There’s an activity I do in my presentations and performances that I call “Sounds Around.” It involves becoming quiet and just listening. As I write this, I can hear the steady tick of a clock, birds chirping, the leaves rustling outside, chimes gently sounding as the wind blows, the hum of my computer’s hard drive, the high-pitched hiss of the air conditioner fan, the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard, my own breathing, etc. Sound is everywhere.
We are good at tuning out the everyday sounds. But they are constantly there bombarding us and affecting us subconsciously. Some sounds we find pleasing, like the sound of a loved one’s voice, ocean waves bouncing against the shore, or peaceful music at the end of a stressful day. And some sounds are rather annoying, like squeaky brakes, loud music next door at 3:00AM, or nails down a chalk board. Sounds can elicit memories and trigger visceral responses. Sound is very powerful.
The first step is to become aware of the sounds we can hear by just taking time to listen. It’s a form of mindfulness practice and so important in understanding the use of sound and music for healing.
I often accompany this activity with a body scanning exercise (before and after) to encourage people to gauge their own body’s reactions to the sounds around them. I invite them to notice any areas of tension or pain and to breathe into those areas and breathe out the discomfort. Then, I might ask them to focus in on one sound and start playing with that sound, possibly adjusting their inhale and exhale to match the rhythm of the sound, or imagining the sound getting louder or softer, higher or lower in pitch, etc.
Inevitably, the energy in the room shifts. People report their breathing gets deeper and steadier and they feel less anxious. It also helps set the stage for people (including myself) to be more present for what comes next in the presentation or performance.
So what sounds do you hear around you right now?
Krylyn Peters is a counselor and singer/songwriter (aka songwriting therapist™) who uses the power of music and sound for healing. www.krylyn.com