The door opened, we glided out onto the stage, took a bow, and then I noticed that there were people in the audience. I began the first song of the evening.
"Don't do that!" a voice inside my head screamed as I began a gesture with my arm, "People will think that you aren't being genuine."
"That wasn't so pretty - you really can make more beautiful sounds that that."
The inner dialogue between neuroses continued as I navigated my way through the first song. Nightmarish visions of forgetting the words flew through my mind. I struggled to focus on what was at hand and stay in the text and in the present moment. I tried to base myself in reality.
The song was over. I left the stage to relax before my next set of songs. I realized that my inner critic was out of control and needed to be stopped. I listened to my colleagues sing this incredible, deep, intense Russian music, and remembered that I had a job to do, which was to share this music with the audience and offer myself in service not only to them but the music itself.
I walked out to sing again, found the reality of the song, and suddenly the unimportant surreality of the voices in my head wasn't such a distraction anymore.