The following is a transcription of “Ep. 4 – Mantra” of The Beginner’s Mind. To listen to this episode, visit www.shutupandyoga.com/podcast or search for The Beginner’s Mind wherever you get your podcasts.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:00:05
Hi Friends. My name is Sarah and you’re listening to The Beginner’s Mind, a podcast about all things yoga-ish. You guys, I cannot thank you enough. I have received so much feedback and support from these first couple of episodes and I’m not going to lie; it has been a whirlwind over here creating this new project and getting it out there and have all of you showing so much support and love for what I’m doing. It means the world to me. You know, you guys left some really, really sweet reviews that were just appreciating the content and what’s happening and it’s just exciting for me to see how many people are interested in having these same conversations that I’m interested in. So thank you. I just wanted to start today with some gratitude for all you listeners who have been here from the beginning to start helping me make this happen.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:01:00
Especially those first couple of interviewees from those first couple of episodes who, you know, I was new, they didn’t, I didn’t have any sort of following. They didn’t know who I was and yet they still came out to support and participate in these interesting and exciting conversations and I’m really grateful for that. And of course today’s interviewee is one of those people who came out to support and participate before I really had any promise of listenership. Um, before we even started with episode one, Shervin agreed to to be an episode four and that means so much to me. Shervin Boloorian is a musical instrumentalist, vocalist, and recording artist who graduated from Fabien Maman’s Tama-Do Academy of Sound, Color, and Movement in 2011. He has since launched the sound healing program at the Yoga Barn in Ubud Bali and he is the founder of Sound Healing Bali. Shervin is also a recording artist and a music composer completing his debut album, Spirit Night by Candle Light, a mantra mosaic in 2015 and releasing his follow-up Sufi and Rumi inspired album, One with the Beloved, two years later. One with the Beloved includes Sufi Zikr mantras in Arabic and Rumi Poems in Persian and was endorsed by the world renowned Rumi translator and writer, Coleman Barks. Both are available for listening at shervinboloorian.bandcamp.com which you can find in the show notes below. Based in Ubub (luck him), Shervin tours throughout the world. He has presented for various holistic and music festivals, Google Singapore, and other corporate functions. His signature style of sound medicine was shared at venues in Japan, the U.S., South Africa, and other countries throughout the world in 2018. For more information, visit soundhealingbali.com, also in the show notes below. So Shervin has a lot of experience and knowledge in the world of sound healing and mantra. So I invited him on today to help me better understand the history of mantra, the philosophy of mantra, and the science of mantra. So today we’re going to be exploring what mantra is, how it works, and how people can integrate it into their practice in different ways. I’m really excited about this talk today. It’s definitely one of the nerdier ones because I love history and philosophy and science. So we really get into it and I hope you guys all enjoy it as much as I did. We’re going to start today’s episode with a short sample from one of the songs from Shervin’s album, One with the Beloved. Again, you can find that at his bandcamp link in the show notes below. And with that, let’s get curious.
Shervin B.: 00:04:02
Shervin B.: 00:04:57
I’m a sound therapist. I’ve been practicing now for a number of years. I got my certification to practice sound therapy in 2011 from the Tama-Do Academy of Sound, Color, and Movement where I did my training. And then, um, it was, I had already at that point decided to move to Bali and start practicing there because it’s such a, just a wonderful energy there. There’s an amazing community there. And, um, the message there has been so much about coming back to basics, coming back to fundamentals and the things that matter. So many people who are having a hard time with the fast pace world that we’re in today and all of the expectations of what goes along with that, um, people have been able to kind of carve out a different way of being over there, which I feel like is now starting to make itself known in the rest of the world. It’s almost like there’s a movement going on there. So it’s a pretty exciting thing to be a part of. And the sound healing community is something that I helped establish there in 2012 when I started doing events with what’s known as the Sound Healing Collective, or the Bali Sound Healing Collective, which was my personal project and my personal way of trying to build community and bring musicians together, musicians who were not interested in sharing music as kind of like a just simply for entertainment, but getting more into their own personal passion and their own personal way of connecting to music as a form of devotion. And so that’s, uh, that’s something that started back then. It was hugely successful. And it’s still going today. But, um, today the amount of sound healing activities and the interest and the level of quality of sound healing has certainly been affected by this, uh, these, these seeds that we planted like that.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:07:03
That’s amazing. And so what sort of like, you know, at the center, what kind of sound healing, what does that look like? What different services, I guess, do you offer or different practices?
Shervin B.: 00:07:13
Well, there’s all different kinds of sound healing from all different types of traditions. And when I started the sound collective, I wanted to make it as eclectic as possible. And so there were, you know, we had Shamanic sound healers, drum journeys. We had a didgeridoo master and we had gongs, we had Tibetan bowls and so on and so forth. You know, um, my personal training, the, it’s called sound harmonization and, and what I do primarily is work with natural sounds, natural instruments and sounds to try to help people to, um, kind of, uh, relax and unwind and connect to the different elements of nature. So the sound journeys that I do are particularly focused on taking folks into the embrace of the different elements of water and earth, fire and so forth through natural acoustic sound. I also am trained in sound and acupuncture, so the private sessions that I do based on the training I got from, from the academy, uh, are more about using sound directly on the body, on acupoints. So those, those are the two main things. And I do a number of other things as well, including doing some trainings, hopefully supporting the next generation sound healers as well who are interested in going back to these fundamentals. If there’s one thing that I focused on in all of the different sound healing sessions that I do is to try to remind people to really listen, listen more intently. Listening is really where it’s at in life. There’s no problem human made that doesn’t involve us needing to be better listeners.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:08:52
Yeah. I’ve, I’ve only recently to kind of explore, sound healing more in my own practice and, and be more introduced to it. It’s probably because of the little bit of what you were talking about. How that’s growing in popularity and becoming more accessible in the yoga community. Yeah, and I just, I’m so interested in it. I’m sure I’m going to do plenty more episodes about it because there’s so many different angles to look at it. And I guess what I’m curious about today and what I’ve been wondering about is sort of mantra and chanting and, you know, sound healing with the voice. And I, I’m wondering, is that a part of what you guys do? Is that a part of that experience and where does it fit in?
