Losing Your Voice

A voice cannot carry the tongue and the lips that gave it wings.
Alone must it seek the ether.
And alone and without its nest shall the eagle fly across the sun
~Kahlil Gibran

Sometimes it’s easy to let your voice be heard, and sometimes it’s not. Where those moments appear is different for each person, and even changes for each person over the life course – from time to time, from relationship to relationship, from setting to setting, from topic to topic, and so on.

Photo by Yugenro

We spent a lot of time with ourselves (all of it, right?), so we may think that we know what kind of instances are easy for us to find our voices and what kind of instances are difficult. But, as with everything in life, sometimes there are surprises.

I’m, to put it bluntly, a big mouth. I have thoughts about most everything and I’m usually not afraid to share them, in written form or oral. Friends who have met me online before meeting me face to face have been surprised that I’m not bigger than I am and that my voice isn’t deeper, because my “voice” in terms of being forceful in my communication is strong. This week, however, I had two different specific experiences where I felt like I lost my voice. One fell into the category of a predictable loss, while the other was quite unexpected.

The first event related to my job.  I found myself needing to support someone’s right to speak an unpopular opinion.  Being a communication scholar, I’m rather fond of the First Amendment, so I would have not expected it to be difficult for me to find my voice about this issue.  But, because the opinion that had been expressed was very counter to my own beliefs, it was shockingly difficult, and even more so because what I needed to say went against the reactions of some others in the organization.  It was tricky and I noticed that, though I would begin an interaction with some degree of confidence, I kept quickly losing my voice and really needing to work to find it.  Interesting.

The second experience was more expected for me.  I love music, a lot.  But, I don’t sing.  I was told at an early age that I’m tone deaf, and though I don’t even really fully understand what that means, it has become a part of my understanding of myself.  I also had a friend, who I love dearly, tell me a few years ago that I sound like Minnie Mouse.  The combination of those two things has pretty much assured that I will never sing in public.  I don’t karaoke.  I don’t sing happy birthday at a party (unless I can basically just talk the words).  I don’t sing the alma mater at university events.  I do not sing in public, with the exception of at rock concerts where it is so loud that I know no one can hear me.  Thus, I was not shocked to find it extremely difficult to find my voice for chanting in Sanskrit during yoga teacher training.  I could hear the rhythm and the words in my head very clearly, but as soon as I opened my mouth, the voice that came out was soft and timid and very unsure.  Over the course of the class, I got more comfortable chanting with the group (again, hard to hear my voice mixed in with the others) but when time came for me to lead a chant, my voice disappeared again.

Having a voice, not necessarily in the physical sense but in the psychological/relational sense, is important in our well being and in our relationships in the world.  When we butt up against obstacles in finding our voices, we need to think about what is keeping us from finding that voice and what we can do to set it free.  For these two events, I’m pretty sure that the issue is my worry about how others will perceive me.  I know it, but I haven’t been able to let it go – yet.

Where do you lose your voice?  What do you think causes it?  What are you “doing” about it?



Time’s A’Wastin’

Photo by Ian Britton - Available at freefoto.com

After our discussion in YTT class this week regarding Asteya (non-stealing) and how it relates to the use and abuse of time, I’ve been thinking about the issue of my own response to time quite a bit.  I will fess up right now that I’m not the best when it comes to using time – my own or the time of others.

I used to always be the early bird.  I got to everything 10-15 minutes before I needed to be there.  I was that person circling the block because I had gotten to a party SO early that I couldn’t go in.  And then, I had kids.  My ability to get places early went fast, and my ability to even arrive on time was right after it.  Now, I say ability, but that’s not totally true, is it?  It’s a matter of the choices that I make.  I have a tendency to think that I need to fill every single minute with “getting something done.”  If I have 10 minutes before a meeting starts on the other side of campus, and it takes me 7  minutes to walk there, then I have 3 minutes to fill.  That’s enough time to answer an email, right?  Wrong.  Very very wrong.  So, I answer that email.  But, then once I start it turns out that the answer is more complex than I thought, because I don’t want to misspeak or say the wrong thing or have bad grammar.  And, I’m certainly not walking away from my desk with an email half sent.  With one eye on the clock and one on the monitor I keep typing.  I rationalize it to myself, “Ok, seven  minutes left – I can still make it.  Six minutes – If I walk fast, I’ll get there and this email task will be done too!  Five minutes – Ok, I’m going to be a minute late, but most everyone else will be too.”  You see where this is going, right?  Pretty soon, I find myself almost running across campus (in a suit and dress shoes), sweating and worrying about who is going to be there to see me coming in late.  Ouch.  And, the truth is, that’s often what I’m worrying about.  It’s not so much that I worry that I am wasting someone else’s time or that I’m disrespecting the value of their time.  I worry that I might look bad for being late.  Did I say ouch yet?

I’m not very good at valuing my own time either.  My schedule this semester is tight.  Most days, I have 7-8 hours at the office, 1-2 hours at the yoga studio, 1.5 hours in travel time, 2-3 hours of work at home.  That’s about half the day fully occupied.  Then throw in an hour to get kids going in the morning and an hour to get me going.  Dinner prep and serve is another hour.  Then yoga homework, house chores and the like another.  And, somewhere in there are the family interactions, helping with homework, chatting with the spousal unit, hugging a kid, brushing a dog, petting a cat, and so on.  That leaves me almost enough time to get in a full night of sleep.  But do I?  No.  I do not.  Instead, I watch TV or Facebook or Tweet or text or doodle around online.  I’m currently also crocheting a sweater that I’m not enjoying, so it’s super slow but I’m compelled to keep working because I don’t like giving up.   I’m not saying that I shouldn’t use any time just to mess around, but if the point of that is really to relax, then is spending an hour looking for the perfect floorlamp for my office really the best way to do that?

I’m sure at least some of this is because my sense of time is messed up.  I’ll bet I’m not alone in that.  During home yoga practice today, I used a metronome to keep myself honest about length of poses and breaths and I found that I don’t have a very good sense of how time is passing.  Maybe this is because, as a fully immersed member of my culture, I’ve embraced the habit of always being on to the next thing while I’m doing the first thing.  It’s pretty hard to feel a moment passing when you aren’t really even “in” that moment.  I’m working on changing that, but 40+ years of practice takes some serious undoing.

As with a lot of my posts, I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this!  But, I do think that I will keep working on my own “time management” (in the sense of being in it instead of trying so hard to bend it to my own will) by slowing down where I can, being willing to leave some moments empty of tasks, and working that metronome to help me measure my breaths and my moments a little better until I can regain my internal ability to even them out and not rush through some while trying to drag out the others.

Time is a brisk wind, for each hour it brings something new… but who can understand and measure its sharp breath, its mystery, and its design?
~ Paracelsus



Om Saha Navavatu

This chant from the Upanishads is in my head today, so I’m sharing it with you in a spirit of learning together!

Om Saha Navavatu

Saha Nau Bhunaktu

Saha Viryam Karavavahai

Tejasvi Navaditam Astu

Ma Vidvisavahai

Om Shantih Shantih Shantih

(Translations varies from source to source, but basically follows the same idea)

May we both be protected.

May we both be nourished.

May our work together be vigorous.

May our study together be brilliant and enlightening.

May there be no obstacle between us.

Om peace, peace, peace