Posts Tagged ‘voice’

The obvious is that which is never seen until someone expresses it simply.
Kahlil Gibran

When I was a teenager, my deepest desire was to be Someone Special. In my journal, I’d rant and rave about how I was ordinary, average, mediocre, boring, and how I hoped something – anything – would happen so I’d be exceptional.

Today, I still feel I’m ordinary, average, mediocre and borderline boring, and I’m pretty content with that. On some level, I do realize I have skills and characteristics that are not average for my age group and social context, but I always relate them to the global context as individual traits – “it’s not like I’m the only student mom out there”.

This view of being ordinary and average sometimes cripples my blogging. I’ll come up with an idea, and then not blog about it because I’ll think it’s already painfully obvious for everyone else but me. By blogging about it as if it were a whole new concept, I’d effectively reveal my true, average, ordinary and boring self to all the world and Internet to point and laugh at.

Because, let’s face it, the one time I end up blurting out something embarrassing is when everyone decides to visit my blog and leave a *facepalm* in the comments, right?

The thing about the painfully obvious is that it’s not, well, universal. If it were, I doubt the world would have as many wars and conflicts going on as it does. Instead, it’s all in the viewpoint.

A tree standing in the middle of a field is only obvious to those standing at the edge of the field. If someone is standing in the woods and peering toward the field, they might see the tree or they might not. If someone is standing at the edge of the field with their back to the tree, they’ll most likely not see the tree. If there’s no-one to tell people to move away from the woods or turn around, the tree will remain hidden.

And this is where we get to the part of me being ordinary, average and boring. Sure, there are other student moms out there. Other nearly bilinguals. Other Shivanauts, other drama students, future teachers. It’s the combination of those that gives me a unique viewpoint into the things that I’m interested in.

It’s your unique combination of characteristics, skills and traits that gives you the viewpoint where something is painfully obvious to you but still needs voicing, just in case the rest of us are standing in the woods.

For me, this is intimately linked to the “be boring” instruction in Johstone’s theatrical improvisation. Trying to be creative and individual often means you come up with the same jokes, puns and situations countless others have already come up with.

That which is painfully obvious to you is actually the most unique and creative thing you could come up with, because no-one has your exact point of view on life. The shared aspects give us the common ground we need to understand each other, and the differences allow us to expand our individual points of view.

Help us all out of the woods and face the field, so to speak.

Thank you again for stopping by! Keep catching your own unique insightings, and if this post inspired you, I’d love it if you shared some of your thoughts!



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Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take, I’ll be watching you

The Police: Every breath you take

Yesterday, I was driving to visit an acquaintance, and my daughter was sitting in her car seat in the back. We normally take public transit if it’s just the two of us, so she doesn’t have a lot of experience of being alone in the back seat. This time, however, circumstances favored us taking my mom’s car.

Normally, she really likes it in the car. It hums, the scenery changes, and most of the time there’s someone next to her, keeping her company. This time, though, she was alone in the back, and I don’t know if it was that or some other reason, but she was really unhappy and voiced it very loudly. Since I’m pretty averse to letting my child cry for lengthy periods of time, I pulled over and went to the back seat, tried to calm her down and gave her the pacifier. She settled down for a moment, and just as I was starting the car again, she began to whimper. I started singing a simple lullaby that we’ve been singing to her since she was a few weeks old, and that seemed to calm her down. I ended up singing the song over and over until we arrived at our destination.

Apparently the sound of my voice and the familiar song were strong enough messages to convince her that she was not alone and that I was close by, even when she couldn’t see me. As far as I understand, developmentally she is yet to realize that things exist even when you can’t see them.

“I’ll be right there!”

I’ve been thinking a lot about presence ever since I read an article on a study concerning babies’ stress when they are ignored. The babies in the study were six months old, and in the study, their mothers played with them normally, but “froze” for two minutes at a time every now and then, staying in the baby’s sightline but ignoring the baby and staring at the wall. The babies showed elevated stress hormone levels on the following day, when they were brought back to the research facility, even though there was no ignoring on the second day.

I found out about the study on an online message board, and there was (unsurprisingly) some discussion as to what the practical applications of this study are. Some people thought it more or less chains mothers and infants together and lays a guilt trip on anyone who dares to go to the bathroom with the door closed if their child is left alone for that time. Others saw it as a defense against “just let the baby cry it out, it’ll be all right” type of advice.

