A mindful approach to sound

Dr. Irene Feher offers a sound bath for students to practice mindfulness by listening to instruments and humming.

“Let yourself relax and receive,” said Dr. Irene Feher, a singing teacher in Concordia’s music department during the sound bath she hosted on Feb. 22. Attendees closed their eyes to become witnesses of their inner worlds as they immersed themselves in gentle sounds from singing bowls, hand pans, ocean drums, flutes and humming.

After a half-hour of mindful listening, the group took part in an active humming practice. Vocal toning is a means of self-administering sound healing practice and allows individuals to use their natural voice to create a healing frequency through their vocal cords’ vibration. 

This technique was brought to Feher’s attention by friend and teacher Dr. Shelley Snow, a psychotherapist and music therapist. It can be used to center the mind and find clarity by setting an intention beforehand—it is different for every person. After the session, people felt relaxed and sleepy. 

“It’s odd but delightful to take a short, mindful break,” an attendee shared during the event, which was made possible by CU Wellness.  

Feher explained that mindful practices like these allow a person to connect to their vital energy, a spiritual force that can be used to heal, develop spiritually, and gain inner peace, clarity, and a more positive perception of the world. This way, a person can achieve a healthier sense of self, reducing stress levels and lowering cortisol. She added that mindful practices helped her when she had difficulty sleeping during the pandemic or when she was stressed the day before a music performance. 

“Silence is your friend,” Feher said.

The practice of vocal toning reminds her of babies humming in the maternal womb and it attests to the power of sound to heal, as described by Snow. “We were comforted as babies by the voice of our mothers,” Feher said.

During the pandemic, she developed her own daily mindful routine based on Snow’s teachings. Feher saw that both faculty members and students enjoyed these practices as she began offering mindfulness sessions.

Feher’s instruments include hand pans, sound bowls, drums and more. Photo by Félix Laliberté / The Concordian.

Mindful Campus Initiatives encourage everybody to participate. They are made possible by the university to help students tackle mental health. The initiative aims to create a healthy sense of community and shared experiences to the students. 

Beyond the confines of the university setting, Feher said these practices have a greater potential. According to her, there is a possibility of creating a large vibration in the room, which is as powerful as touch. Feher said it could also create a field of healing vibration directed toward the whole world or wherever it is needed, for example in Gaza or Ukraine. 

Snow believes this force is like water flowing through the earth and keeping the plants alive, or the life that lets a soul speak. The transfer that can happen is like inhaling and exhaling.    

The focus of this area of study is the impact of consciousness on the world we live in, along with the links between our thoughts and the visible world. As discussed by Snow, the book The Healing Power of Sound explains that music and sound are linked to every level of human existence, be it emotional, physical, spiritual or mental. It is like several branches from a tree as many different approaches coexist in this field of mindfulness, spirituality and alternative medicine. 

Feher will be giving another sound bath open to all at 5:30 p.m. on March 28 in EV 2.776. Sign up on the event page.


You can’t do better than your best

Finding balance in life is important, but make sure not to fall over the edge  

Being a student is stressful. You have classes to think about and all of the work that comes with them. You likely have a job on the side. Not to mention, you have a social life, a family, hobbies, maybe a sport or some form of exercise you like to do to unwind and de-stress. There’s so much going on in our lives—how can we balance it all?

There’s no easy answer to this. In fact, there isn’t one. Someone once told me: “You can’t do better than your best,” and I think that’s the best motto to live by, not just as a student but for the rest of your life. There will be times when you’ll be so overwhelmed that one aspect of your life might have to take a hit, be it your sleep schedule, job or social life. If you try to get everything done perfectly, your health—either physical or mental—will be affected. It’s important to know your limits so you don’t push yourself to the point of a nervous breakdown (they aren’t pleasant).

I’m well aware that school is important. I’ve been an A student most of my life; I know the pressure that comes with maintaining good grades and being the best you can be. The thing is, though, many aspects in our lives are so much more difficult than they were in high school or CEGEP. University is harder. We’re adults with responsibilities now. We have a lot more going on in our lives. It might not be as feasible to expect A’s on every assignment or exam in every class.

It’s okay if you get a C on an assignment you worked really hard on. I don’t think we give ourselves enough credit for doing our best. We’re often too focused on the final grade instead of the effort we put in. It’s important to remember your worth as a person is not defined by your grades, and a handful of C’s won’t ruin your career. Make time for friends and family, because they are the ones who will be there for you when school is out for the summer, and when you finally graduate. They’re the ones who will help you have fun and relieve your stress when you need it the most.

Don’t forget to leave time for hobbies when you’re busy, because they can help you unwind and relax. Fitness, for example, can directly impact your health and stress levels in a positive way, and it’s important to make time for exercise if you enjoy it. Those few hours a week effortlessly doing what you love will help clear your mind at the end of a stressful week, or between the last-minute grinds of final projects.

Don’t forget to work on yourself too. Take a break when you get tired, call up your family when you get lonely, sleep all day if you need to, take a bath, do yoga or kickboxing, go for coffee with a friend. It’s so important to give your mind time to recuperate from the constant stress and thinking.

By reminding myself that I can’t do better than my best, I’ve learned to better understand my limitations, to know when it’s time to take a break and regroup. I am and always have been a perfectionist; anyone who knows me also knows I always put too much on my plate. I like everything to be organized and perfect. Yet, I’ve realized and learned that I can’t control everything. I’ve learned how to make time for myself. I’m now able to say no to certain things to avoid spreading myself too thin.

It’s okay not to be 100 per cent all the time, as long as you’re doing your best and taking care of yourself. You can’t always balance everything; but remember things will always balance themselves out in the end.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

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