Tag Archives: singing

Letting Go of That…And That…

OK, good for you.

You’ve had a busy day, an active day, a productive day.  And on top of that,  you got up early to get it all going.  It’s now about 9 or 10 pm and you think to yourself, “Wow, it’s about time to slow down and head for the bedroom, get relaxed, read a little maybe, and get a good night’s sleep.”

What a good and wise thought.

You begin to work your way in that direction, but you forgot about the cat litter that needs emptying and, yes, the dishwasher finished a couple hours ago.  It would be better to empty it now, wouldn’t it?

So you do.

And then there’s that email you forgot about until this very minute and you promised to send the information today.  Back to the computer for just a few minutes, right?  No big deal.  I’ll only take a moment.  But while you’re there, you take care of a couple other emails.  One takes longer than you thought.

Back to the kitchen to get the sliced peaches and big fat blueberries out of the freezer for tomorrow.  You congratulate yourself for remembering.

Are we done yet?

Not quite.  Brush teeth, take out the contact lenses, wash your face, jammies on.

Into blessed bed.

The clock says 11:15 pm.  My how time flies.  So onto the pillow goes your head and you think, “Ahhhh.  Sleep.  This is gonna be a piece of cake.  This is gonna be so easy.  I’m so tired.”

And then the unthinkable begins….

Nodding off effortlessly into dreamland — it’s not happening!  Where did it go?  It was here just a minute ago.   Your good friend “Sleepy Head” slipped away into some other dimension and sent its (very) distant cousin  “Busy Mind” to visit.

What an unwelcome exchange….

You’ve heard that what you resists only gets worse, what you think about manifests, and where your attention flows your energy goes.

(Yeah, yeah.  Just let me sleep, please…)

So good and well-meaning human that you are, you resolve to welcome the unwelcome visitor, and not resist.  You get what you resist, right?  Yes.  You resolve to relax.  Let go of it all.  Chill out.  Tune out the word-thought-idea party going on in your head.

You breathe deeply.  Ahhhh.  The dance of words slows a bit.

I must be doing something right,”  you think to yourself.

But the inside-your-head-talking-party doesn’t actually stop.   There are a couple of noisy and determined characters who keep bringing up new topics for discussion.  Not important topics, just random, free range comment threads that don’t matter at all at this hour, or probably ever.

But there they are, these word children, yacking away.

What can you do with them?

“Hush,” you say to the noisiest ones.  You pretend they are restless children who have been playing outside all day and just can’t settle down.  You give them an pillow and blanket and tell them to lay their sweet heads down, down, down.  And you tell them oh-so-patiently, “It’s late, darlings.  Morning will be coming soon. Go to sleep.”

You even read them a story.

And the “word children” settle down for a minute.  The bedtime story is good, but sooner or later, one of them asks for a drink of water.

You get the drink and sink back into the land of hopeful sleep.


The last child, the noisiest one is still awake.

So now what?

“Well, what if I sing him a lullabye?”

You hum silently.  It’s all in your imagination.  “Hey, this feels good,” you think to yourself.   You keep humming.  You notice you’re breathing more deeply.



More About Practicing Vocal Improv

A great way to practice improvisational singing is to invite at least one other person to sing with you or “work out” with you. This is one of the most efficient ways to expand your abilities, think outside your own sound box, and experiment with vocal patterns and musical ideas in addition to your own.

Adding another voice to your improv session changes the game completely.  It’s an automatic challenge.  For starters, you have to include another person vocally speaking, and you must sing with them.  For it to work, responses to whatever you sing to each other are a resounding “yes.”

You go with it….

Whatever the other person sings, you find your way into it, around it, under it, or through it and you sing notes that match or accentuate or support the “incoming” sound in some way.  You accompany, you follow.  And pretty soon you’re “leading”, but who is to know, really….and who cares.  The two of you are creating an unfolding vocal experience, an ebb and flow, an ever-moving river of sound.

As you sing, you will likely find yourself trusting the improvisational process more and more, and still you may falter.  You may hesitate.  But if you listen and breathe, you will probably find a new sound, sound pattern or expression you didn’t know you had.  What a gift from your partner in song.

When your partner moves into a vocal tangent you don’t understand, just wait a moment until you can feel what is being sung, what is being communicated, or where she is headed.  Then add to the mix in some way.

Be patient.  Simple is good.  In fact, simple is often the most beautiful.

You will probably begin to understand the other person (not to mention yourself) in a deep and unspoken way.  You might feel the voice-being next to you as if you were dancing together, moving as one, all while going forward into the sound of the two of you.

And then there’s another matter.  Since there are two of you and you are looking out for each other in this vocal improv game, you sing not as a soloist, but as a duo.  This means making space in your singing for another person.  If you’re in the lead, you have to give the other singer room to join you.

Easier said than done.  Perhaps a new awareness…

It’s a bit like driving.  You know where you are going, you know your destination, but in order to arrive,  it is a good and useful thing to be in cooperation with the other drivers.  As you drive, you’re in a movin’, groovin’, lane-changing, speeding up and slowing down, there’s my exit, and maybe even “wow, I guess I missed my off-ramp” kind of  dance with other vehicles, intentions, driving styles, levels of awareness, emotional states, and destinations.

You’ve got to pay attention.  Adjust.  Step on the brake occasionally.  Re-evaluate. Speed up.  Slow down.

For another comparison, in a partnership or intimate relationship, freedom of expression is a good thing, a necessary thing, vital and life-enhancing even — but if one person in a couple only has “individual awareness” and doesn’t realize or know how to be a member of a team of two, things don’t work as smoothly.

So, as you vocalize, be free and self-expressive AND look to see if you are including the other person.

When I have an event coming up, I practice in every way I can — by myself and with others.  Aloud and to myself.  Just before sleep and when I wake up.  Here and there during the day.  I just sing for a little while. I tune in, try things in my head or out loud, and play a bit.  Then back to work as usual.

Kaleo Wheeler

And yesterday, I asked a new friend of mine, Kaleo Wheeler, to come sing with me.  I had never sung with her before, but it seemed like we could probably make a good go of it.

By the way, Kaleo has an album out, called Ulana, The Way of the Heart, a beautiful CD of her Hawaiian music.

Kaleo and I sang together for more than an hour, and I’m here to report that this process re-arranged our brain cells in such a good way.  Making room for another singer inside my own vocal abilities, patterns, habits and sounds is uplifting, a good exercise and just plain fun.  At the end of the session, we spontaneously expressed to each other the delight we both felt.

After singing, as we drove away a big-winged black and yellow butterfly lead us much of the way down the steep road.   In order to avoid crushing him, I had to keep stopping the car.  At one point, I got out of the car to shoo him off the road.  He didn’t fly away, but instead continued to fly down the road about twenty feet at a time.  We wondered if he was injured, but part way down the long and winding road, he flew off into the forest just as nimble and healthy as can be. Apparently, he had successfully delivered his message of transformation and support, which we interpreted as a “thumbs up” from the singing Gods.

A butterfly “leading” a big ol’ piece of moving metal is a striking visual, and inspired continued reflection about our experience together.  We so enjoyed the exploration, leading each other into unknown territory, following, mixing it up, cracking up, exploring dissonance, stopping to smell the roses, and enjoying the profound silence between sounds.

We found the “new” in ourselves and we didn’t even quite know what to call it, we just felt happy.

…which reminds me of a quote I love about improv by Miles Davis.  He said ” I’ll play it first and tell you what it’s called later.”

Giving In To Giving In

Did I have a clue when I lived in Los Angeles how uptight I was?

Not even….

I was uptight to my very core, from my very core, through my core, within my core.

How did I find out?

I moved to the country.

In the country, it’s quiet.  Sunrise opens the door of the morning, sunsets bathe the final hours in color.  The ground breathes, branches in the forest crack.  You hear them fall.  Wind blows across the valley and when you step out the door and sense it coming toward you, the feeling is brisk and energizing.  It’s a bit of a thrill when the fast moving rain storm sweeps the valley in front of you, in the direction of you, all over you.

The way I think of it, the energy of the wind sweeps a burst of happy energy my way, and in that moment,  I remember everything during my day I felt good about.

Yes, I moved to where birds sing and tall trees reach up pretty much forever.  There is a peace in a forest on a mountain that you cannot find in places with stoplights and streetlights. For me, inner quiet comes easier when there is outer quiet.

Out here in the country, on top of a certain nearby mountain, there is a sound chamber.  It’s a perfect place to sing.  The birds and I sing together.

This kind of singing relieves me from thinking, opens my lungs and heart, and nurtures everything about my soul. Warmth and light venture into the nooks and crannies of me, the corners of my being breathe, and my inner workings sigh happily as they smooth out and  begin to move more easily.

Sound Chamber

It all begins near the mouth of the sound chamber.  Because there is no light in the chamber, the sunlight from the forest coming in the door is my candle.

First, go with simple sound.  More simple than you might think.  It’s beautiful.  It doesn’t matter at all where it starts.  A single note comes, often  just a feather sound to brush the silence.  A sound comes into the void, like color onto a white canvas.  Sometimes it is soft sound , other times an eruption, and always a surprise to me where it starts and where it goes.

I’ll show you what it sounds like really soon….I’m going to upgrade to be able to share audio on this site.

In the meantime, if you’d like a sample, send a message with your email, and I’ll send you a few mp3’s to listen to.

If you would like me to “tune into you” and sing/record a song for you next time I am there, let me know.  It would be my pleasure.  I can send you a personal mp3 just for you, and you can let me know how it affects you, where it goes in you, how it speaks to you, what it does for you.

Tra la la to you and yours.  Hope summer is turning out to be everything you want it to be.

Singing for the Dearly Departed

My youngest brother passed away on June 5th, 2010, after a year long bout with cancer.  He was only 50.  It is said by some that we have full view of our entire life before coming into this physical world, and that we choose a life that will teach us what we want to learn.  He certainly opted for a short life, and even though it doesn’t make any sense to me, it doesn’t need to.  It wasn’t my life.   But I’m going to miss him.

He was a slender, red-headed jeweler, with a shop full of gold and diamonds.  He seemed to love working with gems and worked long and diligently to be able to open his own retail shop.

After word came that he had passed, my husband and I sat still and just looked at each other.  There’s not much to say when someone leaves.  We just knew that Calvin was gone, and we felt sad.

However, almost instantly, the sadness lifted.

“How strange is that?”  I thought.

All the worry and anguish and heart ache surrounding his departure just got up and left — suddenly!  What a surprise!  Never had I expected to feel instant, well — happiness — upon his passing.

It felt a little odd.

Almost wrong.

This feeling of elation in the middle of all the sadness was so striking to me that I wondered if I was tuning into my departed brother.  If so, he was surely in a happier and more expanded state!

You should know before I go any further that for most of my life,  my brother and I often struggled to relate.  We didn’t have long and delightful philosophical conversations, or talk for hours on the phone.  Locating common ground for a conversation was occasionally a bit challenging, even awkward.

As the years passed, we learned how to talk with each other.  We’d simply avoid conversations about a subject that we knew could be controversial for the two of us.  It was just easier that way. We could always talk about the weather, so to speak.

In the last year of his life, when he was ill, we found two subjects we could always talk about:  Singing and Sunsets.  I used to record little mp3’s for him and send them to him.  He seemed to appreciate them.  Once I recorded “Bridge Over Troubled Water” for him, and other times I sent improvisational pieces that were prayerful or meditative.

One evening when he was in pain and seemed to be wondering about how everything was going to turn out for him, he called me and said, “Tell me about the sky tonight where you are.  Is it beautiful?”

Perched comfortably on the covering to the well, I told him about the star-filled night sky, mentioning that earlier that evening, we had set up the high powered telescope to look at the four largest moons of Jupiter.   Over to the telescope I went, and gave him a play-by-play account of what was going on with Jupiter and friends.  It happened to be a spectacularly crystal clear sky, and all the stars were especially beautiful that evening, but Jupiter was stunning. My brother and I talked for a long time.

After the phone call notifying us of his passing, I headed down stairs in my home to a room where nobody was, just a nice big open space, and I started to sing.  Not a song, not a melody, just long notes of sound to soothe my soul.  I let the sound take me wherever it wanted to go.  Singing like this is a way to center myself, let go, and express whatever is there.

It felt like a good thing to do at a time like this…

There I was, getting warmed up for a therapeutic singing session, and what should “appear?”

My brother.

He was happy as could be, and began to playfully direct my singing. This kind of  boundless joy was out of character for him.  In life, he seemed more serious than that, more reserved.

After wondering for a moment if I was just crazy, or if I had an over-active imagination in this time of stress, I just went with it.  I began to follow his conducting.

With a big smile, his right arm shot up in the air and I’d sing that note.  Then he’d waver that hand a bit and I’d do a trill.  I followed every nuance.  I’d waffle the sound, move the sound, explode the sound, giggle the sound —  to go right along with his indication.  He’d smile and swoop to the next note.  Then he’d change sides, go high, go low, go medium, and it all sounded beautiful to me.  On and on it went.  Part of the time I was laughing so hard I could hardly sing.

