Being In Music

This workshop ‘Being In Music’ was presented at the Australasian Facilitators Conference in Alice Springs Australia 2014.

Being In Music introduces ‘musical’ processes to explore the three basic awarenesses of a facilitator. Of simultaneously being with the self, being with another ( i.e with each member of the group ) and being with the group as a whole. I created these ‘musical’ processes to accompany the books of Dale Hunter and the work of Zenergy Global. Specifically The Art of Facilitation ( Random House 2007 pages 46-77)

Being with the self – we cannot effectively read a group if we do not know ourselves deeply, the subtle nuances of attention , distraction, sabotage, collusion, jealousy, competition, nurturing, rescuing, interdependence through to co-dependance ( just few things that can get in the way). By recognising within ourselves the multifaceted expression of humanity we are better equipped to effectively assist a group attain it’s purpose.

Physiologically our voices are an important key to self expression and a doorway to self reflection. In authentic communication the muscles, membranes and passages of throat, mouth, sinus, lungs, and diaphragm, continually change and adapt to the situations in which we find ourselves.

Lets learn about ourselves……

We start by loosening up with some physical warm up exercises for voicework/singing. You could use your own exercises for this or download of the warm up routines I use – links are at the bottom of this earlier post.

Exercise One – How do you say your name? Walk around the space in your own rhythm quietly saying your name and listening to the sound of your name from your own lips….. what combination of consonants and vowels make up your name?… exactly how do you like your name to be said?…. what movements does your tongue make?… does it hit your teeth? rise up at the back? are the movements of your tongue rapid or slow? what shapes do your lips make? are there variations depending on the circumstances? … do you have several names? nick names? how do they differ and how are they the same?… include your family names…. how do the different names feel to say? how do they sound when you say them the way you like them to be said? what meanings do these powerful words have for you?

Keep walking slowly, keep the focus within, dance if you want to, make tai chi floating hands in the air, tracing figures of eight as you move forward, keep saying your name out loud to yourself….. say it louder, pretend you are introducing yourself by name to a stranger, or on a phone speaking with a family member….

How do the minute muscles and membranes of your mouth, throat, face and chest move as you say your name aloud? is there tension? where? is your mouth dry? are you nervous or relaxed? hot or cold? thirsty? how does this stimuli affect your voice making apparatus?

 Being with another

Find a partner – Have a conversation between yourself and another where the only words spoken are your names and the variations of these names.

With the awareness we now have of our delicate voice production apparatus we are better able to observe how it is affected by our interaction with another .

We can now observe ourselves in relationship. Can we focus on another while maintaining our relationship with ourselves? What changes? How do the muscles of respiration adapt? Our tongue? How does our jaw respond? Our larynx?

How does self consciousness affect the way our voice responds? Can we observe self consciousness aurally in the voice of the other?

Change partners – continue with your names and then add other key phrases – “I love to…….”, ” My favourite activity is ….” , ” My children’s names are ….”.

What happens when we listen to the ‘others’ voice? Can we perceive their throat muscles working? the tightness of their jaw/ tongue/larynx/lungs/sinus/head/eyes/cheeks? How far back to they throw their head when they speak? How does this movement affect us? How do we respond to our perception of tightness in another? of relaxation? Does our self observation extend to these minute and automatic reactions?

Exercise two In pairs take two minutes in silence to listen to the sounds around you – then record these sounds on a paper – record not only the actual sounds but where they reside sonically and what frequencies they inhabit. Listen for : near/far/dissonant/assonant/polyphonic/monophonic/metallic/woody/rustling/buzzy/sharp/soft/pleasant/unfamiliar/sustained or staccato, as well as sounds that travel from one side to another such as a bird flying over head, or footsteps traveling across the room …………

Come back to the large group and write a list of these sounds on a large central paper… you might need short discussions of the terms if people are unclear ….

Being with a Group

Form a large circle, with the list of sounds in the centre…. reflect together on these scope of these sounds…. we are going to make vocal music together using them.

