Six Healing Sounds by John Voigt
Taoist (Daoist) Creation From Zero to Five
(In the beginning) there was Profound Nothingness from which appeared One Primordial Energy, which expanded into the Two polarities of Yin/Yang. Then there was Three: the Heavens above, Man in between, Earth below. Three became Five: the myriad things of existence appearing in inter-related patterns of Five, called Wu Xing (pronounced woo sheen). In English this means something like The Five Phases of Energetic Forces or more commonly but not more accurately, The Five Elements.
But this is about archetypal universal energy, not physical substances. The etymology of wu-xing helps to explain this: Wu means five. Xing literally means going from one place to another place as in moving from a here to a there. In other words, a state of (cyclic) transition.
The Five Elemental Energies in Nature and in Man
Wood-Fire-Earth-Metal-Water were the names chosen to describe the five types of Elemental Energies. Trees come to life in the spring. Fire is hot like the summer. Earth is most fertile in late summer/early autumn. In winter there is much rain and snow, and water freezes.
Basic correspondences were found between these elemental energies and the five organ systems of the human body. Liver and Wood are both flexible and smooth. The Heart like a Fire warms the entire body. Earth grows food which the Spleen-stomach digests. Metal is cool and hard, and is used to make containers. The Lungs also are cool, encased in a hard rib cage, and contain the breath (sick lungs also resemble badly rusted iron.)
This article is about the five sounds that accompany each of the organs, and a sixth for harmonizing their functions. All Six Sounds may be used to bring about Well-Being.
The Six Sounds
How to Make Them The Preliminary Exercises
Begin by practicing the following sounds. Make them with a steady tone in the middle-high range of your voice.
1. Shooo (with puckered lips as if blowing a kiss) for the Liver.
2. Haaaw (sound it down in the throat, almost as if you were clearing your throat) for the Heart.
3. Whooo (with more exaggerated puckered lips) for Spleen-Stomach.
4. Tzzz (like the first part of Tzar ) for the Lungs. Extend your lower jaw, keep the tongue flat on the bottom of the mouth, then with breath and mind direct the buzzing sound to sink down deep into the chest.
5. Ch way (The explosive sneeze-like beginning of the sound literally squeezes lower internal back muscles) for the Kidneys.
6. SHeee Make the sound out loud for now, but when actually doing the Six Healing Sounds this sound is to be done silently. This harmonizes the Triple Burner i.e., the functioning aspects of the five organ systems in the torso. (The H is capitalized because it should be louder than the opening S. )
These sounds should actually physically vibrate the targeted organ like an inner-massage. If there is difficulty in doing and experiencing this, then try this: for the Liver lie down on your right side and say shooo. For the Spleen lie on your left side and say the whooo. For the Heart press your palms down between your breasts and make the haaaw sound. For the Lungs press the hands against the upper chest and make the sound of tzzz. For the Kidneys place the hands on the sides of the lower back between the rib cage and the hips and say ch way. For the silent SHeee sound hold the breath shake, vibrate and wiggle the whole torso.
You can do the sounds in any order, or choose one or more however you want to. If you have a teacher of the sounds it is proper that you follow their instructions. However, I was taught that if the standard order (as above) is followed then it is imperative that you do each of the five sounds at least five times, and that you must make the sixth one silently.
Before working with the Sounds do your normal qigong warm-up practices; or do the following with or without variations.
The back is straight, chin is level, eyes are partially open but not looking at anything (soft gaze). Breathe into your lower abdomen to Center yourself. Feel your feet touching the ground (curling the toes helps); this Grounds you. Pay no attention to any distracting thoughts; allow them to float out of your mind.
Center and smooth the qi-life energy by cupping the hands, fingertips pointed at each other, and inhale as you raise the hands up; then turn the then hands over so that the palms are facing downward, and exhale and lower the hands back to the waist. Do this for five or more times.
