The Power of Song and Ritual in Nature – Anna Grabner

To create a sound you need to be able to hear it first. Being in nature surrounded by natural elements gives you the possibility to truly listen. Listening without categorizing the sounds that you hear but listening to the pure sound itself. To the different sounds of the birds, to the wind caressing your skin, to the waves of the ocean breaking before you, to the sound of distant voices. By connecting with nature you can listen and tune in to the rhythm of breath in your body and to the rhythm of your pulse. Finding your place in relation to the rhythm of natural life around you. You can blend your voice into the orchestra of sounds around you to feel yourself as part of that orchestra, to be fully in the present moment. Or choose a natural sound that resonates deeply within you and that you would like to recreate and maybe sing a duet with, feeling the vibration in your body.

Women have been gathering and performing rituals together in nature for centuries. Some of our VMT practitioners facilitate Women’s circles in nature, to help women understand the natural cycles within them in relation to the natural cycles around them. By tuning in to their female bodies and the ancient wisdom of the inner seasons of their menstrual cycle in the presence of nature they find sense of belonging and interconnectedness. Knowing our bodies and giving voice to nature within us allows us to embrace the fullness of Self, the wholeness of all the shadow aspects, and ultimately grounds us more.

I often take groups of women into nature. During the Women’s circles in the forest we connect with the Earth. I invite the women to sit and feel the ground or to sit with their back against a tree. Eventually even laying facing down on the ground and ‘plugging’ themselves into the ground by sounding to connect with the earth. We give voice to our inner river between heart space and womb space and connect with the womb of Mother Earth. We connect with the roots of the earth, feeling our own unique tree standing amidst all the other trees, firmly rooted.
We always sing a song, comforting and vibrant, maybe a chant or a lullaby. Often we sing “Mother I feel you under my feet” and I drum. It is a really special and a deeply moving experience.

I also facilitate sessions at the Ocean. These ‘Ocean Voice’ sessions begin by us walking in silence along the coast. Eventually we sit down at a circle of rocks and breathe together and actively listen to the sounds around us (especially the rhythm of the waves). I lead the group into what I call a “Heart sound meditation” where they listen inward to their pulse, their heart beat, their rhythm of life. Each person sounds from their heart releasing what needs to be expressed, mostly on the vowel “A”, listening in to themselves. Then we walk again. Further along the beach we stop and stand together in stillness, connecting with each other in sound, listening in to the “heart songs” of the others. Here I may invite each person to step into the circle to sound and move freely while the others hold them in humming.

Then I explain the Voice Movement Therapy concept of Convex and Concave and we go closer to the waterfront. Being with the ocean and feeling our natural rhythm of convex and concave in alignment (or not) with the rhythm of the waves. We dance with the waves. I also share a practice where along with the VMT concept of Spherical Space we dance with our shadows and our sound reflecting off the sand. This practice offers people a sense of being contained and helps them to focus on their own movement and voice before they are able to sound loudly out into the waves. I give participants space and time to explore their sound. Depending on the beach setting we are at, they are invited to explore their bodies in alignment with nature; placing their bodies against the rocks, on their backs or lying on their tummy, sounding into the rocks, towards the sky, into the sand, contracting and expanding in nature. Sometimes there is a cave where we explore our sound together and alone.

I have created a ritual where we walk together towards the waves and I lead the group in a simple song that we repeat while we walk together in a line towards the ocean. This is really powerful and it very often really feels as if the ocean reacts to us and comes closer and holds us and sings with us (yes, there is a tide but it still feels real). Sometimes we walk towards the water with flowers in our hands to offer and to let go of something – depending on the intention on the day. Sometimes this also involves more vocal improvisation, using the hands in the water to create percussion. Sometimes there is a felt sense of big emotion and we invite the salty water to help express our tears, letting the water flow over our faces, hiding our tears among the ocean’s blues.

Anna Grabner (VMTR Practitioner in Portugal)