Building Connections, Building Meaning

Yoga has taught me that the idea of using your emotional experiences as inspiration and information is critical to building a connection to what you are singing or writing or painting and, in fact, to building connections in your life. Called satya in yoga, this translates to truthfulness. It is imperative to speak your truth in your art and in your life. When we add singing into the mix, we find a way to vocalize our truth through song which is an incredibly powerful experience. Singing can open up the gates, so to speak, if you are used to holding back in your creative endeavors or in your life.
A conscious focus of my teaching is this idea of satya; how connecting to emotional experiences enhances your voice and your ability to communicate your personal truth. On my side this is about opening up to my students to show more of myself in my teaching and for them, how they can open up to their own emotional experiences and allow those to inform their singing and by extension, their existence.

The ability to convey emotions means you must be aware of them and how they feel when you experience them – physically, emotionally and mentally. Delving into this territory takes courage and will probably make you uncomfortable. (Big side note: If you are uncomfortable doing this, you are probably on the right track!).

In her book DARING GREATLY, BrenĂ© Brown says, “To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation – that’s vulnerability.” Indeed, how many times have you created something new, a concert, a character, a book, a presentation and felt terrified before setting it free into the world?

But, how many times have you gone to a concert, seen an art exhibit or read something where the creator has clearly laid their soul plain for the world and loved your experience? I know I have. I also know that vulnerability is definitely not my strong suit which is I why I understand its value. My greatest experiences performing, teaching and living come when I have opened to my own emotions allowing them to inform my experience. Not in that messy, over-sharing TMI type of way, but in the way that yoga has taught me: mindfully – when I have worked through the experience and transformed it into wisdom that informs my journey.

For me yoga is the pathway into vulnerability and the voice is a way to get comfortable expressing it. I work to center myself before teaching and engage with students honestly, being open about my experiences singing and in life. Lessons begin with breathing, centering, and meditating. Sometimes I do make them lie on the floor in a yoga pose to open up the body along with the mind. We pause while vocalizing and singing through rep to look at things through the lens of emotion and see how that informs the moment. Sometimes we both end up in tears. I’ve learned not to shy away from those moments, but to lean in because I know good things are happening.

When we relax the body, slow the breath and quiet the mind, we can see and feel our emotions without letting them carry us away as though we are on an out-of-control freight train! We learn to be a compassionate observer who gathers data without judging and we move closer to our personal truth. When we verbalize it through song it becomes more comfortable.

Is your vulnerable truth coming through in your craft, be it singing, writing, painting or presenting? It might be uncomfortable, but it is always worth it in the end.

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From Good to Great. What Tips the Balance?

This question of greatness has been on my mind recently. What is it that separates a great singer from a good one?

There’s a high level of singing that a lot of people are doing. If you look at the classical music world, there are lots of conservatories, producing a lot of singers. If you look at the local music venues in any given area, there are a lot of different singers and bands performing 7 nights a week.

If you assume a certain amount of natural talent, a high level of training and a drive to perform, what is it that makes some people move on to greatness and others stay in the category of good?

Some of it is luck, being in the right place at the right time, knowing the right people, leveraging your network and practicing hard. But, I’ve come to the conclusion there is another element. One that isn’t so obvious to the naked eye.

It is the ability to connect emotionally with what you are singing: the ability to sing from your heart

For some this comes completely naturally. I love to watch these people on stage. When I see them sing it always seems that it doesn’t matter if there is an audience, they simply must share what is inside them.

For many, many others, the emotional connection is elusive. It isn’t the music that is the issue. Music is always emotionally driven. It is your heart center. Emotions can be big. The can be scary. If you aren’t in tune with your emotions off the stage, it can be hard to tune into them when you sing.

It can take some work to get below the surface to see what is going on with your emotional center that is influencing your performing. Perhaps this is why voice lessons so often feel like therapy!

Keeping a journal, talking with a therapist and engaging in heart centered practices will all help you identify your work and move forward.

Yoga is at its core a heart centered practice. By cultivating present moment awareness you are able to ride, without judgement, the waves of emotions that occur in life. The physical practice helps to develop awareness of what is going on with your body, but it is meditation that will tune you in to your emotions and help you move through whatever your issues are so you are present to the music!

Try developing a regular meditation practice. Start small, 10 minutes a day and add time as you get comfortable with the practice. Keep it simple and just focus on your breath. Your thinking mind will engage and all you have to do is notice that you’ve started thinking and return to focus on your breath. The results might astound you!

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