A much pattern is to use the cycle of Wood/Liver, Fire/Heart, Spleen/Earth, Metal/Lung, and Water/Kidney. Then the sound for the Triple Burner. However, as mentioned above, you may do the sounds in any order or just do one or a few. But if you do all six as presented here, you must do each one at least five times, and do the sixth ( sheee ) silently, unless you have been taught differently by your teacher, or as instructed in the internet links given at the end of this article.
Liver - shooo. Heart - haaaw. Spleen - whooo. Lung - tzzz. Kidney - ch way. Triple Burner - sheee.
Finish by rubbing the palms in circles around the lower abdomen. Men have right hand over left; women have left hand over right. Do 36 times clockwise, then 36 times counter-clock wise. Or do your usual end of meditation practice that smoothes and centers life energy, and returns your consciousness to be able to deal with the outer world.
After you can do the exercises with actually audibly making the first five sounds (the sixth sound is silent) go to doing all of them silently. Exhale through the mouth with the proper teeth, tongue, and lip positions as if you where sounding them out loud, but only with your imagination hear them inside your mind. This goes back to Sun Simiao (581-682) teachings: Avoid exhaling noisily, not letting even your ears hear it.
Advanced Taoist (Daoist) practices often use procedures (based in the imagination) that actually strengthen the imagination. Why is this so? Herein it is suggested that what is called reality is only actually experienced within the image-making processes of the conscious mind. In fact the perceiver and the thoughts of perception and that which is perceived are all a single unity in the Tao. Therefore when the six sounds are only heard in the inner ear in other words, when they are only imaged in the mind they paradoxically have more power to affect positive healing rectification than if they were actually sounded aloud.
The next step is to use what is called Reverse Breathing, or Daoist (Taoist) Breathing. You still make the sound silently on the exhalation- but now the lower abdomen goes IN on the inhalation and OUT on the exhalation. When exhaling lightly tighten the muscles of the perineum area (CV-1 acupuncture point). The specific targeted organ can more easily vibrate when the abdominal muscles are extended.
Movements With the Sounds
Many teachers and schools have accompanying movements to help direct the qi throughout the organs and meridian systems. There is little or no standardization with this, other than perhaps what is given in the 2007 text/DVD Chinese Health Qigong LiuZiJue. (There is a link to it in the Web Sites given below.) Grandmasters Mantak Chia, Kenneth Cohen, Michael Winn, Jesse Tsao, Wang Xuejun, and others have important DVD s and video clips as well (see the section For Further Study later).
However, the serious student may wish to create their own original movements by returning to the original movements of the Wu Xing, the Five Elemental Phases of Energy. As in: Wood (Trees) grow upward. Fire expands in all directions, Earth expands horizontally. Metal contracts and contains. Water flows downward. The movements for the Triple Burner echo an up and down for the organs of the torso. It is not difficult to improvise graceful dance-like movements when working with the sounds; and that could increase and enhance their benefits. It can be much fun too.
Adding the Energy Channels
In all the following, inhale through the nose, and silently make the sounds as you exhale through the mouth.
Liver - shooo sound. On the exhalation silently make the sound, and by using the breath-mind-imagination, lead and guide the qi from the inner sides of the big toes up the insides of the thighs, into the abdomen, up to the throat, eyes, forehead, to the crown of the head; then back down into the lungs, then down the inner sides of the arms, ending in the outer tips of the thumbs. Then inhale. Do six times.
Heart - haaaw sound. Starting on the exhalation, and by using the breath-mind-imagination, lead and guide the qi from the outer sides of the big toes, up the inner legs into the abdomen to the upper chest, armpits, and along the inner arms to the inside tips of the little fingers. Then inhale. Do six times.
Spleen - whooo sound. On the exhalation, guide the qi upward from the outer sides of the big toes, up the inner-legs into the abdomen to the stomach, then into upper chest where it divides into two flows: 1. Bring the qi to the throat and under the tongue. 2. At the same time, move the qi into the inner arms down to the inside tips of the little fingers. Then inhale. Do six times.
Lungs - tzzz sound. On the exhalation, guide the qi upward from the inner sides of the big toes, up the inner legs, into the abdomen, into the lungs; then down the inner arms to the inner portions of the tips of both thumbs (Lung-11 acupressure point). Then inhale. Do six times.
