This blog was originally published here.
Finding the voice is like meeting with the true core of one’s identity.
Finding the voice as an opera singer is a true parallel to finding the voice in career, relationships, self-development and even spirituality. I did not know what path I was on when I took my first voice lesson. The quest for the perfect sound became a lot more than that. It forced me to research, to heal, to dare and to expand. My becoming an opera singer was like the quest for the holy grail: I had to meet myself and rise from within to get there. And what does happen when we get to the holy grail? Well, it’s just the beginning of a new quest.
“Easy for you, you have a passion. You know what your thing is. I would like that, too. I don’t have any talent. I don’t know what my place in the world is.”
I have heard those words many times throughout the years… We do not get to choose what we are made of. We choose what we do with what we have received. We were born with gifts and defects, and sometimes what we have received is not so fun to handle. Likewise, the singer can’t choose or change her voice, just like your voice is here and has always been here. At the end of the journey, when our faces are wrinkled like crumpled paper and our hair so white it becomes translucent, what will matter the most will not be the holy grail, but everything we learned and all those we met on our way to it and from it. We can’t hold the holy grail, because the path to the core of the self is eternal. As it is often the case, we are on our way to ourselves unknowingly. Challenges present themselves, and we grow and expand as we overcome them.
My mastering opera singing made me the Indiana Jones of my own life!
The actual voice is the sound produced by the air passing through the vocal cords as we speak, sigh or sing, and the vocal cords are 2 short muscles attached to 2 pieces of cartilage. I will always remember my first voice teacher telling me that it takes at the very least 10 years to make an opera singer from a naturally beautiful voice. I was 12 then, and 10 years seemed like an enormous amount of time… Tuning a piano requires technique and experience applied to that very type of instrument. Even if there are slight differences from one piano to another, tuning a piano is basically always the same process.
How do we get to tune the instrument called human being?
The human instrument is a unique artwork made of flesh, emotions, personality, and life experience: Your very unique flesh and bones; Your emotions and sensitivity and how you deal with those; What you’ve been through, what happened today, what happened 20 years ago; Your self-development and your own growth; What you understand about yourself and about the world; Your knowledge; Your qualities and your values; Your goals: why you do what you do, where you want to go next… On top of it, humans are ever-changing beings in an ever-changing world. As much as we are ready and willing to explore ourselves and the world, the quest is endless. In other words, there is no finding the voice, only exploring throughout our interactions with our environment to allow the truth of the self to unfold.
There is always another holy grail to run after.
The opera singer learned very early on that the goal of practicing is to free the voice. There are countless books and voice teachers talking about the liberated voice. What they fail to explain is why we need to take on this journey. Is your voice in jail? Where did you go wrong? You did nothing wrong, you are simply human…
In some ways, the simple fact of being human puts your voice in a cage.
A child constructs her models interacting with others, and we shape our reality based on the environment we grow in. Just like we learn that the sun is called sun, and red is called red, we learn what is right and wrong, and how to please others. Our voice – physically and figuratively – grows all the same in a frame. Both a tense body and the beliefs we hold on to limit our expansion. By re-learning how to move our body, we are able to free the tensions accumulated over the years, and to build the forgotten deep muscles that support both our breathing and our voice. Similarly, transforming our belief system can free a doorway to the most amazing life.
In my early twenties, I got the privilege of spending some time singing with an internationally acclaimed soprano. She surprised me with this one sentence:
“The more talent you have, the more work you have to do.” — Natalie Dessay
We may only express and develop a talent by digging deep down into our inner core, deep down into our fears and wounds, to rise into our own fire. No sublimation can happen without something to sublimate. We have to have patience, compassion, love and imagination to tune our human instrument. Think about it: there is no reference in matters of freedom, by definition!
The talent – the gift, if accepted – forces one to go on an endless journey to beauty through pain. Isn’t it what the difference (defect) is all about, too?
A popular belief is to think that if one has talent, one clearly knows what to do with her life because it was given meaning from the start. None of this is actually true, and we all get to choose the direction and meaning we want to give to our life depending on the present circumstances. The talent is NOT the result, the talent is a path among others to the truth of the self.
Most of the times, people disregard their talents because it requires too much work to master, or simply because they are not passionate about it. There is a common confusion between passion and talent. Exploring a talent is unavoidable to those who have something to escape from, or some puzzle to solve. But why bother when you were born in an emotionally safe environment? In my case, singing gave me an acceptable frame to unload the heavy charges, to RELEASE my emotions when I had no other means. It is not a passion, it is part of my identity, and I struggled with choosing what to do with my talents just like I struggled with my innate defects.
Sometimes, all we have to do is fall into the black hole to find ourselves, again, and again.
Remember, it’s the journey that counts, not the result. Talents, and differences, compel one to go on an inner journey, that’s all! Whether we acknowledge our talents or not, we are all in the same balloon, in transit to the immaterial truth of the self and the core of life. Be at peace with what you received to grow and rise in this world. Instead, ask yourself: “What can I do right now with what I have and where I am from?”