Photo credit: Jackson SImmer
For any of us stuck in worry or anxiety cycles—fear-based thoughts and feelings responding to trauma or a threat– these are in your body, not just your mind. Dr. Peter Levine has an exercise that can help you get un-stuck. I first want to note that indigenous peoples around the world, and specifically Tibetan peoples, practiced this for centuries. The common term is “chanting”.
In 2001 I traveled to Dharamshala, the village at the edge of the Himalayas in Northern India where His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Tibetan peoples live in exile, fleeing persecution from China. I won’t relay the horror stories I heard.
In the Dharamshala daytimes, the wind carried the sound of Tibetan chanting, winding down stone pathways and between slanted buildings. Everyone within earshot was subject to the hypnotic backdrop.. an invitation to join the monks’ serenity.
Dr. Levine is known for developing Somatic Experiencing (SE), with strong science behind it. It’s a method of working out stress responses in the body, especially the ‘freeze” response. Freeze occurs when we’ve identified a threat and are unable to fight or flee. The combination of immobility and fear is what is toxic to our body and gets trapped. This might be you.
If we didn’t grow up chanting, it may seem odd. I recommend practicing with others if possible—(6 feet away?)– because for me the sound resonating within and between bodies magnifies the healing effect. …Shared electrons!
Here is a *brief video* of Dr Levine explaining how he used the “Vuu” chant exercise with an overwhelmed nurse during the pandemic. *This longer video* (worth it!!!) demonstrates how animals also have the freeze response, but have an ability to discharge it. We don’t naturally discharge!
In the 2nd video, Dr. Levine demonstrates with a veteran who has (visible) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder how humans can work through the freeze response. Stunning.
There are many forms of somatic approaches—chanting is only one. More to come on this.
I want to honor Tibetan Throat Singing, the chanting I referred to above. The Tibetan monks in Dharamshala, India—fleeing persecution and living in exile—are collectively the happiest and most peaceful community I ever experienced. You can hear Tibetan chanting *here*. They are sacred scientists, in my book.