Put a Bird in a Cage and She'll Sing you a Song

I grew up in a musical family.  Dad was the ring-leader, playing records, guitar, singing, whistling, teaching us harmony.  There is a home video when I was 3 years old, and I am singing the theme from Sleeping Beauty, Once Upon a Dream.  I was capable of singing the melody and most of they lyrics, which is quite remarkable for such a small child.  I also remember when Dad taught the 3 of us how to sing in 3-part harmony to Puff the Magic Dragon.  We were all under 10 years old.  As we got older, my sister and I lost our music focus, but my brother went after music like a duck on a june-bug (one of Dad's famous lines).  He is the music wizard of the family. Watching him go down this road, I often felt this pull, this longing to live a life of music and creativity.  It was as if I was two people: the practical, logical lawyer, with this song bird trapped inside, just waiting to be uncaged. 

As the middle child, I always looked up to my big sister.  I wanted to sound just like her: a clear, pitch-perfect soprano.  I was the alto and struggled to do the high harmonies, sometimes I was flat or sharp and was called out by my siblings.  My brother and sister were just so steady and self-assured, and I was always wanting to sound "better".  My dad used to always say that he loved to hear me sing, that I had such a unique sound.  I never believed him - I thought he saw my insecurity and tried to boost my confidence.  How could he want to hear my voice, when my sister's was so angelic?  This insecurity was stifling and I almost never sang out loud by myself - I required the accompaniment and comfort of recorded music or group singing.

When I was living in Minnesota during my 20s, I had the privilege of practicing yoga in a magical studio, filled with multi-talented teachers.  One of my teachers would sing to the class at the beginning and end.  I loved it.  I had found an avenue to connect my love of physical movement with my love of music.  Yoga became the gateway to my voice. 

During my Yoga Teacher Training, we were asked to do a particular mantra meditation called Metta, or Lovingkindness.  I was tiring of speaking the words, so I just started singing the first melody that came to me.  It was in this state of Lovingkindness where I could forgive my imperfections and learn to love the feeling of sound and music in my body.  My sound, my melody, my voice. 

When I began teaching yoga classes, I had a deep desire to sing like my teacher in Minnesota.  But my fear and insecurity were enormous - what would people think?  What if I went flat or sharp?  The mere thought of singing in front of people made my chest and throat tighten, and my armpits would sweat profusely.  Then one day, I just did it.  I sang a simple melody and simple chant, while the students were on their backs with their eyes closed.  No one looking at me, so their presumed judgment would be less intense.  Then the aftermath: every student loved it.  They actually thought it was a recording, not my voice.  I was stunned, disbelieving and terrified.  Then I did it again, for the next class, and the next and the next.  Before I knew it, I was singing to all of my classes, and they loved it and wanted to come to my class just to hear me sing.  Just like my dad, they loved to hear my voice.  I was flabbergasted and so honored.  I started to actually believe in my ability, in my instrument, in this voice that had created so much insecurity and fear.  I had finally found a way to step into the fear and sweat my way through. 

As I write today, I have the time and space in my life to sing as much as I want, any songs I desire and, here's the craziest part, people want to hear my sound.  My voice is one of my most cherished gifts, because of its ability to heal myself and others. 

Here is my challenge to the reader: Find your voice.  Feel the healing in the release and vibration.  No judgement, no perfection, just sing your song.  There is magic in music, and if you keep singing, your authentic self will shine more brightly than ever before.  In all human cultures, song is used to express emotion.  If we stifle our emotion, they will manifest in our physical body.  Let your sound move so that your emotions can move, and the health of your body will follow.

~Yours in Song and Unconditional Love~

Jeanne Marie