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