Sound Immersion

Looking forward to the next three days. I have someone coming to do a Sound Immersion with me tomorrow, staying for three nights. I spent a few hours preparing food so we won't have to spend too much time with that while she is here. There is so much ground to cover! She asked if she could apprentice with me and come up perhaps three different times between now and the end of the summer. Sound Immersion is what I am choosing to call it- it just came to me when I sat down to write. It leaves it open without expectations and I don't have to rename what is happening any time anyone wants to study with me or come for a sound healing retreat for a few days.
At the same time, my friends Lynn Carol and George Henderson are going to be here as well for two or three days, so it is going to be very full!

I have had the idea of individual personalized sound healing retreats for a while so I am excited that this is finally coming to fruition. This is not quite that- the emphasis of course will be more on  education and practice and there will be less time for receiving and reflection. She will very likely get a session each day that she is here however and that in itself is worth the price of admission! I also have several people coming over for sessions during the time that she is here.
We will be discussing and working with the voice, first and foremost and then dip into VibroAcoustic Therapy, tuning forks and Himalayan singing bowls. When she comes back we will explore more deeply the singing bowls and tuning forks and who knows what else? It depends on how much she wants. We can go into mantra, Sanskrit, chanting, crystal bowls, Healing Sound Journeys and more.
If it was you, what would you want for your Sound Immersion? Would you want to learn to heal others with sound? Yourself? How to incorporate an instrument you already play into your healing practice? Would you simply want receive and have time to process with Expressive Art Therapy? Or maybe after each sound healing session you would just want to go over to the beach and take a nice long walk!

Your Sound Immersion is for you- you get to design it the way you want it!

Letting Go In Trust

Yesterday morning pretty much from the moment I woke up I had the Durga Stuthi in my head, a beautiful Sanskrit prayer to the Divine Mother in all her different forms and manifestations- as sleep, as memory, as abundance, as compassion, as peace, as power... I was preparing to teach the second day of a workshop on Sound Healing for Balance and Joy. Day number two, Sunday, was all about joy- I had a sense of how we were going to begin the morning, doing some exercises to open the voice. I am also always open to inspiration and guidance while trying to stay within certain parameters.
I started to wonder if for some reason I was supposed to share this prayerful song with the group but it didn't make any sense. It just didn't fit. It was too long and we had an important piece to start the day off with. We had to do the vocal warm-ups before getting into anything else. A different workshop, on chanting perhaps and it might be a nice fit but this just felt like something stuck in my head that I needed to let go of.

I started the class but almost as soon as I began I had to go upstairs to get something I had left up there. On my way down I suddenly realized it was Mother's Day! Ah- that's where the song had come from- Durga was tapping me on the shoulder giving me a reminder! It had taken me about an hour to realize it, so when I got back downstairs I wished all the mothers a happy Mother's Day and told them the story about the chant that had been in my mind since I woke up.

Now that I had gotten the message I shifted gears, got out the guitar and played the Durga Stuthi- there are many verses but there is also a beautiful chorus they were all able to sing along with. Everyone present had powerful experiences of their mothers. Some of them including me had lost them fairly recently- within the last 2-3 years- one woman over 40 years, but we all felt their presence and their love. As it turned out it was such a beautiful, moving and intimate way to start the day. It was also a way for us to connect very deeply which created a beautiful setting and mood for the rest of day.

It was a reminder for me, once again, to trust my guidance and not second guess. Things show up- ideas, thoughts, inspirations, people- for reasons we cannot know. We just have to trust and let things unfold and be revealed in their own time and their own perfect moment.

Benefits of Chanting Sanskrit

Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati (Ramamurti S. Mishra, MD) my teacher's guru
My beloved teacher, Swami Sivananda Sarasvati
Reasons for learning Sanskrit through chanting, according to Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati:
  • You learn Sanskrit naturally and effortlessly.
  • You enter your being through discipline of meditation, relaxation and concentration.
  • You experience natural unity and integrity with the world.
  • You receive natural and holistic healing, unifying body, mind and spirit.
  • By the radiation of natural health on all levels you help others in the same direction.
  • You experience the integrity of all world languages through the vibration of Sanskrit language with chanting.
  • You enter into meditation in a natural way.
  • You experience natural and spontaneous revelation of freedom and enlightenment, the light of natural awareness.
The Sanskrit language, known as “The mother of all tongues” is one of the oldest known languages, if not the oldest, on our planet. The written alphabet is called “devanāgari”. It is said that the language derived from the cities of the devas, “the shining ones” (“nagar” is the word for city). Each letter was derived from an icon of one of the many diverse Goddesses. The great Devi created 50 subforms of herself, the mātrikas or “little mothers” whose names are still recited daily by devout shakti worshippers. Each letter has its own meditative quality and vṛtti (perturbation of the natural mind) associated with it. 

