This week I began my new Sunday afternoon workshop for people who like to sing. The purpose of the group is to offer non-professionals (semi- or professionals, too!) a place to work on tunes with a seasoned accompanist in front of a supportive, friendly group. As you might imagine, people sign up for all kinds of reasons and bring various personal goals.
One participant was a successful businessman who loves music and who said he had never sung in front of a group except doing karaoke while traveling in Asia. What was particularly remarkable – for me – about this man’s participation was his willingness to verbalize that he had never been so ‘scared of anything’. (Not only is that something you don’t often hear from big strapping men, it is also something I have trouble verbalizing! I don’t think I am alone when I say that, saying you’re afraid can take more guts than doing the thing you fear!)
While there were no singers who were not nervous to some degree, his fear was the most palpable and really brought home the ‘number’ that we do on ourselves. The mental warfare. (Granted he was the least experienced singer AND! on top of it chose a song he loved, but didn’t know well. Talk about challenging yourself!)
After we finished working and he sat down, he said, “This is better than therapy”. We all agreed.
In a culture where we are so separate from one another and isolated by our gadgets and gated communities there is something very powerful about coming together in a group to open up our throats and let out a song. This used to be a basic human experience, singing with and in front of others. In fact, our brains are wired to feel good from singing. The endorphins and oxytocin released, the effect singing has on our heart and as a stress reliever is well-documented. And yet in our present age, the thought of saying words in a melodic fashion. . .i.e., ‘singing,’ can have a wild effect on our fight or flight response.
Another man in the group brought up the quote from Voltaire: Perfection is the enemy of good. And we can all relate to that in some area of our lives. The notion that we have to be perfect at something in order start it, or that we have to be perfect to be likeable is such a cruel twist the mind plays. Cruel to the point where it will stop us from doing something that is natural and ultimately joy-producing like singing!
Sometimes we have personal issues to work on that require us to go “within”. But there are instances whereby we need people, we require the presence of others to serve as our mirror.
Singing in front of a small group can offer the chance to see, for instance, how and where our inner critic has been taking up valuable real estate. Within the presence of a small group we have the chance to unlearn those tired mental loops that say we have to appear flawless in order to add value to the group.
In the end, you may find all of this is even, better than therapy!!
If you would like to join us, we are singing from 2-5pm in Carlsbad on Sundays.
Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without –Confucius