The spiritual teachings of the Kabbalah can inform us about our own personal development and enrich our singing on a deeper level. In this seven-part blog, I hope to universally share some of the insights into the sefirot, or divine characteristics, in relation to singing.
Background information: The Jewish festival of Passover marks the freedom of the Hebrew people from the enslavement in Egypt, and is the beginning of a seven-week journey towards the giving of the Torah the Jewish teachings over 3,000 years ago. During this time, the people had to spiritually shed the remnants of slavehood in order to be vessels for receiving divine wisdom.
Personal Transformation: The forty-nine days leading up to the receiving of the Torah is still embedded with tremendous spiritual energy, which continues to be accessed by tuning into the appropriate aspects of each day, which correspond to the Creator's divine attributes or sefirot. They are: Lovingkindness and benevolence; Discipline, restraint, and awe; Beauty, harmony and compassion; Endurance and ambition; Humility and thankfulness; Bonding and foundation; Nobility and leadership. Through introspection into these traits, we can achieve more emotional balance and spiritual refinement, shedding the negative characteristics that enslave us from fulfilling our higher potential. Although this is traditionally a spiritual process for Jews, I believe that the powerful energy in the universe at this time is available to all who seek inner transformation for the good of everyone.
WEEK TWO: GEVURAH DISCIPLINE, RESTRAINT, AWE
The spiritual energy of this week until April 23 is gevurah, or the disciplined and focused manifestation of chesed (see Part 1 of series). "Like a laser beam, its potency lies in the focus and concentration of light in one direction, rather than fragmented light beams dispersed in all different directions" (Rabbi Simon Jacobson, Spiritual Guide to the Counting of the Omer). Gevurah gives shape to our singing vessel and allows us to express our unique sound. This ability to fine-tune our practice gives our voice the power it needs to effectively touch others and communicate our message. Another side of gevurah is awe and respect, meaning either the feelings toward the singing experience itself, or our emotions directed to the Power that endowed us with this gift.
Tuning into singing: On the most basic level, holding back and restraining the voice in practice and performance is crucial in order to not destroy the vocal apparatus. How is singing an experience of focused energy? By channeling our voice through proper techniques and intentions, we strengthen the energy of the sound vibrations, which in turn creates a more powerful experience for both singer and audience. How is singing a discipline? (Realize that the sefirot can combine as "chesed of gevurah", which can make singing a "playful" discipline!) Finally, invoking a sense of awe into our practice can deepen our experience of the unique gift that lies in full potential within us.
Questions for reflection: What are my unique contributions as a singer? How does my particular combination of knowledge, experience, talent, strengths, weaknesses, personality, style, and vision all unite in the voice which is distinctly mine? How focused is my voice? What techniques do I use to focus my sound? How disciplined am I in my practice? Has my practice routine become stale and lifeless? How would a feeling of awe influence my singing experience?
Exercise: 1) Whatever techniques you use to focus your sound, i.e. power from the pelvic floor, pulling through the mask, articulation, etc., envision your vocal energy as a beam of light directed at the audience. Imagine this focused light as a path of love from your heart or a channel of self-expression from the deepest part of your being. 2) Try taking a singing breath with a look of awe on your face. (You may have heard of this throat-opening technique referred to as "a look of surprise." Judy Rodman calls it the "six-way head stretch-eyes, ears, nose, jaw and scalp.) But don't just make a face really feel the awe! Acknowledge the wonder of having a totally singular voice like no one else in the world, and appreciate this miracle!
I would love to hear about your personal experience with these concepts.
Blessing you with personal transformation,
Note: I find Judy Rodman's techniques for focusing mental, emotional and physical energy to be quite effective. For more information on her "Power, Path and Performance" vocal training, paste and follow this link: http://judyrodman.com?a_aid=49c0342e