The paradigm of Sisyphus hauling his boulder up the mountain only to have it roll down as he almost reaches the summit is so deeply ingrained in our psyches it’s easy to forget how stressful life is even when you do manage to push the boulder over the top. Naturally, major life transitions, like, divorce, moving, death, job loss, etc., exhaust you, but positive events also sap your energy. Simply put: all life is stressful, the good, difficult, and mundane.
If you want a fascinating glimpse into the major stressors check out this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holmes_and_Rahe_stress_scale. You will find many life events that, on the surface, appear to be positive, but pack an emotional wallop. Perhaps, it’s adjusting to change that is the real challenge.
Since stress is a fact of life, it’s always helpful to have a trove of techniques to smooth the way. Among them is sound therapy. Listening to certain types of sounds can engage and calm the mind-body, and are as accessible as your library or computer.
A number of creative souls have been working with sound as a healing modality. Alex Theory coined the term” “vibraceuticals” to describe the benefits of sound therapy, or “psycho-acoustics.” He also works with binaural beats, the practice of creating music that synchs both hemispheres of the brain (“hemi-synch”). This is similar to the ancient yogic technique of alternate nostril breathing, but you don’t actively do anything. Simply listening achieves the similar results.
Another key concept in sound therapy is entrainment. Entrainment is what happens when you sit in a room with a metronome and within 5-20 minutes your heartbeat is synchronized with the metronome’s ticks. Using this theory, musicians have developed soundscapes designed to slow your heart rate and calm your mind. Just as you might expect, higher-faster frequencies are stimulating and lower–slower ones are calming.
Recently, while on a trip to Vermont, I was able to experience a sound massage. For half an hour I was bathed in tones from crystal bowls, tuning forks, and an enormous gong that felt as if it were vibrating all the molecules in the room, including those in me. I thought a live session, as opposed to listening to a CD, would be more soothing. While it was definitely intense, the results were not any better than what I have achieved with my iPod.
Jonathan Goldman, another pioneer in this field, and the creator of one of my all-time favorite CDs, Ultimate Om, puts people on a massage table and bathes them in different sounds that he makes with his voice. It’s a variety of sound massage that seems to depend on intuition and the ability to “tune in” to the other person.
David Ison, composer, audio designer, and sound engineer created TheraSound to help heal himself after a particularly bad car accident. TheraSound’s efficacy was validated by a three-year study done at the National Institutes of Health, showing its ability to elicit the relaxation response (activate the parasympathetic nervous system), and significantly reduce pain, anxiety, and depression.
The following is a list of some of my favorite sound healing CDs. Choosing music from this genre is very individual and requires a certain amount of trial and error. It would be great if you could borrow them from the library, but most libraries do not stock this material. While you can preview CDs on Amazon or iTunes, these are typically long-playing and you will only hear a 30 second clip.
I recommend checking the prices on Amazon as some complete albums are available for 99 cents.
Golden Bowls of Compassion by Karma Moffett. (The technology on this CD, and her others, is beyond compare. An incredible bargain on Amazon.)
Ultimate Om by Jonathan Goldman
Air by Alex Theory
Prism by Alex Theory
Neroli by Brian Eno
Hearing Solar Winds Alight by David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir
Ison Sleep System by David Ison (And David’s CD: Free Yourself From Chronic Pain.)
Crystal Bowl Meditation by Ami and Steve Sciulli
Music as Medicine by Nawang Khechog and Carlos Nakai
There are two books you might also enjoy:
Healing Sounds by Jonathan Goldman
Sound Medicine by Wayne Perry (includes a CD)
Mr. Perry’s book deals with my last topic: Toning: using your own voice to heal.
Remember, in addition to the music’s actual resonance, you want it to touch you emotionally. Different CDs will affect you differently on different days. Familiarizing yourself with these composers enables you to choose music according to your mood.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang
Sound Healing II October 24, 2010
Loving Yourself May Be Easier Than You Thought October 17, 2010
“Be thine own palace or the world’s thy jail.”
What a strange world where loving yourself isn’t second nature. Perhaps everyone is born with the capacity to love themselves, but the vagaries of life steal attention from this sacred task. Luckily, with a little awareness and effort, you can consciously reconnect with the gift of loving yourself.
Take a moment and ask: How do I show myself love?
If you already use self-acceptance, gentleness, positive self-talk; if you rest when you are weary, eat when you are hungry, go off alone when you crave solitude, welcome company when you seek connection; in other words, if you habitually nurture your mind, body and spirit congratulate yourself. You are in the minority.
If treating yourself lovingly, kindly, and patiently does not come naturally, you might want to write a list of 100 things you could do to show how much you cherish yourself.
There is a special technique for this exercise.
Title the first page: 100 Ways I Show Myself Love
Number the lines from 1-100.
Set a timer for 20 minutes.
Write as fast as you can without pausing.
You may repeat things as often as they occur to you.
When you are done notice major themes. How many times did the same thing come up? By writing a list of 100, it’s easy to take a percentage of the most frequently occurring items and see which ones really speak to you. The next step is to do those on a regular basis.
As the yogis say: What we practice we become. If you practice paying attention to what you body-mind-spirit wants or needs and provide it, not only will you get in the habit of attending to yourself; but, you will notice cues sooner, be more in touch emotionally, and take time to rejuvenate before you start running on fumes.
Adult life is full of responsibilities that require time and energy. It’s all too easy to let your to-do list take precedence over your desire for stillness and self-replenishing. Once you commit to a daily dose of self-care you will be amazed at how time will suddenly expand to allow for revitalization.
This is a far cry from self-indulgence. Just as sleeping gives you energy for the next day, these activities allow you to pause and pay attention to what you are feeling, thinking, and experiencing. There is an abundance of research showing how mindfulness practices lower blood pressure, increase productivity, boost immune function, and help stabilize moods, all of which benefits everyone in your life.
Here are a few things for which you might find time, even in the busiest of days.
As my friend Stephanie does, every morning and evening, resolve to be good to yourself.
Eat delicious, nourishing food, including dark chocolate. (See: chocolate’s healing powers) It is not just ingesting the chocolate that’s helpful, it’s taking the time to savor it.
Pay attention to your automatic thoughts. Are they self-downing, critical, or negative? If so, consciously replace them with a positive inner dialogue. To jump start this new way of thinking check out: affirmations.
Drink herbal tea. It forces you to slow down and focus on something besides your tasks or thoughts.
Take a three minute break to stare out the window, open a door and breathe in some fresh air, or close your eyes and tune into your breath.
Try a yoga nidra practice. This is an ancient guided meditation that can take from 15-60 minutes and will leave you feeling relaxed and energized.
(There are many to choose from. One of my favorites is available free from Elsie’s Yoga Class, an iTunes podcast. It’s #62 of her offerings.)
Give yourself the gift of long, slow, deep breaths throughout the day.
Spend 10 minutes writing your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Just the way a bath cleanses your physical body, this practice helps clear the mind.
Regularly re-read your list of 100 Ways I Show Myself Love and do them. If those practices don’t seem helpful, take the time to re-write your list.
Listen to what your heart, mind, and body want, and act on those yearnings.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang