Do you want to stop worrying and start living in the moment? Abby Ahmad explains how you can find focus and clarity through meditation.
Fear, insecurity and doubt are emotions familiar to all singers. We continuously question ourselves, our technique, our artistry and our accomplishments, casting broad shadows on small things. Unchecked, this devours our natural, emotional reactivity and sends our nervous system into a tailspin, depleting the very skills we’re aiming to improve.
Succeeding in the music industry while keeping your sense of self in tact is a huge challenge. The voices that move us most embody emotions fully, and the singers who possess such voices have the strength to take criticism without compromising the vulnerability necessary to embody intense feelings.
How is this balance achieved? How can we allow our emotions to flow truthfully? How can we moderate the messiness of the mind and liberate our voices to their most authentic?
The answer is meditation, a powerful practice that can transform your life and instrument. It provides the equilibrium essential to nurture a voice to become expressive, reliable, dynamic and compelling.
By calibrating ourselves to actively feel emotions without bias, we start to repair our tendency toward attachment and expectation. This is a game changer for vocalists.
Meditation can be intimidating for a newbie. Some feel they don’t have the time, privacy or disposition for the practice. Additionally, many find it challenging to be still or silent. Luckily, there are many methods available to you which will help incorporate meditation into your daily routine in a way that is feasible and fun.
Journaling is a fantastic way to urge an active brain toward deepened consciousness. Here’s how to do it.
- Purchase a new journal specifically for this exercise. Make sure it’s book or notepad that’s aesthetically pleasing and choose a writing utensil that feels good.
- Set a timer for five to 10 minutes and, using free association, write based on the prompt “right now”. Think of it as a way to purge any thought that arises. There is no right way, only a write way. When you have completed your initial thoughts, return to the prompt and begin again. Repeat until the timer sounds.
- When you have completed the task, carefully read your writing aloud, allowing any emotions or attachments to arise. Go back and highlight any pertinent thoughts/ideas.
Om chanting meditation
- Find a calm place where you can sit comfortably. Let your hands rest naturally.
- Set a timer for your desired length of time (five minutes is a good start).
- When chanting “Om”, it is important to resign any attachment to pitch, tonality or performance. Om is considered the vibration of the universe, unmatched by any human voice. Let the sound of your voice be informed by your breath and expressed organically and effortlessly.
- Om is composed of four sounds: “a”, “u”, “m” and the silence that follows. The parts should merge equally to create the sound “OME” (like “home”).
- Using your voice, chant the sound “Om”, taking as many rounds of respiration in between as necessary. Let it be smooth and unhurried, reflecting the natural rhythm of your body and breath.
- Repeat until timer rings.
Take a solo walk leaving behind the distractions of your everyday life. Abandon your phone, music and bulky backpack, etc. Do not let anything come between you and the vibrancy of the world around you. Focus on feeling untethered and completely connected.
Notice your sensory receptors. Feel the heat from the sun, smell the flowers or the garbage. See the people, animals or plants you encounter with clarity. Remain conscious of your breath. Bring awareness to the feet with each step. See if you can create a rhythm with your whole physicality that the mind can follow. Choose a path where you can walk continuously without physical interruption. Walk for at least 20 minutes and up to an hour.
Wilfully distracted meditation
This one seems counter-intuitive, but what better way to put your mindfulness to the test than to utilise these principles when in an actively stressful situation? The next time you find yourself in a scenario with a lot of outward distractions (crowded subway, construction noise, kids screaming, heavy traffic) focus your attention on your breath.
Notice which emotions emerge within as you are agitated. Notice where tension arises in the body. Notice how long it lasts and if it shifts. Notice what prompts the shift, if any. Tune into the distractions instead of shying away from them. Investigate them with curiosity. Allow the experience of openly embracing frustration and negative emotion to shed light on something new.
Guided meditations and conversations on mindfulness/creativity are a salve for the soul. Beginners may find it useful to be led into meditation with the help of a professional. Listening to conversations and interviews regarding life, spirituality, health and mindfulness will deepen your connection to self. I find guided meditation particularly soothing when anxiety rears its head at bedtime.
App/podcasts you make like to try
Tara Brach, Simple Habit, Meditation Studio, On Being, Untangle Oprah’s Soul Sessions and Big Magic.
Beginner tips for traditional meditation
- Start in a comfortable position, seated on a chair, cushion, or mat, or lying down.
- Set a timer for a reasonable duration. (Begin with three minutes and work your way up to 20 plus. You can also do a shorter practice multiple times throughout the day).
- Begin with gratitude. Find something you are thankful for: family, friends, a pet, a working body, running water – whatever you can muster in the moment.
- Establish a “mudra” or hand position. For example, palms down on thighs to connect internally, palms upward for receptivity. If you find your body fidgeting in the meditation, try shifting mudras throughout. (For more on mudras CLICK HERE).
- Begin inhaling and exhaling through the nose. Connect to the natural rhythm of your breath without judgement. From there, deepen the breath, allowing the inhalations and exhalations to match in duration and intensity.
- Assign a mantra to your breath cycle. A mantra is a silently repeated phrase which assists you in transcending the activity of the mind. It can be as simple as “in” on the inhalations and “out” on the exhalations. Other options are “let”/”go”, “I”/”am” or Sanskrit words “sat” (truth)/”nam” (identity). Or create your own.
- Continue to breathe and repeat your mantra (only if it feels helpful). Notice which thoughts arise. Notice the urges of your body to disconnect. Do not repel these thoughts and sensations. On your inhalations, actively recognise their existence. On your exhalations, let go and allow them to release. Repeat this cycle until your designated time is up.
- Have patience and compassion for the process. Meditation is not about feeling good immediately or thinking about nothing. It is the progression of allowing all your emotions, sensations and thoughts to play out. Be honest, be consistent, and you will continue to unfold and unravel unto the beauty of yourself.