I realize it’s a little bit ironic that I’m trying to WRITE about each of my experiences in my sound healing class. One of the main points of the class is that the experience of sound is one which transcends words and meaning. It is simply the vibrational experience of being.

Tonight we had a visit from  Anam Thubten Rinpoche – a Tibetan Buddhist teacher/guru. He reminded us that the mind is the basis for all problems and suffering. The practice of liberation is the practice of liberating the mind – “no mind, no problem.” The title of Rinpoche’s book is actually “No Self, No Problem”. It is also interesting that we first use the mind…in order to transcend the mind. Rinpoche reminded us that the Sanskrit word mantra is translated as “liberation of the mind”. Man – is mind, tra – is liberation or healing.

Our class had begun with two beautiful improvisational mantras – the first “A” (the sound Ahhhh), and the second on the four sounds contained in the word “HOME” (ha, oh, mm, eh). Silvia started with just a harmonium drone (a sustained chord), and the instruction:

No thinking, just listening…and PLAY.

We were invited to play our “instruments” – bells, singing bowls, wine glass, even a Russian flute – along with the sounds. I was regretting not having brought my MP3 recorder to class tonight, because after about 10 minutes of sounds, there was a point at which I and the woman sitting on the floor to my right (my eyes were closed so my ears told me where she was) began a beautiful sequence of sounds that seemed to be in harmony, without our trying. I was not thinking, just listening, and playing with the pitches that came out of me by listening. Miraculously, we were “listening on the same wavelength” because we moved so beautifully – and literally effortlessly – from sound to sound, creating very powerful harmonies. This continued for what seemed like eternity, but in reality probably was about 5 minutes. I could have gone on for hours and hours. It was that kind of an experience. Beyond words…even though I’ve tried to attach so many words to it just now.

From now on: I will ALWAYS bring my MP3 recorder, plenty of batteries, and lots of 2G SD cards.

Rinpoche gave a brief talk on transcending the mind. He revealed that the highest level of listening is nonconceptual listening. Nirvana is a state of supreme relaxation, in which there is total transcendence of the mind/self. Sound is used as a modality to achieve relaxation, but Rinpoche reminded us that the impact or power of sound comes only through the combination of sound and intention.

He left us with these powerful words: The thinking mind does not know anything. God is not knowable. The highest truth is only attained through dissolving the mind.

On my drive home, I was filled with so many THOUGHTS – that pesky mind of mine! – about how to communicate what listening is. This is the crux of music, and the subtle art from that is encapsulated in the practice of music. I realize I have been lost and caught up in the athleticism and ego of performance. I notice that a lot of classical music has evolved into more VISUAL theatricality, since audiences are becoming more and more distanced from the encoded language of Western classical music. I include myself in that group I call “audiences”. There is so much specific in the performance of classical music that we actually need to learn how to listen to it.

My CIIS experience is bringing me back to the primordial roots of listening as a human experience. Sound is the universal origin of life:

Before its incarnation the soul is sound. It is for this reason that we love sound.” – Hazrat Inayat Khan

The question of the week, posed by our teaching assistant Hillary, is:

“Are you sure you’re hearing everything you can hear?”

What about hearing beyond sounds? Or understanding beyond words?

I’m fascinated with the meaning of sound, because in this class we have been experiencing sound before meaning. Everything that I have learned about sound has been encoded with meaning, notation, structure. Now I am deconstructing sound into its elements, and gaining a direct experience of its effect on the body and the listener. It is MIND-blowing!