By Kalpana Shere-Wolfe, MD
This is a time of year where regardless of our cultural and spiritual backgrounds, we celebrate love, family, peace and hope. It can be easy to get swept away or overwhelmed with preparations, holiday meals, parties, and gift giving. As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season approaches, staying grounded and centered can be more important than ever. Meditation is a wonderful way to achieve this but as the yogis clearly understood stilling the mind is easier said than done. Sound is a wonderful tool for facilitating meditation – it can soothe, tame and center even the most chaotic and busy minds. Whether you are a novice or a long time meditator, sacred sound can keep peace, joy and light at the forefront of the holidays.
Sound is universal and timeless. Peoples from all beliefs, backgrounds and times – ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Shamans, American Indians, Aborigines and more - have used sound for healing and transformation. There are many examples of sound being referenced as a primordial force in our existence. In Vedic tradition, sound is considered a means to link with the Divine or Universal Force – “tasya vacakah pranavah”. The American Indians reference a Spider-Woman who created all forms of life and breathed life by singing Creation song. In the Christian tradition, the Bible states “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Sound is used in many forms such as music, toning and chant traditions such as kirtans, Sufi qawwalis, cantorial and synagogue music, kabbala, and Gregorian chant. One of the most powerful uses of sound is toning – which is a practice that gives sound to your exhalation. The beauty of this practice is that it uses one’s own voice – something that is always with you, part of you, unique to you and ideally suited for you. Other popular sound tools include crystal bowls and Tibetan singing bowls.
Scientists have shown that sound can affect physical matter – sound creates very specific patterns in physical matter such as water and sand. Sound also can affect our bodies, physically and mentally, such as our brain EEG patterns, mood, heart rate and blood pressure. One study even showed that sound meditation could affect cellular aging!
Sound is a meditative tool that allows us to communicate with the deepest aspects of ourselves and connect to that which is sacred in our existence – for some this may be something only within us, for others it may be God, a Higher Force, or Nature and our vast universe. Whatever it is, sound gives us a way to connect to this during the holidays and beyond. It reminds us of that which is most precious during this time - our relationships with each other and that which we hold sacred and special.
Below are three short sound practices that can be used to stay “in the spirit” of the holidays.
Practice 1: Toning
Practice 2: Vedic Chant
Practice 3: Tibetan Singing Bowls
About the Author: Kalpana Shere-Wolfe, MD
Dr. Kalpana Shere-Wolfe is an Internal Medicine physician with specialization in Infectious Diseases and Critical Care. She completed the Bravewell Fellowship through the University of Arizona Program for Integrative Medicine with Dr. Andrew Weil in 2010. She attended the University of Pennsylvania where she majored in Biochemistry and then went to SUNY Stony Brook to complete her medical training. She completed her residency at St. Lukes'-Roosevelt Medical Center; her Infectious Diseases fellowship at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; and her Critical Care fellowship at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York.
Dr. Shere-Wolfe’s interest in Integrative Medicine stems from her experiences with yoga and sound through the ancient practice of Vedic chant which she has studied for almost ten years. She strongly believes that we have the capacity for self-healing, and that this can be supported by good nutrition, rest/sleep, movement, and positive mindset. She also believes that tools such as our breath, body and mind can be used to access deeper layers of ourselves that aid in awareness, behavior and ultimately healing and happiness. She views most herbs, supplements and pharmacologic medicines as sometimes necessary or helpful as short term aids in the healing process.
Her specific interests include the use of integrative modalities for patients with chronic infections and immune related diseases. At the Center for Integrative Health and Healing she provides Integrative Medicine consultations for a variety of illnesses including chronic fatigue syndrome, post-infectious disease syndromes, post treatment Lyme diseases/chronic Lyme disease, anxiety, depression, pain and wellness. She incorporates chanting/sound, breath, Ayurvedic principles and yoga therapy into her treatment. In addition, she offers consultations in the use of Ayurveda for wellness and yoga therapy treatment of chronic conditions.
To schedule an appointment to see Dr. Shere-Wolfe at our Integrative Medicine Clinical Practice, please call 410-448-6361 or email CIMClinicInfo@som.umaryland.edu.
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