Mark is a vocal coach and life coach based in Upstate New York. He holds a bachelor degree in music and counseling and he is passionate about helping people using voice as a tool. Mark’s Vocal Healing method grounds people in beautiful reality through promoting wellness of the mind, emotions, and body. His mental and emotional work comes from his counseling experience and much of the body work comes directly from his experience working with the human voice. Mark looks to the voice to both see tension, and as a tool to release tension. His challenge to anyone he works with is, “how can you release the tension blocking you and find full freedom?”
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00:02 Welcome everyone. This is the Resonate podcast with Aideen and my guest today is Mark Cox. Welcome Mark. Thanks Aideen. Good to be here. It’s good to have you here. I can’t wait to introduce you. And we have worked together on the Voice and Song Summit, which happened a little while ago and you were an awesome guest host. So thank you for that. Thanks for having me. Okay.
00:25 Well, first I’d like to just introduce you, Mark, a little bit. I’m going to read out your bio and just let people know a little bit about your background. And then I’m going to ask you a lot about your journey, how you got to do the kind of work you’re doing and how you support people and what you would recommend people when they’re trying to find their voice. So Mark is a vocal coach and life coach based in upstate New York. He holds a bachelor degree in music and counselling.
00:52 and he is passionate about helping people using voice as a tool. Mark’s vocal healing method grounds people in beautiful reality through promoting wellness of the mind, emotions, and body. Mark looks to the voice to both see tension and as a tool to release tension. His challenge to anyone he works with is how can you release the tension blocking you and find full freedom? Where did this come from, Mark?
01:22 How did you discover that voice was going to help people find freedom? Well, I think that I started singing and just having a lot of vocal opportunities, even from a small child. My family would sing together. I was part of different choruses and things when I was in elementary school and even community choirs and that kind of thing. By the time I was in high school, I was leading my own groups. And by the time I was in college, I was teaching voice lessons.
01:52 to even my peers who wanted to be in choirs in college, you know, and so they would come to me and say, help me. And so I would help them. So a lot of it came from realizing that my favorite people to work with were not those that simply needed some technical help with their voice. My favorite people to work with were the ones that what really was blocking them was something very deep and internal.
02:21 It was not a physical training that needed to be worked on. It was an emotional inhibition about what they were doing. And they wanted to do it, but there was something in their body that didn’t want them to do it. And there was this internal conflict. And so working through that vocally and helping them learn the saying, through that I noticed a lot of other effects in their life and they just became a more confident person.
02:50 in general. That was the beginning of the journey and got my head turning and going, I think we can take some basic vocalization and breath tools and not ask people even to learn to sing super well, but even just do these basic things and it’s going to help you along your journey to find that full freedom. Wow, it’s so interesting how
03:17 you came to that. And I know for myself, because I also studied psychology. And when I started teaching singing, it was quite a long time after, after my degree. It was many, many years later, took me a long time to have the confidence to pursue teaching in the way that I decided to teach. But it was always about finding, helping people find confidence through the voice that they exploring the voice was going to bring them somewhere. It was going to develop them further.
03:46 in some way. And that’s I knew that singing could bring confidence. And I really started to find that people did have those blocks on the way to that confidence. So it was interesting. It’s so interesting how we’re kind of on a little bit of a parallel. Yeah, it is. It is really interesting. And the other thing I would say is in my counseling work that I did, I really got tired of treating people like brains on a stick.
04:15 There’s a large degree of, whether it’s counseling or therapy, that essentially seems to be, if we can get people to say the right thing and know the right thing or believe the right thing, then we’re good. And we get to wipe our hands and send them on their merry way. And I would just watch person after person leave the room that I had been counseling them in and go, they’re not good. They’re not okay.
04:41 And it’s because we haven’t really engaged their body. And I know that they’re going to have just some real in-depth responses to things. They’re still going to be triggered by things. There’s not been any physical release for them in the processing. And that was different when you start engaging the voice. It’s a way of engaging the body, mind and emotions all at once. That’s so interesting because I have read a little bit about emotions and I’m always so interested in the purpose of our emotions.
05:10 But some people would see emotions as either positive or negative. And in the research that I did, I think the language of emotions and a couple of other books, it was saying how important even anger is to help us to know what’s going on with us, to help us to set boundaries and to know, you know, what’s OK with us and what isn’t OK with us. So.
