By James D'Angelo
"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God". This profound statement in the New Testament is the ultimate basis for the power of harmonious vibration as a great healing force in the world. The Word is still a mystery but scientists are drawing closer to its reality. In a recent article in The Independent (30 April 01) it was reported that scientists have recorded the music of creation using an instrument that can, in effect go back to the origin of creation. They have detected harmonic notes, minute ripples of sound that became the seeds of matter forming stars, galaxies and solar systems. Thus the beginning of our existence was through vibration. The very word 'vibration' begins with the symbol V which, when repeated, actually represents sound waves. That a fundamental vibration created our world is alluded to in Genesis where God created through his voice - "And God said, 'Let there be light and there was light." The simplest definition of creation is 'movement' but not just random movement but vast multi-layered patterns of vibration which physicists would call 'frequencies' or rates of vibration.
What is vibration which when made audible as in music becomes sound? It is the pull of two opposing forces in the universe for without opposites creation runs down. On the one hand is the force we call 'stillness' as found in meditation, for example. Yet however deep this stillness movement can still be detected. On the other is the force that moves outward (as in e-motion) and desires to take action and endlessly create new things. This interplay is the source of all vibration which encompasses both the audible and inaudible worlds.
On this basis every human being is the offspring of the original Word which contains all possibilities. We are riding on the crest of this fundamental vibration and if we could feel its full impact at all times we could be fully realized persons - person = per sonare =through sound. There is a school of Indian philosophy that, in fact, states that the nature of consciousness is pulsation or throb. That is why the sound of AUM given to us by the Hindus and pronounced as OM is such a sacred vibration. It represents the beginning (Alpha) and the end (Omega) and the many (the wide open mouth of O = the universal self) and the one (the closed mouth of M = the individual self). In Latin we have OMnes meaning 'all' and from 'all' we have the sacred sounds of ALLah, ALLeluia and even ALLow.
If the universe is this finely tuned multitude of vibration frequencies, then using the principle of 'as above, so below, each of us is the same. An example of this is the propeller. When at rest we see four individual blades but when it is at full speed we see what looks to be a solid object. So to move to a higher dimension of existence is to vibrate at ever higher frequencies. This is the nature of the universe. Then the essence of sound healing is the re-tuning of the human instrument, correcting at whatever level those frequencies which have become weakened or gone out of tune. This is done on the basis of resonance, be it sympathetic vibrations or the power of forced resonance. Basically, whatever part of us that is ailing can be awakened by harmonious sound sources and remember at what frequency it should be vibrating. This can occur at the physical level (from cells to muscles to organs), the subtle level (changing negative psychology) and the causal level (create permanent positive changes in one's nature). It is no accident that doctors tell us that we are in 'sound health' or 'of sound mind.' The medical profession is, to some extent, using sound therapy. For example, the application of ultrasound in the treatment of sciatica. At a higher level spiritual teachers initiate people into meditation through the sound of a mantra. Here the creation of vibration works in reverse. First there is the form (the mantra) which then it turns into a wave and finally into a pulse.
What are the practical ways of using sound for healing? Listening to music for there is no question that everyone who does is practicing sound therapy. People's choices of listening depend on the very nature of their sound frequencies. Music is not just something that goes into the ear. It impinges on the entire bioenergetic field (aura) and if there is incompatibility with the music it will be rejected. Singing, best done collectively, has positive transforming effects but it is not specifically directed so its effects are not particularized. Natural voice workshops are certainly on the increase as the desire for the unity of community grows.
The deeper levels of sound therapy come through primarily Eastern traditions using singing bowls, crystal bowls, tuning forks and the human voice in the form of toning, chanting and overtoning. There is also the controversial field of cymatics , pioneered in the UK by Dr P G Manners, which uses electronic sets of frequencies that correspond to different parts of the body. Of all these approaches the most practical is the use of the voice, an marvelous instrument we have been given at birth. It was not given just for communication but also for healing. Each vowel, consonant, pitch, modulation and overtone can find its place within us. There is a secret power in language such that if all the world ceased speaking all our energy levels would sink dramatically. Naturally, in speech it is all fleeting and random as we move from syllable to syllable. Working with vowels and consonants in a conscious and deliberate way in the form of single sounds, mantras, chants and overtones (which are the vitamins and minerals of the sound) will empower them to do healing work. For example, we use the word 'who' quite frequently but who would ever think it was a so-called sacred sound. Yet the Sufis describe this sound spelled HUU as sacred and regularly intone it in their ceremonies. It is a name of God and a sound of purification, especially when the H breath sound is emphasized. It subtly expresses our divinity in the expression 'Who am I? - I am HUU.
One area of vocal sound therapy taken for granted is natural, emotional sounds. When we release our emotions in sounds, we are sending vibrations to particular parts of the body and also to the psyche. Laughing, groaning, keening, sighing and humming. The greatest of these is laughter. Everyone likes and needs to laugh otherwise comedy would have no point in the world. Why is it contributing to positive health? Primarily because it consists of the spiritual H sound - the power of the breath and some sort of vowel depending on the personality of the individual. Often you can see where people experience themselves by the type of laughter. Just make a vigorous HUH sound from your belly over and over again and you should find that a burning sensation appears in the head. That is a powerful energy, one that stimulates the glands, particularly the thymus, as it rises upwards. And the medical establishment has confirmed that laughter can boost the immune system among other things.
