Speak Up!

“Say what you mean, and mean what you say. I do.”

-Caterpillar, Alice in Wonderland

When was the last time you yelled?

I don’t mean the last time you raised your voice in an argument, or shouted “go team” at a Civil War reenactment; I mean really, truly, honest to whatever-god-you-believe-in, full release, orgasmically yelled?

Probably not too recently. In fact, the very idea is enough to trigger anxiety in some people. (“Who would hear me? What would people think? Would the police come knocking down my door? What if they thought I was—*gasp*—weird?”)

And you know what else? Most people can’t do it. Even if you parachuted them into the middle of a desert, hundreds of miles away from any other “civilized” human, and promised them water, food and a jeep chauffeured by Henry Rollins if they just, for once in their lives, yelled like they meant it—they could not.

We all carry the consequences of our upbringing into the most wild of wildernesses. For most of us, that means we speak quietly, politely, and carry loads of tension in our necks, jaws, and throats to make sure we never make any of those sounds that got us into such trouble as children. We choke ourselves off, afraid of what we might say, afraid of making a mistake, of incurring the wrath of our caretakers—who are now long gone, but still haunt our psyches in the form of the deep, chronic tension they left behind.

Now before you start formulating arguments against the desirability of a culture in which people yell at each other all the time, I should be clear that that’s not what I’m suggesting. The problem isn’t that we’re not yelling, it’s that we can’t. And what that means, fundamentally, is that our self expression is restricted—and that means a lot more than keeping our voices down.

We’re afraid of being impolite, of saying the wrong thing, of what the “other person” might think about what we say. Our chronic muscular tensions seats a Greek chorus of self-doubt and second guessing.

So we limit ourselves. We think about what we say before we say it. We run it by the chorus and ask, “Is this safe? Would you be upset? Does this sound stupid?” And in the process, we restrict our self-expression to what we think is safe, culturally and socially acceptable, and put our true convictions, our true creativity, our deep, organic authenticity in a cage.

To break out of that cage, you need to dissolve the muscle tension where it lives. Without that opening, nothing else can happen. But with that opening, anything can happen.

In the video accompanying this post, I provide a few simple but powerful techniques to get that process started NOW.

The expressions of the “voice”—singing, speaking, writing, any type of self-expression—represent the only means you have of building a bridge between who you are inside to how the world outside sees you. It’s your responsibility to build that bridge, to allow yourself to be authentically expressive, without fear and apprehension about what others might think.

We’ll be going into more detail on the neck, throat, and jaw–how to detense them, and how that detensing relates to sex, anxiety, and enlightenment–in our upcoming student’s choice course.(Course no longer available.)

Until then, say what you mean, and mean what you say. I do.


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5 Comments on “Speak Up!

  1.  by  chris

    Great exercises… the first timeS I did the “stick the tongue out as far as you can” EXERCISE, I had CRAMPS in the back and the base of it nd around the neck!!!

    •  by  riley

      Thanks, Chris.

      Yeah, opening the mouth wide and sticking out the tongue have massive and unexpected effects on the surrounding musculature.

      There are tension patterns in my neck I thought I’d never get to until I started moving the jaw and tongue.

  2.  by  Josh

    Hey Garrett and Riley,
    Thanks for all the great newsletters and info by the way!
    I was wondering what you both recommend when it comes to the need for using certain exercises in public? I can see where over time this laughing breath exercise would be very powerful, but not all that smart to do in public. Is it possible to do it under the breath without others knowing, or do you have to find a hiding place? Other exercises that would seem to have a beneficial effect in day to day social interactions I think would be just the breathing AH, face, shoulder and gagging. What are some of the ways you both use these exercises while in public?

    •  by  riley

      Thanks, Josh! That’s a good question. I’d recommend, instead of doing the exercises in public, to do the “warm-up” type exercises (those that don’t include lying down in the breathing position and doing a formal session) in the morning, and then finding a private space at other times during the day. Public space isn’t really friendly to this type of thing, and drawing undue attention to yourself could just make your resistances more powerful. Another way to think of this is that public space is what you’re working on, not what you’re working in. Think of yourself as a secret agent with the exercises as your tools.

      For example, I used to find a bathroom stall and do face stretching and gagging before teaching my first few classes of a university course. This was extremely helpful in reducing nervousness surrounding teaching a new group of people. You can imagine how doing it in front of them would have undermined the role I was trying to get comfortable in. Over time, though, and with more overall undoing, the cumulative effect of consistent work gradually made that kind of thing unnecessary.

      With that said, there are ways to do some of these things without drawing attention. The ah breath can be done very quietly–almost sub-audibly–to great effect. And the shoulders to ears can be done without making anyone wonder. So I’d say, use your judgement, and make sure you’re not just trying to impress anybody by doing something unusual in public 😉

      •  by  Josh

        Thanks a lot for taking the time to respond with your great advice, Riley. Very helpful!

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