Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Finding Your True Voice

We live in a culture that teaches us to be quiet and not speak up from an early age. Children are taught to "be seen but not heard." When a parent or teacher feels a child is taking up too much space, they are often told to be quiet or more crudely, to "shut up." These kinds of messages stifle our hearts and souls and keep us from growing and evolving into a true, purposeful and happy self.

In reality, not only do we need to find our voice to fully express and connect with self and others, but also others need to hear what we have to say to connect with self and others as well.

Here are 8 things we need to find our true voice:

1. Emotional safety: When emotional safety is present, we can feel and access our deeper sensations, emotions and thoughts. Emotional safety allows us to drop our defenses and dig deep into the root of who we are. When we are in touch with that deeper sense somatically and emotionally, voice, including words, follow.

2. Awareness that voice is a key capacity--something to find and have: Kids need to hear the message that voice is a critical capacity. Adult women and men need to be encouraged to find their voice and speak it out loud. Learning to find and use your voice is at least as important as learning to use a spreadsheet or read and write.

3. Patience: It takes time to find our voices and patience to be present with what is there. Patience creates spaciousness and relaxation which helps us feel our deeper thoughts and feelings.

4. Introspection: Learning to slow down, meditate, go inside, journal and reflect help us connect with our deeper self and what we really have to say.

5. A climate of non-judgment: When we judge ourselves or feel judged, we often censor our true feelings and thoughts. This leads to suppressing our true voice rather than expressing it.

6. Focusing on what you feel, not just what you think: Our deeper voice lies in the heart, including feelings, sensations and deeper experiences that the mind or brain may not be able to access.

7. Having permission to feel all your feelings, and embrace them as human: There are no "bad feelings" really. Anger, pain and fear are just as human as joy and happiness. If you suppress some of your feelings, including intense ones, it is hard to feel your wholeness as a human being.

8. Learning to trust your heart: Because our culture often lacks emotional safety, we often become afraid to listen and follow our hearts. It is actually the heart that helps us find our true voice and vision and therefore take meaningful action.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Music As A Personal Growth Pathway

I was very sad to learn of the recent passing of personal growth leader and inspirational writer and speaker Wayne Dyer. His work touched and impacted the lives of so many people. Tonight on Facebook I noticed a posting about a video featuring his daughter Selena, focusing on one of Wayne's 10 principles to live by: "don't die with the music still in you."

While Wayne used this language as a metaphor, there is a lot of literal meaning in the principle as well as symbolic meaning. The music that lives inside of us is a metaphor for our personal gift to give to the world, reflecting a sense of personal purpose. It can take many forms. But what matters is that we each find a pathway to full self-expression, which leads to a full contribution to the larger world.

For someone who is a musician, the full self-expression literally IS the music that is inside of them. And finding one's voice literally or playing the music that one feels and hears internally is the path of full self-expression and contribution to enrich the lives of others. Music is itself a powerful language, a heartfelt gift to give and receive, and a pathway from soul to soul that runs deeper than words.

While personal growth has always fueled my life and work, the process of embracing the depth of my identity of musician has led me to some of my richest, and sometimes most painful, growth. As a shy introvert, the last thing I ever wanted to do was stand on a stage and have people look at me and listen to me. The thought of "taking up space" and even "commanding attention" was a terrifying one. Yet, the music playing within me was not just a spark, but actually a soul-infused fire, that sought worldly expression as a pathway to connect with and touch others.

As a young person, I felt both the warmth of this passion, and the external squelching of my fire by other people, particularly my father, whose mantra was "music is a waste of a good mind." How does a young child reconcile an innate passion with a message from a parent that this passion is bad or wasteful? My response was to feel shame--shame that I felt so passionately, and shame that what I felt so passionately about was judged as wrong.

The threads of both passion and shame extended through many chapters of my life. The passion kept driving me to embrace music in different ways and to different degrees at many life junctures. The shame limited how far I could embrace my passion, and limited my vision of what I could allow myself to do. Yes, I needed to make enough money to support myself and my son. Yes, it felt quite vulnerable to expose myself vocally and musically, and yes, others can be really judgmental in ways that hurt when one exposes ones soul. Yet a creative force, that music that lived and lives inside of me, sought the space to emerge, to create, to connect. And without growing into a person who could transform the shame and nurture the fires of passion, ironically, that would feel like the waste of my life that my father chanted on and on about.

I learned vocal technique very young, but doing the heart work that truly freed my voice, could not be reduced to a series of vocal training skills. Moving into the world of cabaret, where the unique interpretation of a beloved song, and the theatrical skills to paint the picture of the song for the audience, has forced me to not only step beyond my comfort zone, but more so to face and embrace my discomfort zone. Growing into a person who can truly have my voice and share it, has required not only fabulous coaching, but also great courage to grow, heal and transform.

In this case, the gain is well worth the pain. Music is a magical crucible that transforms, and for me, it has allowed pain to be transformed into joy. I am deeply touched by musicians who truly inhabit their songs and for whom musical instruments are an extension of their souls, and literal soul voice. When we let our music out, we fertilize soul seeds, and touch hearts, and help bridge even the deepest divides. Music is magic. And to follow the path it asks of us, is to engage in a life of profound growth and enrichment.