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My Story

Bodies of water.
Deep listening.
Remembering ourselves as light.

I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, the hyper-industrial steel town built at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio Rivers. All my life I had observed that most people barely noticed these great rivers, let alone walked by them, swam in them, or celebrated them. They had been the sewer pipes for years of industrial discharge, and were now the inconveniences we had to build bridges across. This relationship, or lack thereof, that people had with the rivers saddened and concerned me, and I went off to Cornell University to get a degree in Environmental Science and Education, to see what I could do about it. It was at Cornell that I began studying yoga as well and soon after had my first kundalini experience.

The science I learned about the natural world was inspiring and helpful, but as I matured I began to have an emotional and spiritual relationship with nature and with the rivers. Something within me awakened to the life within these waters, not just the struggling fish populations too contaminated to eat, but the possibility of what those “old souls” were, what wisdom they might know having lived and flowed for thousands and thousands of years. I began to look at these and all bodies of water differently, to see them in a new light: as alive, intelligent, changeable, healable, feeling, needing, beings. I came to understand that these bodies of water- oceans, rivers, ponds, lakes, puddles, brooks, springs, or bogs- are by their very nature vibrationally sensitive, and unfortunately, just like people, they “remember” a very difficult past marred by years of industrial abuse, pollution, and degradation, and neglect.

Monongahela River, Pittsburgh, PA

All the while my yoga practice was deepening. I began my studies at a time when there weren’t yoga teacher training programs like we know them today. It was more like an apprenticeship, studying with a teacher, day in and day out, until they deemed you ready, gave you a nudge and a wink, and offered you the opportunity to teach. It was in this context, reading ancient yogic texts with my teachers, that I discovered the idea of the kriya lifetime and the chakra system and that yoga ”sees” me, and everyone, as an embodiment of light.

True story: when I was 5 I had a terrible accident and fractured my skull. Ever since then, I have been able to hear things that other people didn’t seem to hear. The best way to describe it was “the sound of everything all at once”, an intense static, white-noise sensation like someone was rapidly turning the tuning dial of an old-time radio. It was completely overwhelming and completely ecstatic at the same time, a deep meditative state. I would often shut myself in a bathroom for as long as I could, just to listen- intently and without distraction- to this weird and wonderful music. Of course I learned not to mention it to anyone and it quietly nestled into the fabric of my being.

But with yoga I could be quiet more, I could listen more. The more I practiced the more I came to notice these subtle vibrations within myself. I spent a lot of time in nature and I noticed the subtle vibrations of everything around me. It was these vibrations that awakened me to All-I-Am. The story of Vox Lumina and the entire Song of Light came to me when I was 22 in a series of what some now refer to as “downloads”- complete transfers of information. These were waking dreams, “cornerstone” memories of a past life triggered by experiences I was having in nature. To this day I am still developing language to explain this phenomena but what I do know/remember is that I was/ I am Vox Lumina, at a different time and place. Through various teachings I have come to understand that sometimes our soul work transcends lifetimes and incarnations. And as yoga gives us the tools to experience and identify ourselves as the Light-We-Are, not just the physical form but the vibrations and the intentions we held and felt in these different incarnations and forms, then we can remember All-We-Are, and if we STAY AWAKE through the Forgetting, our work and our words continue.

My first telling of the Song of Light was in 1996 as a performance commissioned by the International Rails to Trails Conference in Pittsburgh. Between 1996 and 2006 I performed the Song of Light five times, each time working with an assortment of amazing musicians and dancers, as well as doing numerous solo “dreamtellings”. After my 2006 performance in New York I decided that the message and performance would be more sustainable, ideologically and financially, when a take home product was available. I designed my own website, created a promotional video for my project, and launched a Kickstarter campaign to realize my vision. In March of 2012 Vox Lumina’s Song of Light album was released and is now available in both physical and digital form.

Also in 1996, not long after I began playing the crystal bowls, I received a vision to “heal bodies of water with sound”. At the time I didn’t quite understand what it meant, but it aligned with a lifelong intention to help restore the rivers of Pittsburgh (and beyond) and to further explore the power of sound/ music/ vibration. This vision manifested into two distinct paths, one that engages the public (The River Alchemy Project) and one that continues to be a deeply personal spiritual mission (The Water of Light Journey).

The sacred dance of water and light

From 1996-2012, with the help of many others, I created community ceremonies and celebrations for rivers at rivers all over the country with the intention to vibrationally activate, heal and harmonize bodies of water. While I lived in Pittsburgh I worked intensely with the Allegheny, Monongahela, and the Ohio Rivers and their tributaries, and the many wonderful people that call them home and also are working for their restoration. THANK YOU! In 2002 I moved to New York and devoted my alchemical efforts, both scientific and artistic, to the mighty and magnificent Hudson until 2012. I am currently and happily back on the shores of the Great Three of Pittsburgh.

Although I stopped doing the large scale public art and ritual aspects of the River Alchemy Project, the creation of the “sonic tonic”, the vibrationally enhanced water, has continued in Vox Lumina Sound Baths. Kirtans and Musical Medicine Shows, and in many of my yoga classes, ever since. At the end of a Vox Lumina Sound Bath we each give thanks for a body of water in our life- person, place, puddle, pond, ocean, river, cloud or stream- and drink the charged water for our own health and theirs. What is left in the “Big G” crystal bowl after each Sound Bath is religiously carried, by me and any others that care to join in the ritual, to the closest body of water and offered for it’s vibrational health and healing. (Just look at the positive transformation of Nine Mile Run in Pittsburgh’s Frick Park where I've been delivering the "vibrationally enhanced" water for years...;)

In 1998, nine years into my yoga practice and after teaching Sivananda style hatha yoga for over 5 years, I took my first Kundalini yoga workshop with Ravi Singh at the Yoga Sadhana Studio in Pittsburgh’s SouthSide (now BYS Yoga Collective). I loved it so much I signed up for a teacher training that day! For years I taught Kundalini yoga exclusively, and then I started to miss the classic yoga of my roots. My own Chakra Activation Yoga was born of an authentic and sincere desire to share the “best of both worlds” with my students, their “static” and “dynamic” approaches to poses, as well as create an environment and culture devoted to the study of the chakra system and igniting the light within. Every year since 2003 I have lead my students on a “sacred journey up the spine”, the Chakra Activation Experience, exploring the physical, metaphysical, emotional, mental, energetic and vibrational aspects of each chakra. It is from this rich experience, course curriculum, workshop notes, and revisions upon revisions that the Chakra Activation Deck was conceived and manifested into form in 2018. With that piece in place, I have been training yoga teachers in Chakra Activation Yoga to bring this illuminating and enlightening approach to more and more yoga practitioners.

Reflecting on how my work and purpose has grown over the years- the practice of deep listening, the creation of Chakra Activation Yoga, the power of sound, the Vox Lumina story, the music, the environmental education- I feel that I am indeed realizing that vision to bring healing tools and vibrations to each beautiful body of water I come into contact with.

We all are bodies of water.

In Joy,

Chakra Activation Yoga

Brooke Smokelin Bio