The Sound of Balance

Mind & Spirit : NST Life & Times 19/4/2010


Music is the answer to the mystery of life. It is the most profound of all arts. It expresses the deepest thoughts of life and being. In a single language that nonetheless cannot be translated.
— Arthur Schopenhauer

SOUND is vibration. Vibration is resonating energy. Ancient mystics tell us that the universe is created from the sound of “Om”, the primordial sound from which everything was born. There must be some truth to that as music seems to transcend all boundaries – race, creed, culture, nationality, gender and age. It is the universal language. We tap our feet to rhythms that move us, hum along to familiar melodies and cry when song lyrics touch our hearts.

At a drum workshop during the Rainforest Music Festival, I was amazed by effortless way musicians from different lands like Gambia, Poland, New Zealand, Columbia, India and Japan jammed together despite it being their first meeting. Music has the magic to connect all of us, allowing us to forget our differences for a moment and to just enjoy the simple magic it brings to our lives.

For example, bhajans, which is a call and response type of devotional music when one person sings the lead and the audience responds, results in everyone in the room transcending into a sense of oneness. In this fast-paced electronic world, music provides us with a respite, a bridge to our inner world connecting us with our soul, our desires, our emotions and our mind.

Listening to certain sounds is a simple and effective way to reduce stress and enhance states of relaxation. Our nervous system is influenced by the sounds we hear. Electronic devices which have become our close companions, emit sounds that clutter our minds. Just be quiet and listen to the sounds surrounding you.

Do you have a room to sleep in that is truly quiet, without the sounds of a computer, a clock or traffic? Can you go to relax in nature where only organic sounds exist? Survey your world and find quiet, harmonic places to let yourself truly rest. Gentle ambient music that is pulsed very slowly can reduce our heart rate and breathing.

Musicians use specific psycho-acoustic tones and frequencies that entrain brain waves and synchronise the nervous system to the calming sounds on it. Research has confirmed what we have always known intuitively about the benefits of music. Numerous clinical and long-term studies indicate that clear, orderly music can make a dynamic contribution to our health.

Music universally connects us, like the annual Rainforest Music festival has shown.

Jeff Strong, founder of the REI Institute (Rhythmic Entrainment Intervention), uses specific rhythms to facilitate improvements in symptoms associated with a variety of neuro-developmental disabilities such as autism, attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities.

Entrainment alters our internal rhythms by synchronising it with a certain rhythm for both immediate changes in our mental states and long-term behavioural shifts. Harp music offers a safe alternative to tranquillisers and mood-modifying drugs, according to studies done by Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Centre.

Therapists have routinely used singing, drumming or playing a musical instrument in clinical settings to regulate patient’s emotional, physiological and social behaviour.

Toning using our voice is a tool that we can use through times of stress — to focus, to relax and to balance ourselves energetically. Stephanie Van Driesen, singer and voice therapist, encourages everyone to experience the creative power of sounds we can make such as humming and toning with basic tones like “ahhh”, “ooou” and “eeee”.

“We release feelings and soothe ourselves through vocalising these sounds,” says Stephanie. Toning on a daily basis builds a creative internal resistance for us to connect with ourselves. The vibration from the sounds we make massages us from inside out, sending energy to our neck, head and upper torso.

“There are three toning tips one must take note of. Firstly, set your intention. Foster a deeper awareness of your breath by breathing consciously for a few minutes before toning. Lastly, repetition helps one to realise the altered state of consciousness that toning does to a person,” Stephanie adds. She shares two simple exercises we can do at home to include toning in our wellness regime:

1. “Mmmm” is a sound that shifts attention from the left (logical) to the right (intuitive) brain and creates a restful state. Lips are closed, jaw is relaxed and the exhalation is making a soft sigh. Spend three to four minutes to sit comfortably, release the breath and just mmmm away.

2. “Oooo” is a sound that calms us down. Your lips forms a small ’O’ as though you are about to blow a candle. Release your breath and make the sound oooo from a high to low pitch. Repeat this for about three to four minutes.

Try out the various methods to harmonise your life and awaken the creative potential within yourself. 

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** The writer is co-founder of The Violet Flame Holistic Shop and Therapy Centre, Bangsar. She can be reached at or browse www.the for further information.

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