Category Archives: Sound work

No More Auction Block for Me

Given the state of the political world this past year, I have started thinking about protest music – songs that make a statement about the need for social change.

Protest music has been around a very long time – as long as there has been music and something to protest.  At times the complaint is hidden within allegorical lyrics, or the tone of the song contradicts the content – for example it can sound like a ‘happy’ song though the words betray that.  In other cases, happy lyrics can be sung in a sad sounding key.  Other protest songs are musical storytelling – an oral history through song.

‘No More Auction Block for Me’ is clearly a direct statement of protest about slavery by simply stating ‘no more’.  ‘No more whip lash’, ‘no more pint of salt for me’.  It is powerful in its simplicity.

Can there be healing in a protest song?

In looking for the first song to write about here, I first listened to the version sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock.  It sounds more like traditional black spiritual music that I have heard.  It was very powerful to hear the voices harmonize and weave through the melody and lyrics of the song.  I then listened to Paul Robeson’s version – I initially did not like it due to what seemed to be a British accent, but as I heard each of these versions as well as more modern versions, his low voice and the lyrics started to reverberate through my body.  I got images of my root chakra and glimpses of an energetic shattering of the fear and immobilization created on that auction block.  This happened with ‘casual’ listening in my living room, with no personal knowledge of being a descendant of a slave.  I can only imagine the impact during a sound meditation.  The lyrics are written below as well as links to three different versions: Sweet Honey in the Rock, Paul Robeson, and Odetta.  All touch one’s soul in a slightly different way.

Take a listen and let me know how they impact you.  Does the melody sound familiar?  It was subsequently used by Bob Dylan for his song ‘Blowing in the Wind’

No more auction block for me.                  No more, no more.                                        No more auction block for me.             Many thousands gone

No more driver’s lash for me.                    No more, no more.                                        No more driver’s lash for me.               Many thousands gone

No more whip lash for me.                          No more, no more.                                         No more pint of salt for me.                  Many thousands gone

No more auction block for me.                   No more, no more.                                        No more auction block for me.              Many thousands gone

Paul Robeson

Odetta

Sweet Honey in the Rock

Emotional and Spiritual Hoarding

Emotional and Spiritual Hoarding

While thinking about what to write about, I wanted to explore the idea of ‘starting your day over again’. A key part of being able to start your day over is being able to make an honest self appraisal and say or do whatever is necessary to stop, regroup, and change your path. In the process of writing that post (I subsequently changed the title of that post to ‘Honest Self Appraisal without Self Loathing’), I remembered the John Lennon song Just Like Starting Over, and thought that I would use that song for that post. When I saw the video though, I saw that it did not really convey the idea that I had intended. The video itself made me uncomfortable, as ;I watched this declaration of love, all I could think about was that he had been shot and killed.  It felt terribly painful and ironic. This video has remained in my consciousness, gnawing at me, knowing that there was something important there, which I could not quite put my finger on…

Another aspect of ‘taking care of oneself’ is something that I am calling ’emotional and spiritual hoarding’: holding on to your love and happiness so that it’s not as painful when you lose it. Not loving fully, not living fully with this vague notion that somehow you’re better off, ‘safer’, less pained when things turn sour. ‘Don’t climb to the mountaintop, the fall will kill you’.

Emotional and spiritual hoarding is a way of coping with the fear of having an overwhelming painful experience. Being afraid of being hurt and so not living fully. Tucking your love into the back of your drawer, hiding away your passion in the corner of your closet, not admitting to yourself what you really want to do. What is your reaction to this video? Do you thing that the pain (of his death) was due to the fact that they loved each other? Is the way to avoid this type of pain to pull back and not ‘go there’ with others?

Psychotherapy helps with connecting the dots of past experiences and current emotional issues. Energy work helps with releasing the blockages that keep us in emotional trenches. Working with sound is especially helpful for those who cannot quiet their inner critic.

A Shaman in Kansas

What would Dorothy have done following her return from the land of Oz? She got back home by clicking her heels three times and repeating a mantra to herself: ‘there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home’ until she did get back home.
Then, when back home, nobody believed she had been on this amazing journey in the land of Oz.
The movie ends at this point but if the story were to continue, what would have happened?
She would have continued her journey. She would have looked for answers to understand what happened to her, and would learn what she would need to do to get answers to her questions and to continue to grow.