Personally, I do think that babies need their mothers close by. If a child voices a distress and it systematically gets no response, it will eventually stop voicing its distress because it’s just no use – no-one will answer anyway. However, a response may well be something along the lines of my car-ride lullaby. If my baby hears my voice, it knows I’m not far away. I haven’t disappeared from the world, even if I am currently invisible.

Furthermore, she knows she is not invisible – I can hear her, I can vocally respond to her cries, I can take eye contact when I get closer and I can pick her up when I see she’s in distress. My presence and interaction with her convince her that she exists.

The online presence

In many ways, the online world reflects this “someone please tell me I’m not invisible!” line of thinking. Establishing a presence online – whether in Facebook, on message boards, in the blogosphere, on Twitter – really requires time, effort and reciprocity. There are a few online contexts where I’ve managed to create a presence, and others where I’m really only a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it face in the crowd.

Creating that presence takes time. Reading (because most of the presence is in text form) what others have contributed, finding interesting tidbits to share, regularly coming back to see what others have added since your last visit. It takes effort. Figuring out your opinions (on more serious matters), grafting your message so it’s easy to read, wording your jokes, timing your responses so you stay on the pulse and don’t comment on ancient topics.

And it takes reciprocity. Commenting on what others have already said, taking it a bit further, reading the responses you get and possibly repeating the whole cycle again. It’s the online equivalent of the eye contact: “Yes, I can see you, there you are, you exist in this world.”

Degrees of presence

For our daughter, I’m probably the number one presence in her life. The head honcho, the one who hardly ever leaves her side. My husband is a close second. After that, there are the grandparents, the godparents, our friends, and so forth in descending order.

It’s interesting to see how the degrees of presence show in her behavior towards us. Since I’m nearly always there, my presence borders on boring. It’s safe, but it’s also something she doesn’t make a big deal about. The few exceptions are the times when she wakes up from her nap, and sees me coming in the room if I was somewhere else. The smile on her face says “Awesome, you were gone and now you’re here!” My husband, on the other hand, seems to get all the giggles. 🙂 He is a safe presence, but not quite as predictable as I.

Then there are the interesting visitors, the ones who ring some kind of a bell but aren’t daily contacts, people like my mom and some of her godparents. There has to be a grace period of her reacquainting herself to these visitors from the safety of my or my husband’s lap, before she is secure enough to cuddle with them.

Online, the degrees or presence became evident on another message board, when there were several cases of sad news in a short while. Since the people in question were “big names”, it seemed that everyone knew what was going on in a heartbeat. Similarly, “big names” leaving or taking a break would be a huge deal in an online community – just because so many people are so used to their presence. It’s safe. You can count on their “it’s okay, honey, I’ll be right there”.

When a small-time presence disappears for any length of time, you hardly notice – until they return, or until someone points out they are gone. I’m fairly confident there were less than a handful of people who wondered why I’d been a lazy blogger, and most of those people were real-world friends. 🙂

A shift of sorts

Since creating an online presence (and a real-life presence, too) takes time and effort, you can realistically have a limited number of really influential presences in different social communities. At the moment, my most influential presence is in the context of my family, but there are other, smaller ones in the background.

I’ve noticed I need the feeling of being a strong presence in social communities. Possibly for the “someone sees me, therefore I must exist” reason. This is probably why I’ve originally liked being a group leader or a teacher – there are more pairs of eyes to strengthen my existence. 🙂 Being a quiet onlooker in the sidelines has not been a suit that fits.

Until now.

I don’t know if it’s the arrival of the baby or something else, but there has been a change in my relationship towards social situations, whether live or online ones. Before, I’ve felt like I need to open my mouth, to contribute, to be a presence in order to “buy” my foothold in the community. Contributing has been the currency of being seen.

Now, I feel like contributing has become the primary force. I want to contribute when someone needs help, thoughts, entertainment or ideas. Or when I have an idea that needs voicing. If someone sees it and benefits from it, wonderful. If they comment, even better. But I don’t feel like my contribution was a failure if it’s met with silence.

Furthermore, I enjoy just observing a situation without feeling the need to contribute. If something comes up, I’ll express it, but I don’t feel like I’ll be thrown out of the room (or off the Internets) simply because I just observe. I love going to a moms-and-babies meetup, sitting at the table, drinking a cup of coffee and just listening. And my worth as an online community member is not determined by my post count. 🙂

As is appropriate, the writing of this blog post was interrupted a few times by the cooing of a napping baby who needed my presence. 🙂

Thank you so much for popping by again! If any thoughts came up (and you feel the need to contribute 😉 ), feel free to share in the comments! If not, it’s okay to just sip coffee and observe, and possibly catch your own insightings!



