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Sound in Mind and Body

Sound in Mind and Body
By Jill Purce

My particular interest in healing sound probably came to me already in the womb, because my
mother was a pianist and my father was a doctor. It is the healing and transformative power of sound that interests me most.

If sound can introduce form and pattern into matter then there is something essential about sound. I realised that this theme is common to many traditions, which consider sound the principal creative force in the universe. This suggests that human beings have always known that everything in the world has its identity because of the periodicity and the regularity of its movement and that this is what makes one thing separate from another, and gives it

Using the voice and listening to the sound we are making at the same time, enables us to go beyond the dualism of language and separation from the world. We see that something is different from us and that which is different from us is also different from something else, this differentiation arises with language. The separation of "us" and "not us" is the
separation which all traditions try to overcome so that we can be in a state of unity. Sound is one of the most effective ways of going beyond this separation.

The magical and healing qualities of sound were taken for granted by most peoples of antiquity, and particularly by the Egyptians, Greeks and Indians. In Tibet for many hundreds of years, there has been a highly sophisticated science of mind. Most words in the Tibetan language are in some way a qualification of mind.

The Tibetans talk about the human being as having " body, voice and of mind". These have three locations. The position for 'body' is in the head. The 'voice' is in the throat and the position of 'mind' is in the heart. For Tibetans there is no identity between mind and brain, as in the West. So the voice acts as an intermediary between the subtle realm of mind
and the more physical realm of body. So it is seen as a bridge between the material and the immaterial.

Speech, voice, sound, and subtle breath or prana are all connected. It is not only Tibetans who consider sound as a bridge, the idea is very widespread. For example, sound is often considered as an intermediary for the translation of spirit into matter and then for matter into spirit through the agency of human beings.

If spirit can become matter through sound, then matter can become spirit, again through sound. Sound is used in almost all places and times for travelling the path of transcendence - for transforming matter back again into spirit. You can see this somewhat literally in that you can use the sound of an object to break it apart.

Within the Tibetan tradition of Dzogchen the aim is to relax into a state of contemplation and to live our lives with integrity so that the implications of our actions are apparent in the clarity of every moment. So that we live, like a fish in water. Like riding the waves of the Tao, we leave no traces, and lead impeccable existences causing no disturbances. If we cannot do it for whatever reason perhaps we have some blockage or disturbance in our energy or problem of some kind in our mind which prevents us from doing this. In this case there are certain things we can do which can make it easier.

In India too the voice is very important for transformation. Perhaps the most common form in India - and it is also of course common in Tibet - is its use of Mantra. Mantras are sacred sounds conserved in the ancient languages, even in languages which are no longer understood. 

There are certain sounds for specific illnesses or problems caused by particular beings, or mantras to bring us into a state of clarity or emptiness. Other mantras tune us into the lineage of teachers in which we are participating and if we use these particular sounds which have been used by masters of the lineage then we tune into and share their attainment. We are tuning into all the other people who have ever used this mantra.

Mantra is used throughout the world, for example, amongst the Sufis, the mystics of Islam, forms of mantric chanting are combined with rhythmic movements of the body, and with rhythmic breathing to bring us into a state of transcendental ecstasy or spiritual bliss. Most liturgies are chanted or sung and this also applies to the liturgy of the Christian church. 

The Sunday services of matins, communion and evensong are a form of spiritual entrainment when we chant psalms together, sing hymns and intone prayers. So we have everyone tuning together. When we change from speaking to singing something very interesting happens. Through singing we can unite with everybody. That is why all countries have a national anthem.

Shamanic Ground
The great world religions have super-imposed themselves over the indigenous shamanistic traditions which existed for hundreds of thousands of years beforehand. Many of the sonic yogis of Tibet and India already existed long before Buddhism. They were very ancient. 

These exercises of chanting, rhythmical bodily movement, rhythmical breathing and so on are very ancient practices which were incorporated into the great religions. We find practices like the Whirling of the Dervishes. They spiral and rotate while breathing and praying in combination with the voice of the flute which is very similar to the voice of a human being. They say that the body of the dervish is like the body of the flute through whom God is blowing.

What I Teach
After studying in a number of different traditions I eventually decided to teach. I had begun to see that there were certain similarities in the principles behind the way sound was used. Certain things seemed to be held in common, and it seemed important to try and understand the principles, and teach them in a way which could help people who felt alienated from their
own spiritual tradition. If we understood the way in which we could use our voice then we would benefit from the understanding of all those who had done it before and rediscover this magnificent tool which we carry around with us all the time. We use our voice most of the time totally unconsciously but we could use it in a way that all traditions have understood- for our own transformation.

If we can liberate the voice then we can liberate the human being. To go beyond emotional material, and go beyond the activity of the thinking mind we lower the breath and work with the out breath. If we can use sound to work on the morphogenetic field of the person, in other words the resonant potentiality of our own healthy state, then we can maintain ourselves in a state of health. In language to be healthy is to be sound - we talk about being sound in body and mind, to be of sound mind and to have ideas which ring true. I work at this level to try and tune the instrument which the human being is. To be in tune is to be healthy.

Jill is the pioneer of sound and voice healing internationally. Her workshops are a joyful, life changing and uplifting experience. She provides a healing and magical environment for people to work and share their voices in sonorous community. Her work is powerful and profoundly healing. She allows people to discover their true voice and find, and explore, hitherto undiscovered parts of themselves and release their innermost being. 

Amongst the many things Jill teaches are sacred chant; overtone chanting ; ancient vocal techniques; breathing; purification; sonorous meditation ; vocal and ceremonial healing. She allows people to unfold while holding them in a wonderfully warm and safe place. Jill is a wise and powerful teacher . Her workshops are enormous fun, and deeply bonding. People who do her work find alternative ways of being in the world and relating to others They discover a new found joy in being alive. She teaches in England and throughout the world.

This extract is used with the kind permission of Jill Purce. Jill teaches sound workshops in the UK and internationally: Healing Voice weekends, Inner Sound and Voice, Ritual and Resonance -Healing the Family and The Healing Voice , a week intensive. You can view all the workshop details at Jill's website www.healingvoice.com or if you have any questions email Jill at info@healingvoice.com or call +44 (0) 207 435 2467