What the Zen?!

“What is “The Zen of Voice?” you may ask...?

Well, I’m delighted that you asked, because it happens to be one of my favorite topics!

This is the first of a series of articles in which we will discuss this concept in both theory and practice!

The Zen of Singing, Speaking, and Voice Work
River flowing over moss colored rocks in a lush green canyonThe Zen of Voice is how I describe the vocal path of least resistance - i.e. “effortless doing.” It’s the process of allowing breath, sound, and vibration to flow through our bodies, showing us how to use our voices with maximum efficiency and ease.

With this approach, breath and sound become our teachers. They wend through our bodies as rivers through a canyon, and as we apprentice ourselves to their sensations, we gain amazing insight into the true meaning of fluidity, expressive freedom, resonance, and, above all, presence.

A hazy view of Buddha statues in a temple with a red ceilingImagine that breath, sound, and vibration are three wise and wily teachers, older than time itself. Being ageless, they have all the time in the world to wait patiently until we’re ready to invite them in. It’s not like we really need to invite them ~ by default they’re already along for the ride. But it’s different when we ask for their insight, and begin to pay attention to the secrets they willingly share. Once we’ve respectfully requested their company, they are more than ready to guide us on the inner journey of a lifetime.

It’s fun to think of sound, breath, and vibration as three wise, knowing teachers, yes? Sure, they can be cantankerous, but only when they know it serves us. They are also gentle, nurturing, and ever so kind. And always, always, they believe in their students. They’re like Zen master teachers who’ve “been there, done that,”  and can help guide us down our own paths of “being there and doing that.” They know the nature of themselves, and thus, the nature of all things. What better teacher to help us to do the same?

The Healing Gifts of Breath, Sound, & Vibration
So what is it that these teachers (I’ll call them “The Three T’s”) can help us to understand? Well, their wisdom, i.e., The Zen of Voice, can awaken our innate capacity for mindfulness and self-healing. When we travel with breath, sound, and vibration as our daily companions, we will begin to experience how much the way we use our voices and interact with our sonic world has relevance in all areas of our lives. It will become abundantly clear that creating space and intelligence in our use of breath, sound, and vibration reverberates in our nervous systems, and throughout our physical, mental, and emotional bodies. This is a pretty powerful realization. It can positively affect every aspect of our lives.

In becoming their students, we gain enormous insight into the nature of our voices (singing, speaking, communicating), AND our “Voice with a Capital V” (how we show up in life, how we think, move, act, and how we literally create every single moment that we’re alive). So yeah, it’s pretty freakin’ huge!

Breath, Vibration, & Sound: The Building Blocks of Life AND of Your Voice
Black space background against beautiful light green blue planets, stars, and nebulaeOur universe teems with vibration! In fact, all matter vibrates! And whether or not human ears or technology can detect it, ALL vibration emits sound waves, minus in outer space, where there are no air molecules to transmit the sound waves, which means, consequently, no breath and no sound! Gotta have air molecules in order to have either. (As a side note, it’s also really cool that scientists can use special instruments to translate “sound” in space into “sound” that’s recognizable to the human ear. Which means that we get to enjoy wacky sounds happening way out in space. Insert Twilight Zone theme song here! Doo doo doo doo!)

Anyway, the point of all this is that vibration is all around us, and on earth, vibration translates not only into matter (creation), but also into breath and sound!

It’s interesting to note that many traditions Artistic image of face in sky with sunlight shiningthe world over describe The Three T’s as the first elements of creation. As a familiar example, let’s examine the famous Biblical phrase from Genesis: “In the beginning was the Word...”

Setting metaphysics and religion aside, if we break this phrase down into the most basic components, we will quickly see that “The Word” requires air molecules and consciousness in order to exist at all. And these molecules and consciousness will be translated into, lo and behold, our Three T’s! They will become:

1. the breath (which gives the gifts of life and speech)
2. vibration (which is not only the nature of all matter, but also will be translated into the gift of... wait for it...)
3. sound!

Pretty cool, right?! They’re interwoven.

Om Symbol on Colorful BackgroundAlong the same lines, we could look at the the Hindu concept of “Om,” or the first vibration/sound of creation. When practitioners chant “Om,” they are literally and metaphorically reconnecting with the most primitive aspect of who we are ~ breath, vibration, and sound! In short, creation myths from time immemorial very wisely highlight creation as emanating from the very literal and all-encompassing Breath of Life.

This whole interplay of The Three T’s is also the basis of my theory as to why creating healthy sound, letting our voices fly free, in fact, having a “Voice” in our lives at all (akin to self-awareness, self-expression, and freedom), is something that we all CRAVE. IT FEELS SO GOOD! It feels like being who and what we are!

The Zen of Voice works so well because breath, sound, and vibration work according to certain natural principles. Literally, within our bodies, those principles are at play all the time, from the way we breathe, to the way we speak, sing, move, and think. When we attune ourselves to acting in accordance with them, voila, singing and speaking become much easier. In fact, as I will mention over and over again (yes, I’m willing to sound like a broken record because it’s just THAT COOL), LIFE becomes easier!

So How Does Voice Work Connect With Zen?

The WAY we make sound says it all. How are we using our voices? Are we using them to fight against the rest of the world? To protect ourselves? To force others to hear us? To resist difficult aspects of life? Is there strain? Pushing? Edginess? Fear? Shrinking violet syndrome? The need to impress?

Or are we going with the flow? Tuning in? Lighting up? Finding ease? Letting intuition guide? Listening to others? Feeling the sound move through our bodies? Enjoying the sensations?!

All of these ways of using our voices relate directly back to the thoughts that are driving the sounds that we make. Our thoughts and our voices are inseparably interwoven. And THAT is where Zen comes in! We train our voices AND our minds!

Letting Your Voice Be Your Guide

Ok, it’s digestion time. No matter where you are in your relationship with sound, whether this is new information or a reminder, let the above concepts sit with you a while, and begin popping up in your daily experience. Maybe you’ll start listening to the world around you with more awareness, depth, and curiosity. Maybe you’ll start doing the same with your own voice. With others’ voices. Perhaps you’ll also begin to tune in to the sensations and vibrational aspects in a new way. Why are you saying what you’re saying? How are you saying it? What does it feel like? All it takes is curiosity and awareness to set you off on the journey of a lifetime.

For the time being, that will be plenty! Trust me, life will already begin to look different!

The concepts in this article, pSilhouette of person meditating in front of a full moonlus the way your daily life will begin to shift as a result of your awareness of them, are the ground-work for the exercises we’ll be discussing in follow-up articles. Now that the basics are covered, and we’ll be approaching breath, sound, and vibration with ever-widening vision, we’ll soon be ready to delve into the actual practices that make this kind of enlightened awareness not only possible, but super enjoyable! Yay!

So for now, I wish you happy noticing, and will look forward to exploring more with you in the very near future! Please share any of your observations and/or personal experience with in the comments below. This is a collective growth experience, and we have so much to learn from one another. So please, enrich our lives; share yourself with us! :)

With Love

~ Kimberly

 Other Resources

• Would you like to hear some of the sound healing music I've been creating? If you need some meditation time, a sonic soundscape for soothing your body and mind, here are a couple tracks for you to enjoy. From my heart to yours: Kimberly's Music


• More About The Health Benefits of Singing: Get Better Orgasms: 8 Reasons To Sing


• More about the spiritual experience of voice work: Gratitude and Singing: They're All About The Tuning


Another blog regarding the spiritual experience of voice work: The Phenomenal Power of Your Voice


• Excellent External Resource: The Sound Healers Association

Hi! I'm Kimberly Harrison, singer and voice teacher 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...

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