Marga interviews Pratibha, the founder of Voicing
Tell us something about your life on the path and how you discovered your voice.
Since I’ve been a child, I have been interested in spiritual matters. The wish to embark on a spiritual path has always been there and often made me feel alienated, especially during adolescence and my twenties. The hippy movement and the ’60s rebellion gave me a sense of belonging, although I was never part of any movement in particular.
After that, through various coincidences, I found myself in South America. There I was surrounded by a totally different world – the native tribes – and that is when I started to question my beliefs.
During my second journey, in the early ’70s, I became aware that I was in search of something, even if I did not know what it was exactly. It caused such a deep receptivity and longing in me, such intensity that I never ever felt again. Because of this openness I went through many experiences that completely changed my life. Among these experiences I need to mention the discovery of my voice…
Until then I always thought that I was singing off-key, that I could not sing. I thought that singing was the privilege of the gifted few. But in a particular situation it happened that I heard myself singing. In that moment there was a chant coming out of my mouth, sounds which I had never heard before, totally unknown to me. It overwhelmed me totally. There was no room for anything else and I disappeared in the song. Basically, it was a satori.
At the time I was not prepared for such an experience and when I stopped singing I did not understand what had happened. I thought I was possessed by an entity. Anyway, that event opened up a new perspective and the same experience kept happening again and again, although less strong. Nevertheless, it made me understand that singing is a useful tool, a tool that can express the deepest parts of our soul and, above all, I came to understand that I had not been possessed by an entity, but rather by myself!
When I came back to Europe I tried to find out if those experiences were isolated events and started looking for someone who could help me understand what I had experienced. This was not an easy task: in 1975 the concept of a guru or spiritual master was still alien, especially in Italy where this expression it not even part of our vocabulary.
By chance I came in touch with Osho through Pratiti, the founder of the Miasto Centre in Tuscany. Within twelve months I left for Pune. This was in 1976. I arrived two months pregnant and gave birth to my daughter in India the same year. For a while my priority was (to look after) my child and then I started to participate in a series of workshops and trainings which were offered at the ashram. There was nothing or very little which involved singing, as music was not one of the subjects.
Ten years later, in 1989, quite unexpectedly Anuprada, a concert pianist and the then director of the Creative Arts Department, asked me to give her a singing session. I had no idea how to go about it – I had never given a session based on my past experiences. It felt as if Osho was giving me a push to do it, so I accepted. The session turned out to be very strong for Anuprada and she invited me to be her assistant in one of her groups on Gurdjieff Music. She trusted me so much that she even asked me to take over the workshop for a whole day. From then on I began to lead voice groups: after only a month they were included in the official programme of the Multiversity.
Was the workshop already called Voicing?
Back then it was called ‘The Hidden Treasures of Your Voice’. I was already part of the Multiversity giving Psychic Massage and Counselling sessions. I eventually had to quit these because there was such a huge request for the voice groups. The work was happening by itself – as a group leader I almost felt I was an intruder since the participants were flowing so well – almost by themselves.
In 1994 I started to call my work Voicing (and also registered the name) since it has more to do with the totality of vocal expression than with singing alone. It gradually developed – and it keeps evolving. Even now I do not consider it to be completed; it is constantly enriched by new insights and new expressions.
Earlier you mentioned that you were ‘singing off-key’ and that you ‘could not sing’. These two usually mean the same. But your work goes beyond these definitions. Can you explain what it means?
Singing, as we understand it normally, always implies memory, the ability to reproduce a sequence of sounds, like when you try to learn a new song. When this mechanism is not perfect, you are told that you are off-key, which commonly means that you cannot sing. Since that experience in the jungle I started to dismiss this belief: if you sing spontaneously you cannot be out of tune because being out of tune refers to mere comparison.
Through a lot of research about singing and working on myself I have come to understand that to sing spontaneously is not only therapeutic but also profoundly spiritual. It is the language of the soul! I think that telling someone that he cannot sing because he is out of tune is wrong and I consider is to be insulting and abusive. It would be better to try and find out why the person is unable to reproduce that particular note.
It appears to me this is the scope of your work: to bring light and healing by using our voice as a tool and to find the mystery of our being.
In general, Voicing goes in two directions. One is that we encounter emotional situations which are then integrated through singing and the other is that we allow the singing to lead us where something profound wants to be understood and expressed. We explore places and issues which are mostly unconscious and of which we are unaware that they need expression.
The deeper we go into our inquiry the more we discover the different shades and possibilities. Our three-year training is especially focussed on emotional exploration and on understanding that every dimension of internal experience has its own sound resonance which belongs to a certain sound range. I don’t believe, as many do, that there is a rigid connection between a certain sound frequency and a specific emotion or dimension. I do believe that these connections are wider and much more flexible, since we are very complex beings, but we can say that a certain sound range pretty much corresponds to certain issues.
