to err is human

to err is human

to err is human

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel

I have mastered the art of “Don’t let ’em see you sweat.” That’s easy. That’s what you learn in professional training: the art of illusion.

What I have not mastered is the art of Not Sweating.

Have you? What do you sweat about?

I sweat about, oh God, the same thing I always do: sounding nice.

Seriously. After allllll this time and work and care and thought and healing and tears and journaling and practice and blog posts and coachings.

Do I sound… nice?

At present I find myself on the opposite end of a recent production in which I masterminded every artistic element with intentionality and purpose. Except my own performance. That was left utterly to chance, to improv, to trust that my decades of skill-building would lead the way, and I could breeze through without a drop of sweat.

My friend, that did not happen.

No one can see me sweating, that is my magic trick. But if my thoughts were any indication, I was swimming in anxiety, trying to settle my nerves, get back into my body (which had left the building, maybe I wore the wrong shoes?), and get present enough to draw on my very abundant inner resources for having a beautiful experience.

But the mind hijacked the situation: do I sound nice?

What would your mind say?

Why?

The mind is compensating.

This lesson is so big that it is difficult to contain.

There is so much power running through our vocal circuits, that we do not know how to hold space, so we short out. We are overwhelmed. The mind shorts our circuits. It is protecting us from the “discomfort” of our own power.

I guarantee you that is exactly what happened in my own situation. I felt like a lightning rod of creativity and vitality and adrenaline and sacredness. But the best I could come up with was… does this sound nice?

How banal!

But it worked. I faltered and stumbled. I was left with that feeling of “If only I… (practiced more. learned my lesson. didn’t have that stupid f&%^ing mask. wasn’t singing in a pandemic. wore a different dress. thought this through. wasn’t so lazy.)”

And not only do I have to wince as I listen to the results, but I have to share this on the internet for Planet Earth to hear me sweat.

It takes a huge heaping dose of Inner Grace to understand what really occurs in these moments of absolute humanness: we must falter in order to grow. We must accept the  seemingly intolerable discomfort of the learning process, because there is only one way to go. We must walk through the fire of our ego’s matrix of self-protections.

Because on the other side we meet our divine purpose.

I, too, am learning how to inhabit a vessel of immense sacred power, as I learn how to use my voice. It is an educational cycle: we learn and re-learn the same lessons as we continue to up-level, evolve, and live into that elusive purpose that is right under our noses.

The lesson is always kinder, deeper, and broader than it seems.

So the next time you start sweating, recognize the mind’s banter. Then ask yourself:
What is my soul trying to bring forth through my voice?

My follow-up question to you is: are you willing to let some of that out here on Planet Earth?

Hugs,

allison

welcome to
The Studio!

I’m Allison Mondel, Transformational Voice Coach on a mission to help others discover their innate, brilliant Sacred Voice, and transform their singing and their lives.

take the quiz!

Discover your path forward into feeling more capable and trusting in your singing.

further reading

to err is human
to err is human

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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on being capable: an essential teaching
on being capable: an essential teaching

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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I don’t know what I’m doing
I don’t know what I’m doing

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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on being capable: an essential teaching

on being capable: an essential teaching

on being capable: an essential teaching

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel

For some years now I have been exploring the nature of the “sacred voice.”

This concept is not new, and it is certainly not mine. It is an aspect of our Self that I believe we all, at some deep level, are called to express in our lives, on this earthly plane, for some very purposeful reason.

At the everyday, mundane, get-up-and-go-to-work level, it can seem quite elusive. The pursuit of this soul-fueled creative voice can truly seem untouchable, or fickle. Sometimes it seems to tease us into believing that maybe, just maybe, my voice is truly worthy of expressing something sacred? And then it seems quite the opposite.

Well, I can say with certainty that our voice is not a trickster. Sacredness is inherent, it is constant, it is… Truth. What is not constant is our capacity to hold space for the power of our sacredness.

What does that mean in terms of our voice? How does that affect our singing practice?

