Sound of One-Mystic Cymbalism for Meditation & Hea
How can anyone play a whole concert with just finger cymbals? In the hands of a master, even a 'simple' percussion instrument can produce profound music. Bells, Himalayan bowls, cymbals and gongs are all used in sacred music, sound healing and meditations. Inspired by the listening meditations and cymbal style of Sufi master Adnan Sarhan, we use finger cymbals in a similar way. If you can imagine a quiet gong bath, many octaves higher with a proportionately smaller range of sound, resonating through the body and psyche with a subtle, persistent power, you will begin to grasp what a meditative concert of finger cymbal music is like. - from 'Mystic Cymbalism: Sound Healing & Meditation with Finger Cymbals', ©2009 by Jenna Woods Testimonials: The vibrations seem to be as effective and maybe even stronger than the singing bowls. It is a significant energetic. - Marlene Wolcott, Denver, CO Your zills always take me to a meditative space in far less time than I could get to on my own; I love the journey. - Jim Harrington, Boulder, CO Jenna and Amina's music induces such a deep state of reflection that I found myself noticing many subtle responses in my body. I felt awash in a profound sense of connectedness, even with the parts of myself that feel the most disconnected. All of the audience sat immersed and held, long after the music was over. - Dana Harden, Ashland, OR I lost all sense of time, got very relaxed; like a good nap, yet more integrating, soothing. My ears are ringing less. It was very peaceful and balancing. - Karen Looney, Boulder, CO I feel lighter, more energized, more positive and open. There is a mystical aspect that is very difficult to express in words, but is very clear and vivid energetically. The positive effects of your sound healing are continuing [six days later]. I feel that for me, the effect of the session with you is subtle on a physical level, and more dramatic on the emotional, energetic, and spiritual levels. - Debra Alford, Arvada, CO I feel like your work helped to shift my energetic field by breaking up some of the heaviness I came here with. The sound was very penetrating, and I loved the different contours created by the different pitches of tone and speeds of rhythm. When you started playing, I suddenly had an inner vision of being in a yurt in Mongolia, lying down, surrounded by pillows on a lavishly woven rug; it felt like it was in the past. As you continued to play, I felt blockages and feelings of grief were breaking up and dispersing. I was entranced and delighted by the beauty of the sound, and it brought up images of flowers, delicate lacy patterns and growing vines. It felt like the sound was strengthening the quality of beauty within me. I also saw blue light inwardly, and at the end of the session could very clearly hear the sound current, one of the aspects of the Divine I work with and already have an inner relationship with. It is clear that, for me, the zills opened up the inner channels of connection to the Divine, allowed me to let go and be brought once more into an awareness of the infinite potential of the present moment. Thank you Jenna! - Christine Tulis, Boulder, CO I feel VERY calm and VERY balanced; trusting, like a flowing river; very grounded, contained, and clear. My vision seems a little better. I felt like I went on a journey and that a LOT happened in a short amount of time. I felt the healing was performed in an energetically 'clean' way, which allowed for a deeper, more personal and full healing. - Lila Ferguson, Boulder, CO It feels like some residue has been cleared from my cells. I feel an after-hum, the energy moving through, like everything is settling into a different pattern. I have a clearer sense of my vibration - it's a higher level, and it's me. - Pamela Craig, Longmont, CO It's like listening to ripples on water. There are high points, patterns and nodes, and I found myself listening to the silence as well as the sound. - Christina Williams, Boulder, CO Your concert with Amina was amazing! It was a transforming spiritual experience for me. - Natalya Barry, Boulder,CO If I stopped watching and just listened, I got all these wild acoustics; it was more powerful. It sounded like the movements you were making were huge! The repetitiveness bored my mind, and then the subtle power of the sound of the zills started to penetrate into my muscular system. I used to do a lot of work with Emily Conrad [Continuum]; it was sort of like that. - Susan Norwood, Austin, TX It was a meditation in motion, a chance to experience zills in a trance way. I gained a whole new appreciation for the zills, because usually when you hear them it is in a very upbeat, sassy way [with