Singing and Mindfulness workshop at Tariki with Sian Croose
An account of the workshop from Rowan Songmith
Twelve of us came to Sian Croose's workshop at Tariki on Saturday 11th June - and what a treat it was! Sian is a member of the Natural Voice Practitioners Network, whose starting premise is that everyone can sing, and we didn't have to be able to read music nor to have had any experience of singing in a group. Sian has undertaken some training at Tariki herself, and so was in tune with Tariki's Buddhist ethos. It was a pleasure to hear her beautiful voice as she gently encouraged us all into singing (even the person who said she was tone deaf and couldn't sing or hold a tune - not so, by the way).
We began with loosening-up movements to relax us, and slowly moved into vocal 'warm-ups' to prepare ourselves to sing. In fact, we started by making noises without using our 'singing' voices! (Blowing raspberries for one!) This was great fun and also had the effect of putting us all at ease with one another - we all sounded equally ridiculous! We improvised phrases with different sounds and notes, our individual voices coming together to make a fantastic big noise! After an appreciable number of various vocal acrobatics, we vocalised 'hey' - an ordinary word – then extended it until, painlessly and seamlessly, we found ourselves singing. Incredibly, by the end of the day, we had sung a Spiritual and three or four African songs, all in glorious three and four-part harmony. We were a singing group - and we sounded wonderful!
So far so good - but where was the mindfulness, you may ask. Singing itself is a spiritual experience, and we all felt the benefits of it during the day. As well as some periods of relaxation and meditation (and also some sharing), Sian opened our eyes to the connection between body, mind and spirituality both in singing and through it. Usually, in a singing group, one only has about ten minutes of 'warming-up' because of the constraints of time. But here, we were able to go slowly, fully exploring each phase, being mindful, and really feeling the source and the energy and satisfaction of singing. We were also able to draw the parallels between the way the therapeutic process is approached and how singing together is approached, which was very useful. In both, the beginning is tentative as both parties (or all parties) feel their way, unsure of the outcome, unsure if they will 'gel' together, and they have to get used to one another in various ways until trust is established so that the work can be undertaken. It was fascinating to become aware of that, and also to actually feel how singing itself is therapeutic - for all of us that is, not only for those of us seeking therapy or giving it. Also, just as people are often wary of coming to therapy, so are people wary about coming to a singing day, feeling vulnerable and exposed. And therapists and therapists in training have the same reservations as the rest of us about singing, which may be why there were only 12 of us at the day and none of the forum regulars! So often, people have bad memories of school and singing, many being told they couldn't sing, incredibly. But really, we can all sing! Just as we can all speak. So here's hoping that Sian is able to come back to Tariki for a day of singing and mindfulness so that you all have another chance to experience such a valuable and unique day.
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