Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sound to Heal, Sound to Harm | BYB

This blog is about using sound for healing. The truth is that sound can also be used to cause harm.

Noise pollution is a serious health threat in North America, Europe, and other urbanized parts of the world.

Medical studies have shown that the human brain can cope with no more than three noise sources at a time---and then only for a limited period. How long, minutes or hours, depends on the person and the noise.

After that, the human brain's thinking processes literally shut down. You simply cannot think anymore (never mind trying to sleep).

Part of the problem is too many people and machines concentrated in one area. Traffic and construction noises are typical examples.

Much of the problem, though, is lack of consideration for others, even outright hostility. Deliberately creating excessive noise, or refusing to moderate noise that you know will disturb others, is an antisocial act. It can be a form of aggression.

Technology often outstrips common sense. And marketers are quick to push products that will make money, regardless of the harm they may cause. In particular I'm referring to the spread of subwoofers, also known as "sub-bass speakers".

Sub-bass speakers are actually subsonic. That is, they are designed to vibrate humans and their environment (walls, floors, etc.) with "sound" that is technically below the audible (hearing) range.

Any sound you hear from sub-bass speakers is just added on to let you know that they are working. Sub-bass speakers are actually designed to rock your world. That is, they are designed to vibrate buildings, air, and people's bodies.

If you live miles from civilization, maybe that would not harm other humans. But it could certainly harm wildlife.

But sub-bass/subwoofer speakers are generally an urban phenomenon, and they are a harmful one. Their use in vehicles has been outlawed in some cities, because their use in the so-called "boombox cars" has been found to damage masonry buildings.

Cars are not the only places that sub-bass speakers are installed these days. They are in all new stereo systems, medium to large television sets, computer speaker systems, video game systems, and even cheap CD players. That is a really bad thing!

Think about it: If the vibrations can damage buildings, what do they do to your body? Part of the answer depends on the vibration.

* Some throbbing beats actually make your legs ache when they vibrate the foundations of buildings.

* Others feel like you are being bopped on the back of the neck at the base of the skull. Inside that area is the brain stem, the oldest part of the brain, the part that controls your body's automatic functioning such as breathing, hormone release, and heartbeat.

* The rapid air-pressure changes caused by some rhythms make you feel as if someone is boxing your ears (a practice that was stopped generations ago as a way of disciplining children, because it damages your hearing).

* Other times the vibrations affect the stomach and intestines, interfering with digestion and causing nausea.

* Probably the most frightening and unpleasant effect is when the vibrations affect the human diaphragm, the thin muscle membrane that supports the heart and lungs. It can feel as though you are having a heart arrhythmia. In other words, it feels as though your heart is beating out of sync. It also feels difficult to breathe.

* Trying to sleep in a constantly jolted bed keeps you from sleeping normally---if you can sleep at all. The damaging effects of sleep deprivation for mental and physical health are well documented. Sleep deprivation is officially, legally a torture method.

Recently a neighbor told me about a man who had a small subwoofer (sub-bass) speaker attached to his computer. He had placed it on the floor, which happens to be the best place to put one for maximum vibration. He had also "turned it way down low" and forgotten about it.

His downstairs neighbors could not sleep and felt that they were being constantly bopped on the head when he was working at the computer. It took awhile for the computer guy to figure out what they were complaining about, because he didn't hear anything and didn't notice the vibration.

The vibration was being propagated through his floor, magnified by the air space between floors, traveling down the walls, and even vibrating the foundation of the building.

All this is in addition to the effects of actual sound. It is just vibration. Of course, such vibrations also often create sound, as when they vibrate window panes, glassware, fan blades, metal railings, and other things.

Add to the misery of having your body pummeled by someone else's choice of rhythm the fact that rock and roll (and rap/hiphop) rhythms have been proven stunt the growth of plants, and you have dangerous sound pollution.

This has all been brought more and more to mind recently by a nasty neighbor, a lawyer who rehearses a rock band several times a week from midnight till 3 or 4 am across the street from where I live.

