emotions—or rather, in the best case, with our feeling, something deeper and truer than the random, reactive e-motions we all respond with out of habit a dozen or more times a day.
All this guided by, accompanied by, the mind, of course! Mindfulness.
When we speak or sing, we send out a vibration that is the synthesis of all these elements. It goes out into the atmosphere: the ears of those it’s intended for, yes, but also into subtler realms. I think of the old use of “ether” before the Ethernet—the realms of air and space—but of course, also the now-familiar Ethernet we tune in to, where we may be sharing those sounds and our intention for them with a wider human audience, or a “forever” one preserved in a video. Our sound also travels through all the cells of our bodies, as well as back to us through our hearing and also what's known as bone conduction.
Have you ever felt caressed by the sound of a voice? Or socked in the solar plexus? Voices carry a powerful energy, the energy of our whole being in that moment. So the more we can be aware and sensitive, both to our own state and to the situation, the better for everyone.
I was in a situation recently where I utterly lost control of what I was saying to someone and how I was saying it. The person’s carelessness had caused me physical hurt as well as a huge waste of time and energy, and all she wanted to do was tell me how she wasn’t at fault. My fury was amplified by the screaming pain my body was in at that moment. (There’s that “I’m right!” thing about anger, right?) She probably felt clobbered, and an amends was needed afterward.
Where did I go during those moments? What was the sound of my voice like? The energy? The presence? It was powerful, for sure—what’s it like to be yelled at by an opera singer?—but I wasn’t at home. Not Present with a capital P. Nor kind. Have you ever been there, or someplace like it?
Here’s a simple beginning: what if I try, before I give voice to a thought—or a song!—to just take one “conscious,” aware breath first? Intentionally. Feel it come into my body, let it deepen and widen the space inside. If I’ve got time before I have to make a sound, add another two or three of these attentive breaths. And when the sound comes out, can I hear it?
Even this simple inner movement takes practice--and in non-stressful situations, so we have a chance of remembering in the more stressful ones (did I mention that the holidays are upon us?). #PeaceOnEarth.
Our voices can be not only Present, if we are, but also a Present to others, in this holiday season.
More to come in the next installment! If you’d like to share your thoughts with me, please drop me a line here.
P.S. Early in the New Year, I'll be offering an event about using our voices with attention, in the online monthly Mindfulness series of Healthy Acadia: January 6, 2022, at 5 PM EST.