Sound Meditation

Greetings, thanks for visiting this page on my website. I have written below some more detail about the power of sound as meditation, sound for relaxation, and sound for healing, which is a field of experience I have been working with since approximately 2005, and forever expanding! There is countless evidence in the modern world that now shows that when someone meditates, s/he enters into a brainwave state like alpha and theta, which is highly beneficial to the body, nervous system, emotions, mind, and spiritual aspects. Meditation with sound can be such a powerful way to realise stillness, but most people today have forgotten how to listen deeply. I am passionate about sharing the beautiful power of therapeutic-based music and sound, and learning to listen deeply, with the community, and wish to explain in more depth some of the inspiration behind my work in this area. Hope you enjoy the read. Thanks, Namaste, Heather Frahn.

~ Sound Meditation, Sound Relaxation, and Nada Yoga ~

Listening-Singing-BowlOne of the key principles of working with sound as a therapeutic tool, is paradoxically, to become aware of silence – the inner silence that exists preceding all sounds, and indeed all phenomena that pass through our moment-to-moment experience. Through listening mindfully and deeply to sounds external to us, we can learn to become aware of ‘that which listens’ inside of us, and know sound and its opposite – silence. Touching this silent space, or inner sound within can bring much clarity, openness, relaxation, healing, realisation, and flow in one’s life and existence.

When we listen with mindfulness, we learn to listen deeply, and learn how to listen to sounds in great detail, but also with a relaxed awareness that doesn’t get attached to sounds being pleasant or unpleasant. Sounds from ancient monophonic instruments like Himalayan singing bowls, and Chinese gongs, are often used for ‘deep listening’ because of their interesting complexity in the sound with overtone harmonics, and also the sound is generally relaxing (when played by someone who is experienced with these instruments) and therefore, our bodies ‘open up’ to the sounds and entire experience of sound meditation because we’re more relaxed.

There is an ancient meditation technique dating back to the Vedic traditions called ‘Nada Yoga’, meaning ‘the yoga of sounds’. And it is through working with various sound based meditation methods that can bring inner silence, inner stillness, and receptive awareness. All of these states of mind-being, are touching one’s own ‘natural awareness’, the awareness that is not the human ego, not the thinking mind, not the body, but rather, the eternal, genderless, ageless, timeless stillness within that is revealed through practicing various forms of meditation and yoga. Some methods of ‘sound meditation’ or ‘nada yoga’ are playing musical instruments, listening to music, attending a soundbath or soundshower, vocalising various sounds (i.e.: chakra tones, mantras, singing overtone harmonics).

I really like the following explanation of Nada Yoga by the “Sound Meditation San Francisco” website. And I quote…

Sound is a river to receptivity. When we discuss sound, we’re talking about motion in the air around us. The frequency of waves in the air around us. We measure that in hertz- waves cycles per second. Human hearing lies in the range of 16 and 20,000 hertz. Although we may not “hear” all the frequencies that exist in our world, we are affected by all of them, and we affect them with our own sounds and activities as well. That’s where “The Yoga of Sound” comes into play. The classical term for the yoga of sound is “Nada Yoga”. The word “Nada” means a “loud sounding or droning or rushing”, and it can refer to any sound, whether linguistic or nonlinguistic. It’s best translated as “the currents of sound” that exist in the human body and in the universe. The original texts on Nada Yoga (the Nada Bindu Upanishad) date back between 500 and 200 BC. These texts focused mostly on the sound “Om”, a mystic sound we’ll discuss in depth further in this article. Nada Yoga is the mystic practice of deep listening. The “mystic” element of Nada Yoga is the idea that the primary stuff of the universe is vibratory, and therefore sonic in nature. One of the goals of Nada Yoga, is to get to this point where you can actually be in touch with the sound of silence. This is going to sound kind of mystical. Most sound is made by friction, by objects touching one another. There is a sound called “anahata”, which is the sound of space. Sufis refer to this silence space as “Zat”, where all vibrations arise out of and dissolve into. Buddhists call this “sunnyata.” The ultimate goal of a sound yogi is touch this space. Mysticism aside, Nada Yoga is a powerful tool to find peace and clarity. There are many practices that use sound to cultivate states of receptivity. Russil Paul lumps these practices together in “The Yoga of Sound”. These practices include chanting mantras, chanting sounds and listening to the deep tones and sounds.