Shervin B.: 00:09:34
Big time. It’s one of the most important, if not the most important parts of the experience of sound and, you know, mantra in particular is something that is incredibly accessible to the Yogi world, the yoga world, because it’s such a big part of the, the teachings and the, you know, the Vedas and what comes through, um, you know, beyond just the asanas. And so it’s a ripe community to try to turn onto sound and sound therapy. And uh, yeah, mantras are incredibly powerful. They come from, uh, the Sanskrit term, which combines, you know, a derivative of the word mant-, which is connected to thought, mant- connected to thought. And then -tra is meant to be a tool or an instrument. Um, and so it’s, uh, you know, it literally is a means of concentrating, uh, or unifying, uh, with thoughts through the voice, through expression, and through this whole, uh, connection to how we manifest, how we create my, how we create our surroundings, any of these ancient myths that have to do with how the world came into being from all different types of cultures all over the world. We’re not just talking about the Hindus, that there is such a reliance on how the voice or how the spoken word has a sacred quality has a power to it that can bring, bring life into alignment. So it’s, it’s a big part of what I do. And, and, you know, going from the me personally learning and, and, um, getting involved in learning, um, the different types of chants from different parts of the world, which I bring into the sound healings. But then there’s also the science of it as well when looking at how the voice actually affects us and the consciousness and the, and the physiology of the body. That’s also a big part of it too.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:11:40
I want to look at both of those sides of it cause I find them both really fascinating and sort of putting them together. Is, is something I’m really interested in. So let’s start from more of the, you know, where mantra came from and more traditional practices. So can you tell me a little, uh, you know, you mentioned that it was this tool for unifying like thought and creation through the word. I’m wondering a little bit more of like how, you know, before we had the science we had today, how was that understood? What is the theory behind how mantra works and why it works and what it’s doing?
Shervin B.: 00:12:15
It’s, first of all, um, it’s the, the kind of the energy that it’s trying to, to generate for a person when someone is repeating a mantra over and over, but there is something that they’re wishing to invite in or they’re wishing to activate. So it could be something that’s dedicated to a certain, uh, diety, which has certain qualities and certain characteristics that they want to invite for some reason in their lives, whatever that can be. Uh, the mantra is also can be used in terms of the, um, intense, the prayer, the, the, where the focus is, is in terms of why there are certain vowels and consonants that are put together, um, in, in the particular phrasing of the mantra itself. And so there is an energetic quality to the vowels and consonants and how they are brought together. The, the meter of the sound, the energy that is created with, uh, with the voice and how these different energies work together. So you could, you could call it a sacred formula if you like. There’s a formula that’s at work here. Uh, and that’s another way that it works as well. And then there’s the, there’s the use of the voice itself, which is incredibly powerful because of its uniqueness. Each and every one of us has a voice that is unique to us and that, that you can’t replicate even with all of the amazing technology that’s out there that’s used to try to simulate the human voice. So there is something in the rawness and the primalness of the voice itself, uh, creates this shift in our awareness that can create a sense of comfort and safety and power. And you know, we all can resonate with that because we all know what it means when a mother, you know, sings to her child or when you’re in a space, when you just need to feel a sense of comfort from someone in terms of just a, an acknowledgement of a certain sound, a certain response that tells you it’s okay to share what it is that you’re sharing there.
Shervin B.: 00:14:22
There’s so many different facets to this. Definitely. It’s the intense that’s, that’s important. It’s the energy that’s behind the intent of the energy that’s being created through the words. And then there’s also the type of quality of the voice itself. And of course these are things that you develop over time. It’s not something that you’re going to be able to say to yourself, oh, I’m just going to do a mantra and all my, all my problems are going to be resolved and everything’s going to go go back to, no, I wish I could help you with that. But really it’s a practice. It’s a discipline. It takes time. It takes effort. And uh, you know, you start to yourself gain a particular way of connecting to these, to these mantras. You may find a cosmology of your own that you feel really resonates with you. It may not be Sanskrit and maybe other traditions.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:15:14
Mm. Yeah, that was, that was a question that I wanted to touch on. So you kind of broke it down into these three elements, right? You have the intention, you have the energetics of the actual sound, and then you have the quality of the voice. I kinda want to look at each one individually. And so, because you mentioned Sanskrit, I want to start with the sound itself. Um, you know, I hear a lot in the yoga world and in the mantra community within the yoga world, this almost, um, obsession with Sanskrit. You know, that it has to be Sanskrit syllables because those are the sacred syllables. And so I’m curious about when we’re looking at the energy or you know, if we’re looking at that side of it, if we’re looking at the energetics and the sacredness of the sound, I’m curious as to what your thoughts are about that and about the Sanskrit’s role in that.
