Her voice trembled. She sounded very hoarse and spoke in soft whispered tones. And she’d say,
I can’t even make a tone,
and yet I always dreamed of singing like I used to.
I’m probably too old now.
It was Wednesday afternoon and I was speaking with a new client. She had my number from a friend and her intuition told her, before she goes into surgery on her vocal cords, she should try to ask one last time someone who might be able to help her regain her voice. She was scared of doctors.
We went to the piano and started to work with simple tones. It was a challenging first 20 minutes, as there was no closure of her vocal cords. We spoke, we laughed, I shared how the folds work and how they do not like too much pressure, we smiled and then I moved her into a simple blues.
I’ll sing a line, and you simply try to repeat it. I sang long low simple lines and suddenly the tears gushed out. “I’m so sorry.” she turned her back. It’s OK, breathe and sense what is coming up.
I can’t sing, I can’t, it’s no use.
I looked her lovingly in her eyes and asked her, who told you you couldn’t?
My father. It came within a microsecond. My father. I was five. We were in church. He told my mother in front of me, the girl can’t sing. And I stopped right there.
That first lesson was the first step in reclaiming her voice. Now, 6 lessons later, she is able to create full tones and begin to speak and sing in a comfortable range without any hoarseness.
Death is not the biggest fear we have; our biggest fear is taking the risk to be alive and express what we really are.
Don Miguel Ruiz
Where did we lose the connection that was so natural for all of us as children?
As children we made the craziest sounds and squealed with delight, buzzing like bees and chattering like birds. We explored and we simply were lost in the joy of sound. Oddly enough, our society finds this to be cute and amazing when we are beginning to speak.With the first ma-ma and pa-pa they proudly grab the video camera and send it to the relatives, “look – listen, these are the first words”.
Later when the child starts singing, there is the same thrill. The voice is tender and light and can fly to the skies and we are enchanted.
Yet, years later I get the wounded song warriors in my studio. Their spirits scarred by criticism that they often received at a very early age. Some clients come to me with 30, 40, 50 and even 60 years of age, finally strong enough to face their fear of singing. They come with shame and a deeply ingrained feeling that someone has to give them permission to SING. When they finally allow the first tones, the song has to be perfect, in tune, and the voice fluid. God forbid it should break anywhere. If it does, they retreat quickly back into their shell and give-up.
Something as natural as kissing and making love has been squashed into a perfected performance art. Can you imagine trying to keep up with this high standard?
If you were in a relationship, would you want to be able to ease into intimacy and love knowing that it is a journey of discovery and that you have no clue to how it works? Or trust in your fingers to move in the right direction and your lips to reach out and kiss your beloved? Or would you prefer to read manuals and go to the gym for a year to get your body into the shape you thought your partner wanted, and buy expensive creams and create the perfect settings?
Do you see how the judgement and shame we carry keeps us from living and loving and yes, singing? With our need for permission and perfectionism we miss living the moment and its beauty. My client, she still carried the criticism she had received as a 5 year old from her father, although he had passed and she was now approaching 50 years of age.
Many of us carry the scars inflicted by parents, teachers, peers, and authority figures who told them – “you can’t sing, you are tone deaf, you will never get into the choir, you will never be able to play the leading role” or simply told them to shut up. Some of them stopped the joy of singing altogether, others sang secretly in the car and shower, although they’d dream of being on stage and filling a big stadium with their voice.
The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free.
1) Learn to trust working with little breath in the beginning. Practice humming in a comfortable range. An easy position to hum in is with the tip of your tongue up and sing tones on NNNNNNN and at the same time close your lips and allow MMMMMM to resonate. Choose a comfortable mid range and explore.
The singer has everything within him. The notes come out from his very life. They are not materials gathered from the outside.
2) Flipping the judges on their heads. When you start to reclaim your voice, and with it your personal power and inner freedom, the judges may just step into the game and try to take over. This is normal. After all, you fed them for all these years, keeping them alive and bigger than they actually are. There are many great pictures you can use to help you choose love instead of fear. And, chose connection instead of comparison.
Sometimes I tell the story of being at a birthday party when an odd relative would come in the door with complaints. And, ... ? Would you take her coat and engage in a conversation even though all the other guests need your attention and are happily eating cake? Or, would you lovingly give her a cup of coffee and ask her to take a chair in the back corner and simply not give her too much attention? You see, in the beginning the judges might still be in the room, but it's your choice how much attention you wish to give them. Simply imagine them dressed in silly polka dotted party hats, or watch them doing back flips and swinging from lampshades. You might even imagine them speaking the same criticism an octave higher sounding like little chipmunks or let them drop it low and slow as if they are in a time warp.
How do you release your fear of singing? And, while singing, how do you free yourselves from judges? Work with your memories and weave your old stories into something fresh and new that works FOR you and not AGAINST you.
3) Set goals for yourself. This starts by committing to sing for yourself, or the pure joy of giving yourself something back and regaining your voice connection, every day. Commit to integrating humming while you cook, or singing while you take a shower. After you gain more trust, an easy next step is to join a group that is toning. Singing together with people in an opened and relaxed atmosphere can be deeply healing. Then set the next goal of singing solo in front of people.
4) Feel confident to reach out to a top voice coach who knows the secrets behind opening the human voice. These coaches are experienced with how interconnected the body-mind-spirit system is and are sensitive to creating a safe, caring space for voice work, giving praise and the attention needed. You'll benefit from their important suggestions that bring your voice back to its optimal health and range.
Singing is not just for an elite few. Singing is for every single person on planet earth. Singing is a very important door to experiencing health and wellness, balance and inner freedom.
Time and time again I experience the personal revolution that is possible when you dare to regain your voice and transform your life! It is wrong to tell anyone they "can't sing." Especially a child. These words place a psychological limitation on their lives which may take years to overcome.
The cool thing is, it is about consciousness. When you become aware that it is up to you to choose, you have the keys you need to take the next steps. I leave you with a quote by Rose F. Kennedy.
Birds sing after a storm,
why shouldn't people feel as free to delight
in whatever remains to them?
Sing with delight! Make it your secret Ninja weapon to leaving the storms behind you, for as long as you live, there will never be too much singing.
VOICE + VOCAL ART, SONGWRITING, ARTIST DEVELOPMENT, FOUNDER OF SCHOOL OF VOICE
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VOICE VISIONARY, SINGER-SONGWRITER AND COACH KARA JOHNSTAD IS PASSIONATE ABOUT TRANSFORMING THE WORLD THROUGH THE POWER OF WORDS, MUSIC AND VOICE: She trains her clients to open their voices, write powerful songs and anthems, and create a lifestyle and business that allows them the freedom to create and live as successful, independent artists and entrepreneurs. www.schoolofvoice.berlin
"Joe's karaoke emporium" via photopincc "The hills are alive" via photopincc "deep_schismic" via photopin cc "AZRainman" via photopincc All other images by Kara Johnstad
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