It is certainly true that in order to center our hearts and minds, quiet is extraordinarily important. But sometimes you can fight fire with fire, and with a cacophony of sound a single tone, a chime or gong can serve to draw the mind away from the chaotic noise – toward a center, and truly hear.
When I am overwhelmed and it seems everyone is vying for my undivided attention and it feels like the sky is closing in on me, all the sound I hear sets my teeth on edge, my head ready to explode – or implode. And what comes to mind is the scene in which the Grinch ruminates on what rankles him about Christmas in Who Ville, “That’s one thing I hate is the noise! Noise! Noise! Noise!”
It is certainly true that in order to center our hearts and minds, quiet is extraordinarily important. But sometimes you can fight fire with fire, and with a cacophony of sound a single tone, a chime or gong can serve to draw the mind away from the chaotic noise – toward a center. As the sound dissipates, it is easier to follow the quiet into that space in which Jesus waits, love dwells – the heart.
Not only does the sound help to draw the attention to center, it can also be healing. There is a fair amount of research that suggests different frequencies modulate particular areas of the nervous system – one wave pattern will work to regulate a particular pattern of synapses in the brain, another pattern influencing a different area. And if you pay attention, you might notice that one tone or chord when played can bring a certain alert sense to the front, while another might loosen a sense of heaviness in the back of the brain. There may also be a scientific basis to the assertion that certain brainwaves affect certain emotions.
Whether one might prove the efficacy of applying a certain range of tones to alleviate specific emotions or provoke others is not especially important. What is important to note is that music is transcendent. Music transcends time and culture and language and politics (though there is some research suggesting a correlation between certain styles of music and political affiliation, but that is for another discussion!) We love to make music. We are moved by music.
Many communities in every continent throughout history have used music and tonality to bring a balance to disequilibrium, often falling back onto the precision of Pythagoras’ frequency intervals (a chart can be found on the website).
Paying attention, being mindful of sounds is much like mindful breathing. And in this way, we begin with paying attention to how we breathe. Are you sitting in a position that is comfortable and relaxed, at the same time, alert? Open while not forcing each breath.
I will strike a chime, and I would like for you to listen all the way through the sound. We will do this three times, and each time I will guide you to attend to different things.
Allow the sound to center you, to draw your attention, your inner sight into focus.
Sense the sound acting on your brainwaves to calm and order them.
Loosen the chaotic fragments of distracting noise (destructive self-talk, injured feelings, your lists to check off). Let them fall away and hear the sound.
What tone surrounds the note? Does it bring to mind a memory? A feeling?
as God draws you more deeply into God’s presence, with that memory, that thought, listen for when sound ends and the silence begins, where the voice of God can be heard.
What did you hear?
As you go about your day, listen to the sounds. What do they look like as you imagine their sources? Listen past the sound to the person making it. In these next moments, can you pick out four distinct sounds? Maybe one you haven’t really noticed before?
As always, resources used in these episodes, along with the transcript can be found on my website: eirenicole.com
And today, may you walk at the pace of grace.