It was a considered choice, where I placed my yoga mat—this was a sound healing class and my first.
Choose your place and your position to best peacefully absorb the sound vibrations, is the cue I’m getting from the others.
So, for a class in which sensitivity to my environs was of more importance than with a sweaty asana practise, no random mat placement for me. My spot of choice was at the further end of the room, closest to the glass doors which opened onto the regular gorgeous Balinese background—this time the view was of pond, koi and a plethora of tropical plants.
A soft breeze drifting in and nothing between me and the soothing hand of nature, one of the joys of beautiful studios with glass walls, open doors and type A personality mat placement.
A blanket rolled under my knees and a pose of organised collapse aka savasana had me all ready for my first foray into this realm.
I have expectations.
Close to my head were two types of bowls: cloud coloured crystal singing bowls and handmade metal Japanese singing bowls (Zanmaikin), each with their own soft spoken, uber-polite, gentle sound technician waiting to ply their art.
My breathing slows. Ready. Bring it on.
Whoosh…the first sound washes over me, and I not just hear but feel the vibrations rippling in my body and I sneak a peek—the modest soft sound woman has transformed into a diva; crystal bowl lifted on her palm and a strength and conviction to her that thrills me—the power of sound has started.
I open my pores and close my eyes.
Dudududududddd…the sound of a jack hammer barges its way into the room. Blimey—that ain’t no healing sound.
Initially, I try to mentally make the noise go away, wishing it to stop so I can continue to enjoy what is being promised—after all, positive thinking might work (it didn’t).
I then want to giggle at the ludicrous situation: try as I might I can’t reconcile the concept of sound healing with jackhammers. And I get angry, my much anticipated enjoyment has in one clamorous swoop crumbled to the floor—who can I blame? Should I complain?
But this is Bali, which presently translates into a building boom. No matter where one goes, concrete, villas and bungalows are going up and rice fields are disappearing—only development to blame here.
Now, suddenly I wish I had set up camp on the other side of the room, as my much coveted open doors have been closed and glass walls don’t offer much separation from the nasty sound. I rue my choice, wondering if I should move, stay or leave, only to have an angle grinder open up (verbatim: not inserted for literary dramatic purposes) and scream its way into our vulnerable space of supposed healing, this time from the other side.
Although, I guess it’s irrelevant where one is in the room: a cacophony of sound it is, with no hint of abating.
I feel sorry for our sound magicians, such a beautiful gift they offer, only to be sullied by the gross sounds of modern reality. But they do not hesitate and their absorption with their art is more determined and even infectious, so I settle down to see if I can replicate their meditative focus.
How does one describe sound of that quality: crystal, hand tempered metal, bamboo flute? The beauty is so exquisite that I just want to immerse myself deeper into this river of sound, to flood myself with the tremors of its purity—I float, plunge, fly, pulsate and swirl with the waves of the sound.
And then come crashing back to the jackhammer and a bit of angle grinder to spice up the mix.
I get distracted and spend a few minutes considering what it must do to the body to work with that hell machine. And then, back into the waterfall of phenomenal sounds that swell and drop and ebb and flow reverberating off the walls and into my bones. The high screech of grinding, a glorious sound cloud of crystal, laughing, doors opening, a tinkle like chimes, hammers, talking, people shifting around me—the spectrum of sounds on offer is immense, overwhelming.
Not what I had expected. And in a moment, I realize that this is exactly where I am right now in my life.
Overwhelmed by all that life is offering—and it’s not what I had ordered. My recent move from home, community and yoga teaching has me roller-coasting through some pretty intense feelings, particularly an anxiety and deep contraction that has me gasping. Not the delirious freedom I had expected.
Living the dream but certainly not feeling it—I was being overwhelmed by the jack hammers of my life.
Just like the sounds I was hearing, it was all on offer, from the angelic to the painfully gritty. So, what do I do? Can I choose? I could continue to mull over the life of an angle grinder or turn my attention to the lilting music.
We do this all the time in our yoga practice: pratyahara, sense withdrawal—draw my awareness away from the distracting building site out there—number five on wise Patanjali’s list, and then: dharana, one-pointed focus, with intention focus only on the offering inside.
It seems as if the transferring of yogic skill into life skill was getting lost in translation—I needed to take theory and theoretical practice into skillful living.
It wasn’t about denying the presence of the other sounds, or about not feeling what is being experienced but constantly, without attachment or expectation, choosing to return to the sound of my choice, to the highest principle on offer.
Walk my talk—be a yogi also off the mat…after all why else do yoga?
For a while, I see-sawed between sounds, but was magnetised to the music, and felt myself slipping deeper and deeper into its magic—and then I was in a realm of crystal and snow, sparkling light reflecting off ice, the sound of a water drop refracting into slivers when it hits the ground, singing bamboo and whispering wind.
My body was bathed in sound and I was elsewhere.
The realisation that filtered through was that this was my answer: life is a cacophony of construction sites, rice fields, peaceful and messy feelings, and the expectation of being able to control and limit what I experience to the pretty stuff, will only meet with disappointment, anger and frustration—no matter how carefully one chooses mat location.
And yet, by repeatedly, daily, hourly (and not just when on a yoga mat) mindfully turning to that which brings harmony, higher vibration, love I can slip into that space where I become the spaciousness in which all sound and life happens.
I move beyond sound, my relationship with my suffering shifts.
This was my healing from sound.
Blessed be the jackhammers.
Oh Bali, thank you.
Natascha Fischer is a semi-permanent nomad, having lived on four different continents over the past 15 years—and is once again on the move. She has discovered that one of her favourite destinations is the realm of yoga, and what’s more, it’s fantastically mobile. Her journeys in this crazy beautiful world are reflections of the travels within herself, minus Tripadvisor, making for some intense and wondrous discoveries. She is still en route and sharing her perspectives through teaching yoga and writing brings her great joy. Stay in touch with her on Facebook.
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Ed: Bryonie Wise