The Natural Voice

Go listen to this first. No, I haven’t listened to it. I am a woman who runs on headlines, not articles, you think I have time for that kind of thing? A podcast? psshah!

Done?

Back when I went to university the first time (The Original Series – TOS) I was studying theatre. That, in retrospect as a woman in computing science/tech, is fucking weird to reflect on.

So! Much! Emotion!

So! Much! Bodywork!

Masks! (no, seriously, Masks!)

One of the assigned textbooks was “Freeing the Natural Voice” (I’m not linking to Amazon, you can’t make me!)

Wow. I mean, just… wow. In a fit of purging a few years back, I got rid of that book but I was sad every day afterwards. (Aside: I need to go back & do those exercises. The more time I spent in offices in software, the tighter and clampeder my throat and voice got. I can do better. WE can do better)

As mentioned in my last post, I’m attending a Shambhala meditation retreat. The director is a prof of dance and theatre at Western Washington University and man-o-man, is he speaking with his natural voice!

Despite the fact that 2.75 hrs is TOO DAMN LONG for us newbies to sit/walk/sit meditate without more lead-in (especially us oldies!) the relaxation in his larynx, his voice, his manner, reminds me of where I started out (duh, theatre, dance, voice, c’mon: you should know that by now) and makes me melancholy for where I am now. I’m searching for human feeling and the more time I spend talking with my old-tymey actor comrades, the more I wonder if that’s where my heart lies.

Birth of a Warrior?

I’m attending the level 2 of the Shambhala training this weekend – Birth of the Warrior. I took level 1 over the Labour Day weekend and although it was extremely valuable and I came out of it feeling alive and connected to other people (and signed up for level 2 while still attending level 1), as recently as this morning I was thinking about cancelling.

You see, there’s a project I’ve been working on that hasn’t been going well. There’s been some ambiguity of ownership and a recent technology change that has resulted in a learning curve that I can’t climb in time for the deadline. There’s someone else who might be able to get it done in time, but it’s not clear if that person is available. I’ve suggested a smaller scope that I could achieve but I don’t know if it’ll be accepted.

So my natural response in that situation is to cancel all my personal commitments – the ones that are for my own well-being – and to spend all the time I can scrape together to try to blast up that learning curve and deliver the project. But here’s the thing. I’ve already spent a TON of time trying to learn it. The docs are poor, there are insufficient reference examples, and an additional two days isn’t going to make a difference, given that the platform is one I only started looking at a couple of weeks ago. And I signed up for this program a month before this project came along.

And I’m not great with self-care and personal boundaries. When I say my natural response is to sacrifice my own well-being for the sake of the well-being of others, I am not kidding at all. I tend to apply about a 10x weighting factor on the importance of things that others care about over those I do. So I made it clear that the project scope was not achievable for me given the platform change and went to the Shambhala centre tonight.

I’m already glad I did. The program director has already said something that hit me really hard: we are so used to trying to ‘fix’ things, to ‘manage’ things, to ‘solve’ things (which is fine for our jobs – that’s often what we’re paid for) that we treat life as a series of obstacles to be overcome rather than a sequence of experiences to encounter. We spend our time thinking “if I do THIS, then I’ll be fixed” or “if I can accomplish that, I’ll be set!”, but what happens when we’re ‘done’? Are we just dead then? What does it mean to have ‘solved life’?

It’s understandable, of course, because solving things gives us a shot of dopamine. Our brains are literally addicted to figuring things out. We really do have to retrain our brains to give that up, and apparently meditation is the best tool we have for that. I did a great job with daily meditation for the first 5 weeks after level 1, but then started to fall off. You know, about the time I started taking on projects and commitments for others. I am NOT good at putting myself first and need to get better at it. This weekend is a start.