Months or maybe even a year ago, I first heard about the humming meditation when listening to the Rich Roll podcast featuring a conversation between Rich Roll and his wife, Julie Piatt. The idea of an active meditation was intriguing but too intimidating for me to actually give it a try. I have a blockage in my throat chakra, so naturally, I procrastinated for a great deal of time, resorting to a safer option, a more traditional silent meditation practice.

 

Yesterday, sitting outside the laundromat in my car waiting on my wash, I decided to try the humming meditation at long last. Within minutes or maybe even seconds, I was bawling in the car, humming as hard as I could. Julie’s instructions are to hum as intensely as possible to get the most out of the practice, and I took that direction seriously. Intense humming appeared to unlock deep-seeded pain, sadness, and anger. These emotions have been a part of my experience the past few days; however, I had taken measures to stuff them down and repress them, rather than to express and release them. Although I know emotional suppression is not a long-term solution to coping with pain, it is a short-term bandaid that reduces discomfort when I feel my lowest.

 

The humming showed me that I am holding some serious pain and need to find ways to manage that pain and release it. Sadness, anger, rage, and despair fester in the body, mind, and spirit to create disease and block the fullest expression of my being. The powerful vibrations evoked memories of younger me and produced waves of deep compassion for myself and all that I have been through. Finally, I was giving myself the love that I need, the love that I have sought out in all the wrong places. This kind of love and compassion can only come from one’s direct connection to the divine, and I felt love echoing really, really deeply in the center of my being.

 

It was transformative to vibrate at that frequency. I felt myself shift from seeming numbness into a well of emotional affectivity. Waves of emotion washed over me intensely, followed by a breath, a less intense wave, and then another very strong, intense wave, followed by another respite. No more than I could handle. Passersby at the laundromat must have thought I was mental sitting alone in my car, face all screwed up ugly with tears pouring down my face and a strong, loud humming noise emitting from the heart of my being through clenched jaws. Thoughts of self-consciousness entered my experience at times, but I just let them be. Clearly, I needed the release.

 

My analytical mind wonders what exactly is going on to produce the overwhelming sense of relaxation amidst the darkness stirred up by the vibrations. Apparently, a similar practice, chanting om, stimulates the vagus nerve, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system responsible for conserving energy and balancing the body (Kalyani et al., 2011). The parasympathetic nervous system is the unconscious counterpart to the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers the fight-or-flight fear response that stimulates us to respond to threat. Humming activates calming physiology that governs lacrimation, or crying, as well. For people who have trouble crying in the moment, humming may be the key to releasing the tears you cannot cry. Chanting om also deactivates the limbic system, which becomes hyperactive in depression and under stress.

 

From an evolutionary perspective, humming may have been the human analogue to non-human animals’ contact calls. These sounds communicate the presence of other group members nearby along with the absence of threat. Ethnomusicologist Joseph Jordania proposed that humming today may resonate with that meaning. If this is the case, then it may very well be a self-soothing technique protective against feelings of loneliness and isolation and serve to remind us of the profound interconnection that exists despite the illusion of separation.

 

Spiritually, I am convinced that humming meditation can be essential to emotional processing and release for those of us who have trouble managing negative emotions. I am committing to practicing the meditation every morning for the next 30 days. I want to see how this practice may transform my life. Want to join me?