Somatic Empathy as a Teaching Tool, Part III

These posts are an introduction to a topic that is rarely discussed in academia or professional organizations, yet has become a crucial part of vocal pedagogy in the 21st century. Please see the first two posts in this 3-part series HERE.

One possible definition of Somatic Empathy is one who first, has a natural ability to sense

In the first two posts, I discussed these intuitive types in general. But here are some practical tools for Empaths and Clairsentients who are teaching music and voice privately, in groups or classes, or who conduct rehearsals.

For private teachers during lessons:

1. This first idea is from Dr. Sarah Adams Hoover. Take 4 small stones and place them on one side of your keyboard or in a pocket. You are to move each stone from one side of the piano (or change pockets) to the other, at 4 different times during the lesson. Take about 7-10 seconds to move the stone over, feeling each fully with your hand and fingers. Use this time and the physical sensations of feeling the stones to return to your own consciousness and your own body.

Become mindful about your own breathing patterns while teaching. Mindfully exhale–write post ’em notes and paste them everywhere–BREATHE! EXHALE FULLY! There is a reason meditation uses breathing to create mindfulness and focus on the present.

2. When you take a drink of water, take a full 5-10 seconds to feel the water move down your throat before you return to fully listening or speaking. Take a moment in gratitude that you are ingesting clean water as you need it.

3. Place a tennis ball or other small therapeutic ball by your feet. Remove your shoe and roll the ball under your foot, massaging as you bring awareness into your feet.

Each of these tools brings you back to your own self, as opposed to reaching to merge energetically with the other person. These are ways to begin to learn to turn your Empath gifts OFF at will, rather than unknowingly being a drive-through for each student’s emotional state. Clairsentience will remain but recede momentarily to give your body a chance to center. This also gives you the option to test whether or not you are truly picking up another’s issues or, if in fact, you are projecting your own stuff onto them.

4. Begin every lesson with a few seconds with your empathy turned OFF, and set your intent to be of help to the student as well as honor your own body.

People without these gifts, or who have rolled their eyes at them for whatever reason, can not begin to know the depth of your experience. My own husband could not accept these gifts in me until I accepted them in myself. I was always thinking his way was better and constantly trying to emulate him. You can not imitate others. You have to accept yourself. We hear this over and over but it can be so long in coming!

For leading groups:

1. Being well-organized with a group plan in place every single class or rehearsal keeps you on track. When you have been doing this for years and years, it becomes easy to coast, but then the tendency to become diffuse through endless merging with the crowd energy easily takes over.

I would not be able to lead with what business schools are calling ‘Resonant Leadership’ if I did not take the time to be organized. This includes regular moderate exercise, meditation/prayer, nutritionally sound meals and regular “play.”

2. In order to stay centered and lead effectively, I set up my room early and then usually leave and do not return until a few minutes before rehearsal starts. I do not visit with students or singers before a rehearsal/masterclass/class because I will automatically start to merge with their energy and it pulls my focus from the task at hand. I gently ask choir members NOT to speak with me before rehearsals, and need to remind them of this from time to time. There are always those who need your attention to feel good about themselves and I have learned to draw limits. They will continue to come at you until they learn.

3. I have learned to treat myself seriously and lovingly as someone who needs to gather energy from inside myself before leading effectively. (Introverted personality.) Absolutely no one else will do this for me–I have to do it for myself. Remember, only 1% of the world’s population are true Empaths and no one will truly understand what you need.

3. I am vocally warmed-up. (see posts on Healing Vocal Fold Paralysis.)

4. I use a microphone, not only as I recover from paralysis, but because I have come to value the energy it takes to project continually. This is especially true for rooms full of people, or rooms that have noisy fans blowing or old air conditioners. Most singers take pride in their ability to project as speakers, and I know several classroom teachers who boast of their ability to be heard. Good for them. But as an Empath and a recovering vocal paralysis patient, a microphone helps me focus on the sound of my own voice while I am helping others find their voice. It returns me to myself in the midst of what used to feel like a chaotic ocean of propelling through others’ auras and energies.

The results are well worth it, for the group as well as me. Music, Joy and Learning fill every second of rehearsal or class. Personality conflicts and special needs’ students don’t suck up as much of my time and energy.

I have had to learn to accept and hone my particular gifts as well as let go of ego defenses that I built up over a lifetime to protect the gifts in the first place.

When you teach, you are teaching who you ARE even more than what techniques you use or what you have learned.

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