It comes down to feeling capable, steady, and trusting.

I want to share one of my most essential teachings with you:

Most singers tend to believe that they are not capable enough, so they doubt themselves and lose trust in their voice.

But the reality is that singers have not learned how to harness and trust the intense, powerful energy of their voice and fully access their sacredness.

What does it mean to hold space for the true power of your voice?

It means to become a vessel for your voice. To allow your voice to flow through you freely, without hindrance from ego and fear.

Here is the process broken down:

1) Acknowledge your sacred nature.
2) Become aware of the force of energy moving through you. The vehicle is the breath.
3) Allow the movement of this breath energy to be constant and free-flowing.

Let’s be really clear here: I know this is not as easy as it sounds. Your throat might be scratchy, or you are tense, or you are scared, or any distraction may abound to throw you off-track. You may have deep-seated, subconscious fears that hinder you. This is normal and to be expected. But it is not permanent. It is not truth.

Ultimately, our practice is to allow the full expression of our voice even when we doubt our capacity. Even when we are unsure.

When you allow this expression, when you have the courage and will to allow this powerful force to move through you unhindered, something miraculous happens.

You will become a magus. 

You will be transformed from one who does not believe they can, to one who knows they can, and does. You become the vessel of this powerful energy moving through you. And you discover that your voice, in its inherent sacredness, is innately capable.

When you feel capable, you will trust your voice.

The next time you feel yourself halt, or pull back, or flinch, or become tense, take a moment to recognize why that might be. Ask yourself:

What powerful force am I resisting right now?
Why am I resisting?
What would happen if I let my resistance down in this one moment?

If you can remove your resistance, even in one small, everyday moment, you will allow for some of the greatest breakthroughs in your practice. I call them mini-miracles. These teeny-tiny “awarenesses” are the building blocks of your transformation. Please do not discount them. Indeed, rely on them!

If I can shift your perspective in any way, I want you to know this:

Not feeling capable does not mean that anything is wrong with your voice. Indeed, I would posit that there is something so deeply powerful that is trying to move through you, and it is scary as hell.

But your voice is not meant to be controlled. It is meant to be released.

It is your very own sacredness in sound. It is a gift, my friend, for you to give to the world. Even a teensy little bit at a time is worth its weight in gold.

Hugs,

allison

welcome to
The Studio!

I’m Allison Mondel, Transformational Voice Coach on a mission to help others discover their innate, brilliant Sacred Voice, and transform their singing and their lives.

take the quiz!

Discover your path forward into feeling more capable and trusting in your singing.

further reading

to err is human
to err is human

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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on being capable: an essential teaching
on being capable: an essential teaching

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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I don’t know what I’m doing
I don’t know what I’m doing

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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I don’t know what I’m doing

I don’t know what I’m doing

I don’t know what I’m doing

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel

Can you recall a time when you had no idea what you were doing?

(I have these moments, like, all the time.)

Say you are learning something new, or practicing something, or in a rehearsal, and those dreaded words bubble up from your mind:

I have no idea what I’m doing. And I SHOULD know how to do this.

But what is really happening? You may not know how. Yet. Unfortunately, our ego turns this around into some kind of argument, and we tend to start wagging our own finger at ourselves.

You should know! You are failing! You are not capable!

(Oof, that last one hurts a little.)

I have observed that singers, in this situation of Not Knowing, tend toward one of two responses. They either play Offense or Defense.

To play Offense means you approach these uncertain moments with arms swinging, ready to pounce on any problem, to make it disappear as soon as possible. Which typically manifests as over-efforting in singing.

To play Defense means to back down, to leave the situation, to pull our voice back and play it as safe as possible, guard up, and volume down. Which typically manifests as under-efforting in singing. (Right here!)

I do not need to explain that I am hugely overgeneralizing here. My aim is to help you clarify how unconscious fears of not being capable show up in our practice.

