The Eyes: Finding an Aligned Perspective

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Hi Friends,

Look at this poor monster waiting for the bus stop. (My partner took this picture in Brooklyn in 2012– the “monster” was shooting a cold medicine commercial.) He is almost standing in his alignment, but because his eyes are looking down, his whole head-neck relationship is off and he has shortened himself.

Thinking about how you use your eyes (and how you see the world) is an easy way to check in with your alignment and your perspective. Being in your alignment is key to finding groundedness, presence, and grace. It also makes breathing easier, which makes speaking easier. This will be an especially useful sequence for you if you tend to get rigid when finding your alignment, or if you tend to hyper-focus with your vision.

Let us know how it goes!

Take good care,

Christine and Lindsay

The Clock: For Abdominal Release

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Hi Friends,

This week we’re offering a Shiatsu abdominal self-massage called “The Clock, ” which was introduced to Christine by her teacher, Catherine Fitzmaurice. Shiatsu is a type of Japanese massage that uses acupressure. This is a great abdominal release sequence for those of you who feel like you often walk around holding your abs in– not so useful for deep breathing or connected, supported speaking. You can do this sequence any time, but it can be particularly useful after having done an ab workout. Remember, a fully flexible muscle is one that can fully engage and can fully release. If you are only working out your muscles, they are only fully engaging, so over time they will grow tighter and tighter and lose their flexibility. Release work is therefore a really important antidote to any workout– to keep those muscles nice and flexible.

So find a comfy spot, wear some nice loose clothing, and enjoy!

Please let us know how your experience with this goes. We want to hear from you!

Take good care,

Christine & Lindsay

Working the Balance: Listen and Be Heard

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Hello Friends!

What a week its been! First, the happiest news is that we were able to celebrate the rather wonderful birth of Christine, see below. Lindsay speaking for a moment: it was the brightest light being able to honor a dear friend who keeps my life full of laughter, love, lessons, hope,and of course quality food, and cocktails.

Now this was coupled with an inauguration, no secret if you read our post after the election, that we are deeply troubled by. However, it is our conviction not to be silenced by fear but to be courageous and stand with those who would progress equal rights,confront the battles of social justice, champion diversity, and address climate change.

The Women’s March on London was a fantastic place to start. It was filled with humor and passion, and the most AMAZING samba band to keep us going through packed streets and a delayed start due to the sheer numbers inundating Grosvenor square. In the intensity of this temporary community, brought together to be heard and show solidarity, it was striking how much listening there was to be done, from absorbing signs which covered subjects ranging from feminism to LGBTQIA to refugees to Black Lives Matter, to Climate Change, then there were the chants, and the conversations, and the simple directives that allowed the march to maintain its peaceful organization. There was something deeply moving about standing in the midst of these varied, yet aligned messages and feeling the energy of collective communication.

Communication and our choices around it will be a deeply impactful part of shaping the political climate and agenda as we move forward. Sometimes it will be a wonderful way to share and connect. Sometimes it will be much more challenging. We advocate basking in the connections and rising to the challenges wherever and whenever you’re able to. Maybe that’s in artistic expression, maybe it means being braver in your communication in everyday life. To be clear, this courageous expression needs to involve the balance of listening and being heard. Listening to understand, and not purely react, is no easy feat. Especially when what we’re hearing makes us uncomfortable. Responding from that place makes us more susceptible to losing our intention and dilutes the point we wanted to make. All this leads to to a scenario where neither party hears anything from the other.

We would like to encourage a communication practice that works to allow the most productive conversations possible. It is our hope that coming from a place of grounding and clarity may pave the way for understanding each other better. We also hope it will make those we’re speaking to more receptive, although depending on where they’re coming from this may be deeply challenging. Even if that is so, better to know we tried with integrity to build a bridge, rather than impose a wall.

