I really felt the spiritual priority on connecting with Source and on our healing at the “Sounds of the Spirit” interfaith musical presentation last month, which was hosted by the Interfaith Leadership Council (IFLC) at the Sikh community’s Mata Tripta Ji Gurdwara Sahib in Plymouth.
At the presentation, representatives from Hindu, Sikh, Native American tradition, and SGI Nichiren Buddhism each gave a brief description of the role that sacred sound—in most cases music—plays in their religious practice, and performed a few minutes of some of their sacred sounds. (You can read about the individual presenters on the IFLC's Web site by clicking here.)
The Hindu and Sikh musical traditions stem from India, and the performers presented some specifically devotional music as well as some classical Indian music on such instruments as the veena, dilruba, and a variety of drums.
Mary Vorves and Steve Nelson demonstrated a few of their hand-made drums, as well as Native American cedar flutes, both types of instruments being among the most sacred sounds to me personally, as someone who's had close ties with Southeastern Michigan’s Native American community. In Native tradition, the drum is the heartbeat of Mother Earth. Drumbeats—as well as gongs, which I’ll get to later—have healing vibrations, particularly for our heart-rhythms, our bodies’ energy flow, and our brain waves, and drumming is one of the ways that Native American and other indigenous people around the world incorporate healing into their spiritual practice both publicly and privately.
One of the recent developments I am really appreciative of in the interfaith community is the gradual increase in representation and participation of spiritual traditions beyond the Abrahamic religions and Hinduism and Sikhism. Other groups have of course participated, but not nearly as often. This was the first time in a while I’ve seen Native Americans in the program, and the second time I’ve seen SGI Nichiren Buddhist participation.
The SGI Nichiren Buddhist presentation was expressed through chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo, led by Carolyn Ferrari. Carolyn, whom you’ve read about here before as the founder of the Vanguard Discussion series, presented a few basic points about Nichiren Buddhism (including helping differentiate it from other forms of Buddhism), and how we incorporate sound into our practice. She also invited audience participation, so I and one other person got up on the stage with Naima Barker and another SGI member who had come to support Carolyn to chant into the microphone and lead the audience in a few minutes of daimoku (chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo). I was of course pleased to see how many people of various faiths in the audience were chanting along with us.
My biggest take-away from this event was how I felt during and after it. While the term “energy medicine” has become heavily contaminated by stereotypes about “woo-woo,” energy medicine is an essential component of religion—people just don’t realize this because they use other terms to describe the spiritual, emotional, and even physical benefits they receive from their religious practice.
The event’s finale was incredible—led by Christopher Davis, creator of Sacred Wave Gong Immersions, the last several minutes of the event were a vibrational meditation facilitated by an impressive array of four gongs. The performance isn’t intended as entertainment or as an explicitly religious practice; Davis created his performances based on the healing properties of the vibrations of the different gongs he’s used.
Incidentally, the gongs he brought today were tuned specifically to the heart chakra and the breath, so they couldn’t have been more apropos for an event focused on sacred sound and healing in religious tradition. He played the “Mercury” gong the most, which is tuned to the air / breath and to the heart chakra; a few times he even unhooked it from the rack and walked around making sure each audience member got to feel the vibration directly.
At a previous “Sounds of the Spirit” event, one participant said Davis explained he chooses to go last because his gongs absorb energy from the previous presentations, and then echo it back to the audience in a sort of energetic musical montage. This participant “heard” echoes of all the other instruments that had been performed in the preceding hour at that event as she was absorbing the gong vibrations.
For me, I felt the gongs push the healing spiritual energy that was all around us in the room into my own energy field, like a massage for my soul.
And I could tell when I looked around the room that it definitely had a similar effect on everyone around me.
Image: Detail from "Nothing Without Love" by Karla Joy Huber, 2016; Prismacolor marker, Sharpie marker, gel pen