Chloe Goodchild, Founder of The Naked Voice Photo of Chloe in Summer of Peace
Chloe Goodchild and Andrew Harvey were featured in the Summer of Peace in a dialogue about the Sacred Feminine and Peace. The following is a story written by Chloe about her relationship with Anandamayi.
Sound gives to consciousness, evidence of its existence…It is the active part of consciousness itself which turns into sound. The knower becomes known to her /himself as consciousness bears witness to its own voice. (Inayat Khan, Music and Mysticism)
In the mid 1980’s, whilst I was exploring the philosophy and practice of classical Indian vocal music, I was introduced to one of India’s greatest woman saints, Anandamayi Ma, otherwise known as the Blissful Mother. This sudden intervention of her immense and unconditional presence in my life was epiphanal, accelerating my own spiritual evolution through an exploration of the Eastern concept of non-duality (advaita) or oneness. This gave new meaning and purpose to the role of my singing voice as a spiritual practice, a poetic and mystical language of the soul. I was in my mid-thirties, a young mother, and a freelance voice teacher who had just left formal school music-teaching and peace education, in search of more fulfilling, innovative and compassionate ways to bring the singing voice into the world.
I was never to meet Anandamayi in the flesh, for she left her body in 1982, shortly before I came to know her. In 1990 I embarked upon a transformative journey to North India where I had immersed myself in the unique spiritual personality of Anandamayi, and her wisdom teachings, inspired by interviews with her secular devotees, monks and nuns, from all over the world. It was there in 1990, that I also encountered the great master of non-duality, Harilal Poonjaji (later called Papaji) disciple of Ramana Maharshi. Poonjaji’s secret skill was to transmit a direct experience of ‘no-mind’, inspired by an intense practice of self-inquiry centring on the question “who am I ?”
The impact of this inner dialogue dislodged my ordinary mind so totally as to activate a direct experience of my deep Self, pure consciousness, prior to rational thought, sensation or feeling. The more detailed story can be found in my first book “The Naked Voice” (Rider 1993).
Poonjaji later told me that “the divine hand” of Anandamyi had guided me to him so that I could fully embody the inner transformation that my soul had been seeking out for many years. India transformed my life, and Anandamayi became a unique feminine role model of unconditional presence. Her teachings infused my voice and sound teachings known as The Naked Voice, founded in 1990.
Anandamayi’s life – 1896 - 1982
Bengali-born Anandamayi was a wildly unorthodox ‘self-initiated’ holy woman, unbound by religious doctrine or cultural creed; and it was this that made her so appealing to me as a mentor and spiritual guide. She was brought up in rustic village conditions, midst much sacred sound and chanting, by devotional Brahmin parents. And it was from there that she grew into a great sage and luminary. Yet she clearly surpassed traditional religious definitions and categories. Her magnetic radiance, her immense spirit and rigorous counsel, combined with an intoxicating laughter and song that resounded everywhere she went, transformed the lives of many who sat in the graceful unconditional presence of her feminine wisdom. Her ever-widening audience of inquirers and seekers came from all backgrounds and faiths. Secularists, seekers, devotees, artists, religious and political leaders alike came to her for counsel and refuge eg Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Yogananda Paramahamsa, the Shankaracharya (Hindu archbishop), Pierre Trudeau (Canadian Prime Minister), Western writers and artists such as Arthur Koestler, Colin Turnbull, Arnaud Desjardins and more.
I first encountered Anandamayi in the 1980’s, in dreams, during a time when I was profoundly restless for new teachings that could initiate me into a new octave of self-awareness and peace. I recorded one especially memorable dream in my journal:
A vast dark goddess was standing in front of me. She was a giantess, with immense presence, impersonal, awesome. She towered above me fixing me with her magnetic gaze. Then she slowly bent down, picked me up in her left hand and swallowed me whole. Everything blanked out. The next thing I remember is being spewed out of her mouth as two people, a man and a woman. She stood silently balancing masculine and feminine in her two giant hands, whilst I both participated in and witnessed every image and the whole event.
In 1986, while on retreat with American spiritual teacher, Ram Dass (Be Love Now), he showed me an archival black-white photograph of Anandamayi Ma as a young woman, sitting and ecstatically singing in an atmosphere of deep silence. I immediately recognised her as the goddess from my dreams. This first encounter with the physical being of Anandamayi was life-changing. The alchemy of that moment intensified my own inner longing, and it was the music of India that came to meet me there. I began to find inner tranquillity through the expression of its devotional language through meditative sound, sanskrit mantra, chant and spontaneous song inspired by Indian melodies or ragas.