Toning can be directed to specific organs of the body and to the chakra system itself. An effective system for the organs has been brought to the West by Mantak Chia and it employs movement with the simplest of sounds. Movement in a similar form to Tai Chi and Chi Kung is always complementary to healing vibrations because it encourages the release of the sound and can even direct it to particular places. This Taoist system uses SSSS for the lungs, WOH for the kidneys, SSHHH for the liver, HAW for the heart and WOO for the spleen, all done sub-vocally. Within the Tantra Yoga tradition is found a profound method for harmonizing the chakras through toning. Its basis is the sound of AM. In English it is the equivalent to beingness in I AM. What directs the power of this sound are the consonants of L.,V, R, Y and H for the first five chakras. Thereafter OM is intoned for the sixth and the seventh is considered to be beyond sound but not beyond vibration.
The power of the resonating voice is a gateway to opening up higher mind, the source of what is called 'channeling.' All creative work is channeling because the person realizes that the ideas are arising from some special source. It seems like an act of transcription, just listening and then doing. There are all sorts of negative tendencies in the mental sphere that are blocking clarity of thought and they filter down and affect the physical body. Mantras are the antidotes for this as they cut a pathway through the dark side and actually dissipate what undermines our true self and its potential. The structure (vowel/consonant combinations) and repetition of the mantra, whether intoned out loud are like the tools that polish diamonds. In this case the diamond is the soul.
Using sound as the medium for healing is within the grasp of anyone who wants to open up through the voice. There is no need to become a trained singer. It has nothing to do with a beauty of tone and everything to do with vibratory power. There are special singers whose sound is not cultivated but who lift us up with great emotion - singers like Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday. So much about healing lies in intent, that desire to transcend what limits us at every level. Vibrational medicine in whatever form is the future. Never mind mapping out all our genes. Let science find a way of determining all our frequencies. Just as the overtone patterns of the voice are unique to each person, just like fingerprints, so too are the overall frequencies. The practice of sound health is literally under our nose - in our vocal cords, etc. In the use of the secret magic of vowels and consonants, applied with intent and knowledge, we have a tremendous force for healing body, mind and spirit.
Since 1994 James D’Angelo, author of Healing With The Voice: Creating Harmony Through the Power of Sound (Thorsons) has developed and led therapeutic sound and movement wokshops in England, Scotland, Italy, Spain and the USA and is considered an authority on the subject of sound healing therapies. His study of breathwork, overtone singing, tuning forks, self-actualising psychology, his practice of sacred Sufi movements and his initiation into Reiki healing form the basis of his work and its continuing evolution.
JAMES D'ANGELO www.soundspirit.co.uk
My musical inspirations:
My father, Saunders King, singers Morgana King, Billie Holiday, our son, Salvador Santana. Carlos’s guitar always inspires me and hearing him play in the living room reminds me very much of my father practicing daily when I was growing up.
Has music helped me through a difficult time in my life?
When I was coming of age, living in LA and leaving a very bad relationship, I cried and packed my things to the sounds of James Taylor (You’ve Got A Friend), Carole King, (It’s Too Late), and regained hope and purpose listening to Marvin Gaye (What’s Goin’ On). Those songs helped my heart heal.
Now, I listen to Salvador’s “Gentle Wisdom” on my audiobook CD whenever I want to soar.
Author Deborah Santana's first book, Space Between The Stars, is an intensely personal memoir delivering a universal message of growth, redemption, and liberation. The fact that it was seven years in the making is due in no small part to the full and multi-faceted life of its creator. Married since 1973 to GRAMMY®-winning, Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame musician Carlos Santana, Deborah has, for the past decade, managed all of her husband's business affairs as COO of the Santana Band. She is also the Vice President of the Milagro Foundation, the philanthropic non-profit organization that she and Carlos launched in 1998 to answer the literally thousands of requests for humanitarian aid they receive annually.
Writing has remained Santana's passion and her most powerful means of expression. With Space Between The Stars, her creative voice is finally given flight. The odyssey towards the book's completion has been an unfolding process paralleling the narrative journey exposed within its pages. She found the title early on, while reading an inspirational magazine. "When I first started writing," remembers Deborah, "I felt I had always been the space between all these bright stars in my own life, and that I was something not as bright. Later, reading Don Miguel Ruiz' Beyond Fear, in which he writes, "the space between the stars…(and within the atoms of our own bodies)…is filled with ether. Ether is the medium of transformation through which information moves," Deborah says, "I came to realize the space I thought was less luminous has a tremendous amount of light and power, even holding the stars in the sky. The meaning of my title changed."