Here are a few simple techniques we hope will serve you in that goal:

  • Establish the intention of this conversation for yourself. Be clear about what you are trying to understand through listening and the points you want to make by speaking.
  • Breathe to the person/people you’re speaking to. It may sound strange but try to direct you’re breathing toward them. The aim is to allow your abdominals to relax and take a full breath, if those you’re speaking to mirror you they will also be taking deeper breaths. Deep breathing combats stress hormones and will allow your thinking to remain clear.
  • Find your feet on the ground. Whether standing or sitting, actively feel your feet making contact with the surface beneath you. It’s a great reminder to be present in the moment and a literal way to “stand your ground.”
  • Notice any tension occurring in your body, especially in the face, neck, and shoulders. Try breathing to these places with the aim of allowing them to soften. Recognize this is a sign of defensiveness that may be unconsciously mirrored by the person/people you’re speaking to.

We recognize sometimes it’s necessary to be defensive to extricate yourself from a threatening situation, please be mindful and safe.

Let us know how it goes, good luck and stay present in listening and speech!

With Love,

Lindsay and Christine

 

 

 

 

Get Vocal about New Year’s Resolutions!

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Happy New Year everyone! We hope you had a festive and restful holiday season. We both got to go home for Christmas, and both had a great time visiting friends and family. But now we are back and ready for 2017.

January is always an interesting time. A time of recovering from the holidays and getting back to reality, but also a time filled with hope and newness— a chance to reflect, shift perspectives, try on new habits. You may have already made some personal new year’s resolutions, but have you thought about how you would like to grow vocally in 2017?

These are some shaky times we live in, and this would be a good year to cultivate a strong voice— you may need it! The more mindful you can be about setting yourself some goals for your vocal growth and health, the more likely you are to stick to them. Here are some good examples of New Year’s Resolutions* for the voice:

  1. Incorporate a voice warm-up into your regular routine. Voice work is like exercise, the more you do, the more you’ll notice a lasting change and impact. As we always say, a little often is better than a lot sometimes. Even 5 minutes a day every day is better than none at all. Start small and see how it grows from there. If you get lost for warm up ideas, use our audio guides to guide you! This one is a good place to start.
  2. Make speaking from support a consistent habit. Habits take time to form, and new, healthier vocal habits often have to be formed quite consciously, because they involve un-doing less healthy habits. Speaking from support on a regular basis will not only keep your voice healthy, but will help you speak from a place of connection and engagement. So make this a priority this year— if supporting your voice is not your habit, then begin to get conscious. Every time you speak, ask yourself: am I supporting this? And if not, do it! But do take this in digestible bites. Maybe start with only your phone conversations. Then at least one in-person conversation a day. Then work your way up to thinking about this every time you speak.We have excellent audio guides that describe what “support” is and help you find it here, here, here and here.
  3. Practice Listening. Voice work is about a lot more than just working on the sound of your own voice— it’s about becoming an engaging and engaged speaker. Being engaged requires the ability to listen and receive, something this world will be in desperate need of in 2017! We can all get better at listening, which just like anything else, is a practice. A good place to start is to practice listening to yourself. Voice warm ups provide a good platform for this self-listening. What does your body/voice/mind/spirit need today to warm up and be present? Here are some good mindful voice work audio guides that can help you practice. Then the question becomes, how can you transfer this practice into listening to others?
  4. Be generous with your speech. This is purposefully worded broadly, because you can take that in many directions. Be generous with your words and your approach to others. Also, be generous to others by speaking clearly, sending them your sound and clearly articulating your words, so that they don’t have to work to hear you. You will sound more committed to what you are saying because you are willing to be heard, but you will also engage your audience more because they can just focus on your words, rather than on trying to understand you. (I use that term audience loosely— it could be a theatre audience or your mom.) Here and here are some good audio guides that can help you find that clear speech.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, but hopefully a good starting place to get you thinking about how you would like to grow vocally this year. In our experience, following through with goals or resolutions happens more easily when we write them down first (giving that writing voice a platform too! Hey, that could be resolution #5!). So take a moment, grab some pen and paper and maybe even a nice cup of tea, sit somewhere comfy and write down some plans for your vocal growth this next year. Email us or comment below to let us know how it goes. We want to hear your resolutions and help support you in them!
Happy New Year,

Christine and Lindsay
*If you don’t like New Year’s resolutions, don’t worry! These don’t have to be resolutions. They can also be straight-up goals.

Find Your Ground: Foot Massage Sequence

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Hey friends!