bellydancing]. This was more grounded, and the repetition of sound after a while did become trance-like. I loved the way you two passed the energy back and forth. The repetitive sound became a doorway for me, so I felt like I was in another world for a while. It was very soothing, which I would not have expected, knowing the shriller noise that zills can make. I also was fascinated and impressed with all the different sounds that you two created out of them! Very cool and inspiring. - Lyn Gregory, Boulder, CO First there are two women low to the ground; many shiny disks lie before them. The room has living breathing people sitting about. The women have modest, simple requests; basically, try to be quiet and pay attention. The women rise up, and ringing is in the air. The people adjust, some still arriving to sit, see, and hear. The zills have moving rhythm; they ask for keener attention to them, so my eyes close. There is a ringing zinging mayhem in my hair, but in my skull and bones there is a clear and steady rhythm. Then there is only water - falling water, spinning water, crashing water, smashing water - everywhere. For a while the water calms some, then it is gone. Only a forest remains, with daylight shining through. The trees are full of many, many, many different kinds of birds. Singing, chirping, taunting, cackling in chaos, then all in chorus; some leave and new ones fly in. In the madness and the racket they all seem to know exactly what each other is doing. They join together with powerful waves of sound, and then break. This suddenly appears as an attempt to communicate. There is, or seems to be anyway, a message. What message, I cannot say. Then there is an edge. A perfect edge. Then I am that edge. Not on edge, like when the dentist comes at you with the drill. Not like on the edge of a cliff and about to fall. Just being an edge, like perfectly balanced and incredibly sharp. I can hear every zill tone and every person around the room - the room itself, the cars outside, the wind outside, the sound of the air passing into and out of my lungs, all together, standing and singing on this samurai-like edge that I am. Then the women go quiet, and normal life sounds return. The group gathered eventually disperses. However, this edge still holds me, through the rest of the evening till I fall asleep. - Zill Edge by Doug Knous, Lafayette,CO How We Got Here The first time I heard Adnan Sarhan play a long meditation with finger cymbals was in the mid-80's, He played them in the unique, stream-of-consciousness style that his hallmark: arrhythmic, mesmerizing, and as rich in subtle sound variations as a mountain creek in spring. While he played, time vanished, and I found myself entering deep moving spaces, like diving into deep water. I resurfaced feeling rested to the bone, slowed down and exquisitely present. Adnan's unorthodox, unpredictable ringing flow was profoundly interesting to me. I have always preferred improvising my dance, especially to unfamiliar music; in Adnan's listening meditations, I saw a way to follow the unknown as a musician as well. I met Amina Salah in the late 1990's. She was also inspired by Adnan's zillwork, and when I began work on The Dancing Cymbalist (©2007), she assisted me with the book in exchange for zill lessons. Amina was already a professional dancer and had studied zills with other teachers, including Sufi musicians in Egypt. A number of times after a session with her, I was inspired to write whole new sections, and The Dancing Cymbalist grew beyond anything I had imagined. Dunya Dianne McPherson, founder of Dancemeditation, also trained with Adnan. During a workshop at her winter retreat in 2003, she invited me to join her in playing a zill meditation. Although our duet was deeply rooted in Adnan's style, it was definitely something new - a revelation to both of us, since we both had only heard and played solo cymbal meditations before. I came home with fresh inspiration, and Amina and I began to develop the duet form. A few days before our first concert (Fire & Light, 2005), I was telling a friend about it; our exchange went like this: 'Well... are you going to dance?' 'No, we're playing finger cymbals.' 'Well... is someone playing music for you?' 