Alexandru Anton from Romania talks about his work to support people in discovering their voice and identifying the subtle mental judgements that block the free flow of voice energy.
The Mirror: Alex, how did you get involved in working with the voice?
Alex: I remember when I was very young, maybe 4 or 5, how I would be fascinated by the live musicians playing on the meadow of the village of my maternal grandmother in Romania. Those were occasions when the whole village would dress up and gather in order to celebrate some important Christian holiday. Everybody, from young to very old, would join hand in hand for the many circle dances – some fast, some slow, some simple, some quite complex and some even acrobatic. When I look back at all this, I think all these holidays served as permissions and encouragement to actually celebrate the joy of being alive, together with others, through song and dance and maybe a little bit of organic country wine.
When I look back at the child fascinated by the musicians, I realize he was trying to discover the connection between sound and emotion. If we were from another galaxy and emotions were not an important part of our existence, this would all seem interesting or even strange. But to see, again and again, how all these people – each with their own busy hard-working lives, challenges, fights, suffering – gathered and through sound and movement shared that common space of joy, I think I found this quite miraculous. I still do. I think this was actually the start for my passion for sound.
Then later, after I got my degree in Psychology and still didn’t feel innerly satisfied, I participated in several traditional healing seminars with practitioners from different parts of the world and understood the importance of sound for moving the energy, releasing obstacles, and having new experiences. My first “acoustic love” was Siberian throat-singing, which I still practice. I consider it to be an extraordinary method of working with energy.
Mirror: Did you have some background in music or in some type of therapy when you started your sound classes?
Alex: I had my Psychology training and a few dozen hours of therapeutic training, but overall it was mostly intellectual. I had very little life experience. I also had been practicing some hands-on energetic therapy on myself mostly. On the other hand, I also had quite a few experiences of using the voice in different healing contexts, according to different traditions. I consider these to be very valuable, because they brought me a lot of confidence on the level of energy, of dealing with my feelings and expressing them. Before this, I had a rather shy and inhibited nature. Then a friend of mine asked me to help him transcribe some notes from a throat-singing workshop where I had been the translator. He felt I had some understanding about the sound and the whole method and he suggested that I offer one voice training class to see how it goes – basically for sharing with others what I had discovered. I called that first workshop “Untying the knot in the throat” because I felt there was so much potential for the human voice underneath all the psychological filters, layers and self-censorship. As I was beginning to taste in my personal experience. That was in 2012 and I have been doing this ever since.
Mirror: Do you feel that working with sound is linked in some way to contemplation and to the Dzogchen teaching?
Alex: Definitely! It goes both ways. As poor as my contemplation practice may be, I think any progress also reflects in my workshops. I think one cannot really separate them. It is working with my body, energy and mind in both cases. For example, if I first use the voice to release some blocked energy from my body, and then I do some formal practice which involves singing mantras, I can feel that the vibration of my voice is spreading more easily in my body. My energy is already more settled and open from singing, so I can more easily go to the mind level and hopefully beyond.
This is very useful for me also because I still have a lot of repressed feelings which I normally cannot integrate in my daily life and cannot express – and that accumulates and fills up my inner space. So singing is also like brushing my teeth or having a shower on another level. I think in this way singing definitely is connected with developing more clarity.
On another level, singing helps with the psychological blocks. For example, if you have the intention to produce sounds for ten minutes without any stops and you do it, you will become aware of your self-judgement and also particularly of your own energy and voice – so that can help with the mind level and integrating more with the voice.
Mirror: Do you work only with voice/throat or also instruments?
Alex: I also work with instruments on the side, sometimes. It can be drums, flutes, jaw harps. Sometimes I play for an hour and people lie down, relaxing in the sound. I am not really interested in being a musician in that sense, although I have a few recordings and I enjoy it a lot when I can express some feeling or inner landscape through sound and share it with others. That is another process.
Right now I am more motivated to support people to discover their voice. I also think this can be more useful, because people work with themselves, with their own voice, rather than passively listening to some sounds. But of course listening is also very important and it has been one of my challenges along the way. Somehow, listening is part of singing. If I cannot perceive something, what can I sing?
Mirror: Do you have some particular methods that you use during sound sessions?