Shervin B.: 00:16:11
Yeah, it’s tricky. One because I personally would approach it and say, just do your best. Uh, you know, you’re not going to be able to get the exact pronunciation. Of course, even with Sanskrit as it is with Tibetan as it is with Arabic or Persian, all of these ancient languages that have this deep connection to these energetic qualities, the newer languages don’t have this. The newer languages, there are some overlaps, but it’s the reason why people chanting these ancient languages in the first place, even Latin, uh, you know, some native American, all of these types of qualities of the language itself that it has, they have, they have their own characteristics. They have their own qualities and properties. So you have to yourself be able to say, you know, there’s certain traditions, certain cosmologies, there’s certain pronunciations that work with me. And you know, even with something like the Hindu and the Sanskrit chants, there’ll be people who will be chanting in one part of the country that say, this is the correct way that you have to say this mantra. And then you go, you know, to another part of the country and they’ll say, no, you’re totally wrong. Those people are totally off base. This has to be the right way. And even when you start to examine how these, these energetic qualities work and the, and we truly trained in this at the Tama-Do Academy, we started to learn about something called Koto Tama, which is the, the kind of the science, the energy of different sounds that are made the different consonants, you know, the different vowels have different qualities to them. Ah, for example, has a, a opening kind of creative quality to it. You know, the clouds parted and the angels said ah and that creates this space, you know? So there is a, there is a soul energy there that comes from that vow that cannot be found in something like, oo, which, uh, it has a very different quality to it. And these are, there are certain languages where the oo is more dominant, perhaps more African languages. And these types of languages, you can get a sense, oo, relates to physicality and relates to your body. It relates to the earth and it relates to connecting on a physical level. So you start to examine these mantras and you start to look at these, you know, the building blocks of these mantras, they call them seed syllables as well, which you can also start to decipher and decode. What is the energy behind this word? You start to get into how these certain languages have come into being and that there is those characteristics have had an effect on us individually without us even knowing.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:18:49
Yeah. And you know, uh, two, two things come up. So one is the idea that these ancient languages like you mentioned Sanskrit or Arabic or these other languages have just naturally with the sounds and the words that they use in mantra are more energetically charged than the languages of English or French or these more modern languages.
Shervin B.: 00:19:16
I would say that there was more of a consciousness in how the language itself was corresponding to the energetic charges and less so when it comes to the more modern languages, which are normally like the English languages, it’s kind of a kind of a hodgepodge of other languages put together. And when you start to learn about the different energetic properties of, of what you say, how you say it, how it comes across, and then you can really take these things apart and, and be more aware of whether or not there is an effort to kind of bring those charges into the language or whether it’s something that doesn’t quite work. I mean you can see that language is not an exact science. It never has been. And I would, I would submit that the reason why certain words stay in vernacular and others kind of like disappear or become replaced by newer ways of expressing those words, that that has a lot to do with whether the energy or the properties, the characteristics of the culture are really in alignment with what is expressed and what is coming forth, what is being shared. And so when you look at certain Mantras, you look at how these, these things are put together, you can feel it. You can feel that a lot of the Sanskrit and the Persian and the native Americans, you know, they use a lot of ah, namaha, Shiva, allah, hoda. You can start to see the commonalities. And also you start to see the differences when there are certain vowels that dominate and others that don’t.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:20:51
So, so where does that, that idea of the energy of the different sounds come from? Like it makes sense as you’re saying it, but I’m wondering what the, I dunno what the sources for that belief and for that idea.
Shervin B.: 00:21:05
Well, like I mentioned this is, this is a craft that it’s called Koto Tama and uh, the Japanese have developed this, I think it’s about at least a thousand years old, maybe older. And uh, it’s traced back. Some people say it’s traced back to the druids and to the Celts and um, you know, I’m not sure about that. All I can say is that when I start to look at the kind of, the decoder that goes with Koto Tama, you can start to see that there is some things in these vowels and consonants that really have, have a universality. And that’s, that’s where it comes into paying attention to not just the surface level of things, but to going, going much deeper. I mean, I was interested to discover that there are certain languages that had banned certain vowels in their own languages because maybe certain vowels would be too disruptive to society to have them too often. It’s a really interesting field. You can really explore it to too many degrees, but for those of you who really want to go deeper into this practice, I would recommend that you look up Koto Tama.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:22:15
Awesome. So that really kind of answers my question about the energetic side of it. So I understand now that there’s, you know, the one element which is understanding how the different vowels and consonants and sounds create an energetic quality to the sound. And then you mentioned intention. And so that’s something I’m really curious about, especially in the yoga community where a lot of chanting happens where you’re not really aware of what you’re saying. You know, a teacher just gives you a mantra and it’s a call and response and you don’t know what the words mean. You don’t even necessarily have an intention other than to say what they’re saying. So where does intention fit in all of it?