Then there was the crying….I was so touched that he would visit me.

He was joyful and utterly, completely free — fully liberated and totally expressive, without a concern in the world. And he also  looked really attractive and young and happy.

It felt heavenly to be with him in this way, and I admit that I always wanted to experience him as more open and light-hearted when he was alive.  (Perhaps others experienced him this way and I missed the boat….)  Now, in this moment, I was just grateful that I was able to experience him in this happy place…

I don’t know how long this went on, probably 20 minutes or so, but I’m just guessing, because there was no sense of time anywhere.  I  moved through more emotional spaces than I can even begin to describe.  He finished conducting, gave me a wave, and off he went.

I sat for a while, reveling in the experience.

Then I walked upstairs and while preparing dinner,  I noticed the  sunset was beginning to be especially beautiful.  That’s not really very unusual here — inspiring sunsets are a regular occurrence in our house and we look forward to them every evening.

But it got crazy beautiful!

With every bite of dinner, the colors of the sunset became increasingly spectacular, and they kept changingradically — in no small way!  We’d take a bite of food, and stop midway with fork poised,  and exclaim about the stunning sight before us.

“Wow, look at that!”

“Whoa, who thought it could get even more beautiful!  But it just did!”

We had never seen so many big colors, different colors or color changes in one evening.

We started to laugh and decided it was Calvin saying hello in another way that I would understand.  Who knows if that could be possibly true… but it sure helped my heart to think about it that way!

We’d eat another bite or two and then stop to take another photo of the painter having fun in the sky.  It seemed as if he kept changing his mind about what to paint — oh, let’s try THIS!!!  We saw so many sunset variations, and sat there drop-jawed and in awe.

He’d add intensity, then soften it, or brighten it. At one point, he added a splash of mist just for fun…

And I haven’t heard from him since.  That fantastic sunset was his final bow.

And it was a stunning one.

Goodbye, dear brother.

Toning With A Group

Let The Flow of The Group Carry You


When you tone by yourself, it’s like being single.  You can do what you want, without any concern or attention on anyone else.  When you’re single, you can watch TV when you want, read with the light on — even in the middle of the night — and you’ll bother no one.  Your frig contains only foods  you consume.  You eat whenever and whatever you want, and you come and go from your residence as you please.  You simply suit yourself in your home situation, because no one else is there.  It’s appropriate.

When you’re in a relationship, however, the dynamics change.  There is another person in your space  who is probably very different from you  —  different habits, sounds, preferences, thoughts, patterns of sleep and movement and so on.

To be in harmony as a couple,  a natural shift in my patterns occurs to include the other person, and be more in harmony with the one who shares my energetic and physical space.  My radar now looks out for my partner as well as me.

In the same basic way, when you tone as a single individual vs. with a group, the dynamics are different from each other – not better or worse, just different.  When you tone with a group, it’s like being in relationship — and therefore relationship dynamics apply.

It’s like this.  If you act like a single person when you’re a couple, it doesn’t work all that well.   And one might ask, why be in a relationship and act single??

There are advantages to being single, and advantages to being a couple, but they are clearly different situations and require different skills.

The same applies to toning.

Toning in a group requires awareness and willingness to shift at a moment’s notice, because it is an inclusive process.  It’s not just about you.

There is someone next to you or across the room who is not you at all and who is probably expressing something entirely different that what you’re expressing today.

Tune into other individuals.  What are they saying?  What’s your response?  You might find yourself toning for one person with your sound and your heart.  And she might notice in the smallest way that she feels heard somehow, because you’re listening and responding, which changes what she does.  The sound between the two of you evolves from there….

So, for an extraordinary experience, let your awareness  naturally expand to include the group.   Who is there?  What is being expressed?  Your sound goes into the group and finds another’s.   You talk by toning,  you listen,  you ease one another, you offer your heart space.

Or you tune into the group sound, and you sing with the ever-changing, always flowing sound of the whole.

This inclusivity, this joining together in sound, can speed up your own process exponentially, and/or change it up completely and send you down a road less traveled — for you.  You might find yourself toning for a group in need.  You might feel complete unabashed joy to the world and sing that joy and happiness into the whole.

