Considering that this post is based on the chakra of communication and expression – the throat chakra – it seems rather ironic that this week I have experienced a chronic writer’s block, as well as a more pervasive block in my emotions and self-expression, that has left me feeling more angry and frustrated than expressive.
Maybe it’s something in the air, the planetary alignments, it seems that everyone is out of sorts this week. We are all like pressure cookers waiting for that final blast of heat that pops our lids.
And yet, surely the purpose of opening up our energy centres is to allow these very blocks to surface and be cleared.
Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. Rainer Maria Rilke
The throat chakra has always felt to me like a gateway between the realms of ordinary and non-ordinary reality. Here we transcend the element air and move into ether, the great void of potential energy. In a realm of subtle vibrational energy, any thought, sound, or intention can immediately shift things energetically. Here creation begins.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts we make the world. The Dhammapada
It is here, in this etheric world of sound and vibration, we begin to understand how our thoughts and words have power. How the intentions behind these sounds really do contribute to our reality, to the world’s reality. And then the task becomes how to shift these often entrenched ways of thinking and speaking, our learned reactions to the world, and create a higher vibration that lifts our spirit as well as the collective energy field. Chanting does this. Creative expression does this.
Art activates the creative impulse in the brain-body-mind system, which to me is the God Impulse. It opens the portals of both our inward as well as our outer sensory systems. We are no longer encapsulated bags of skin dragging around dreary little egos. With art and music we become an organizing environment, our frequencies are raised. And we become re-frequenced with regard to world and time. And that is why the artist and musician often is the one who tells the emerging story, because their frequencies and their sensitivities have been honed and heightened to the point that they are picking up the rhythms of awakening. Jean Houston
In ancient cultures there was a perception of a divine harmony in the movements of the sun, moon, stars, and planets – the music of the spheres. The ancients designed their temples and stone circles based on these natural cycles. According to Joscelyn Godwin, Professor of Music at Colgate University, “the Australian Aboriginal culture, which is our planet’s longest continuously existing culture, has a 50,000 year history of using music to maintain the natural order. They perceive the landscape as a series of ‘songlines’, each representing an aspect of their cosmology, and they sing these songs to keep the life energy of the earth and the people in balance.”
Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. Rumi
Australian aboriginals believed that without knowing the songs of the various species of plant and animal life, and being able to communicate with the nature spirits in this way, they literally would not survive. Like many indigenous cultures, their rituals, songs, dances, and art were interwoven with, both the practical matters of monitoring the seasons and moving to suitable shelter and hunting grounds, to matters of the spirit and living in harmony of the whole of creation.
The throat chakra is representative of this concept of ‘as above, so below’, heaven and earth, our inner and outer worlds.
Our throat chakra is a bridge between our inner and outer selves – who we feel we truly are, and how we represent ourselves in the world. Lisa Erickson
Vissudha is the chakra of truth, communication, and expression. Represented by the archetype of the communicator, or alternately, as I have experienced this week, its shadow archetype, the silent child – realised as an inability for self-expression, self-doubt, self-criticism, and negative perceptions.
It’s hard to imagine how I would shift these blocks on my own, I am so thankful to be a part of my shamanic and Chakradance communities where there is a wealth of shared experience, wisdom, and support.
My teacher Sandra Ingerman is very humble in both expressing her difficulties over the years with aspects of journeying, and emphasising the need for practice. It’s not meant to be easy to become a ‘hollow bone’. We do get distracted by our mind’s chatter.
In shamanic journeying we aim to be like a hollow bone, to leave our ego-mind behind and allow spirit to carry our consciousness on the journey. In order to achieve this, we need to find rituals that allow us to leave our ego state of ordinary reality, to ’empty’ ourselves out, in order to become a receptacle for helping spirits, and to journey to the hidden realms of non-ordinary reality, or the ‘otherworld’ as the Celts so poetically refer to it.
This week I had the pleasure of teaching two Chakradance classes, one of which was focused entirely on the throat chakra. This chakra corresponds to the element of ether which, according to Carl Jung, is the sound and substance of the angelic realms.
By the time you reach this chakra, you are operating at a mostly vibrational level. Although the chakra is based in the physical throat and affects physiological areas of the throat, the ears and the thyroid gland, the energy of this centre is large and subtle, and very, very blue.
To harmonise the throat chakra, we use sound, through humming, chanting, singing, even shouting to release any pent up energy. If you are anything like me, every few weeks I need to play loud metal music and ‘sing my guts out’- it’s incredibly cleansing!
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all. Emily Dickinson
In Chakradance, we revert to an ancient form of heavy metal, the chanting of mantra sounds. For the throat chakra the sound is ‘ham’ – pronounced like ‘hum’ not the cured meat!
