We Become the Sound
v.2 | This sonic season of rage, grief and love.
It’s the last day of summer in the Northern Hemisphere, and though I sense the tonal transition in the rustling of falling leaves and softened shades of sunlight, I’m a bit apathetic. Time is circling in on itself and I long for something palpable. I have an urge to lie in the dirt, navel to navel with the Earth, tapping into her pulse, and pulsing back in mutual recognition: organismal bodies meeting in felt, sensed time.
In the beginning, there was the primordial, cosmic sound OṂ, sometimes written “AUM” to better articulate the three distinct sounds: A-U-M. Because OṂ really begins with “ahhh,” the way a belly-deep scream begins. There is so much to scream about.
I peel away the layers of my skin, carefully excavating that which lies close to the bone. What I find there, next to the bone, is rage; grief; and a love so big it’s no wonder I feel like my skin borders can’t contain it all. I scream to release the pressure inside of my own rattling cage, and I merge with the sound, with the atmosphere.
When we scream - or chant, sing or breathe - we physically transform the air in and around us, mingling our internal landscape with the external world. Through our wails, prayers, songs and moans we alchemically alter our physiology, incanting possibilities. The voice is a portal to connection, restoration and healing.
Perhaps this is why we use our voices to bookend yoga practice with OṂ. We’re intoning union; calling in the possibility of transformation. We become the sound, entering into relationship with the collective; with the cosmos.
This whole world is only the sound oṃ.
oṃkāra evadam sarvam
— Chāndogya Upaniṣad 2.23.3
It feels important to acknowledge that some bodies are granted space to speak up and out; while others are silenced, sometimes violently so. There are ways in which I am silenced, censored; and ways in which I silence, stifle.
It can be hard to locate The Voice after generations and cycles of perpetual quieting. To sustain the “U” and “M” that come after the initial “A” of AUM. But I remember that there’s a fourth part of OṂ: the silence. And that when chosen, silence is powerful.
I listen for something true. When I get quiet I find that every cell in my being pulses, humming to the tune of the vibrations of which I’m comprised: the Solar System; my mother’s constant song; the choir of city sounds; my ancestors’ feet as they patter along, surviving.
We’re re-learning how to be together. To make honest music together. To beat together in all our rage, grief and love. To reunite our breath in practice; in screams of protest; cries of heartbreak; chants of reverence; and songs of joy. To hear one another.
All of life is rhythm. So as the season turns I howl at the harvest moon, and I know I am alive. I hear your howl, your hum, your OṂ, your guttural noises and heartbeat — and I’m grateful we’re not alone.
In resonant, vibratory connection,
Sounds of Subways, (Rock)Stars & Sages
Astronomers say they have heard the sound of a black hole singing. That it has been singing for 2 billion years. And that it is crooning a B flat 57 octaves below middle C. If the stars are singing, might I sing them into me, bathing in a Universe of Sound?
After the death of her infant daughter Chiara, Lama Tsultrim Allione set out on a quest to understand the specificity of a woman’s spiritual journey. She found that the road was paved with grief and rage, the roots of which are love. In response, she developed a practice based in Tibetan Buddhist tradition that aims to transform difficult emotions into compassion. She recently appeared on the Sounds True Podcast, where she shares her path to feminine wisdom, as well as a meditation on embodying the feminine principle, the dakini.
“For the erotic is not a question only of what we do; it is a question of how acutely and fully we can feel in the doing.” — Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic
As I sense the screams all around and within me, I’ve begun to tune into the same affect in music. If I had to pinpoint the moment it was watching Bo Burnham’s Inside, which I will unflinchingly declare a masterpiece of our time; and the ragged, fed up growl with which he ends Bezos I is just.so.relatable. I began hearing it everywhere I turned a metaphorical dial — artists screaming, moaning, groaning alongside their vocals; and also musicians tapping into the so-called God-frequency; or hooking an instrument straight into the land to tap into an Earthly resonance. As I was working on this edition of Yogafolk I started compiling the pieces I stumbled upon that gave expression to these currents. Listen to the collection on Spotify.
Practice listening. Pause to celebrate personal and collective victories. Like, really pause. Support choice. And holistic education. Commune with your local trees. Watch a leaf dance all the way from the branch to the ground. Notice in what ways you feel abundant. Stand in the setting sun and welcome the rising moon; feel the shift from light to dark, and the mingling of the two.
Lastly, thanks to the following folx for their wisdom, shares, edits, and support with this edition: Lama Rod Owens who posits the possibility of love, rage and liberation; Finnean Gerety for his scholarship on OṂ; my Tara Mandala sister Lorraine Kerr-Atkinson who keeps me in touch with the Colorado pulse; Laura Olin, who sends astute and poignant emails every Thursday; Danielle Tsi whose shares always elevate my consciousness; Drew Hoolhorst and Ilana and Marc Martell who walked with me into visceral soundscapes; Pam Lozoff who accompanied me to the redwoods where we bathed in the trees’ wisdom; Daniel Georgiev who reminded me of the importance of not-so-tidy word-making; Leah Tumerman who I look forward to howling with in community again one full moon soon; and Peg Mulqueen who nixed the jargon and assured me that she loves a wildcard.
Til next time, E.