My friend lay face up on the pad in front of me for a sound healing session, seeking to ease the dark pit of grief from her mother’s passing. I told her that I had no magic notes to make it go away, but as I began playing the deepest notes my cello could offer, these words came to me to tell her:

Allow this sound to hear your pain. Imagine sound listening, absorbing what your grief has to say. Allow your grief to share itself, to tell its story into the warm embrace of the sound.

Don’t worry about translating your feelings into words—allow the grief to express itself as vibration into the receptivity of sonic vibration.

I continued the deep, rich notes, saturating the small room with tone, holding a safe and sound space for her.

The absorbent receptivity of sound is a completely new concept to me, but as I thought about it, it rang true. Sound is vibration. Grief, and other feelings and emotions, also exist as vibrations of energy.

Music has always affected me in mysterious ways. There are certain tunes that resonate so deeply that I hit endless repeat and settle in for it to create an inner vibe (devotion, enthusiasm, deep peace, etc.) or to absorb all that my heart wants to share and unload. Our feelings need someone to hear them, and music has always been my unconditional best friend.

Now that I’m exploring deep parts of my being for the first time in forever, I reach out to the music to share my wordless stories, my grief, pain, anger, sadness, yearning and love. I don’t need to find the perfect words (although Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart really helps!), and I don’t need to feel shame around what is genuinely in me. For 25 years I stuffed and ignored any negative feeling, out of fear that I would be judged by a culture that prioritizes maintaining positivity exclusively. Affirmations are great and powerful tools, but I also need to fully acknowledge my difficult feelings and work through the shame I experience by having them. It has been so freeing to begin to accept myself as fully human (but that’s another chapter).

It’s not that I need depressing music in depression, or anxious music in anxiety. I need music and sound that is compassionate enough to hear what is going on inside of me. Each song or piece of music is created with unique intention. Often the musician’s intention is to express what is going on inside of them. And sometimes the intention is to offer refuge for the audience, a chance for the listener to have their own story be heard by the music. To me, this kind of intention is what we need so much more of today.

My personal practice is to play long tones, and let me heart unload into the sound. It often has much to say. The resonance of my open strings becomes a down-filled comforter, absorbing and empathizing in a safe and sound vibration.

When I play for people, I try to offer them sound with the intention of having their own hearts be heard. Each human in our audience carries suffering, no matter how well-put-together they may appear. I focus on holding space for them, distracting myself away from what they think of me, or how I rank. This is the highest service I have to offer.

It seems to be working. I wonder if it might for you.

Sound listens.

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