She would have gone through a phase of not speaking about her experiences, not wanting to experience the scorn of disbelief, but would instead go on long, contemplative walks. She’d sit on a rock, close her eyes, and in her mind, go back to that land. As she did this, overtime, she would find herself reaching new insights. New insights about herself as well as new ideas on actions to take that would enable her growth while living in Kansas. The first action would be to no longer be silent about her experiences.

We all sometimes feel like we are living in Kansas, or sometimes we just work there – existing in a dustbowl where nothing really thrives and everyone barely makes enough to get by. We imagine, fantasize, about a life ‘somewhere over the rainbow’ but rarely take action. We all have the ability, however, to have that colorful life on this side of our dreams. And, it does not necessarily involve leaving Kansas. It involves contemplation, gratitude, and acknowledging and experiencing the loving relationships that are already there. What does need to shift is our sense that we don’t innately have the power to change our circumstances – clicking our heels, changing our attitude and taking action.

What is your Kansas? What can you change about your attitude? What is a small action that you can take today? I would love to hear from you.

Throat Chakra

Chakra five is the center related to communication through sound, vibration, self-expression, and creativity. It is the realm of consciousness that controls, creates, transmits, and receives communication, both within ourselves and between each other. It is the center of dynamic creativity, of synthesizing old ideas into something new. Its attributes include listening, speaking, writing, chanting, telepathy, and any of the arts – especially those related to music and sound.” Anodea Judith

Prayer and meditation : prayer is talking to God and meditation is listening for the answer. The problem is that being in our own head during meditation is like sitting in a crowded bar – you can’t carry on a conversation.

Chakra five – the throat chakra is where our inner world, perceptions and our experience are expressed. We tell our stories, express our feelings and we are creative. We reconnect with sacred sounds and our higher consciousness through the fifth chakra. We ask for things. Chakra five is where our idea of how things ought to be meets how we really are.

Part of the effects of energetic damage to the throat chakra is that we come to place greater importance on how we ‘ought’ to be, at the expense of expressing ourselves authentically to the world. We don’t know what we feel, what we really like or what we want or we may know, but are afraid to say so and hide our true selves. We worry about what people will think; wonder what the ‘right’ thing is to say or the ‘right’ way to say it. We lose touch with how we feel inside, focusing instead at trying to guess at what other people are thinking or figuring out what they want to hear.

“Be careful about what you pray for, you just might get it”

Exercises for opening the throat chakra:

lion pose – you make a ‘ha’ sound while opening up your face – wide mouth, sticking your tongue out as far as possible, open your eyes as wide as possible. (if you google lion pose, you will get a hefty amount of images that will help guide you)

toning – I wrote about this in a previous post: http://wp.me/p3PoH2-x

Part of the work involved in opening up the throat chakra is getting in touch with your authentic self, accepting that imperfect self and then taking the risk of being more authentically you to the people around you. It is important to start with people you know and trust that they will support you as you open up.

It’s Inevitable – How to Save the World

I am requesting that everybody reading this post set aside 1 minute each day to contemplate on healing the world / the universe. I have my alarm set to go off every evening at 9pm. At that time, I stop what I am doing and visualize the planet earth. I visualize healing energy to geographic locations that are experiencing political unrest, natural disasters or man-made disasters. I usually visualize blue, violet, or green healing energy to a particular spot or enveloping the whole globe.

I actually had started doing this a while back, but had slacked off for the past month or so. This morning in a meditation though, I got the thought to start doing this again and to put the word out so more people will do it too.

Below is a quote from David Bohm’s ‘Wholeness and the Implicate Order’.

“One might say: ‘Fragmentation of cities, religions, political systems, conflict in the form of wars, general violence, fratricide, etc., are the reality. Wholeness is only an ideal, towards which we should perhaps strive.’ …. Rather, what should be said is that wholeness is what is real, and that fragmentation is the response of this whole, to man’s action, guided by the illusory perception, which is shaped by fragmentary thought. So what is needed is for man to give attention to his habit of fragmentary thought, to be aware of it, and thus bring it to an end. Man’s approach to reality may then be whole, and so the response will be whole.”

