BLOG

MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE PRESENT MOMENT

How often are you truly present in the moment?

Presence is becoming harder to achieve with the distractions of internet, messaging services, social media, spending long hours at the computer, insufficient physical exercise and movement, as well as spending much of our time worrying about past mistakes and future concerns.

These and other factors lead us to distraction as we become more and more disconnected with our bodies. This disconnect with our bodies deprives us of mental clarity and the emotional and spiritual intelligence within us.

Presence is about being grounded, centred, alive, and alert in the moment, sensitive to what’s going on around you, tuned in with all your senses, ready, responsive (instead of reactive), conscious of your thoughts and actions, truly “being” with others, listening, connected, and able to make choices.

What happens when you speak?

Are you so focused on what you have to say or so nervous that you forget you have an audience? Does your inner critic voice tell you things like… you’re not good at speaking to groups… you can’t find the right words …or no one really wants to listen to you?

If you want to reach your audience with your words, you need to be present in the moment. Presence allows you to meet your audience (whatever the size) right where they are and respond to them directly. It permits you to sense what is needed and adjust your way of communicating accordingly. When you’re present in your body you can use your body’s intelligence and energy to create the richness and resonance that brings your voice alive and carries your words, energy and intention to your audience.

Raise awareness about your habits 

By paying attention to what you’re doing and when, you can become more conscious of your habits which may include things like day dreaming, contemplating experiences from your past, worrying about what’s going to happen in the future, going inward and avoiding to speak up, trying to dominate conversations and meetings by talking all the time, worrying about what others may think of you, etc. all of which have an impact on how you express your voice.

Once you become conscious of your habits, you are in a position to change them if you choose. To begin, you can choose to be present whenever you like. It is only in the present moment that we have the power to influence, help, inspire, teach, and learn.

Here are some simple exercises to get present (and chase away your inner critic):

  1. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth slowly three times. As you breathe, speak Thich Nhat Hanh’s words silently in your mind, “Breathing in I calm my body, breathing out I smile.”
  2. While standing with your feet flat on the floor and your knees released, lean slightly into the balls of your feet to sense a greater connection between your body and the ground. Feel a sense of readiness.
  3. Stand up and move around.
  4. Walk briskly with purpose, feeling the movement of your body and the contact with the floor. Breathe easy and enjoy the sensation of movement.
  5. Shift your attention to your surroundings, get curious and notice what is there. Activate your sensations to notice visuals, smells, sounds, colours, the sensation of your feet on the floor, the temperature of the room, the energy of the space around you.
  6. Give someone your full attention. While talking with a friend, colleague, your child, your partner or anyone, choose to focus your attention on that person with the intention of listening in order to understand. If judgemental thoughts or thoughts about other things pop up, just set them aside (don’t let them take over your attention) and continue listening to that person wholeheartedly. Check in with them to ensure you have understood their need(s) or want(s). Show them you care.

“Don’t wait to be successful at some future point. Have a successful relationship with the present moment and be fully present in whatever you are doing. That is success.”

Eckhart Tolle

If you liked this post you can write to me at Allison@voiceforlifecoaching.com. I’d love to hear from you!

OPEN YOUR HEART AND LISTEN (PART I)

 

My yoga instructor used to end each class by saying, “Open your heart” and then “Namaste”. This would conjure up an image in my mind of my heart opening like a door to the world with rays of light pouring out. The meaning of Namaste is “the light in me acknowledges the light in you”. These are words to live by.

 

When we listen with an open heart, we let go of our judgements.

 

How often do you give someone your full attention to really listen with the intention of understanding her?

 

Most of the time we’re only half listening while watching TV, glancing at our mobile phones or thinking about past or future events at the same time. This is called multitasking and it’s a global addiction, one that leaves us all handicapped.

 

When we choose to give someone our full attention we see and hear them, and they have the chance to be seen and heard. This is how we connect on a deeper level with someone. This is how we build relationships and create truly meaningful exchanges with others. This is how we touch people’s hearts and are touched by others.

 

How often do you say or hear words like, “I understand you.” Aren’t those words beautiful to hear? Aren’t they wonderful to express to someone else?

 

We all crave to be seen and heard for who we are and what we stand for. So why don’t we allow ourselves more opportunities for this to happen? Why don’t we give our loved ones this chance?

 

Yes, we have busy lives with lots of responsibilities, problems to resolve,… and the days get filled up and the weeks and months go by so quickly…Is that it?

 

Well, if that’s our excuse, what are we actually doing if we don’t have time to connect with others on a deeper level? What’s more important than connecting on a meaningful level with the people we love?

 

START BY LISTENING TO YOUR OWN VOICE

 

Do you listen to yourself? I don’t mean that critical voice that rants all day long inside your head. I mean your inner voice, the one that stands for who you really are and knows your strengths, your truth. Do you hear that voice sometimes?

 

If you don’t, try listening for it. Open your heart and listen. Take a few minutes each day to breath in silence and listen for your inner voice. What is it saying?

 

It might take some time before you hear your inner voice. This kind of listening takes a bit of practice, so don’t dismay, don’t give up. Try, try again and be patient. If nothing comes, try again tomorrow.

 

You might ask your inner voice a question like, “What do I need?” Or “What do I want?” and then wait for an answer.

 

The answer may not come right away. The answer may come later the same day or perhaps the following day, but if you keep listening, eventually you’ll have the answer.

 

Then, when your inner voice speaks to you, voice it! Express the words of your inner voice out loud with your physical voice. You might even want to write it down and pin it up somewhere where you can see it and be reminded of the truth that came from you.

 

When we learn to listen to our inner voice with an open heart, we come to know ourselves better and accept ourselves more. This gives us reassurance, grounding and self-confidence. Knowing what we want and need – or even what we don’t want and don’t need – in our lives helps us to speak with intention and to make choices that are better aligned with our values.