Shervin B.: 00:22:54
I personally feel that it’s really important that you know what you’re chanting cause you’re definitely calling in a certain type of energy and it’s important to be aware. A lot of people, they use the formula frequency + intention = healing, and yet there’s not enough effort, like you said, on focusing on the presence. You need to have that in the formula too. I think this is something where people get, they get so tense and they get so kind of like intent on, I’m going to get this, I’m going to have this and I’m going to have this mantra. Ganesha is going to appear before me, in just a few minutes. I know it. And they’re not really being present with where they’re at. Maybe their thoughts are somewhere else, or maybe they’re going through grief or maybe they’re going through something where they’re not really in that place where it truly resonates to call in what it is that you wanted to call in. And so it takes, it takes a little bit of somebody just stopping and stepping back and really saying, you know, am I in this? Am I in this right space and am I really resonating with the teacher, with the setting, with the, you know, with, with myself. This is your most powerful instrument that’s been shown scientifically and I can talk about the research my teacher did on that. But uh, you know, when you can get your own instrument in order and you can really be, be real is what’s going on, you’re not trying to force a certain type of emotion, you’re not trying to fake it, but you’re really letting it come forth from a place where you’re actually empty and you’re, and you’re able to really be an instrument for the divine. And that means being hollow. It’s like any other instrument. There is that element of a chamber of space where the sound comes through and resonates and then gets shared with the world. So I have to often, you know, ask myself, am I really, am I really here? Am I really doing my self service? Am I forcing something? Am I pushing something too much?
Sarah Dittmore: 00:24:52
Yeah. I mean, I think that you see that not only in mantra, but in a lot of yoga practices where if you’re not present with the purpose of what you’re doing and the state that you are bringing to the table, you can actually go in the opposite direction you’re trying to go.
Shervin B.: 00:25:07
I agree. And I would say it’s the same with sound therapy. Uh, and you mentioned yoga and yoga teachers are trained and they have a discipline and a practice that they have to dedicate their themselves to. It’s the same with the sound therapists. And I often, I have to chuckle sometimes because I get people contacting me and they say, Oh, you know, I got myself a hung drama. I’m a sound healer now. I got a couple of Tibetan bowls and uh, you know, I’m ready to go. And really, you can do a lot of harm if you’re not tuned in and you’re not able to really, first of all, understand what the principles of, of vibration and sound that you’re gonna be working with. And if you’re not also aware of how you personally interact with those types of principles, then it can be damaging for yourself and others. Yeah. I would really encourage those of you who want to get into sound therapy to find a teacher and to just honor the craft, honor the discipline a little bit.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:26:11
Yeah, and talking about sort of the intent of the practice and the intent of the words in mantra. Something I’ve heard you say a couple of times are, you know the devotion and the divinity and it brings up a question that I myself have had in regards to mantra and that I’ve heard other students ask as well and have heard varying responses too, and that is what is the role of, or the relationship rather between deity and mantra. Can you have mantra that is not inherently religious or spiritual? You know, what, where, where does God fit in to mantra?
Shervin B.: 00:26:46
It’s, it’s one of those things where I feel like there’s so much misinformation about the world of sound and mantra in particular because you of course, you don’t have to have any particular belief or faith in any religion to do this work. It’s a universal energetic quality that you’re calling in. You could call it an archetypal quality and it’s not necessarily that you’re telling yourself or instructing anybody else to be a particular religion or not. You’re essentially saying this is an energetic field that has been created through years of repetitive practice. And so it creates a kind of a field in the human consciousness, whether you’re, you know, you want to call in an energy that is represented by something like, or someone like Hanuman with the energy that kind of like finishes the job gets things done or whether it’s, you know, stating that you want to call in the energies of Mother Mary, of compassion, or you know, similarly of the Taras and the Green Tara, also of compassion, and you know, Almighty Pad Mai Hom, is a mantra that’s related to the energy of Quan Yin, also a goddess of compassion. So you can see that there are these little points that connect all of these different types of energy. Um, but they land in different traditions. It’s like looking at light that’s been refracted from different, different types of color. And so I would encourage people to not become so fixed on the idea that these are tools for people to proselytize. That’s really not it at all.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:28:37
Well, and especially if you take the, the perspective that you’ve kind of been talking about, that it doesn’t have to be even a specific language, you know, so maybe if you really don’t connect to the language of like the Hindu gods, that is so much of the Sanskrit mantra. There are other languages and other mantras that you can choose that bring in that same energy that might not, you know, bring in those idols that you might feel uncomfortable with.
Shervin B.: 00:29:05
Absolutely. Have fun exploring this world of sound and the voice. And you know, these chants is something that is, is meant to create beauty in the world. It’s meant to transfer wisdom. It’s something that can bring us together at a time when we really need that. We need these bridges to be built, particularly between the Middle East and the West. So, um, look, you can explore and you can enjoy these types of mantras without necessarily programming yourself to kind of succumb to what their religious interpretations are. I mean, you can apply that to any of these faiths and there’s beautiful chants that you can find in the Tibetan tradition, the Native American tradition, you know, Suffis, Sanskrit, Celtic and so on and so forth.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:29:54
I think that that is really, that’s really refreshing to hear. I feel like so much of the focus in the yoga community is Sanskrit and, it makes sense, the lineage is tied to Sanskrit. You know, I am seeing more and more of this introduction of other cultures into the practice and it’s really cool to explore how these practices that are so powerful are not necessarily single origin. You know, there are so many different cultures that found ways to explore that power in their language and in their practices.
