This page includes the Table of Contents, Introduction and Chapter One of the Hum Book.

Table of Contents

Introduction and Context Before We Begin
Chapter One The Hum Wave
Chapter Two Information in the Form of Form
Chapter Three Pulsation: No Pulse, No Life
Chapter Four Touching with Sound
Chapter Five Stories in Time
Chapter Six Insults to Form
Chapter Seven Humming Through
Chapter Eight Terms of Surrender
Chapter Nine A Rave Before We Go On
Chapter Ten Placement of Attention
Chapter Eleven Mantra
Chapter Twelve Hums of All Sorts
Chapter Thirteen Anecdotes of the Effects of Humming
Appendix A One Study of the Effects of Purring
Appendix B An Example of the Effects of Placement of Attention
Author’s Page

Introduction and Context: Before We Begin

Over the last twenty-eight years, I have been lucky enough to meet and study with a number of extraordinary teachers, both Western scientists and Tibetan lamas. Most of my Tibetan teachers are from the Nyingma and Drukpa Kargyu lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, which are called the “practice lineages”. They come at learning quite differently than we usually do in the West. They prefer not to explain things to you before you practice them. Instead of telling you in advance what you can expect, what the exercise is for, and what effects you should look for, they will instead give you one initial bit of instruction, often quite cryptic(1). Then they will say, “Go away and do that, come back in a month or so and tell me what you notice.” When you come back-always assuming you do-they give you the next piece of the puzzle. The piece they give you depends on what you have experienced in the intervening time and how you have understood it. This is called learning through practice rather than by conceptualization or analysis. Zapchenis also a practice lineage in its own odd way, and I recommend that you hum without expectation and notice what happens.

If you care to try humming before you go any further in the book, then you can come and go from your own direct experience of humming to this information, in whatever ways help you to easy, confident humming.

To get started, find for yourself a place you feel safe. Get comfortable, then get more comfortable. Make a soft, unpushed hum that goes more inside than outside. Let it flow down through your body easily and without effort. Rest some, then later hum some more and notice what happens to your experience of yourself and of being(2). 

(1) Like, watch your breath or make these sounds or pay attention to this shape or hum through in this way.

(2) If your experiential memory isn’t so great, have a pad with you to take simple notes as you go. Most of such learning takes place in mildly altered states-after all, we are interested in altering your normal state in the direction of stable well-being. The transfer of information from one state to another-as with remembering our dreams-can take some practice. So a notepad can be helpful, as it is with dreams..

If we relax and pay attention as we hum, we can feel
the wave of sound as it passes through our body from head to toe.

– Julie Henderson

Chapter One: The Hum Wave

This small book is entirely about humming. How to hum more “inside” than “outside”; how to touch deep inside yourself with the pulse of the hum; how to increase our intrinsic well-being by humming. Human beings often express envy of cats’ ability to purr. I am going to guess that the sort of humming we talking about here is going to provide many of the benefits that cats get out of purring (3).

Humming-as is obvious if we think about it-is not only a sound we can hear but a pulsation we can feel. In fact, whether we call the hum a sound or a pulse depends on which of our senses we focus on it.

Most of the time, we are more aware of the sound aspect of the hum and less aware of the wave of compression and rarefaction-which is the nature of sound waves-passing through all our bodily tissues, gently tugging and pressing at us. It is the effect of that pulsing wave on the structures of the ear that we perceive as sound.

We are accustomed to the ease of hearing this pulse. It may strike us as odd, however, that the wave we think of as sound actually passes through all the liquids and solids of the body, both heard and felt, more easily and swiftly than it does through air to reach the ear as sound.

You can play with this on your own by swimming under water and listening to the new kinds of sounds that become available there. Even more simply, you can immerse yourself in the bath and let your house talk to you through the water-pipes, faucets, creaking joists, water heater, toilets. You will also find that you can hear your body talking to you with its own sorts of gurgles and squirts.

It is the great support that water gives sound that allows whales and dolphins to talk over long distances-and also makes them vulnerable to the over-large undersea sounds that we sometimes make.

For fifteen years, my colleagues and I have been interested in noticing and developing the effects of the hum wave as it passes through us. We have tried this ourselves; we have shared it with others. We have noticed many beneficial effects, physically, emotionally and psychologically. In Chapter Thirteen you can find many anecdotes reporting some of these effects. I hope these stories will inspire you to try this kind of humming. Or you can plunge in from the beginning, read about how to hum in the way we are recommending, and discover for yourself its benefits. You can design your own experiments and notice the effects on your feeling and function.

In Chapter Seven, you will find immediate instructions about how to create the basic hum we recommend. Please feel free to jump over all the introductory information. Hum first, and come back later to the why’s and wherefore’s. Read a bit and hum, rest, read a bit and hum, letting yourself go more deeply each time. 

(3) Recently there has been quite a bit of research directed to the effects of purring. You’ll find one such report in Appendix A.