Heaven and hell… they are not external places. We carry them inside of us all the time as potential. Our thoughts are the doorway. And under our thought lies… waiting… the Silence… the vast mystery of Existence that our minds could never fathom… Home.
Since time immemorial humans have searched for the Sound of that Mystery, following an instinctual sense that finding this Sound would carry them Home, if only for a moment. From time immemorial humans have also used Sound to celebrate and call upon the Mystery, following an instinctual sense that it connects us to the Universe in a dialogue that is mutually nourishing.
In my young and angry days, I played music that was aggressive and loud. The idea was to express our frustration with the world. As my life fell apart in a daze of confusion, I came to the deep realization that sound was not something that I produced and it just left and disappeared, leaving me free of those pent up feelings… not at all. The sound that I produced created a self feeding loop that perpetuated and fed my unhappiness and frustration, and that of others!
The impressions that we expose ourselves to, including and particularly those of our own creation, are just like the food we eat. The quality of our food will determine the health of our body, and, well beyond that, the health of our entire system. Impressions will, in the same way, determine the health of our mental and spiritual bodies, and they work just as food does. We digest them, store some, get rid of some, and use some for our daily functioning. The difference is in our awareness of this fact and our conscious use of this information.
I’m not a fundamentalist and I enjoy the occasional plate of french fries, just as I enjoy the occasional slash and burn “boy” movie, or heavy rock music, but I do keep a constant awareness of the overall quality of my “food” intake, and this includes “impressions”.
That search for the Sound of the Mystery, translated by different times and cultures, has created some amazing music. Whether it comes from African Drum Rituals, Tibetan Chanting, Gospel Music, Sufi Ceremonies, Amazonian Icaros, Gregorian Chants, Bach Cantatas or Pygmy vocalizations, these are, for me, the equivalent of “health food” in terms of impressions, and I feel deeply nourished by them. Furthermore, I find that the act of deep listening to any natural sound connects me with the inner Silence, that doorway to my personal heaven, where I realize, in an experiential way, what the Oriental Teachings speak about when they say the world is a self created dream (or is it an illusion we are being fed, as in “The Matrix”?).
Whether it may be a concert by a master musician or sitting by a river, the act of fully showing up and turning my whole being into an ear (opening the Third Ear?) seems to connect me to that energy that some call God. The more I “touch base” with that internal experience of heaven the more it translates into an increasingly calm, accepting, conscious and loving way to live daily life… maybe what the First Nations people call: “Walking in Beauty”.
Maybe we could call this “The Way of Sound”. This involves not only conscious acts of deep listening, but also finding and making our own Sound. A good friend of mine from the Andes tells me that in his ancient language, Quechua, there is no word for “musician”, because everybody plays and/or sings communally… there is no such thing as a specialized person to entertain others with sound. While it is a privilege to have master musicians regale us with their virtuosic command of sound, it is fundamental that we find and trust our own.
The first step is to regain our capacity to breathe fully. We can only live as deeply as we breathe! Part of the Vision Quest in many First Nations cultures involves finding your Song. Whether it is in a workshop situation or in the shower, finding and singing our Sound is a deeply soothing and healing act. Forget all those “I’m tone deaf” or “I have no rhythm” tapes in your head and let Sound take you in it’s wings once in a while. Once in a while stop and Listen… to your child, to the river, to the wind, to the music playing. Breathe it all in and realize that heaven and hell are ultimately choices we make every moment… here and now. And if you think that your personal circumstances make heaven impossible, just think of the fact that ten different people faced with the same circumstances will react in ten different ways, some sinking into despair and some using them to benefit themselves and the world at large. As my father used to say… it’s like a game of poker… you can win no matter what cards you got if you play it smart.
I’ve got an ace up my sleeve… and I call it the Way of Sound.