There is another significant thing that happens, which many toners have mentioned to me.  Let’s say you’ve had a bit of a funky morning and you arrive at the group session frustrated about something, with your underwear all in a bundle.  You feel the distinct need to express yourself and “get it all out.”  However, as you sit down with the group, you notice that the funky mood just kind of lifts, and you no longer have the frustration, anxiety, anger or the irritation of the pet peeve.  It’s gone.  You don’t notice it, because it is no longer there.  The group absorbed it and transformed it.

No, it’s not that you’re ignoring it, or being unaware.   The energy of the group lifted you above your little problem.  You have been officially elevated without any work on your part whatsoever.   Your little problem has a vibration that doesn’t match the group vibration, so your lower vibration thought or emotion just drops out.

This is OK.  Actually, it’s more than OK.  It’s a good thing.  What a gift.

So in this group setting, relieved of the issue you arrived with, you are on new and higher ground almost instantly.  You begin to tone from a more balanced place, and the experience takes you to an even more beautiful place than you ever imagined.   In fact, just by being aware, and letting go of the small  issues, you allowed yourself to rise to a new level of bliss through toning.

This is one very big advantage of toning with a group.  When you take attention off yourself, the world of positive energy, connection and upliftment opens right there before your very eyes.

And isn’t that one big reason we tone in the first place?

Yes, Absolutely!

Singing to Deer and Other Wonders

Just a few days ago an audience of eight 4-legged creatures sauntered by while I was singing all by myself in the Peace Chamber near Saxapahaw, North Carolina. Sure, they were grazing, and really weren’t planning to come on in, but still, they were an audience, right?

When I peered from the door of the chamber to see them better, one spectacular young buck lifted his head. youngbuck

I don’t know what it is about deer that creates such a rush in a human’s heart, but mine lifted to the ceiling of everywhere when he stood at attention, all relaxed and fully confident. Being bathed in his field of influence was one of those private moments where you breathe in but forget to breathe out, because breathing out might cause whatever you’re in the presence of to go away. He didn’t go away. He stood there and radiated. His field, and the field of the group felt wide, and very soft around the edges and full of energy.

Hmmmm — I wondered to myself how they experienced this human sound called singing. When I sang at the doorway, they all lifted their heads, and two ran off, but the rest of them didn’t move. They looked up to see what the fuss was about, and went right back to dinner.momBabydeer

The Peace Chamber itself is quite an extraordinary experience, with its beautiful acoustics and welcoming vibration. This environment is a wonder in itself, where you can make sound and it comes back around to soothe you and vibrate you and give you the repeat benefit of itself.

I like it.

How about you? Have you ever sung improvisationally in an acoustically friendly room?

If you like it, you should know that I am looking for singers around Asheville, NC and the Saxapahaw/Graham area to form two local improvisational choirs. (I’ll get to other cities in the future.) Let me know if you are interested or what questions you might have.

*Your personal energy field is anything like the buck
*Singing is a joyful thing for you
*Other people love to hear you sing
*You’ve possibly been told that you sound like an angel (male or female)
*You live around Asheville or Saxapahaw, NC
*You want to sing with an unusual group in an unusual way

…please contact me.

Inspiration — How do YOU find it?

What rings your chimes, wakes up your inner happy bells, sends you right into bliss — guaranteed?

It’s good to know that.

Pay attention — often — (like, well…. always) to what you love.  Appreciate your days.  Love your nights. Find ways to enjoy the mundane. Rise up, lift up and “float a little above this difficult world” to quote my favorite poet, Mary Oliver.

You will surely sing better, be smarter, be more aware, love more….heck, you’ll probably do everything with a little more ease and grace.

For me, one way straight to bliss is a Mary Oliver poem.  Below is a delicious sample of Mary Oliver.

“The Ponds” is from Volume One of  “New and Selected Poems” by Mary Oliver.  Go to http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss_b?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=mary+oliver&x=0&y=0. All of her books will come up. At the top of that page is the author page with more information about Mary Oliver.

The Ponds
by Mary Oliver

Every year
the lilies
are so perfect
I can hardly believe

their lapped light crowding
the black,
mid-summer ponds.
Nobody could count all of them —

the muskrats swimming
among the pads and the grasses
can reach out
their muscular arms and touch

only so many, they are that
rife and wild.
But what in this world
is perfect?

I bend closer and see
how this one is clearly lopsided —
and that one wears an orange blight —
and this one is a glossy cheek

half-nibbled away —
and that one is a slumped purse
full of its own
unstoppable decay.

Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled —
to cast aside the weight of facts

and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking

into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing —
that the light is everything — that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading. And I do.