*Before you read this, allow me to introduce you to my dear friend Sarah. I met Sarah two years ago in Israel on Birthright. We shared ten of the most significant days of our lives, and then hardly spoke for two years. Not for a lack of fondness, just how our story unfolded. As road life took me out of Pittsburgh a few weeks ago, Sarah offered to host me in Charlottesville. Over the last three weeks, I have come home to one of the deepest bonds of my lifetime thus far. I have swum in Sarah’s beauty and softness and power and wisdom. Sarah is so many things, to limit her identity to a singular expression would be unjust and unholy. However, one of Sarah’s many, many gifts is her voice. As a classically trained Opera singer, something Sarah taught me just by sharing HER truth, was how we relate to ourselves, through our voice. I asked this precious spirit sister of mine to speak on this topic, and it is my immense honor to introduce you to the vast wellspring of love and glory that is Sarah Sherman.
I have always thought of the voice affectionately as God’s instrument. It started when I was little. I loved to sing, and was enchanted by being the apple of a creator’s eye. I was thrilled that, of course, “He” made us in his image and likeness, so our voices were special, holy instruments of the highest genius. This instrument grew with me as I grew, taking on all of my questions and revelations and meditations, and perhaps most importantly it grew with me as my idea of God grew. And now my voice and I have arrived here together. I don’t really like talking about God anymore, because I find the conversations to be extremely laden with human conditions and anthropomorphism. And so I only want to say briefly here that I do not talk about God as one of the known deities in any religion, or the Father, or the Bridegroom. I mean the mystic God, the God which IS and is All. Life force, Source, which has no beginning or end, no edges or boundaries. Who simply is who is. If God is All, then everything in the natural world is an expression of such. All of creation is divine expression, and as a part of creation, our voices begin to teach us about gentleness, being, and allowing.
The other day, as I was in a voice lesson, I was pushing my teacher for more and more information during warmups.
“What do I do with my larynx? What do I think about? What do I do with X, What do I do with Y, what do I do when I get to this note, and what about with this particular vowel? What then?! Please tell me what to DO.”
And she suddenly cried:
“Sarah! Not do! Not do. Allow. You allow.”
Immediately the hand of conviction closed around my gut. Woof. My relentless analyzing was useless here. When she stopped me and said that, it got me good.
There is not much more convicting than someone telling you that you are trying too hard to have control- it really pulls you up short. And in that moment, I understood for the first time what the deeper and even more convicting implications are of the voice and its actual quality of being “God’s instrument”.
Our job is to get out of the way. Let me expand on what I mean by that: We experience ourselves as separate entities, defined by our prefrontal cortex of judgment, analysis, personal identity, will, ego, narrative. And those things are not inherently bad, they are an integral, lovely, and essential part of what makes up the uniqueness of being human. But when it comes to life, most of us have a death grip on this part of our being and forget about the expression of ourselves which comes as part of the rest of creation- our bodies and spirits. Both our life and our voice are a combination of these things: Our minds/will/intentions, and the divine life force flowing through our bodies and spirits. We breathe in, engage our minds and emotions, have a desire or intention to express, and then exhale, using our bodies to do or communicate these things. Singing and the voice in general uses all of us; it’s the marriage of all our qualities in the human condition. We are truly gorgeous, holy instruments, built to function perfectly, with our mind and ego as well our bodies and spirits.
So when I say “our job is to get out of the way”, what I’m really saying is that we should learn the gentle the insatiable clutches of the mind/ego part of ourselves and learn to more delicately, evenly balance that part of us with the wisdom and intuition of our bodies and spirits. Allowing the instrument to function means to honor every part of it, not just the parts that I can muscle through or control. It means the whole shebang.
Whether we speak or sing, or are just going about our days, all we have to do is check in with our desires and connect to ourselves, then set an intention and allow the instrument to function (the instrument being our whole selves). And here is the convicting part- When was the last time you set an intention that was from your heart and your body’s intuition, and then acted on it, letting the body and spirit take their courses, and a.) did not attach your worth and purpose to your desired outcome, b.) judge the outcome by what you perceived others to think about it or c.) try desperately to control what your journey looked like in the eyes of the ego? In my own experience, the process of action used to go a lot as such: An impulse > a self-check> a look around at who is in the room, and analysis of what you know about them and what you think they would think of the behavior> analyzing how much control I will be able to have over the outcome> a censor comprised of all that assumption and outside narrative woven into a web > behavior which has been filtered through all the aforementioned. What happens is no longer the direct result of our minds and hearts and embodied intuition. Our minds took over with their narrative, analysis, and fear, and thus the middle man of society and reptilian safety brain has stepped between our own highest self judgement and our actions. Our bodies and spirits are left abandoned as our minds have a field day with keeping us safe and accepted.
Now, I’m not saying that our minds should not play a role at all, of course they should, but perhaps in a different capacity. At every turn we try to make our voices how we think they should be, in some way. How we think they should sound, whether or not we are allowed to express something, or if the expression coming out is “appropriate”. We try to control it. We are often told that we should be and should sound a certain way, and so when we sing- or speak to express an idea, or live our lives for that matter- we try to make our expression appear as we have been told it should appear, and like we have heard or seen other people do it. But here is the problem with that—who told us what sound we should be making or what our lives should look like? In those moments, where do those particular judgements come from? The material world! Not God or Source energy or Love. Not our bodies or spirits. We are trying to force ourselves into a form that was given to us by a superficial paradigm, structure, entity, which is the man-created world. We try to fit our voices into that tiny mold, rather than getting out of the instrument’s way and letting it function as it was born and divinely created to function. As it was created by the life force energy, and as the intuition that shows up inside of us.
This way of singing is obviously easily translatable to how you show up in the world in the rest of your life. One of my students recently said to me : “It’s like you have your literal voice and then your soul voice---- which is just how you live your life. It’s he expression of your life in the world.” And she’s exactly right. The lesson of allowing asks us to check a certain part of our being – the mind/ego center- and tap into the trust that our bodies and spirits are divine expressions. Then we can use our minds as helpful technical tools. Our minds reeeally want to usurp the throne and call themselves king, but in that space they are cut off from the divine flow.
When we realize that and can use them in their place among the wholeness of our entire being, we can allow the instrument to function. That’s what it means to be an instrument of God, and it’s a lot scarier and a lot more magnificent than my 9 year old self imagined. When we choose an intention based in authentic expression and connection to our highest selves, we can relax and allow the instrument to function without fear, judgements, or analyzing the living daylights out of it. Then, to be an instrument of God means to tune in to our bodies and spirits, check our minds and egos, and allow the whole instrument to exist in its fullest divinity.