Singing can be a path to spiritual growth. This takes the concept of spirituality in its broadest context. The human spirit lives through the characteristics of one’s life. Honesty, loyalty, truthfulness, courage, dedication, perseverance, patience, compassion, responsibility, humility…..these are qualities that reflect the highest and best attributes of humanity. The artistic path will put you in touch with these aspects of yourself (and their reflected negatives) if you are someone who strives to achieve the highest and best goals that are possible.
Art, just as sports, can be daunting. An artist is by definition someone who lives a creative life. The creativity comes from within the artist’s mind. The artist’s point of view about life and about life’s experiences affects everything. How are they interpreted, assimilated and reborn into the artist’s work, for as long as the artist is alive? In order to keep going, inevitably, an artist must confront the things in life that most people spend all their time avoiding. Am I any good? How do I know if what I am creating has any value? What if what I have to say is meaningless? Perhaps there are times when the artist is unable to generate money from their art (and this, of course, is very common). Should I keep going in my art when I don’t have money to pay rent or eat? Will I ever be recognized as an artist or will I wait tables at “Joe’s” forever? Why is THAT artist getting recognition when he isn’t as good as me? An artist’s life is never easy.
Even those who succeed in doing what they love creatively have issues to face. If the artist has fans, a following, makes lots of money, is famous, then they face questions like: Can I keep this up? How long will it last? How can I face the people out there who expect so much of me all the time? If I start to fail, can I give up the rewards that fame has given me without bitterness? The questions are endless.
Yes, other people who are not artists have to face these questions, too, but it seems to me easier to hide from them if you are distracted by your office job. All work is personal but creative work is particularly vulnerable in that the artist is pouring out her heart and mind for all to see. Sometimes even the very best that an artist has to offer just isn’t good enough, and that can be heartbreaking.
Those who desire to sing professionally not only have to have some kind of natural ability, but also need specific skills, whether self-developed or learned in a formal setting from outside resources, and need be willing to put those abilities and skills on display on a regular basis. In the beginning, singers aspiring to have careers have to pay for training, find places to perform, be willing to be criticized by others (sometimes publicly) and put possible career opportunities ahead of other things in life, regardless of whatever sacrifices that may entail. All of these things call for intelligence, stamina, and lots of personal strength.
Clearly, not everyone who is an artist or a professional vocalist is going to grapple with all of these issues, but those who do, and understand that they are often unavoidable struggles, have an opportunity to use these challenges as a way to become better human beings. That is spiritual growth. Returning time and again to the joy of making music, to the beauty of expressing poetry and drama, to the sensuous pleasure of making sound from one’s own body, and to sharing the depth of emotion that is the truth of all human experience, is a call to the singer. Like the Lorelei, the lure of singing pulls on the singer’s soul and says “come back home”. Having the guts to meld those lofty experiences with the harsh necessities of the real world is in itself a tremendous task.
Training which embraces the path of singing as a spiritual discipline facilitates a singer’s compassionate and courageous confrontation with him or herself. The voice becomes the teacher, the singer the student. The teacher is the map reader, the guide on the journey, the holder of the lamp. The sound of the spirit becomes the sound of the person, and the identity born by the merger of the two transcends time. It lifts up both the giver and the receiver and leaves its mark in the eternal realm that humanity has ever traveled. It is, indeed, a path, and one that is filled with the power of the spirit of life.