“True meditation is about being fully present with everything that is–including discomfort and challenges. It is not an escape from life.” ~ Craig Hamilton
Whether it’s a difficult yoga pose, a vocal technique you are trying to build, or a life challenge you are attempting to overcome, mindfulness will help to bring it about. Singing, and life for that matter, is not always sunshine and rainbows. For every 3 minutes of stage time, there are hundreds of hours spent in the practice rooms. For every physical posture, there is a slow progression towards strength and flexibility. It’s difficult. It’s uncomfortable. It’s even frustrating at times. But, if we gave up at the first sign of strife, we would never achieve anything. Mindfulness is the key to whatever you are working towards. If you are not completely focused, how can you make the neccessary changes to succeed?
When I first began singing, I had no idea what I was doing. Teachers kept telling me to do things and to not do things…. Often times they conflicted with one another, which made me even more confused. As a people-pleaser and a Type-A personality, I tried desperately to do everything they wanted without paying attention to how my body was feeling. In the struggle to make my voice a certain way, I wore it down. At the end of my lessons and practice sessions I would be hoarse and my throat would feel as if someone had strangled me. Being the naive young girl I was, I thought, “it must be that I’m building vocal strength! I’m doing everything they asked of me, so I must be doing it right.” But, I was so wrong. I wasn’t being present on how I was creating the voice they were asking for. Rather than using my breath in a healthy fashion and releasing tension, I was punching at my diaphragm and squeezing my larynx. Over the course of 6 years of study, my voice slowly deteriorated under that much pressure and falsification of vocal tone. After college, I finally realized that something must be wrong. By incorporating the awarness I had cultivated in my yoga practice, I began to focus not on the output of sound, but instead on what it felt like to sing. I became in tune with the subtlest sensations of tensions vs. release. It took years to break the deepset habit and muscle memory, but I’m slowly finding my true voice. I am no longer concerned about the sound that comes out. The beauty is in the feeling. Once we are aware of what is going on inside the body, we can make instantaneous adjustments in the heat of the moment rather than waiting for corrections and always relying on an outside source to give critiques. Being mindful freed up my voice and made me self-reliant.
You could say that, in this way, my yoga practice saved my voice. I learned so much about my body, my mind, and my attitude towards practicing. I learned to take responsibility for my actions. Rather than panicking about the difficulty of a vocal passage or a challenging posture, I learned to be present, be strong, and lean into the discomfort. If we never were uncomfortable, we would never change. It is said that the moment you want out of a pose is precisely the moment that you are finally in it. Likewise, when you don’t feel like practicing or working on your music, you really should: for the good of your music and the good of your soul. So, settle, get comfortable in the uncomfortable, and learn to be present in whatever your yoga practice, your voice, or your life throws at you.
#journeytohandstand challenge day 6: handstand push-up. When I saw this challenge posture I thought, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” But I tried it. I breathed. I focused. And I survived. What new challenges can you be present in today?