trust is a four-letter word

trust is a four-letter word

If I had a nickel for every time I hesitated before I sang, I would be a gajillionaire.

And sheesh, I even know why I do this, and I STILL do this! I am, truly, working on it. And I trust that I am meant to harvest the lessons from this innate hesitation. A balk, a questioning, a wait-a-second, a moment of…  mistrust.

Will it come out ok? Will it be what I want? Will it be right? Will it be wrong? 

I know that the mind is playing with me. I know that my body is responding to these moments with WAIT! I’M NOT SURE! I even know the solution, for goodness sake. But it’s still a challenge. 

How do we cultivate trust in our voice? How can we be sure that what is about to come out is what we both desire and expect? 

This is, I believe, one of the most challenging aspects of our singing. This, Dear One, is what we call a soft skill. It is not technical. It is mindful. I call it: Intentionality. It is the third and final pillar of the Sacred Voice framework, as I perceive it. 

Trust is cultivated when we set up conditions within ourselves to succeed. Not flail and flounder and fear and feel out of control. But to feel great, to sing great, to feel free of those hand-waving thoughts that are constantly questioning what is coming out of your mouth. 

For example, you might be a high soprano, singing some song and you come up to a high note and think, “oh no! this is too high, I can’t sing that” or “oh dear, i’m not sure this is going to work out” or “this is going to be awesome!” 

Guess what? Your obedient mind will take the cue and deliver you exactly what you prescribe. So my prescription for you and for me is: get clear about what you desire for your successful outcome. Do you want to have a fearful experience? Or a confident experience?

Unfortunately, we are so conditioned to expect negative outcomes that it feels like quite a leap to expect desired outcomes. 

I have been conditioned to expect that my voice is untrustworthy. I know why, and you can certainly read about it in this blog. But now I am partaking in the unfolding process of re-building my trust. It is rather uphill, if you care to know about it. I am confronted everyday with my own mind, and calling it out, and then re-wiring my brain to do something different than the same bloody thing it is used to. 

But there is hope. Because the more deeply I trust myself, I draw closer to the sacred within me. My Sacred Voice is no longer just a theoretical/metaphysical construct, but a force and entity within me that is deep and wide and infinitely capable. My re-building trust goes hand in hand with… surrender to my Sacred Voice.

I must surrender my ego and my control and my fear to this beautiful, graceful, gentle presence within me, guiding me and my voice, like a hand at my back, whispering “let go… just let go.”

I am learning to step back. I am learning that by stepping back from control I gain trust. It is, frankly, frustrating. I also see this tendency played out in every aspect of my life, so there is a great deal of complexity and patterning that I am learning to unravel and re-wire in many areas. 

Yet what is unfolding is completely marvelous. It is a bit slower than what I would choose, but it unfolds apace.

I am learning that my success depends upon two things:

1) letting go of control in order to build trust,  and

2) define my successful outcome.

This comes from one who has known the opposite: lack of trust, over-control, unpredictable and flimsy results.

Well, I’m over it. Starting… now. 

Intentionality follows Heartcenteredness and Flow State in the framework that I have built for singing with your Sacred Voice.

I now create an intention for singing with… trust.

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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If I had a nickel for every time I hesitated before I sang, I would be a gajillionaire. And sheesh, I even know why I do this, and I STILL do this! I am, truly, working on it. And I trust that I am meant to harvest the lessons from this innate hesitation. A balk, a...

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why your voice gets stuck

why your voice gets stuck

I was up against a wall. Literally. My tongue was valiantly trying to poke out of my open mouth to formulate some semblance of an “ah” vowel whilst singing a downward scale. 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1. The teacher was attempting to have my tongue stay politely in place when I sang anything. This seemed to me rather extreme and frankly, impossible.

What she could not sense was the hot shame smeared on my face because I was so clearly incapable of this task.

I’m happy to report that I was wrong: I learned how to sing a downward scale on an “ah” vowel. But not in the way you think. And it took me roughly 20 years to suss it out. 

If only she could have said, “Allison, try not to overthink it. You are having difficulty connecting with your breath. Can you, like, inhale?”

Well, I couldn’t inhale OR exhale well or properly. My voice gremlins were running amuck, and I was debilitated by fear. I lost control and trust of my voice. I was, quite literally, stuck. 

Why?

The ego voice disrupts our connection with the flow of breath.

The Sacred Voice is inherently linked to the flow of breath. This inner voice, your sacred center, your source energy, is hard-wired to your being in a state of flow, which lands you plop! in the present moment. A very important place to be if you are a human being, but especially if you are a singer.