Shervin B.: 00:30:28
Oh my gosh. And I can, I can only imagine what we’ve missed. So much of the spoken word has been lost. So yeah, it’s um, this is part of coming back to the fundamentals too and it gives me goosebumps on, I think about it because we are now activating a different type of approach to sound where we’re starting to move away from that entertainment idea of how music should be. And it’s opening so many different channels for people. You know, it’s, it’s huge inspiration for, for a lot of us.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:31:13
Welcome to the new part of the show, which I am fondly calling the Studio Shop. Um, you know, how every yoga studio has the little like boutique where you can go get incense and clothing and whatnot. This is my virtual, uh, my virtual studio’s version of a virtual boutique. So first I wanted to tell you guys a little bit about Shut Up & Yoga. Shut Up & Yoga is an independent digital magazine and collective of yoga teachers, writers and illustrators. It’s a practical visual and funny magazine that takes a humorous approach to dissecting popular ideas on health, yoga, and self-development. At Shut Up & Yoga, we believe in quality over quantity and honesty over being liked. Our mission is to use words in art to question, inform, educate, challenge ideas, and debunk myths. In other words, we’re ready to have uncomfortable conversations. So Shut Up & Yoga is an incredible source for yoga content. In addition to their huge library of articles that are free and available to everyone, they also sell a few ebooks. They have two so far and are about to come out with another. Their current books are The Five Most Common Yoga Injuries and How to Avoid Them by Garrett Neill and Modern Yoga; Everything Everything You Want to Know About the Pelvic Floor by Kerry McInnes. I have read both and they are both incredible. Um, the five most common yoga injuries is just something that I think should be required reading for every yoga teacher training. We need better understanding of the body, whether we’re teaching or practicing. And this book really helps us understand how our bodies work in a functional setting and how to protect them when we’re moving through the more complicated and advanced and even many of the basic poses of yoga. The pelvic floor book I just finished reading a couple of days ago and dude, I’ve never thought so much about my pelvis. I learned a lot. If you have ever heard people talk about like the Mulabunda, or lifting your pelvic floor, like contracting your pelvic floor muscles during class, this book really debunks all of that and helps you understand how that part of your anatomy really works and how to use it and create a relationship with it that’s a little bit healthier and more practical for your yoga practice in your daily life and it’s just really no nonsense, really good scientific backing. I just loved it. Totally would recommend both. They’re both 12.99 and you can get them at shutupandyoga.com/books. And then of course, as always, this podcast is made possible because of support from listeners like you. So please, please, please consider going to patreon.com/tbmpodcast; link is also in the show notes. I am creating a bunch of really exciting bonus content for people who join the patreon including reaction episodes to each episode that comes out where I share people’s reactions and responses and I’m also working on some fun video and audio content that will only be available to patreon members. It’s a really great way to get even more beginner’s mind in your life and also to show that you support this project. You know, independent artists really get paid shit. And so to make this podcast work, I rely on the support of my listeners and I really believe these conversations matter and your support shows me that you do too. And I just want to thank those of you who have joined the Patreon. Of course, I understand that not everyone is in a situation to do so, but if you are, any support is appreciated. And with that, let’s get back to the episode
Sarah Dittmore: 00:35:18
The next thing I’m, I’m wanting to talk about that I’m really curious about is sort of that healing use of these um, mantra, which I think relates to the third element that we were talking about. So, you know, we talked about the energetics, we talked about the intention and now I want to go into the voice and I think that will carry into my questions about the science and the healings. So I’m wondering a little bit about how, how the human voice, you know, why can’t we just automaton mantra?
Shervin B.: 00:35:45
Well, it’s a, it’s a really interesting thing because we create melody naturally through, through the voice. And what’s really interesting is to find out that when there is melody that works with a certain mantra, when there is a certain sequence of tones that can be used to kind of like compliment or reinforce the sequence of sounds created by the consonants and the vowels. And that’s, that’s really something that I have been so fascinated by and inspired by because of the research done by my teacher, Fabien Maman, who looked at the blood cells under the microscope and he started to, he looked at the blood cells on the microscope in 1981 this is a long time ago and he looked at how blood responds to different instruments, all different kinds of instruments that he examined. He did this at the University of Jussieu, he worked with a clinician there and he created these amazing color slides that show how the different cells of blood respond based on the different tones used and the different quality of tones used. And what was very interesting is that of all the different instruments that my teacher used, and he looked at both blood cells that were healthy and HeLa cancer cells and he discovered the human voice of all the different instruments was the most effective at empowering, stimulating, bringing energy into the blood cells that were healthy
Sarah Dittmore: 00:37:15
And from an experimental standpoint. Just real quick cause I want to make sure I’m understanding this and that the listeners are as well. What does that mean? Like what is he seeing happen in these microscopes? In these slides
Shervin B.: 00:37:27
He’s taking pictures of the blood and how it gets effected over time when these different tones are used and he’s looking at not only the blood itself but also the energy field around the blood and that’s the research that he did on the healthy blood cells. Where he looks at the cell, how it changes form, what happens, for example, when one blood cell, a group of blood cells are in stasis and there’s not much happening, you’ll see kind of has this grayish quality to it. And you know with one note that struck from one instrument and he demonstrated this with a tuning fork. One note, one instrument after almost a minute I think went by and you can see that there is this kind of bright light that activates and visually you can see this cell is coming alive, that it’s actually starting to change form.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:38:18
The shape and the color of it is what they would be observing or…?
