truly, wildly self-configuring

truly, wildly self-configuring

I had a dream the other night that was such a transparent display of unconscious fears that I laughed out loud when I woke up.

In the dream, I was trying to help out some conductors. (Oh God, this is too much!) By “helping” I mean pleasing, being pleasant, can-do, will-do, think highly of me, know that I am capable and responsible and good enough to be part of the group. For the first dream segment, I was grabbing a courtesy coffee at Starbucks for Conductor #1, cue maddening dreamy obstacles to obtaining coffee, then BOOM I am running late to rehearsal. In the second installment, I was compiling a list of Christmas rep, but was late with the deliverables and invoked Conductor #2’s sullen disappointment. Such dream frustration! 

What I appreciate right now is how upset I was. I was so frustrated, so myopic! This dream was a condensed replay of how I Used To Be. And now I see how much of my precious self I frittered away in my desire to please and to be accepted by Others. 

These fears used to keep me in shadows. Shadows that kept me hidden, my good sense and intuition and creativity and worthiness tucked away for another day, another job, another time, another life. 

It is uncomfortable to write this. Literally. But my present awareness is the greater pleasure. It is a relief to see how I have pulled my energy out of these external outlets. I have woven these strands back into my own source, which I am learning to manage anew. I feel strange, and still filled with massive, slobbery, unruly doubts. But I recognize them now. I am less near-sighted.

I also have a greater awareness of a life pattern. It is a cycle that I have repeated countless times, and I am faced at this time with a reckoning.

I give away (myself). I suffer. I awaken. 

But I have always fallen short of the final piece: I reclaim

To Reclaim means you have to change. It means you have to freaking grow, bigger and larger than you have been conditioned, and condition yourself, to be.

I don’t know what A Larger Self looks like. It is a fairly intimidating, overwhelming prospect.

But once you decide to reclaim your personal power, well, lurking back in the shadows of yourself becomes unacceptable and seriously uncomfortable. 

I have reclaimed the power of my voice. I have decided to reclaim everything else in my life, too. That hilarious dream and those shadowy archetypes were a reminder that I must hold true to myself. (And frankly, a pretty lousy attempt at pulling me backwards. My poor ego, she must be sorely disappointed!)

My Self will not be overtaken by the fear of others acceptance, validation, approval. Period. Rather, I will believe steadfastly in my truest, wildest self-configuration of my voice and my artistry. 

Do we not look at our musical idols and say, oh how I wish I had their courage? Their tenacity? Their brilliance at themselves? Do we not long to do the same? 

The more I deepen my singing practice, the closer I get to that place of courage, and trust, and knowing that I am on the right track. I am so proud of myself. I am so much lighter inside myself, so much more caring and kind and understanding and for sure my voice feels like a million dollars, like liquid silver, like a factory showroom model.

The only thing is, I have no external proof. I have no person or institution saying to me, Congratulations! You have self-realized as a singer and sound awesome and are brilliant and you can now proceed to fame and fortune!

(Oh that is hilarious!)

Dammit.

But… I do have these teeeeeeny-tiny whispers. They are of inner knowing. That’s it. Teeny-tiny. This quiet, inner place of Yes. I understand. Now go. Do it. Just be yourself. It’s alright. It’s important. In fact, your life depends on it. 

So what else can I do?

Can’t hide in the shadows. Can’t ask other people what they think. Can’t wait for the phone to ring. Or for a lucky email. Can’t hope for the best. And I certainly cannot ask others to provide validation for myself and my voice. The very thought of it seems ludicrous! But there you go.

So, I will actively practice being myself.

I will rely on my inner knowing as the only authority on that self. I will listen to this inner knowing when I sing, when I create, when I make choices, and when I guide others to do the very same. I will sing, create, and make choices. I will guide others. I will be in the constant unfolding of Reclaim. I will live into Larger. I will truly, wildly self-configure.

May you always listen to your dreams.

Hugs,

allison

ps: this post is partly inspired by “Untamed” by Glennon Doyle. I recommend you read it. I wish I did that yesterday. It is in synchronistic alignment with my life’s timeline right now. It is brave and fierce, and I hope it may inspire you to craft your own true, wild self-configuration.

 

Listening to desire

Listening to desire

I decided on Valentine’s Day that I would no longer be a soprano. I mean, a “Soprano,” as a title on my resume. Ironic, that this decision should come to me on the Day of Love. I made a decision to let something go that made me feel no love. (I love that!)

I had uncomfortably worn the title for a long time. Indeed, it is something that we all expect and understand in the world of classical music, coming out of conservatory, hitting the pavement, and making a go of a singing career. But what I knew was that it was making me quite unpleasant to be around. It made me cranky and upset and withdrawn and spiky and a liiiiiittle crazy. And also, incited homicidal inner thoughts about my voice.

