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Volume 10 Issue 5
January/February 2005

Canine Water Therapy:
A Healthy Dog is a Happy Dog

Carob: First Rate Food!

Adventures with Chi – Life Energy
Sound-making and Drawing

Flower Essences
A Natural Way to Relieve Emotional Imbalances

Why Am I Here? . . . Discovering Your Purpose


Adventures with Chi – Life Energy
Sound-making and Drawing

by Kathleen Houston
Kathleen Houston

I remember the first time I heard a Tibetan singing bowl. That sound awakened something inside of me, like a kinship that belonged in my repertoire of sound-making interests, to become a part of my creative process of art-making and healing work. I had no idea how that sound would change me and become a part of my life, or that I had to have a singing bowl before I left Montreal six years ago, or that I would do healing work with them, do visualizations and sound offerings, and be part of ritual or a creative process with my students. That moment was an invitation to something. Perhaps there are many moments like that in a life, when who you were before, and who you became after, are different.

I became interested in chi - life energy. It is in me and in you, and in the environment, which for me was a great discovery about resonance. Oddly enough, chi is especially obvious with sound work. The practice of chi gong helped me connect sound-making and energy work with drawing, and also influenced my video work.

I learned how health and healing and art are connected to the environment. First I began with making art that connected me to the earth, and the earth connected me to earth medicine and drumming, and all that connected me to the symbolic and spiritual side of things. Then I got very sick doing printmaking and casting with resin at the University of Quebec in Montreal during my bachelor program. I had become environmentally sensitive. It was gruesome. My body was retaliating, big time!—a life-changing experience.

I learned the hard way that my health is profoundly connected to what is around me. My life upon arriving in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, initiated a lot of changes and my health improved. I have become quite connected to the river here, and the forest at Little Red, and to the sky. I recall my fear about how my art practice would change once I left Montreal, but it just evolved along with the new things here. I even became healthy enough to have my daughter at 41, with the council of my acupuncturist in Montreal to take Chinese herbs to support my process. Other healing tools presented themselves to me: the environment, shamanic work, sound work, and detoxifying from Montreal life. I am blessed with a supportive husband and healthy daughter.

We are vibrational beings and
we respond to sound and imagery
all the time.

I took a ground-breaking voice workshop in Montreal, lead by jazz vocalist Patricia Pope. For the first time I experienced my voice in an empowering, non-judgmental way. I learned Egyptian vowel chanting and I lead a workshop at a drumming circle. I watched how others adapted the vowel chanting for themselves, for focus and healing. The vocal workshop opened up my voice, except I burned it out a little by impersonating fire. We were working in groups of four and each of us sang as an element. I got into the leaping flames of the fire and for me there are no half measures! My voice was opened up. Another defining moment.

Sound-making, singing, and drawing are for anyone, not just the gifted or trained, though for them it can open up awareness. For someone like me, finding my voice was extraordinary. Feeling where sound resonates inside the body makes the experience meaningful and energizing. Doing drawings brings the work to another level.

An important experience opened me to the possibilities of visualization. During a night fast in the hoodoos of Writing on Stone Provincial Park, in southern Alberta, I received a spontaneous visualization. I found a special place where I sat with my candle and sage, the sky open above me and a sense of darkness silhouetted the stone shapes around me. My eyes were wide open. It was like a time-lapse movie that showed me the sculpting of the stone structures over time. Lots of water...remember, in the beginning there was too much water. The imagery was a creation myth about emergence. I started using words in my drawings, to symbolically bridge the visualization experiences with the landscape. In my video, Breath, I used Egyptian vowel chanting to create a sound space for the art work imagery in the hoodoos.

I discovered how sound and images are very powerful partners. We are vibrational beings and we respond to sound and imagery all the time. A focussed intent allows us to isolate sounds and select what works best for well-being. When a group shares a sound, for example, the vowel “Ahhh”, the energy and synergy is quite incredible. You have the sound you are making, the group sound, and the energy of the circle, all resonating in your being. When people experience the grounded sound of the drum, the focus of the Tibetan Singing bowl, or the resonance of their voice in different parts of their body, an awareness settles in, energies are boosted, stories are shared, we laugh and enjoy ourselves. People bring their own experience to the work, and a community grows.

Kathleen Houston, a visual artist for 21 years, has exhibited in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and France. Her work in celtic shamanism and healing with sound has converged over the last nine years with her art practice. Presently she is in the Mentorship Program organised by CARFAC with a focus on digital video and sound work with video artist, Terry Billings. She practices chi gong for her health and well-being and, as an avid star-gazer, enjoys connecting to the cosmos. She welcomes comments by email: e.b.a@sasktel.net or phone (306) 922-8836.


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