Shervin B.: 00:38:22
Precisely. The shape, the color, and the sense that there is vitality based on what is happening with the shape and the color. You know, it’s really fascinating stuff. All of this is laid out in his book, the Tao of Sound, but it was just interesting that the human voice was the most effective and empowering these healthy cells and he looked at these sequences and then he looked at the the cancer cells and he wasn’t looking at the energy field around the cancer cells, but he noticed that the another interval was used where the cancer cells could obliterate and he discovered that again, the human voice was the most effective instrument at causing these cancer cells to explode. And it happened at a faster rate than any other instrument. It was from these studies that he established his academy. And that’s what interested me. I came into this world of sound therapy because I was interested in the science, not just the spiritual side of it. But that that piece of it is important because then you start to look at, you know, certain tones that activate certain intervals that activate us and you can find commonalities. And in music theory, you could say that there are certain tones that are um, perhaps national anthems have a lot of this, this interval known as the fifth. It’s a very activating interval, which kind of brings everything alive. And that was demonstrated in the, in the tests.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:39:43
I still, I still remember so vividly when I was 18 and I was in Ethiopia and I went to a jazz bar and it was my first ever time. I mean I was 18 and it was my first ever time listening to music that wasn’t like country and like pop music. That’s like all I’d ever known. Cause I lived in my little bubble and I remember sitting there and they’re speaking a language I don’t understand and it’s a quality of music I’ve never really heard. And it was a deeply like spiritual experience for me. I remember just feeling this sort of depth of emotion and relation to the music in a way that made zero sense to me at the time because again, I’ve always been a like a lyrics person. It was always about what they were singing, not how, or to what music, and since then I’ve been much more aware of how different sounds can affect that emotional state of being. I mean, we all know that feeling, you know, if you listen to an upbeat song versus a like sad, slow song, it changes your state emotional state.
Shervin B.: 00:40:47
Absolutely. Then what’s also really interesting is when you look at volume itself, particularly in a world where we live in, in the west where everything is so saturated with loudness, you know, I saw a study that showed that sometimes during peak hours in hospitals that the sound levels, the decibel levels is so high that it’s the equivalent of hearing a chainsaw. That’s the level of volume that we’re dealing with. And this is in our hospitals; this is in our places where we’re trying to get our sick people healed. It’s, it’s like there’s such a little awareness about even the subtle things such as volume of sound, what it does to assist, how it can potentially damage us to be so heavily bombarded by that are overwhelming. You know, it’s interesting that with with a tuning fork that my teacher could hold it about 30 centimeters, 30 to 40 centimeters from a petri dish with blood cells, human blood cells, and create a response. Imagine how subtle that is and imagine how important it is for us to resensitize to be able to reconnect with those listening apparatus.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:42:03
Knowing all of that, knowing the effect of the energetic quality, the effect of intention, the effect of voice, the infect of volume. Bringing all of that knowledge together. What is, whether it’s mantra or other instrumental sound or both of it together; what is the sort of, in your perspective, most effective way of using these practices of using mantra as a healing practice?
Shervin B.: 00:42:32
What’s so reassuring is that the voice is something we each have and it’s something you don’t need to get any extra little bells or plugins or any kind of iPhone apps or anything like that. You’ve got your own voice. It’s unique to you and I would say the first thing is to try to build a different relationship with your voice. Don’t get into that place where you start to feel like, you know, I have to entertain or that I have a really bad voice. I’m not going to, I’m not even going to try.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:43:03
That’s how by family’s always been. We’re the Dittmores. We don’t sing.
Shervin B.: 00:43:07
It’s so common isn’t it? It’s like it’s one of those things, here is your source of how you can manifest these energies that you want to invite in and yet it’s the part of us that we shut down, we swallow our emotions, we keep them tucked away and out of sight, out of presence and and so just building a different relationship with your voice starting to come to a place of acceptance. I would say that it could be a start, an important start to just changing your whole relationship with yourself. When I was young, I had such a soft and low voice and I had this very thick English accent. I could barely be heard. I’d have to repeat myself if I was ever in a restaurant and I just, I couldn’t order food. I couldn’t express what my needs were. I couldn’t articulate what I’m, what I was really about cause I never really felt like I mattered in that way. And so to you, for a person to claim that and to take charge of what it means to really express from your heart from what you’re really about, mantra is a great way to start because it’s all about the heart. Tends to be all about the heart and devotion and burning up all of those barriers to the way in which you want to be through those chants, repeating those chants over and over again.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:44:27
In my personal experience with that with mantra as sort of way to start building that bridge of connection back to your voice and of sort of enjoying your voice once again is that it is not what we typically associate with voice in our culture. So it’s not singing in the way we normally sing and it’s, it’s much more accessible for someone who doesn’t have any singing experience and it’s much more about like a lower vibration and feeling it in your body more. And so I think it’s a really great way to sort of explore with using your voice in a way that’s pleasant, that doesn’t have as much judgment as singing might.
Shervin B.: 00:45:03
I think that’s great. That’s a good point. And just to really underscore what you’re saying, I often bring up the the old tribal cultures. Because you know, they would gather and they would circle up and they would sing there to their heart’s delight and it would be a form of community connection and it would be a way in which people would start to feel that their personal stamp, their personal signature, could then weave in with the signatures of everybody else and create a true musical expression through community. And nobody in those tribal communities was like, oh, you sound awful. You know your, your voice is not, is not good enough. And most of our hangups come from that idea that you have to sound like a particular singer. That’s really, that’s a construct of the entertainment world because it’s really that novelty that each and every one of us has when we build that relationship with that voice.
