new_health (2005-31)

Can You Didge It?

Meditation, didgeridoos go hand in hand

About a year ago, a friend told me she wanted to go to a didgeridoo meditation workshop.  My thought at the time was that it would be difficult to meditate with something that sounded like someone squeezing the air out of a water buffalo. She ended up not going, so I never found out how that worked. Well, since then, my life has been invaded by didgeridoos. Half the people I know either have one or want one. I found out that my friend Jack makes them and plays them with various bands. Maybe it’s just that I’m more aware of them, but it seems like didgeridoos have made some sort of mainstream cultural arrival. I haven’t seen people carrying them around Bearden yet, but I assume it’s only a matter of time. 

The didgeridoo is a musical instrument that originated around 50,000 years ago in Australia. It’s a hollow, lengthy limb of eucalyptus or gum tree that has been fitted with a wax mouthpiece. The player blows into it and creates a sound that has been compared to the “om” of trance meditations. The sound of a didgeridoo is said to cover over 500 miles and was once used for communication between tribes. No two didgeridoos sound the same since each is unique in its shape and the way it was hollowed out. 

Amidst the didgeridoo invasion, I heard about an upcoming didgeridoo workshop. “Joy and gladness,” my little meditative heart cried, “now I can find out what all these didgeridoings are about.” When the day of the workshop arrived, I miscalculated the amount of time it would take to traverse TDOT’s latest snafu and arrived about 10 minutes late. The workshop had started. I tried to sneak in, but it was impossible. There were about 20 people in the class, all seated with didgeridoos. I was immediately intimidated, but Phil Jones, the workshop leader and didgeridude, welcomed me with a warm invitation to choose a “didge” (as they are called by the initiated) and join the group.  

Phil Jones is a Sound Therapist who arrived at his profession in a roundabout way. A former rock ’n’ roll musician, he had a No. 1 hit in Australia as a teen and went on to tour Europe with his band, Quintessense, opening for such well-known acts as The Who and Pink Floyd in the ’70s. He spent seven years studying in London with the Swami Ambikananda and incorporated chanting and Eastern influences in his band’s sound. In the late ’80s, Phil and his wife Jennifer went to visit Phil’s parents in Australia. They meant to stay six weeks. They stayed six years. During that time, Phil met a master aboriginal teacher and started studying the didgeridoo. As he got to know the didgeridoo, he realized there were strong connections between yogic practices and aborigine traditions, especially in breath work and heightened consciousness. Phil’s experience has been that a deep meditation is reached much faster through the use of a didgeridoo. 

Phil started the workshop by showing us how to breathe: in deeply through the nose, out through the mouth between pursed, raspberry lips, expelling all the air and then pausing. Repeat several times. This was to begin centering and quieting the mind. Then he added the didgeridoo. I brought the instrument up to my mouth and…nothing. It took me quite a while to get a sound of any sort going and it wasn’t easy to make a solid sound. After that, Phil showed us how to begin circular breathing, which is used in many types of meditative practices as the circle of breath and sound has a very focusing effect. I was beginning to feel pretty mellow after trying that for half an hour. Phil then showed us some other didge sounds including animal calls. He also played for us for a little while. His skill on the didgeridoo was actually quite amazing. Just listening to him, I found myself drifting off to a very peaceful center.

I bought one of Phil’s didgeridoo meditation CDs and put it in the other day while I was working and finished my assignment in record time. I just fell into the words and suddenly it was done. Phil says the didgeridoo creates a harmonic resonance with people, and I have to agree that there was something quite captivating about hearing him play. The workshop was an interesting experience, and I think anyone who has written this odd instrument off might want to think about revisiting it, for curiosity’s sake if nothing else. Phil’s theory is that everybody can connect with a didgeridoo strictly through the primordial sound of the instrument, but to go further with it requires training, patience and control and that is where the self-healing and meditation begins.

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