This is a joyous time of year, but the busyness of the holiday season can often feel a bit de-stablizing. This is a massage sequence to help you find your ground again. When you’re standing up, a good way to find your ground is to feel where your feet connect with the floor. You have three points of contact between your feet and the floor: the ball joint of the big toe, the ball joint of the little toe, and the heel. Together, they are shaped like a ‘tripod’, and balancing your weight across this tripod brings a sense of grounding that can help you stay present in the moment. Being grounded helps you breathe easier, which makes it easier to speak fluidly and clearly.

You can bring your awareness to your tripods anytime, but sometimes a little massage to that area can help increase your awareness and sensation in that area. And it just feels good! So give this a try, especially before a speech, show, Christmas pantomime, or hey, maybe even before a holiday party where you’ll be doing a lot of standing and talking. Let us know how it goes!

Take good care,

Christine and Lindsay

Voicing the Inner Voice; Gratitude

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My safe space. Where’s yours? 

Hey Y’all,

Happy Thanksgiving Week! Because of all the craziness going on in the world, we thought this would be a good time to tune in to your inner voice. Since it’s Thanksgiving, we’re practicing voicing the mantra ‘I’m grateful’. Put on something comfy, find your safe space, and tune in.

Take good care,

Christine and Lindsay

 

Managing Nerves: The Moment Before

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My cat, Sadie. I think this photo perfectly captures what so many of us feel like the moment before a performance or presentation! 

Hi Friends,

We have many posts on the site that help you warm up and prepare ahead of a performance or a presentation, but what about that moment right before you get up to speak? That moment, while you are waiting, is often nerve-wracking. This is a short sequence that coaches you through where to place your focus in that moment before, allowing you to stay present, rather than in another world thinking about how nervous you are. You can listen to it ahead of time and then keep the sequence in mind whenever you are in ‘the moment before’. The sequence is very simple but very effective!

Let us know how it goes. Sadie the cat wants to know!

Take good care,

Christine and Lindsay

Stress Bustin’ Breathing and Snazzy Sighing!

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Illustration from Madison Cavanaugh’s The One Minute Cure

Hello Friends!

I hope your October is ending well, and if you’re into Halloween that you’re getting ready for some spooky fun. This week’s sequence might awaken your inner ghost with some sighing or simply afford a bit of tranquility with attention to the breath.

Let us know how you get on and if you find this helpful in bringing you to a happy place!

Take Good Care,

Lindsay and Christine

 

 

 

 

Create Your Consistency!

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Hello Friends!

So, here we are just past mid-October. The weather for many of us is crisper, perhaps there’s some beautiful foliage for you to enjoy. There is also, for many of us, a shift into the next gear of work or school as we begin the ramping up of things to accomplish before the semester (“term” for my Brits shaking their heads) or financial year ends. We confront project deadlines, late nights, and the stress that impacts us as a result. And that can mean certain things fall by the wayside. Like your attentiveness to an individual communication/voice/mindfulness practice for example. We are taking this head-on and offering some ideas to keep you engaged rather than exhausted before things really swirl into the chaos officially known as the “holiday season.”

We’re going to be very upfront here… some of you may be in full-time drama school training programs, or part-time, or something else in between. For the great spectrum of professional people out there, it may be that you take communications courses or see a coach privately or maybe you are doing entirely your own variation of unguided engagements around this kind of work, it’s all good. But you better be making a conscious effort to engage with the process in your mind/body. Most people in our line of work will tell you how frustrating it can feel when we see the people we work with expecting our contact time to simply “fix” whatever it is they want to address or that somehow by showing up and going through the motions they will be “trained”through attending classes. There’s much more to it than that, and it depends on the work you’re willing to do. As with anything in life, but particularly when it comes to communication skills. Why? HABITS.

Our habits dictate many aspects of our lives and our communication behaviors such as posture, accent, vocal patterns, gesture…you name it, it’s involved and been forming through all stages of your life. In order to increase flexibility and use of communication skills habits must be identified and replaced with habits that encourage adaptivity and awareness. Coaches and teachers are invaluable for helping this process along and guiding us through set backs and breakthroughs, but ultimately long-term progress comes back to our willingness to engage, question, and notice. Especially when we’re busy. There are so many insights that might be missed because we feel the need to constantly plough ahead instead of examining what’s happening through our experiences. That’s why we’re proposing a dedication to creating consistency by finding ways to engage with your communication skill-building work solo.