Shervin B.: 00:45:58
I, you know, I have been singing for just a few years in the professional setting as a sound therapist. Before that I had an entirely different career. I was working in Washington DC as an advisor to members of Congress and doing a different kind of approach to life. And it was one that made me incredibly, you know, could be, you could say that it was very rewarding. I was working for peace activism, but I was also, I was also very sick and I was very, you know, my body was falling apart and I feel like one of the main ways in which I really reclaimed my health was to get back into my voice and to acknowledge that I had something to share with the world. And that that voice has, when I realized that it has therapeutic properties, you know, not in terms of me going out and singing to thousands of people and, and rather if I focus first and foremost on where the sound is traveling internally and what it’s creating for me inside where the cells, how these cells are starting to change color and shape and come alive. Because you start from there, you can have an entirely different relationship with your, your whole way of being through the voice.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:47:07
That’s beautiful. I love that. And I love that way of looking at sort of the role of mantra and one’s personal practice. I do have one more question that has just come up for me. You know, we’ve talked a lot about the different power that mantra has and the different meanings it can have to different people and it feels like a very personal practice and a personal decision on how to engage with mantra and how to practice mantra. And I’m wondering at the relationship of mantra and like big studio classes that are not sound healing classes, so as just, you know, a regular yoga teacher. What do you think about integrating chant in that typical way that it’s integrated in the sense of, Oh, I just start my class with this chant without context and just then move into the class.
Shervin B.: 00:47:57
I think it’s beautiful. I think it’s a, it’s a nice way for people to be introduced to something which might then spark them into exploring more if a person themselves has a, has a connection to mantra and eh, and that’s a beautiful thing. I, I’m encouraged that more, more of our kind of holistic minded brothers and sisters are getting more turned on by this world. And I would just encourage you to go beyond your boundaries with that. That is to say explore these other types of mantras as well. And I don’t think that it would at all take away anything from your practice and it would, it would possibly enhance it and it would in my mind, you know, come back to what yoga is about, which is union and that involves union across cultures, across ethnicities, across time. Today in this day and age we are so in need of that bridging. So I certainly, I have no qualms with bringing mantra into a yoga class or meditation class. I find that it’s something that we need to do more all and it would just, it would just help to kind of like go, go push your comfort level a little bit and kind of explore these other types of mantras and chants as well.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:49:15
Yeah. And also I think maybe, you know, I’m thinking about this all right now, so I don’t, these aren’t really very well formulated thoughts, but I wonder to at sort of integrating education into the use of mantra. You know, so I think, I’m trying to think why because it has bothered me before. There have been times when a teacher uses mantra in class and it has bothered me. Not always, I use mantra, I love mantra, it’s a big part of my practice. And so I’m trying to identify what that is and I’m wondering if it’s that sort of, I wonder if it comes back to the intent, you know, of sharing it without informing the students as to what the practices are, why you’re using it. It’s almost, you know, the episode that’s aired, the episode just before this one, we are talking about um, like student teacher relationships that can be hierarchical and toxic. And one of the things we talk about is consent and it’s this idea that teachers might bring practices to their students and sort of give them to their students as a, this is something you should do without giving them the reasons why or the education on the practice that the student can make a choice for themselves. And instead just saying, do this without question. You know, and I think that can happen with mantra if not practiced properly.
Shervin B.: 00:50:37
I understand your charge and the charge of a lot of people when it comes to particularly, um, the ways in which mantra is led sometimes. I find that there are some teachers that can emphasize the types of things that are related to more rigidity and the, perhaps they’re shouting the mantras and it becomes invasive or they encourage you to shout things and it becomes a little bit like a, you know, a drill sergeant leading their troops. And that’s, that to me is just, you know, it’s an invasive way to try to share. I, I feel like if a person is approaching this work and they really love it, they themselves have been activated by it. They’ve gotten a little bit of understanding of what it’s about and they show humility in the sense that if they don’t really know what they’re doing or if they don’t really understand what’s going on that they can at least express that and that they can say, this is just an experiment we’re doing it for five minutes, let’s see how it goes. I feel like that can often be something that people can respond to. The same goes with people who lead Kirtan as well. Some people you can feel that it’s just invasive in the way that they hold the space. It may be much more about the space holding itself than it is about the practice of mantra. That’s my my view.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:52:02
Because that’s what it’s coming back to. Right. It’s not whether or not you chant. Because I’ve had mantra in my class that hasn’t felt invasive at all. I think it comes a lot back to how you introduce a practice to your students.
Shervin B.: 00:52:16
Absolutely, and it’s, it’s such an interesting thing because it’s, when I approach a mantra and I share with a group, it’s always different. It’s always a different way of starting. It’s always a different way of expressing. It’s always a different energetic quality. So it’s, it’s that little in brackets, word presence that’s added to the formula of frequency plus intention that we need to be really present with not only what’s happening internally, but also the group itself. If you’re leading and holding space, take time to be present with what’s there. Because some people, you can feel that the group may be with you, they may not be, that’s going to affect the way that you lead these, these practices, but you know if there’s, there’s this devotion that you’re bringing. If you’re really in that space, it will naturally percolate. It will naturally radiate out to the others and they will feed it back to you. So it’s, it’s a, it’s an interesting component of space holding in itself because the voice is so raw because you can pick up so much the voice, it really is like being naked.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:53:28
Definitely. Well that’s amazing. This has been great. I’ve loved this conversation. I feel like it’s given me a lot more comprehension on sort of the complexities of mantra and I hope it’s done the same for the people who are listening. And I just wonder if there’s anything else about the practice, um, that you want to share and in addition, if people are interested in going down this path a little further, kind of some resources, whether your own or external that you would suggest.
