My Naked Voice

My Naked Voice

 

I’m standing in a panelled room, in a remote country mansion. There’s an expectancy in the air, as I glance up at my new friends sitting before me. It’s time for me to open my mouth and sing whatever comes out. There’s no running away. I’ve committed to half an hour of nonstop and unregulated self expression. I take a deep breath.

Its the final day of the winter Naked Voice retreat in the Brecon Beacons, Wales. The dignified surroundings seem strangely at odds with the raw insecurity I’m now experiencing. But it’s what I and about thirty other participants have come here for. We wanted to know whether it was possible to hear the sound of our own voices, naked, free from the desire to be correct, in tune, or to perform.

My relationship with my voice is complicated. Although I work as a musician, I’ve never been comfortable singing. Choir was compulsory at music college, but I always stood at the back, silent, patiently waiting for lunchtime. It was something I accepted, coming from a family where any form of letting go was equated to having a mental breakdown.

But what does that say about me as a musician now? Is there something at my core which has frozen? Have I been shunning my inner voice? Have I been constructing music around an idea of what I think it should be? These were some of the questions that led me to the retreat.

Chloe Goodchild

Chloë Goodchild, founder of the Naked Voice, at the Winter Retreat 2015

The Naked Voice was founded by singer and vocal teacher, Chloë Goodchild, in 1990. Brought up in the Western classical style of singing, Chloë set out to travel the world, where she met with spiritual masters and vocal teachers from many traditions. After a life-changing ‘no-mind’ experience in northern India, she was inspired to create her own method of using the voice as a tool for spiritual transformation.

She gives courses around the world, lasting from one to five days, and also offers one to one consultations. For those who want to take it further, there’s a one year foundation, which leads on to facilitator training. In the workshops she carefully crafts what she calls a singing field, a loving, non-judgemental atmosphere in which every voice is treated with respect.

The winter retreat took place at Buckland Hall, a grand Tuderbethan mansion, set in extensive gardens, housing one of the finest arboretums in Wales. The first day began at seven thirty with meditation and gentle Shintaido exercises based on traditional Japanese martial arts. After a vegetarian breakfast, everyone gathered together for vocal warm ups, which led on to singing our names to the group in a call and response.

We moved into the main hall, with “his and hers” fireplaces, and lay on our backs in relaxation. With the soundtrack of a live percussionist, we were encouraged to move in any way we desired. A sense of foreboding emerged as I realised where this was leading. As the rhythms intensified, the room came alive with bodies, twisting and contorting, in an explosion of self expression. I had no choice but to go with it.

In the afternoon, we split into groups of three. This is where the challenge really began. One of us would sing for ten minutes, while another took the role of witness, and the third person, the role of silent loyal friend. When my turn came to sing, I was hesitant. But a few minutes in, my body relaxed, as the sound became more fluid. I still had that nagging inner voice though, asking what the others were thinking, if I was in tune, whether I sounded interesting enough.

 

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In her book, The Naked Voice, Chloë advocates singing as self enquiry, with the intention to transform, rather than perform. Singing to express rather than impress. She says that singing freely bypasses the rational mind, reducing stress and opening the heart. As well as singing and devotional chanting, she teaches a combination of self enquiry, healing breath-work, energy movement and deep listening.

On the second day we learnt a tantric mantra, derived from the Shakti yoga tradition. As a group, we chanted it slowly in unison, while performing physical movements related to the chakras, or energy centres in the body. Another uplifting practice was the reciting of the Heart Sutra, an ancient Buddhist mantra, which is said to deepen your inner stillness and stabilise your emotional and nervous system.

It wasn’t until the afternoon of the third, final day that things really changed for me. Maybe it was all the chanting and energy work. Or was it the messy group hugs and having to sing ‘I love you’ to strangers? I found myself in a new group, this time preparing to express myself vocally for half an hour.

Closing my eyes, I waited to see what would happen. It started with a whisper. Then a rhythmic quality took over, as my body began moving in time. Breath, sound and body seemed to unite as I became a witness of my own naked voice. It travelled high and low, sometimes barely audible, then suddenly soaring into a huge falsetto. Was this really me? I hadn’t heard anything like it. Half an hour passed quickly, and I was left with a feeling of freedom, joy and connection.

At the end of the course, I spoke to a lady from Norway, who had experienced a breakthrough. “I haven’t felt this good for months” she told me. Another lady from Nottingham, who was there for the first time said that the work had effected her deeply, and that she was keen to take it further.

Back home, I’m evaluating the effects of the course. While it hasn’t turned me into a professional singer, it has changed the relationship I have with my voice. I think of it more with kindness and respect, rather than the unsightly sibling I need to lock out of sight.

I feel more musically free, and wonder about the possibility of making music from a more personal, authentic perspective. Perhaps I’m shifting from a fear-driven persona to a transparent, courageous, compassionate human being resonating with the energies of unconditional love, as Chloë would say.

 


What do you think? Are you interested in the Naked Voice? Or maybe you’ve already tried something similar? We want to hear from you! Post your thoughts in the Sound Healing forum

 

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6 Comments

  1. Mags MacKean - December 12, 2015, 7:20 pm Reply

    Great to hear your experiences Darren: what a rich feast indeed – still digesting my end!

  2. Mags MacKean - December 12, 2015, 7:24 pm Reply

    apologies: one ‘r’ in your name noted! And to add: it’s an amazing liberation to become relaxed enough to TRUST the voice has a life of its own. After this Naked Voice work with Chloe, I can now do something previously dismissed as impossible: look into a stranger’s eyes and sing without a clue of what notes, pitch or tone will come! And it doesn’t matter…other than the freedom and joy of discovering my voice 😉

  3. Sarah Felton - December 13, 2015, 9:12 pm Reply

    Although I didn’t feel that I had truly found my Naked Voice during the retreat, it certainly came through today during my in-depth flute practice!

  4. caro c - December 14, 2015, 5:37 pm Reply

    Lovely description Daren, glad to hear it was transformative for you (too). And wow, the naked flute sounds intriguing! Love the mindful musician label too :-)

  5. Tim Chalice - December 15, 2015, 8:23 pm Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing Daren. It was a real pleasure to meet you and to witness that ‘huge falsetto’! Love the Mindful Musician too!

  6. Jezabelle - February 25, 2016, 11:03 pm Reply

    After reading your experiences, I’m doing Chloe’s workshop in Scotland on 15-17th April. Really looking forward to it ; )

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