Saturday, March 1, 2008

My Yoke is Easy

I belong to an LDS musicians email list in which many subjects come up - most relating to the LDS music industry, making music and related philosophy. A member of the group, Mark Hansen, posted a blog entry that really resonated with a lot of things I have been working on - I am posting it here again with permission:

My Yoke is Easy

My friend and I went to the Salt Lake City Jazz Festival tonight. What a fun time. It’s interesting for me, a rocker, to see what real musicians are like!

And while everyone that was on the stage just completely blew me away, there were two performers that had a particular impact on me. They were the singers. One was this older lady named Barbara (though she said she went by the name “Queen”), and the other was this big guy named Kevin Mahogany… Or something like that...

They sang incredibly well. Kevin could scat like noone I’ve ever heard before, and he would gesture while he was shoo-be-dah-be-dabbing along like he was playing his voice with his hands. It was soooo cool to watch and even cooler to hear.

The point was that they made it look so effortless.

For a long time, I was taking voice lessons, from this incredible teacher here in West Jordan named Linda. She teaches a program called Speech-Level Singing, developed by Seth Riggs. Great program, and she’s an incredible teacher.

Even though I’m not the greatest singer in the world, probably not even the best singer in my neighborhood, I have learned a lot of things. One of them is that singing is 10% physical (breathing, technique, etc…), and 90% psychological. You have to learn that inside of you is a pure, clear voice, and you have to shake away all the fear, misconceptions, insecurities, expectations, and false programming that you’ve put on yourself over the years. Great singing, then, is the absence of bad singing. And bad singing comes from baggage.

So, when singing looks and sounds difficult, it’s because it is. When singing looks and sounds easy, it’s because it is.

What’s funny is to understand how much work and practice and patience and diligence goes into making singing effortless. And it’s further amazing to me (and humbling) to see these incredibly effortless singers and to know how far I have to go to get to that point. I need to step out of my way and let the pure voice come out.

OK, now there’s a point to all this, and I’m getting there.

The same thing is true of the Gospel.

Of all the bits of Mormon kitsch that bugs me most is a plaque that I see a lot. It has a picture of Jesus, usually in his “coming out of the clouds” rendering (and I actually like that picture a lot), and next to it are placed the words, “I never said it would be easy, I only said it would be worth it.”

And the problem is that not only did He never say those words, He actually said the opposite. His exact words were: “…For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11: 30)

And I believe Him. I think that living the Gospel SHOULD be easy. I think that if we were to just get out of our own way and let ourselves live the Gospel, without doubts, fears, insecurities, or hesitation… without baggage… we would find the ease and simplicity of the Lord’s Plan. HIS burden is light. OURS is heavy. When we stop fighting ourselves, we will soar.

Just like singing.

Mark Hansen

OK - this is me again.
Mark put so many things together so well in his post. I've run across this principle over and over again - why is it so hard for us to get ourselves out of the way?

I have been taking voice lessons from an amazing lady, Sarah Franklin for about 3 years now - and most of that time has been spent learning to let the great voice I already have, work without interference from me. That there is never a cause to violate the integrity of the voice that Heavenly Father gave me. (by holding, manipulating, squishing, limiting, etc.) And interestingly enough, learning this has brought a lot of 'baggage' up to the front. Learning to let go, and trust my vocal instrument and trust the process isn't just about singing - it reflects these same blocks in many areas of my life. Learning to let go - trust Heavenly Father - trust the process - being open to what Heavenly Father wishes to bless me with in my life - not being so bent on what I want or think is necessary. Learning to allow mistakes and room for growth- since Heavenly Father designed mistakes into our earthly life, and that every single person on earth except one is subject to them - they must be important - not as something to beat ourselves (or others) up over, but as a great tool for growth, and a reminder of humility.

One of my favorite lines from Mark's post: "Great singing then, is the absence of bad singing, and bad singing comes from baggage." When you sing, you have the opportunity to connect to the energy of your spirit, from deep within yourself. If you don't even know where that is, because of baggage, or you are too afraid to access it, because of baggage - your singing will not be authentic, and will be but a mere shadow of what is possible - covered up behind walls of baggage. This does not mean that anyone without baggage will automatically have an american idol or metropolitan opera voice - it means your voice, however it came, will have an energy all it's own - and other people will know it - they can tell and they will want to listen - it will affect them and they won't know why - but they will recognize the authenticity - from your spirit to theirs.
This is what I hope to accomplish in the rest of my life - authenticity in spirit, and the freedom that comes from truly letting go and having Heavenly Father as a partner in the direction of my life. And not allow baggage to keep getting in the way. Great living, then, is an absence of bad living - and bad living comes from baggage. Give the baggage to Christ - he's already paid for and offered to take it - why would you want to carry it around too?

Christmas '07

For an excellent recap of my Christmas, please see Meghan's blog - link at right. She completely covers it-!! :)