I see so many commercials for ‘end of the world’ shows on TV. Then there’s the news programs that report on ever increasing random violence. It’s gotten so bad that I recently imagined myself getting a gun for protection. Prayer and energy work was not on the table. It’s pretty easy to get carried away from a media-influenced world view. Through that lens, prayer and energy work is easily forgotten.

But there is another lens, another framework to view all this violence and discord on this planet. This lens which includes ‘all there is’ allows for individuals to be able to make a difference. ‘All there is’ includes us. We can make a difference not by donating money or marching in a protest (though those are good too) but through prayer and energy work.

David Bohm was a contemporary / student of Einstein. What he is saying is the same as many people say, such as Marianne Williamson, Louise Hay, Ekhart Tolle, and various ‘New Age’ type people.

Many years ago I read ‘Dancing Wu Li Masters’ by ….. Which connects spirtuality/ New Age ideas and quantum physics. At the time, I was entering into some spiritual practices that my skeptic mind was having difficulty with – I did not want to be ‘deluded’ into believing in something that wasn’t really true. This book helped me take my next few spiritual steps.

This link is to an earlier post of mine from a couple of years ago, entitled ‘How to Save the World’ which approaches this idea from different angle: How To Save the World

Let me know if you start this 1 minute practice, and if you have other ‘world healing’ practices let me know, let US know, as well. It’s ALL GOOD! If you still have doubts, that’s fine too! It’s ALL GOOD!

You Spot It, You Got It

One indirect way that fears rear their ugly head is to take the form of projection – we believe others are feeling something that we in fact are feeling, but are unable to acknowledge: ‘THEY think I’m _____’; ‘THEY are saying ______’. It is then easier to focus on angry feelings: ‘ how dare someone judge me or gossip about me.’
Projecting your own fears makes them unmanageable because it is impossible to control what someone else is thinking or doing. But if you identify and ‘own’ your feelings, then it becomes more likely that you can work through them. You can become more active in getting the necessary skills or support; You can
process with someone who knows you and can give you more accurate feedback.

Chakra framework

The chakras energetically hold all of our life memories. Throughout our lives, our consciousness is impacted by the events of our lives. If we do not or are not allowed to process these events in a functional way, our interpretation of these events is what leads us down the road of shame; self blame; secrecy; automatic thoughts or automatic feelings that no longer apply. If you journal, reread passages from different years of your life. Is there a theme that emerges? A theme will most likely emerge in the interpretations you make, which tend to center on fear or shame.

Chakra work gets around over-analyzing data. It is important to have an understanding of your issues through psychotherapy and/or self-help groups. Chakra work is not a short cut around the traditional process of psychotherapy and possibly painful emotional work; but it does help release emotions / thoughts that have been hidden from view. Sound healing restores balance to your chakras. Depending on where you are in your personal healing – chakra work will enhance or deepen the work that you have already done/are doing and lead you to greater freedom from the shame or fear based thoughts.

Sacral Chakra

As we work our way up the chakras, it is important to remember that energy flows downwards as well as upwards. All chakras are active and influence each other both positively and negatively depending on our history and what we have worked on as well as what we are currently acutely dealing with.

As we move from the first chakra to the second, our energy expands: From earth to water, there is a liberation of energy. Once you are safe and your basic needs are met, there is now time for pleasure and joy.

There is the image of a child on a beach, running towards the ocean, then running back to shore for safety. Each phase of childhood development is faced with this cycling between risk and safety: being able to experiment with joy, play and pleasure while having a safe ‘home base’. Trauma, shame, inability or lack of opportunity to process a difficult event or even cultural or religious mores connected to the work of the second chakra leads possibly to impact a person’s ability to risk joy, to risk pleasure. Imagine one extreme of being thrown in the ocean in order to learn to swim – sink or swim. Or the other extreme of being held back from even getting close to the water because ‘you never know what could happen’.