Alex: I find singing to be the best method, once we remember and realize how easy, simple, yet powerful it is. It is an acoustic continuation of one’s breath, which also more concretely resonates in one’s own body. I use this metaphor of the human body as a musical instrument. We have the vocal cords and we have also the chamber of resonance, the space in which we allow our voice to resonate in the body. In order for this resonance space to be available, open, for the voice, the energetic body needs to be relaxed and free of tensions, otherwise emotions stuck in the body act as absorbing barriers for the inner vibrations of the voice.
Different organs and bones have different natural resonances, so for example if you talk from your head or from your heart or from your belly, your voice will include those frequencies. They will naturally resonate with the respective parts in the other people’s bodies. So it becomes like a huge symphony! Isn’t it wonderful to be aware of this? Then we also have the “muscle” of the voice, which is the diaphragm muscle and the energetic center of the solar plexus. It is important to remember this as an experience and use it as a resource, as opposed to putting effort in the throat and straining the vocal cords. I use whatever methods are necessary and suitable for the people I am working with, from somatic releasing of tensions to vocal expression of different emotions and awareness practices to identify the subtle mental judgements which block the free flow of our voice energy.
Mirror: Can you describe how a session with sounds works?
Alex: There are several possibilities. One is when the participants tend to be more passive and just listen to the sounds I am producing using my voice and different instruments. This is good for relaxing, releasing stress, and getting in touch with one’s body in a meditative manner. But, as I said earlier, I prefer to engage with participants in an interactive way, to be able to explore and discover different aspects in the present moment.
In any case, we start with a body warm-up and tension-release. For example, by shaking the body and breathing deeply. This helps to gather our presence in all our aspects. Bringing the breath in the body, bringing the mind in the breath and in the body.
In the context of a group, we also explore the phenomenon called resonance, where we sing together in resonance. It is a very simple thing, yet so few people know about it. Unless one is in a choir or something like that. While singing in resonance with somebody, it is impossible to tell which is my voice and which is the other person’s voice and there is a very interesting experience of being together in the same energetic flow. Participants said they enjoyed this very much. It is a unique way of practicing authentic connection with those around us and it involves both expressing and listening at the same time, in a synchronized way.
Mirror: Are your sound healing sessions evolving or adapting to the participants?
Alex: Yes. I do my best to work with what is manifesting in the present. I have many exercises in my “bag” and I use whatever I feel is suitable.
I will take this opportunity to clarify a bit about “sound healing”. The term emphasizes more the external aspect, as if the inner problems are magically “healed” by some sounds coming from the outside. I would like to add that the person receiving sound therapy is actually very much responsible for the whole process. I can only offer the “space” of possibilities through my attitude, trigger and stimulate the natural process of activating the energy through various exercises and explanations. It is actually the participant who “decides” how much they want to open, how committed they want to be when doing the exercises. It depends very much on their resources, their previous experiences, their mental flexibility etc. For that matter, I don’t use the term “sound healing” because I don’t want to encourage an attitude of passivity or of lack of responsibility on the participants’ side, or even some type of magical thinking.
Mirror: Is there anything else you feel to be important?
Alex: Yes, I would like to encourage everyone to sing, to use the resonance of the voice in the body and also to be aware of any mental reactions to one’s own voice. I think we can discover a lot about ourselves, about our energy, in this very simple way.
Mirror: Do you have any projects for the future?
Alex: I am just finishing a throat-singing video course in English. It is about 4-5 hours of recorded video, half of which I filmed while I was traveling in Nepal The other half was filmed in the beautiful gardens of Dzamling Gar. And there are some “noisy” bits I didn’t manage to film in the Gar, but I will capture them most probably in some beautiful forest. I will offer it to all the Vajra sisters and brothers as a way to share my experience and knowledge with sound, however limited. It doesn’t mean everyone should learn Siberian throat-singing and practice it. I see it more like a menu from which one can choose whatever one finds useful.
There are a few videos where I share my perspectives on emotional expression, effort vs relaxation in the context of the voice, and the various opportunities that working with sound can open for us. There are also many exercises which are very strong ways to unblock the energy in the physical body and awaken the vitality, while simultaneously opening up the voice, bringing more depth, resonance, and confidence in the way we project our energy. That’s it. Thank you very much for the invitation to this interview! May it be of some benefit!
Mirror: Thank you, Alex!
Dzamling Gar, April 2023
Free Conference with Alexandru Anton May 4, 6-8pm on Zoom