thich-nhat-hanh1I also love the teaching about ‘Inviting The Bell to Sound” by Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, and I quote…

When I invite the bell to sound, it is because the bell is considered as a friend, someone who helps us to come back to ourselves, become calm. That is why, when I start inviting the bell to sound, I have to pay respect to the bell like this (Thay bows), exactly as we do to our friend. We pay our respect and love to our friend, so I pay respect to the bell: I join my palms, I make a lotus flower or a tulip, and I offer this flower to my bell, to my friend. Then I take my bell and put it on the palm of my hand, lift it to the level of my eyes, and look at it, and I breathe. We have to practice to do it. When I hold the bell in my hand, like this, I start breathing in and breathing out. Breathing in, I calm myself, and breathing out I smile. My hand becomes a flower, like a lotus, and the bell becomes a diamond, a jewel in the heart of the lotus. Have you heard the mantra “Om mani padme hum?” It is in Sanskrit, and it means, “Oh, the jewel in the lotus flower!” When you breathe like that, very deeply in mindfulness, with calmness, you become the lotus flower, because there is mindfulness in you that gleams like a jewel. It is a practice, it is not a prayer. Look at my hand, it looks like a lotus flower with five petals, and in its heart there is a jewel. I breathe in with that image, and then I become a lotus flower with a jewel in me.

One of the other teachings that sound can give us, is the nature of impermanence, and therefore the value of being here right now in this present moment. Sounds, can only ever exist in the present moment. Sound doesn’t exist in the past, nor in the future, only here, now. But how often are we ‘here now’? Usually we are wrapped up in a stream of thinking and are ‘somewhere else’ in the mind. Thoughts are not ‘bad’, they too, can be witnessed from this space within us (‘that which is watching’) with practice – however it’s with those habitual streams of thinking where we’re unaware of the thinking stream itself, that we’ve lost our mindfulness.

There’s also this piece from the Lion’s Roar website by Ajahn Amaro, one of my favourite websites. I quote

The inner sound carries on in the background, reminding us that everything is Dhamma, that everything is coming and going, changing. This is a truth we may have intuited for years but often forget because of the confusion that comes from becoming attached to our personalities, memo­ries, thoughts, and bodily discomforts.

boy_listening_to_shellSo learning the practice of being in the present moment experience is a valuable skill, and as we learn to listen deeply with sound as the meditation object, we are continuously observing something that is in the present moment. As sounds come and go, and come again, they show us that they are not permanent, and so go with other ever-changing sensations of touch, sight, taste, thoughts, entering and exiting the ocean of pure awareness itself, of ‘inner silence’, of internal music “anahata”. As I wrote in my article for Innerself Newspaper in 2014…

The ancient Indian metaphysical system of Nada yoga divides music into internal music, anahata, and external music, ahata. The practice of listening mindfully to continuous external therapeutic sound can give rise to hearing one’s own “inner silence”. The embodiment and expansion of this inner silence can lead to self awareness, awakening, and deeper unity with both sound and silence, and the outer and inner cosmos. Matter is ultimately sound and resonance. Quantum physics shows us that existing in every ‘thing’ we see, as being ‘form’, including us, is actually countless tiny energetic atoms spinning in space. We are sound!Heather Frahn

One of my favourite authors is Eckhart Tolle, and his book “The Power of Now” was one of the first ‘spiritual’ books that made a real impact on me in my early 20’s. Since then I have often noticed how much Eckart uses the teaching of ‘sound and silence’ in his books and presentations. Here is a lovely quote by Eckhart that links to my understandings on the topic… I quote:

Silence is Golden; it has divine power and immense energy. Try to pay more attention to the silence than to the sounds. Paying attention to outer silence creates inner silence: the mind becomes still. Every sound is born out of silence, dies back into silence, and during its life span is surrounded by silence. Silence enables the sound to be. It is an intrinsic but unmanifested part of every sound, every musical note, every song, and every word. The unmanifested is present in this world as silence. All you have to do is pay attention to it.Eckhart Tolle