In the silent regions of my mind, in the deep harmony of my heart where sounds are tangible, an intimate voice speaks to me of the wonders of the Unimaginable—it hums, sings, resonates, dances in me. Music awakens the feeling of deep love and joy in me and the wish to share it with all,” says Vera Lipen.
Starting from saints of the south to Chistis of the north, Meerabai of the 15th century to Lipen of the 21st century, music is a means to merge with the divine. Music is not only a way to commingle with god but an instrument to heal. A native of Belarus, Lipen has been conducting open programmes and weekly workshops called ‘Tuning to Harmony: Healing Sounds’ since 2008 at Auroville, Puducherry. She is also conducting collective meditations with the sound of the Peace Bell. She sheds light on the significance of bells throughout the world’s traditions, what are Russian Singing Bells, the Peace Bell at Auroville, the healing nature of sounds, her workshops and so on.
Imagine you are standing with thousands of devotees in a temple and a group of priests are reciting the Vedic mantras and performing aarathi. An array of offerings is presented, the bells are tolled and the conches are blown. In such a moment, you submerge in the collective effervescence and merge with the Almighty, that is the power of the bells.
“The sound of the bells connects us with the universal, cosmic consciousness. That was felt by various spiritual and religious traditions. You can find the use of bells’ sound in sacred ceremonies throughout the ages and different countries. The sound of bells calls to focus attention, to calm down the mind, and to enter the inner spaces of the being,” explains Lipen
She plays the Russian Singing Bells that was invented by Moscow’s bell-master Alexander Zhikharev. It is a parallel to the Tibetan singing bowls. A set of rectangular brass plates played by a mallet, these singing bells hang from a wooden stand. Belonging to the family of plate bells, what differs it from other similar flat bells is its tuning.
“When other bells ring, these flat plates sing; while other bells are monotonic, the singing bells are polyphonic. When you strike a plate, it resonates, and when it ends, its overtone reverberates. You hit another plate it gives a complimentary tone just like sa, re, ga, ma. Anyone can come and listen to the bells and play them,” she says.
Lipen gets vivacious in explaining about her ‘Tuning to Harmony: Healing Sounds’ workshops with the Russian Singing Bells. “The workshop goes through two phases: passive listening and active participation. The sound of the instrument is so beautiful, mesmerising and compelling that it becomes the central focus of attention. Music helps to connect to our inner being and lets us penetrate beyond our surface consciousness,” she says.
During the active phase, the participants experience collective consciousness in action. Lipen distributes the plate bells to each participant and invites them to create harmonious music together. One need not be a professional musician to express one’s deeper feelings in sound, the instrument is conducive to that. The difficulties start when we all want to do it at the same time and in the same space.
“I guide the process and in the end, people start feeling themselves as part of one harmonious whole that expresses itself through them, effortlessly and joyfully. It is really the experience of widening of the consciousness. One learns many things on the way—about how to be in harmony, a crucial question for all of us at the moment, isn’t it?” says Lipen.
A participant, Niranjani, shares her experience of the workshop, “A few bells, a little guidance, a wide openness to all player. What a beautiful way of feeling as One.” Another participant Shilpa adds, “The bells are truly a harmonious and peaceful experience. I was amazed at how two people, who have never played the instruments together, could make the beautiful sounds.”
Talking about the Peace Bells, Lipen says, “It is similar to the Russian singing bells, made by Zhikharev. It is a single huge plate bell made of aluminium, with a height of about 160 cm and a weight of 82 kg. This is the average weight and height of a human being. It produces a very low frequency sound, surely one of the lowest tones of the bells currently existing. Its long resonating vibration has a very special pacifying effect on the whole human system: on the body and on the mind as well.”
Lipen muses on the meditation with the Peace Bells, “I guide collective meditations with the sound of Peace Bells (these are not same as my workshops with the Russian Singing Bells). The last one, held during the end of February, was a remarkable experience for me. It lasted for about one hour. Imagine your body being immersed continuously in a field of sustained strong harmonious vibrations. For many participants, the feeling of tiredness that is usual at the end of the day, was completely gone. The body seemed to be charged and felt very light. I am aware of the scientific researches in Russia that prove the healing properties of this sound.”
Elaborating on the healing, she says, “When a human being is healthy, this means that all the constituent parts of his system: physical, emotional, mental are in harmony with themselves and working effectively and cooperating joyfully. The perfectly tuned bell plate can be regarded as a manifestation of harmony in sound. So, we have a perfect help here for your whole system to tune to the vibration of harmony on both the physical and the emotional level.”