The Yoga Retreat Part II: Soundbaths, Baptisms & Resonants
Day two was brimming with movement - things that I moved, and things that moved through me. Three classes through the day, and a 6 mile run along the Santa Barbara coast in the morning. Only 3.5 days of feet-on-the-mat, rubber-to-the-road seemed intimidatingly simplistic for a retreat. I worried that I’d find myself restless, or leave still thirsty for what only yoga can quench. I worried I’d uncover more than I could sort through in only a weekend, and leave more ill at ease than I arrived. There was just one more class before bed, for which my tired but satisfied body couldn’t get to the studio fast enough.
A sound bath was planned in the main studio, its cathedral-esque ceilings and pristine and thick white walls making a veritable concert hall for music and breath. I arrived on time to an already packed space, so set myself up in the back when normally I’d have found a space near the front or in the middle (recovering over-achiever) where I could absorb as much sound or surrounding energy of others as possible. I like the mingling of vibrations of both people and instruments. Proximity matters; in a class early in my yoga journey, a room of at least 30 people attempted a balancing pose together. I, in the front row and full of hubris, pushed my pose just one degree too far and began to waver before finally needing to drop my airborne foot to reset and begin again. The moment I began to sway and lose balance, the others beside me felt a small current of uncertainty and also lost a bit of their composure. Through the room this current went, and I was forced to acknowledge being it's genesis, and what a small lack of concentration might do to those around me. I had inadvertently sacrificed the integrity of more than just my own pose.
In a soundbath setting, the same is true. The energy of one body could affect those around them. While of course, there may be those in a darker headspaces and so their field might not be the most pleasant, someone else’s dark spaces can only bring out something dark of my own; it cannot manufacture it, it can only reveal what it resonates with. If their negativity brought dis-ease out of me, it was because there was negativity to invite out. It needed unleashing. I can’t blame them. So choosing a seat was a russian roulette where there were no losers, only awakenings. There were only destined surprises and whatever needed to arise would do so.
My body softened into the mat immediately, laying in Goddess position to start, as the soundbath conductor came around to administer eyemasks to each listener and anoint our hands with essential oils. The music started soft, and slow, ringing through the bowls and into our bones, and quite immediately I was lulled away into the stream of sounds and not out of, but rather through and beyond the room to some other place where I floated on each resonating note.
Typically - and when this happens, it is part of the journey - my mind first fights the music off with distracting thoughts: things to do, work stress, a boy on my mind. But tonight and perhaps especially because of the parting of ways in the night before in breathwork, there was only soul and sound. There were no thoughts, and my body made no itch or wiggle or protest. I could hear snores from one corner, and a soft sob from another. Each person explores and feels differently, and each person resonates differently:
“Our bodies are made of 60% water,” the facilitator told us at the culmination, “and the sounds of the bowls vibrate through the water within us. But we each have different bodies, so we each experience the sounds differently, we’re all having a unique experience.”
The soundbath passed too quickly, but not the reminder that what we are surrounded with vibrationally did not. The people we allow into close proximity, the sounds and music and words that, whether we listen or not, resonate off the ripples off our waters and sometimes into our very bones with a chill or a shudder, or perhaps a release and surrender. What is all around us has the potential to work through us, with or without our conscious consent.
Before we left, the facilitator invited us to take a small affirmation card from a metal bowl and take the message into the rest of the evening. My card read ‘relax’, which at first disappointed me. I’d hoped for some bigger, grander calling. But as I left the studio on the same cloud I came in on, only lighter, and now the cloud was dancing softly, I accepted the message. For the acids my muscles had released in hard work so far this weekend with every pose. For the cords that had been cut in my heart the night before and the person who had been exited. For all that had come and the reasons that brought me here, which could now be dropped. In the rented apartment I stayed in, I drew an Epsom bath, lit a candle, and allowed every tense grip of every kind within my mind, body, and soul to relax into the water, release, and be washed clean again.