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I choose things by how they resonate in my heart.
Rita Coolidge

[I’m having a hard time figuring out how to start this post and not make it a “I haven’t been writing, but see there was this thing…” post. The thing is, though, that’s exactly the kind of post this will turn out, so I’ll just go ahead and start it.]

For a long time, I didn’t feel like blogging. There were a lot of things tangled up, keeping me from logging into my Dashboard and typing something, anything. In the spirit of experiential learning, I’ll try to reflect on that experience to be able to learn something from it and transform my immediate experience into something more theoretical, more general. You’re welcome to join me. 🙂

The Changes

Last August, two things happened. One, I started working full-time. Two, I found out I was expecting a baby. Both of those changes came with an abundance of learning moments and interesting communication incidents. In other words, I had lots of material to ponder.

These changes brought with them other changes, though. I fell off the Shiva Nata wagon due to changes in my daily rhythm as well as pure fatigue. Pregnancy totally kicked my behind when it came to mental and physical resources. I waited too long to cut back on activities that I’d scheduled when I was not pregnant and not working full time. No surprise, then, that I almost burned out during the winter. Blogging and Twitter were among the first casualties when I had to streamline my schedule.

All this could have been a fruitful source of blog posts, though, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I was stuck.


The job I was working for the past fall and winter, right up to my maternity leave, had plenty of great features. As far as timing goes, it couldn’t have been more perfect. The hours were great, the colleagues were great, I had responsibility and a pretty free reign to develop my area and improve my skills.

The only problem was I didn’t really resonate with what I was doing. I was relatively good at it, I did get a kick out of succeeding and meeting the goals I was aiming to meet, but it didn’t make my heart sing. And to someone who’s spent the past six years at the university, turning more and more towards really inspiring courses and modules, that was a huge deal.

The fact that I didn’t really resonate with my job meant that I didn’t really talk about it when I was not working. I might think about a case or go through my todo-list in my head, but it really wasn’t something I shared with others. And that really clogged up my mind, which exhausted me even more.

And then there was the fact that a lot of my other projects were causing a lot of stress, guilt and extra work. Being all clogged up from work stuff, I hardly shared my extra-curricular stresses and guilts with anyone, either, and that clogged me up even worse. I’d go through the day feeling all these emotions – stress from work, joy about the pregnancy, worries about my own health, guilt about other projects, longing for a connection with my friends – and not really doing anything with them except boiling them in a pot inside my head. Nothing was resonating, nothing was flowing in or out.

The only emotions I really could talk about were the feelings related to the pregnancy. At some point of the past year, my pregnancy and marriage seemed to be the only two things that were bringing me real joy. (In hindsight, I’m grateful that I managed to keep the resonance with my husband. Then again, that’s one of the reasons I married him. 🙂 )

Resonance and flow

Energetically, I feel that being pregnant is more about containing, nurturing, maintaining and protecting than about constant flow (if that makes any sense). My body was in a “hold, keep, stay still” mode for nine months, which is excellent – a “letting go, setting free” mode might have meant problems with the pregnancy. I don’t know if that had a lot to do with my mental blocks, or if my creative powers were just being spent on growing a new life inside.

I do believe, however, that the resonance factor affected my creativity immensely. I didn’t notice it at the time – I just felt really really tired, and thought it was because of my schedule changes and the pregnancy hormones. The fact that I wasn’t resonating with my life, though, meant that I was spending all this energy holding on, keeping up, and staying on the ball.

Imagine riding a public transit bus that’s packed full, and you have to stand. You’re holding on to a railing, and the bus bounces and jerks as the driver navigates through the traffic. If you hold on tight and stiffen up your entire body to remain upright, you’ll bump into your fellow passengers, dislocate a knee, or fall and hit your head. If, on the other hand, you relax and try to surf the bounces, you’ll be much better off.

This past year, I was the stiff girl. I didn’t resonate with the ride, and my response to the bumps and bounces was to stiffen up some more. All my energy went into staying upright and not falling down. No energy for creativity, for blogging, for sharing. Paradoxically, though, sharing could’ve helped me find the resonance. At least that’s what it is doing right now.

