Sound Meditation, NOT Sound Healing
Last month, Willka T’ika had the honor of hosting the world renowned sound master, Alexandre Tannous. Joined by one of Willka T’ika’s oldest friends and famous ethnobotanist, Dennis McKenna, Alexandre led 25 of us through a fascinating journey of sound, healing, and deep exploration into the history of human consciousness.
Alexandre inspired us in profound and completely original ways. Intellectually, he is one of the most researched thought leaders to have led a seminar at Willka T’ika since we opened in 1995. In 10 days and over a dozen lectures, Alexandre generously shared his life’s work spanning five trips to Peru, four advanced degrees in music, three decades of rigorous research, fieldwork in over 40 countries, and one very heavy suitcase of ancient sound bowls, shruti boxes, and thumb pianos. (The gigantic gongs were provided locally!) Alexandre has facilitated sound meditation to close to 19,000 people, allowing him to conduct multiple scientific studies and test his research.
Musically, Alexandre opened our ears and minds to concepts of sound that many of us had never experienced. He gave detailed explanations about the history of equal temperament vs harmonic series musical ratios, taught us to create and listen for “microtonality,” gave a note-by-note narration of Beethoven’s 9th symphony, and put us all into a deep trance by playing his exotic instruments. To say his style is eclectic would be to call Peru’s Amazon diverse. Alexandre has built up such a body of knowledge that his website is equally dedicated to sharing his music as it is to offering literary resources to his loyal followers.
As a humble humanist, Alexandre was at his most inspiring. He found time to connect with everyone at Willka T’ika, including his guests, volunteers, our Q’ero visitors, and our local Quechua staff. Eschewing the use of the word “healer” or “shaman” he made a point of declaring himself a mere “facilitator” who was here to help each of us learn how sound can help us transform ourselves and elevate our consciousness. “Healing is something each one of us has inside of us,” he would remind us. Humans have developed an unhealthy habit of “externalizing” our healing journey and “giving our power” to healers, shamans, and deities.
A consummate professor, Alexandre offered tools for each of us to use in our lives, ranging from the mundane to the sublime: vocalization, meditation, plant medicine, healthy habits, olfactory stimulation, and my favorite: judicious listening. Using the terminology of sound, he warned us against our own “cognitive dissonance” — our entrained patterns of thought that can stop us from receiving valuable information about our human potential. He encouraged us to question what he teaches, especially with regards to some of his more radical theories. “Be skeptical but don’t be doubtful,” he implored. “Use your own observation” or “direct experience” to figure out what’s happening to the world and to understand what has “gone wrong.”
As a philosopher, Alexandre believes that three shifts have fundamentally disempowered human beings. Firstly, the “divine was taken out of us” and anthropomorphized into an external deity upon whom we depended for salvation. Man was told to “stay away from consciousness” and to leave spirituality to the priestly class. Prior to this, the world’s greatest intellectuals (including Shakespeare, Newton, and Da Vinci) attended “Mystery Schools” where consciousness, alchemy, spirituality and sound were all studied and synthesized. Secondly, the Feminine elements of divinity were disempowered and devalued to such an extent that Nature (the ultimate feminine archetype) has suffered immeasurably. Finally, the sexual energy and the tantric nature of man and womankind was so diluted that humans have become estranged from the most powerful energy in the body. Sexuality became attached to guilt, shame, and inhibition and devolved into a currency to sell just about anything. Sound is a way to heal these wounds. “We all have trauma,” Alexandre empathized. “And we all have the ability within us to heal from this trauma.”
Sound meditation is a means to this vital healing end. It is also what Alexandre had been studying and teaching since he escaped 14 years of war in Lebanon by immigrating to the United States. However, during the last few years “sound healing” has become a trendy term and sound healers can be found, like shamans, all over Peru. To avoid being lumped together with less multi-disciplined practitioners, Alexandre prefers for his work to be called “Sound Meditation” instead of “Sound Healing.” And don’t let him hear you use the term “Sound Bath!” To him, words, like music, must be precise and descriptions should be as accurate as possible because “words create reality.” In his ceremonies, Alexandre creates the set and setting for deep meditation and reflection. They are not concerts, although the music is enrapturing. They are not plant medicine ceremonies, although sometimes medicine can be used to enhance the effects of sound. And they are not lectures, although he prefers to share as much of his research as possible before the music, magic, and mystery begins. Rather, Alexandre’s work is a holistic experience that left our mind full with knowledge and our hearts wide open. And for the two dozen people who joined us at Willka T’ika last month, it also gave us boundless inspiration to bring sound meditation into our life.
We hope that Alexandre will be back again next year and that he will continue to bring such open-hearted people to Peru and to Willka T’ika. Willka T’ika certainly resonated with Alexandre as he was kind enough to say that Willka T’ika “is one of the most special places I have ever facilitated.” We are grateful for his visit and to our good friend Dennis McKenna for bringing him here. As Dennis loves to say Willka T’ika “ain’t just another retreat center!” And with thought leaders like Alexandre and Dennis, we would have to agree.
“This was our first Mystery School retreat under the McKenna Academy, and as ever, I am happy to be working with Willka T’ika on such transformative programs. There is no better place in the Sacred Valley, perhaps in the world, for such events to take place. The magic of Willka T’ika’s Chakra Gardens combined with the spiritual power of sound meditation makes for an experience unlike any other.” Dennis McKenna Dec. 17, 2019