05:33 Did you find that through the voice you were starting, were people expressing like even emotions as strong as anger in your sessions? Absolutely, absolutely. And I agree with you. I think there is no such thing as a bad emotion. They’re all good. They’re all common to the human experience and we need them all. I’ll give you a real easy illustration of that. So if we take the emotion of disgust, well,
06:02 It doesn’t normally feel good to feel disgusted with something. However, disgust is a good emotion because there are disgusting things in the world that it is good and right to be disgusted about. And in fact, when you encounter someone who does not feel disgusted at disgusting things, all of a sudden he himself has become disgusting.
06:31 which is really interesting. And so we can’t do without the, what some would label as negative emotions because they’re good and they’re positive things. We need all of them. Yeah, and it’s just finding that, you know, being aware of what’s going, because going through our minds, because sometimes if we are feeling really disgusted about something that probably shouldn’t trigger us at all, then we need to, that’s a sign that we need to…
07:00 to delve into that maybe a little or gain some more awareness around where that’s coming from. Yeah, and that’s exactly what I help people do. That’s exactly what it is. Well, you’re talking a little bit about releasing and how when you just engage the mind, it isn’t enough to help us release the energy of the emotions we’re going through. I know in one of the books I read that it spoke about emotions and use that word motion.
07:30 as motion helps release the emotions. So even movement can help the emotions. Does the voice bring movement in or do you bring movement in with the voice work you do? Absolutely. Even in what I would say a traditional voice teacher methodology, man, if you go take voice lessons, you’re gonna be doing all kinds of crazy things in the studio. You’re gonna be laying down, piling.
07:56 books on your stomach or you’re gonna be putting your hands above your head or bending over the waistline of yourself hanging, you know, you’re gonna be doing all crazy things to your body. When you enter into the phase of intentionally trying to engage the body specifically for the release of emotion, it only emphasizes those things more. What I think is particularly different is not only are we doing things with the body, but I’m actually asking people to be extremely aware of their body at the same time.
08:25 So I’m giving them the time and space to think about what it feels like to pay attention. Not everybody’s comfortable with that. Exactly. And that’s a big difference. That’s a big difference. Yeah. Definitely. I think that using the voice and learning to sing is an access point to more self awareness, more mindfulness sometimes as well. Um, so it’s really interesting. Um,
08:53 Tell me more about what kind of results people can get then from releasing those emotions. Where does it take people? Yeah, so if people have been struggling with emotions, there’s a few different ways that you might struggle. You might struggle because you just feel angry all the time, right? There’s one emotion that is just so pervasive, it just never leaves. And it’s likely that that person has tried to stuff it down and it hasn’t worked.
09:21 And so it just comes back stronger all the time. You need to think of it like a child. A child is going to be disruptive and maybe be somewhat of a bother to the adults in their life because they’re looking for attention. They’re looking for their needs to be met emotionally. Similarly, your anger needs to be acknowledged and we can actually lean into the anger rather than trying to shove it away.
09:50 And that’s actually very healing to help process that in a healthy way. The other person is the person who has experienced a bit of anger and who has successfully shut it down. And so now they just don’t get angry anymore. They don’t feel angry. That was my story for about a decade. I had shoved anger down because I was scared at what it might do to the people around me. And so I just never did anything with anger, shoved it down, shoved it down. And it wasn’t healthy. And eventually it-
10:18 disrupted my ability to be present. It disrupted my ability to be emotionally aware. And it was actually much more harmful than had I just processed it healthily. So really helping people do that in a healthy way, realizing that shoving down emotions never actually works. Yeah. And feeling them is good, not bad.
10:47 Yay. I know with this type of work that I’ve done, I’ve really been paying attention to creating very safe space for people to bring songs. Because a lot of the work I did was helping people to bring one song to a group. And it was so interesting because people would bring songs that were triggering for them sometimes, or they would continually bring in these really heart-wrenching, sad pieces of music.
11:14 And it was interesting to see how that people would evolve through that. Do you work around song as well as just the vocal exercises that you do? I primarily do work in the realm of vocal expression without songs specifically, mainly because I am working with people who are not all singers. Now, if they are a singer, then we will work with their songs. Absolutely.