For example, if someone sings in a very low key, he is probably connected to issues related to the first chakra, the roots, survival instincts, his own relationship with his body, his own identity as a human being, etc…
Having taken part in one of your Voicing Trainings I realised that your work, even if the voice and singing are the main thread, it encompasses a vast array of elements from other disciplines and approaches. Could you tell us about the origins of these influences and schools of thought that you combined into the alchemy of your teaching?
A transformational experience as the one I had – the discovery of my voice – inevitably leads to the desire of sharing that experience: what I had discovered had too many important implications to be kept for myself. Even if I was aware that it was impossible to transmit to another person what I had experienced, I knew that it was possible to at least create the conditions, the atmosphere which might trigger such an event.
In the beginning the problem was that I did not have the right tools to create this atmosphere. So when I arrived in Pune I put aside my research on the voice. I first looked after my daughter and continued to be involved in self development – although it had started for me in the rain forest – we were moving with different approaches. The focus was more on the dis-identification of the structure we call the ego.
I followed various paths: Bioenergy, subtle energies, emotional work such as Primal and Encounter, Psychic Massage with Sagarpriya, Hypnosis with Ragini, Esoteric Science Training with Leela and Prasad (back then called Wadud and Waduda). In the latter I found many analogies between voice, singing and the map for the chakras, which is now one of the guidelines in my teaching. This means that low sounds activate different issues from those related to higher sounds, more or less following the map of the chakras.
I like to use a sequence of vowels that are associated with different chakras, which I introduce as keys to easily open up the doors to areas we need to work on. It was interesting for me to see that the sound sequence that I use is the same as the one used in the Tibetan tradition, something I discovered much later.
All these discoveries have enriched and keep enriching the path of Voicing: everything is inter-connected. First of all singing needs the body and needs the breathing. The body, the posture, the way we breathe and move are connected to singing. Recognising that emotions are located and vibrate in the belly and are expressed though lower sounds (unlike the sound range we usually have in therapy) helps us to get in touch with suppressed emotions and bring them to the surface, emotions that otherwise would not be acknowledged.
Hypnosis and NLP helped me understand the mental mechanisms and gave me the tools to bring out in the open the conditionings which are related to them. It also helped me create particular situations and atmospheres which are needed to resolve these issues.
In my work I have also included the first concepts of Somatic Experiencing of P. Levine which I studied for a whole year. These helped me understand even more what a powerful resource singing can be: in fact it holds in itself the necessary tools to balance hyperactivity or a state of shock caused by traumatic experiences.
Singing is also a wonderful means to activate and allow expression of the subtle bodies, and if connected to listening, influences the state of awareness.
I understand that you know a lot about the Essence work.
The Diamond Logos Training of Faisal Muqqaddam, that I followed for 12 years, opened up new doors and understanding which became very important and valuable for the singing.
As I said earlier, the singing is the experience of the soul, of our essence in its infinite and different shades. Which means of expression can convey the essential dimensions better than singing?
What are the benefits of Voicing? How would you explain it to someone who has never heard of it?
Since I don’t like to generalise, I can’t say what Voicing does specifically for each single person.
All I can say is that all the techniques, methods and approaches connected to Osho’s vision help increase self awareness and, therefore, also Voicing works on that same wavelength.
The changes which I have noticed in many of those who have journeyed through Voicing is that they are more determined to transform their life. They are more self confident and better at expressing themselves; e.g. they would more easily change faculty or change profession. They are generally more flexible and can accept change more easily. There is more self-awareness and thus it is easier for them to express what they think, feel and wish, honouring their integrity and being responsible for themselves.
The advantage of Voicing is that it can also become a creative and therapeutic tool. You can use it at any time because the voice is yours and you can use it whenever you need to connect, express and integrate any of the parts in you which are unconscious, the parts which are creating problems. You can become your own therapist!
Very important: singing is above all a pleasure and a way to be creative.
VOICING© is a registered trademark.
Interview by Marga, previously published in Osho Times (Italian edition), translated by Ramita and Punya
Pratibha de Stoppani was born in Ticino (Italian part of Switzerland) and studied interior architecture and design. In 1976 she took sannyas in Pune. In 1985 she created a meditation centre in her home and later started giving sessions and Voicing Trainings in Miasto, Italy, Pune and all over the world. She was part of Osho’s communes in Pune 1 and 2 and spent long periods of time in Rajneeshpuram. She now lives in Ponte Tresa, Switzerland. www.voicing-institute.com