I had a tough week. Faced with the insecurity of creative work, and all of the ‘making it work’ that seems to be involved I had a dark night. I was forced to ask myself (again) Why do I do this? Why do I teach voice – and in particular the speaking voice?
It’s not a well- known field, there’s no obvious career trajectory, it won’t make me rich…WHY in the face of so many obstacles do I choose to do this?
And the answer is this. I truly believe that doing this work IS my highest purpose in action.
Let me tell you a story. I have been a person who has spent a lot of my life not quite sharing my heart and mind with others. I don’t like to rock the boat, I am acutely aware of the comfort level of others, and I like to facilitate that. I tend to normalize, to use my tone and my choice of words to make things easier to hear. I tend to float out my ideas rather than really putting them forward….
All of these things may be fine habits, in a way. They make relationships run more smoothly and minimize conflict. But they have a nasty, unspoken side effect. They disconnect me from the people I love. Because if the quality of my voice does not truly share who I am, and what I think and feel, others can’t really know me. And if I am not really known, then my relationships are without depth.
A few years ago, about a decade into my journey in voice work, I was doing my Linklater Teacher Training with Kristin Linklater in England. I was at the Central School of Speech and Drama with a number of other trainees and we were workshopping a bit of teaching that I had prepared. I was 6 months pregnant at the time.
In keeping with my Type-A personality, my teaching material was well prepared, and the information I was imparting was factually sound and interesting to share. And yet something was missing. Something in the WAY not the WHAT of my communication wasn’t working. Kristin asked me to place my hands on my belly, and my baby underneath that. To jiggle my hands to wake up my breath, and my baby too. To remember, and to feel that place under my hands as the source of my breath, and therefore my voice. To let some simple open sounds flow out from that place to the group and then TO OPEN MY ARMS TO THEM as they sent some sound back. And so, full of nerves and fear and ‘what if I can’t do this?’ and ‘I guess I’ll try anyway’, I did.
Something about that openness – about literally opening my arms to receive energy and sound back from the people I was communicating with quite suddenly cracked open my heart, my breath and my voice. I felt as if I could really SEE and HEAR them for the first time, and their faces became astoundingly beautiful and interesting to me. When their response became more interesting than what I was feeling, I knew that I was more deeply receiving energy from others than I ever had before. I was close to 35 years old, and it was the first time in my life I felt such deep communication with a group of people.
Of course, there is so much more to training the speaking voice than simply learning to exchange energy – but it is a profound lesson. I truly believe that if I can help people to come into deeper and more authentic communication with one another then there will be less conflict and more understanding, there will be greater creative possibility in collaborations of all kinds, and that many people will experience much needed healing, a greater sense of community and a greater sense of self. In short, I believe it can change the world.