Kidney - ch way sound. On the exhalation, guide the qi upward from the balls of the feet (Kidney-1 point), through the inner thighs, along the spine, into the kidneys, into the chest, down the inner arms into the tips of the middle fingers (Pericardium-9). Then inhale. Do six times.
Triple Burner - sheee (silent) sound. Starting on the exhalation, guide the qi upward from the outer tips of the fourth toes (Gall Bladder-44) along the outer legs, into the sides of the torso, to the sides of the neck and into the head; then down the sides of the head, neck, shoulders, and backs of the arms to the outside tips of the ring fingers (Triple Burner-1) .
Continue on the Inhalation by Going In Reverse: move the qi back from the tips of the ring fingers, up the backs of the arms, to the shoulders, then neck, to the head, down the sides of head, neck, sides of torso into the outer legs to finish where you started at the ends of the fourth toes (GB-44). Do six times.
What Can These Sounds Do For You?
Traditional Chinese Medicine believes that mental and physical problems are caused by qi-energy imbalances in the organs and meridians. Since the Five Sounds are said to rectify such imbalances, it is easy to see why this qigong practice has become so popular in modern China. Here are some generalities from the literature:
The Liver helps control the quality of the blood, and supports the eyesight.
The Heart controls the circulation of blood. The Heart energy center also is the location of fire, which if in excess can bring about the stagnation or deficiency of the blood, as well as profoundly affecting how well the mind is working. Some suggest that the use of sound will assist in the healing of heart diseases as well as mental disturbances.
Spleen-Stomach. The stomach digests and the spleen helps transport the nutrients and the related qi-energy of food.
Lungs. Of all the five organ-systems what is called The Lung is the most in contact with the outer world with all its negative pathogenic influences, such as germs, viruses, and illness causing pollutants. Also the lungs bring in the rich qi of oxygen in the air, which is so absolutely vital for life itself.
The Kidneys oversee many functions needed for well-being. Some of the most important are reproduction, urination, general vitality, and psychological factors such as memory.
The Triple Burner refers to the functioning not the physicality of the organs of the body. The Upper Burner has the lungs, heart and the mind. The Middle Burner has the spleen pancreas stomach; and the liver. Here food is metabolized for energy and cell growth. The Lower Burner refers to the area of the kidneys, bladder, and intestines; areas that deal with the elimination of waste. The sound used for the Triple Burner aids in harmonizing all of these functions.
Another primary application of the Five Healing Sounds is to aid in correcting any emotional disharmony caused by the stresses of modern life.
Healing Emotional Imbalances
The energy flows of body s internal organs can affect the emotions. Conversely, if an emotion is extreme and maintained over time, it may cause mental, and physical harm. In other words: The mind affects the body; the body affects the mind.
Each of the organ systems interact with each other: Stress can bring on the fight or flight reaction causing excessive adrenaline to be released from the glands that sit on top of the kidneys, which causes the heart to palpitate, the spleen-stomach to stop digesting, and lung breathing to grow shallow and rapid. If this continues, burn out happens and all the organs along with the Triple Burner begin to shut down, and become full of stagnant qi.
The Six Sounds are said to help replace negative emotions with positive ones. When doing the exercises you may imagine and create the following:
In the Liver. Anger is transformed into feelings of Personal Power.
In the Heart. Emotional Excesses transformed into Patience, Calmness, and Serenity.
(In Traditional Chinese Medicine the Heart is the seat of mental consciousness; as well as being directly related to all the organs and their emotions. Therefore in dealing with emotional imbalances it may proper to start or finish (or both) with the Heart.
In the Spleen. Over-thinking and Worry may be transformed into a state of Mindfulness (as in Zen mind: mentally silent and alert).
In the Lung. Depression can transformed into Courage.
In the Kidney. Fear is transformed into Wisdom.
In the Triple Burner. Burnout is transformed into a harmonious Vitality.
