Harnessing the power of Intention requires the superpower of Noticing.
We need to notice when our minds have strayed – and gently guide them back to the task at hand. The operative word here is ‘gently’. If we start beating ourselves up about our loose mental abilities we get into a conversation with ourselves that’s a second generation away from our original focus.
Noticing, and returning the mind to the original thought is the essence of meditation. And apart from the obvious necessity of training the muscles of the vocal apparatus, this is the whole point of practising.
There are two main reasons to develop the Intention/Noticing skill – superb entertainment for your audience and fun for you.
When we send a deliberate, clear, consistent message – to the body, to family members, to an audience or to the world – miraculous things can happen. Our voices become freer, family members can understand how much we love them, audiences will sit up and take notice, and the world will respond more clearly.
But in our culture, our minds are not trained to work this way. The only people teaching this sort of thing to our kids are performing arts teachers, and sports coaches. These are the areas where our culture recognizes that performing well requires moment by moment mental presence. Unfortunately, even some of these teachers are unaware of the importance and depth of what they’re really teaching.
Sing a five note scale up and down twice to the vowel of your choice – and I’ll bet money that unless this is something you practise consistently, you’ll have lost mental focus on that vowel by the time you sing the 4th or 5th note. You’ll have stopped filling your mind with the vowel, and will have been distracted by something else. And we can hear it.
Rather than being distressed about this, we need to see the huge opportunity for improvement. Just Noticing this slipped focus gives our minds a chance to reboot the vowel.
A present, mentally focused vowel is noticeably different in sound from one that’s got no brainpower behind it. And though this is obvious with just one singer, the difference when a whole chorus is mentally focused is staggering.
Of course, this applies to more than just vowels. Every facet of our performance is affected by being mentally present. And the only way to practise this is to have a specific Intention, and to Notice when the Intention slips a bit. Without the follow up of Noticing, our minds will wander and never return to the original thought or Intention.
The good news is that developing the Intention/Noticing skill is such an enormous undertaking, it will last your whole life. The fun need never stop!
And speaking of fun: The great sages have reminded us that almost all suffering is a result of our minds stewing and worrying about the past or the future. If we can keep ourselves present in only this moment, this moment, this moment…our suffering disappears and we’re free to revel in being alive right now.
Singing in choirs already draws us closer to this ideal – but the more we develop the Intention/Noticing skill, the more this mental discipline opens the floodgates for unbridled joy.
That’s worth the effort.