Open Your Heart and Sing
I didn’t want to do this workshop.
Every time someone asked whether I was going, I answered with an emphatic NO ― no way, not interested. Singing? Pah. Besides, what’s singing got to do with Tantra? (The workshop was hosted and promoted by Shakti Tantra.)
Only thing was, my teacher (Hilly Spenceley) wasn’t having it. In fact, I’ve never known her peck my head so much: she mithered me to bloody death. But it was only when she asked the right question ― What’s really going on here, Thea? ― that I finally ‘fessed up.
Then it all came out.
My ex-boyfriend had ripped the piss out of my singing. Admittedly, I’ve never been able to hold a note (not that that’s ever stopped me). But I couldn’t even hum without him saying something sarcastic about my apparent tunelessness. His tactless jibes had filled me with insecurities and, consequently, curbed my crooning. Now, singing made me feel stupid and fearful.
Prior to this, however, I’d always given singing a go. In primary school, I sang hymns every morning in assembly. I grew up next to a church which had a famous gospel choir and, as a teenager, could often be found in there singing, clapping, swaying to the rhythm. In secondary school, my English teacher, Jules Gibb, taught us the African National Anthem ― N’Kosi Sikeleli ― to celebrate the release of Nelson Mandela. I still know all the words off by heart. Jules also set me on the path to becoming a writer ― she freed my voice in more ways than one. And Michael Meade (storyteller, mythology teacher) had us singing tribal songs for hours on end, high up in the Santa Cruz Mountains, beneath the light of the moon at a retreat I did back in 2010.
It’s funny, but I remember saying at Ecstasy ― Shakti Tantra’s fifth and final workshop of the Women’s Training Programme ― that surely this had to be it? Surely we’d looked in all the dark corners, unearthed everything that needed unearthing? No stones left unturned and all that.
Oh, how I regret opening my big mouth. Because when I opened my big mouth and started singing at Ida Kelarova’s ‘Open Your Heart and Sing’ workshop, the penny dropped as to why I absolutely had to be there.
Part of my Tantra journey is about recovering those fragments of myself I’ve lost along the way ― a physical ‘re-membering’. At times I’ve felt like Humpty Dumpty, gathering up numb, broken, unloved body parts, putting myself back together again. But there was one area I’d completely overlooked: my voice.
After all, what’s the point of doing all this Tantric work, all these workshops, if you can’t access and express your True Voice? And before you even think about saying you have no problem expressing your authentic voice, think again.
As a writer, I spend all day, every day mouthing off (albeit via a keyboard). In fact, it’s one of the very clever reasons I gave as to why I didn’t need to do Ida’s workshop. I’m in touch with my ‘voice’, I said. No problems here. But Ida’s work isn’t just about singing ― it’s about accessing and expressing your True Voice. Not the up-in-your-head voice with its plethora of excuses, dexterous diction, and cleverly crafted comments.
That’s the place where, if I’m not careful, I can retreat into and hide out. Tantric work bypasses that (thank God), which is why I do it. But so does Ida’s.
You see, it’s not about making you a better singer (which is why it doesn’t matter if you can’t hold a note even if your life depended on it). Ida’s work ― from my perspective, anyway ― focuses on taking your breath, your voice, all the way down into the depths, down, down, down, all the way down into feeling and, further still, touching the void, hold it there… keep holding… (squirm baby, squirm)… and breathe. Cue coughing/tears.
Welcome to your True Voice.
As you journey down into the depths, down into discomfort, down into the rawness of your feelings ― anger, sadness, fear, pain, joy, love ― you’ll be stripped bare. Pathways will be cleared, old hurts will surface, but a more authentic you will emerge. And that’s one of the many things I liked about Ida ― that she doesn’t tolerate bullshit or falseness. And because English isn’t her first language, she has no time for incessant waffling, life stories, and talking round the houses. All she wants is a short, honest answer to the question she’s asked (“Why do people complicate everything? It’s simple!”).
Which brings me to another point: while you’re in the workshop, it might look like you’re ‘only’ doing some singing, a few breathing exercises, bit of group sharing ― no big deal. But don’t be fooled. A week later and several songs have got under my skin and are still going round and round in my head. Not just that, but something was stretched, expanded, something was purged and there’s no going back to how it was before Ida’s workshop. Yes, something I’d been (unconsciously) holding back was definitely let go of. Released.
I also liked the fact we didn’t know what we were singing about (all the songs were in Romani), because that would’ve pulled us out of genuine authenticity ― away from our True Voice ― and into performance mode. But Ida’s work isn’t about putting on a good show, a happy face, saying the ‘right thing’. It’s about getting real with yourself and feeling the vitality of the emotion, voicing the fullness of your power. It’s about clearing the blockages that hold you back, keep you small. It’s about having the courage to be vulnerable, the willingness to be exposed.
It’s about taking the breath of life and using is as a key to open your heart and sing.
Ida Kelarova’s next workshop will be 3-5 May in Cornwall, UK. Visit Shakti Tantra’s website for more details.
Visit Ida Kelarova’s website here.