A mantra is a sacred sound which, when recited or chanted repetitively, can bring about a vibrational connection with certain aspects of the subtle energy body, higher self, or spirit. The Sanskrit word mantra consists of the root man- “to think” (also in manas “mind”) and the suffix -tra, designating tools or instruments, hence a literal translation would be “instrument of thought”.
The most well-known mantra is probably the “om”, “ohm” or “aum.” The syllable “om” is first described as all-encompassing mystical entity in the Upanishads. Hindus believe that as creation began, the divine, all-encompassing consciousness took the form of the first and original vibration manifesting as sound “OM”.
Before creation began it was “Shunyākāsha”, the emptiness or the void. Shunyākāsha, meaning literally “no sky”, is more than nothingness, because everything then existed in a latent state of potentiality. The vibration of “OM” symbolises the manifestation of God in form, it is the reflection of the absolute reality, without beginning or end, and embracing all that exists.
The mantra “OM” is the name of God, the vibration of the Supreme. When taken letter by letter, A-U-M represents the divine energy (Shakti) united in its three elementary aspects: Bhrahma Shakti (creation), Vishnu Shakti (preservation) and Shiva Shakti (liberation, and/or destruction). [Wikipedia]
In the ancient Egypt, Athens and Rome, for example, sound was understood to be the fundamental creative force of the universe. You find knowledge of this in the sacred texts of different traditions. For example, in the book of Genesis, it is written “And the Lord SAID ‘Let there be light’” and in the Gospel according to St. John, is the statement “In the Beginning was the word”- the creation of the universe occurring through sound. Jonathan Goldman
Mantras can be used to resonate and harmonise the chakras, starting with low tones at the base, moving through mid-tones at the heart, and high tones at the crown. Interestingly the do-re-mi tones – as in “Do -a deer – a female deer…” – align quite nicely with the chakras. So many of us Western-raised kids have been singing basic mantras without even knowing it.
To penetrate the mysteries of music is to prepare for initiation into those fathomless mysteries of man and cosmos. Joscelyn Godwin
Try this Johnathan Goldman vocal toning the chakras video – it only takes 8 minutes and you’ll be buzzing with good vibrations.
Preparing for the throat Chakradance, I was chanting ‘ham’ for many hours this week. I observe a state of deep calm and ‘otherworldliness’ come over me after these chanting sessions. We all need different techniques to access a state of non-ordinary reality. For me being in a sacred space, either my space or nature, chanting and dancing, or making acoustic noises with drums or rattles, really helps me transition.
Spending time in communion with the throat chakra has highlighted a need to find my voice, to express myself, to make sound, both as communication and expression. Something happens to my soul when I voice this unfettered expression. Many of my partners have been powerful personalities and great singers and I have always tended to stay quiet in their midst. By vocalising with passion, I am finding my own voice, and suddenly it is like a dam bursting, and so much emotion that has been held back is allowed to flow freely.
In shamanism we find power songs or soul songs, which often come through a deep connection with the land.
You need to learn that there are songs that can connect you with the Earth; there are dances that you can dance. When you go to a place on the Earth, if the land calls out to you and says dance, then you should come alive and dance for the power in that spot. You should let a song come up out of you for the Earth, and the words don’t really matter; it’s the feeling. Pretty soon, as you open up to that kind of energy, you’re no longer simply you; you’ve become an Earth spirit, just feeling and hearing everything. That’s what we do at many of our ceremonies, we transform. Sun Bear
Back in January, I found my power place, sitting in a rock pool by the ocean. I started singing an Ani DeFranco song, but soon I was just crooning, wailing, I don’t even know what sound-making was coming from deep within me. It just came and I kept singing it and the more I sang, the more I felt that the ocean was holding me in my pain. That somehow my pain was a gateway to this kind of openness that would allow me to sit in the shallows and make these sounds. I was completely carried away, without inhibition.
Smiling with the mouth of the ocean
And I’ll wave to you with the arms of the mountain
I’ll see you. Faith No More
That emergent song stayed with me, and I use it in ceremony to connect me to that place of power that I connected with. It is a place within, but I also visualise that physical place and reconnect with the spirit of that land that so generously bestowed its power on me.
A power song is said to connect us with our helping spirits: power animals and guides, and to call our power home, both in the summoning of these spirit powers, but also singing our lost soul parts home. This correlation between voice and power makes sense to me.
Finding voice is a theme in Celtic stories, like this one of the bard-poet Caedmon. Caedmon arrived in Ireland in 650, into a highly musical culture. At gatherings a harp would be passed around and everyone had a turn, singing and playing.
“Often at a drinking gathering, when there was an occasion of joy when all must in turn sing with a harp, when Caedmon saw the harp nearing him, he arose for shame from that feast and went home.”