What I also know is that this is not reflecting my typically peaceful and harmonious state of being and ohmygod what I would never choose to be. Yikes!

I had been growing into my work as a voice coach, developing my ideas and framework around the nature of the Sacred Voice. This continues to unfold at rapid pace and feeds me like no other work ever has. I have a vision to serve others, to connect with my own sacred center. And I desire to be liberated from that ego voice which was ruling the show for sooooo long.

So I can plainly see this soprano gig is not working. About a week prior to my big decision, I had actually started updating my performance website. I had gotten some new slapdash-get-’em headshots (after many years of ashamedly using the same ones) and knew my site needed some TLC. I started to edit the thing, and inadvertently started pulling it all down. I mean, I actually started accidentally deleting pages from the site! I started destroying my own website. (Oh that makes me smile to think of it now!)

My Valentine’s career revelation organically followed this subconscious identity destruction. I realized quite plainly that I could no longer follow this path for my voice. I had other career fish to fry. It’s time to move on.

Ok, let’s do it.

I drew a line in the sand for myself: I will no longer suffer on account of my voice.

I will let this go in order that something much more precious, joyful, and purposeful will come into being.

If my desire is to be free, then dammit, this must be the way towards that goal. Right?

It hurt for about five seconds. Then it didn’t. And now here we are.

Interestingly, I have not touched that site. I had been avoiding it. (It’s allisonmondel.com, if you are curious. It may be down by the time you read this!) For decades I had been scrambling and hustling and longing for others to accept me, to hire me, to approve of my talents, to look at what I have done and say this is impressive!

My self-worth was swept up in the ebb and tide of this external validation. It is absolutely the most normal thing in the world in the field of classical music: singers need to get noticed, they need training, they need street cred, they need to get hired. Mind you, it is wonderful to get hired! But not if it means that I sacrifice my own worth if I am not hired. Which I have done about a million times and it is basically The Worst. My level of Mettle was not sufficient enough to weather the tide.

But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up. And it certainly doesn’t mean that I will stop singing music that provides a wellspring of joy for me, and that exercises my artist muscle.

It is an interesting, unsettling place to be, shedding my old skin and growing into my new. I am not at all sure about where my “voice career” is headed, and I am ok with that. I have settled into a new role: Teaching Artist, which is something that feels aligned and awesome. And I am witnessing the path towards honoring my desire.

It is nothing short of a blessed miracle that when you do honor your desire, your desire turns into reality. I trust this process, I have seen it unfold in my own life many times. I believe that the trickiest parts are 1) determining to follow your desire and 2) being in the process of unfolding and uncertainty.

Everything is so unknown! What am I supposed to do now? Who am I if I am not this? What is the right way?

But I still recommend it. The desire for my own voice is to be free of any obstacles from my ego. My vision is to use my Sacred Voice in service of healing, both for myself, for others, and the planet. This may seem a little broad right now, but the details are filling in.

My desire informs my vision.

It is rather delightful to have both of these elements fulfilled in your career, when you have a second to notice that they are actually there. Because that is what is happening, and has been happening since I committed to myself to feel better. Tricky when you are so used to them not being there?

What I can assure you is that I have never once, since Valentine’s Day, ever criticized my voice.

Now THAT is a pretty sweet gift, indeed.

Hugs,

allison

Where has my voice gone?

Where has my voice gone?

Well, it depends on which voice you mean. 

Is it the ego voice? Or the Sacred Voice.

The “ego voice,” based in your mind, is terrified of something: rejection, judgment, punishment. It craves validation and acceptance. The ego voice is fed by the External. It allows something outside of itself to determine its worth, thereby granting or withholding permission to sing. Have you been given permission? Or has it been withheld? Or somewhere in between…

Your Sacred Voice does not go away. It simply waits, ready and alert. And sometimes, that inner voice gets so loud that it seeks a way out and there is some catalytic moment when a person declares: 

That’s it. I need to sing.

And then the process of unfolding begins. It is very beautiful, but oh so tender. 

I have worked with a number of singers who have begun this reclamation process. I have and continue to do this work myself. It is the healing process. We do not like to speak of it in classical music, my personal breeding ground. It is taboo, for a number of reasons. But when you feel so disconnected from your voice, I believe healing your relationship with your voice is the solution, no matter your style, musical aptitude, or inherent talent for singing.

It has become clear that there are two strands of this process: the Inner Work and the Outer Work.

The inner work is focused on a person’s voice story: what in the world has happened that has caused this separation from our voice? Sometimes the answer is quite clear, but just too painful and overwhelming. Sometimes it is fuzzy and buried deep, also too painful to allow to resurface, for any number of reasons. It’s personal.

Whatever the cause, the ego has shut it down. The result is some blockage in the energy system. It stems from our fears. This lack of free flowing, outwardly-expressing energy can make some people feel literally gagged or choked. Our voice is simply not accessible. For others, it may be less acute, but no less of a barrier.