At the moment, I resonate more with my life than I have in a while. My days are filled with taking care of our daughter, reading, doing crafts, taking care of the home and writing my Master’s Thesis. As a result, I’m finding it easier to share my thoughts and feelings on my life, even if they are tiny, mundane ones. The fact that I’m striving towards resonance also means I can adjust to the little bumps and bounces life throws my way, whether positive or negative. Going with the flow, if you will. 🙂

Thank you for joining me on this insighting-catching journey. Have a wonderful day, and keep catching your own insightings!



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Remember that children, marriages, and flower gardens reflect the kind of care they get.
H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Ever since the past fall, I’ve been paying attention to my inner dialogue. First of all, it’s bilingual – Finnish and English both feature in a happy chaos. Second, I recognize different personas speaking. Not in a multiple personality disorder kind of way, mind you.

It’s just that some sentences are clearly spoken by my mother, or sister, or childhood friend – in other words, I’ve heard them so many times in the exact same way that I’ve internalized them as parts of my own inner radio station.

The funny thing is, ever since I’ve started to listen to my own inner dialogue, there is one sentence that keeps coming up time and time again, almost every day. “You’re stupid.” In English. If it comes up in Finnish, it’s more elaborate and grown-up sounding, but in English it’s that simple. “You’re stupid.”

Now, I know for a fact that I’m not really intellectually stupid. Most of the times I hear that phrase I know I’m not doing anything intellectually stupid, either. In other words, it can’t be a real protective mechanism, it must be something else.

The tone I hear it in is very accusing and defensive at the same time, much like a small child who isn’t getting what s/he wants from Mom. Visualise an eight-year old pouting and saying that to Mom over her shoulder. “You’re stupid.” That’s it.

I’m guessing this has a lot to do with both negative core beliefs and getting to know my inner child, both of which I’ve been working on during the past few weeks. Among other things, I’m really fascinated with the situations my inner brat decides to blurt out the insult.

Like, just a moment ago. I glance at the tab featuring my blog on my Firefox, and the thought crosses my mind: “I wonder if anyone’s visited or commented?” “You’re stupid.” As in, why would anyone do that?

Or I’m contemplating whether to Twitter about my latest blog post. “You’re stupid.” Why would you bother people with things they don’t want to know?

Or I’m wondering whether I should send a sort-of-friend a funny video on Facebook. “You’re stupid.” Why would s/he care about your stupid videos?

Or I’m considering commenting on someone’s wonderful blog post and the only real contribution I have is along the lines of “nice post, glad to read it.” “You’re stupid.” Why clutter someone’s comments with pointless stuff like that?

The general tone seems to be that of “Mo-om, you’re embarrassing me in public! I can’t believe you’d do that!” Which is funny, since my inner child does not really seem all that much like a teenager in other respects. Well, I guess you have an array of inner brat ages for every occasion. 🙂

The more I manage to see the voice as my inner brat whining for attention or throwing a temper tantrum, the easier it is for me to calm her down and notice what she’s got to say without getting offended or affected by the message itself. “Why do you say that, honey?”

And once the grumpiness and pouting cools down, I can really stop and listen to the ideas that bounce around in my head concerning the whole “You’re stupid” embarrassment temper tantrum. I can give myself the kind of unconditional attention that I otherwise would probably not give.

And it’s so much easier for me to not start beating myself up about having these hang-ups about so many things if I think of that part of me as a scared little girl acting out and just wanting a hug and some time together.

It’s also a lot easier to give myself genuine positive feedback about things I’ve been working on. All in all, it feels easier to be there for and take care of myself if I imagine I’m looking after my inner child.

Maybe, just maybe, I could be a safe trustworthy adult for myself. What a concept. Feels all warm and fuzzy, that.

Thanks for reading, and say hi to your inner brat, child or teenager from mine. (She’s getting all shy now that I mentioned she’s around…)

Until we meet again – keep catching your own insightings!



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Your emotions affect every cell in your body. Mind and body, mental and physical, are intertwined.
Tutko, Thomas

I’ve always been a head person more than a body person. I haven’t really enjoyed sports, or been really happy with my body, or generally paid much attention to what goes on below my neck. Most of my existence has been about my head – thoughts, brains, emotions, verbal communication.

You can imagine, then, that noticing connections between the mind and the body has been like walking in uncharted territory with beautiful scenery that might or might not have potholes in the ground and vicious gremlins lurking behind the trees. In other words, fascinating but spooky.

