How I became a singer through a fighting spirit

Back in the days where I wrote my first songs, I hated my voice. I saw myself as songwriter and guitarist but never a singer! I tried working together with a male singer for a short period in Scotland before moving to Germany. I had to record my voice with my song-arrangements, so as to give him an idea of the vocals I was looking for. It ended up as an embarrassingly thin, unconfident and out of tune sound to my ears. He told me I should stick to playing the guitar and I agreed promptly.  Any singing career was seemingly buried for ever in that moment!

Once in Germany, I continued to write songs and embarked upon an endless search for the perfect singer. I heard many styles and levels of accomplishment along the way, from both female and male voices, but I was never satisfied. I knew what I wanted –  a clear, highish pop voice –  but nothing fitted the bill entirely and sometimes there was a chemistry problem.

After a few years I did discover a singer with a voice that came about as close to my expectations as was acceptable. She was easy to get on with, too, and we seemed to have a large amount of common musical ground. So we started a project together which began with a covers programme (she believed in that strategy of slowly introducing original material into the repertoire in order to be able to get gigs – I didn't agree particularly but saw no other option than to follow this plan).

We did a few concerts and put a lot of work into it, both being perfectionist, and I had a lot of optimism for the future regarding our project. She forced me to sing some songs at gigs myself, which in turn showed me how with practice I actually could produce a reasonable sound, at least for a few numbers! I began to think I might be able to pull off singing one or 2 of my own pieces myself, so I started going to an open mic to practice these songs even though I was pretty nervous about it. This was my first, small breakthrough.

Then one day we were due to rehearse for a gig the next week at the same bar that also held the open mic. Quite a number of friends were enthusiastic about coming. She came round to my flat and informed me that she could no longer work with me due to a number of reasons including not having enough time for her own band. Also, she said that the bar owner at the open mic venue had replaced us at short notice because some New York jazz star happened to be in town and available on that evening to perform himself. The first bit of news made me very sad and disappointed. I saw the loss of a great opportunity and waste of hard effort committed to our duo. The other news angered me greatly: Even if we were an “unknown" act it was totally disrespectful to simply discard us and so late in the day.

However, that same evening the open mic was happening, and with as much determination as I could muster, I resolved to play 3 new songs there as I had planned before the bad news. I felt abysmal: severely let down, disrespected with that selfish business practice, low in energy and still hyper-nervous about singing on stage! But I dragged myself down to the bar and sang those pieces! I amazed myself like never before, I don't think I had ever felt so liberated. I can't remember if I sang particularly well, technically, but I didn't care about that aspect. At night, in bed, I couldn't get to sleep for ages. I was simply astounded, hardly believing that I was that person who acted so courageously. It felt completely alien to me. It took me about a day to come to terms with my new-found strength. And then I had a realisation in the typical fashion of a light being switched on: I was able to sing all of my songs myself and that's exactly what I do now with joy and a great amount of satisfaction!

I have often since encouraged others to adopt a similar approach when they feel imprisoned by a fear of embarking upon a dream, or aren’t able to see their own potential. One example was an amateur fiddler who went to a celtic session almost weekly but put herself down amongst the "much better" professionals so much that she barely lifted her instrument to play herself. I forced her to ignore her voice of fear, and simply get on with it. Only 1-2 years later she was already a passionate, happy performer in front of any crowd!

Once you start the ball rolling in yourself you can inspire those around you to break free.

Transcending the state of Hell

An essential part of the Buddhist organisation I am involved with, is the aspect of practical training in order to grow. This involves doing so-called “activities" where you try to commit yourself 100% to creating happiness for other members by taking on some responsibility at a meeting or event. That could be anything from greeting people warmly as they arrive, to giving a study presentation. No matter what obstacles you encounter along the way, you are taught to never give up regardless, unless of course it would harm you to do so. I am deeply grateful for these trainings because they've taught me that I have more empowerment potential than I sometimes believe when I'm in low spirits.

These activities are a cornerstone in accessing the world of empowerment, striving for the greater good and creating happiness as a result for yourself, too. When you set noble goals you will often be presented with seemingly insurmountable obstacles along the way. These are precisely what you need in order to learn how to win against your Demons. This type of training, therefore results in enormous strength and hope if done correctly.

