Building Connections, Building Meaning

Yoga has taught me that the idea of using your emotional experiences as inspiration and information is critical to building a connection to what you are singing or writing or painting and, in fact, to building connections in your life. Called satya in yoga, this translates to truthfulness. It is imperative to speak your truth in your art and in your life. When we add singing into the mix, we find a way to vocalize our truth through song which is an incredibly powerful experience. Singing can open up the gates, so to speak, if you are used to holding back in your creative endeavors or in your life.
A conscious focus of my teaching is this idea of satya; how connecting to emotional experiences enhances your voice and your ability to communicate your personal truth. On my side this is about opening up to my students to show more of myself in my teaching and for them, how they can open up to their own emotional experiences and allow those to inform their singing and by extension, their existence.

The ability to convey emotions means you must be aware of them and how they feel when you experience them – physically, emotionally and mentally. Delving into this territory takes courage and will probably make you uncomfortable. (Big side note: If you are uncomfortable doing this, you are probably on the right track!).

In her book DARING GREATLY, Brené Brown says, “To put our art, our writing, our photography, our ideas out into the world with no assurance of acceptance or appreciation – that’s vulnerability.” Indeed, how many times have you created something new, a concert, a character, a book, a presentation and felt terrified before setting it free into the world?

But, how many times have you gone to a concert, seen an art exhibit or read something where the creator has clearly laid their soul plain for the world and loved your experience? I know I have. I also know that vulnerability is definitely not my strong suit which is I why I understand its value. My greatest experiences performing, teaching and living come when I have opened to my own emotions allowing them to inform my experience. Not in that messy, over-sharing TMI type of way, but in the way that yoga has taught me: mindfully – when I have worked through the experience and transformed it into wisdom that informs my journey.

For me yoga is the pathway into vulnerability and the voice is a way to get comfortable expressing it. I work to center myself before teaching and engage with students honestly, being open about my experiences singing and in life. Lessons begin with breathing, centering, and meditating. Sometimes I do make them lie on the floor in a yoga pose to open up the body along with the mind. We pause while vocalizing and singing through rep to look at things through the lens of emotion and see how that informs the moment. Sometimes we both end up in tears. I’ve learned not to shy away from those moments, but to lean in because I know good things are happening.

When we relax the body, slow the breath and quiet the mind, we can see and feel our emotions without letting them carry us away as though we are on an out-of-control freight train! We learn to be a compassionate observer who gathers data without judging and we move closer to our personal truth. When we verbalize it through song it becomes more comfortable.

Is your vulnerable truth coming through in your craft, be it singing, writing, painting or presenting? It might be uncomfortable, but it is always worth it in the end.

Boulders of Resistance

It is always interesting and humbling to make a realization about one’s self. My most recent one is my ability to resist anything and everything. Though a kindly acupuncturist had said to me at one point, stop resisting your life, it wasn’t until I read an article recently that I had this epiphany over my resistance and just how deep it can go.

I know I’m not alone in this, we all resist and more often than not, we resist things that actually make us feel good emotionally, physically and spiritually. These are the things that help us actualize our life’s purpose and elevate our being. Eat better….exercise…practice yoga….practice your craft…go after what you really want…accept what you need to do on a daily basis to make your life work. Do you come up with reasons not to do these things or resent having to do them sometimes (ALL THE TIME?)?

As I sat with the article I realized my resistance is like a wall of giant boulders, stacked as high as the Hoover Dam. Each boulder is some other element of life that I can choose to resist. The upshot is I spend an excessive amount of time suffering because I’m so busy keeping these boulders stacked up, thinking life should be some other way or trying to avoid the things that would help me. On the far side of the boulders is my actual life, a giant pool of water that so desperately wants to move and flow.

Our bodies and minds find ways to notify us of our resistance. Mine recently came up with a low back that went kablooey (is that a word? Whatever, it is now.) the week after Christmas. All fall I’d been holding the boulders up against a busy work schedule, children’s illnesses and injuries, familial demands, holiday prep and a household that feels like it is a war-zone of toys and clutter. My self care practices of yoga, exercise and singing weren’t happening because I was so busy wanting my life to be different and holding my boulders.

A trip to the chiropractor and a few x-rays later I discovered that the neck injury I knew I’d had for years and once upon a time had managed well through yoga has lead to decreased disc space and no natural curve in my neck. In addition my 5th lumbar is compressed, sacrum rotated forward, right hip raised, left hip lowered and the muscles in that area all in spasm. In the words of the chiropractor, you have a lot going on.

That is true on so many levels. Once I got over being freaked out and angry and, well, resistant to my current state, I remembered the words my husband once said to me (see, I’m surrounded by these sage people once I actually pay attention): Don’t get mad, get curious. His context for saying it was to get me to try and respond differently to my then 2 year old daughter who had me at the end of my rope, but I still think about that phrase (especially when dealing with my children, but other times too).

When I decided to stop suffering about it, I was able to see that I possess the tools to take a look at my back and in conjunction with the work I’m doing with the chiropractor, make it better. Out came my book of yoga therapy (thank you Doug Keller for the work you do) and I delved in. Not surprisingly, my psoas muscle is a key player in the ills of my back. Though I am quite familiar with this muscle, I saw things in a new way as I researched it in terms of my own body. The muscle shares connective tissue with the diaphragm and is connected therefore, to our breath and fear. DING, DING, DING, we have a winner. I have no doubt that over the years, my resistance (fear) over accepting the things I must do and not doing the things I should do to help me be my best self, finally caught up with me.

So, here’s my commitment to myself. I shall do the psoas lengthening, hip releasing exercises that take me to point of being nearly pain free immediately, every day even though I know they call up emotional stuff that I will work to just observe and not indulge in. And, I shall begin to pull the boulders down from my wall, lessen my resistance to what is and commit to things that help me self actualize. The boulders won’t go away, but I can learn to observe them, acknowledge their existence and then let the river of my life flow around them, making different choices and accepting what is.

Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going to go spend a little time warming my voice up and not resisting the fourth snow day in a week that I’m having with my kids.