Meditations on storms, thunderation, healing sound and creation.
“I felt it when I met the Bora, the Foehn, the Mistral, and the other wild winds I went so far to find; or that came to find me. I still feel it at the rising of every day, nameless gusts that disrupt and disarray, disturbing our ordered selves both physically and psychically, teetering on the borderline between awe and fear—between being uplifted and being blown away."
Ah, the stormy spring times. Wind, lightning, thunder, and renewal; occasionally, a tornado or two. But if not for the turbulence, literally, nothing would change. That would probably be annoying. I grew up in a part of the world that was so windy. How windy was it? Here is this year in January:
I am so grateful to be here in Nashville, even though we have had our struggles with tornadoes, I do not miss dust storms that can be seen from space. Anyway....
“In nature, it is the wind that disperses the gathered clouds, leaving the sky clear and serene (interject, except in Lubbock- statement not in original text). In human life it is penetrating clarity of judgment that thwarts all dark hidden motives. In the life of the community it is the powerful influence of a great personality that uncovers and breaks up those intrigues which shun the light of day.” I Ching, Hexagram 57- Xun
Healing words carry meaning through speech. This human, natural wind changes the cycles of the body (seasons) and in time, the toxic energy flows out of the system. The wind’s effect upon the body is shown in the character feng 風 representing “the powerful energetic impulses of the Wind’s potential to immediately carry something into extremes”, (Johnson, 543) bringing chaotic resonance to recalcitrant disease states. Also, a healing sound voiced by patient or doctor has an aspirating effect energetically in that they vibrate the internal organs that are focused upon during the healing, but Intent is key to success. “Doctor Xu Zong Wei once explained that Toning without having the properly focused Intention, Breath, and Mind Control…is like trying to vacuum a room by simply waving the hose in the air.” (Johnson, 48)
Helpful definitions: Pre-Heaven = primordial state of perfect balance and stillness; Post Heaven = the universe of forms, physical life; the divide between divine potential and how it's worked out so far in what we call the "real" world
In relation to medical qigong, speech could be a Post Heaven combination of Thunder (Zhen) and Wind (Xun). The sound speaking produces, is sparked by the lightning of the mind- a thought, an intention and like natural thunder, breaks up the silence before it. Suddenly there is something from nothing, like what Daoists call Pre-Heaven, the primordial perfect balance, stillness, like the vacuum of inhalation- the pause before the storm that became the world. The movement the sound causes, like natural wind or like an exhale, conveys an influence in the environment. In the Wind of the exhale is the sound of specific mental activity- thought forms and emotional content, these carry the meaning or intent of the speaker. Spiritually, the sound of the voice, like any other sound also introduces the concept of time amid timelessness or unbroken silence, which is the province of wind- bringing about the “winds of change” and blowing in the seasons. “The penetrating quality of the wind depends upon its ceaselessness. This is what makes it so powerful; time is its instrument.” (Hexagram 57, Commentary) Although this post is not about the Yijing, or the weather, per se, I think a short side discussion of the concepts of thunder, wind and earth are important in the context of voices and of sound healing, if for no other reason than the poetic, artistic inspiration that the natural world sparks.
Thunder Only Happens When It’s Lightning
“Thunder rolls, and the wind blows; both are examples of extreme mobility and so are seemingly the very opposite of duration, but the laws governing their appearance and subsidence, their coming and going, endure.” I Ching, Heng (Duration) Hexagram 32
“This time resembles that of the marriage of heaven and earth, when the earth partakes of the creative power of heaven, forming and bringing forth living beings.” I Ching, Yi-(Increase) Hexagram 42
There are two hexagrams in the I Ching that combine Thunder and Wind directly: 32- Heng (Duration) with Thunder over Wind; and 42 Yi (Increase) with Thunder under Wind. A theme of Heng concerns something that must be endured by obligation, like conventional marriage where endurance is dictated by social mores that change as a result of cultures and generations. The skillful person keeps within the flow of these changes and adapts appropriately. “He always keeps abreast of the time and changes with it. What endures is the unswerving directive, the inner law of his being, which determines all his actions.” In contrast, Yi is the reversal of the trigrams in heng. The marriage in this instance is a relationship between heaven and earth, directed by universal laws and their natural expression . Often translated as “increase”, it conveys the idea that flourishing happens when heaven, which we can think of as universal law, or maybe the laws of physics, supports change or leads it. So in short, it's going with the flow. “The idea of increase is expressed in the fact that the strong lowest line of the upper trigram has sunk down and taken its place under the lower trigram. This conception also expresses the fundamental idea on which the Book of Changes is based. To rule truly is to serve. A sacrifice of the higher element that produces an increase of the lower is called an out–and–out increase it indicates the spirit that alone has power to help the world.” (Hexagram 42, Description)
The early Wu shamans, among many other things, were tasked with producing rain during droughts- some of the traditional dances they performed were called “dragon dances” that appealed to the dragons Yinglong- a rain deity and Shenlong- the master of storms. (Wikipedia) What was the emphasis on rain dancing about? That subject is beyond the scope of this post, but it is the question I had that started this connection for me between the voice and thunder. We tend to think of thunder metaphorically as related to fear and anger (i.e., the angry gods have spoken, so we should be afraid). This is because of our visceral response to it, it does make us jump. But the Chinese observation includes a nuance about thunder- it is the voice of sheer power. More specifically the powerful voice of the Divine that is enabled by certain physical conditions-the magnetic Yin, Earth, which is a material platform to attract and realize the electric Yang, the lightning. The lyrics of Fleetwood Mac’s famous song, “Dreams”, come to mind. “Thunder only happens when it’s raining”. This is not quite the whole story, but close- thunder only happens when it’s lightning. The sound is the crack of a bolt of lightning. Most of the time, but not always is there is rain- it could also be present in snow, fire or lava. Each of these forces carries carbon, which sustains life as we know it (reference). So the dances were about preparing the Earth to receive the transformative, creative voice of the heavens so that life could be sustained. “Some scientists think that lightning may have played a part in the evolution of living organisms. The immense heat and other energy given off during a stroke has been found to convert elements into compounds that are found in organisms.” (Flash Facts). More on this in next week's post, which will deal with the creation and the carbon cycle, partly.
