The Crossing Places – an Exploration of Transitions

The borders between land and water, mountain and sky and forest and plain have long been considered to hold special meaning and have been honoured with offerings, shrines and temples for millennia.  As we emerge from lock-down we find ourselves at another significant crossing place and many of us are feeling anxious as we move into this new phase. 

In this post we will understand more about why transitions make some of us feel anxious.  We will also discover how to use sound, music and mindfulness to transition through the crossing places of our lives in flow and with grace and ease. 

Imagine you are walking barefoot on a sandy beach.  As you approach the place where the water meets the sand your toes begin to sink into the sand.  With each ebb and flow of the water your toes sink deeper – you, the water and the sand are merged.  Now imagine that you are walking across a field on a bright sunny day and see a dense forest ahead.  As you approach the forest how do you feel?  How do you feel as you walk under the canopy of the first branches?  How about as the sunlight starts to create shadow and the temperature drops?  As you walk deeper and deeper, what are you feeling physically and emotionally?  What are you thinking?

These crossing places change our state of being – the darkness may be exciting or scary, the sea could be cleansing or suffocating. Our ancient ancestors feared and revered these crossing places because they could literally mean life or death as well as survival.  The sea may provide food or drown us, and the forest may be home to predator or prey. As well as the potential threat to our lives, we feel a physical, mental and emotional change as we go from light to darkness, warm to cool, earth to water.  The changes in our outer landscape create changes within as our heartrate, blood pressure and neurochemistry respond.  

For millennia, humans have been drawn to change their state of consciousness as a way to communicate with the spirits of the water and the forest as well as the guardians of the underworld and paradise.  Sound and music have played a big part in helping to induce these changes in state – think of sound as being a vehicle to help you travel to different states of being.  

Research conducted at The British Academy of Sound Therapy (BAST) has shown that there are many positive benefits to health and wellbeing when we go into an Altered State of Consciousness (ASC).  These benefits include reduced stress and pain, improved mood state, (you can read more about this here).

BAST also conducted a large-scale piece of research for the music streaming platform Deezer to explore the benefits to listening to different types of music outside of our usual musical range.  It was found that listening to different music helps us to become more resilient and adaptable to change, reduces anxiety and helps us to be open to new experiences.  When we are open to new experiences, we also become more social and want to engage with others.  

Top Tips for Finding Flow in Difficult Times

  1. Spend at least 10 minutes listening to music outside of your usual genre.  Find as many parts of the music that you like as you can. It may be that you can’t stand jazz but love the way the saxophone sounds for example. Follow the sax as it weaves throughout the piece.  If your ears are then taken to the drums, immerse yourself in this instrument.  Then try to listen to just the sax and drums and see how they interact.  Every now and again zoom out and listen to the whole piece – has your opinion changed?  This exercise is not about trying to like music that you previously didn’t like, it is about opening yourself to new sonic potential.
  2. Listen to a sound-bath that contains more than one instrument. A BAST method sound bath is specifically designed to induce an ASC. Listen closely to the crossing places between instruments (when the Himalayan singing bowls give way to the gong and the gong to crystal bowls for example). Notice how you feel at these crossing places. Stretch your ears immerse yourself in the sound. It may be that you begin to see colours washing gently behind your closed eyes. This is one of the first signs that you may be your brain is relaxing into an ASC.
  3. Find somewhere lovely to sit in nature. Stretch your ears and listen to the sounds around you. Listen to the birds, the wind in the trees, the water rippling by. Take in every part of wherever you are with your eyes closed and ears open. Now bring your attention to your inner landscape, to your heart beating, your blood rushing through your veins and your breath moving in and out. Take a breath and imagine the crossing place between your skin and the air in your outer and inner landscape merging. You and the landscape are becoming one, flowing together, giving and receiving. Notice how you feel when you experience this.

Any time you feel anxious remember that it is perfectly normal part of being human to feel these changes deeply within – it’s in our ancestral DNA.  When you need support to navigate a crossing place I invite you to re-connect and remember using music, sound therapy and the sounds of nature to smooth your path ahead.