Consider how integrated we are as human beings. The stories we construct around our voice have everything to do with us, not necessarily our voice. This means that our voice, or access to our voice, may be affected by blocked energy anywhere in the body. For me, it was my solar plexus (limping self-worth) and my heart (encased in stone). It’s personal.

So, what to do?

It’s a double job: we do the inner work and we do the outer work. You can do one without the other. I believe it is more effective, liberating, and rewarding when you steep yourself in both practices.

THE INNER WORK

1) Ignite Curiosity

Any process of healing begins with awareness. The whole reason we have found ourselves cut off from our voice is because our ego mind has been harboring attachments to painful memories or diminished impressions of our Self. By practicing curiosity we enable ourselves to regain some neutral ground by becoming the Observer, rather than the Afflicted. We practice curiosity and ask a very important question: What’s really going on here? The way to practice curiosity: connect with your heart center as you begin any practice. Your heart will never judge and has piercing clarity. 

2) Write Your Voice Story

If you desire more freedom and connection with your voice, it is crucial that you evaluate where you are and take stock of your relationship with your voice. Write it down: What is my Voice Story? What is my current relationship with my voice? What do I think? Feel? How long have I felt this way? Why does this feel so challenging? Do not expect revelations or to be immediately fixed, just allow the exploration to begin.

3) Release, Release, Release

Yup. Sorry. Here is the truth: painful experiences, hurtful comments, and rejections (to name a few) are highly impactful and often detrimental. These traumas, no matter how seemingly trivial, impact your ability to use your voice. They feed they ego voice and obscure the Sacred Voice. They block your energy, period. Thus, acknowledging and releasing your experiences, and your emotional response to them, is a crucial step towards healing and recovering your Sacred Voice. It will liberate your voice and change your life.

4) Write your Sacred Voice Story

If you could wave a magic wand and have exactly the voice you wanted, this is what that would be. When you let go of limiting beliefs, you transform your relationship with your voice. However, it is vital to re-envision your relationship with your Sacred Voice. What do you want to do with your voice? What is your vision? You may have no idea how you will get there, but begin by imagining a purposeful and joyful experience of using your voice. You will be amazed at how this vision will become your reality.

THE OUTER WORK

Here is where most people begin to recover their voice relationship. It is the obvious place to begin, but I believe it is a slower route. It is very much a part of my process, and helps singers de-tangle their fears from using their instrument. It can be rather sticky, but is a crucial aspect of how to heal.

1) Learn the Ropes

Learn how to sing. Or really, learn how your instrument can already sing. Learn how to breathe and harness breath energy. Eventually, when you become capable, you feel more confident, and then you feel more connected with your voice. As the curious observer, you learn how your breath gets caught when you start overthinking (i.e. scared, doubtful, critical, etc.). You learn the workarounds to an overthinking mind. You cannot think your singing. Essentially, you learn how to weave your mind into an integrated whole, centered and anchored at the heart, so that your fears, embedded in your mind and promulgated by your nervous system, are pacified.

2) Expand your Capacity

Breath and fear are bedfellows. (Oh, do I have so much to say about that!) Fear will constrict and limit your breath and cause your soft tissues to tighten. Like, all of them. You learn how to soften and relax and release and strengthen those muscles that support your voice. Bodies love breath. They thrive on it. Singing easefully and without fear is supported with expansive breath, the fuel of life. Learning how to breathe was the catalyst for my own voice healing. Importantly, when you gain greater access to your breath, your ego mind’s vice grip on your voice is loosened. You learn to trust your voice and feel more confident.

The Inner Work is now supported by the Outer Work. They weave together like a strand of DNA, made strong by the most crucial component of all combined: your will to transform. It may seem as though your voice has left the building. This is a very important part of your journey. But I believe the most important part is your willingness to call it back and to make yourself whole once more.

Your Sacred Voice is irrevocably part of you. You may be disheartened or displeased or appalled or abandoned by your ego voice, but know that the inner voice is truly divine. It is still with you. Your voice can never really be gone. Just waiting.

Hugs,

allison

Your Voice is Not Faulty

Your Voice is Not Faulty

Ouch. For days. There was a pain lodged in my back ribs that was inescapable. I was a new mother, about six months into the ordeal, and would describe myself as what many would call a “hot mess.” I felt broken. But I would not have been able to describe my situation as such, I was so myopic. I had zero access to the perspective-shifting powers I was used to exerting in normal, pre-baby, civilian life. Up in the middle of the night, dreading the inevitable lack of sleep, feeling weak and out of my body and anxious about everything and thoughts racing nonstop and thoughts, shall we say, of an unpure nature.

