Bipolar Recovery Tools: Vibration

John McManamy Health Guide
  • This post has to do with sound, vibration, healing, and how it can help in managing our bipolar. Bear with me ...

    Four and a half years ago, soon after I moved to southern California, I walked into a coffee shop and walked out with a didgeridoo. As a fellow transplant from the east coast explained to me much later, basically we mutate when we move to California. Back in New Jersey, I would have walked out of a coffee shop with a coffee.

    A didgeridoo is basically a hollowed-out piece of wood, about four to six-feet long, that produces a multi-layered rhythmic drone augmented by vocalizations. The instrument has been played by Australian Aboriginals since the beginning of time and is attracting coonsiderable attention in the west, and not just as a novelty, as we shall see.

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    Very soon, I was merrily honking away. A year went by, two, three ... Gradually, I learned how to play the thing (sort of). By this time I had four didgeridoos. In June last year, I finally worked up the courage to attend my first drum circle, where I found myself most welcome. The deep fuzzy resonance to the didge supported the drummers from below. The energetic higher-pitched vocalizations carried over the top in punctuated bursts.  

    “In the beginning was the Word ... and the Word was made flesh.”

    Om, the beginning and end of everything. Basically, we are vibration. I have always believed this. I have a deep sensitivity to music - the right music for me at the right time. I also have a strong aversion to noise - the incessant yap-yap-yap from TV and radio that assails us everywhere. As for music - the wrong music for me at the wrong time - it is constantly stalking me, like paparazzi after a celebrity, down corridors, inside elevators, even into rest rooms.

    Is nothing sacred? Can’t I at least poop in peace?

    Basically, if my vibrations are right - when my inner frequencies are in harmony with what is going on around me with what is going on with the entire cosmos - then I am right. I experience inner peace. I experience a connectedness with others. I feel part of something greater than me.

    Society is hardly organized to encourage this sense of harmony. My home is - no radio, no TV. Most of the time, I savor the silence. Sometimes, I play music. Other times, I practice my didgeridoo. The didgeridoo vibrates right through me. For me, this is exceptionally healing. Others have noticed this quality in didgeridoos, as well. Over the last few months, my life has taken on a certain accelerated didgeridoo trajectory. A few highlights:

    In April, I organized a group of drummers (with me on didge) to perform at our NAMI San Diego Walk. We set ourselves up at a key intersection where 2,500 walkers went by us three times. Our Walk is both a celebration and a solemn observance. Our ancient ancestors got it right the first time - they were smart enough to bring drums to these gatherings, plus things to blow through.

    Soon after, I brought my didge to the home of a friend who hosts a spiritual conversation on mental health. I found myself laying down an undulating drone as a woman chanted in Persian. Every liturgical observance in the world has some variation on this theme.

  • In May, I brought two of my didges to a Drumming Out Stigma event. The beauty of drum circles is anyone can join in. There were plenty of implements to bang on, and for once I witnessed individuals facing serious challenges as active (strong emphasis on active) participants at a mental health event rather than as alienated beings there for the free lunch.

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    At a talent show at the NAMI national convention three weeks ago, I performed with someone playing the Native American flute. We had just happened to bump into each other before-hand. We did two and a bit minutes together unrehearsed. I would be pulsing from below, she twittering from above, warm wooden tones, the two of us. “Way cool!” someone in the audience burst out once we finished on a wisp of vibration. Yes, it was.  

    Last week, I was part of a drum circle that entertained at Stand Down, a three-day event that has been offering sanctuary and services to homeless vets for more than 30 years (we are now witnessing a homeless population of vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan). Of all things, after the performance, I stumbled into an area where healing massage was being applied and I was invited to play my didge. One of the healers mentioned she used the didge in her practice (as a sound bath), which was my cue to hand her my spare didge. Next thing, the two of us were quietly vibrating away.

    I just got back from a beginner’s drum circle at a mental health picnic in Long Beach. There, I encouraged a young boy (and then his sister) to make coyote noises into my second didge (essentially using the didge as a megaphone) while I played what can best be described as back-up didge. Communion - connecting with our fellow beings - priceless.

    At all of these events, plus other encounters, I have found myself deeply engaged with individuals in conversations about the healing power of music and vibrations. The discussion ranges from God to neurons and everything in between. I could talk for hours on end, but I will learn a lot more by listening to you.

    One thing I know for sure - all our voices are equal. We all bring a lifetime of wisdom and insight to the table. Please join in this discussion. Comments below ...    

Published On: July 24, 2011