Your Voice is Not Faulty

— July 14, 2020 —

Ouch. For days. There was a pain lodged in my back ribs that was inescapable. I was a new mother, about six months into the ordeal, and would describe myself as what many would call a “hot mess.” I felt broken. But I would not have been able to describe my situation as such, I was so myopic. I had zero access to the perspective-shifting powers I was used to exerting in normal, pre-baby, civilian life. Up in the middle of the night, dreading the inevitable lack of sleep, feeling weak and out of my body and anxious about everything and thoughts racing nonstop and thoughts, shall we say, of an unpure nature.

This pain had no obvious, direct source. After several nights of the little one teething (cue fist shake) and myself rocking, rocking, rocking him in the middle of the night, the hot back pain had become extreme. A synchronistic Google search led me to discover that it wasn’t my tight back that was actually the source: it was my tight diaphragm. Hm. So I stuck my fingers into my midsection, on the hunt for the source of my misery. (Oh-ho and a-ha! If only I knew…)

Sure enough, there was a beastly knot of muscle just under the front left side of my ribs, a place that had been taking all the bowed-down skeletal pressure of those sleepless nights. My first thought was, “Who gets a knot in their diaphragm?” and my second thought was,

I have a diaphragm???

Friend, I have been a professional singer and voice teacher for decades, and I have never ONCE considered the functionality and health of my diaphragm. (Wtf, Allison???) So, I set to instant work coaxing that knot to relieve itself, and in the process I noticed how my entire midsection was incredibly tight and tender. Fortunately the back pain ceased, but I was still the same Allison, hurtling through her mind at light speed and still wound up like a yo-yo.

About a year later, I was browsing at a bookstore, and passed by a book: “Breathe” by Dr. Belisa Vranich. I didn’t buy it (I should have), but following that visit that same title popped up for me on Audible. I took it as a sign, and started listening. And then: everything changed.

This book is about breathing targeted to regular, breathing people, not singers. It did not expect me to get it right so that I could master my sound. Kind Dr. Belisa wanted to help me feel better by regaining a functional diaphragm. After a few chapters, I lit up. I got to work on those breathing exercises and I was going to be a Really Good Breather. And you know, it worked. I learned a lot. Having a functional diaphragm is an excellent thing and I highly recommend it.

But here is where things get really interesting.

I didn’t just become an awesome breather. And a diaphragm appreciater. (Which I am both of those things.) As my diaphragm started regaining its pliability and range of motion, I started to feel so much stronger, especially after a cesarian section, which had basically gutted me and eliminated any shred of core strength. I also started to become more mentally clear. 

Indirectly, I noticed my singing started to change. Hmmm: my jaw and my tongue are less tight. Hmmm: it feels more flexible between these notes.

Importantly, I noticed the correlation between my diaphragm and my solar plexus: SHEESH! this energy center is soooooo very blocked. How did it become this way??

As my breathing deepened, I became aware of energy being moved, released, or rather, disturbed. It is difficult to be specific, and I am about to hurtle forward in this narrative, but: I felt confronted with the very nature of my self and my worthiness. From my back pain. And my teething kid. And my limping diaphragm. It felt as if my soul had thrown down a gauntlet at my feet: ok, Allison, whoo-hoo! it’s time. The key is in the ignition. We are heading into your next life chapter. Are you ready to transform? 

My lukewarm response: I think so?

And then I hit a low moment. Although it was one of the most important, defining moments of my life thus far: I lost my sh*&*^t. I threw a temper tantrum on my sweet precious angel child who committed some harmless, minor toddler misdemeanor. I shudder at myself, the inner rage unleashed on my child, as this horrible, angry, sleep-deprived Hulk exploded in the nursery. After the episode passed, I made a vow: I would never again lose my temper or treat my precious child in such a way. And then in my shame and guilt I Googled: Why am I so angry at my toddler?

And the blessed, wise Dr. Laura told me: it is because you have unhealed wounds from your own childhood.

Right. You know, on paper, this is the most obvious news in the world. But at that moment, it hit me like a cosmic boom: Ok, I have some healing. Can’t look away now! Let’s drive this car. Let’s do it.

The next day, I began. In contemplation, I released many things. I had the most rigorous cleansing of my entire body that I have ever experienced, as the energy release from my solar plexus literally heaved my entire frame, my body sobbing itself. I felt no pain. I felt no anger. I had no memories. I felt nothing but the moment of it, like a storm of release, and then as soon as it started, I settled down. It was over.

The next day I went into work and I began singing and discovered: my tongue tension was gone. All of it. Gone. I didn’t know WHAT to do, I was shocked and disbelieving. My singing was easeful. My breath was bountiful. I felt like an instrument.

I noticed that aaaaaallllll the things that my teachers had ever tried to instill in my singing technique were unfolding naturally as I sang. Because I was more functional as a human being: a-ha. What a profound lesson in holism:

My voice reflects my state of being.

My voice was not broken. Therefore I could not continue addressing it as if it were broken. But my former approach to singing had dislodged itself: how could I continue to treat my voice as if it were at fault at all times?

I wanted to integrate my voice with all the facets of myself: I needed a holistic framework.
I wanted to love my voice and believe in myself: I needed to be loving in the process.
I wanted to source my voice from something sacred: I needed a spiritual connection.

We are capable of losing access to our voice. We are just as capable of regaining access. That is what I have been doing since that time. I want unflagging belief in myself and my voice. I want to live into my purpose as an instrument. You know, I think it’s working.




Allison Mondel
Allison Mondel is a musician, philosopher, advocate, and mentor. Her greatest delight is to understand how things work, and share her hard-won wisdom with others. She writes about the higher nature of music and the voice, alchemizing personal roadblocks, and the pursuit of one's creative vocation.

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