Though autobiographical in nature, the volume doesn't present a strict chronological timeline, although Deborah used her personal journals to reconstruct certain facts and specifics. Rather, it focuses on key experiences essential to Santana's spiritual quest and awakening as a woman, eloquently tracing her life lessons navigating the waters of race, faith, sexuality, love, feminism, motherhood, and artistic expression.
Born Deborah King in San Francisco in 1951, Santana is the daughter of a biracial marriage. Her father, African-American blues pioneer, guitarist, and distinguished tenor, Saunders King, cut the first significant electric blues record, 1942's "SK Blues;" her mother, an American with Irish-English roots, was a full-time working woman at a time when it was expected that wives would stay home. Raised in a colorblind household, Santana recollects in Space Between The Stars the shock she felt from early encounters with prejudice at school, and the fortitude, and love she absorbed from her parents to help overcome the pain. From them, Deborah writes, she and older sister Kitsaun, "learned... to be strong, unsubmissive, and unwavering in our purpose."
When she first left home for college in Los Angeles, it coincided with a brief and stormy liaison with R&B star Sly Stone, an experience that sorely challenged the grounded lessons she'd learned from her parents. "It was only a year and a half," Santana says, "but it really impacted me for many years, because I never thought I would ever be hit by a man, much less go through an abusive relationship." Before too long, she summoned up the strength to extricate herself, and return home to begin healing. Today, she acknowledges that, "Everyone goes through situations that are hurtful. The most important thing about my book, I hope, is that I am able to give voice to millions of women who have endured similar struggles finding their own place in life."
Back in San Francisco, Deborah began taking classes at SF State University, and within months, met Carlos Santana at a Tower of Power show. Though conflicted over entering into another relationship so soon, Deborah began a courtship with Carlos, whose gentle manner and committed spirituality were a balm to her own spirit. And, like Saunders King, he was also a stellar guitar player. "That's woven all through my book," Santana says, "the connectedness of life. I heard my father play the guitar every single day of my life when I was growing up. When I met Carlos, that was just something normal, to see him playing. I was never infatuated or enamored with who he was musically, because, of course, my father was that too."
When the two met, Carlos was also entering a new phase of his own life, leaving the original Santana Band—after the explosive success they encountered following Woodstock—to form a new musical line-up and pursue different artistic directions. The pair began spending time at Carlos' Mill Valley retreat, sharing life experiences, meditating and falling in love. It was the beginning of what would blossom into an enduring and extraordinary life partnership and marriage, now in its thirty-first year—they were married in Oakland in 1973, with Deborah's paternal Uncle U.S. presiding. In Space Between The Stars, Deborah explores their journey together, and her individual growth as a woman concurrent to its vicissitudes, including many great joys, painful separations, children, and spiritual union.
Recounted with vivid prose, Deborah's first decade with Carlos revolved around two major themes — touring the world with Santana, and involvement with the guru Sri Chinmoy, who prompted her to launch the vegetarian restaurant Dipti Nivas, which she and Kitsaun ran for almost ten years. In 1981, Deborah and Carlos broke all ties with the guru. "Ultimately," she recalls, "he wasn't who we thought he was. And, we matured to a point where we realized turning your life over to anyone, spiritual or otherwise, was a negative rather than a positive."
The next decade was defined for Deborah by the births and blissful early years of her three children. Son Salvador arrived first in 1983, followed by daughters Stella and Angelica in 1985 and 1989, respectively; often, the entire brood would meet up with the Santana Band on the road around the world. In 1990, Deborah returned to her studies, first at Dominican University in San Rafael, and next at Mills College in Oakland.
Then, in 1994, after this extended interval devoted to raising her children and taking university courses, Deborah assumed the responsibility of overseeing and running Santana's business affairs, and bought a building in Marin to house the new entity. For many years, Carlos was managed by Bill Graham, followed by several others who, Deborah says, "...unlike Bill, didn't share our vision or our intentions." Taking over the company involved, once again, dropping out of school, at least for awhile, to ensure the future soundness of their business.
The drafting of Santana's memoir began in earnest, continuing over the ensuing decade. At a 1997 writer's retreat lead by Natalie Goldberg, author of Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within, Deborah reveals, "Words spilled out and flowed from me effortlessly because my hand moved more quickly than my mind could control it. Natalie's example of accepting herself allowed me to accept myself—my imperfections, my past — and I felt peaceful and wild."
Now, those words live and breathe as Space Between The Stars, which pulls a lifelong narrative thread through what Deborah Santana calls her "journey of finding my own place in my spirituality. Of not only overcoming difficulties, but also continuing to lead a spiritual life, even though it's changed and shifted over the years, and grown into something very universal." Looking to the future, Deborah is already in the midst of writing her next book, which she says will trace her family's diverse roots. It will also include more about the Milagro Foundation, which she calls "The essence of working in harmony with all of life, and sharing what you have. That concept goes back to who I am in terms of family and how I was raised."
In a recent conversation, Deborah Santana remarked, "Looking back, sometimes it's a shock to realize that I am where I am in my life, that I've been married thirty years and that my children are leaving home. It's quite a transitional time for me emotionally." Right now, that promises many more words to come.
Amazon/Space Between the Stars