Putting your Mouth where your Mind is…

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Photo courtesy of Little Voice, one inspiration for this post…

In Christine’s most recent blog post she explores the many conundrums and complications associated with presence—what it means to “be” present and how we might feel our own presence, or lack of it. We talk about this a lot, which probably isn’t a surprise and we worked through the Yoga With Adriene 30 Day Yoga Challenge at the same time. Like Christine, I found the mantras challenging. As a person who believes in self-talk and its positive impact AND a voice teacher who is always encouraging people to make and explore sound, it flabbergasted me that early on I often felt so…embarrassed speaking the mantras out loud. Over the 30 days I discovered Adriene’s brilliance in gently challenging my division of mind and voice, in my yoga practice and outside of it.

Finding freedom of expression and feeling is a holistic body/mind process. Yoga poses expand and challenge our bodies creating moments of surrender, stretch, release and any number of sensations. Our mind is challenged to remain focused and explore every corner of the experience. There are moments of feeling wonderfully receptive and moments of disconnection, frustration, and discomfort. Rarely though, do we voice any of these feelings. Especially in a public class! Working through an adjustment with a teacher might lead to a terse exchange and a smile when things are shifted into place, but I’ve never seen a person grounded in a warrior one pose suddenly say “I am strong” or a pensive hero pose yield the statement “I love myself.” And that’s fine. We could get into a whole discussion of the roots of yoga and curtailing ego, which would be valid and interesting. Today though I want to suggest there are benefits to voicing mantras in home yoga practice and daily life, so long as the space feels safe for you.

Most of the time social conditioning implores us to maintain a state of neutrality in public/professional situations that might vacillate from chipper to mildly disgruntled, but never reveals too much of the emotional spectrum. The mindset might be that expressing our sorrows makes people uncomfortable and being too happy is just obnoxious. Emotional honesty and its expression are not part of day-to-day public life. Which is fair enough, it’s often easier to say “I’m ok a bit tired” rather than launching into a diatribe on your latest existential crises at work. But what does that do to us? Would it be so bad to use the body/mind to voice some honesty to your me, myself and I (Beyoncé throwback there)? Mantras provide an avenue for celebrating, strengthening, and acknowledging ourselves. Self voicing self, for self.

The term “Mantra” has many meanings and applications and in the yoga challenge took on a meditative, celebratory role. As I learned to get over my sheepishness I began to enjoy the feeling of my voice rising with the breath out of a pose, allowing myself to enjoy fully expressing an aspect of me. I’ve begun using mantras in other ways too, sometimes just as a rallying point on a challenging day: “Today is difficult but I am strong and capable.” There’s a palpable relief for me in making an honest statement to myself in a bathroom mirror or on a yoga mat. My mouth is physicalizing the mind, and often that external manifestation gives me some perspective: I can feel joyful, proud, or realize I need to let go. If on occasion I appear to be an eccentric talking to myself, so be it.

I hope this will encourage you to try some mantras in a context that appeals to you, please let us know how it goes!

A final thought…

“I’ve always felt that the quality of the voice is where the real content of a song lies. Words only suggest an experience, but the voice is that experience.”

-Jeff Buckley

With Love,

Lindsay and Christine

 

 

Good Vibrations!

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Hi Everyone! 

Resonance. One part of the sound equation that makes your voice uniquely yours. Working on your resonance gives you volume for free and adds richness and fullness to your sound. It also makes speaking more fun, because you can feel the vibrations of your voice as you speak. That means when you are speaking, you are literally giving yourself a vibrational massage! 

If you’re an actor, cultivating your resonance helps you play with vocal character choices in a safe way. In the business world developing your resonance helps you find vocal authority and impact. 

Do you feel like your voice is resonating to its full potential? This week we’re posting a short and sweet sequence for developing your resonance. It’s great on its own or as part of a longer vocal warm up. Give it a try, cultivate those good vibes, and let us know what you think! 

Take Good Care,

Christine & Lindsay

To Be or Not to Be: What is Presence?

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Presence. Everyone seems to be talking about this word at the moment. As Lindsay astutely observed in our first blog post, Mindfulness is ‘so hot right now’, and presence is a key principle in Mindfulness. I have taught several communication workshops lately where I’ve stated from the beginning that ‘presence’ was going to be the theme, and no one ever questions it. I guess being present with oneself and with others seems like a logical concept to consider when working on one’s communication— in fact it is a concept that is mentioned all over the place on this website.

But what is it? What does it mean to be present? How can it turn from a hot buzzword into something we can embody or be? What can we do to be present, or is presence simply being? As Kurt Vonnegut wisely said: “I’m a human being, not a human doing.”

