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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mothers and Zen Masters

Three friends of mine have lost their mothers in the past couple of months. I can't imagine a more earth shattering event, except losing a child.

I can't think of any relationship more intimate than a mother and child. We come out of our mother's body. The food she eats, the things she listens to, and the hormones running through our veins have lasting effects on our health and longevity.

Sometimes I gaze at my mother, almost incredulous that at one point I lived in her abdomen. I can hardly imaging that I lived in her womb with no concept of tomorrow or yesterday. A time so long ago when I didn't know what food was, what pain was, what music was, and didn't need to worry about a thing. I grew limbs, fingers, and toes without an ounce of effort or yearning.

Wayne Dyer says that an infant in the womb is the epitome of a Zen master, who just exists and depends on G-d for everything. If everything goes right we come into the world and our mothers show us the best way they try and take over that role to the best of their ability. To provide for us without us worrying, to answer our cries, to show us how to strive for things in the world without being consumed by the process.

We incur collateral damage from our parents' foibles and shortcomings, and may spend a lifetime healing or trying to erase it. We pile on insecurities, doubt, jealousy, and desire as we make our way in the world, but no matter what we go through and what wounds we accumulate, we always hold a special place in our heart for the ones who knew us when we were Zen masters . . .

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Celebrity Dehydration

Tom Jones cancelled a concert today due to "severe dehydration". He is currently in the hospital in Monaco. In my world, that means a bad hangover.

Maybe he is actually ill, or possibly even ill with something he wants to keep a secret, but I always think back on an article I read a while ago about celebrity "dehydration" and "exhaustion". I can't find that article, but I did find another one here. Lady Gaga, Kelly Rowland, Mariah Carey and a long list of others have all been hospitalized for conditions that normal people wouldn't want to waste an insurance claim on. Why don't real people get so exhausted and dehydrated that they need stints in the hospital? We bring bottled water with us and we take naps when necessary.

Tom Jones is too old for me to assume he's using the publicity machine the way today's young starlets do, but it did give me a chuckle to think about the hidden meaning these conditions have in celebrity press releases.

In case you need a refresher on how today's star making machine works, here is a primer...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Name Change

I decided to change the name of the blog to "The Timid Chanteuse." Although I have no vision for a "brand" based on overcoming my barriers to singing, I think it does give a clear idea of what the main point of this blog is, even if I do write about religion, spirituality, or assorted topics on occasion. I also joined twitter, under the same moniker, so I might as well be consistent.

Also, one of the main problems with my singing is my lack of confidence, so the title is appropriate.

So, now on to a chanteuse who is not timid, Donna Summer. I have fallen in love with her version of The Way We Were and her voice in general. I listened to it on repeat for almost 30 minutes after purchasing it on iTunes. This has to be my all time favorite version, even though I do "love me some Barbra Streisand!!"

Monday, August 22, 2011

You can take a girl out of mysticism, but ....

Though I am still a wannabe Jew (not yet in training) I feel the need to write about mystical experiences I have, one of which occurred today.

I've always loosely believed in chakras, but had no practical use for that belief. Recently, however, I've experienced strong impulses towards certain color auras during meditation.

I first experienced this a couple of months ago when I felt a warming presence during meditation, almost as if I was being touched physically. I sensed a purple aura, almost as a warm comforting embrace. I sat and meditated for over 30 minutes (I usually just do 20) and felt transformed by the experience. Days later I resumed writing my blog after a LONG break.

I couldn't really let go of that experience and after a couple of days and meditation sessions, I still felt this purple "aura-presence". I decided to look into chakras, since I remembered that each one has a color and to see what it represented.

To make a long story short, the indigo chakra represents intuition and self responsibility. It kind of propelled me to get more serious about singing and music and to take true action, by trusting my intuition that singing and making music is something I should do.

So today I sat down to meditate and, though my meditations since then have been pretty normal and standard relaxation mechanisms, I was looking for insight into tension I've been feeling lately and thought I would leave myself open to whatever energy wanted to present itself today.

The color was green. A result so mystical and "spot-on" that the skeptical part of me can't rationalize it. I've realized that there really is no need to. If these spiritual tools have been leading me down a path of healing, growth, and insight, there is no need for an empirical investigation.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Finding the courage to be myself

I turned down an invitation to party till dawn at The Connection tonight. On one hand, I don't really want to be a regular fixture there, and on the other hand, I don't want to do anymore damage to my vocal cords. It just gets too loud there and I was more concerned about that than anything else. I even stopped myself from having a cigarette yesterday, when smoking is something I do so rarely that I never deny myself the pleasure. I really want to get serious about singing and it's going to definitely be a holistic (and Herculean) effort. I found a little encouragement that I'm on the right track from a Huffington Post article about three simple steps to finding the courage to be yourself. Here are the steps, with my own commentary.