From The Classic Literature: More About The Sounds
The Yellow Emperor s Inner Canon (Huangdi Neijing) is the most important ancient text of Chinese medicine, as well as being an important source of Daoist theory and lifestyle. The earliest editions are about two thousand years old.
From Chapter 5:
In nature, we have the five energetic transformations of Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. In the human body there are the zang organs [internal viscera] of the Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung and Kidney. The qi of the five zang organs forms the five spirits and gives rise to the five emotions. The spirit of the Heart is knows as the shen, which rules mental and creative functions. The spirit of the Liver, the hun, rules the nervous system and gives rise to extrasensory perception. The spirit of the spleen, of yi, rules logic and reasoning power. The spirit of the Lungs, or po, rules the animalistic instincts, physical strength, and stamina. The spirit of the Kidneys, the zhi, rules the will, drive, ambition, and survival instinct.
Emotional Imbalances Continuing The Yellow Emperor s Classic of Medicine, chapter five:
Overindulgence in the five emotions happiness, anger, sadness, worry or fear, and fright can create imbalances. Emotions can injure the qi, while seasonal elements can attack the body. Sudden anger damages the yin qi; becoming easily excited or overjoyed will damage the yang qi. This causes the qi to rebel and rise to the head, squeezing the shen out of the heart and allowing it to float away. Failing to regulate one s emotions can be likened to Summer and Winter failing to regulate each other, threatening life itself.
To conclude, it is suggested that there is no need to be too strict in interpreting all these relationships between organ systems and emotions they are all interconnected in complex overlapping patterns. The important thing is to study, practice and do health qigong forms such as The Six Healing Sounds. Modern living is so full of stress-provoking situations. If nothing else, practicing qigong may bring about a reduction of the effects of stress, and may help improve physical and emotional health.
Six Healing Sounds is a translation of the Chinese, Liu Zi Jue, literally meaning Six Word Formula (but perhaps with an added suggested meaning of Six Secret Incantations. )
Creation From Zero to Five.
Another Taoist unfoldment of creation has: The Absolute Nothingness of Infinite Potential (Wuji) Supreme Ultimate (Taiji) Universal Energy (Qi) The Five Phases (Wu Xing) leading to All and everything in the manifested universe.
Wu Xing is an abbreviation of wu zhong liu xing zhi qi five types of universal energy (qi) dominating at different times.
The Five Elemental Energies in Nature and in Man
Early texts had Earth as being in the center of the progress of the Four Seasons (the seasons do appear to rotate around the earth).
In spring, the trees are clad in dazzling green - (wood).
In summer, blazing sunshine lights the scene - (fire).
While melancholy autumn s tints are gold - (metal).
And streams are frozen hard by winter s cold - (water).
Through all the seasons. earth remains serene - (earth).
(from Taoism: the Road to Immortality, by John Blofeld, pg. 191).
Later Four Seasons were to become Five Seasons with Earth corresponding to a season of late summer-early autumn.
The Six Sounds
Major historical sources for the Six Healing Sounds are Tao Hongjing (456-536), Zhiyi (538-597), and Sun Simiao (581-682). Also in modern times, Ma Litang (1930-1988).
This article is based on the sound-to-organ assignments, and pronunciations given in the book and DVD, Liu Zi Jue: Chinese Health Qigong (2007). Since the Chinese government oversaw its publication, it may be considered as being the modern standard. This order is also used in such important texts as Qigong Empowerment by Master Shou-Yu Liang & Wen-Ching Wu, and The Complete Book of Chinese Health & Healing, by Daniel Reid, as well as in many other sources. However, If the reader have been instructed in using a different order then it is proper to follow the teacher and do that order.
The extensive historical literature about the Six Sounds generally offer the same Chinese characters in the same standard order. Here they are in a sort of pinyin without accent marks, along with possible literal meanings: Xu ( hush ). A ( oh! ). Hu ( breathe out ). Xi ( ha-ha ) [laughter]. Chui ( blow ). Xi ( giggle ). However the Six Healing Sounds are said without any tonal inflections, so any specific meaning is at best only intimated, only hinted at. The important thing here is the sound, not the meaning.