Terminology, Semantics and “The MIND”

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Evan Bortnick           http://musa-vocalis.de/

Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden

It fascinates me over and over again how we use terminology and yet it’s not REALLY clear what is meant and what is not. Take the word “MIND”. If we are going to separate “Mind” and “Body”, then of course we are going to polarize and then discuss these polarities. Even if we’re conscious of the fact that the split is mostly semantic in nature, it’s still so easy to get caught up in wanting to make precise that which cannot be precise. Staying with the example of “Mind”, the enteric nervous system could be considered the ‘mind’ of the gut. To use another example; the tidal movements of the flow of Liquor cerebrospinalis through the cranio-sacral system have dynamics which are not regulated through the brain, nor the enteric nervous system, nor the heart, nor the lungs, nor our ‘consciousness’ in any ways. These movements are, however, crucial in the regulation of our metabolism and many subtle factors in our visceral nervous system thereby, OF COURSE, affecting the brain and “The MIND”.

If we acknowledge a Mind-Body unity (even if just a little!), then we can open our understanding of the term “MIND”, so that all the above and much more is included into it. There are very few people I know who would say “Mind” equals “Brain”. There’s just too much going on to equate EVERYTHING to a ‘Mind’ that’s limited to that one organ. Plus, our brain is immensely complex. Functions in the neo-cortex are VERY much driven by functions in the limbic system and the brain stem. Even simple factors like blood sugar have a profound effect on brain processes at all levels and that’s just one of thousands of examples. Anyone who really believes that the brain equals the ‘mind’ and that this brain/mind is a one-way street, meaning the brain effects and controls EVERYTHING and is influenced and effected by NOTHING is either very young, very naïve, very inexperienced, very un-read, simply cannot grasp important, complex principles or all the above.

Another fascinating semantic division which often helps but just as often confuses is the Trichotomy “Head-Heart-Gut”. It’s not as simple and as polar as Mind-Body, but it belies the fact that whatever is EXACTLY meant are factors which are mutually dependent on each other. I enjoy using such models in lessons and in coachings and try my utmost to make clear from the outset that THEY ARE JUST MODELS!!! This raises something of a poly-contextual awareness in the listener. That means that while hearing what I’m saying, the listener is also aware that it’s context based. Head-Heart-Gut has its precision in a very particular phase of the learning curve. In another phase it is to be shed off as clearly no longer needed.

The models in voice pedagogy have a similar poly-contextual nature. My all-time favorite is “Register”. If we describe the head voice and the chest voice to a student who has never heard them and who sings in a naturally balanced fashion, we are INSERTING a polarity where none exists. If we use this terminology with a student with a harsh ‘break’, we are speaking into his own experience of his voice. If there is a head voice and a chest voice and balance is possible, than there must be a third ‘voice’. Most call this “Middle Voice”. If there are three registers and balance is possible, then there must be transitions between these three; say, 1. Heavy Chest, 2. Light Chest, 3. Middle Voice, 4. Heavy Head and 5. Light Head. Astute readers will already see where I’m going with this…. If there are 5 registers and balance is possible, then there must be transitions here as well; Heavy, Middle and Light Chest – Heavy, Middle and Light Middle and Heavy, Middle and Light Head. If there are 9 registers and balance is possible…..

…..here at the very latest, the experienced and simplicity-loving singer will say either; “Every single note, vowel and dynamic IS its own “Register”, or; “There is no such thing as Register!”

We could play the same semantic game with “Placement”, “Cover”, “Support” and the myriad other singer’s terminology. The point is that ALL these semantic divisions have their usefulness and ALL have their dangers and confusions for young singers. All are right-on appropriate in certain phases of the learning curve and all are to be shed or put on the back consciousness burner in later phases, when “FLOW” is repeatable.

This “Flow”, so often and variably described by the greats, is variably experienced from singer to singer. I like the word “Entelechy” in this context. There are a lot of definitions for it and it’s attributed to Aristotle, which makes it something of a $50 word! Basically it refers to the potential within an organism (or system). The entelechy of the singer is something quite unique. Its fulfillment is regulated by factors which go far beyond that complicated organ; brain. Even if you were thoroughly convinced that all vocal processes were regulated by the brain, you will encounter students who use terms like ‘muscle memory’. If you were to slap them down by telling them that such terms are complete bullshit and that it’s all steered and C-O-N-T-R-O-L-L-E-D by THE BRAIN, you’d be doing them a pedagogical disservice by removing their felt regulation mechanisms.

So interestingly, it’s possible to have a rather narrow definition of the “Mind”, which is basically; the thoughts you think. It is also possible to have a broad definition, which includes ‘thoughts’, yet also entelechy, the process that leads to its fulfillment, muscle memory, conscious and unconscious learning strategies.

A man comes to Bodhidharma with this question: “Why is my mind so restless? How can I set it at peace?”
Bodhidharma: “Show me your mind and I will put it at peace.”
Man: “But when I search for my mind, I do not find it.”
Bodhidharma: “See, I have already put it at peace.”

Evan Bortnick           http://musa-vocalis.de/

Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden

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About evanb54

I'm a passionate, curious learning junkie--- an X-Opera Singer turned Voice Teacher, Voice Teachers Teacher, NLP Lehrtrainer, Off-Path Coach, Cranio-Sacral worker and a few other even less mainstream things. Everything I've learned or taught revolves around THE VOICE. The Voice as a tool of artistic expression. The Voice as a tool of emotional transparency. The voice as a tool of flexible communication. More information can be found at my Institute Site: www.musa-vocalis.de The Wiesbaden Academy of the Vocal Muse Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden, Coaching, Voice Pedagogy
This entry was posted in Audition, Authenticity, Communication, Congruence, Emotional Intelligence, Emotional Transparency, Fitness, Inner Game, Intelligence, Mental Training, Mind, Mind-Body, Music, NLP, Pedagogy, Performance, Presence and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Terminology, Semantics and “The MIND”

  1. Pingback: 10 Weird Ways Your Brain Is Tricking You | Illuminutti

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