Monthly Archives: December 2011

Speaking in Tongues: A Meditative Vocal Practice

Glossolalia, otherwise known as “speaking in tongues” has its roots in ancient tribal and religious practices. The idea is letting go, sometimes into a trance-like state but not necessarily so, and allowing Spirit to speak through you. Some who practice glossolalia also translate it into understandable spiritual messages.

Recent research at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine has shown just how glossolalia affects the brain. Those speaking in tongues experience a sharp decrease in frontal lobe function (this is opposite of what meditators’ brain scans show) and an increase in activity of the parietal region. The former area of the brain enables reason and self-control so glossolalia involves a surrender or letting go. The latter takes sensory information and tries to create a sense of self relating to the world. So glossolalia may help us make sense of our experiences in life.

There is a lot of initial discomfort for people when talking this way. It may feel like silly, gibberish, and I guess from a certain perspective, it is. But the point is what that practice of making gibberish is doing for you and whether or not you can allow it to provide you with a rich resource for inner guidance that bypasses your judging, justifying, “need to know” mind. If you can get over yourself and the embarrassment of making strange sounds, you may be able to get in touch with a part of you that is comfortable with and open to mystery. It just may enrich your spiritual life and fulfill a need you didn’t even know you had.

Try it. Light a candle. And just set your intent to engage in speaking nonsense. See what happens. Do you fight it? Giggle? Can you let go of the part of the mind that resists? Can you enter a space of surrender? As you become more and more comfortable with this practice, you can begin to use it for information. You can ask for teachings on situations in your life that are troubling you. And eventually, you can learn to translate what you receive into messages that help you. It’s just a tool. Experiment and see what it can mean for you.