The singing voice is a vehicle connecting us with the flow of life that gushes through our being at full force. The singing voice, through the media of breath and sound, supports the process of transforming energy patterns, creates measurable beneficial effects in the physical body, and influences consciousness more efficiently than any other form of sound. Like no other sound, the voice becomes a link with our spiritual life by revealing deeper aspects of the Self.
My primary intention in writing this book is to remind us that we are born wanting to sing and that at any stage of life we can benefit from singing more. Singing starts in the womb and continues blissfully throughout our lives – on the playground, at the ballpark, at political rallies, in the concert hall, in our morning worship. Unsolicited singing emerges as an organic impulse to express out loud our membership in the universal community choir. We love it, and we long for more.
This book is based on the absolute belief that everybody can sing. In these pages, you will find a systematic method for freeing the voice to promote physical health and emotional well–being, encourage self–expression, cultivate artistry, and nurture happiness.
The media is buzzing lately with ‘new’ discoveries of how sound, vibration, and music can benefit our health and well–being. These benefits, now recognized by science, have been intuitively known by the human species throughout history. We can learn about this from the ancients, as well as from many indigenous people living today. The fact is that each and every one of us carries with us, at all times, a most valuable instrument for healing: our own natural voice.
When you start opening your voice – whether in a hum, through sounding long tones, by improvising, or with a favourite song – it’s like a fountain and you can’t stop the flow. If you keep yourself ‘in the open’ by vocalizing every day (or as often as you can), your voice becomes your protection, your Buddha mind, your fountain of wealth and health, a soothing balm, the precious child that you adore, your chosen mother.
With regular practice, vocalizing, singing, and chanting become an ordinary miracle that effortlessly guides you to a sense of self–confidence, compassion, and love supreme. Your savings account toward radiant health and spiritual liberation will grow fat and happy!
My Secret Religion
Since my early childhood, birds and their natural songs have inspired me. When I was small, I talked to the birds and they talked back to me. They became my secret religion. I would sit on the stairs of our weekend home and listen to their songs for hours.
When I was five years old, nature was my sanctuary, and the mystery of listening became the gateway to my deepest inner world. My top–secret sonic meditation was to earnestly attend to the space of time between one song and the next from the same bird. It thrilled me to discover that the space in between was not always the same – what in music we refer to as periodic rhythmic pulse. The birdsong were so beautiful, and it was captivating for me to discover this ‘space in between’. The appreciation that nature is not linear was the awakening of musicality within my five–year–old self. The cycles of the creative imagination seem to have the same nonlinear, poetic nature.
Another fun sonic game was to imagine what the bird was saying and to create fantastical stories based on the call and response among birds. But my favourite listening experience led me to discover the freedom of my voice and its connection with my own wild nature. I would echo the songbird with my voice and engage in a nuanced dialogue that would continue the next day, and the next. I adored this story singing – my first experience of sacredness in music – and I still play this listening game with the same wonderment and devotion.
The birds made me so happy I wanted to learn how I could use their special magic to make other people happy. As a singer, I wondered how I could soar to such heights with my own voice. As a voice teacher, I wondered how I could assist others in allowing their voices to fly. My fascination took me to many world paradises in search of particular bird songs. For many years I researched the human voice, determined to explored every aspect of sound it can utter.
Who is singing?
Keep on knocking, and the joy inside
will eventually open a window
and look out to see who’s there.
RUMI, translated by Coleman Barks
I noticed that singing in a slow, sustained, and sliding manner induces a profound shift in emotions and states of consciousness. In the system of practices that I designed, the voice wanders through a combination of long tones, trancelike repetitive patterns, devotional chants, indigenous songs, invocations, and textural poetry. Through working with the voice in this way, the realm of sounding becomes a state of consciousness – a kind of trance – where the attention is not on the Self, but in the experience of Sound. Free from selfish demands, the voice soars and releases divine tones and songs. We wonder, Who is singing?
Many times I hear my students ask, ‘Who was that? . . . Was that me?’ I tell them, ‘Yes, it was! You were just listening focused only on sound, and your voice responded with confident freedom.’
The practice of being in sound, dwelling in sound, becomes a devotional gift. We begin to realize that we are not singing, but calling in divine qualities; we are not performing but transforming – simultaneously playing and praying. Here there is no singer, only breath, attention, and tone.
In this meditation–like state, singing becomes a doorway to deep inner silence, where we are one with pure vibration. The heart is open, the voice is open, the hands are open, the eyes are softly closed – we experience no fear. Our breath is the breath of God.
Singing in this way clears the mind of everything else but sound – instantly. Abiding in the true nature of the mind – empty and clear as crystal – we soon experience the energizing power of the voice.
Freedom settles in and we allow for more and more of this irresistible joy – the joy I first heard in the music of the birds. We open ourselves to the mystery of whoever is singing!