Did they tell you I do sound work?

I have been negligent in making updates to my blog for the past month or so, but I thought better late than never.  I was in Pondicherry and Auroville from Saturday March 12, 2011 to Sunday March 20, 2011.  The entries for Pondicherry, Quiet Healing Center, and Auroville are from that time.  

Over the years I have had my share of good and bad massages.  I’ve had Thai massages, therapeutic massages, spa massages, deep tissue massages, Swedish massages, ayurvedic oil massages, and more.  I’ve had medicated oils, aromatherapy oils, sea salt, mud, hot stones, fingers, elbows, knees, and feet working on my body.  But I never had anyone sing into my body until a few days ago.

In each of our rooms we found a binder with all the useful information about Quiet and also a list of treatments they have available.  It was an extensive list, covering everything from sirodhara to lymph drainage.  Nadia and her husband Vijai decided to do an ayurvedic treatment and a somatic massage, respectively.  And my friend Lorena chose a water based treatment called “Watu: liquid flow.”  I just wanted something simple and since I sent back to the States my bathing suit just before coming to Quiet, I thought I’d do a generic, relaxing full body massage.  Nadia and Vijai both liked their treatments, and Lorena came back from the liquid flow treatment and took a 3 hour nap so I knew she enjoyed hers.  She said, in her adorable Spanish accent, that her body felt like a noodle.

Since I was staying at Quiet for three or four more days, I thought I would get two massages.  After all, I was spoiled with a daily ayurvedic oil massage when I was in Kerala!  With happy thoughts of relaxation I went to make my appointments.  In passing I told Urte, the German woman at reception, that while the Watu treatment intrigued me I unfortunately didn’t have a bathing suit.  She paused for a moment and shouted over the divide in the reception area “do you think we can find a woman’s bathing suit?”  A man’s voice came over and answered, “well yes, I think we can manage!”  I politely declined the offer of possibly wearing someone else’s bathing suit and asked for two full body massages instead.  Urte asked me when I was leaving Quiet and then said no, she wouldn’t schedule two massages for me.  Andre was going to do the treatment and with Andre, you need a day or two to recover.  Slightly hesitant but curious, I consented to just one massage and asked whether it would be for 90 minutes.  She smiled and said if Andre does the massage, it’ll be over 2 hours.

I think I was actually a bit nervous about my treatment.  Before Lorena left, we joked about this mysterious Andre and said, Aaahn-dre this and Aaahn-dre that, etc.  Andre turned out to be a man with a slight build and a grey icicle like beard that came down to his chest.  He came out of his treatment room to meet me, dressed in a maroon colored T-shirt and knee-length khaki shorts.  He was barefoot and perhaps just a few inches taller than my short frame, but he had a low booming voice.  He followed him to the room and I saw that he made the small space his own with posters (the three on the door I particularly remember are of a dragon, the dragon’s musculature, and his skeletal system) and various personal objects.  I thought I recognized Russian writing.  I could venture a guess that he was a special guy.

Without much delay, he said that he’s been told to give strong massages and asked, “Did they tell you anything?  Did they tell you I do sound work?”  I replied that I have a pretty high threads hold for pain, like strong massages, and no, they didn’t tell me he did sound work, but I’m open to anything.  And so we began.

Everything seemed normal and felt like a regular massage, and while he was strong he didn’t cause me any pain I couldn’t stand.  He kneaded, pushed, and I began to relax.  The only two things I noticed were that he wasn’t symmetrical- i.e. what he did on the right side was different from the left, and at one point he pulled the skin off of my back along the spine and let it go.  I felt as if I was being plucked.  When I mentioned it to Lorena a few days later, she told me she’s had that before.  I don’t know what that technique does for your body but I can’t say that it was all that comfortable.

I don’t know how much time passed but I heard Andre say that he was now going to start the sound work.  I mumbled OK.  What happened next is something I will always remember for the rest of my life.  I felt a round object touch the base of my spine and I heard this dark, low, guttural sound that I can only describe as Tibetan chanting or aboriginal singing.  It felt hot and this primal sound started to resonate along the spine and spread throughout my body.  I then realized that Andre was singing/chanting into my spine!  After I recovered from my initial shock and surprise (I may have giggled a little), I decided to accept it and see where things went.  I took deep breaths in and out, and relaxed as Andre continued.  I think he kept singing up along the spine and on both of my shoulder blades.  He then placed three bells on my spine and started to ring them.  He also had a gong hanging on my left side, which he also rang.  The three bells on my back had different pitches and qualities of sound.  The one at the base of my spine had a low frequency and sounded robust and round.  There was a higher pitched bell in the middle of my back, and yet another higher and lighter sounding one near my neck.  I let the intensity of the resonance wash all around and into me.  It felt as if the vibrations and sounds of the bells were seeping into every last cell of my body.  Everything seemed to expand and it was growing louder and louder.  In any other setting, I should have fled, agitated, or at least be completely alert from all the noise.  But I felt safer and more relaxed than ever.  I could swear that my body felt weightless and I was starting to float off the table.  I think I fell asleep amidst all the bells and gongs ringing all around.

The massage continued with Andre working on my arms and legs, etc.  But I don’t recall much- I just remember feeling that we were finished and Andre wasn’t in the room anymore.  I looked up to see that it was past 4PM (we started at 2).  I dressed, put on my sunglasses, and fumbled out of the room.  I thanked Andre and he said he could tell that I really relaxed into it.  I walked back to my room in a total haze.  I have no recollection of what I did for the rest of the afternoon but I remember thinking, “What was that?  What just happened?”  That evening I slept deeply and very well.  I woke up the next morning a bit sore but otherwise feeling refreshed and still in awe.  I’m not sure it’s for everyone but I definitely loved it.  It was unlike anything I have ever experienced.

I found the perfect combination of the most wonderful views, food, and treatments at the Quiet Healing Center.  My week there made me blissfully happy and I didn’t want to leave at all.  I’m already thinking about how I’ll swing down to Quiet for Andre’s massage and for Watu when I return to India…  I can’t wait!

From my balcony at Quiet: Bay of Bengal

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