Because I am a musician, I am often asked to contribute to Buddhist gatherings by playing one or 2 pieces. One such occasion was the ceremony for the receiving of a scroll by some new members, in this case a married couple. This scroll is meditated in front of as it symbolises a mirror of one's life. The ceremony is regarded as a very special occasion because the recipient is deemed as having committed themselves to the Buddhist philosophy, so it's like starting a new life of hope, happiness and growth.

I was to perform at about 11 AM, not early at all, but because of my negative and apathetic state of mind the night before I stayed out late and slept little. I hadn't taken my responsibility too seriously. I was in a foul mood the next morning and had to drag myself along to the meeting begrudgingly. I thought I would never be able to create a vibe of joy with my own attitude, so what the hell was I doing it for anyway? But the quiet voice of experience and wisdom inside me made me carry on. I sat in the audience watching the others smiling, relaxed and looking particularly Buddhist in the positive sense! They clapped enthusiastically as the new, committed couple joyfully received their scrolls, radiating love towards one another. It just made me feel even worse. How could I possibly pull this performance off in the right spirit? I had never been so resentful of having to play.

On zhe other hand my wiser self told me to do it to the letter – to strive with all my might and give it my best shot for the sake of creating happiness for others. Transformation would be round the corner. It was a mental battle literally up to the last second. As a professional performer, I am normally able to pull off a convincing act even when I am considerably tired, and most people don't notice any demons that might be whining away inside my head. So I played “well". People really appreciated it. I didn't feel joyous in the middle of the piece but that quickly changed as I recognised that I had managed to give people a great feeling. I then was filled with incredible satisfaction knowing that I had overcome the state of Hell once again and all had benefited!

What I learned from this experience yet again was the potential in the darkest times for positive transformation. Once you can recognise that you have it in you, and focus your efforts on using that power, you are again able to see that you are an amazing person.

Experience in conflict resolution

I once bought some expensive city tyres for my mountain bike. I had checked with the shop assistant first regarding their compatibility with my wheel-measurements. After getting them set up with the usual brute force required, I went for a ride. I immediately noticed a bump in the movement of the back wheel which didn't go away and I could see it would quickly become irritating. I tried letting air out and pumping it back in again to help, but with no success. So I decided to return the annoying item to the shop: I felt that either I had been given the incorrect size, or the product was defective.

When I got to the shop I spoke to the same assistant as before, informing him I wanted a refund because one of the tyres didn't fit despite his advice. He quickly became angry and stated that there were dirt marks on it. In fact I had only been down the dry street and back so it was negligible, albeit visible. I got annoyed with his reaction, retorting that I could only find out that the tyre was defective by cycling on it, so some insignificant marks or dirt were inevitable. He was fuming at me by now but he levered the tyre around for a few minutes on the rim, claiming that the bump would level out with time.

Afterwards I sceptically left the shop and hopped on my bike, only to find that the bump was still as bad as before! Furious, I saw the assistance as a demonic arsehole who didn't respect his customers. On the way home it suddenly struck me that because of my anger, I had forgotten to exchange some unused brakes I'd bought previously. I cursed because I didn't want to have to go and deal with that nasty man again but I also didn't want to make a separate trip and I was only 5 minutes away. Then several things dawned on me. 1st of all I realised that there was a chance here to make an experience of transforming the situation into something positive. I saw that it hadn't even occurred to me that he might be right about the bump disappearing – I was basically afraid that life was against me in that instance. I also recognised that the assistant was alone in the shop and had to deal with several customers almost simultaneously and was probably stressed out. Furthermore, it was likely that he often had to deal with people bringing things back in ignorance and with an attitude of arrogance (through fear of losing money etc), claiming to have facts which he knew to be completely wrong from plenty of work experience.

It was then obvious that it was up to me to reconcile. I was determined to go back to the shop, exchange the brakes and show the man respect as another human being with his own set of pressures. Upon entering, without even having uttered a word myself, he came up smiling and put his arm around my shoulder, saying, “hey, I'm really sorry, but it was stressful having to hold the shop alone with all those customers." I too, beamed at him, replying that it was no problem at all – I understood completely. We then sorted the breaks out and parted on cheerful terms!

This story may not seem very dramatic, but for me it was another milestone because I knew that only through my decision to live consciously and the resulting successes that I experienced, did I have the hope and courage to deal with all my negative vibes towards this other human being. Otherwise I would have harboured a grudge, and these things tend to repeat themselves and build up a belief system that sees little or no potential change in other people (or ourselves) in conflict with us.