You don’t have to think ALL the thoughts!

You should have seen the first videos I created when the software for editing video on home computers first became available. (Actually, consider yourself lucky if you somehow missed these not-exactly-Oscar-worthy works.)

Fired up by all the cool features I could call upon to help me hammer my message home, I inserted as many of them as I could into my footage: fancy fades in and out, incessant musical underscoring, key points in swirling fonts overlaying the picture, animations, split screens, and so many other ornamentations that the main message I ended up conveying in these videos was that I had no restraint when it came to the special effects menu.

Any one of these special effects would likely have nicely highlighted my main points. All of them together created confusion.

I evidently still have a predilection for eschewing restraint. (See what I did there?) On the way to my voice teacher’s home yesterday for my lesson, I got lost in a pattern of thinking so baroque in its complexity that I actually began to giggle at myself once I recognized it.

Here’s what happened. Lately, I have been enjoying a particularly rich period of vocal progress: my explorations have yielded dozens of new insights and productive awarenesses to include when I sing. Each of these thoughts had individually proven transformative in my practice sessions of late. So naturally, I decided to employ ALL of them at my lesson and began listing them in my head so I wouldn’t leave anything out:

  • find my feet on the floor
  • let my in-breath travel up to the tops of my nasal passages
  • consider the structure of the jaw joints when opening my mouth
  • let my midsection widen when the breath comes in
  • see what is all around me
  • have a sense of where I want the tone to go in the room
  • let my behind be behind me
  • track the movement of the lower corners of my shoulder blades as I breathe
  • think the vowel and let my parts move into place to produce the intended sound

This is a partial list of the singing protocol I was concocting in my head as I approached my teacher’s building. But then, suddenly I became aware that—unlike in those glorious moments of free singing I’d been experiencing so often lately—I was currently feeling tense and anxious. I was completely up in my head. Luckily, the discrepancy between the state I wanted to create for myself in singing and the state I actually HAD created was so conspicuous (and hilarious) that I was shocked into awareness.

The beauty of such a moment of awareness is that in an instant, everything can change. I immediately found myself feeling light-hearted and clear-headed once again. So clear-headed that I decided to dispense with my oppressive list of things-to-be-included-in-my-thinking and just see what would show up in the moment as I sang for my teacher.

Miraculously, a brand-new awareness presented itself right at the outset of my lesson. It was nothing I could have predicted and was so subtle that I still can’t really describe it in words: something to do with the relative timing of the consonant and vowel as I initiate a sung syllable. If I’d been still caught up in my big list, I likely wouldn’t have had the mental space to notice this delicate new thing. My teacher and I followed this new thing for the whole lesson, which led to newly free high notes, an improved [a] vowel, unforced low notes, more resonance, better use of my breath, and shifts in countless other vocal phenomena that probably don’t even have names.

I’m excited to be able to hone my to-do list down to just one entry:

  • keep the channels of observation open and respond to whatever comes up

After all, that’s exactly how each of the items on my “oppressive” list initially arose—as a perfect response to whatever I had been noticing in that moment. Isn’t it nice to be able to trust that the wisdom of our design makes this kind of perfect pairing of awareness+response available whenever we care to experience it?

And aren’t you relieved that I stuck to a single font for this entire post?

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