The Voice. (Not a tribute to Adam Levine or Blake Shelton)

5 Jan

I lost my voice just recently, teaching classes. Not a complete loss; I’d lost the usual projection and boom. I was more raspy and soft, and words were catching in my throat, voice cracking.

I’d started classes just fine but by half-way through the first youth class, a bright-eyed 10 year old girl declared, “Master Chris, you’re losing your voice!” Of course, that opened the floodgates and it quickly became an obvious focus. “Why did you lose your voice?” a six year old asked. “Yeah, why?” inquired another. “Master Chris lost his voice!” “Do you need help finding it?”

The explanation I offered was that it was because I had to yell at them too much, that they were too loud and didn’t pay attention. All true, but they knew I was teasing-admonishing.

It wasn’t just them: no matter the group, in a larger space and a busy class, I need to use my full voice to really make things go. This was in our new, larger, “school gym” space we’ve occupied this past month. I have found that in new space, particularly big space, I need a class or two to “find my voice.”

I’ve generally seen this as simply adjusting to the acoustics and noise level. However, that evening, and at other times, I’ve realized that I just did not feel fully into things and – dare I say it? — was actually not feeling confident. Yes, even masters are not always confident, and even when teaching kids or beginners. Confidence and other factors can affect voice, whether words or a kihap yell.

I see my instructors struggle with voice, too. It’s not just finding your voice in terms of volume. You can’t simply try to imitate the bellowing gym teacher you had in high school. That’s his/her voice. One has to make their own voice work for the situation. You have to find your own voice, and then you can successfully apply it to the circumstances.

A friend asked me the other day, “What’s up with the new year?” meaning, “Any resolutions?” I really didn’t have an answer at that time, but I’d been reflecting, and in the days since that meet up, what I’d been ruminating on coalesced. Though the insight had been forming for weeks, if not months, the daily devotion I read this morning gave me these words:

I’m not making any resolutions based on things to DO. No resolutions to exercise more, lose weight, pray/meditate each morning, or learn a foreign language. Rather, I’m making resolutions based on things to BE. As that devotion noted, things like more trusting, more prayerful, more forgiving, more faithful.

The insight I hit upon even before reading that particular devotional is that this year, I will begin anew to be more authentic. By authentic, what I mean is to bring my real self, my true self, to my life situations. When we act as our authentic self, we can give our best, contribute the most. We’re not trying to push our interactions and contributions through filters or layers so that some of it gets lost or they get muffled or warped. We’re not struggling to have our core shine through multiple onion-layers of role, expectation, image, insecurity, self-protection, false-self.

If, as I have come to believe, we are each created as single, unique individuals, truly one of a kind, for unique purposes in the world that only WE can fulfill, then we MUST bring our authentic self to our life encounters. Can I dare say it is what God intends for us and our presence in the world? No false-selves. No thick onions. Given the challenges and expectations of life, it can take a while to find one’s authentic self — authentic voice; many people never find it, never know themselves, never give their real selves to the world. They remain hidden in accumulated layers.

In his book, the 8th Habit, Stephen R. Covey talks of the 8th Habit as Find Your Voice and Inspire Others to Find Theirs. For Covey, one’s Voice is their unique, personal significance. This significance lies at the intersection of: our Talents, our natural gifts and strengths; our Passion, the things that naturally energize, motivate and inspire us; the Need that exists in the world around us; and our Conscience, that small voice within that assures us of what is right and prompts us to actually do it. With that Voice, we can be and bring our God-given unique best, and make our greatest contributions to relationships and to the world.

Whether in class or in life, we need to discover and use our authentic voice. I yearn to discover my best, authentic self, to offer that to others, and to also, then, recognize, honor and respect the authenticity of them. It’s our life’s work, and I’ll start it anew this year.

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” –Lao Tzu

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