Two of the poems written by the Immortal (fully realized) woman, Sun Bu’er, “Carrying out Practice” and “Refining the Spirit”, mention the phenomenon of thunder in relation to Earth and announcing the winds of change. In both cases, the thunder announces the arrival of a stage of development in neigong practices that lets the person practicing know she has attained a new level. Chen Ling, who provided commentary for Thomas Cleary in his book about seven Immortal women says, “After a shower, a peal of thunder rumbles at the top of the mountain and the bottom of the sea…There are countless references to thunder in alchemical classics, but they all come from the I Ching image which says, ‘Thunder in the earth, returning’…this symbolizes primal unified energy stored for a long time until its power is great, then emerging in action responding to situations…” This is hexagram #24-Returning, which represents the turning point from one thing to another or old situations coming back around (maybe karma). Its reverse hexagram, #16- Enthusiasm, also has a theme of returning, in the context of ceremonial music, in which a practitioner calls in the ancestors (past/karma) She explains that this passage is related to helping the practitioner prepare for the physical experience that feels like this in the practice of neigong. Sun Bu-er says:
“Carrying out Practice”
(The first part is applicable to both men and women; the last part is for the use of women alone)
Gather the breath into the point where
the spirit is frozen,
And living energy comes from the east.
Don’t get stuck on anything at all,
And one energy will come back to the terrace.
The darkness should go down the front,
The light induced up the back.
After a shower, a peal of thunder
Rumbles at the top of the mountain and
the bottom of the sea.” Sun Bu-er (Cleary, 14)
“Refining the Spirit”
The relic from before birth
Enters one’s heart one day.
Be careful as if you were holding a full vessel,
Be as gentle as if you were caressing an infant.
The gate of the earth should be shut tight,
The portals of heaven should be first opened.
Wash the yellow sprouts clean,
And atop the mountain is thunder shaking the earth.”
Sun Bu-er (Cleary, 31)
Chen Ling says, “…after a great stillness there is a great stir.” (Cleary, 33) when describing Sun Bu’er’s meaning of thunder in poems. We should cultivate the state of stillness and quietude, as that power of stillness attracts the flash of illumination that brings thunder- the sound, the reply
of the Divine voice. This is the means to all manner of healing, I would think. How about you?
Have in store a beautiful coming week and beyond!
References not linked online:
Cleary, Thomas (translator/editor), “Immortal Sisters: Secret Teaching of Taoist Women”, North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA. 1996. www.northatlanticbooks.com
Johnson, Dr. Jerry Alan. “The Secret Teachings of Chinese Energetic Medicine”, Volume 3: Developing Intuitive and Perceptual Awareness, Energetic Foundations, Treatment Principles, and Clinical Applications, 3rd Edition, Chapter 21. The International Institute of Medical Qigong Publishing House, Monterrey, CA 93940 USA. 2014.
Yijing project: May 2nd through May 8th
Next week: I will carry these ideas forward to talk about pulse, rhythm, circulation, the ocean and the sun; and a little about Schumann frequencies and the human heart. There will be a linked article published by my dear friend and ally in Qigong, Yuliya Gulmi, who is talking about how Qigong practice helped her overcome fear of the deep ocean so she could become a better freediver. If you'd like to read ahead, here's her article- full of beautiful pictures above and under the ocean in the Bahamas. The conversation of Yuliya's great and unfolding adventure is linked here!
Preview pic of the lovely and talented Ms Gulmi: