"And you realize that every moment you are a full statement of your being,
And you’re sending out vibrations that are affecting everything around you,
Which in turn is affecting everything that comes back."
- Baba Ram Dass, Be Here Now
I walk into the recreation room of Opportunity House, the men’s shelter in downtown Brooklyn that I have been visiting most weeks for the last three+ years. The television is on and a number of men are at the long folding table pushed up against the wall where the plugs are, staring at their computers and devices. Others are at the additional folding tables scattered about, eating or working on things.
I drag in my big drum bag on wheels, hoisting my sound bath instruments on my back in a duffel and a couple extra drums in a bag over my shoulder.
“Hello Gentlemen,” I call out, and not too many faces turn up toward mine.
I would say a few Hail Marys maybe, if I was Catholic, but I pray in my own way, in my heart, that today will be a good day, that I will beseech at least a few of these men to join me in music-making. Why? I wonder as the TV is (mercifully) turned off and I begin to make a space for my instruments. As I pull empty metal folding chairs from around the different tables into a circle, I have to question my motives, why I show up here every week to coax and cajole these homeless strangers to sit together and bang out some sort of rhythm.
Until it happens, until I pick up one of my many drums and start insistently banging on it, eyes closed, humming out the underlying melody, and until I hear that others have joined me and are banging out rhythms of their own, I can’t remember. And then it becomes abundantly clear: together we can shift energy.
"TOGETHER WE CAN SHIFT ENERGY."
I say this out loud after a particularly deep resounding rhythm has emerged, after I come to some kind of crescendo that the men around me feel and—often—end with me abruptly, in unison. After the laughter dies down, the clapping, the amazement at the beautiful music we created together from nowhere, from nothing, I might call it out, what we all experienced.
“Amazing, right? Incredible what we can create if we would all just listen to each other, just feel the vibration, how we can come together…”
At one point, one young man points at an older gentleman playing a tambourine and says, “See, he is the problem, why we don’t sound good…”
And, working to make sure there is no derision in my tone, I gently correct him.
“When we don’t ‘sound good’ it’s because we are not listening to each other. We are each doing our own thing and not finding our way to that underlying rhythm, the one we can find when we’re all playing from the same place. Everyone has a role to play in that,” I insist. “Everyone.”
"EVERYONE HAS A ROLE TO PLAY..."
I start a beat then and listen deeply as the men each begin to join me, listening more closely this time themselves, joining hesitantly and then more surely until we are vibrating loudly and confidently on the same frequency. One tall man stands at the door smiling. He walks over to survey my sound bath instruments splayed out on a piece of cloth on the table. After the jam ends, I offer him the big New Mexican drum I am playing, the beautiful resonant one with the snakes painted on it, so vibrant and full. It is part of rituals for people to emerge into their true selves. I ask him to set the beat, and he doesn’t hesitate. He leads us strongly into our next beautiful collaborative composition.
To compose music collaboratively, humbly, joyfully is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. To do it with men and women at a serious crossroads, whose shameful pasts fill their heart and minds with dread, is like Nirvana. What we can all be... It is not in my far-fetched imagination that all humans have an important role to play. It is a proven fact, proven every week at the men’s shelter and also at the women’s shelter I visit on a different day, that people can connect to one another and to the universe if we put everything else aside and just lose ourselves in a common rhythm.
I end the session with a sound bath meditation, turning off the fluorescent lights overhead and offering eye masks to whoever wants to stay and listen. Despite noises from elsewhere, some men answering calls or coming in and out, we manage to create a calm relaxing space. My goal is to help them learn to tune in to what they want and tune out everything else. To do that everywhere is important, to do that in a homeless shelter is crucial. I come around them with chimes and bowls, sometimes tuning forks that I place close to their ears. I use the Alpha tuner, to induce the feelings of calm and creativity, to create an openness to new ideas. I play the soothing ocean drum, followed by a rain stick alongside the thunder tube. I hit my slit gong as if I am a woodpecker pecking at a tall tree in the forest. My Navajo flute is intended to draw them further into the woods, into a safe nurturing natural spot wherein they might find some sort of peace.
I am reminded when I leave the shelter, when I come back into my own neighborhood and see all the people coming back from work, walking into their homes, that we are all in need of finding this place of peace. None of us, no matter how fortunate our circumstances, escapes the challenges of determining what feels fulfilling to us, what will nurture us. We are all the same this way, striving to see the beauty, to feel the good vibrations.
"We are all the same... striving to see the beauty, to feel the good vibrations."
It is a new month, a new opportunity to seek and find, to send out good vibrations and feel them come back to you in return. February is the month where love is celebrated, everything awash in red hearts. It is also Black History Month and, I have just learned, February 17th is “Random Acts of Kindness” day.
So there is much to celebrate and think about, much to ponder as usual. If you think that maybe a meditative sound bath could aid you in this process, please join me for one of my upcoming events, or reach out to book a private or small group session.
You can find my upcoming events listed on my website at https://www.sacredbloomtribe.com/events.
Tuesday morning Winter Restoration series continues Feb. 7 & 14, 9 AM -10 EST
Wednesday evening Winter Restoration continues Feb. 8 & 15, 7:30 PM – 9 EST
Bring your babies Wednesday afternoons at 4 PM for Baby Jam.
Feb. 12th, 5 PM -6:30 will be a Nature Soundscape in conjunction with artist Ellen Sayers at The Shirley Project Space. Space is limited. RSVP to Sarah@theshirleyprojectspace.com.
Wishing you the joy of beautiful collaborative vibrations in the world this month!