journey of sacred voice expression

The discovery and cultivation of my Sacred Voice has been an exquisite and beautiful journey I could ever hope to take. It has morphed into an integral aspect of my vocation. As a coach, it is my privilege to lead others on their own, unique telling of this voice journey.

Recently I experienced what some would call a “download” (although I am not fond of this particular expression). I had and felt and knew, in a clear moment, an understanding of the continuum of our experience with our voice. It is called the Journey of Sacred Voice Expression, and it is the experience we have with our Sacred Voice throughout our lifetime.

For me, the Sacred Voice is that personal expression of the divine within: the actual source of your voice. It is the vehicle through which the metaphysical becomes physical, as we emit vibrations sourced from our intentions.

I have written a lot about the joys and potential of the Sacred Voice, as well as the limitations that hinder us from expressing it.

I believe that this paradigm of understanding our voice journey is so helpful, in that we can  know where we fall upon the continuum. By doing so, we have an understanding of where we are, we are heading, and where we are held back.

Indeed, there are hindrances that we encounter along the journey. (Otherwise, what kind of journey would it be?)

Indeed, discovering and healing these tender places within us are integral to help us to discover the value and beauty of our voice. I believe every one of us has a voice that is deep and powerful, strong with purpose and potential, ready to be claimed.

I see and experience the joys struggles firsthand, walking the stepping stones of my own voice journey, as well as seeing them in the experiences of my students.

Signposts Along the Journey

Why do we desire to move forward on our journey? What do we seek? And why do we deny ourselves the very same?

It is partly unconscious. I believe that our vocal limitations are so normalized, and speaking about them feels taboo. It is not common practice to address the deeply-rooted fears we have in using our voice. 

But I believe it is utterly necessary to allow ourselves the release and freedom that comes from healing and letting go of our deepest fears and shame around our voice. Our fears are self-limitations. They are embedded in various ways throughout our lifetime and beyond. 

If we desire to move further along the journey to greater expression of our voice, to discover and manifest its deeper purpose, then we must heal and release our self-limitations.

Here are the signposts along the Journey of Sacred Voice Expression. Each step along the journey is the fulfillment of several key elements. When we accept and allow these aspects, we live into a deeper experience. We move forward along the journey.

1) Heed your Impulse

Our voice is a natural and authentic expression of our Self. You likely have felt that inner drive to sing and make sound. But we can only express ourselves when we feel safe to sing. When we do, we are primed to deepen our relationship with our voice. And further, when we accept and allow that our voice is:

  • Unique
  • Personal
  • Heartcentered

we are able to move into the next phase.

2) Embody your Instrument

Here we learn about the nature of our voice. Not just its physical properties, but its connection and integration with all parts of our self. When we accept and allow that our voice has:

  • Power
  • Vulnerability
  • Radiance

we move into the next phase.

3) Honor Your Sacredness

Your voice is sacred in nature. It is sourced from the divine, and is so much more than your human body and its physical parts. When we accept and allow:

  • Surrender
  • Freedom
  • Peace

we move into the next phase.

4) Express Your Purpose

What happens when we follow the initial impulse to use our voice, allow its authentic expression, marry it to spirit, and surrender our will to that sacredness within us? When we accept and allow our soul-led expression, we discover:

  • Transcendence
  • Union
  • Potential

Next Steps

The Journey is not fixed. Indeed, it is fluid. Our way is informed by our state of being, state of consciousness, mood, personality swings, and our emotional weather. We may be scared to death one day, and the next discover some ecstatic union with our highest self.

The purpose and goal of laying out this pathway is to better understand where we are on our own path. The journey of discovering our voice can sometimes feel confusing, overwhelming, and rudder-less. I hope that this outlay may help us to define our goals with greater clarity, as well as understand where we may be entangled, and how we can move forward.

If we seek to move forward, to taste and experience the sacredness of our voice, we can. This is one kind of roadmap. May it serve you, Dear One, on your journey of discovery.

Hugs,

allison

Allison Mondel is a reformed self-critic turned Transformational Voice Coach. She is the founder of The Sacred Voice Studio, a holistic voice coaching practice. She helps singers transform their relationship with their voice and dramatically improve their singing through a radically simple, heart-centered framework. Allison has taught and performed widely across the United States and Europe, and believes in every person’s innate potential to discover, unlock, and use their brilliant, divine voice.

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“with heart and mouth”

“with heart and mouth”

For the past twenty years, I have been studying and singing the music of medieval visionary Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179). Her music and spiritual legacy have been woven into the fabric of my professional life since it began. One of my mountaintop professional moments involved my singing one of Hildegard’s most wildly ecstatic chants on national television for President Obama’s second inaugural prayer service at Washington National Cathedral.

Her music is potent, tapped into a source that is both deep and high. Recently I came across a passage in one of her visions that I wanted to share with you. It struck me so clearly, and is clearly related to the act of singing. She says:

“Praises must be offered unceasingly to the Supernal Creator with heart and mouth…” 

– Hildegard von Bingen from Scivias, Book III, Vision 13

In her vision, Hildegard describes a symphony of heavenly beings that praise the Creator and creation. But I believe, in this quote, she is referrring to us. You and me. Human beings. Music was such a profoundly important aspect of Hildegard’s life, as much as it is for us. And as she channels her vision to us, it is clear that our role, as human music-makers, is to offer praises.

With heart and mouth.

This is elegant and soulful. It resonates with every fiber of my being. I see this as the purpose and function of the Sacred Voice, and its very personal manifestation within our lives. This looks different for each of us.

But let’s be frank. It is woefully easy to become side-tracked. We become so easily distracted!

How can we stay centered on the deeper purpose of our singing?

It is simple, but not easy: we learn how to focus our awareness in order to focus on our purpose. Awareness heightens the senses and calms the thinking mind. It connects us with our instrument, and keeps us focused. It supports our will, when we encounter our fragility.

As I teach in the Studio, we focus our awareness on our heart. The heart is the seat of the Sacred Voice. It is here that we are both connected to our divine source, and here that we experience that longing to praise the very same divinity.

The sacredness of our voice, as I observe and experience and speak of regularly, is easily eclipsed by 1) our distracted minds, and 2) the hurt places within us, covered over by protective emotional armor.

However, that sacredness can be accessed at any time, simply by an awareness practice that instantaneously connects you with your heart center. And your singular, magnificent, deeper purpose.

The heart and mouth are wedded. Your voice is powerful and sacred. I believe our work is not in finding out whether or not our voice is worthy and capable. But rather to allow its innate, divine nature to flourish and flower right here, right now.

Distractions abound. Stay focused, dear One, on your purpose.

Hugs,

allison

Allison Mondel is a reformed self-critic turned Transformational Voice Coach. She is the founder of The Sacred Voice Studio, a holistic voice coaching practice. She helps singers transform their relationship with their voice and dramatically improve their singing through a radically simple, heart-centered framework. Allison has taught and performed widely across the United States and Europe, and believes in every person’s innate potential to discover, unlock, and use their brilliant, divine voice.

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overcoming the singing squelch

overcoming the singing squelch

“We are meant to shine as children do.” – Mariann Williamson

When do singers lose our joy of singing? When we do we become fearful of being heard? When do we become terrified of making mistakes?

Last year I had the eye-opening experience of sitting on a panel with other musicians at Towson University, home to an enormous department of voice majors. I was there to speak about careers in ensemble music, and it was a truly wonderful, enriching event. 

I noticed something, sitting on the stage, looking into the student’s faces. As I began to speak about my own singing journey, about having a hard time with my singing, but also how I gained a clarity of  purpose and moved past my blocks, hands began to shoot up to ask me questions. I detected a real hunger for answers: answers that helped them make sense of why this singing gig is freaking hard, and how can they overcome it. After the event wrapped up, students began to line up en masse to chat with me, in the hopes of having their questions answered. They were having a hard time.

I was heartened to help. I was also heartbroken.

The other day I was tagged on a Facebook post: a colleague was asking other music teachers about how to get students to practice more effectively. Oy, a veritable Pandora’s Box for me, having worked with a million young students (and being one myself), and the invariable battle with urging students to practice. 

Why do students resist practice? They are afraid. When you are afraid of constantly making mistakes and facing your worst insecurities–on a daily schedule–this can be torture. It can also begin the undoing of joyful music-making. Of loving music. Of loving singing. Of being heard.

I came across another post of a client of mine, we worked together only once. She recorded herself singing a sweet folk tune, it was beautiful to read her post and witness her step up courageously to her community, embracing her fears and being honest about her singing gremlins.

When we met, she was very quiet. She told me bits of her story, thoughtfully took everything in as I spoke and offered my guidance, and then when she started singing I almost fell off my seat. This person had a formidable talent, skills, all the “goods.” Why was she so fearful?

I scanned the comments of her brave post. I read the reactions of other singer friends, presumably also with formidable talents, who were struggling to find their own voice again after they finished their undergrad. One even confessed that she had stopped singing altogether. 

My heart broke again.