This pain had no obvious, direct source. After several nights of the little one teething (cue fist shake) and myself rocking, rocking, rocking him in the middle of the night, the hot back pain had become extreme. A synchronistic Google search led me to discover that it wasn’t my tight back that was actually the source: it was my tight diaphragm. Hm. So I stuck my fingers into my midsection, on the hunt for the source of my misery. (Oh-ho and a-ha! If only I knew…)

Sure enough, there was a beastly knot of muscle just under the front left side of my ribs, a place that had been taking all the bowed-down skeletal pressure of those sleepless nights. My first thought was, “Who gets a knot in their diaphragm?” and my second thought was,

I have a diaphragm???

Friend, I have been a professional singer and voice teacher for decades, and I have never ONCE considered the functionality and health of my diaphragm. (Wtf, Allison???) So, I set to instant work coaxing that knot to relieve itself, and in the process I noticed how my entire midsection was incredibly tight and tender. Fortunately the back pain ceased, but I was still the same Allison, hurtling through her mind at light speed and still wound up like a yo-yo.

About a year later, I was browsing at a bookstore, and passed by a book: “Breathe” by Dr. Belisa Vranich. I didn’t buy it (I should have), but following that visit that same title popped up for me on Audible. I took it as a sign, and started listening. And then: everything changed.

This book is about breathing targeted to regular, breathing people, not singers. It did not expect me to get it right so that I could master my sound. Kind Dr. Belisa wanted to help me feel better by regaining a functional diaphragm. After a few chapters, I lit up. I got to work on those breathing exercises and I was going to be a Really Good Breather. And you know, it worked. I learned a lot. Having a functional diaphragm is an excellent thing and I highly recommend it.

But here is where things get really interesting.

I didn’t just become an awesome breather. And a diaphragm appreciater. (Which I am both of those things.) As my diaphragm started regaining its pliability and range of motion, I started to feel so much stronger, especially after a cesarian section, which had basically gutted me and eliminated any shred of core strength. I also started to become more mentally clear. Indirectly, I noticed my singing started to change. Hmmm: my jaw and my tongue are less tight. Hmmm: it feels more flexible between these notes.

Importantly, I noticed the correlation between my diaphragm and my solar plexus: SHEESH! this energy center is soooooo very blocked. How did it become this way??

As my breathing deepened, I became aware of energy being moved, released, or rather, disturbed. It is difficult to be specific, and I am about to hurtle forward in this narrative, but: I felt confronted with the very nature of my self and my worthiness. From my back pain. And my teething kid. And my limping diaphragm. It felt as if my soul had thrown down a gauntlet at my feet: ok, Allison, whoo-hoo! it’s time. The key is in the ignition. We are heading into your next life chapter. Are you ready to transform? 

My lukewarm response: I think so?

And then I hit a low moment. Although it was one of the most important, defining moments of my life thus far: I lost my sh*&*^t. I threw a temper tantrum on my sweet precious angel child who committed some harmless, minor toddler misdemeanor. I shudder at myself, the inner rage unleashed on my child, as this horrible, angry, sleep-deprived Hulk exploded in the nursery. After the episode passed, I made a vow: I would never again lose my temper or treat my precious child in such a way. And then in my shame and guilt I Googled: Why am I so angry at my toddler?

And the blessed, wise Dr. Laura told me: it is because you have unhealed wounds from your own childhood.

Right. You know, on paper, this is the most obvious news in the world. But at that moment, it hit me like a cosmic boom: Ok, I have some healing. Can’t look away now! Let’s drive this car. Let’s do it.

The next day, I began. In contemplation, I released many things. I had the most rigorous cleansing of my entire body that I have ever experienced, as the energy release from my solar plexus literally heaved my entire frame, my body sobbing itself. I felt no pain. I felt no anger. I had no memories. I felt nothing but the moment of it, like a storm of release, and then as soon as it started, I settled down. It was over.

The next day I went into work and I began singing and discovered: my tongue tension was gone. All of it. Gone. I didn’t know WHAT to do, I was shocked and disbelieving. My singing was easeful. My breath was bountiful. I felt like an instrument.

I noticed that aaaaaallllll the things that my teachers had ever tried to instill in my singing technique were unfolding naturally as I sang. Because I was more functional as a human being: a-ha. What a profound lesson in holism:

My voice reflects my state of being.

My voice was not broken. Therefore I could not continue addressing it as if it were broken. But my former approach to singing had dislodged itself: how could I continue to treat my voice as if it were at fault at all times?

I wanted to integrate my voice with all the facets of myself: I needed a holistic framework.
I wanted to love my voice and believe in myself: I needed to be loving in the process.
I wanted to source my voice from something sacred: I needed a spiritual connection.

We are capable of losing access to our voice. We are just as capable of regaining access. That is what I have been doing since that time. I want unflagging belief in myself and my voice. I want to live into my purpose as an instrument. You know, I think it’s working.

Hugs,

allison