And crucially: to pull back the veil on our invisible tendencies so that we can feel more safe, secure, and capable when we sing, no matter our relative aptitude to do the task set before us.

We could choose to close our eyes or run away in the face of uncertainty. We will only exacerbate our fears and reinstate our lack of agency in these moments that are most vital to our learning and growth. 

So what’s the hack? If you know me at all, you know that I appreciate simple and elegant solutions. (Less blunt than a hack.)

The transformation happens in three steps:

First: Notice when you get triggered. Begin to observe when you tense up, push forward, or pull back. Are you playing Offense or Defense? Become aware of these statements if they pop up in your practice: I don’t know what I’m doing. I should know better. I can’t do this.

Second: Zoom your awareness into that moment. (It will only hurt for a second.) Imagine a time-lapse video of your self, and internally observe yourself heading into the situation. Did you blackout for a second? Did your gut tighten? Did your eyes close? Did you start judging yourself? Did your voice stop or falter? Did you look away from the score?

Third: Maintain your inner awareness on your breath through every microsecond of that time-lapse video. Be a hawk about it, don’t look away. Keep the breath flowing, no matter how much you want to leave the situation. 

Maintaining awareness of the breath will keep you in the present moment: exactly where you need to be in order to keep unconscious dialogue from barreling through the scene, and sabotaging your learning process.

Your one task will be to maintain the steady flow of breath energy, which will allow you to manage—both internally and externally—whatever vocal task is on your plate. 

Awareness is key to becoming aware of your fear-based tendencies. And then, all of a sudden, not knowing isn’t such a big deal? 

Hugs,

allison

welcome to
The Studio!

I’m Allison Mondel, Transformational Voice Coach and big-hearted seeker on a mission to help others discover their innate, brilliant Sacred Voice, and transform their singing and their lives.

take the quiz!

Discover your path forward into beauty and ease in your singing.

IMAGE: Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash

further reading

to err is human
to err is human

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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on being capable: an essential teaching
on being capable: an essential teaching

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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I don’t know what I’m doing
I don’t know what I’m doing

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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how does fear show up in singing?

how does fear show up in singing?

how does fear show up in singing?

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel

I love the 80s.

Especially Alf and pop music. (Ah, the music!) My personal Spotify playlist is packed with gems from the 80s, and when I listen to them, I have a smile plastered on my face and feel that all is right with the world. 

One of my favorite bands of all time is Tears for Fears.

Imagine my delight when I came across this video from 1983 aired by the BBC featuring Curt Smith in a proper voice lesson with some British doyen of classical voice pedagogy.

It is excruciating.

It was all some kind of publicity stunt, but I have been thinking about it nonstop, rankled by 1) the public shaming of one of my pop music idols and 2) the lack of clear guidance through a vocal situation he was not equipped to manage. At least in 1983.

However, this video (which I urge you to watch) clearly demonstrates one of the most common scenarios that I see in the studio of how fear plays out in our singing. 

I call it The Flinch.

An everyday flinch happens when we encounter a situation in which we are physically threatened in some way, such as when something is about to strike us, or we are about to get into a car accident, or take a fall.

It’s akin to a mini-blackout of experience. We are not aware of anything because we are busy protecting ourselves from harm. Physically, our bodies respond by closing our eyes tight, stopping our breath, and contracting every muscle in our body.

We make ourselves as small as possible.

It happens in our singing all the time.

What Is The Singing Flinch?

The Flinch occurs unconsciously whenever we feel scared or threatened, for whatever reason that may be. I know this sounds dramatic, but it’s true. I do it, too.

The Flinch is also quite subtle, almost unrecognizable, but is the most common way in which I see fear manifested in singing. 

The most common reason is because we do not feel capable. The mind says: DANGER! You can’t do this! And we blackout for a second, and either interrupt our singing, or surrender our hold on reality and make some cosmically hideous mistake.

My beloved Curt Smith demonstrates that clearly in his “voice lesson.” 