Addictions are a part of second chakra work. They are a way of seeking joy, pleasure and a way of avoiding pain. Addictions may be due to earlier trauma, but addiction may be due to having the genetic/cultural or familial propensity towards an addictive behavior, without necessarily having a trauma or situation that is ‘making’ you drink or do something else addictively.

The chakras energetically hold all of our life and past-life memories. Throughout our lives, our consciousness is impacted by the events of our lives. It is also impacted by our collective history – as a gender, race, cultural group. If we do not or are not allowed to process these events in a functional way, our interpretation of these events is what leads us down the road of shame, self blame, secrecy, automatic thoughts or automatic feelings that may have been helpful or appropriate, but no longer apply. If you journal, reread passages from different years of your life. Is there a theme that emerges? A theme will most likely emerge in the interpretations you make, which tend to center on fear or shame. Same play, different actors. Or like I used to like to joke ‘I was in the same relationship for many years, the only thing that changed was their social security number.’

It is important to have an understanding of your issues. Chakra work/sound healing is not a short cut around painful emotional work, but it does help release emotions / thoughts that have been hidden from view. Chakra work/ sound healing gets around over-analyzing historical data, also called rumination. Sound healing restores balance to your chakras. Depending on where you are in your personal healing – chakra work/sound healing will enhance or deepen the work that you have done/are doing and lead you to greater freedom from the shame or fear based thoughts.

**I want to give thanks and credit to Anodea Judith, PhD, who is inspiring me with her published book on the chakras: Wheels of Life, and whose work and way of looking at the chakras greatly influences my thinking**

creating a sacred space

sacred space In order to begin the practice of meditation one needs to create a sacred space. Sacred spaces are not just meant to be in cathedrals, churches or other special locations. A sacred space is an area that you set aside for yourself – a space where you can spend some time in prayer, that is dedicated to prayerful thinking and can have objects that are spiritual or contemplative in nature; or maybe they are simply pretty to look at. A candle, statue, rosary, sage, incense are some items that come to mind. Depending on your spiritual inclinations, you could have a cross; a Buddha statue; or prayer beads – whatever calls to you. It is a space, area, spot that is not used for other things – like placing the remote, or TV Guide, or last night’s glass of soda.

This sacred space does not have to be big. It could be a placemat with some items on it that are important to you, possibly a daily meditation book or even an index card with your favorite prayer written on it that you can read aloud during your prayer time. Maybe your sacred space is portable – you put it out, pray, and then put it away in a safe place. Possibly, your sacred space is in a discreet location – something that only you would know was sacred – such as corner of the room or spot behind a curtain that no one goes near.

As you think about creating your sacred space, what are the thoughts or feelings that come up? For some it may be centered on issues of safety or privacy. For others, there may be thoughts/feelings of unworthiness – feeling embarassed about setting aside a space for meditation and prayer. Who are the people in your household ? Are they supportive of something like this? Are you afraid to find out?

sacred space

Write down your thoughts, no matter what they are. Write down all your desires, concerns, fears, hopes related to setting up a sacred space. I’d like to hear from you what your obstacles are to creating a sacred space for yourself. This is the work. The inner work does not begin after the sacred space is created, the inner work is getting to the emotional place to be able to have one – to get through all the issues, whether real or imagined, that block setting up that space.

When working on yourself doesn’t feel like you’re working on yourself

When you’re in pain and life is hard; when your self esteem is at its low point and you are struggling. As you work on your issues, you work through painful feelings and you feel like this struggle counts as ‘working on yourself’, and it is. One way of coping through difficult times is by listening to music. You can listen to happy music that inspires you and changes your mood. Or you can, like I have preferred doing, listen to music that expands or plays out your feelings in way that you are not able to. The song helps you emote.

The video above is best reflects my self-esteem when it’s at its lowest point. I imagine my self-esteem taunting me sarcastically in the lyrics to this song. Paradoxically, it makes me feel better.

Another way of working through feelings is by using sound. Sound without a melody and without lyrics. The focus is on the vibration of the notes, and the harmony between the notes. Using sound and vibration for healing does not rely on words to process the feelings. It does not require the use of the left side of your brain – the logical, thinking side.

