The Healing Power of Your Own Voice
Oct 21, 2018 by Trina Brunk
The collective resonance of all the voices of those gathered in a circle with me reverberates through every cell of my being and I am at once completely where I am, completely who I am, and completely indivisible from the whole group.
Toning circles are something I first experienced in 2000, when sound healing pioneer Jonathan Goldman came to Boulder where Rob and I were living at the time. The experience of being with a larger group of people who were simultaneously making such pure and undefended sounds together felt a whole lot like “home”, and this stuck with me through the years. I decided to facilitate a weekly series of toning and chanting circles during July and August at Unity of Portland, which were very well received and so we will be continuing the circles there on a monthly basis.
What is toning?
It’s a practice of creating a sustained vocal tone, usually staying on one vowel (but that’s not a rigid rule), with the purpose of allowing oneself to feel the effects of the sound throughout one’s Being.
According to the web site www.lemurianchoir.com,
“No melody, no words, no rhythm, and no harmony - just the sound of the vibrating breath. Its a simple yet powerful technique, accessible to everyone regardless of vocal ability or training. Through toning you can immediately experience the effects of sound on your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
By literally massaging body and mind from the inside out, meditative toning can help you focus and relax; release negative emotions; reduce stress; and improve stamina and concentration.
Toning synchronizes the brainwaves and helps relieve tension within a few minutes. Toning is also a wonderful technique for developing your voice-ear connection and enhancing your power of listening to everything around you.
Most of all, toning restores balance and harmony to the mind and body. It can help you awaken and deepen your sense of self, and align you to the deepest vibrations of soul and spirit. On the path of toning, you move toward the source of your own inner balance, creativity, well-being, and freedom.”
As a singer/songwriter, lyrics are really important to me, but the quality of presence that is communicated through the voice via toning or singing is something that can’t be duplicated. I often hear people tell me that they can’t sing, that I ought to be glad that they aren’t singing, that their childhood choir director told them to mouth the words, and all kinds of things that leave me dumbfounded at how common such unkindness is among humans. Then they get in a toning circle, and with a little willingness and encouragement, they find the healing power of their own voice.
It appears to me that we communicate so much of who we are through the vibration of our voices and that if we extend the sounds in the form of singing or toning, we are letting our soul speak in a way that it can’t through spoken word. And if there are places within us that we’ve held back, because of shame or self-rejection, we’ll probably feel very vulnerable about revealing ourselves, letting anyone else hear us (banishing our full-hearted voices to car or shower singing where no one else can hear). And it can be very triggering, too, to hear the emotional energy in others’ voices that we’ve rejected in ourselves. Which would explain the discomfort or annoyance that many of us adults have at the sound of babies crying or children “whining”, or the feeling of being unsafe that can arise if we hear anger in the voices of those around us. Our voices are so powerful.
How wonderful, and healing, then, to come together with a group of others who are committed to co-creating a love field of acceptance and healing, with the purpose of making a safe space for each person to share their voice and to receive the vibrations of the others — to hear and be heard, to accept and be accepted, to love and be loved.
Jonathan Goldman writes about a formula he came up with: “Frequency + Intention = Healing”.
I thought about this and it matches my experience, and I could also see a couple of other variations that would work. Like “Frequency + Intention = Communication” . . . and if we consider Quantum Physics or the Biblical passage “In the Beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”, then, “Frequency + Intention = Creation”.
So if we are to take the implications of these words to heart, the combination of our intention and our vocalizations is a whole lot more powerful than we often acknowledge.
In that spirit, at the beginning of each Toning/Chanting circle, I invite a check-in with questions that help participants to bring focus to their intentions: “Name something you’d like to surrender and something you’d like to welcome in.” "What is something you’d like to see in the headlines between now and the next time we meet?” and so on.
I find that a practice of setting intentions at regular intervals, and then reviewing what’s happened since the last time we set an intention, allows us to enter into an interactive dynamic with the Universe where we get direct feedback about how we’re manifesting. (Am I on track and manifesting according to my purpose? or am I maybe off a bit? or, do I have blocks that are keeping me from being able to fully express what I’m here for?)
It’s amazing to watch how our lives really do transform as we combine our focused intention with vocalization, and when it’s done in a group context, to see how our lives become more and more mutually wonderfully intertwined in ways that are honoring and empowering for all concerned.
And it can get a little dicey sometimes when I request that toning circle participants consider what intentions they’d like to bring into manifestation, because for some interesting reason, the idea of setting an intention can bring up all kinds of performance anxiety (“what if I don’t intend the right thing”) or fear about not knowing what our purpose is, or being blocked in our ability to manifest what we want to manifest — and there are other creative ways that we can get stuck.
This is not something to skip over, because it indicates that a very significant part of our sovereign personhood is needing to be given attention in order for our lives to be lived as fully as they can and for our unique contribution on the planet to be fully made before our temporary experience of individual-ness is done.
What I recommend if you experience such a difficulty around being clear about what you want to do/be/have, or setting intentions or manifesting your intent, is to make your meditation focus about addressing the issues you’re experiencing -- and to be with the emotional energy that comes up without pushing it away.
Oh, yes, even the "yucky stuff":
“But what if I have negative emotions? I don’t want to pollute the space with my anger/fear/rage/jealousy/depression/etc.”
This concern alone can stop people from really relaxing into the group but it’s the easiest thing to deal with if you understand how.
The intention that I set at the beginning of each group is that whatever comes up is a part of the wholeness that we’re co-creating, and if something that comes up feels out of resonance with this wholeness, that means that it’s coming up for healing. So that gives us good reason to celebrate regardless of what we feel. “In all things give thanks”, to offer another Biblical quote.
I invite you to consider bringing toning circles to your community, whether with a small group of friends or a larger group that can meet regularly. I believe that this kind of gathering is a perfect context for the birth of authentic, heart-centered community, which I think we are all in deep need of.
From my heart to yours . . .