After a brief holiday break, I resumed chorus rehearsals last night. I used to sing in a large choir (80-100 singers), but joined a small ensemble in early fall to challenge myself to grow musically. Singing with this group has been a wonderful gift. There is a beautiful symbiosis between singing and running. Both provide a mental gateway through which to become freer and elevated. My chorus director and voice teacher incorporates a somatic approach to singing, meaning that we continuously attend to the whole body rather than just the throat. Through this paradigm shift, I have learned to appreciate the power house that is our inner balance, capacity for breath behind the ribs, and the system of pushing and pulling in our abdominal muscles, which, for women, is strong and powerful enough to birth children. When we tune in with our body as a whole system, we evolve. When reaching for a high note, I find that simply lifting up one foot off the ground is often enough to click me back in with my center and, all of a sudden, I hear that high note coming out of me with no tension in my throat. From this, I have learned that my attention, while running, should never be fully concentrated on my feet. My breathing should not be centered on my throat. Breathe in to the ribs, breathe in to the shoulders, and it feels like taking flight.
The other component that I think athletics and music share is the orientation toward growth mindset (if you have not read Carol Dweck’s work, it is well worth a review). The development of skill and ability is a long term process, ushered in by dedication and consistent practice. If we only sing the range and material that is the most comfortable for us, we stop growing. If we only run flat miles and never on hills, we stop growing. Growth mindset is the incremental advance toward a goal which never amounts to a finite limit. There is no such thing as perfecting running or music. There is artistry to both, and they are lifelong endeavors.
One of the pieces we are singing this season includes lyrics from a Gandhi quote. This text resonated with me deeply last night, and I would like to share it.
Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words.
Keep your words positive, because your words become your behavior.
Keep your behavior positive, because your behavior become your habits.
Keep your habits positive, because your habits become your values.
Keep your values positive, because your values become your destiny.