Meeting the Lotus Flower, Symbol of Enlightenment and Awesome High Notes
Let’s take a little trip to the Far East (one that leads to more fun/better singing, I promise)…
So have you heard of the symbolism of the lotus flower within Eastern philosophies? In Buddhism, Hinduism, and other schools of thought, lotus flowers have a rich history of metaphor. Their beautiful blossoms are associated with divinity and purity, and perhaps most strikingly, these pure, delicate, and enchanting blossoms grow out of the mud. One might even say they thrive there.
A person’s life path is said to be similar to that of the Lotus. We start as seeds, move on to mucking around in life (the mud), and eventually, by following a path of spirituality and letting go of attachment, we emerge from the dirty (but nourishing and fertile) water, awakening at last to our true nature. This may take many lifetimes, but in the end, voila, Nirvana (No, not the band. The state of being!).
How Eastern Philosophy Relates to Singing
When it comes to voice work, I absolutely love the lotus flower metaphor. In fact, I call it “the lotus flower approach to singing,” and frequently share it with new clients to help them let go and enjoy their voices more. Allow me to explain.
Most of the clients I work with have some shame or fear when it comes to their voices. I would dare say mysef and nearly everyone I’ve ever met or worked with does. It’s pretty much woven into the fabric of our society and upbringing (thanks society and upbringing; you give us so much interesting stuff to work through). So what happens is that we take voice lessons expecting to work on sounding good, and to get there lickity split (as though that’s the only goal in voice work), and to pretty much never, ever, ever let bad sounds come out of our mouths. The inner judge (one might call it “ego), is not happy if anything “unpleasant” issues forth from our throats, daring to masquerade as song. It’s not a fan of sounding or looking bad. You can only imagine how many apologies I’ve heard from people who are worried about their voices, even before they open their mouths to sing a single note. (And let’s not even talk about how many apologies I’ve uttered for my own voice).
However my lovlies, here’s the rub ~ when we’re completely new to singing, or trying new things with our voices, or training our voices for maximum strength and flexibility, we don’t always sound good! In fact, there can be some pretty horrific sounds rearing their heads from time to time, and if you can believe it, I actually encourage this! I celebrate it! Why? Because what I’m hearing is the journey of a voice through the mud and towards becoming a lotus flower! It’s a stellar combination of exercising and embodying the voice, while simultaneously moving through our mental blocks and fears. So. Much. Fun.
For real though. It’s totally rewarding on the other side of the fear and ugly sounds.
So to spell it out better, the parallel is this: With our spiritual journey to enlightenment, we must live, be enriched, and learn through the mud of life (not always pretty, as I’m sure you’re well aware). The same applies to our voices. To develop strong, lustrous, flexible, and colorful voices, we need to muck around in the mud. This can involve some pretty crazy sound-making extravaganzas. You do these crazy vocal exercises that at first might seem impossible (they aren’t). Your voice goes through growth stages. It wobbles. It wavers. It goes down a dark path you’re not familiar with. You find some sounds that are oh-so-ugly, yet oh-so-satisfying. You explore. You laugh. You make some incredibly lovely sounds. You revel in them. Then you crack. Again. And all the while, your voice is gaining strength, consistency, and accuracy. You are developing and honing your uniquely beautiful, lotus~blossom voice (and it’s growing out of the mud)!
That, my friends, is what I mean by the “lotus flower approach to singing.” From this perspective, “bad” isn’t really “bad,” is it? It’s more like fertilizer.
One might say we can’t truly sing (or live) well, and with whole body-mind-spirit freedom, until we’re familiar and comfortable with the shadowy, mucky, muddy side of our voices (and selves). The mud teaches us oh soooo much.
On Your Way to Nirvana
So please, as you go on your way, perhaps give yourself permission for all kinds of sounds to emanate from your ruby lips. Consider being more lighthearted and less expectant about your voice (and while we’re at it, everything else in life, too). Play with it. Explore it’s “dark side.” Make silly sounds. Wander around it’s twists and turns. Be an explorer in a strange new land, wowed and awed by every sound.
To enjoy the journey, you’ll definitely need to practice letting go of the inner judge (i.e. ego). Tell that ol’ inner judge, “Thank you so much for sharing. The things is, that while you’re very helpful for things like keeping me safe from oncoming traffic or stampeding herds of buffalo, you’re not quite so helpful with singing. When you criticize me like that, my voice wilts instead of blooms. So when I’m practicing any new skill, or singing my heart out, I need you to please take a back seat. I love you, really I do, and I need you to sit quietly or do something else right now.”
You’ll have to remind the inner judge over and over again, and even sing while it’s still trying to lecture you. But now you’ll know, deep down, that you’re just trudging through the mud, making some crazy sounds, and moving on your merry way, to enlightenment, and maybe some kick ass high notes too.
As they say, it’s all about the journey! Mud pie for the road, anyone?
With Love & Om On,
Hi! I’m Kimberly Harrison, singer on a mission… to help YOU enjoy your voice and your life more. You can do it in so many simple ways. A great way to start is by asking yourself “What Makes YOUR Soul Sing?” and then letting the answers be your guide…