When one neighbor dared to tell him that the noise was jolting her building all night and was costing her and others sleep, he started a campaign of retaliation. He now runs a stereo (with powerful sub-bass speakers but with the sound turned down somewhat) all night long, every night.

That jolts the foundation of our apartment building. It can be felt and heard even in the courtyard on the side of the building away from the street. Sometimes it can be heard (or felt) up to two blocks away!

Having been sleep-deprived now for months, I have been having a hard time thinking, much less blogging. However, I finally found the blessing in this particular misery: It inspired this blog post.

Be aware of the sound and vibration in your environment. Make sure that you are not disturbing others. Sometimes the most healing sound of all is silence.

May you be blessed with plenty of silence---as well as healing sounds when you need them.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Drum, Dance and Dream for Peace | Blog Your Blessings

Sound can be used to heal the Earth and all peoples as well as to heal individuals. We often forget that. Research shows that sound can heal or harm animals and plants as well as humans.

On June 25, 2007, a group called Drum, Dance and Dream for Peace held the "largest drum circle in the world" in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall as part of the World Children's Festival. Find out more at http://www.worlddreamspeacebridge.org/drumming/index.htm

Groups at various places all over the world held simultaneous drum circles as part of that event. I can't tell from their website whether they plan to do it again this year, but I hope they do.

It's a beautiful idea. Let's drum for the Earth. Whether we all do it on the same day or not doesn't really matter. Let's just do.

This year in March a group in Virginia is staging a similar event. I received the following email this week, and I'm working with a local shop owner to see if we can hold one here in Houston on the same day.

Greetings, White Cranes, my name is Blake. I'm the organizer
for the Richmond Virginia drum circle meetup. I'm putting the
word out to all the drum and dance meetup groups on here asking
for help for a special event we are having here in our town.

Our winter meetup spot is at a great club/social gathering
place called the Camel. On Saturday March 15, they are hosting
an all day, sunrise to sunset drum-a-thon, featuring drummers
and dancers from our area (and or course, our drum circle has a
spot, too!). This is a fundraiser for the non-profit Richmond
Peace Education Center.

I'd like to ask your group to drum along with us that day to help raise energy and positivity. Can you imagine thousands of drummers across the country AND Canada drumming together for a peaceful cause? YES! Just the thought
is exciting.

Feel free to check our meetup site and email me with any questions or comments or whatever. Hope you have a great meetup next Thursday and PEACE AND LOVE to you and yours!

http://www.rpec.org Richmond Peace Education Center

http://www.thecamel.org The Camel, our winter oasis

* If you'd like to see the Meetup profile for Blake, visit:

So now you have all the information to contact Blake if you would like to organize a drum circle for March 15 in your own community.

People who care about the Earth and who gather to heal her with sound. Now that is a blessing!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Abubakr Kouyate, Drum Master & Healer---BYB

Although I have used sound for healing since 1990, I might never have written about it (much less created this blog) if it were not for my African drumming teacher, Abubakr Kouyate.

Abubakr teaches in the casual West African village style, where all ages and all skill levels learn together. More important, he teaches what each complex multipart djembe rhythm is intended to do. Some are for young people's iniations, some are women's business, some are for social gatherings.

Others are for stylized combat exhibitions among young men, for war, or to honor certain occupations. There are also different rhythms to accompany (and synchronize) different kinds of group work.

Our class favorites tend to be the spiritual rhythms that accompany such acitivities as foretelling the future, advising community members on their lives, admonishing children, blessing a household, or fishing once a year in the sacred pond.

However, every single rhythm has a type of healing energy that we can feel, whether listening or playing them. Medical research, as discussed in some of my earliest posts, proves that.

A couple of years ago, the owner of the shop where we have our drum class suggested that I write a magazine article on the healing power of drumming to accompany an ad he was placing about events at his shop. With research help from a classmate, Lynn Colwell, I wrote the article, and the magazine editor published it.