These are our suggestions:

Be Realistic: Identify a few key skills you feel confident working on individually. Write down the exercises you know to be helpful so you don’t have to scramble. Don’t set crazy time expectations. Even 5 minutes can help you on your way when consistently and thoughtfully used.

Ask For Support: Ask coaches and teachers what they recommend in terms of solo work that will help you work toward your goals. Trust us, they’ll love it.

Plan Ahead: Notice where setting time aside will be possible, it doesn’t always have to be the same. Pencil in pockets of time and do your best to stick to them.

Create Rituals: Enjoy having a candle lit during evening practice? Go for it. Have a favorite bench in the park where you can practice mindfulness in peace? Get yourself there. Find ways to create space and occasion for your practices

Talk About It: Tell your loved ones (or you know, housemates) about what you’re doing whether just casually or in a full blown detailed conversation. Either way you will be engaging your own thought process around your goals and letting them know you shouldn’t be disturbed while practicing.

Get Creative: Don’t be afraid to go off on tangents. Research and experiment, keep yourself curious so that the process isn’t a chore. Keep it spicy!

Hopefully these suggestions provide some food for thought. We truly believe communication skills goals can be achieved wherever you’re coming from, especially when you feel connected to and present with your own process. Let us know how it goes and what you think!

Take Good Care,

Lindsay and Christine

Champion Presence! Channeling Your Inner Olympian

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Happy Summer Olympics!

I always enjoy the Olympics and its been great watching the Rio games so far. My favorite Summer Olympics events are the gymnastics and equestrian competitions. The former because gymnasts capabilities boggle my brain and the latter because as a former Pony clubber (it’s a real thing, and it’s amazing), I love drawing on my amateur capabilities to commentate and speculate on the events.

As incredible as the athletic feats are, I am equally fascinated by the communication behaviors that occur on the “World Stage.” Given BeSpoke’s interests, how could I not be? It’s hard to think of an interesting factor of human experience that isn’t on view and up for discussion: emotion, pressure, triumph, loss, culture, gender, and social conditioning to name a few that regularly feature in coverage articles. All of this human experience occurs with cameras and commentary intensely spotlighting it, which athletes must reconcile as an additional layer in choosing how to communicate.

I’m convinced that with varying levels of consciousness, this smorgasbord of human interaction and behavior is just as much a draw to spectators as the flurry of arms and legs swimming the length of a pool. And maybe some of the fascination drives us to question what we would do in that scenario…how would our flashes of expression in victory and defeat be scrutinized? The podcast Hidden Brain has a fun piece on the science of analyzing this: http://www.npr.org/2016/08/02/487545238/olympic-victory-and-defeat-frame-by-frame. What I want to talk about is how we can learn from Olympians to take on our own World Stage moments with presence and gravitas.

Along with the rest of the world, I have been amazed by the performances from the United States women’s gymnastics team. Simone Biles has been setting the pace for the US team and the rest of the field. As a three-time all-around world champion it isn’t a surprise that she’s thriving in the highly pressurized Rio environment. And while her athletic prowess is dazzling, I am equally impressed by how grounded and open she is in the moments between competing. The communication skill generally proscribed to this behavior is Presence. She is not resisting being in the moment, which means her skills and instincts are not impeded by extraneous factors. She knows cameras and fans are watching and meets their collective gaze evenly, not allowing it to control her. The next time you find yourself on view, whether it’s a presentation, speech, audition, or wedding toast remember that energy expended on resisting being seen will draw energy from being fully available and present in performance. While you watch the Olympics see if you can spot how athletes use presence as an aid to competition.

Of course there are many other lovely communication skills on display at the Olympics, particularly around teamwork and nations coming together for the enjoyment and intensity of sport. There’s an optimism and joy in seeing the world come together, especially in a time where so much communication is polarized. So find your favorite events, watch some interesting back story interviews, and game on!

Let us know what interesting communication behavior you spot in your favorite events!

Take Good Care,

Lindsay and Christine