Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Want to improve your writing? Vocalize

Sharon Wildwind

This past weekend our local library had a workshop on mind, body, and spirit. One presenter was a sound therapist who uses singing bowls and vocalization to aid healing. Here’s some nifty things about sound I hadn’t known before, starting with the diatonic scale may have been a mistake.

For me, mainstream music remains a mostly-closed book. I flirted briefly with a musical instrument, learned to fake reading music, and have been told I can’t carry a tune, so don’t ask me for the particulars of diatonic scales. About as technical as I can get is eight repeating whole notes plus assorted flats and sharps. The earliest example is a Sumerian clay tablet, dated to about 2000 B.C.

The scale was useful for things like transporting music from one country to another and tuning musical instruments by ear. It did, however, put a damper on some nifty uses to which sound could be put. Namely, it conditioned us to believing that only real musicians could carry a tune, hit a note perfectly, and sing with piano accompaniment. In reality, sound is an unlimited continuum with individual bodies responding to their own frequencies.

Bodies are fluid sacs. Sound doesn’t stop when it hits a solid object. We hear sound more with our bodies than with our ears. Sound is a form of body massage, which reaches down into even bones. Here’s a little under a minute demonstration of a fountain bowl. Imagine that the water in the bowl are organs and cells in our bodies.

When that guy in the next apartment cranks his music up to heart-throbbing, ceiling-cracking level, he’s not just getting on our nerves. He may also be damaging our bones, internal organs, and immune system.

A healthy body resonates in harmony; an ill body doesn’t. Sound moves our cells. Healthy cells wiggle; unhealthy cells are rigid. Someone said, hmm, rigid things are more likely to break than flexible things. If unhealthy cells, such as cancer cells, are rigid, and rigid things tend to break, what effect would sound have on cancer cells? In preliminary research scientists played a number of instruments and observed, on instruments like MRIs, effects on cancer cells. The best instrument they found was a person singing to his or her own cells. Cancer cells burst in about four seconds.

We can tune our bodies with sounds. Meditation and relaxation changes our vibration patterns. So does toning, which is vocalizing, not singing. It is pure, simple sound. It’s the sound that singing bowls make.

Singing bowls are beautiful, expensive, hard to transport, and have a tendency to break. The human voice is portable, readily available, and works naturally with personal harmonics.

After you finish reading this paragraph, close your eyes. Relax. Take a deep breath. open your mouth Vocalize a sound like “ah,” allowing the sound to pass up and out with your breath. Repeat four times. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Now try it with the other vowels: eh-ih-oh-uh. You can also try the classic meditation “om,” or the sound of your choice.

That’s all there is to it. If you’re familiar with chakras, the body’s energy centres, you can also try visualizing different chakras in connection with sounds.

One of the really interesting things that happened in the library auditorium was that, every time we went though a vocalization exercise, on about the third breath, the energy in the room—settled is the only way I can describe it. Remember those iron-filing-and-magnet experiments in grade school where we put iron filings on top of paper and ran a red-and-silver horseshoe magnet under the paper. All the filings lined up in patterns. That’s what our voices did, strangers aligning their voices and their energies.

My husband and I have been experimenting with vocalizing. Even if the neighbors hear us, we're not likely to be damaging them, and they're not likely to call the police about the noise.

Here are some great times to vocalize 
  • Just before going to sleep
  • When you can’t sleep
  • As you wake up
  • In the shower
  • When your writing is stuck
  • When you feel angry, sad, or frustrated
  • When you’re stuck in traffic
  • When you’re lonely
  • When you want to celebrate
  • When you need a mini-vacation
Quote for the week

Instead of a written quote this week, here is master percussionist Emile de Leon playing a sound meditation on three singing bowls.

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