Exercise three – Start with an Om – a group Om – with eyes gently closed – each person finds their own note – listening for each voice, listening for your own voice and also the softest voice in the group – so you can hear every single voice in the group – when everyone’s voice is present start to include the sounds you have listed – think about inhabiting the aural space together, sometimes in unison, other times in harmony, filling spaces with rhythm, or no rhythm, explore drones together or separately, bring all the ideas you have listed to the song, the sounds that travel, the sounds that change, the softer and louder moments, the pleasant and the jarring, familiar and mysterious. Represent your surroundings with your aural expression. Allow the song to mutate to encompass other sounds not previously presenced. Listen to the music as you are co-creating it , appreciate how your voice is contributing to the music and the muscles and membranes of your throats/tongues/respiration etc are accommodating all of the sensations you are feeling. Allow the song to find it’s own ending. Let it extend as long as it needs to as each person explores their own voices while listening to each others voices,

Listen inside the song, Be within the music. Be with the silence as the music ends.


End by saying your names aloud once around the circle.

Emerging Music workshop

Here is wonderful team building soundscaping process that I used in a workshop at the transformational festival Prana which I call “Emerging Music”.

The group chose the theme of the soundscape and created their own sounds and sonic ideas, while the facilitator role is to encourage people to make sounds freely, without inhibition. This is best done by modelling.

Emerging Music Process

In a circle, close enough to hear each other without straining (we were sitting on the earth) someone decides on the  theme ‘the story of our country, Aotearoa (New Zealand), specifically the colonisation and loss of Te Reo ( Maori language ).

We lined up seven rocks to signify the key points in the story :

  1. The Maori journey by sea from Hawaiiki
  2. The arrival and the beauty of Aotearoa
  3. Colonisation by the British
  4. The conflict
  5. The banning of Te Reo Maori ( Maori language )
  6. Reclamation of Te Reo
  7. The now

Then together , using only our voices and hands, we created a soundscape in which we moved together through each point in the story. ( Powerful listening skills are required here!)

The group had to keep very aware of where everyone else is in the story, to try and keep together in the unfolding.


Facilitator notes :

  • It’s a good idea to have a story ready as an example but be ready to hand it over the second someone gets the idea and starts to run with it.
  • Encourage stories with obvious sections, i.e horses running over wooden bridges, a plague of cats, a snoring giant… these will give very obvious landmarks for keeping the group together. If someone gets lost they can find their way back in easily.
  • Encourage the group to move through the parts of the story using aural non visual cues,  resist the urge to point at each rock in turn to try and ‘ keep people together’, it’s OK if it falls apart as it will let everyone know they have to listen more powerfully in the next story.

The Positive Power of Illusion

I was talking to a street musician, she was about 17  I think, playing the accordion outside the supermarket, and she was tired….but there was a ethereal beauty about her fair complexion and dark ringlets. She reminded me of a ballerina, an opera singer, a performer I might have seen and aspired to be when I was a child.

The game of ‘bags’ was a favourite past-time with my brother and friends, we’d score magazines and slam our hands down hard on anything we wanted. Performers were fair game, and in the programmes of the ballet performances that were compulsory spectacles for children of orchestra pit musicians there was an abundance of pretty young dancers.  I ‘bagsed’ the ones I wanted to ‘be’.

After the show, in the furious colours of backstage chaos I would find a vantage point to watch the excited pack down and makeup removal routine, if I behaved myself I was welcome, even celebrated as my eyes shone with infatuation as I spied my ‘favourites’ transforming into regular folk again.

After the show is a time of smiles, of larger than life, of bouquets of flowers and celebration. Performers are full of adrenalin and the world is a rosy place, far from the droll routine of homework and dishes, the boredom of being overly imaginative in the real world.
Here the love for performance took me, as did the afterglow laughter and optimism that goes with the big show.

Now after years of experiencing this adrenalised fuss first hand and been on the receiving end of children’s enthusiasm I am wondering how if we can somehow embody this sense of purposeful joy more often in our daily lives. Where does it retire to when the curtain comes down? Who are we when we are not shining with face paint and velvet costume? Who are we when we are?

I find myself wanting to demystify the world of magic, and to bring it into the ‘real world’ for the sake of not just children but all comers, we are all children somewhere in our hearts after all, we are all still somehow capable of believing for a few moments that there really is magic, and perhaps we can believe with enough passion that we will see that indeed there is magic in our world.