Shervin B.: 00:53:58
Well, I would just, you know, come back to the whole importance of really coming to the training, showing up to it. If this is really what your, your focus wants to be, um, take time with it. You know, it’s better to, to kind of listen to a teacher that you resonate with that you feel that connection to and go down that path first before you start to kind of become your own mantra master. It’s a field of, of practice. And the same goes with sound therapy really. Um, take time to, to respect the craft. And also, you know, life is such a mystery and when you can start to feel that mystical quality, when you’re in that point where you’re repeating the mantra and some of you have felt this in Kirtan or in devotional chanting where there’s just one point in the expression where something shifts, your whole perception changes and you just start to feel like you’re, you know, you’re really deeply connected. Something has penetrated you. You know, really cultivate that, really come from that place. If you feel that that’s something that activates you in wanting to go into a deeper place, really make that something that you can access on a regular basis because it will, it will then inform you so much in so many different aspects of your life because of what you’re really experiencing. Not only that change in your blood and wonderful endorphins is coming through. You’re experiencing a deep sense of harmony with life. And if you can feel that in all the different decisions you’re making in your life, if you start to make those choices, which bring you that harmony, then you are living what sound healing is about. And there couldn’t be any higher goal in my view.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:55:49
Thank you. That’s beautiful. And this whole conversation has been incredible. I really appreciate everything you brought and everything you’ve shared with me today. And, uh, I guess before I say goodbye, I would love, you know, if you could offer some, I’ll put all of the links and everything in the show notes, but just, uh, how can people stay in touch with you? How can they find your sound healing teaching? How can they get involved if they’re interested in pursuing this with you?
Shervin B.: 00:56:21
Thank you. I just want to say it’s been a, I’m so, uh, touched by the quality of your questions and your desire to really explore this passion of mine and it’s such a deep level. So thank you. And I would just, I encourage people, if they want to learn more about me, they can go to soundhealingbali.com and look at my offerings there. I have two albums that I have out. One of them is a, is a chant album and it’s called Spirit Night by Candlelight. It’s available on band camp; bandcamp.com. And I’ll, and I’ll send you that link and it’s a, it’s a number of different chants and sacred songs from all different traditions from throughout the world. And then my second album is more of a focus on the Sufi path was a project for building bridges between Middle East and the West. We raised something like 6,500 euros for it on a Kickstarter campaign and I toured with this album and it’s endorsed by Coleman Barks, who’s the number one translator of, of Rumi’s work. Anyway, um, that is available on Spotify. If you want to check that out on iTunes. It’s called One with the Beloved. And I’d love to hear from you. So if you have any, any feedback that any of you want to give me about this talk or in general, if you want to come to Bali, you’re very welcome. I offer sessions. They’re typically every Wednesday; classical sound medicine at the Yoga Barn. And also, I do my own trainings there and private session. So anytime you wanna go deeper with this, uh, please, please do. Whether it’s, uh, with conversations with me or if you want to find a teacher. We are in the midst of completely changing the face of live music by people getting into the healing arts, through sound, through mantras, through sound therapy, vibrational therapy, in all its different permutations. There is, um, a shift of consciousness that is occurring that is taking us away from the entertainment mindset whereby you either have to be incredibly skilled and then technically, you know, superior to everybody else in order to be able to get anywhere. And that creates all kinds of, you know, um, competitive types of mentalities or you have to basically have a certain type of image that fits with the popular music trends. You know, if I can do it. I’ve changed career mid, uh, mid life. I’ve been doing this for 10 years now and it’s something that I have embraced and the universe has given me so much abundance I’m grateful for. So I’m really, I’m really hoping that others also make that transition and get into this work and also, you know, do it in such a way that they can share wisdom and beauty in the right way with the people around them and have them experience live sound vibration in a way that can transform lives.
Sarah Dittmore: 00:59:31
I want to thank Shervin again for joining me in this conversation about mantra. I learned so much as I hope you did too. And I’m definitely excited to explore this practice in my own way. I’m, I’m really interested to hear what you guys thought. Please, um, feel free to reach out to me as always. You can find me on Instagram @TBMpodcast on Facebook at The Beginner’s Mind podcast or email me directly at email@example.com. All those links are available in the show notes below. And if anything in today’s episode spoke to you, if you learned anything today, if you enjoyed this episode or were inspired to think by this episode, please consider rating reviewing and subscribing on apple podcasts or supporting me on Patreon. It’s with your support that this podcast is possible. I am working on producing these new mini episodes that I’m calling Tea Time Talks. They’re going to be shorter little episodes where I share stories from different yogis and ideally have conversations with different yogis that are a little bit less researched and just more fun, interesting conversations about whatever’s on our mind. So I just wanted to put out a call. If any of you have stories about your own experiences, they can be hilarious and funny. They can be wild and weird. They can be problematic and troubling. Just any experiences you’ve had in your yoga studio, yoga classes, yoga communities, uh, please send them over. You can email those to me at Sarah Ditmore, that s a r a h d i t t m o r firstname.lastname@example.org. So please any funny, fun, wild, problematic yoga stories, send them over. Love to have conversations about these things and bring you guys more content. So please, um, feel free to email me and I look forward to hearing from you. In two weeks on September 11th, I will be sharing the interview with April Harter. April is an anti-racism therapist who helps white people break the rules of anti-racism in order to be authentic in their interracial relationships. We talked about what that looks like, especially in the yoga community and what we can do to create a less racist society, both in the yoga community and throughout the world. Again, that will be out on September 11th. Thank you so much for listening today and stay curious.