Today I want to write about singing. After avoiding such bold use of my vocal chords for pushing 20 years – except in karaoke where it’s never really taken very seriously – it has now become a major feature of my life. Now I spend 20 minutes, twice a week, chanting what are called ‘cosmic sounds’ in the centre I attend for Qi classes and treatments. The words don’t make any sense in any language, but they’re meant to be the sounds that are closest to the universe’s natural vibration. We sing the words to calm any fluttering within us and tune in to a more natural state of clarity and peacefulness.

When I first attended one of these chanting sessions, which form part of a one hour class dedicated to sound, gentle movement and stretches and meditation, it was pretty daunting – especially since as a beginner I’m expected to continue chanting for an extra 10 minutes or so after the more advanced trainees have stopped. It also seems harder to be chanting words that I don’t even recognise, each requiring a specific pronunciation, pitch, and length of time for holding the note.

But now, several sessions in, I quite enjoy this part of the class. By the end of the chanting, I feel noticeably calmer, and my mind is clearer. I’ve even started going to the classes which are solely dedicated to 45 minutes of chanting. Again, the words coming out of my mouth make no sense, but somehow they manage to have a balancing effect; dissipating all the background noise we carry around with us in our day to day lives and replacing it with a stillness and inner tranquility.

An image of the goddess Gayatri, whose mantra is sung to encourage wisdom and enlightenment

It is the same when I come out of my monthy rehearsal with the Shakti Choir I’ve joined. The fact I’ve even joined a  choir has come as a surprise to my friends, most of whom have never seen me sing, let alone one that is dedicated to the world’s sacred goddesses. In the three hour rehearsal we take time to breathe deeply, to be present and to listen, tuning ourselves into our own group frequency. And then we sing our hearts out – men and women, of all ages and talents – in a capella harmonies. The sound is quite magical. At the end I come out feeling alive and alert. And amazed – I’ve just sung in harmony, and in tune (most of the time), and yet I haven’t sung for years.

I used to sing quite a lot – didn’t we all when we were children? From the age of seven or eight I was singing the numbers from musicals such as

Singin’ in the Rain, West Side Story or the Sound of Music. And I had an obsession with Judy Garland – I would record each and every film of hers when it was broadcast on television, and I had particular favourites which I would play over and over again, losing myself in the hope and glory depicted in Meet Me in St. Louis or A Star is Born.To this day, I cannot help but be totally entranced and captivated when I watch Judy belting out ‘The Man that Got Away’ or ‘Over the Rainbow’, particularly in her later years when her passion and her pain can be seen and felt with every word.

I wanted to be like Judy when I was a child – to sing, and dance, and act. And then what happened? As children, we so often get put off by our peers, or our parents, or our teachers. We might also be just plain shy and lack the confidence to step up onto that stage. I tried for a while, attending drama groups where we would put on shows that our parents and the locals in the area would come and see. Yet by the age of 18 other interests had taken over, and I’d decided I didn’t really want to be an actress after all…I wanted to save the world instead!I had equated my artistic talents with my chosen career, and so when my career interests changed, the singing, dancing and acting died.

Yet in the last few months the singing has been unexpectedly resurrected. When I’m not at the Qi classes or at choir practice, I find myself singing – even the ‘cosmic sounds’ which make no sense. The sounds from those sessions spent in the Qi centre or in the rehearsals stay with me for the rest of the day, or week, like soothing and reassuring mantras. The experience of singing again has become more than just some new hobby to fill the time; it is a healing exercise – one that nurtures me, connects me with my inner core and lights up each part of my body.

I don’t pretend I’m particularly good at it. We forget that we don’t sing purely to show our talent; we sing for joy, because a song is in our hearts or minds and it needs to be expressed. We all have singing voices – as our choir leader likes to remind us – we just need the inner strength to let our voices fly and flow over each note and chord. And as we listen, to ourselves and to those singing around us, we learn how to connect with the peace and clarity we always wish for.