1) Knowledge Is Power

According to the writer, you must know your passions and capabilities. Just the other day I sat back and remembered my first year and a half in college when I would do all of my homework assignments weeks in advance, always stayed caught up on my work, and had a 4.0. I wonder where that person is, or if life just gets too complicated to keep up a pace like that?

I don't think it will help my singing to go overboard like that, but I really could use some of that focus and drive to learn my jazz piano voicings. It will definitely help me learn songs beyond "plunking" out the melody. I definitely can't let myself off the hook on this one knowing what I am capable of.

2) Get Into The Flow

Music has always gotten me into the flow. ALWAYS. I actually can't listen to music when I need to focus on something else. If I need to focus, I turn on the tv, talk radio, or NPR. My whole desire to sing is driven from the need to be engage in the transcendental process of making music.

3) Embody What You Believe In

Here the writer quotes Gandhi:
"[h]appiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."

When I practiced Nichiren Buddhism, part of the reason why we looked at the script of "Nam Myoho Renge Kyo" while chanting it is to unify our mind and action. If you are staring at the law of cause and effect, and chanting it at the same time, you are creating this sort of unity and getting into the flow as mentioned before.

I need to release the performer that I know is within me, I need to embody the performer that I know is within me, and I need to put her on display for everyone to see.

It's funny that my main vocal flaw right now is that I'm singing in a manner that amplifies my voice more in my own head instead of out in the open where others can hear it. That's where my hidden singing diva is performing her songs as well. She knows how to spin a song, how to be a vamp, how to be innocent and funny. The only problem is, she's always played to an audience of one, and she needs someone besides me to be her biggest fan.

I may have to feign courage for a while, but in the end I can accept nothing less than a complete expression of all parts of me. Getting over my fear of singing (in front of others) is only step one.

The writer finishes with this quote from Steve Jobs:
"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life... Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary."

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Swollen cords...

Went to my vocal lesson today, and I was advised to hold off on singing the rest of the day. I wouldn't have known it, but my teacher said my vocal cords sound swollen and I sounded fatigued in general.

I had a long weekend with a friend that started with partying and turned a little more serious when he got some troubling news. Then there were long, anxious nights.

Everything is okay with him now, and except for me being worn out and apparently having swollen, fatigued vocal cords, I'm okay as well.

This weekend I will be doing my first "Jewish thing" at the Temple. A shabbat dinner for 20 and 30 somethings, and a viewing of an Israeli tv show. I'm very nervous, but I'm sure everything will be fine. After that I will be going to my mother's to help prepare a birthday dinner for my great-grandmother who turns 96 on Saturday!!

I also got assigned my first song, "Why did I choose you" Here is a clip of Nana Mouskouri singing the song in 1976. I chose her version because it's a little lower than Streisand's.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Settling in

I'm settling in to my new place on the opposite side of town. Went from living with my mother and sister to having two roommates. I'm getting excited about the number of international eateries and grocers on this side of town, but I have to get used to the drive.

Voice lesson tomorrow. It will be my fourth so far and the first hour long lesson. I'm having to leave my comfort zone, and remember a lot of stuff at one time. It reminds me of when I learned how to drive. I was so overwhelmed by having to look at the speedometer, the side and rear view mirrors, not to mention looking ahead, but eventually it became second nature.

This weeks fixation is Donna Summer, who I can't believe is about to turn 63. She looks and sounds great. This clip is from October 2010 at David Foster's televised "Hit Man Returns" concert.

Friday, August 5, 2011

More DSB

So...I can't watch any recent video of Dame Shirley Bassey (one of my inspirations) without posting it. Besides that, it's the easiest thing for me to post today since I will be moving to a new place and will dismantle my computer for a few hours.

Here is DSB singing "Diamonds are Forever" earlier this year (at age 74) at the John Barry Memorial. John Barry, of course, wrote all of those enduring James Bond hits.

She's still got it!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Elizabeth Gilbert and Creativity

Today I was moved by Elizabeth Gilbert's TED Talk on Creativity. I generally love anything that she writes or says, and she didn't disappoint in this talk either.

I may be taking a brief hiatus over the next two weeks as I will be moving. I've got changes in mind for this blog as well, and hope to get more readers and comments as time goes on.