I ‘ve always loved to sing. At camp, in school, and on family vacations I especially loved the sing-alongs. When hiking or cleaning house, or taking long solo drives, singing has been a way of connecting with myself. In times of great joy or deep sorrow, song has been the means by which I’ve connected with Spirit. But somehow through the years, my voice has become stilled, stifled. I worry about what other people might think, and so the times between songs have become farther and farther apart.

Not long ago, I attended a workshop called “The Natural Singer” that re-opened me to my love of song and helped me express what has been yearning to come through. There were all sorts of people in the workshop: the small, timid woman, whom we could hardly hear the first time she opened her mouth to share her song. There was the nightclub singer, with many years of voice training and an easy, professional presentation. There was also the gentle guy who was mostly a “shower singer” and the woman who had just divorced her husband of twenty years. She seemed brittle and remote, yet I could sense she was just aching to connect.

Each of us came for different reasons. But what we all shared was a desire to experience greater self-expression and satisfaction through our voices. Claude Stein was our teacher. Through his patient and supportive coaching–sometimes about technique (he’s been a vocal instructor for two decades), sometimes about content (he’d modify the lyrics of the chosen song to help us express something true to our own hearts)–Claude would lead us one by one to a personal breakthrough in self-expression.

What I loved most about this workshop was that we each had an opportunity not only to experience a personal breakthrough on an issue we were struggling with. We also had the divine experience of serving as healers for everyone else in the group.

For example, there was a tough guy who said he hadn’t been able to sing since he quit drinking. He used to get drunk and serenade the moon and alley cats into the wee hours. With sobriety he lost his song. I don’t remember the song he chose to share, but it didn’t matter. In no time at all, this posturing tough guy was crooning:

“Open up your heart. . . . It’s OK to open up your heart.”

His music flowed out of him and each of us felt a transformation in our own heart’s opening through this brave man opening his own.

This workshop was unapologetically affirming of heart and love and spirit. It was about feeling a deep connection with spirit through what we share at the deepest levels of being human. I have had such a long journey aching for that connection, and yet being embarrassed to speak, even to myself, of what I was afraid to seek. This weekend I had so many experiences of grace and love and presence with Spirit, in a deeply personal way, that I feel I have turned a corner on my own spiritual path.

Claude’s workshop is truly for people who desire a breakthrough in self-expression. It is for those of us who have a full-heart yearning to give. It is for the wounded who want to find the gift hidden within and to share that gift with others. It is for seekers longing to awaken to their own special calling and to gain the resolve to birth that new self into the world.

Llyn Peabody is a singer-songwriter and troubadour for the Earth. A former resident of Portland, she recently moved to Woodstock, New York, where she discovered Claude Stein and his Natural Singer Workshop.