For nearly nine years I’ve been practising The Six Healing Sounds, an ancient Taoist breathing technique using sub-vocalised sounds, breath and visualisations related to internal organs. For nearly four years I’ve been teaching this technique to others.
Below are a few words I’ve put together about The Six Healing Sounds:
Although some teachers attribute the practice of the Six Healing Sounds to a sixth century Buddhist hermit, elements of this ancient chi kung form were found inscribed on silk fragments in the famous Mawangdui tomb discovery, dated to 216 BC. Their original name may have been the Six Healing Breaths, which makes sense when you consider that this technique can be considered more similar to pranayama than to mantra in the Indian yogic tradition.
The sounds are taught by a number of modern masters, from the East and West. Each of these exponents describes a different practice. The pronunciation of the sounds varies. Fortunately, many of these apparent differences seem to arise from difficulties in representing these sounds phonetically in print. However the sound for the kidneys varies significantly, certainly more than can be explained by the challenge of phonetic representation. As always, I can only recommend that you find what feels right for you and stick with it. As with all sound work, the intention is at least as important as the actual sound.
The degree of vocalization varies greatly, from totally inaudible, through the sound of the breath exhaling to complete vocalization of the sounds. It might be well to heed the words of Ni Hua-Ching who says, “If the sound is coarse and audible it will hurt the chi in the body.”
The order of the sounds varies from teacher to teacher, although most follow the productive (Shen) cycle of the Five Elements or Phases. Some begin with the liver sound, probably because it represents rebirth and the season of spring. Mantak Chia, on whom I base my interpretation, begins with the lung sound. Virtually all the teachers agree that one finishes with the sound of the triple warmer. You can experiment with this, perhaps varying with the seasons. It is also possible to focus on one sound and repeat it up to 36 times, in instances where you are attempting to purify a particular emotion or organ. The Triple Warmer (sometimes called Triple Heater or Triple Burner) may be unfamiliar to many Westerners. It has an integrating function that links and harmonises the processes of the primary organs.
Let’s look at some of the potential benefits of regularly practicing the Six Healing Sounds:
1. The sounds have a cooling and harmonizing effect on the internal organs, which tend to overheat with the many stresses of modern life.
2. Qi (life force) is increased, leading to restoration and maintenance of calmness and good health. Minor ailments can be prevented or easily overcome.
3. Improves digestion.
4. Perhaps the greatest benefit is in the release or transformation of negative emotions into more positive, life enhancing energy.
5. Weakness and sickness in the internal organs such as the stomach or the liver can cause bad breath. Practise of the sounds can, therefore, alleviate halitosis.
6. Likewise body odour can be reduced, especially through the practise of the lung and kidney sounds.
7. The Six Healing Sounds release trapped energy in the organs, thereby leading to improvement in the range of movement of practitioners. Similarly, the Healing sounds can serve as an excellent warm up prior to singing.
8. The practice of the Healing Sounds is a form of Qigong, and as such is another effective tool to be used in the process of self discovery.
In Search of Simplicity is a startlingly poignant real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life. John Haines hosts a popular weekly interview program, Voices from the North, from his place in paradise in New Zealand’s subtropical far north, and leads what he calls ‘playshops’ in voice, sound and communication.
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