I'm reading
The power of sound
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
The power of sound
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
The power of sound
Pass it on
Pass it on
20 April 2020

The power of sound

With her mother dying against the backdrop of a strange new world, Helen McNeill and her family find a profound and revelatory new way to connect

Written by Helen McNeill

Behind extraordinary ideas, there are extraordinary people. Dumbo Feather is a magazine about these people.

Lockdown has poked at many things, but chief among them is the innate feeling of separateness. A couple of weeks ago, my mother in the UK tested positive for COVID-19. She was in total isolation: no visitors, no phone-calls, no connection. As a Reiki Master, my practice allows me to connect over distance. Whilst this is beautiful and restorative, I longed to connect with other family members scattered around the planet to unite in our healing. I craved the experience of communicating deeply — of oneness.

But how?

A candle seemed token. Prayer is tricky for the agnostics. Zoom, which has become a byword for our adapted ways of being in dialogue, services a need. But I felt called to move beyond visuals and words. I desired something that didn’t require physical movement, or initiations, or linear pathways to learning. I wanted something simple, and timely. Something immediate.

The desire ultimately led me to sound.

The power of sound is obvious: experiencing a song can shift our energy from one state to another; we feel united when we dance with others at a gig; we yearn for the melody of our mother’s voice (the first sound we ever hear).

Sound creates the context in which we can connect with the expanded self. Sound as the diving board into the pool of consciousness. What I have created are Soum sessions: sound mashed together with the loose concept of Zoom, or virtual connection.

Soum is simply playing a track simultaneously with other people. I like to use a long, ambient track by Moby called LA7 that I resonate with because of its mimicry of calm inhalation and exhalation. Crucially, the music is free from lyrics or chanting — a deliberate choice that I think grants us license to connect freely, unbound by the limitations of a pre-determined narrative. There is no guiding hand keeping us on track in the way that a meditation might, and therein lies the creative potential to expand.

There are three of us who come together for our Soum sessions: myself, my sister in the UK and her daughter. From the comfort of our homes, many miles apart, we convene at a set time and ready ourselves. When we’re settled, I give the virtual nod (on Whatsapp) to count down from 10, and then in unison, we hit play. With the track streaming into our bodies, we hold each other in our thoughts and let the music move up in us, connecting us through consciousness.

We’ve been drawn to the power of Soum sessions at all hours and by the truth of the connection between us. I could never have imagined quite how powerfully this revelation, this re-imagining of our ways of connecting would affect me until the call came through with the dreaded phrase a “turn for the worse.”

In the stillness of the early hours in Melbourne, as my sister struggled with the horror of witnessing our mother through a tangle of equipment meant to protect them both, I struggled to connect with them through Soum. I felt an obligation to provide the reassurance and support that my mother’s soul deserved. I was desperate to find stillness and connection as waves of overwhelm engulfed me.

Still, the music played on, an anchor to the experience, until, in a moment of utter anguish, I reached my right hand up and felt a surge of energy stream through me.

My arm fell to rest at my side. The music continued but there was peace now.

She was gone.

As strange and as painful as it is, with all the added weirdness of being literally a world away and unable to be there to grieve as a family — despite all of that, I am so grateful. ‘Rest in Peace’ has honestly been an empty phrase until now. I have conveyed the words without real connection to the simple and powerful blessing contained within. Now that this blessing is potent and realised, I have faith that there is truth in it.

There can be no funeral in the way we would want. We cannot perform the rituals that bring peace for the living and so we cling to the belief that ultimately she is held in the peace that we now long for.

In the hours that followed our mother’s passing, my sister shared with me a moment of sweet, soul-affirming tenderness. Words delivered by my sister without the knowledge of the union made in a place beyond my heart. Apparently, in those final moments of her life, as my sister stroked her forehead, our beautiful Mum reached her right hand upwards and was taken to that place of liberation. Her struggle was over. As she gave me life, she has given me her death. We reached out our hands and we took it.

Helen McNeill

Helen McNeill is a marvellous collection of atomic matter hunkered down in Melbourne. She is Kate’s daughter, a Thought Collector, a Reiki Master and the collector of a thought she’s calling ‘Soum’. www.pennyforthem.com.au

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