Imagine a world where all of Earth’s creatures were silent.  The call of wild geese, the roaring of lions and the howling of wolves all silenced.  Where nobody spoke and nobody listened.  What a devastatingly poor and awful world that would be.

And yet we as humans, supposedly one of the smartest creatures on Earth, silence ourselves and others all the time.  Sometimes with intent, often without awareness, we silence one another and we silence ourselves.  And in so doing, we rob one another of our voice, of an essential piece of who we are and we can cause deep, deep harm.

When I was a little girl, recently returned from a visit to my grandparents’ home in India, I found myself sitting in my bedroom one day feeling rather upset about something or other and without thinking I began to chant the sound ‘AUM’ over and over again.  During that visit I would wake up in the early hours of the morning to the sound of my great uncles chanting Sanskrit prayers in our shrine room and the sound of their voices fascinated me.  Intuitively, the one sound I had carried home with me to the UK was AUM and repeatedly singing it out somehow made me feel calmer and better.  Many years later I now know that chanting, like singing stimulates the vagus nerve and helps to build vagal tone, leading to a reset of the autonomic nervous system and helping us regulate our emotions of distress.  But as a young child of course I knew nothing of this, I just knew that I liked the chanting because of the way it made me feel and because it connected me to my other home across the seas. 

Ancient Wisdom

Vishuddhi chakra

Within the chakra system, the fifth energy centre is called Vishuddhi, our throat chakra.  It is seen to be the centre of purification and the seat of creativity and self expression, responsible for speaking but also deeply listening to ourselves and to others.  As such, we could say it is key in the art of good communication and harmonious relationships.  Whilst the fourth chakra Anahata, the heart centre and seat of compassion, love and kindness gets a lot of attention within the world of Yoga and meditation, and rightly so, I often find myself drawn to practices that enhance and balance Vishuddhi, such as Ujjayi breathing, camel, bridge and fish pose.  These practices remind me of the importance of honouring this energy centre, not just for myself but for those around me.  For when we silence ourselves our world becomes small.  We lose our me-ness and we disconnect from the world around us.  We hide our selves and risk becoming immersed in isolation and shame which can only really thrive in silence. 

The importance of storytelling

The power of Vissudhi is felt in art, music, literature, poetry and song.  Whether spoken, written or painted our voices need to be expressed and heard by another.  Oral history, stories told around camp fires, poems recited by roaming bards are all part of the shared historical experience of the power of the spoken word and our world is richer as a result.  We are moving away from the Victorian attitude of ‘children should be seen and not heard’ (though I think the legacy of this still ripples through our societal groups at times) and it is great that children and young people are being taught about emotional literacy and the importance of speaking out.  From bedtime stories to playtime at school, children learn about themselves and the world around them through the power of storytelling and the imagination. 

Storytelling and the imagination

Space to be heard

There is undeniably a time and a place for us to be silent.  When we hold silence we can if we are patient, see more clearly, hear our own inner voice and let the light of Satya or Truth emerge. We can shine a torch of awareness on the dark places where we normally fear to tread.  Step into our own light fully and truly consider what we wish to say to the world. We can learn to respond rather than react.  And there is a time to choose not to speak if we feel our honesty may put us in danger or is too brutal or harsh for another. But when it comes to withholding a part of ourselves purely through fear of being seen, of being heard, if we are not brave enough to speak our truth we will suffer.  And this is something I witness in my work on a daily basis.

The element of Vishuddhi chakra is space and the sound of the chakra is Ham meaning ‘I am’.  I see therapy as a sacred space and as a therapist I am always deeply moved and honoured to be on the receiving end of my clients’ stories and narratives.  I respect their courage and their capacity to be vulnerable. Often the people I meet are telling a part of their story for the very first time or are rewriting it for themselves in a healthier and more life affirming way.  The sacred space of therapy allows them to speak and hear themselves without judgement, fear or shame. Sometimes we only need just one person to truly hear us, see us and accept us as we are.  

And in finding our voice and allowing it to be heard we can develop greater authenticity, intimacy,and ultimately happiness.  In the words of Arvo Part, ‘The human voice is the most perfect instrument of all’.