The Sound of Heaven
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I play the sax, but the sound of the guitar does something profound to me. Guitars are a heavenly instruments because they rest against the chest, vibrate the heart, and teach us something profound about the resonance within all of us.
Earlier this year I was in a sacred ceremony where I was transported into a vision that will haunt me for the rest of my life. In the vision I was stabbed through the heart and Seneca, my wife, ushered me through the veil of dreams, first with pain and tears of loss, and then with ineffable joy as I reached a world of unspeakable beauty. Welcoming me into this eternal world of white was my 3-year old son Elio, but as an adult, playing me the most holy, beautiful, and intricate refrain on a guitar, his fingers blurring up and down its neck, his face in sacred concentration. The sounds of his guitar filled my heart with an indescribable rapture as tears streamed down my face for hours. I believe I will continue to hear and feel that sound for the rest of my life.
And no, he was not playing Stairway To Heaven.
Some of the people I love most play guitar. One of them is my friend Megan. She’s happy, generous, and has a boisterous laugh that is positively infectious. Megan invites me and my family to stay with her when we are in Salt Lake City cuz she loves us, has the room, and understands our brand of crazy. She even smiles when Elio and her dog Javier—best friends, our man-pup and her canine-pup— chase each other through the house, barking, screaming, and working themselves into a blissful lather. Megan is the kind of person who knows how you like your coffee and has it waiting for you, hot and steaming on the kitchen counter when you wake up. Recently, when I arrived at Megan’s house to stay a few weeks while we figured out our move to France, she met me with a warm hug and a sincere, “Welcome home.”
The best room in Megan’s house is her living room. Built of warm wood and stone, it’s adorned principally with several hand-crafted guitars hanging on the wall or resting on floor stands, guitars that are meant to me handled and played. A defining moment in Megan’s life was when she was 12 years old and bought her first guitar from Acoustic Music in Salt Lake City. For the next 40 years, playing and collecting guitars would become her passion. At Megan’s house, it’s not uncommon after dinner for the party to move into the living room for an impromptu concert from Megan and anybody else who plays the guitar (which seems to be most of her friends), concerts which often stretch long into the night. And joining in the mix of musicians you might see Elio’s curious toddler fingers plucking a guitar or strumming a ukulele and pitching his little voice to the chorus.
If I didn’t know better, I’d say that there are ghosts in Megan’s living room. That’s because a guitar is tuned at a particular frequency so that every time you strike an E string, for example, you get the same sound. And when I play my sax alone in that living room, surrounded by all those guitars, something other-wordly happens: I’ll pull my sax out of my mouth and hear a low hum of the note I just played coming from the guitars. It’s almost like there’s an invisible person in the room playing along. This phenomenon happens because when the strings on those guitars hear something vibrating at the same frequency in which they are tuned, when they hear someone singing their song, they automatically vibrate in tandem. They can’t help but sing along. This phenomenon is called sympathetic vibration.
We are all tuned in such a way that we come alive when we feel or hear or see something that is tuned like we are. We might resonate with a lover, a friend, or an idea. Certainly when Seneca sent me a text saying, “Hey want to go live in France for a while?” it resonated with me perfectly, so I harmonized with that question to the sound of, “Hell yes!” Have you ever been stuck at a crossroads, negotiating the many loud voices about which way to go, and a soft hum of truth vibrates somewhere deep inside of you and lets you know which way is right for you? That’s sympathetic vibration.
Maybe sympathetic vibration is why our family fell in love with Megan. Maybe sympathetic vibration is why after 40+ years it was most natural for Megan to buy not just another guitar from Acoustic Music, but the entire business. And maybe sympathetic vibration is why her store attracts so many big hearts to come inside with their need to play their 3 chords and the truth. Just listen to this left-handed guitar player, a vet who strolled in and sat down to play an original tune about healing from the war of feeling separate from one another. (Check out the video of him playing here), it’s haunting and beautiful.
If you’re tuned in a similar way, I invite you to go to Acoustic Music and sing your song. While you’re there, check out the wall o’ ukuleles and the homage to Joni Mitchell in the room with all the fancy guitars. Or just drop by to feel Megan’s generosity and to be surrounded by all those stunning guitars, those ghosts hanging on the walls.
Learning to Hear
Whether it’s guitars or something else, whatever rings true to you, learn to recognize those vibrations, know that sound.
I believe that yoga and meditation is about listening to how we are tuned. They are mechanisms that help us reduce the excess noise inherent in a busy life. As we listen, we start to vibrate in tandem with our deepest nature, and our most divine qualities will likely sing to the tone of patience, compassion, and love, because that’s how we are all tuned. Yoga and meditation are simply listening stations where we can hear the spirit our True Nature ring.
It is my personal practice to hear those things that resonate deep within me and to bravely organize my life to sing along.
One thing that vibrates like a ghost note inside of me is the inclination that someday I’ll buy Elio a guitar from Acoustic Music, that as he grows he’ll learn to play that guitar like a god, and that someday his music will guide me like a stairway to heaven.