unconscious, our dreams and fantasies, all those parts of us trying to find their way into the light of life but so often locked up, hidden away, burning us up on the inside rather than illuminating our life outside. Through opening our body to sing we can begin to make this connection with our own internal world and the collective unconscious we all share. The act of finding your voice opens the gates of renewal. Singing connects with our internal ‘natural’ world, where feelings and imagination live. It is about being in touch with the creative sources of life. It is in dream world territory.
The power of sing is reached by a yielding and surrender of the muscles to an internal wave, originating in the spine. Through working in harmony with this wave the physical process becomes effortless, and the resulting sound is ‘easy’, floating, melting. Thus we are uplifted. When we sing, we are in a state of ‘receiving’ breath, inspiring, a physical condition that leaves us feeling inspired. As we sing the body remains in this state, and over a period of time this condition changes how we feel, literally lifting us up so that we feel truly resurgent.
The song itself is looking for independent life. It is formed in the unconscious mind; it is brought to life by the very act of being performed, at which point it becomes public property. Life is bigger than any one person and the song enables us to join with it in that bigness. It is the way newness can manifest itself.
How does this happen? Two of the most significant parts of our vocal mechanism, the vocal cords and the diaphragm, both exist beyond direct volitional control, as much subject to our unconscious and autonomic reflexes as to individual will. It is as if nature deliberately decided that we would never be able to ‘control’ our voices, only ever let them go free. The only thing we can do is agree ‘not to know’, to release what is there, to trust that it will be OK. This is the meaning of the ‘free’ voice, one that is beyond the control of an individual’s volition. As good singers tell us, “something else sings for you”.
The key is the diaphragm, and when you have connected with it you have reached your goal. Each diaphragm of every single one of us is capable of speaking to the diaphragm of another without our ever being consciously aware of it, yet singing requires that you allow this elusive muscle to do it all for you. This is the root of our vocal challenge and the beginning of the adventure. The diaphragm breathes for you without your conscious involvement. It keeps you alive while you sleep. It plays a crucial if hidden role in your every breath.
The story of singing is the story of being in harmony with your own unconscious processes, of riding them as they flow and opening yourself to what they bring. It is about letting go of the conscious mind, abandoning your understanding of how things ought to be, and trusting yourself to the promptings of that which lies in your imagination, feelings and beyond. Your sound is the result of who you are. No one else can have your sound.
Published in Resurgence No. 216 Jan/Feb 2003