'No, we're playing music, with finger cymbals.' He couldn't imagine it. How can you play an entire concert with just finger cymbals? The question is a very good one. You see the difficulty. The common belief that finger cymbals are only played by women while belly dancing has led to a belief that they are a limited percussion instrument, even a toy. In truth, the quality of professional finger cymbals is quite different from toys; and, in the hands of a master, even a 'simple' percussion instrument can produce profound music. Together and separately, we are expanding the boundaries of our instrument. In training to be a yoga teacher, Amina seeks deeper meaning in her playing, expressing life experiences and sharing the joy of the sound. Her zill solo has attracted a lot of attention on YouTube. I'm committed to experimentation, stretching the boundaries of my cymbal playing in new directions. Since April 2010, I've been playing in exquisite improv music meditations with amazing musicians, including Kailin Yong, Cameron Powers, Jesse Manno, Michael Stanwood, and many others. In 2008, we played a short set during a show of improv theater in the International Fringe Festival in Boulder. We improvised on themes suggested by the audience, creating tiny sound bytes like haiku with zills - on such diverse themes as 'mysterious sex', 'sibling rivalry between sisters', 'a beehive', 'reading Yoga Journal', 'a carwash', and 'the sound of the planets'. Our wide-ranging improvisations drew a thoughtful response from our audience, again reflecting the I-never-would-have-imagined theme. As Amina and I continue to play our meditations, we have become excited over the acoustic treasury that opens to us because we play together. I have eleven different sets of zills that vary in pitch, tuning, character, range, and resonance, and Amina has several different sets as well. Either of us can change sets without breaking the flow, and we can create a third harmonic tone between us. This gives us a remarkable range of tonal relationships that allows us to modulate easily through subtle shifts of mood and energy. When we play we also move, exploring qualities of sound in relation to the sweet spot and other features of a room. We have been fortunate to play in different spaces, learning to play expansively, three-dimensionally, surfing the acoustics in a spirit of open inquiry. I think our CD successfully captures this spatial effect. The experience of improvising together with the cymbals is powerful. We improvise on themes, and the flow of the cymbal song moves into and through us, drawing us intensely and wholly into the present moment together. Listeners fall into different degrees of absorption, and have described experiences ranging from peaceful clearing to evocative journeys and profound connection. Besides Adnan's meditations, the only comparable experience I have had was in a gong bath with the masterful Richard Rudis. Compared to finger cymbals, the gong is a much louder, lower-pitched, and more overwhelming instrument, with a huge expressive range. If you can imagine a quiet gong bath, many octaves higher with a proportionately smaller range of sound, resonating through the body and psyche with a subtle, persistent power, you will begin to grasp what meditative finger cymbal music is like. Binaural sound can help integrate the right and left sides of the brain. I had my first experience of binaural beats in an EMDR session. I listened in headphones to a tone that alternated from one ear to the other, and was highly intrigued by the effects. I promptly experimented with this process using finger cymbals, which are played two in each hand. The results were again very intriguing, so I think of playing finger cymbals as a form of live binaural sound therapy. Early in 2009, I developed a pain in my left hip and was having difficulty walking. After two bodywork session, while I was practicing a new functional movement pattern, I became frustrated. Fatigued by intermittent pain, the unfamiliar pattern, and the slowness of recovery, I needed a break. I picked up a set of finger cymbals and began a flowing, lyrical improvisation. I continued for perhaps fifteen or twenty minutes, and then put the cymbals down. To my surprise, I was able to walk without pain! Until that moment, it had not occurred to me to play my zills as a healing instrument. Though I am trained in healing arts, I had not used sound as a modality before. The closest thing I have done is based in my Sufi training - using rhythmic sound to draw my dance students into absorption to ease their learning. Although I have integrated all my training into teaching dance, I was yearning to integrate it into healing work. This unexpected experience was the turning point I had been waiting for. With the help of volunteers I discovered how to play my cymbals for healing in an intimate setting. In general, participants reported feeling calmer, more balanced, energized and emotionally lifted by their short sessions. Some also reported a reduction of symptoms. In all of our experiments with this ancient instrument, I feel we are building bridges from tradition-based ideas to new possibilities in the healing soundscapes of mystic cymbalism.