Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sounding Circles: Healing with a Group Voice

I was fortunate enough to be asked to assist at Joule L'Adara's Sounding  Circles Retreat at the fabulous Kalani Retreat Center. Joule, who has a wonderful, classically trained, operatic voice, has a calling to bring groups of people together to collectively help them heal their voices, and reclaim their right to be heard.

Joule is created a simple group workshop that gently introduces each person to their own voice, and then to the experience -- or "explorience" as she calls it -- what it is like to bring a single voice into a group.

One of the limiting factors in people's ability to sing turns out to be vision. Looking at one another can be very intimidating, so Joule removes that judgment by asking participants to wear blindfolds. She recommends a special version that allows you to have complete darkness even while your eyes are open -- a product called the Mindfold.

One participants are blindfolded, they get comfortable on yoga mats and prepare for a Sound Bath. Joule plays a variety of instruments in an intuitive and improvisational way. When Joule and I offered Sounding Circles workshops around Hawai'i last month, I played harp while she played chimes, singing bowls, rattles, shakers, and other percussive instruments. She also played specialized tuning forks on each person to further the relaxation.

The next step is to give participants permission to make sounds with their voices and bodies. Joule leads the participants through simple singing exercises, but also encourages sounds that your mother wouldn't like. Honking, snorting, bubbling, giggling, whooping, and sounding like a siren are all part of the fun. It's self-indulgent exploration of the whole mouth, head and body.

Gradually, Joule begins to bring the group together, still making delicious, wonderful sounds. But she asks participants to begin to listen to each other and respond to each other in an improvisational kind of way. Each group composition is different and lovely as a snowflake.

Finally, Joule closes the workshop with silence. Having made all the wonderful, joyful sound, it's time to experience and explorience the silence, listening in a whole new way.

Sounding Circles are great fun, and I'm looking forward to bringing these workshops to Hawai'i Island.

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