The 'Correct' Way to Sound

Allow for the possibility that there is no wrong way to pronounce something.

We all sound different. Our accents and vocal mannerisms are a compilation of the places we’ve lived, the people we’ve grown with, and the subtle outside influences that impact the way we annunciate and make word choices.

It’s one of my favorite things about being human.

Everyone sounds different. They may have a laugh that makes you bubble, an extraordinarily odd talent that makes you giggle, or a song that grounds you like nothing else.

We all have a song, and the ability to sing. We all have a voice that needs to be heard.

Sure, some of us won’t sound like Adele. which I think is about as close to an objectively ‘good’ voice as one can get, but we can all make wonderful sounds.

And who is to say that something sounds wrong?

When in a foreign country, it’s nearly impossible to pronounce the intricacies of the local dialects as the natives do, even after years of immersion.

And even then there will be some international remnants to your interpretation of the language.

Many of us are told that we’re pronouncing something wrong.

That there is a correct way to make sound.

And while this is true to some degree, as intentionally butchering a word could give it another meaning entirely (for example, minute, the increment of time, vs. minute, the adjective), intention and belief is what matters.

In spiritual circles, I’ve experienced people telling others that they are chanting ‘wrong’.

I myself have silently held this judgment in yoga classes, when heavily-accented white teachers are teaching ancient mantras. As if there is one correct way to exhibit devotion to the divine, and that it must be learned solely through others. As though my Indian roots give me more of a right and talent for yoga.

But we are all part of the same.

We all have inherent knowledge about what it is to share our uniqueness with the world, and to give appreciation for all that is around us.

Expressing this devotion through sound is vital to our wellbeing. Laughter, speech, song…we have these things for a reason.

Everyone must speak. So there can be no correct vibration.

There is no one right way to chant Om.

Even if you do tone together ‘perfectly’, the sounds you would make are not the exact same ones. And they never will be. That’s kind of the point.

The words that a visitor is trying to pronounce in a foreign land matter little, in my mind, so long as they are spoken with respect and the intention to do good by those with whom they are speaking.

We may mispronounce prayers. But these support systems have existed for millennia, so today’s master teachers probably don’t even pronounce the words like they were originally intended anyways.

So no one, and I mean no one but yourself, can tell you that your sound is wrong.

You alone create and cultivate your intentions, you devote the time and energy to making sounds with the intent of healing yourself or others.

Just as there can be no correct tone, no one heals the same way. So a sound, a word, that is thought to evoke a certain healing in one person, may likely be an entirely different sound than that which serves the same purpose in another.

This does not mean that teaching, singing, learning different tones and traditions is a bad thing. Far from it.

Rather, we should be conscious and appreciative of the fact that everyone, no matter the intention, brings newness to old sounds.

This is not a choice. It may bring about the same effects, it may not. It simply is.

The listener has just as much responsibility as the speaker, if not more.

Your experience of a sound is never the same. Your thoughts, judgments, beliefs that may block you from feeling it or alter your feeling entirely, are yours alone.

So be wary of these influences in your experience of another’s sound.

Sing and speak on my friends!