A Sense of Place, Sound and the Self – The Eternal Sonorous Feedback Loop

A sense of place means so many different things to each of us, but most commonly it is a term used to describe the relationship we have to where we live and to those that live with us and around us. In this article I’d like to take this a step further by using our sense of place to extend our self-awareness as well as discuss how to use sound to connect more deeply with the world around us – to use sound to re-connect in a disconnected world.

The relationship that we have with our environment creates an eternal feedback loop that informs us about who we are. One person may love the buzz of an cityscape whereas another may prefer the buzz of bees in a meadow of wild-flowers. Whatever your preference you can enjoy the relationship that you have with your environment and yourself through sound.

How do you do this?

Our ancestors have been sounding and voicing in the landscape for thousands of years. Whether they were calling to each other across a distance to inform other hunters that the buffalo were on the plain, drumming warning messages or worshipping with a Himalayan singing bowl in a forest temple, we have been united through sound. Sound and the voice were not just used to communicate with each other but also with nature, the earth, the cosmos and the spirit realms.

When I travel I always take an instrument with me. I’ve taken crystal bowls into Stonehenge and up to the artic circle and my voice to the desert. I’ve drummed under the Northern Lights and gonged in forests and chapels. Every time I connected in this way I learned more about nature, the landscape and others. It opened my heart and mind and through the eternal feedback loop, I discovered more about myself. Did I feel safe here? If not, why not? How did I relate to my surroundings and myself in my surroundings? The practice of sounding in the places I visit (as well as regularly at home) create a deeper ongoing relationship, a greater sense of place and belonging and connection. This ancient practice helps us to stay healthy and remember what is important.

Lyz in Lapland

In a time of displacement, isolation and disconnection we can lose our sense of place but there is always time for connection. During the summer break here are a few things you can do to enhance your sense of place.

Spend some time sitting in different places. Listen to the soundscape around you. Notice how much biophony there is (biophony is the sound of birds, insects, any living animal). Take your attention to the geophony (this is the sound of trees, wind, ocean, rain etc). If you are in a more urban setting perhaps there is anthrophony (sounds created by people such as traffic, machinery, human voices). Close your eyes and stretch your awareness as far as you can first and then open your eyes.

Take an instrument out into the landscape. Spend a couple of minutes breathing into your belly first with your eyes closed and listen to what’s around you. Now open your eyes and look at the landscape and take everything in, paying particular interest to anything that you would most like to connect with. Begin to play your instrument and do your best get out of your own way (if your mind comes in and tells you that you could play this instrument better for example) just allow yourself the luxury of putting these thoughts aside and just enjoy the sound. Notice if the sound changes as you allow the landscape in. Notice if you change in any way as you allow the sound and the landscape in. It could be that you begin to breathe differently, you become more relaxed, or you have a deep sense of belonging. Notice if any resistance comes up, so if you begin to feel frightened for no apparent reason or you feel grief, for example. Just keep breathing and notice what you’re feeling, where you’re feeling it in the body and if it has any kind of deeper meaning for you. Take a breath and visualise the sound going to the place where the resistance is being experienced and allow it to be released on the exhale.

Take a photo of yourself in the landscape and share it with us – let us know how you felt. We’d love to hear all about your sonic adventures!

Lyz in Stonehenge