For you and me it may be slightly more subtle. The Flinch shows up most commonly at the:

  • Onset of any phrase
  • Highest note in any phrase
  • Leap (up OR down) in any phrase
  • Rhythmic anomaly
  • Encountering rogue accidentals

But it can happen anytime you feel unsure. (Sight-singing is an extreme case of rampant flinching.)

It is in anticipation of any challenge in our music that we feel the most scared, and we are apt to lose control. There is a micromoment of squeezing our eyes shut, stopping our breath, and contracting all of our muscles.

It happens in an instant. It feels as though time is accelerating, as we try to get through the challenge as quickly as possible, and avoid any discomfort whatsoever.

It feels lousy, confusing, and oh so frustrating. (Right here!)

And, it’s invisible. You can’t even tell it’s happening!

The Solution

So if you feel scared or intimidated by something in your score, congratulations! You are normal.

But how to improve? There is a workaround, but it takes time, patience, and practice.

The key to staying clear, focused, and calm in your singing is NOT to be perfectly capable. Of course, we always strive to improve our skills and knowledge, but you and I will never, ever achieve a state of Perfectly Capable.

Rather, the key is maintaining your awareness of the present moment at all times, even when you don’t feel capable. How?

To maintain your awareness of the flow of breath. How?

By removing yourself from the chatter of the mind (the chatter that says: you are in danger!) and embedded in the heart-centered, embodied, clear-minded presence of awareness.

It starts with your intention to be centered in the heart, and the other pieces will fall into place. The only caveat is that you have to practice staying in this state of awareness as you sing, and apply your awareness when you are unsure, scared, or are working against deeply-ingrained habits that trigger and enforce your fear.

Start with this mantra:
Heart. Breath. Sound.

Sing with this thought:
My breath is flowing.

All other musical tasks will be possible when you are in the flow of the breath. Every onset, every high note, every leap, every freaky rhythm, every Thing you encounter in a piece of music is within your grasp.

It takes some getting used to, and you must have courage to face your challenges with your eyes wide open. You can’t hide from anything. But you will feel more in control and ease, you have infinitely more breath at your disposal (it’s not getting demolished during your Flinch), and you will begin to develop a deep trust of your voice, and your Self. 

I believe that ultimately, we want to feel capable and confident when we sing. When you know the secret places where you hide, you will understand that these fears hinder your capacity to BE capable and confident.

Look your Flinch in the face. Breath your way through it. Watch your fear disappear. 

Hugs,

allison

welcome to
The Studio!

I’m Allison Mondel, Transformational Voice Coach and big-hearted seeker on a mission to help others discover their innate, brilliant Sacred Voice, and transform their singing and their lives.

take the quiz!

Discover your path forward into beauty and ease in your singing.

IMAGE: Cover art from Songs from The Big Chair, Tears for Fears

further reading

to err is human
to err is human

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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on being capable: an essential teaching
on being capable: an essential teaching

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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I don’t know what I’m doing
I don’t know what I’m doing

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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healing from voice rejection

healing from voice rejection

healing from voice rejection

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel

I’ll never forget the time when this man laughed in my face when I was just about to sing.

Or looked down at his desk in disappointment after I had just started to sing.

Or spent 45 minutes telling me why I wasn’t up for the job. And then asked his personal assistant to further the argument as to what was wrong with my voice.

Or told me why my best friend was better for the role. 

Or requested that I sit out a on a 19-voice piece, of which I was the 20th participant on the gig, left to pace around the nave of a massive cathedral, emptied of its chairs, vainly fighting back the tears of shame that wanted to spill forth from my eyes like raging torrents.

Voice rejection is just about the Worst. Thing. Ever.

For me, the sting of these events is worse than the transgressions of friends and lovers.

This is my voice we are talking about: the thing that matters most to me.

How about you?

It is clear that our voice is a reflection of our self. Indeed it is an amplification of our self. It makes perfect sense that the ego will take an event such as a rejection, and draft its own self-destructive tract of shame and victimhood to be replayed over and over again, until we are convinced that it’s real.

