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Sound Meditation

sound meditation
Photo Credit: Enric Serra via Compfight cc


Sound can bring us to the present moment. It can also drift us into the past and sometimes even into the future for short bursts of time. The world around us calls out in myriad voices: the ocean churns and shouts even as it caressingly laps at the shore; trees creak and moan as they bend and sway in the gusting wind, their branches shaking their leaves like maracas; fields of flowers sing in unison.

I love guided meditations. I have experienced deep healing and powerful aha! moments listening to guided meditations. Some can be effective in helping you train your mind and body. Many athletes use guided visualizations to reinforce and fine-tune an experience they would like to replicate, such as hitting the perfect golf drive, dunking a basketball, kicking a field goal, or swinging a hockey stick just before the puck arrives.

I’ve developed several guided meditations that bring you into the present moment by taking you out of your past, out of your future, and out of your head by using words, sound, and music to take you on a journey of empowerment, acceptance, emotional healing, or peace. If you have a dedicated meditation practice, any other meditative or spiritual practice, included guided meditations, will be heightened by the power of you spending time each day in stillness and silence, so use your daily practice to complement any other guided, energy, or silent meditation you wish to add to your day. I recommend to my students that they meditate twice each day, following their breath or using a mantra such as their Primordial Sound (see Chapter 10) once in the morning upon waking and again in the afternoon or early evening. Between these sessions, they can use other meditation forms they desire, such as a daily guided meditation session, a midday pranayam or breathing session, or an evening chakra tuning before bed.

TRY IT! Heart Sutra Guided Meditation by davidji

Beyond the sound of the human voice speaking words with all their meaning and our conditioned associations, nonvocal vibrations can be even more powerful objects of attention in meditation. They also have an energetic aligning power as they flow through every cell of your body. Since the time of Buddha, practitioners have used gongs, chimes, crystal bowls, metal bowls, drums, and other natural vibrations to induce states of transformation and meditation, essentially using sound to take you into stillness.

The most enduring vibration creators are the bowls of Tibet and Nepal, which are traditionally made of an alloy known as pancha dhatu (meaning “five tissues or layers”) or panchaloha (meaning “five metals”), a combination of copper, tin, zinc, iron, and a precious metal (usually either gold or silver). The craftspeople who make five-metal bowls especially cherish iron from meteorites.

To “play” a bowl, a padded mallet is tapped on the lip, edge, or side of the bowl and then in a clockwise direction, the mallet is ever so gently rubbed in a wandlike fashion around the outside of the bowl—like stirring a pot of soup (except on the outside)—to tease out the single vibration into a chorus of harmonies. Tibetan metal bowl masters place an “orchestra” of bowls in front them and move around the floor tapping, stirring, blowing into the bowls, gonging, and coaxing waves of vibrations into a powerful healing symphony.

The power of these multiple-metal blends lies in the fact that each metallic compound vibrates at a different speed, creating multiple harmonies and polyphonic waves of sound that ripple through your body. Other metal percussion instruments—such as cymbals, tingshas, gongs, and chimes—can also create this vibrational experience.

Whether metal or crystal, the bowls’ vibrations resonate beyond the ear’s ability to receive sound. It is the whole body that resonates, not simply the eardrum. So when a pure vibration ripples through every cell in your body for a few seconds, then minutes, then longer, a natural state of cellular alignment occurs.

This sound experience is less a form of meditation and more like a healing aural massage that creates a trancelike state that temporarily disconnects you from your thoughts, any other sounds, and—to a certain extent—your own body. The vibrations can continue rippling through your body for days, and the nurturing power of sound healing on a physical and emotional level is profound.

I have found that listening to bowls is most powerful for me after I have performed some emotional clearing or emotional release work that leaves me in a tender and vulnerable state. Then to have those sweet, safe sound waves ripple through me, gently caressing my wounds, is one of the most healing experiences in life.