11:43 but there’s a lot of people that I work with that are not singers. And so they’re not quite comfortable with just pulling out a song and singing it. And frankly, some of them would need more training just to get to the point where they can do that and do that well and in a well enough way that we could work with that. Whereas the vocalization pieces is not. But I love what you said, Aideen, about like the idea of holding space though, because no matter whether you’re using a song or you’re using the vocalization, practices, right?
12:13 In both settings, the important piece is to have safety there and to be a master holder of space and making it a safe place for people to process things that they don’t even know what’s going to come out of them sometimes. And sometimes there are sounds that come out of my clients that surprise them. They didn’t realize it was going to be that loud, you know?
12:43 They didn’t realize the emotion was going to be that intense. They didn’t realize what that was going to feel like. And so there’s a lot of surprising things that happens. And so there needs to be a safe container for that. And I tell people, if you’re working with me more on the vocalization side and the vocal healing side, or even if you’re working more on the coaching side, what really is the central piece of my work is this idea of holding safe space.
13:09 for people to explore learning lessons in vulnerability. Yeah. Because that’s what it really is about. Oftentimes when we are born, our life is like this empty house, this empty mansion. We get to run around the rooms, there’s nothing in it. It’s just fun, right? But then over time as things happen to us and we experience more of life and we learn things, we start accumulating furniture and we accumulate stuff.
13:37 And now that’s just a part of the house that we live in and that is our life. And eventually we find things that we just wish that doesn’t belong anywhere, but it’s here and we can’t throw it out because it’s a part of us. So it goes in the junk drawer, you know, and it gets chucked in there. And then that turns into a box that gets put up in a closet and pretty soon the closet is full. And so there’s this empty room that we’re just going to shove boxes in.
14:03 And eventually we have enough junk in there that we don’t want anyone to see, that we don’t want to have to deal with, that we just shut the door, we lock the door, put a china hutch in front of it, and try to forget about it. And what I am consistently inviting people to do is say, you know, if you really want full freedom, that means being able to use every square foot of your house that is your life. And I’m not going to make you open that door, but I am more than willing.
14:32 to hold your hand when you do and to help you unpack the boxes. Wow. I love that Mark. That’s what anybody would need in life. What does that freedom feel like? Because I know you want people to have that freedom, the freedom of the use of their whole house. If someone has never had that before, does that feel scary? Or what does that freedom, what can that freedom allow? And what does it, what can it feel like?
15:01 Yeah, I think in one sense, for someone who hasn’t experienced it, it can feel like the feeling that a kid would get if you’re learning to ride a bicycle, but your parent is still hanging on to the backseat. And it kind of feels like I want to learn, but don’t let go. But don’t let go. I actually don’t want freedom. I need something to hang on to. I need the training wheels, right? It can feel like that. So it can be scary.
15:28 But then at the other side of it, release of tension is another way of describing it. We have all this tension of the blockages and the things that we’re afraid of and the anxiety. And when you relax all of that and you release that, you find that freedom. It’s almost like this weight is lifted off. You can be present instead of living in regret of the past or in fear of the future and live in the present.
15:59 and be all there. That sounds very enticing. And do you find that your clients, I mean, I suppose it comes down to we get to a certain point in our lives as adults and we kind of feel, right, I should have my life together and I should know what I’m going to do and I should be doing this at this age and that kind of thing. I think for a lot of us, it’s hard to ask for that help and to
16:25 to recognize that, yeah, we may need someone to hang on to the back of the bike for the first couple of moments when you start pedaling, or we might need someone to hold our hand when we opened that door. What would you say to someone who’s having trouble asking for that help, and what would you say to encourage them?
16:46 I would tell them that it is likely that there is many things in life that have happened to them that have not been their choice. And so they need not feel bad about themselves.
17:03 for things that have been thrust upon them.
17:08 Also, I would tell them that we all need community.
17:13 Right? Whether or not you actually hire a coach professionally to help you, it doesn’t matter. We still need community. We still need that support. Every one of us needs an ally in life.
17:29 And there are times where we may have more and there’s times where we may have less because relationships come and go. There’s an ebb and flow to the relationships that we have in life. And specifically when we’re dealing with things that we’re wanting to unpack that are a little more impactful.
