Hard to imagine that this would be asked, but definitely there are many people out there who feel "blocked" in their singing voice and might not find any importance for the experience of singing.
Certainly I have been one of those people. I wouldn't say I ever felt "blocked" in my singing voice, but I definitely had a time in my life where singing was just ... not happening. I didn't feel like it was "important". At least, definitely not as important as the other activities I was doing -- the "productive" activities, activities that brought a tangible result of a completed project, or some form of learned knowledge, for example.
In today's blog I'm going to explore this question "why sing?" and share some of my own processes around singing to hopefully inspire someone out there to let go a little bit and just... sing!
The first thing I'd like to say is that there is a mystical dimension of the voice. Did you know that? Silvia Nakkach, my "Voice Yoga" teacher, explained to us when we were on retreat that a person's voice is the most "real" version of them. As in, the voice cannot be faked. It just is what it is. In a way, the voice is a representation of one's innermost truth. You can hear the wobbles and shakes in someone's voice who is nervous, just as you can hear the tremors if they are excited, or the strain if they are angry. If a person is at deep peace within themselves, you can feel their voice emerging from deep within their body, as if their entire body is expressing the words that are coming out of their mouth.
As we have discovered, the Voice (and I'm going to capitalize the V in Voice here) doesn't just come from the so-called "voice box" at the base of the throat. The Voice comes from the very base of a person. The pelvic floor and surrounding musculature of the hip and base of spine create the pressure which allow the voice to travel up through the vertebral column, through the resonant chambers of the abdominal and thoracic cavities, and eventually out through the mouth. If you pay attention when you speak, you will quickly realize that the voice is happening from way down there. This is why your desires are never hidden. Whether you express them or not, your true feelings are always visible for those who "have ears to hear". We can learn to listen to each other so deeply that we can "hear between the lines". Do you know what I'm talking about? This is how we tune in and learn more about what is unspoken. Because much of time, our truths are scary and we want to avoid expressing them outright, whether to protect others' feelings or our own. This is an example of withholding and restraining the Voice. But the Voice still comes out. If only we are paying attention....
The subtle intricacies of one's Voice are a topic of major interest for me. Over the years as a yogi and musician, I've learned to "read" the subtle energies of my students which undoubtedly includes what I hear in their Voices. I am often listening to what they are not saying when I am asking questions. When there is an elephant in the room, even if it is unexpressed verbally, I can pick up on it energetically. And you can, too! Our bodies and senses are intricate instruments that can be highly tuned to perceive extremely subtle variances in energies. Yoga practice (sadhana) such as asanas, pranayama, kriya, and especially mantra are all ways to tune our instrument to hear better. And I'm not talking about hearing the sounds of speech. I'm talking about hearing life. Perception of the unseen and unspoken, unheard and unexpressed.... but very much alive.
The yogis talk about being able to read minds, being able to hear hidden sounds, etc. This -- the ability to listen deeply to life and see/hear what is not seen/said -- is what they are talking about. And this, I believe, is exactly why it is so valuable to start to open up and sing. Not only because singing is FUN and enjoyable and can be a deeply ecstatic experience, but because singing teaches us how to let go, to listen deeply, and to trust. All three of these qualities letting go, listening, and trusting are extremely necessary for the spiritual advancement of the practitioner. And singing does it so brilliantly!
By singing, we learn how to tune in and listen to ourselves, firstly and to the sound we are emitting. This is an inner attunement. We get to touch our vibration and we get to experience it by expressing it and then hearing it with our ears. This is how we make our inner world known. Sometimes the inner world is a confusing place -- a place of emotions, of feelings, of murkiness, of darkness. Sometimes the inner world is filled with doubts, fears, judgments, worries, shame, all manner of energies that tend to keep us a little bit "stuck" in life. When we sing, we learn how to open a bridge between the inner and the outer world. How? Because singing allows whatever vibrations are being experienced within us to be shared with the outside. This can be terrifying! This is often why, in my experience, people experience being "touched" by music, as if an angel has literally come into their heart and poked around. Music can be a bridge from outer-to-inner, and vice versa: from inner-to-outer! Listening to music is one thing... singing and creating music with the beautiful instrument of the voice is another thing entirely. The effect is potentially healing and transformative because we get to discover what's really alive for us, what's really happening in our inner world, in the process of revealing the Voice.
Singing is not an easy thing to do. Especially not with a group. Especially not when everything in our mind is telling us there is something better to do, or judging us for singing "poorly", or "not doing it right", or whatever other reasons come through that "block our Voice". What does it mean to "block the Voice" any way?!
"Blocking the Voice" is the inner conflict that happens when our expression outwardly doesn't match or align with our true feelings inwardly. If this happens repeatedly in our life, our Voice becomes repressed, suppressed or otherwise denied. It won't feel safe to express what's really happening inside, and when we do express, it comes out in violent, uncontrolled or otherwise destructive outbursts because the energy has built up and is now volcanically erupting. Remember the base of the spine we were talking about? If the energy at the base of us never gets let out, through such things like gradual and graceful ways of speaking our needs honestly and sweetly, singing, chanting, etc ... then that energy may start to leak out in other ways. In another post perhaps I'll talk more about the connection between the sacral chakra, the subtle energetic center at the level of pelvis and sexual organs, and the connection between this and the throat. All of the chakras are interconnected and influence each other, but there seems to be an interesting connection between these two. Something about desire and expression is intertwined....
Anyways! Blocking the Voice. Let's not do it! How can we not do it? SING! Chant!
Use the Voice as a divine tool -- after all, it has the power to Create. In Vedic scripture it is said that Vāc, the Goddess of Speech & Voice, is considered a consort of Brahman, the Creator. There are numerous accounts (not only in Vedic myth, but other spiritual traditions) which illuminate the metaphysical truth that Speech, or "the Word" created the Universe. I think to expand on this practically would be to suggest that it is our words that create meaning in this Universe, which as we know, meaning gives rise to perception and thus reality is created from our meaning-making-mind (and, on a subtler level, our meaning-making-WORDS aka the Voice).
When the Voice, our truest truth, matches the outer form of the Reality, our expression and what is being experienced is in a state of Yoga, or union. The Divine is revealed. The Heart is touched through the sound emitted from within but also the sound being heard from without. The singer merges with the Absolute and Truth is realized.
Yes, I'm getting all esoteric and mystical but I think that a little investigation can reveal that singing is much more than just "singing". The act of singing alone is slowing down, listening, trusting, surrendering, allowing, and... above all... giving oneself generously to life without any expectation of anything in return. Just like the birds :)
The Sun [of Consciousness] rises. Awakening has dawned. It is an occasion to sing, is it not?
Be like the bird.