Meditative tones have been used for centuries to enhance a person’s internal development or experience a deeper religious state. With enhanced technology over the last few decades, interest and use of meditation tones has hit an all new fever pitch. But questions remain. Do meditation tones work? If so, how? And which ones should I try out?
Meditation tones are specific series of notes at specific frequencies that are intended to influence brainwave frequencies to bring a person into a meditative state, a deeper meditative state, or are designed with a specific purpose such as healing, concentration, or better sleep.
This article is intended to clarify how meditation tones are used in meditative sets. There is an immense world history of chanting, singing, and using tones in meditation. No religion or spiritual pursuit is devoid of them. Equally so, tai chi and qigong have sets that incorporate music and tones into the practice.
“The kinesthetic, auditory, and physical feedback of meditation tones enhance progress.”
Do Meditative Tones Really Work?
There is a lot of controversy over the use of meditative tones and whether they actually do anything. Seriously, we are just listening to something and expecting a better outcome. Can that be real? The doubt is justified because of the simplicity of the suggestion and because people have tried out meditation tones without much success. I love debate and on this topic as it is sorely needed. Let’s present two scenarios.
Scenario 1: A person learns the wrong use of tones, this leads to poor development, they miss the benefit, think it is malarkey, and quit before their progress takes off.
Scenario 2: A person learns a qi gong set with meditative tones, the vibration makes them actually “feel” energy traveling in them, the kinesthetic, auditory, physical sensation keeps them highly focused, they benefit from the set’s intent.
How did scenario 1 happen? Here are my thoughts:
Poor instruction: It is so easy to receive poor instruction on qi gong sets with meditation tones. Not because it is difficult but because 1) newish sounds have to 2) occur specifically on an inhale or exhale with 3) the focus on a specific part of the body. Teachers, this one is on us. We have to make sure we are providing accurate instruction or taking our class or ourselves to a workshop. Not hard to do, just specific.
Wrong debate: Debate IS needed but not on whether you inhale or exhale or think of organs or think of meridians, etc. People tend to learn one tone set and then see it as the golden rule. The truth is that all combinations of tones, organs, and meridians, are used in different sets for different purposes. Let’s keep the debate on accuracy of actions, not right and wrong. I also feel there is no debate as to if tones are beneficial. Tones are not part of every qi gong / meditation set. However, if you have received instruction that includes tones, the difference is dramatic. Here are a couple examples:
The Six Word Secret (lie zi jue)
This is taken from Kenneth Cohen’s extremely comprehensive The Way of Qigong. The Six Word Secret is a Qigong set that is designed to expel negative or stagnant chi for the purpose of health or to make room for healthy chi to enter. It is attributed to a Buddhist scholar from the 6th Century. Six main organ systems related to health each have a corresponding tone. Imagine you are actually inhaling into the organ and emptying it out. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth, twice for each tone.
Yes figure out where your organs are! (5 seconds on Google). Trust me that eventually you will actually feel your organs but only if you are concentrating on the right place.
|Triple Burner (whole torso)||Seeeeeee|
|Heart||Hoo (like in hook)|
Standing Pose with Meditation Tones
This exercise is taken from an October 2009 interview of Chen Youze from Kungfu Magazine. It is designed to help draw chi down into the dantian in order to be built up and used. The process involves standing meditation in horse stance, with the right hand in front of the heart and the left hand behind the back at the ming men.
These meditation tones are thought, but not said, and breathing goes in and out of the nose because the mouth is closed. Breathe deeply and feel the tone descending with the breath to the dantian. All four tones would be considered one cycle. Continue for approximately 20 cycles.
In summary, meditation tones are used for specific purposes, are aligned with specific breaths, and relate to specific locations that they arrive at and interact with. The hard part is not performing an energy set that includes meditation tones but in finding an instructor.
As you can see, there is nothing difficult about making a sound and breathing in and out. Use of tones should be pursued because the feedback is great and it dramatically enhances your ability to pay attention. However, proper instruction is mandatory when using tones or you cannot get the benefit that that tone set is designed for.
Meditation Tones on YouTube
It would be silly to talk any further about what tones are when we can listen to a bunch of different examples of meditation tones on YouTube. Above we (of course) focused on the relationship between meditation tones and tai chi but no that no religion or eastern practice is without some form of repetitive mantra. Secondly, there are different types of meditation tones and the sounds are also used for different purposes. Here are some YouTube meditation tone examples for the most common uses, improving sleep and healing an ailment. I also wanted to show you binaural tones in case that is a new topic for you.
Meditation Tones for Sleep
Who doesn’t want to sleep better these days? Stress-induced insomnia, too much screen time, too much caffeine… We’ve all been warned off the things that are disturbing our sleep. But what do we have to combat it? Yes, stop or do less of those things that hamper sleep. But, you can also do more of something else. I am a big advocate of qi gong to help with sleep but people are also finding that they are receiving huge benefits from using meditation tones for sleep. You can use them beforehand to wind yourself down or plug in your earbuds if anxiety is going bump in the night. Here is what it sounds like:
Healing Tones Meditation
There are dozens of reasons someone would use healing tones meditation recordings. The most obvious is that they are recovering from something physical but there are additional benefits. It is theorized that healing tones improve our energy more quickly after we have already mostly recovered. For example, after getting a cold when you are ready to go back to work but are still not yourself. There is also changes in mood which if you take a broader view of “healing” you could see how you could move from a negative place to having a more positive outlook.
Deep Meditation Tones
Deep meditation tones are intended primarily for concentration, problem solving, and inquiry. They are neat to play with when you are studying instead of just listening to music. If you are responsible for some deep thinking at work or just enjoy the analytical thought progress, check out [email protected].
Binaural Tones Meditation
Binaural tones meditation is a combination of healing and deep meditation tones with some science to back it up. Many meditation tones are actually binaural tones that are produced to create brainwave entrainment. Basically, two independent tones are introduced which the brain combines and interprets as a specific tone. Binaural tones mediation targets specific tones to move you in and out of deep meditation states. We dedicated a whole essay to brainwave entrainment if you want to find out more.
Are you new to meditation? Start here: What is Meditation and Why Should I Meditate?