…by studying my Voice

On the phone I’m often been mistaken for my daughter… it’s nice if someone thinks I’m young enough to be my daughter when we meet in person, but not so much when they are basing it on my voice alone.  Especially for a 52-year-old law firm partner who hopes to speak with authority.  I’ve always assumed my high pitch was something that I was born with, for better or worse, and never thought about how sounding that way may have impacted my life.

That changed this summer, when someone listening to the story of my life asserted that I was afraid to stand up for myself.  Not so, I protested.  I do stand up for myself, when it’s something I care about, and I always have.  Even when it meant I’d be punished.  Rather than taking the easy way out and just agreeing to whatever my parents wanted me to say, I insisted on saying what I felt, what I knew to be right, my truth.  But it was if my words held no meaning, they were just letters strung together that didn’t have any effect.  I was talking, but no one was listening to me.

“Maybe that’s because your voice is so high,” the woman hearing my story said.  “You may have thought you were protesting, but no one was listening because your voice made you so easy to ignore.”  Huh?  I’d always focused on the WORDS I was saying, my Protest.  I hadn’t thought the pitch and tone with which my words were being spoken could be responsible for my being ignored.  Interesting.

I told the woman teaching a day-long Chakra class I was taking about what I’d heard, and asked her what she thought of the theory.  “It makes perfect sense to me,” she said.  “You weren’t coming across with authority, as someone who should be listened to, because you weren’t grounded,” she said.  “And you still speak the same way.”

So I started doing some exercises each day designed to “unblock” my first Chakra, the chakra associated with grounding ourselves.  Then I bought Maya Fiennes‘ series of Chakra tapes, and worked on Chakra 5, which is all about the voice, and speaking the Truth.  And I woke up early enough to do the exercises on the tape every single day for 43 days in a row, determined to get myself in balance.

Here’s a good blog post on Chakra 5.

According to the blog cited above, people with Throat Chakra (5) issues often have TMJ, grind their teeth, have skin irritations, and/or shoulder pain.  Check, Check, Check.  And Check.  My teeth enamel is severely worn from the years of grinding my teeth, and my checks hurt from TMJ.  And I get skin irritations whenever I’m under stress.  Again, per the blog, when the Throat Chakra is out of balance the person can have emotional issues such as shyness, self-criticism, low self-esteem and frustration.  OK, check to all of those, too.  My mother’s nickname for me growing up was “Shy-Ass” as in “Don’t be such a Shy Ass.”  But I was, anyway, much to her disappointment.  And I’m my own worst critic, never believing I’ve done well enough unless there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  (A 95 is OK, but I never felt I really did good unless a nice, round, perfect 100 was marked on my paper.)  And while I don’t feel like I’m critical of others, many of my past boyfriends would, I fear, beg to differ.  I never understood why they felt I was tough on them, but maybe it’s because I’m so tough on myself that I thought I was letting them off easy.

Moreover, the cited blog points out that, when chakra five is imbalanced, it may manifest in chronic sore throats and mouth and gum ulcers.  I had so many horrible strep throats that the doctor had me scheduled to remove my tonsils as soon as I was old enough.  Fortunately for me my sore throats seemed to miraculously go away for long enough to escape the knife.  But I’ve been plagued with sore throats, and the need to constantly clear my throat (my kids say they can find me in any crowd because they know I’ll be clearing my throat in an apparently distinctive way), as long as I can remember.

Clearly there seem to be reason enough to give working on improving my Throat Chakra a try.  Never one to do things half-way, I also signed up for a Voice class at the local university, and we just finished our six-class session this week.  I loved it, and my classmates seemed to enjoy my presentations, and the combination of being aware of the issue, regularly exercising in a way that benefits the throat (through neck rolls, shoulder shrugs, etc.), and working on diaphragmatic breathing, projection and all the patters and tongue-twisters my voice teacher gave us to practice has me feeling like I’m speaking with more authority already.  And it feels good.  I feel more confident.  I feel like, finally, all those things I’ve always had to say can now be said with confidence, with authority, with a voice that commands attention.  Guess I’d better be sure I have good things to say!

  • Throat (Vishuddha) Chakra (sensualblissvoyager.wordpress.com)
  • healingspiritsyoga.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/chakra-5-visuddha/

Musing on the Power of Breath

Breathe Sculpture, UCO

Since moving to California I’ve become more aware of my breath. I took up yoga, for example, where coordinating movement with breath is a core concept.

Photo by ANTONI SHKRABA on Pexels.com

When I learned to scuba dive, breath was a matter of life or death. I did not want to run out of air down there, and I quickly learned that my anxiety about dying underwater in all the many ways that could occur was lessened if I instead focused on my breath.

Photo by Pia on Pexels.com

Meditation is another practice I started after moving here, and again a prime way to calm the mind for meditation is to focus on your breath.  

By focusing on your breath, you can meditate anywhere. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

Acting as well.  I took a voice class (meant to help with public speaking), and the first lesson and the first portion of each subsequent class we spent working on our breath, as without having good breath we cannot give voice to our thoughts or those of our characters.  I can only project to the audience in the back of the room by focusing on deeply breathing. Singing too, of course.

Photo by Yan Krukov on Pexels.com

If I am feeling down or anxious or worried, simply spending a few minutes to celebrate my ability to deeply breath helps remind me of how wonderful it is to have the seemingly simple pleasure of automatically taking in air.

Last time I was anxious and felt my stomach starting to get nervous, I forced myself to sit still for a few moments and relax and breathe, and it made all the difference.

When I gave birth to my first child, I used focusing on my breath, and on his passage to life, rather than an epidural to make my way through labor (though I went with the epidural for child #2).

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

I sometimes imagine what it will be like when I take my last breath, or if, ailing, dying, knowing the end is near I will finally value the miracle that is my ability to breath in fresh air, and wish I hadn’t taken it for granted every other minute of my life.  Breath is one of those common miracles easily overlooked, but well worth honoring.