The most interesting connection has been that of emotional resistance and tension on the one hand and physical resistance and tension on the other. In some way, it feels as if my mind is storing away emotions that I don’t have the capacity to handle – and using my muscles as the storage unit.

Noticing the tension

As I mentioned, I’ve up until lately been a very cerebral person, so the fact that my body aches here and there has been a nuisance, but nothing serious.

When I first started doing yoga, though, I noticed that some of the poses were ridiculously difficult for me. I never was a human rubber band anyway, but it did strike me as strange that it was that hard.

Looking into the “effects of the poses”, or the issues they would supposedly help with, I noticed a correlation in certain topics and poses. (“Effects” in quotes since I was still pretty sceptical about that stuff.)

Most of the time, though, I only notice that my body is tense and aching and that I should do something about it. Or I’ll be going through an emotional insighting and notice my body start relaxing.

Incidentally, I have a wonderful auditive barometer for this. I have a wonky back that has a tendency to snap. Nothing serious, I’m told, it’s just that my joints are genetically loose and the little spinous processes get out of sync. Whenever my back muscles relax, the spinous processes snap back into place.

So whenever I’m e.g. reading something touching, or pouring my heart out in my diary or blog, my back starts snapping. Funny, really.

Releasing the tension

The latest experience, though, came pretty unexpectedly. It was sort of a combination of noticing and releasing, except that I wasn’t really processing anything, and I didn’t even notice I was that tense.

We were doing a voice class in my drama studies last weekend, and the task was to hold a note while your pair listened for resonances. As I was holding the note, the teacher came up in front of me and put her hands right below my collarbone to give a bit of resistance.

First, I started giggling. Then, I started crying. I excused myself and went over to sit by the wall to calm down. I must have cried for five minutes, and I still don’t know what it was exactly I was crying about.

Later, I noticed that my pecs were much less tense, which was not surprising. I also noticed that my lower jaw muscles were sore. More specifically, the muscles that I use to fake a smile.

*ding* Insighting.

Something, somewhere, had been stored in the “Don’t worry, I’ll be all right” smile muscles and the “Keeping up the appearances by straightening my posture” pectoral muscles. Somehow, the resonance of my own voice and the attention from the teacher had released it. I still can’t verbalise what it was – hence the somethings and the somehows.

Working on the tension

If you asked me how to get the tensions out, I’d give you two bits of advice.

1. Go holistic

For me, the easiest way to spot the tension is to do something holistic with my body. I’m such an amateur at yoga, but it is one activity that gently helps me become aware of the places that need special attention.

Another way that helps me observe and soften my muscles is improvised dancing. I put on some soft music (classical, instrumental, movie music, whatever inspires me at the moment) and let my body move to it.

I’m no dance instructor, and I’m sure everyone has their own movement language, but some things that inspire me to move include
– imagining I’m painting the air with my palms, feet, knees, shoulders, back…
– having a point on my hand, foot, forehead… that guides the movement of the entire body
– imagining there’s a tiny person on my head, hand, shoulder… that wants to have a sightseeing ride of the room

Here, I think the most important part is to really listen to your body. If you’re feeling pain, chances are you’re pushing it. And pushing against tension, both emotional and physical, often results in more tension. I’ll now give the floor to Wormy on the topic since I couldn’t explain it better if I tried for a week.

If you’re really into verbalising, you might want to journal about the things that pop up after your yoga or dance session. One or two sessions will most likely not result in huge breakthroughs, at least not on a conscious level. Journaling will help you keep track of the themes and issues that come up, and you can look for patterns in your notes.

2. Breathe into it

As far as I understand, muscles tense up when there’s not enough oxygen to go around. Hence, focusing your breathing to that spot, either by movement or by other means, should help.

Yoga, again, is a wonderful way to target breathing into muscles. If you keep your breathing conscious, slow impro dancing might help target the muscles, too.

Singing and humming are also good ways to focus breathing into a specific spot, especially if you can get a helping hand – your own or a friend’s – to gently press on the tense part. You can even only sing one note with one vowel – aaaaaaa, ooooooo – and feel it resonate within your body.

You can try finding spots the voice resonates in and spots it doesn’t. The blank, non-resonating places are likely the tense ones – i.e. the ones you want to try breathing into.

If you have any other mind-body-tension-release ideas or experiences, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

And until we meet again – keep catching your own insightings!



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