Destroy the Veil that Hides Your Own Self: Chlöe Goodchild on the Sacred Feminine
Categories: Literature & the Arts
In today’s blog post, we continue March’s theme of the Sacred Feminine. Chloë Goodchild, author of The Naked Voice, reflects on the powerful voices that change our lives and the vocal and spiritual influences of Anandamayi on her own work.
Tags: Alternative & Integrative Therapies Self-Improvement & Inspiration Chloë Goodchild Performance Arts
I didn’t realize until my late twenties that my solo singing voice—as opposed to my choral voice—was going to play an essential role in forging my spiritual path. Before this could occur I had to undergo a paradigm shift from a traditional, professional Western path of a classical singer to a way of singing that is inspired by a mystical devotional relationship with the singing voice as a mouthpiece for spirit. This involved really waking up to the reality that my voice—and especially my singing voice—was to serve this evolving journey.
Whose voices have influenced and inspired your life so far? The signals or triggers for my vocational singing path started increasing in my early twenties when I first heard the extraordinary singing voice of a remarkable French woman named Chanterelle. She was a concert violinist, singer, and the wife of the Gandhian nonviolent activist Lanzo del Vasto. They founded the Communauté de L’Arche, a nonviolent community in southern France.
I had already found myself captivated by the voices of other nonviolent visionary leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. I was also taken by the penetrating voice of Edith Piaf and the eccentric, mesmerizing voice of the Egyptian singer Oum Khoultum. It was said that when she sang, the whole of Egypt stopped. Her funeral magnetized millions to mourn and honor her passing. There were also the impassioned erotic voices of singers such as Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, and Annie Lennox, alongside the great operatic divas such as Maria Callas and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf.
Yet there was something in Chanterelle’s sound that was clearly free of all attachment to ego, everyday needs, demands, and longings. Hers was a voice that soared and transcended the dramas of everyday life.
“Si j’étais une colombe, j’irais voler dans le désert.”
If I were a dove, I would fly in the desert.
It wasn’t so much the words as her vibration and tone of voice that pointed to a world and a way of being that was liberated, self-contained, at home with itself, and completely free of fear. Her sound was full of a healing light. She was a guiding star pointing me toward the voices of other spiritual teachers and devotional vocalists, most significantly the great luminary of India, Anandamayi Ma (Blissful Mother), whose voice was her very Self.
The voice of Anandamayi (1896–1982) was the primordial sound of an awakened Being, direct from source, the effortless mouthpiece of spirit. Whether she was singing with the homeless, a group of Western spiritual seekers, with world leaders such as Nehru or Mahatma Gandhi, or to vast thousands at the national Kumbh Mela gathering of saints from across India, Anandamayi sang consistently. Her voice covered a vast range of human-divine feeling—from the luminous darkness of the warrior goddess Durga to the heavenly decibels of Krishna, the god of Light and Love. Wherever she went she galvanized thousands to join with her in ecstatic chant and song.
It was my encounter with Anandamayi that enabled me to really hear for the first time how the naked human voice has the power to transform all suffering, however great, dissolving the veil that hides our true Self.
“Destroy the veil that hides your own Self ” was her eternal refrain. While exploring Anandamayi’s teachings I had a vision in which I heard and saw the sound of humanity as forming an exquisite vessel, like a cosmic singing bowl, whose sacred presence had been forgotten. I also visualized the peoples of the world in the disorienting throes of a rebirth in consciousness while seemingly having lost all connection—individually and collectively—with their true voice and purpose as stewards of the planetary mind and beings of Light. This vision inspired me to dedicate my life to creating opportunities for the recovery of humanity’s authentic voice, the original song of creation.
I established voice workshops, retreats, and gatherings to help people to experience their own naked voices. I found myself passionately dedicated to facilitating others to experience what I could see and hear as the authentic spirit within every living being.
It soon became clear that these gatherings were offering something unique, something that school had overlooked: the opportunity for individuals to reconnect their spoken with their sung voices, which simultaneously catalyzed a direct experience of their true path or calling.
This calling didn’t have to be some huge spiritual act or mission. It didn’t even really matter how the human life then played itself out. Simply sounding one’s true self and connecting directly with every cell of one’s being as the true self was what I knew—from hearing Chanterelle and Anandamayi especially—the naked voice could ignite. To support the evolution of the Naked Voice work I started collecting and sometimes composing my own healing songs, chants, and spoken or sung poems. I also began to find that any questions I had could turn themselves into musical melodies. Key questions started to inspire and direct my decision-making. Somehow singing my questions gave them greater clarity and inspired a clearer, more effortless response—for example:
Dear soul, what is my life consecrated to?
I started singing this question many years ago, at the beginning of a Naked Voice workshop in a beautiful Irish retreat center called Dunderry Park, deep in the countryside close to Navan, not far from Dublin city. This song I dedicated to the remarkable Dunderry Park team and kitchen staff, who provided hundreds of Naked Voice practitioners with the perfect sanctuary to find and transform their voices through the 1990s and new millennium.
Singing the question over and over anchors the voice of your soul in the body. Your voice and the intensity of your inquiry or intention fuel the energy of the sound, connecting it with the aliveness in your heart. In this way your voice soon becomes like a rudder or a compass that strengthens your soul’s song-line and simultaneously helps you navigate the deeper course or direction of your own inner question or search.
Excerpted from The Naked Voice by Chloë Goodchild.