Because each phenome in the Sanskrit language has its own vibrational quality, with the proper pronunciation one can attain states of mastery- theoretically even if you did not know the actual meaning of the words! This idea has another level of importance, because if the language is mispronounced one can inadvertently be bringing in unwanted vibratory energies. For example, “the pigeon”... rājakapotāsana... the word “rāja” means king or sovereign. Leave off the long “a” and the word becomes “raja”- which translates as either pollen of flowers or menstrual excrement! Properly pronounced it really translates as “the royal pigeon pose”. When one is teaching [yoga] one can be adding to this energy of excellence through the correct pronunciation of Sanskrit.

In 1786 Sir William Jones, one of the first people to seriously study the language outside of India had this to say about it:
The Sanskrit language, whatever be its antiquity, is of a wonderful structure; more perfect than the Greek, more copious than the Latin, and more exquisitely refined than either, yet bearing to both of them a stronger affinity, both in the roots of verbs and in the forms of grammar, than could possibly have been produced by accident; so strong, indeed, that no philologer could examine them all three, without believing them to have sprung from some common source, which, perhaps, no longer exists.
My personal experience of studying and chanting Sanskrit is that it charges the brain, balances the nervous system, creates new neural pathways and improves memory. 

This short video is from an introductory Sanskrit class for yoga teachers that I taught at Living Room Yoga in St. Petersburg, FL several years ago. The actual devanagari letters are below so you can chant along.


Yoga, Chant and Vibration

Major piece of work done today! Met with my friend Morgan and we hashed out the details for our upcoming class on Yoga and Chanting. The name is actually much jazzier- Mindful Yoga & Sacred Chant. The format- about an hour of yoga followed by a half hour or so of chanting- very exciting. The idea is that opening with yoga clears and balances the nadis, or energy channels in the body,  allowing for sound then to flow forth with ease, and taking the work that has alre ady been done to another level.

The discussion led me to looking for a picture for our flyer. I found two gems in my files. The above is where the different seeds sound in the Gayatri Mantra emanate from the subtle body. If you don't know the Gayatri then this may not make a lot of sense. They are just a bunch of different syllables floating around. However, if you know the chant then you can look at the picture and follow the path of sound.
Bhuh bhuvah svah
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyoyonah prachodayat
Then I found this gorgeous drawing by my Sanskrit teacher's teacher and guru, Dr. Ramamurti Mishra, known to many as Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati, which I believe is inspired by a drawing from an ancient text. It is a drawing of the subtle body with the major chakras and nadis. In the drawing, the nadis seem to flow outside of and around the body but they are actually all contained within the body.  The different nadis and chakras respond and correspond to different frequencies which are designated by the Sanskrit writing on the chart. The writing in larger Sanskrit letters on the top right says "Pranayama" and underneath the drawing (not shown) it says, "The cosmic state of meditation of I-AM." Thus, we can infer from this that control of the breath, pranayama, will lead us to the perfected state- or to the awareness of our own perfection. Even in a simple black and white drawing we can see how the subtle body is illuminated and vibrating at a very high frequency. 

Every Sanskrit syllable (seed sound) has a very specific vibrational quality and by chanting we experience the effect of those sounds. The vibrations charge the brain and travel through the nervous system and the subtle energy system. In the Vedic tradition, all of the different deities in the Hindu pantheon carry the vibrational qualities of the seed sounds contained within their names.For example, the vibrational quality of the sound "Ga" or "Gam" (the "a" is pronounced like a short "u" in English, ie "gum") is that it removes obstacles. Hence, Ganesha, the Hindi deity with the head of an elephant, is the Remover of Obstacles. If we want to remove obstacles in our life we can chant, "Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha". "Gam" is the seed sound for Ganesha- so we chant that sound first which is packed with potency and potential. "Ganapataye" is another form of Ganesha's name- the vocative. We are calling on Ganesha... and "Namaha", we bow down to him.