One night, after quietly slipping out of another gathering, he went to tend the animals in the stables. There, “When he set his limbs at rest and fell asleep, some man stood by him in his dream and hailed and greeted him and addressed him by his name: “Caedmon, sing me something.”
Caedmon responded, “I do not know how to sing and for that reason I went out from this feast and went hither.”
To which the figure responded, “Nevertheless, you must sing.”
“What must I sing?” asked the bewildered Caedmon.
Said this mysterious figure: “Sing to me of the first Creation.”
Caedmon then launched out in a fine blaze of song, with an erudition and musical intelligence that he never known before. The day following, he described his dream to his foreman, who brought the event to the attention of the Abbess Hilda. Caedmon’s gift was tested and confirmed when he composed and sang for her and her counsellors.
Excerpt from The Shamanic Odyssey: Homer, Tolkien, and the Visionary Experience, by Robert Tindall and Susana Bustos
Caedmon’s song, like those who still sing in traditional shamanic cultures, had the quality of creating the world anew. When the bards sang, although they told the old stories and myths, each telling created these stories new, and their listeners experienced these tales as vivid visions through the power of the bard’s voice. The song literally took them on a journey.
Sing in me, muse, and through me tell the story of the man of many ways. Homer
In the Irish bardic tradition, stories were meant to evolve and change over time. A talented bard could deliver an old myth with exactly the power needed in that moment to bring about healing, wisdom, and transmutation.
The universe is made of stories, not of atoms. Muriel Rukeyser
In the Irish mythological cycle, the poet Amergin invoked the spirit of the land, the goddess Éire, and cajoled her to give over the land to the people, by singing of his spiritual connection with the land and it’s animal and elemental spirits:
I am the wind that breathes upon the sea,
I am the wave of the ocean,
I am the murmur of the billows,
I am the ox of the seven combatants,
I am the vulture upon the rocks,
I am a beam of the sun,
I am the fairest of plants,
I am the wild boar in valor,
I am a salmon in the water,
I am a lake in the plain,
I am a word of science,
I am the point of the lance in battle,
I am the God who created in the head the fire. Amergin
What he is saying, is that he is the spirit that lives in all things. In a shamanic state we can journey to any aspect of the spirit that lives in all things – we can connect with the salmon or the boar, the lake or the sun. The separation of energy and matter we experience as a barrier in ordinary reality, simply does not apply in non-ordinary realms.
Find a place where you feel safe and are unlikely to be disturbed.
Make an offering of thanks to the spirits of this place and to the Creator. Ask for their blessings and protection in this work that you are about to do.
Enter shamanic or meditative trance by your usual method.
Go deep within your Self. Find who you are at your core, beyond your identity and the roles you play in this world. Feel yourself embodying the True You as you are filled with the energy of the multiverse. You are open to healing energy and to communication with spirit guides.
Begin to sing from this place of vitality, honesty, and power. Allow all you feel and all that you are to flow into your song. Be aware of any changes in your energy or body as the song becomes part of your being.
When you feel you have experienced what you set out to do, or that your song is complete for now, give thanks to all those that walk with you, guide you, and enliven you. Sit in silence for a moment and take note of how you feel. Then return to normal consciousness.
If you don’t feel confident entering a trance-state, simply sit in nature, in a place that appeals to you where you can be undisturbed, and begin to hum or chant and allow yourself to be carried away with the sounds and the sensual feel of the place. Notice the sounds, the smells, can you feel the breeze on your skin, the sunshine?
Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last
for more than a few moments.
It’s one of those magical places wise people
like to talk about.
Are there trees near you,
and does your own soul need comforting?
Quick, then— open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song
may already be drifting away. Mary Oliver
Allow yourself to be immersed in this place, this sensory connection will enable you to shift from your purely rational mind into a full body sensual experience of the place.
Don’t worry if a ‘song’ doesn’t come, just get used to experiencing the spirit of a place in this way. Over time, you’ll find as your sensory awareness awakens, you’ll begin to express your connection with the place in a creative way. Just let it unfold.
The stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own. Mary Oliver
Sam began painting fantasy and science fiction themes which he still enjoys today. Over time, subjects such as anthropology, metaphysics and mysticism began to influence the content of his paintings and led to his magnetism toward the archetype of the spiral. A pattern seen throughout the Universe, the spiral has been utilized by many cultures over time and has several meanings associated with it. One being that of a spiritual journey… a spiral path which we all share.
Visit Sam on Facebook to see his creative process in action – it’s fascinating!
On Earth as it is in Heaven: an interview with musicologist Joscelyn Goodwin
Shamanic Song among the Ancient Celts on Roaming the Mind – the online home for the writing and work of Robert Tindall and Susana E. Bustos.