Anandmayi continued to enter my life in new and unexpected ways. One winter morning in 1987 a special gift arrived from a publisher friend, Stewart, in Berlin. I was sitting in my bedroom, enjoying the play of the lemon sunlight upon the trees outside, when my partner brought me a book package. I opened it and inside was a photographic essay of the life of Anandamayi, called Matri Darshan (The Grace of the Mother). I opened it and within seconds I was weeping like a helpless child, years of tears. Anandamayi’s transparent beauty shone out at me from every page. It was not simply the radiant energy pouring from her physical image that arrested my heart, but something far deeper. The images seemed to break through the limitations of their still frames, awakening every cell in my body with such disorienting aliveness as if Anandamayi was literally communicating with me right there in my room! Anandamayi’s gaze transfixed my whole being. Looking more deeply I began to see that even though the body aged through the photos, the profound presence pouring from her eyes was unchanging. The more I gazed upon her, I became aware that this mysterious exchange was returning me to the source of myself, and with it a profound stillness.
The presence of this extraordinary Being before me was the summation of everything that I had ever glimpsed of the Divine.
Each photograph was accompanied by some words by Ananda Mayi Ma. The first words that I read were:
How much more time will you spend at a wayside inn? Don’t you want to go home? How exquisite it all is.... One is, in his own Self, the wanderer, the exile, the homecoming and the home....Oneself is all that there is...
Then as I turned over the page I fell into these words of Light :
I am conditioned as well as unconditioned. I am neither infinite nor confined within limits. I am both at the same time....
Soon, I was facing the full spectrum of my longing reflected in:
Do you want deliverance from the bonds of the world? Then weeping profusely, you will have to cry out from the bottom of your heart: Deliver me, Great Mother of the World, deliver me!.... When by the flood of your tears the inner and outer have fused into one, you will find her whom you sought with such anguish, nearer than the nearest, the very breath of life, the very core of every heart....
From that morning on, Anandamayi or ‘Ma’ as she was known, became my indispensable travelling companion. I took her everywhere with me, allowing the photographs and the text to continue working on me:
Destroy the veil that hides his own Self. To realize this Self means to realize God, and to realize God is to realize one’s own Self.
Before long it seemed perfectly natural to talk to these images of Ma, as her presence was undeniable. Anandamayi’s teachings and our dialogues were clearly destined to filter into my heart, mind and soul, and out through the Naked Voice and sound-work. I soon found myself exploring ways to translate these non-dual teachings into vocal practices within my workshops and meditation retreats.
Essentially here is only one inner Call, but the different religions have devised different methods to make you aware of it. Once you awaken to the call, there is no more need to cry out again and again. Truly speaking it is not you who call, but the Beloved who calls you…when through intense and undivided devotion to God the hunger of the senses is stilled, the Beloved’s call will find response from your inmost depths and reverberate through your whole being.”
(The Grace of the Mother, Matri Darshan)
My own voice teaching was changing and evolving through these groundbreaking messages. Anandamayi’s teachings were an unstoppable call to Oneness unbound by conditioning or creed. I began to develop new spontaneous vocal practices that would assist individuals to access this oneness through their own naked voice, spoken, or sung. We interwove Contemplative sound, focusing on the inner sound of silence; Creative sound, focusing on the expressive heart song of the soul; leading to Compassionate sound, focusing on the all-inclusive unconditional naked voice of Love.
This naked voice-work was fuelled by a self-inquiry process anchored in the question “Who is singing?”. This question dissolved self-consciousness into a ‘sound conscious’ non-judgemental listening, rooted in presence. Exploring voice as a vehicle for spiritual practice empowered the practitioner to courageously face, express and integrate the polarities of human existence, longing and belonging, shadow and light.
The music philosophy of India provided me a profound framework based on the universal understanding of vibration and sound, giving birth to sacred chant, mantra, the seven chakras from the root to the crown, sacred rhythm and melody or raga. These ancient sonic technologies became the essential vocal tools I would use to establish a strong foundation of self-awareness through sound awareness and with that, conscious communication skills for the modern mind.
Anandmayi’s fierce and gentle non-dual teachings found their way into the lyrics, songs, chants in my CD albums, Naked Voice, Devi, Sura, Fierce Wisdom, Laughing Heart, Thousand Ways of Light. Her central message always spiralled around these words, which are the central message of my forthcoming book.
How much longer will you stay at a wayside inn
Don’t you want to go Home ?
The wanderer the exile home,
One Self is all there is
One Self is All there Is
Copyright : Chloe Goodchild 2013
Founder: The Naked Voice Foundation www.thenakedvoice.com
This is an extract from Chloe Goodchild’s forthcoming book.
This simple encounter with the sacred feminine over twenty five years ago, has given birth to an expanding vocal movement exploring spoken and sung voice as a catalyst for individual self- discovery, collective wisdom and peace.
Alongside her global work, Chloe, and her trained Naked Voice facilitators offer Voicelines, 1-1 sessions online, where you can embark upon this radical journey yourself. Bookings can be made online at www.thenakedvoice.com
For more information contact Chloe Goodchild : firstname.lastname@example.org
The Catalyst is produced by The Shift Network to feature inspiring stories and provide information to help shift consciousness and take practical action. To receive The Catalyst twice a month, sign up here.
This article appears in:
2013 Catalyst - Issue 16