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
Sound Healing September 16, 2010
One of my favorite healing modalities is sound therapy, since everyone who is not deaf has a cornucopia of experiences with sound. Perhaps, it was the sound of a kind voice, birds chirping, music from their teen years, lullabies, the ebb and flow of the ocean, sacred music, a baby’s laugh, or a lover’s whispers, each carries emotional resonance. The merest reminder of these sounds can trigger a well of feelings and memories. Like a Möbius strip, it becomes impossible to find a beginning or end, since music can be such a synesthetic experience, blending the senses to the point that you actually feel the music physically in your cells or experience it as color. Some synesthetes have been known to even smell or taste sounds.
There are many types of sound healing, and they can be divided into two main groups: passive and active. Passive sound healing involves listening while active sound healing uses the voice.
Today’s foray into sound healing will focus on a technique called Toning that uses the body as an instrument. (Other methods using the voice include chanting, humming, certain types of yogic breath work, like bee breath, and singing.)
Toning was first developed by Laurel Elizabeth Keyes, an author, lecturer and counselor, who died in 1983. Her book, Toning, was published ten years earlier.
Ms. Keyes became convinced of the power of sound as she used it to maintain her own health and that of others, even those far away who didn’t know she was toning for them (a practice similar to intercessory prayer.)
Ms. Keyes was intrigued and inspired by Dorothy Retallack’s famous study of the effects of different types of music on plant movement. When rock music played, the plants leaned away from it at an 80º angle, their root structures became shallow and they produced no flowers. Conversely, plants exposed to classical music actually wrapped their vines around the radio, their roots were strong and plentiful, and their foliage luxuriant. While we are not plants, plants and people are made up of a large portion of water. It may be the water molecules reacting to sound in this manner. (If anyone has seen the movie “What the Bleep Do We Know,” you may recall the amazing photographs of water molecules that had been exposed to different types of sound from rock music to yelling, to classical music.) It seems quite probable that music, voice, or noise can have a salutary or deleterious effect on the listener. From there, it’s only a baby step to harnessing the power of sound to heal physically and emotionally. Ms. Keyes called this sonar acupuncture.
Ms. Keyes also talked about the beneficial effects of groaning on pain relief. Perhaps, you have experienced this yourself when you had a stomachache or a sprained ankle? Groaning, or cursing, can actually release tension. It’s bad enough to experience pain, but when we respond by tensing our muscles, we only make it worse. Toning, moaning, or groaning lets out extra energy and stimulates circulation (especially, when the sound is directed toward a painful part of the body) and may release some muscular tension.
We are all made of molecules moving at various rates of speed, depending on whether they are the air in our lungs, the cells of our bones, blood, muscles, skin, brain matter, etc. Movement produces vibration. Think of a bee’s wings moving so rapidly they produce an audible buzz. It is possible that all the molecules in our body produce sound but they are inaudible to the human ear. By creating sound through groans and tones, we can mobilize our cells into more harmony or dissonance, depending on the sound and the intention behind it.
Here are some basic instructions on Toning:
1. Relax the body while standing, sitting or lying down. It helps to let yourself breathe deeply into the diaphragm, relax the shoulders, and allow the jaw to drop a little as the tongue settles.
2. Groan, allow the sound to rise, and let go. The sound can meander wherever it wants to, until it manifests as a high, flawless note. You may need to experiment with different sounds (groaning, moaning, humming), and raising or lowering the note until it stabilizes.
3. You may want to experiment with the vowel sounds: AAh, Oh, Ooh, and Eee while you notice where in your body you feel the tones resonate. Yogis have been using Om or Aum for millennia. Try a few rounds of it at various notes to experience an oasis of deep calm. Om is said to be the sound of everything on earth.
Ms. Keyes liked to think of Toning as an “inner cleansing.” She suggested practicing every morning.
You may also enjoy “Awakening Through Sound” by Chloe Goodchild. It’s an excellent CD course on the transformative power of sound and voice. You can find it as a download from http://www.soundstrue.com. If you add your name to their mailing list they will send you emails with great savings opportunities.
Copyright Nicole S. Urdang