Now, let’s set the record straight: it is perfectly, utterly normal for someone to not receive a job, or land a role, or “win” an audition. This is standard practice, akin to any application process. 

But after a while, my ego could not distinguish a standard rejection, or piece of critical feedback, from a rejection of my entire self.

Why not?

Because I had been shamed while being rejected.

Which cemented my inner terror of opening my mouth in front of anyone in case they were listening, for fear that I would be thrown out of the room, or outed in some way for being a totally fake singer!

This is, as they say, not cool. I am not cool with this state of being. There must be a better way, right?

I am not able to change things now. I am not able to single-handedly dismantle the broken audition process, or the patriarchy, or insist that someone exercise some decent manners when they have something unpleasant to say. This would be great! 

But it’s not a better way. The better, wiser way is to change my perception of the events that have formed this distorted perception of myself and my voice. Am I a terrible, worthless person because someone laughed in my face? Of course not. Is that a completely inappropriate action for a person hearing an audition? Um, yes.

But we cannot miss the larger point.

I believe that the events that I have experienced – the very worst, the most cringeworthy – confirm for me that I must fiercely believe in the value of my voice. Indeed, I accept that these experiences have crucial lessons embedded in them, if only I have the capacity to recognize their alchemical potential for healing and wholeness.

Do they tell me that I should work harder? Or prepare more? Or improve my technique? Or reconsider my repertoire? Or toughen up? Or learn to be emotionally bulletproof? Or just deal with it and move on because it’s normal??

Maybe. All helpful points.

I could also choose to ditch the whole singing thing because it’s just too, too painful. Which I have considered, and I know some who have chosen this path.

But I put this to you: 

How can we turn rejection into gold?

We have to see the truth: our soul voice is longing to be free to express itself here, in the world, on planet Earth.

When we experience a rejection, our ego will desperately try to protect us, and say, “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO NOT DO THAT AGAIN BECAUSE IT WAS AWFUL.”

But the soul says:

“You must step into your own individuality. You must love me. You must accept me. You must confront and acknowledge your very own sacredness.”

You can tell which voice is louder. But the softer voice will make you weep with inner joy and recognition because that’s what this singing business is all about: the expression of your inner sacredness.

We are part of something much bigger and grander than one small moment in time. But those painful, unpleasant moments are the triggers for deepening our love and acceptance of our Self.

I have become a fierce warrior of loving and valuing my own voice. Believe me, it drives me crazy trying, and sometimes I am so incredibly frustrated I have to laugh in exasperation.

My voice is not perfect. It is freaking challenging. But it is lovable, because I am lovable. And because I believe in the capacity of my voice to express my inmost desires, even if it sounds like a wobbly mess.

I have no idea if I could even “win” an audition any more, because it has been so long since I’ve even tried. But my voice will find its way into the world.

Accept that your voice will find its way into the world, too. Indeed, I believe your soul longs for it.

But first, acknowledge the moments that set you off course. Own them, and be free of them.

I invite you to write them here, put them down: let them go.

I will hold your hand, and we will walk together in freedom. We will use our voices to uplift the world, to heal ourselves, and expand into our own sacredness.

Hugs,

allison

welcome to
The Studio!

I’m Allison Mondel, Transformational Voice Coach and big-hearted seeker on a mission to help others discover their innate, brilliant Sacred Voice, and transform their singing and their lives.

IMAGE: Photo by Sharosh Rajasekher on Unsplash

further reading

to err is human
to err is human

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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on being capable: an essential teaching
on being capable: an essential teaching

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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I don’t know what I’m doing
I don’t know what I’m doing

W R I T T E N  B Y  Allison Mondel [dssb_sharing_buttons columns="5" btn_padding="0px||||false|false" _builder_version="4.9.2" _module_preset="default" share_font="Alata||||||||" share_text_align="left" width="90%" max_width="100%" module_alignment="left"...

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