There’s No Place Like OM

I know, I know. I couldn’t resist. Sorry.

The world is very noisy right now. It’s polluted with the cacophony of discontent, with cries of anguish and fear, of anger and derision. Sometimes the din makes it too loud to hear myself think… or to feel. And maybe that’s the point – the roar may block some of our pain. Where can we find some peace and quiet? Because under the tumult is the sound of the Universe. And that sound is harmony.

I was watching one of my guilty pleasures on TV a few weeks back, which postulated an extraterrestrial explanation for the fact that dozens of megalithic sites stretching across the globe – like the prehistoric Newgrange monument in Ireland, the chiseled labyrinths underneath the island of Malta, and the giant temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia – were all designed to emanate the exact same frequency. Although I wasn’t convinced by the program that ancient aliens were behind this synchronicity, it was fascinating to me, because as a teenager and young adult I was a musician and singer, and music was very much a part of my life. I’ve always known that music has effects on the brain, on our emotions, and on our health, and science bears this out. But the idea that this awareness has been around since Neolithic times, and spanned our globe, was an eye-opener to me.

Chanting, singing, music, and musical tones and vibrations have been used in rituals and healing for centuries. Sound healing employs the use of voice, tuning forks, singing bowls, instruments, gongs (I had the incredible experience of a healing “gong bath” last year that was simply amazing) and other sound emitters to elicit a response in the body and the Spirit.

In 2013, the Planck Space Telescope “heard” and recorded the sound waves made by the primordial Universe. Technically, this sound mapping represents a 50-octave compression in going from the actual wavelengths of the primordial sound waves (around 450,000 light-years, or around 47 octaves below the lowest note on the piano) to wavelengths we can hear (for more information on the Planck Mission go here). This dull “whoosh” would be the literal sound of the Universe, if we had the capacity to hear it on a day to day basis. This discovery came ten years after the discovery of the deepest note of the Universe, – which happens to be a B flat – coming from a Black Hole. In my opinion, on the geek factor scale, these findings rank as totally dope.

But what is the sound of the Spiritual Universe? It depends on how you define “sound.” Let’s look at a few possibilities:

In Hinduism, OM is one of the most important spiritual symbols and sounds. It refers to the conjunction of Atman (soul, self within) and Brahman (ultimate reality, entirety of the universe, truth, divine, supreme spirit, cosmic principles, knowledge). As a yoga practitioner, I have long considered the chanting of OM to connect me to the “sound of the Universe.” It’s the way classes are often begun or ended. It’s a soul-cleansing, connecting community activity. And I’ve always loved the combination of the different voices, coming in as they were called to, creating a “round” effect of different octaves. The way that the sound resonates in our bodies and touches our Spirit is a perfect complement to the practice of yoga.

Music calms many people (although what type of music may vary – one person’s Yanni is another’s Metallica). But there are sound frequencies that exist that actually stimulate physical and emotional healing. In 2016, neuroscientists put out a list of the ten most soothing songs, from a clinical perspective. This one – “Weightless” by Marconi Union – was found to be the most relaxing. In fact, the musicians worked in collaboration with sound therapists to make it so. I’m listening to it as I write this blog (and will listen to the others on the list as well, for research purposes), and as soon as the music started, I have to say that I felt a marked difference in my body and my mind. In tests done during the study, neuroscientists found that listening to the song resulted in a striking 65 percent reduction in participants’ overall anxiety, and a 35 percent reduction in their usual physiological resting rates. I’ve written blogs on the mind/body connection, and anything that reduces stress and the effects of anxiety on the body vastly improves its health and quality of life.

Adherents to metaphysical philosophies have long espoused theories that certain sound frequencies are healthful, or Spiritually enlightening. These are the so-called “Solfeggio Frequencies.” Solfeggio frequencies refer to specific tones of sound that help with and promote various aspects of body and mind health. For example, the frequency 528 Hz is known as the “God” frequency, or the “miracle” frequency, and has been shown to significantly reduce anxiety. The frequency 432 Hz is also known for its healing properties. Most interestingly, these effects have been clinically documented. Use of the Solfeggio frequencies for healing and Spiritual growth is reputed to date back to ancient history, and said to be the fundamental sounds used in both Western Christianity and Eastern Indian religions, chanted by the Gregorian Monks and in ancient Indian Sanskrit chants. An enlightening analysis of the science behind this can be found here. Interestingly, almost all music used the 432 Hz frequency until the mid-20th century, when most popular music began using 440 Hz, which does not exhibit healing effects. While writing this part of the blog, I’ve been testing out some of the Solfeggio frequency music. I had to stop listening to the 528 after about ten minutes, since I was feeling too freaky! Apparently, there’s a fine line between relaxed and nearly comatose.

A few years ago, I attended a Krishna Das Kirtan with a friend. For some time, I have listened to Krishna Das (with whom I have no affiliation whatsoever) and others who have popularized Sanskrit chants – principally because they popped up on the ambient relaxation music I listened to at my desk at work. Attending my first Kirtan in person was an indescribable experience. The resonance and physical reaction of an auditorium full of people chanting in tandem was stimulating and healing, and filled my heart with reverence and joy. That kind of positive energy, created within community to a common purpose, is profound. It’s something foreign to most of us Westerners, but I highly recommend the experience – at least once. It certainly does serve, at least while it lasts, to replace the troubled sounds of a world in crisis.

Are you drowning in the racket surrounding you and looking for some peace? Tried “everything” to find some relief and still feeling anxious and agitated? Maybe finding the right type of sound to replace the clamor would be just what the doctor ordered

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