I have met many people who have struggled with finding their voice after school. Me, too. 

Traditional voice training is a system that means to develop a singer’s basic functionality in order to maximize the resonant potential of their sound. This means buffing out imperfections and bloops that stand in the way.

For some people, that is no big deal (or at least, it would seem so). 

For others, it is a life-threatening process. I am not exaggerating. Especially if you are highly-sensitive, which is probably a LOT of singers. 

Why would someone stop singing after learning how to sing? After stepping into an educational experience that is meant to hold them up and develop their skills and expose them to the inherent beauty of fine musical literature. Why do we run for the hills? What causes us to become so squelched?

I believe that the means by which we have been taught to improve our singing are the very same used to sabotage our singing. 

I witnessed this in my studio over many years, as every trap we fell into, every disgusted moment we have with ourselves is all connected back to one thing: thinking our singing

Let’s get out of this loop.

For some singers, this method is volatile and inefficient, and I will be frank: it instills fear and shame.

Here is the thing: your voice is not broken. It is sacred. You will not be told this in traditional music training, I’m sorry to say.

I have been told over and over in every lesson about how to fix my vocal problems, since I was in the ninth grade. A gal begins to think that her voice is broken, you know? She can even become ashamed of her voice, and herself. That is a lot to manage emotionally, especially for young people who are not equipped with the emotional tools to manage those big emotions. Especially for a real squishy emotional absorbent softie, like myself. Shame is a big deal, and the fear is real. No wonder we run away from our fears and shut down our voice.

My friend, you are not in need of fixing. You are, however, in need of healing. 

The first thing to do, right now, is acknowledge the sacred nature of your voice. Unfortunately, the voice of the mind is much, much louder. So you need to be a little bit quiet in order to begin this process.

Start by inviting the connection. It’s as simple as anything and anyone can do it.

Connect with your heart center.

Say these words: “I call forth my Sacred Voice.”

And go from there.

Hugs, 

 

allison

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Sacred Voice Pillar One: Heartcenteredness

Sacred Voice Pillar One: Heartcenteredness

About a year ago, I experienced a vision. I was half asleep, it came in the wee hours of the morning, and it was one of the most impactful moments I have ever had.

I looked out from my own eyes, and I saw a matrix of lines. It was a vast, infinite grid of endless x-, y-, and z-axes and a glowing reddish light at each intersecting point. Quickly the matrix starting falling away, disintegrated towards me until there was only one point left. I knew that this last point was me. And that this was at the center of my heart. I understood in that moment that this was a Showing of sorts, revealing two important truths:

1) the points of the matrix were all of us, all of humanity, each personality interconnected with the other. And the falling away of the individual morphs into a coalescing of the collective. All are one.

2) that each point, each soul, was represented at the *heart*, the center of our being.

This was my awakening. 

If we desire to connect and source our voice from the essence of our being, we begin at the heart center.

That seems incredibly abstract in one respect, and utterly simple in another. And this is not exactly news. Is it not a practice that has been embodied by various religious and spiritual institutions for thousands of years? It is a potent and meaningful concept, but for me it had a deeper and more personal impact following this important vision, especially around my voice.

I want my singing to be sacred at all times.
I access the divine through my heart.
The heart is the seat of my Sacred Voice.
I commit to using my Sacred Voice at all times.

Since then, I have been examining and pondering and practicing a framework for the Sacred Voice. Its first tenant: Heartcenteredness. When I began to integrate this practice, EVERYTHING CHANGED. In my singing, in my teaching, and absolutely in my life.

And lemme tell you, it was wobbly and strange and I resisted like crazy. My mind was constantly battling me: Allison, this is ridiculous, get back to work, people will think you are crazy, you ARE crazy!, you are off track, you are wrong, this goes against all of your programming, etc.

But I knew I had come to understand the most important aspect of my voice. The heart is the point of intersection for all aspects of my self, and the interface where I connect not only with all other beings, but also with the Divine. So I starting walking the walk…

And then, all of a sudden, everything I sang was *easy*. The struggle was GONE. There was a new kind of flow, peacefulness, and joy in my practice.

This is the core pillar of Sacred Voice Studios: Heartcenteredness.

I have committed myself to this practice. I am practicing in my singing, in my speaking, and in my living. The only resistance I encounter is my preoccupation with results and evaluation and external expectations (thank you, classical conservatory education!). But even these things dissolve more and more every day as I retain the practice of heartcenteredness.

You can practice Heartcenteredness at any time. It will never cost you a thing. It is (as they say) quite simple, but not easy. But try it, and watch yourself shine.

Hugs,

allison