I have struggled with being present my entire life. To me it seemed like this ethereal, mysterious thing that I was always in pursuit of and could never quite find. I cultivated my talent for not being present from an early age— I was a highly imaginative child and loved to let my mind wander anywhere other than the present moment. There isn’t anything necessarily wrong with that, but as I grew up and the demands of life increased, that talent for my mind wandering became increasingly more about worrying about the past or planning for/thinking about/worrying about the future, rather than being in the current moment I was in.

When I began studying to be an actor, my acting teachers at various points in my training picked up on my talent for not being present. A big part of acting training is learning how to listen to your impulses from moment to moment. But I was so busy thinking about the way I had planned the scene the night before or how my performance would be received after the scene that I often struggled to connect to my impulses. Hell, I had spent so much of my life not in the present moment that I didn’t even know how to listen to my impulses. My teachers would just tell me— “Get present. Be in the moment.” And I would think— but what does that mean??? And how do I DO it???

This is why I love voice work. Voice work provides a vehicle for exploring these ‘buzz words’—which are so often conceptual and hard to reach—physically and vocally. It was through voice work that I learned that ‘presence’ is not just a state of mind. In fact, it was through voice work that I learned that I’m not just a disembodied head with a brain in it! I have a body! I have a voice! And it is created not in my head, but through muscular actions that happen in my body. This body can feel, breathe, and respond—and it operates as one organism that works with and for the mind. This might not be news to any of you, but it was a shocking discovery for me. Through voice work, I learned that presence is not finding some ethereal state. It’s about learning how to acknowledge your whole self— your mind, body and voice.

‘Presence’ is one of the major concepts in Fitzmaurice Voicework (R), an approach to voice training that I now teach. (You may at this point be asking yourself, how does this woman have any business teaching ‘presence’ when she’s just admitted she’s bad at it? Fair question. I’m a work in progress.) Saul Kotzubei, a Master Teacher of Fitzmaurice Voicework, defines ‘presence’ as: ‘the ability to be with one’s internal experience and relate to one’s external environment— simultaneously and fluidly.’ In other words, it’s the ability to check in with what’s going on inside of you, as you are aware of the outside world— at the same time. A big part of that work is ‘practicing’ this ability to be present; by developing proprioception of the body, by working with the breath, by working with the thought— and by continuously coming back to what’s happening in the body, in the breath, with the thought— over and over and over again. Because that’s all it is— being present. Noticing what’s happening from moment to moment.

And that includes noticing—‘I don’t feel present in this moment.’

It was my struggle to be present physically and vocally that led me to pursue an interest in voice work, which is what I now teach. I’ve been working on cultivating my ability to be present for several years now, and I’ve been feeling pretty good about it lately. So you can imagine my dismay when, as part of a 30 day yoga challenge that includes a mantra, or an affirmation, with every day’s practice, I fell flat on day 10 when the mantra was: ‘I am present.’ **

It was as if, when my brain heard the mantra, it decided to rebel (it often does that). I kept trying to practice the mantra, but my body was doing one thing and my mind was somewhere else, and ‘never the twain shall meet’. I was getting more and more frustrated and angry. ‘Don’t I teach this for a living?’ I thought. I wondered what my students would think of me in this moment— all while moving from warrior two to downward-facing dog. Why couldn’t I just stay present?

And then I realized— I was still trying to go for my idea of being present. I was still expecting to find some ethereal, mystical state. But actually— what was happening in those moments as I moved through that yoga video— that is the practice of being present. This is how I can ‘do’ being present. I notice I’m not. That my mind is somewhere else. That awareness gives me power, because in that awareness, there is choice. I can choose to come back to focusing on the moment— on what my body is doing, on how I am breathing, on what sensations or emotions I am feeling in the present moment, or not. And I get to make that choice every time I become aware that I am indeed no longer present. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we all decided to have this kind of awareness in our communication with others?

This is where I am with practicing presence. What about you? What are your thoughts on what ‘presence’ is and how you can be present? With yourself and with others? What are your struggles? What are your triumphs? Let us know in the comments below— we would love to hear!

** This was, however, a fantastic 30 day Yoga challenge, made by BeSpoke’s official favorite yoga teacher, Adriene Mishler.

Christine

 

Finding Your Alignment

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Hello friends!

Now that we have checked in with the body through the ‘Basic Body Check In’ and the ‘BeSpoke Body Scan’, this week we are introducing a quick sequence to help you find your alignment in standing. Finding your alignment is about stacking the bones of your body from the crown of your head to your toes. It all starts with the feet, which is why you get a sneak peak at Christine’s sexy cat slippers! Meow!

Finding this alignment allows you to stand with grace and move with ease. It’s a timeless posture that will keep you more comfortable and allow you to breathe more easily when you stand up. Easier breathing means easier speaking. This is an excellent sequence to listen to along with our other body check -ins or on its own. It can be used as a prelude to a vocal warm up or as a way of checking in right before you begin to speak in any communication context.

Please let us know what you think!

Christine & Lindsay