A simple practice that you can do to begin understanding the use of sound as a healing tool is toning. Toning helps with reaching a meditative state and getting some vibrational movement into your body and through your energetic fields.

Sit down in a comfortable position, sit cross legged on the floor; or in a chair with both feet flat on the floor. Preferably without shoes on.

Do 1:2 breathing: Inhale slowly through your nose, hold your breath briefly and then exhale slowly through your mouth. While inhaling, count up – for example when I inhale slowly I can count (in my head) up to 10. So then, on the exhalation, double it to 20.

When you feel comfortable, on the exhalation instead of silently breathing out, start toning by saying vowels. Say each vowel 3 times to start. As you say each of these vowels, place your hand on your heart chakra and notice the vibration that each vowel creates. Place your hand on your solar plexus or throat chakra and see if you can feel the vibration. Experiment with different notes, different vowels to see what you feel. Don’t worry if you can’t actually feel the vibration initially, the vibrational energy follows your intention.

As you do this on a regular basis, you may notice a greater affinity to a particular vowel; so you can feel free to say that particular vowel more often.

say ‘aaah’ (as in ‘pot’)

say ‘ehh’ (as in ‘fest’)

say ‘eee’ ( as in ‘feet’)

say ‘oh’ ( as in ‘fold’)

say ‘u’ ( as in ‘food’)

If you are new to using sound as a way of healing, toning through difficult times may not feel like you are ‘working on yourself’, but it is! One aspect of toning is the meditation which is calming; and then the toning vibration clears up emotional and energetic blocks that allows you to have greater clarity about your situation.

Let me know if you try this exercise and tell me how it goes! As always, if you have any questions, feel free to email me or ask in the comments section.

What is meditation and why should I do it?

Everybody talks about meditation, but I’m not really sure what the benefit is. I sit down, can’t sit down cross-legged like they show in the pictures; and then I try to be quiet, but all I really do is continue thinking about stuff. Is it really possible to stop thinking? Yeah, I know, you are supposed to ‘notice’ the thoughts as they drift by, but not get caught up in the content of the thought. Eventually, your mind is supposed to become still…

Up until not too long ago, I have been saying/ thinking the above. I liked the idea of meditating to get to a calmer state, but it just wasn’t happening. Every once in a while, I would resolve to start meditating. My attempts at meditation would just eventually whither into nothingness; or even sometimes increased anxiety. I could not stop my stinkin’ thinkin’. Being a skeptical sort of person, I could not really see the connection between meditation and ‘being better’. I am not a ‘bliss bunny’. Bliss bunny is a term that a former sound & music teacher used for individuals who are … well, bliss bunnies. The way I conceptualize it is people who are eternal hippies; forever happy, smelling flowers; twirling around in tie-dye clothes, with no obvious source of income and no apparrent worries about it either. Not. Me.

Although that persona , if real, is appealing; I never really believed it when I saw it in others; and I definitely did not think that this was an achievable state of mind for me. I do realize though, that the part of me that disbelieves ‘bliss bunnies’ is exactly the same judgmental; critical aspect of myself that judges and criticizes me and has at times been the obstacle to me pursuing certain goals.

The only times that I have felt in a meditative zone was when bicycling on long stretches of road – where I basically focussed on my pace and not much else. Those instances though, were few and far between.

Now however, I do meditate. I still don’t sit down an ‘Meditate’ with a capital ‘M’, but I do sit down on a daily basis, in the morning and in the evening and engage in a form of meditation. I sit down and do breathing exercises; I sit down and tone., I sit down and I drum. This gives me a focus. It allows me to open my mind to the universal energies. (Yes, I did I just say that) I still think, I even still have “stinkin’ thinkin’ ” at times, but mostly, I can get into the drumming or the toning and ‘defragment’ my brain(1).

My goal in this blog is to post different exercises to facilitate getting into a meditative state. Exercises that have worked for me and hopefully for you too!

I would love to hear about your experiences with meditation; and let me know what works or doesn’t work for you.

(1) I read this analogy somewhere which is in terms I can understand, but I don’t remember which book it was in- as soon as I find it again, I will post it here.