Rilke, Compassion and Sound healing

“The necessary thing is after all but this; solitude, great inner solitude. Going into oneself for hours meeting no one – this one must be able to attain.” – Rainer Maria Rilke. Letters to a Young Poet.1

There are so many stories about artists who have had difficult and tragic lives. It seems clear to me that the deep feelings, soul searching, and peeling away to life’s inner core separates one from daily comfortable, routine living. Social isolation caused by family dysfunction, addiction, mental illness, or generally feeling different from everyone around you, puts one in a position to see the world from the outside looking in. The object is to not become too depressed, cynical or pessimistic. The image on this card represents to me the deep ocean of soul-baring emotions which are the current underlying the burst of creative energy experienced on the surface.

In her shamanism workshops, Joyce St. Germaine ( talks often, especially over the past year, about compassion. Joyce talks about how having sympathy for someone, a group of people, or members of the animal kingdom, creates an inequity – I am better than you because I don’t have this problem. Empathy is also not helpful because if you identify too closely with someone who is suffering, you suffer as well and therefore you cannot offer anything positive to the situation. Compassion embodies the “In Lak’ech Ala K’in” which is Mayan for I am another you and you are another me. We are equals but I can separate myself from the situation enough so that I can offer constructive help and support. 

Isolation itself provides space for creativity, hence my reason for including the quote from Rilke. Compassion gives meaning and intention to isolation and solitude. Because you see and feel things that other people don’t or can’t see and feel, you can innovate and create a path to resolution. Express your creativity to touch the souls of the world at large. This is the gift of musicians and other artists to society. The pandemic has forced a lot of us into isolation. It will be interesting to see if there is a global burst of creativity as a result. “Great inner solitude” is now gifted to all of us even unartistic types.1

Over the past four and half years working with Joyce St. Germaine, I have noticed a tremendous growth in the number and variety of sound bath instruments in her collection. I appreciate how adventurous she is about trying out new sounds. I also appreciate that she asks for feedback as the group reflects post-light healing. Additionally, Joyce connects her instruments to spiritual avatars such as angels and fairies and there are specific chimes and singing bowls “tuned” to the chakras. Each participant in a sound healing session will most likely have a unique response to a specific instrument.

The instruments that I respond to the most right now are koshi chimes and wood block mounted high pitched chimes such as Woodstock chimes. According to the website, the difference between music and noise is mathematics. Music vs. noise has to do with organization of pitch and overtones.2  My sense of it is that the chime sounds affect me because of their pure sound waves. It feels soothing and energizing at the same time which works great for meditation.

  1. Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, translated by M.D. Herter Norton. (New York:W.W. Norton & Company, 1934, 1954), 45.
  2. Glenn Elert, ‘Music and Noise,’ The Physics Hypertextbook,, (Accessed: March 7, 2021).

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