Cultivating Ecstasy

Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden_19.5

Evan Bortnick Musa Vocalis Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden Photo: Flickr

Have you ever noticed how “un-cool” it is to be overly enthusiastic? There’s something about a shamelessly positive attitude that just seems to annoy a lot of people. Why is that? As someone who’s often ‘over-the-top’ optimistic, I’ve been asking myself that for decades. I’ve come up with a couple of answers. As always, I’m optimistically curious what your take is. So please don’t hesitate to share your experiences and opinions, one way or the other.

Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden_19.5_2

Evan Bortnick Musa Vocalis Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden Photo: Flickr

There’s definitely something about being positive that seems superficial. I think this because in the times when I’m feeling ‘down’, sad or in mourning for something, the people who are enthusiastic just don’t seem to grasp something deeply important about living. This impression disappears as soon as I’m back in flow again. Also, of course, when I’m on top of the world and not putting the brakes on its expression, there seem to always be a couple of people who make a face like I’ve just belched, or as if a slightly too loud child came into the room. Some actually come right out and request that I tone down my optimism. What lies behind such a request?

There are some very old habits and instincts in our brains that dictate that it’s much safer to be vigilant. This wariness has kept our lineage alive until now. It often requires great effort to abandon it and approach the world with joy and high expectations. In other words, an important part of our nervous system is wired to stay on the safe side and scan the environment for the negative. The thing is, once you establish these hard-wired instincts from the brain-stem as a personal habit, they tend to color and filter your consciousness. That results in a kind of negatively-biased selective attention, a feed-forward sense filter which colors the way you perceive your world.

Another crucial factor in the un-coolness of optimism is family. Kids, left to their own devices, are pretty enthusiastic about life. If you have parents, however, who have large chunks of unlived aspirations or more frustration than success with life goals, it’s not uncommon for such parents to take on a hard-wired, chronic life-attitude of cynicism. Children of such parents, in order to uphold the all-important needs of belonging and loyalty, put on something of a ‘not-self’ mask of cynicism. It goes without saying that when such children meet other children who are enthusiastic and high-spirited, their reaction is going to be one of scorn. Even when such individuals, as adults, recognize that having more positive expectations and attitudes have profound, positive health consequences, they still find it a tremendous effort to change the patterning of their perception habits. Even when confronted with clear feedback from loved ones that negative attitudes are detrimental to their social and business interactions, there will still be a forceful resistance to trying more positive outlooks on for size.

Our nervous system seems to have limits to the rapidity with which we can optimize our inner habits. Even when we have optimized these thinking habits, often our posture or our breathing, as a kind of muscle memory, drags us back into old versions of our thought programs. The good news is; if the intention is strong enough, we can tweak these thought habits over time, which alters both breath and posture.

Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden_19.5_3

Evan Bortnick Musa Vocalis Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden Photo: Flickr

It goes without saying that if healthy, normal optimism seems to be difficult, then ecstasy, rapture, euphoria and elation are going to be that much more un-cool. Still, those rare individuals who are wired into the ecstasy of existence on a daily basis all report enormous positive benefits. My own experiments with ecstasy have shown me clearly that these advantages are contextual. In other words, when and where we allow ourselves to even slightly feel ecstasy, has to do with where we are and who’s around. Probably just because of this un-coolness, we tend to hesitate not only its expression, but also its sensation. That old cliché “take time to smell the roses” doesn’t go anywhere far enough. It’s not enough to merely sort the environment for things to enjoy; an important part of any ecstasy experiment is finding joy in the inner life as well! Unfortunately this smacks of “ego” to many of the same people who make slightly annoyed faces at high-energy enthusiasm.

To be sure, there is a expression of ecstasy that is synonymous with stillness. There is also an expression of ecstasy, as any opera singer can tell you, that is synonymous with great volumes of overtones, drama, love and harmony. Singing well IS ecstasy! You don’t have to be a singer to experience it, but you do have to touch the muse of music with your heart.

The moon starts singing

When everyone is asleep

And the planets throw a bright robe

Around their shoulders and whirl up

Close to her side.


Once I asked the moon,

Why do you and your sweet friends

Not perform so romantically like that

To a larger crowd?


And the whole sky chorus resounded,


“The admission price to hear

The lofty minstrels

Speak of love


Is affordable only to those

Who have not exhausted themselves

Dividing God all day

And thus need rest.“

— Hafiz

Evan Bortnick   Musa Vocalis   Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden


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. If you're interested in voice lessons or vocal pedagogy, please visit this site: There's an English and a German version. If you're interested in voice coaching, public speaking, trainer skills or presentation skills, please visit me here: ..and feel free to send any questions. Looking forward to hearing from you! More information can be found at my Institute Site: The Wiesbaden Academy of the Vocal Muse Gesangsunterricht Wiesbaden, Coaching, Voice Pedagogy
This entry was posted in Ecstasy, Positive, Singing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s