It is harder to step through to the mystical dimension in the city, where even the clouds appear contained by the omnipresent cables overhead, the concrete structures, the fumes and the worried faces.

karena koa at takapuna market

I find my way more easily performing as part of market life, where the multitudes can come and go, look and stare, or avoid eye contact, freely and without judgement. Here children can stumble onto an expression of presence that has no programme, no promotion and no price. Where for a second or a minute I can connect with the broken and lonely, and from my safe zone amidst a tune or a song, I can turn that frown upside down, meet those infant eyes with freshness, reminding myself of the sacredness of performance, the shamanistic role of the extrovert,  to explore a way to try and tune us all to vibrate with the same open heart.

Powerful voice for Yoga Teachers Workshop

I was invited to deliver this workshop by the leader of a leading local Yoga Academy that offers a teachers training programme. Powerful voice skills are included as part of the course

First I explained to the participants their Course Leaders purpose for the session:

To explore tools to develop voice:

  • Projection
  • Tone
  • Pitch variation
  • How to enhance each persons individual voice to engage their students
  • To be fiery of voice or softer when necessary in their delivery of the instructions for the different asanas ( including for the different parts of each sequence).

Then I asked the participants to write down their personal purposes for their own voice development on A4 paper with the 3 main points they wanted to be coached on.

Began with voice/body warm up – included jaw relaxation, tongue stretches, breathing, humming, humming into opening the mouth

Included vowel and consonant exercises – used the room fully, standing with our backs to the walls to feel the spine, asked the participants to imagine and address:

  • a baby in their arms
  • a kitten stuck under a house
  • someone in their family who was making them late to leave the house
  • their dog
  • and finally a dog in the road in the path of a truck

Asked them to observe their throats, bellys, neck muscles, head resonators, and breathing for each of the examples. Explained that to speak well in public it’s good to have access to the full spectrum of vocal sounds, and then to improvise, speaking from the intention to communicate, and allow the whole authentic human voice to function.

Asked the participants to teach one- three asanas to the group while I watched, listened and took notes and observations based on the course managers and the participants individual purposes .

Coached on the three points they outlined, plus any very clear points that I pick up on that they might not have noticed.

Offered opportunity for self reflection.

Offered an opportunity for peer feedback.

Finished by listening to recording of Sanskrit pronunciation of the asana names. We all practiced these together.

Sung Vande Gurunam ( Ashtanga mantra ) three times with Om.


Here are some resources you can download



And a mp3 to listen to by Awakening Circus collective performing a rousing street yoga demonstration with music. ( in Spanish and Sanskrit) which begins with Vande Gurunam.

Collective Intelligence

Why are we living the lives we are living?
What are we doing here on the planet?
Do we want to live using the combined power of all the beings on the planet?
The collective intelligence of our entire race?
This is evolution :  emotional and spiritual human evolution.

What do you want to do with your time?
Where do you want to channel your energy? Your precious life force?
Do you want to access collective intelligence in your every waking moment?
What would it take to transform your time on earth to be an urgent quest towards human evolution?

So…… how far are you prepared to go?
Are you prepared to amass all the energetic resources you can muster, to gather them together and use them?
All of the possessions you have that you need to look after and pay rent for, can they be sold or exchanged for the things you need to use today?
Can you let go of what you don’t need? Do you understand that these extraneous old possessions can weigh you down unnessecarily?

Does the place you inhabit service your needs? physical, material? energetic?
Are you thriving in this place? Is it full of an energy where you are connected to the collective energy of humanhood? Of the earth? Papatuanuku? Pachamama?

Do the people you surround yourself with share your ideals?
Do you meet, share ideas and create sustainable and exciting projects together?
Are you generating collective intelligence together with them in your every interaction? in every project?

What roles do you play/masks do you wear?
Are some of these roles outdated? Can you let them go? Do you understand that these old masks you keep around you can weigh you down unnecessarily?

Once that you have amassed all the energy you have available in one place , you can channel it towards human evolution,
and  be part of generating collective intelligence.
With the human race, with the plant kingdom, with the animal world, with the water world, with the realm of air and with the spiritual entities , with those that dwell in other dimensions……

Evolution is natural, evolution is part of nature – there must be a way.
Be an ant, Be a bee, Be a tree.

Everything is available to us.