Of sacred sounds and shamanic dreaming
Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows. ~ John Betjemin
What natural sounds do you remember from childhood?
The first thing I think of is the sound of cicadas on a warm summer night in Alabama. The density of their communication wrapped me a blanket of contentment, community and home.
Likewise, I remember the lapping of the waters of the Chesapeake Bay when I visited my grandparents on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The continuous rhythm gave me a sense of security as I drifted into dreamtime.
Now scientists tell us what we have always known. Nature sounds have a direct therapeutic effect on us.
When we listen to nature sounds, our sympathetic nervous system responsible for the fight or flight response rests, while our parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for metabolism, recovery, and development of the bodies resources, becomes active.
Our various soundscapes are made up of biological sources (bird calls, bees humming), geophysical sounds (rain, wind) and anthropogenic noise (traffic, construction). For our health and well-being, it is important to pay attention and listen for natural sounds in our environment.
Even in an urban area the wind is whistling and birds are singing.
As Earth Day observances come to a close, I step into one of my favorite rituals – a month of natural sound bathing.
This month I choose three methods of resourcing natural sounds. Of course the best method is to travel to an isolated location abundant with sound but I am not traveling at the moment, so I will create my sound baths closer to home.
On my daily walks I set my intention to listen.
In the month of May, snow melt from the watershed of the Rocky Mountains fills our local creeks. I make a point to stop at the creek just north of my home for a 10-minute sound bath. As I listen to the creek water flowing the grackles chatter in a tree nearby, and a flicker tries to peck his way into the eaves of a house. Often the breeze gently invites the spring green leaves to rustle against each other.
At work I play a recording of jungle sounds of the rainforest in Borneo.
Many years ago, I spent time in the forests in Sarawak researching the spiritual rituals of dreaming. Listening to a recording of jungle sounds reminds me of the abundance of the rainforest. Millions of species cohabitate and create a babel of life. As I move through my workday, I feel calm and focused, connected to the majesty of the earth.
While sleeping I listen to the sounds of the ocean.
For the past 40 years I have taken an annual pilgrimage to the coast to listen to the ocean. I do this to reset my nervous system with rhythms of the earth. The sound of the surf rocks me back to center.
Several years ago, my husband gave me a sound machine hoping this would diminish my need to return to the ocean. To my surprise, the recorded sounds lessened my anxiety and improved my ability to sleep.
This month I will sleep to the sound of the ocean, but I have booked a flight to Maui in December.
Choosing the joy of sounds,