It’s never too late to begin playing and sharing our voices, and there is always deeper exploration. We sit in a circle, the lights are low and our eyes are closed. A quiet voice speaks, offering the theme of ‘courage.’ A singing bowl creates a steady tone and one by one, we offer our voices into the space. In the deep listening each of us brings, sound rises effortlessly, interweaving in shifting harmony. There is an exquisite quality in the room tonight. It evokes spaciousness, expansion, wonder. I am transported. My earlier heaviness dissolves and dissipates in this sacred space, inviting gratitude in its place.
I’ve been a part of choirs and sacred song circles for many years. There are often gorgeous moments when the songs lift my heart and transport me to a new reality. Science demonstrates that singing, in itself, has positive benefits for health. But I find there is something extra special about sacred song and toning. Sometimes, I turn up heavy and exhausted, and leave buoyed with lightness. It is a transformative practice.
In my life, creative practice is a necessity. Whether it is singing, painting, drawing, song writing, or dancing, it is a way to bring presence to life, to self-soothe, sort through, find clarity, and heal. When I create, I am connected with the divine within me and open to the universe. Through creative practice, I learn how to follow myself, trust my impulse, and sit in the mystery, patiently waiting for the next step to arise.
I have learned that the key is to be more interested in the process than the outcome. If, in my making, I am too aware of the end product, the inner critic is activated and my flow is stifled. If I am able to attend to my process, noticing, “How is it to use this paintbrush?” “How does my body feel as I move in this way?”, “What feeling does this chord evoke?”, then the practice becomes a meditation.
Creating something from nothing
Singing in improvisational contexts, like toning circles, invites this creative process in such a pure way. In singing, we create something from nothing. Singing, like movement, is of the body; we don’t need any tools. The gifts of singing alone, and with others, are many. When we improvise with others, we cultivate the skill of listening deeply to one another, trusting our own voices, and having the courage to step into the spaces that wait for us. We support others by joining their phrase in unison, or creating a harmony with it. We follow the whole, noticing the shifts in energy. For instance, a light and floaty sound might find ground through the introduction of a rhythmic bass line. Or, a quiet and timid piece might swell in volume and power. It seems like magic, but is born of the presence, listening, trust, and courage of those in the circle.
Singing does not come easily to all people, and many of us carry old wounds inflicted through the careless comments of teachers, friends or family members. Our culture is one that offers an elite model of music making, where only a select few are celebrated. Many of us have inner work to do to begin to open and share our voices and remember that we can all sing. As an adage reminds us; “If you can talk, you can sing!” We can all learn to listen more deeply, and to find our voice through playful approaches.
Enjoy your voice more
I invite you to try some of the following simple ways that may help you to enjoy your voice more and more:
- Create an atmosphere of curiosity and playfulness as you begin to explore your voice.
- Stretch, shake, and jiggle your body to warm up. Let out some sighs, moans and groans. There is no right or wrong way to do this!
- Hum up and down slowly and gently, feeling the vibration in your body. What notes resonate in the belly? The chest? The head? Are there any places in your body that are calling for loving attention? If so, bring the hum there.
- Use a drone instrument (like a singing bowl or shruti box) or download a track as a foundation. This helps to create safety and anchors the sound. Listen to the drone, make a vowel sound (ahhh, ehhh, iiii, ohhh, ooooo) that matches the note, and then begin to slide your voice up and down. Find the notes that feel good in your body and resonant for your ears.
- Invite some friends to tone with you. Begin with a drone instrument then make long vowel sounds. Eventually people might bring in repetitive phrases. The emphasis is on listening to each other. Keep playing!
- Play with inviting intentions into the space. How is it to sing a sunrise? How is it to sing love? What might it be like to sing sorrow, a forest, togetherness, or expansion?
- If the inner critic turns up, just tell it that this is a playful space and it’s not welcome right now. Celebrate your courage and the effort you are making in trying something new. Keep singing!
- Notice how you feel before and after your singing. Have there been shifts? What do you notice in your body? What’s your state of mind? What feelings are present?
- Find supportive spaces where you can explore more of your voice with others.
Singing and sharing songs has been a real gift in my life and I am confident it can be a journey of transformation for you as well. It’s never too late to begin playing and sharing our voices together and there is always deeper exploration. The benefits to our lives and community are truly priceless. Let’s create a culture where all of us sing with courage, weaving new realities with our voices and hearts.
Michelle Morgan is a community singing leader, kirtanist, song-writer, artist, and author of “A Guide to Community Singing Leadership”. She is passionate about engaging in, and supporting, creative practice. www.cocooncreativeartstherapies.com.au
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