17:51 That’s a particular time that I think is really helpful to reach out and say, you know, someone who is doing this professionally and giving this kind of support professionally, and there are many different people that you could go to. You can go to a counselor, a therapist, a life coach, right? An intuitive vocal coach, right? You could go to a lot of different places to find that kind of support. I’m one of those, right?
18:20 but you need to find the one that works for you. My one encouragement is when you find someone, don’t neglect the body. Make sure you’re involving your physical body in the processing of whatever that is that you’re unpacking, because that’s really important. I definitely can acknowledge that. I feel myself with my own body because I had a few posture problems in my life and I felt very challenged by that, but it’s taken me on a kind of a journey.
18:49 And the first thing I had to do was allow myself to stop, you know, being angry at my own body because it was always trying to do its best and release some of that frustration. So if somebody like is very blocked and they’re not really accessing their deeper kind of wish for self-expression, have you found that your clients then sometimes end up taking up a new hobby or?
19:17 changing jobs or what kind of transformations have you noticed when people start to release some of that tension? There’s a number of different things that it could look like.
19:34 Sometimes nothing externally changes, but the way they show up does, which is everything. Sometimes there’s a need for some changes in environment and that could be a workplace change. It could be even a vocation change, going, this is not what I wanna be spending my time doing in life. They might switch to something over in a different direction.
20:04 more in line with them. I think some of the biggest changes that I see though is people are very comfortable with who they are.
20:14 and they’re very courageous about setting the boundaries and speaking what they need to the people around them. Because if we’re honest, the only person really responsible for our own safety is ourselves. And oftentimes the people that I’m working with, it’s actually their own needs and their own safety that they’re neglecting. Sometimes you’re looking out for everyone else’s and not theirs.
20:45 That’s a very good point. And you do see that a lot with them, with parents sometimes and people in positions where they are an authority, like managers that they see everybody else, but they can’t see what they need. And it’s the good ones. Yeah. It’s the good ones. That’s really the funny part. Yeah. There’s that phrase, you know, from the airlines where you put on your own mask first, and I think, you know, from my own experience, when
21:14 I’ve been, when I learned to be really kind to myself, that brought really true kindness into how I was with, I was kind to others, but when I was really kind to myself, that kindness to others had even more depth because I was doing it in a more balanced way. Yeah, that’s beautiful. So true.
21:38 So Mark, we did meet just before the last Voice and Song Summit, and we had an amazing day. I was wondering, what were your takeaways from the Voice and Song Summit, in case someone’s interested in joining us next year? Sure. So when I started doing what I’m doing now and integrating the ideas of life coaching with the vocalization and different things, I really kind of saw it as something rather unique.
22:08 that I’d never really heard of before that I’d not seen other people doing, but I knew there was something to it. Come to find out, and part of this was at the Voice and Song Summit, there’s a lot of people that saw the same thing. And I feel like it’s a collection of people that have seen some really similar things in the voice and the connections that it has to healing, to helping people both mentally and emotionally be healthy.
22:36 And it’s kind of this collection of all of these people in this one little realm. And everyone is still different because everyone has kind of created their own practice. And I think that’s what makes it so beautiful is that there is a same pagedness with everyone who’s at the summit. And yet there’s the uniqueness’s super abound and it’s amazing.
23:02 Well, I was really glad that we met in time for you to be a host, and I hope that you will be a speaker next year. What would you like to leave our listeners with? Is there anything in particular that you want to say to encourage people to start exploring their voice as a tool to finding themselves and finding that freedom? Yeah, I think ask yourself. Where am I not showing up for me?
23:33 Where am I not being heard? Maybe where am I not listening to myself?
23:41 Well, that’s very profound. That idea of listening to yourself is something a lot of people miss, I think. Yeah, and we tend to shove things down and say, oh, I’m just a little fearful and I need to get over it.
23:57 But there’s more to it than that, there always is. And we need to stop and listen and see what’s going on. When our emotions speak, they’re telling the truth.
24:08 I love that. It may not always be the truth about what we think it is, but it’s the truth somewhere. We need to find out. We need to find that, find that space. And your body tells the truth as well.