 

If you don’t listen to yourself, you won’t know your needs and wants and you won’t be able to respond to them. This leads to feelings of frustration, anger and jealousy.

 

When you are aware of your own needs and wants, you can begin to respond to them. This is about taking care of yourself. It’s not selfish or egoistic. It’s essential! And, by listening to yourself with an open heart, you will be more ready to listen to others in the same way.

 

Will you try it out? You can let me know how this works for you by writing to me at Allison@voiceforlifecoaching.com. I’d love to hear from you!

IS YOUR VOICE LIKE A SLEEPING GUITAR?

 

A friend of mine is a professional guitar player. One day, he told me about his hobby of fixing up old guitars – he calls it “waking up sleeping guitars”. Upon hearing this, I immediately thought of my own guitar, which was in a box in the cellar where it had been for the last 10 years!

 

The “sleeping guitar” is a good analogy for the human voice. Most of us don’t think about our voice very much, except when we have a cold or experience hoarseness. Mostly we just “speak” without putting any thought into our voice or how it functions, let alone to consider it as an instrument. Singers and actors are more conscious of their vocal instrument since they experiment and play with their voices while learning vocal techniques, but most people don’t acknowledge the enormous potential they have in their own voice or realise that they can change the way they use it for their own benefit.

 

Is your voice like the sleeping guitar? Are you aware of its full potential and how it could serve you?

 

We were all born with a marvellous instrument that allows us considerable range in pitch, volume, pace, colour and which functioned with ease and power naturally and instinctively from birth. During the course of our lives we alter the way we use our voice and adopt some bad habits affecting our posture, breathing and resistance to stress. As a result, most of us end up using only a limited part of our voice or vocal capacity and inadvertently putting strain on our vocal chords, while a significant portion our vocal potential lies dormant.

 

The voice is like a muscle. The more you exercise it by applying healthy vocal habits, the stronger and more versatile it becomes.

 

Consider these points:

  • Your voice is an expression of your personality.
  • The quality of your voice combined with your body language accounts for about 80% of your impact!
  • A more focused, intentional use of your voice gives you self-confidence and helps you to connect more deeply with others, captivate the attention of your listeners and actively influence the people in your world.
  • Some voices are difficult to pay attention to. (Have you ever struggled to listen to a voice that was too monotone, too soft, too loud, too shrill, too slow or too fast?)

 

We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us.

Friedrich Nietzsche

 

By choosing to build awareness around your vocal and body language habits, you can identify your needs for improvement and intentionally alter those habits. Several practices have helped me to wake up my voice and to keep it in shape: classical voice training, giving talks, yoga (for posture and abdominal breathing), coaching clients, and reading and animating bedtime stories for my children. These activities give me space to play and experiment with body and voice and to observe the impact on my audience.

 

Is it time to wake up your “sleeping voice” or at least the part of it that is asleep? I invite you to take it out from where it has been kept away and play it! Let its chords resonate! Take singing lessons, join a choir, read and animate bedtime stories for children. Infuse your speaking with emotion and let your voice go higher and lower than it usually does. Share your own stories with the people around you. In waking up your sleeping voice, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

 

If you’re ready for a change and willing to make space for it in your life, don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I will be happy to answer your questions or offer you my support as a voice and speech coach.

 

If you liked reading this post, feel free to send your comments to Allison@VoiceForLifeCoaching.com. I’d love to hear from you!

ALL THE COLOURS OF YOUR VOICE

pal3
Photo by Cynthia Payen

 

My singing teacher once asked me to imagine painting a picture with my voice while singing. From that moment, I started to imagine applying different colours of paint to the walls of her studio with each note that I sang. With each breath I would apply the colour with long legato strokes or short staccato strokes of my “air” brush. It was a beautiful exercise – one that awakened my imagination and invited all my senses to join in!

 

This exercise inspired me to step into another dimension while singing. I imagined dipping the brush into the paint with each inhalation and stretching it towards the imaginary canvas on the exhalation as I released the words and tones into the air. I could smell and taste the paint fumes. I allowed my painting to be very large, filling the room from floor to ceiling. This imagery helped me in two ways. It allowed me to let go of mechanically “trying” to apply vocal techniques, while at the same time, it gave me much more freedom to playfully apply the techniques in a relaxed, meditative state as a painter!

 

Since discovering that exercise, I love to think of my voice as my painter’s palette. My palette has a wide range of colours for me to work with. Dark colours and bright colours, soft colours and intense colours – the whole spectrum of colours – and I can even mix them to create new ones! Such is the richness of the human voice. I can depict a bright rainbow, a warm glowing sunset, a dark mysterious night, or a harsh winter storm. I can use different sizes and shapes of brushes to apply and shape the colours the way I like. This is my art of painting with my voice.

 

In the same way, when I speak I can use my voice to paint pictures or to illustrate moods, emotions or tell stories that I want to share with my listener or my audience. I will use rich hypnotic tones to depict the Brazilian carnival and soft pastel colours to illustrate the seaside in Greece. Whatever my story, I can adapt and design it to my liking and hopefully inspire others to do the same. I can vary my tone of voice (colour), pacing, volume, or use silence or stress to draw the listener’s attention to different aspects of my story. I can make it like a scary ride or a wonderful adventure for my listener according to the metaphors that I paint with my voice.

 

Imagine that you can paint with your voice. How will you use this skill to influence your audience or listener? What stories will you tell? What metaphors will you introduce? What emotions will you evoke in your audience? What if instead of just having a conversation with someone, you could paint pictures with your voice? What picture would you paint for your partner, your friend, your colleague, your boss? How could this metaphor of painting inspire the way you use your voice to communicate?

 

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.

Vincent Van Gogh