Shinnyo-en Commemorates International Day of Peace by Welcoming NYC Community to Discussion on Impact of Sound

September 27, 2018
New York, NY

To celebrate the International Day of Peace, the Shinnyo Center for Meditation and Well-Being in New York City welcomed more than 60 people on September 20 for a discussion on “The Impact of Sound.”

From the physical and spiritual to the environment, experts shared how sounds can affect wellbeing and why humans should tap into the sounds of nature more often. The International Day of Peace, recognized on September 21, was established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly to commit to a culture of peace rising above differences. Each year, Shinnyo-en is proud to host a community event to commemorate the day. This year’s theme centered around how sacred sounds of mantra can create peace and harmony in the community.

Co-led by The Global Peace Initiative of Women, the event featured presentations by Nan Lu, a Qigong master and doctor of traditional Chinese medicine; Daniel Abreu a whale and dolphin song researcher and Kati Walker, a sound meditations expert.

Chiaki Yasue, Director of The Shinnyo Center for Meditation and Well-Being, began the evening with a chant to help open hearts and minds to be receptive to spiritual energy. In the spirit of Shinnyo founder Shinjo Ito – who taught about the powerful effects of ritual bells used during religious ceremonies – the “awakening bell” rang out.

“The true merit of the emitted sound is its ability to awaken people, enlighten them to the impermanence of things and help them break free from their delusive passions,” said Yasue. “Our Spiritual Master Tomoji would say, ‘Listen carefully to their rousing sound,’ that is telling us that ‘the time to act is now,’ as this is the voice of the buddhas reminding us how truly precious each and every moment is.”

The power of chanting is an active form of meditation and prayer. Yasue noted how it helps “align our body, speech and mind toward becoming a solid foundation to support, empower and sustain our prayers and actions.”

In addition, the evening covered how humans can be more attentive to sounds in their bodies and in nature. According to Dr. Lu, “Sound is not just for the ears.” His talk explored the health ramifications of the sounds in the universe and how when organs are out of tune, they can lead to discordance. He also discussed the influence of the cycles of the moon, adding, “We should listen to the song of the moon. The sun maintains life, but the moon gives us life.”

Among the key themes that resonated throughout the night, was how humans should find ways to tap into the transformative power of sound the way animals do. Whale and dolphin expert Abreu shared the unique way in which whales sing to the earth, spinning faced downward and their patterns for sharing their songs. To further drive home how humans can learn from animals’ connection to nature, he played Judy Collins’ 1970 song, "Farewell to Tarwathie,"a duet with the haunting cries of whales.

“Sound is a shared experience with the other beings of nature,” he said, adding that it can be difficult at times when living in a big city to connect with nature’s sounds.

Sound meditation expert Walker demonstrated the sound of the relaxing Tibetan singing bowls. She added, “We are all vibrations—the body, the mind, thoughts, sounds, the planet.”

The evening concluded with closing remarks by Shinnyo-en partner Dena Merriam, founder of the Global Peace Initiative of Women. She reinforced how being more attentive to sounds can benefit one’s emotions, body and mind. From chanting to thinking of the vibrations within the moon and taking in the hum of birds, there are many ways to tune in to sounds to enhance one’s spiritual practice.