24:23 That’s something I’ve learned very much so. And it’s all that tension. It just gets stored somewhere when we don’t acknowledge it. And it’s been a big life lesson for me that I can’t just bulldoze my way through and expect it to be okay. Yeah.
24:45 Okay, well, Mark, I’m really pleased that you decided to join us today. And I know that you offer group facilitation for wellness retreats. Would you like to talk a little bit about that and let people know what you do? Sure. So there’s a number of different workshops that I do. My main practice is one-on-one, but it’s actually hyper effective in the right kind of group setting. And so if you have a group that you’re a part of, or if you’re running a retreat,
25:14 center of some kind and you’re looking for facilitators to come in and be a part of running retreats. I would love to bring the free voice practice there. So there’s several different workshops, some center around the voice in the mind, some around the voice and the emotions, the voice in the body is another one. There’s another one that is a voice versus fear, which really could almost be its own retreat all on its own.
25:41 Uh, cause that’s a huge, huge topic, especially when you’re in a group setting. Because what I give people to do is that I’m not just talking to them. These are things that we’re practicing together. And so again, that, that core value of we are together learning how to be vulnerable and to hold safe space for one another, because otherwise that, that group facilitation, those workshops that I’m, I’m trying to run, they’re not going to be helpful.
26:09 if we’re not being safe for one another. And so that’s, that’s really at the core of all of it. And so that, that can be extremely helpful. Uh, I even think this might be outside the box of people that would even listen to me, but I think it could be really helpful for corporate teams. I think so because, um, when you are vulnerable with people that you work with, if you, if you truly can be, that creates a bond and it. Yeah.
26:37 And, you know, creates more friendship as well and understanding and compassion. It does. And I think in a wellness retreat concept or a construct for that context like that, what these retreats really provide is opportunities of self-awareness. People will know themselves better because of having been a part of the workshops. But not only that, but they will have felt a community that accepts them. Wow, that’s good.
27:08 And when you feel a community that accepts you, it helps teach you that you can also accept you.
27:16 Hallelujah is all I can say. It, I mean, my journey to loving and accepting myself, really, I mean, I had to get a lot of help because I was being so hard on myself in my life. And for me, the kind of the course ended up being kind of a spiritual one because I went to see a saint called Amma, she’s from India. And I felt that having visited with her, I felt this,
27:45 Somehow she had this very loving energy and I could feel it in my body. I started to feel that love, you know, started to recognize that feeling again. And, well, it’s a beautiful journey when you love yourself. I mean, I hold myself to high standards, but I forgive myself so fast because I know that my intentions are good and, you know, I want to get better, but I don’t want to be hard on myself to get better.
28:16 Yeah, and how we treat ourselves really matters. And as you said before, I think just earlier in this conversation, how you treat yourself will overflow into how you treat others. Yeah. It’s going to happen. And so sometimes if you tend to be a harsh person externally, it might be a clue that there’s something going on inside. Yeah. If you tend to not…
28:43 speak up for yourself and set boundaries well with other people around you. That’s also a clue of something going on inside and your relationship with yourself needs some work first. Yeah, I feel a little bit like it’s people that need to realize that there is a treasure within them and even if it takes digging through some unpleasant emotions.
29:11 And looking at some times in your life that you don’t really want to look at, there is something valuable underneath that, that it’s worth taking the time to discover and to get the help around so that you can be free again, that you can really let that go. Absolutely. I really believe that every single person has a unique and authentic voice and the world needs it. So…
29:41 It’s worth the work to uncover it. Yeah, I believe that. And Mark, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the show today. I just loved our conversation and I will have your contact details in the show notes and I would just encourage anyone listening to follow those little clues that are bringing you towards your yourself, you know, sometimes you’re finding yourself.
30:10 through your hobbies or through music or through singing or through the help of a counselor or a life coach. But keep moving forward because I want everyone to discover that treasure within themselves too. Beautiful, Aideen. Well, well said. Such a pleasure being here. Thank you so, so much for having me. And thank you so much for the work that you are doing. Well, I love the work I’m doing, so it makes it very easy.
30:38 Finally, I did find my vocation, thank goodness. So thank you all for listening. We will see you again at the next episode of the Resonate podcast. Thank you, Mark Cox for joining us today and goodbye.