After all that work, researching and writing, it seemed like a good idea to reserve future publication rights and put the information on a web site. Eventually that article was serialized on this blog.

So while I know I have been blessed by knowing and studying with such a spiritual man and a gifted teacher, it occurred to me today that if you enjoy this blog, you, too, have been blessed by the teaching of Abubakr Kouyate.

By the way, I am building a small web site for Abubakr. It should be on line by Monday evening: http://www.AbuBakr.info. Stop by sometime if you would like to know more about him.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Origins of Healing with Sound | Blog Your Blessings

Many ancient spiritual belief systems say that sound created the world. That tells us that ancient and indigenous people were/are keenly aware of the power of sound to heal, to harm, to create, and to destroy.

We all know that sonic booms can break windows, loud blasts can break eardrums, and too much loud noise can make you crazy. The U.S. Goverment even used sound (very loud rock and roll music) to try to get the President of Panama to surrender so they could cart him off to prison in the U.S.

Research shows that the human brain can filter out up to three noise sources at once, but only for a limited amount of time. How long depends on how loud and how disruptive the noise is. But at some point, the human brain simply shuts down, and you literally can't think anymore. Corporations that allow noisy offices should take heed.

Medical research also shows that certain forms of sound are healing---even though they are not sure why. For example, there is extensive research on drumming: how it cures headaches, promotes trance states (which are often in themselves healing), retrains the brain (which can be important in recovering from strokes and other kinds of brain and nerve damage), and so on.

Indigenous people have many teaching stories about how sound can heal people. But western medical science does not listen to them. In fact, until recently anthropologists largely overlooked much of what indigenous people do and think. Anthropologists had certain questions that they asked about certain categories of society. Much of indigenous culture, having no counterpart in modern European and American culture, was invisible to them.

In a way, many beliefs and practices of indigenous cultures have been invisible to indigenous peoples, too. That is, some are like water to a fish---so obvious that you would not feel a need to mention them, even to outsiders. Yet the outsiders (anthropologists and others) are blind to those obvious things, because such things have no meaning in their own culture.

Other things are so sacred that they are not spoken of openly to the uninitiated, and certainly not to outsiders. So shamans or priestesses might know something that ordinary folk might not.

As ridiculous as it may seem, up until recently both male and female anthropologists only bothered to interview indigenous males. They assumed that women were just workers, not carriers of culture. How wrong they were!

Archeologists now know that women invented mathematics, language, astronomy, basketry, pottery, weaving, dyeing, gardening, shamanism, medicinal lore and plant knowledge and much more. There is hard evidence for most of those statements and strong circumstantial evidence for the rest. All of that matches what is observed among indigenous peoples.

The oldest pictures of drums show them being played by women. Some archeologists theorize that the drums derived from sieves that the women made and used to separate the chaff from grain. But those would be much later drums, invented after agriculture began--only a few thousand years ago.

Modern human beings like us have existed at least 250,000 to 300,000 years. Long before agriculture someone is bound to have discovered that hollow logs make good drums. Women who stretched pieces of rawhide to dry would have discovered they could make a noise.

Before that there were always sticks or stones to be clapped together. Or just hands clapping, voices humming, and so on.
What matters is rhythm. Rhythm is powerful no matter what you use to make it.

How sad it is that our culture is so ignorant of the power and importance of sound for healing---and of the harm that the wrong kinds of sound can cause. Only in the last couple of decades have experiments shown that different kinds of music affect plant growth. Rock and roll, for example, stunts growth, while classical music enhances it.

And that's just western music. The sacred music of many cultures has been used for healing for thousands of years.

So please spread the word. You can learn more about the power of sound for healing by searching on the Internet (using Google, Yahoo, or your favorite search engine) for phrases like "drumming for healing" or "sound for healing" or look for books and/or recordings on the topic on Amazon.com. There are quite a few.

And so today I'm grateful for the blessing of sound and for the huge variety of sounds that are useful for healing.