Curiosity as Portal
After swimming laps yesterday at a local recreation center, I went into the steam room. Through the thick mist I saw two figures, both men, stretching and bending. I maneuvered between them and sat on the top tiled bench. As I took a few deep breaths while adjusting to the heat, I heard a deep rumbling sound that was a cross between Eastern monastic chanting and a plumbing problem.
Was it one of the men, or the steam apparatus gone wonky?
I couldn’t tell, based on where I was, their positions and the steam between us. Then, the sound stopped. One of the men, now seated below me, began moving again and the sound resumed, yet I didn’t see his mouth open or his diaphragm expand. Again, quiet.
“Excuse me, were you chanting?” I asked, too curious to care about violating the customary silence.
“Yes,” he said.
“I liked how it sounded,” I said. “As if it were coming from a deep place. Could you tell me how to do it?”
“I’m not quite sure,” he said, explaining that he saw a monk give a demonstration (or a concert?) at the local university. He said that the pitch depended on where one put one’s breath and attention. To sing from the head makes a higher sound than from the belly. “It helps me clear out my passages, that’s why I do it.”
The other man turned toward me and said, “I’m glad you asked, because I’m taking a CPR class and was wondering if I’d have to perform it.”
“That’s great you’re comfortable chanting here,” I said. “When no one else is around, I sing and chant. But I’m too shy to do it in front of people.”
“Well, I have a daughter now and don’t have much free time, so I grab it when I can,” said the chanter. “I’m no longer shy about these things.”
“It’s Boulder,” said the CPR trainee. “Anything goes.”
He was right. I wondered why I didn’t take advantage of the laid back attitude more often. The chanter resumed his deep, mysterious, resonant sound. I opened my mouth and added a much higher “aahm”. The two tones blended, creating an impromptu concert for a few minutes until he left. Next time, I might chant or sing if others are present. Perhaps I’ll even invite them to join me.
Originally published at alacartespirit.com on March 24, 2015.