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Meditation, Music, and "Toning" (with Video)

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Meditation can mean far more than simply sitting in a meditative posture. Music and toning add another quite beneficial dimension to the spiritual pursuit.

The belief that music is an important key to healing the mind, body, and spirit is hardly new.

In fact, the field of music therapy–healing with music, voice, harmony, rhythm, and other sounds–is among the oldest holistic approaches known to humankind. 

Pythagoras, founder of the music-therapy concept in the west, is said to have sung soothing melodies to his disciples based on the principal that melody and rhythm cannot fail to restore harmony to the human soul.  Surviving letters explain that in the evenings with his lyre and voice, he “released his followers from the cares and stresses of the day, purified their intellect, and rendered their sleep quiet.”  And in the morning, “he freed them from nocturnal heaviness, relaxation, and apathy” through particular songs and rhythms.  He believed that music is essential to spiritual and physical health and is capable of producing the most beneficial correctness of human life and behavior. And from ancient times to the present, there have been countless other scholars who agree.


Today, doctors, therapists, healers, and educators apply Pythagorean theories of music, voice, sound, and harmonies to the healing of physical ailments, emotional disturbances, and spiritual crises.

In major cities across the country, New Age clinics offer a vast array of music-related modalities geared to using sound to alleviate stress, reduce physical pain, treat serious and chronic disease, and even aid mothers in childbirth. 

Renown author and New Age healer Joy Gardner-Gordon has been at the fore of this healing approach for nearly 20 years now, having written many self-help books on the subject, as well as conducting workshops.  Based on the practices of ancient Tibetans, Mongolians, Buddhists, and Hindus, Gardner-Gordon has discovered what she believes is the most beneficial sound production known to humankind: a method known as “toning,” a long sustained sound common to many cultural traditions around the world, but perhaps best known as the “OM” sound used in Hindu and Buddhist settings.

While many nay-sayers once thought the sounding of “OM” was just a trendy noise popularized by Hippies of the 1960s and 70s seeking to embrace Eastern philosophy, Gardner-Gordon and many other practitioners today believe toning has a much deeper application–far beyond the simple meditative value–that can produce miraculous results for those with any number of ailments–or just wish to alleviate daily stress.

The “Universal Adherent Reality”

According to practitioners of this ancient method, when one makes a sustained toning sound, it sends a pleasant and naturally healing vibration throughout the entire body. 

Whether making a vowel, consonant, or combination sound (it’s up to the individual), the energy that is activated can have an almost immediate affect on one’s body, mind, and spirit in profound and apparent ways. Grounded in what is called the “universal adherent reality," many who have made a scientific study of this phenomenon believe these results reflect the principal that everything in our universe adheres to a specific rhythmic pattern; everything vibrates, and everything vibrates at its own speed. 

A heart beat, a blink of the eye, and a breath are all examples of this universal adherence.  Similarly, the orbits of the planets, sunrise and sunset, and the unchanging speed of light all adhere to this universal law.  And as science confirms, rhythm is sound and sound is vibration–and everything in nature does in fact vibrate. Thus, everything makes a sound–though usually beyond our normal human senses to detect it.

A contemporary Buddhist tenet says, “The blooming of a rose would sound like the drone of a pipe organ if only we could hear it.” In a very real manner of speaking, we don’t just "experience" music and other sound, we are part of it and it a part of us.


Some of the most remarkable and thought-provoking aspects of the toning approach is that it is free, portable, completely natural, and anyone can learn to do it.  For many, it can be more effective than meditation and may even open spiritual channels many are unaware they possess.

Traditionally, one need only sit in a quiet room with eyes closed (some prefer a darkened room), and simply experiment with sounds until one catches your fancy. (Don’t worry, if at some later time you find it no longer pleases you, you can simply find another that does.) Once discovered,  take a deep breath and slowly exhale while producing that single tone. With each successive breath, you should feel your body relax, the tonal vibration reaching deeper and deeper throughout your body.

Within 8–12 tonings, you should feel a noticeable difference–a relaxation, a calmness, perhaps, a sexual awareness.

Some find that a short ten-minute session each day can make remarkable changes in their attitude. (Others choose to start and conclude each day by toning.)  Should this method not work for you as you expect the very first time, don‘t lose faith. Sometime later in the day (or perhaps the next day) simply try it again. (I’ve never known anyone who couldn’t find it after a few tries.) If you find that you’re still not finding your “groove,” contact me. Perhaps I can make a few helpful suggestions.





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Posted on Oct 5, 2010

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James R. Coffey

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