Last month on the Winter Solstice, I was invited to sing in front of 150 people. I arrived, a little nervous, but confident in my offering. I sat with my harmonium, poised with a microphone near my mouth and my instrument. I welcomed the group into a meditation and began to sing, "Ong Namo Gurudev Namo."
I finished the song feeling proud. I did it, I thought. The moment I had been anticipating for weeks was over. I did it. The brief moment in time felt so surreal.
I realized that if I had been asked to sing in front of a group this size a year ago, I would have been terrified. Expressing myself through my voice, especially singing, has been one of life's biggest challenges and greatest gifts.
I remember struggling to introduce myself in front of a small group of people in high school and freaking out before presentations in college. I always felt like a deer in the headlights and struggled to find my breath and voice.
The fear of sharing my voice was actually what inspired me to become a yoga teacher. I remember admiring my teacher in New York, gracefully walking across the room while powerfully commanding the yogis from one pose to the next. Could I ever be like that? I thought.
I was introduced to the harmonium by another yoga teacher, Kimber Simpkins, who opened and closed every class singing with the harmonium. As I began to use my voice, I felt the vibration in my body and began to discover the sound inside me. As I watched her, confident and poised, I again asked, Could I ever be like that?
Soon after discovering Kimber's classes, I fell in love with a musician. Watching him sing so beautifully in front of a crowd brought out all the insecurities inside me.
Every time I went to watch him perform, I felt more nervous than he did. I realized this fear was telling me something: maybe it was time for me to share my voice. I then discovered this quote from Eleanor Roosevelt:
Courage is more exhilarating than fear and in the long run it is easier. We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it is not as dreadful as it appeared, discovering we have the strength to stare it down.
I began to make small steps to face the fear. First, I started teaching yoga classes. Every time I stood in front of the room as a teacher, I became more confident in myself and my voice. Each step I took to face the fear gave me the courage to go further.
I remember the first time I sang in front of my boyfriend, terrified at what he would think. My fingers were shaking on the guitar. I had him close his eyes because I felt so exposed. It was uncomfortable, yes, but I survived, and in the end, I received praise. I felt proud of myself.
That sense of pride kept me going.
My boyfriend encouraged me to step out of my shell. One night, I asked if he would sing with me around the fire at a friend's house. I felt the nervousness arise as I held the guitar, but I sang anyway. It wasn't perfect, but again, I was praised.
A few months later, I was at a full moon ceremony to release fear. As each person spoke, I knew this was the step I needed to take again and again to develop my strength. In the ceremony, I shared the fears I carried around my voice and did the thing that scared me most: I sang with the harmonium in front of the entire group.
There I was, years later, embodying the teachers I had looked up to most.
Every time I faced my fear and shared my voice, a new door opened from the universe. Opportunities and invitations came, and my confidence grew. Eventually, I was led to the sacred moment at the Winter Solstice to share my voice with more people than I ever had before.
Every step of the way, I was being prepared.
Every step of the way, I had to trust myself that I was ready.
Through that trust, I have seen the universe open doors for me that I am ready for. I see women all around me answering the call to rise up in their power, their divine femininity and their voice. I have answered the call and am now encouraging other women to feed the flames, discover their power and stand strong in their voices.
If you are out there and have ever felt afraid to speak up, afraid to sing, or afraid to share, know that you're not alone. I've been there and I can tell you from my experience: when opportunity comes knocking, trust in it. The universe is only going to present you with opportunities you are ready for; you can say yes, even when there is fear.
Your voice is ready.
Deep down, you know it is. All you have to do is say yes.