I call this place the Flow State. It is the second pillar of the framework that I have been developing throughout the course of my singing and teaching career, and it is the most hard-won lesson I have learned. I believe it is so incredibly useful and helpful for anyone because I believe it can truly help alleviate so much pressure, worry, and anguish for singers.

How?

The Flow State is breath flow, but more accurately breath energy flow. Breath energy is more than the binary inhale-exhale cycle we are accustomed to. It is the subtle force of life moving through you. 

The basic idea is that we want to keep it moving, to be in constant flow, a breath loop. When we are in Flow State, your instrument operates with subtle brilliance. You are quite literally a sacred instrument, like some heaven-constructed oboe: neutral construct, resonant, flexible, powerful. All it needs is a clear-minded operator!

Ok, how many of us are in the constant flow of breath energy when we sing? Right.

We lose access to our breath as we live our lives on Planet Earth. It is really damn hard being a human being. The flow of life that is so natural to us as children is decreased over the course of time. This affects the flow of breath energy which affects your singing and which affects your life.

Our energy flow is compromised. Our minds become oversized. Our muscles become rigid. Our breath becomes forced.

We are out of subtle balance. We have lost our flow of breath energy.

As a result, we are indoctrinated to believe that we must fix, push, or think our voice into behaving better.

I disagree. Having won back that breath energy back myself through incredible determination, I see how detrimental and potentially destructive this mindset can be. You will feel better and experience luminous, confident, effort-free singing when you are in a flow state of breath. It is utterly possible.

So HOW do we fall out of the Flow State? How are we separated from the Sacred Voice?

1) Overthinking

When you are overthinking your singing, you SABOTAGE your natural flow of breath. You are not designed to think your voice. You are designed to allow your voice. Your body knows how to sing perfectly. (Isn’t that awesome?) Overthinking invites effort and effort begets artificial pressure throughout your entire body. This means getting tight. You experience a total contraction of self. When you overthink your singing, you feel compelled to shove, grunt, or hoist your voice, and you will feel, see, hear, and experience the effects in the quality of vibration. Your breath flow system is off-kilter and out of balance, and leads to all-encompassing tension. More to the point, your ego voice is in control, and you feel disconnected from your Sacred Voice. Loss of Flow State. 

2) Fear

When you are scared, you STOP the natural flow of breath. Fear and singing are common bedfellows. When you encounter your fear, you seize up. You feel threatened. Imagine someone is about to smack you: what do you do? You clamp your eyes shut, suck in your gut, and hold your breath. I call this The Flinch. It is pure instinct, ancient patterning you inherited as a human being. So if you are singing and you feel scared, you hold your breath. This occurs within the span of a microsecond, mind you, but this complete stop will also cause full-scale tension throughout your instrument, starting in the brain, heading straight to your solar plexus, and then rippling throughout your system. Ultimately, this stoppage of breath flow makes us singers feel incredibly out of control and degrades trust in our voice. It is a lousy place to be and crazy-making for sure. Loss of Flow State?

3) Energy Block

When you have an energy block, you INHIBIT the natural flow of breath. Energy blocks are common to everyone I have ever met. They develop over the course of our lives, and they are part of our human experience. You block the flow of your energy, the life force moving within you, when you experience suffering, trauma, shame, or other triggering emotions. Each center (there are seven main energy centers) is related to some aspect of our Self, and they correspond to our emotional experiences. If, say, you feel threatened (as above), the energy moving through your solar plexus center is blocked. Your physical body manifests that block: the diaphragm becomes rigid, the jaw tightens, the tongue pulls backward, the soft palate droops, the pelvic floor tightens. Your instrument adapts to the quality of the energy flow. Blocked energy is a petri dish for overthinking and fear. Loss. Of. Flow. State. 

The Flow State is absolutely attainable for anyone. It is, in fact, our “natural” state.

But it takes a rigorous amount of self-awareness, discipline of the mind, and a trusty map of the breathing system to hook in and re-establish the flow.

How?

Keep your eye on the breath at all times. Never stray. When you fall off the wagon (you will), hop back on. And over and over again you practice, until you become addicted to your clear mind, your confidence, and your unadulterated joy in singing. 

And the greatest reward: dancing with your Sacred Voice as you share it with the world.

Hugs,

allison

Interested in learning more and upending those blocks? Work with me 1:1 and re-establish your Flow State.

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