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 THREE: TIFERET BEAUTY, HARMONY, COMPASSION
The spiritual energy of this week until April 30 is tiferet, which is the beauty that results from the harmony of the previous two sefirot. To explain: Imagine lovingkindness (see Part 1 of series) being expressed from your right arm and restraint (see Part 2 of series) flowing from your left arm. The fusion of these two energies creates an outer/inner synthesis that expresses the harmony of the two qualities, forming a dynamic more powerful than each of its components.
The aspect of tiferet corresponds to the torso of the body, although its concept closely relates to the "heart center" (located in the center of the chest) from the Hindu chakra system. (It is interesting to note that Jewish scriptures record that our forefather Abraham sent spiritual gifts to the East!)
Tiferet is also interpreted as compassion. According to Rabbi Simon Jacobson, tiferet "blends and harmonizes the free outpouring of love of chesed with the discipline of gevurah" (Spiritual Guide to the Counting of the Omer): Our loving kindness can be expressed as compassion towards others only if we hold ourselves back selflessly to respond to others' needs.
Tuning into singing: The integration of divine values into everyday life enhances our singing, because song is the soul's true expression. And just like a tree's alignment from heaven to earth expresses its alignment with the will of its Creator, we too can express a Higher Will by synthesizing our outward-flowing love with restraint and awe, thus integrating harmony into our hearts and kishkes. Why shouldn't consciousness of this harmony result in a more beautiful voice? In my experience, when the spirit shines, the voice sparkles!
On the other hand, a spiritual approach to singing can, and does, inspire our everyday lives. And how we treat ourselves often translates into how we behave towards others. Using tiferet as an example, if I am compassionate towards myself in terms of how I respect my vocal gift i.e. getting enough rest, staying healthy in mind, body, and spirit, not overusing my voice then hopefully I can channel my self-directed compassion towards others according to their needs.
Questions for reflection: Am I aware of the internal harmony that results from my voice's flow of expression being channeled through the restraints of technique? How would I describe or visualize that place of balance inside? How do I express self-compassion towards myself (or not) specifically as a singer? Do I see a correspondence between my life values and my voice quality? Can I sense less beauty in my voice quality when my ability to love or to hold back are compromised?
Exercise: 1) Take a silent, deep and wide breath, being aware of both an expanded belly and a wide rib cage. Make a mental note as you sing that you are expressing your divine aspect of beauty. 2) Take time today to show selfless compassion for someone. Later, when you sing, mentally direct your voice to that particular person as your audience, and see how this makes you feel.
Feel free to share your personal experience with these concepts.
Blessing you with personal transformation,
Note: I am grateful to Judy Rodman for her technique of the silent, deep and wide breath, and for teaching me how to put more heart into my singing. For more information on her "Power, Path and Performance" vocal training, paste and follow this link: http://judyrodman.com?a_aid=49c0342e