Sooth­ing sounds for the soul

A heal­ing bath, mi­nus the tub, wa­ter and bub­bles

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - ME­GAN MCDONOUGH Wash­ing­ton Post

Some peo­ple un­wind with a nice, long bubble bath. Oth­ers pre­fer a sound bath.

Never heard of the an­cient sound-heal­ing prac­tice? The re­lax­ing mu­si­cal pre­sen­ta­tions, which pre­date Christ and have been sci­en­tif­i­cally linked to re­duc­tions in stress and anx­i­ety, are be­com­ing more pop­u­lar in the United States, likely linked to an in­creased in­ter­est in health, wellness, med­i­ta­tion and mind­ful­ness.

Last week, I took my first sound bath at Recharj, an in­ti­mate med­i­ta­tion and power-nap lounge a block from the White House. After a few min­utes of shuf­fling on my cosy bean­bag, I set­tled in and fo­cused on the tran­scen­den­tal tones of the Ti­betan singing bowls, a col­lec­tion of metal and crys­tal ves­sels that emit dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies and are used to en­cour­age med­i­ta­tion and re­lax­ation.

After the ses­sion, which left me feel­ing men­tally and phys­i­cally rested, I in­ter­viewed two sound spe­cial­ists — ses­sion leader Robert Lee and his men­tor, Monte Hansen — about the history and prac­tice of sound baths, along with how and why they can help you achieve a zen­like state. Q: What are sound baths? A: (Hansen) We de­fine them as an im­mer­sion in sound fre­quency that cleans the soul. Q: Why call it a “bath”? A: (Hansen) Peo­ple of­ten tell us that they feel like they are be­ing sub­merged in sound, like the sound waves cre­ated by the Ti­betan singing bowls are a vis­ceral thing and they are washed in waves of wa­ter. They use words like “cleansed” and “cleared” to de­scribe their ex­pe­ri­ence.

Q: Why am I just now hear­ing about this?

A: (Hansen) There’s noth­ing new about the prac­tice. Ti­betans have been us­ing these in­stru­ments, con­sid­ered sonic fre­quency tech­nolo­gies, for more than 2,000 years. Luck­ily, the West has re­newed in­ter­est in the prac­tice, and it has quickly grown in pop­u­lar­ity. We have com­pa­nies ap­proach­ing us ask­ing to help them in­te­grate med­i­ta­tion into their wellness pro­gram­ming. There was also a sub­stan­tial in­flux in at­ten­dance dur­ing the po­lit­i­cal race. Our num­bers in­creased at least 15 to 20 per cent. It was in­sane. Clearly, peo­ple were look­ing for some sort of re­lief and clar­ity.

Q: How many singing bowls do you use per ses­sion?

A: (Hansen) Ev­ery med­i­ta­tion is dif­fer­ent, and the num­ber of bowls used can range from 10 to 40. Se­lec­tion of bowls also varies de­pend­ing upon which chakra, or en­ergy merid­ian sys­tem in the body, we are fo­cus­ing on that day. For ex­am­ple, if some­one wants to have a ground­ing med­i­ta­tion, we use bowls that pri­mar­ily res­onate the C note be­cause it af­fects that lower chakra. If they are look­ing for a heart-open­ing ses­sion, we se­lect bowls that res­onate the F note.

Q: What can I do to pre­pare for my sound bath?

A: (Hansen) Go on YouTube and lis­ten to a record­ing of Ti­betan singing bowls. While it’s nowhere near the same ex­pe­ri­ence as hear­ing it live, it’ll give you a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of what to ex­pect from the class. Get there as early as pos­si­ble so you can get com­fort­able with the space and calm your breath­ing, al­low­ing the re­lax­ation process to be­gin. We also en­cour­age peo­ple to wear some­thing com­fort­able and to stay hy­drated. Sound waves carry on wa­ter, and the more hy­drated you are, the more likely the fre­quen­cies will have a pen­e­trat­ing ef­fect.

Q: Once I am there, what can I do to get the most out of my ex­pe­ri­ence?

A: (Hansen) Fol­low your in­tu­ition. If you feel the urge to stand, please do. If you need to yawn, yawn — open up that tense face of yours. We en­cour­age you to fid­get and al­low your body to do what it wants.

(Lee) Have a clear in­ten­tion of why you are there and keep it at the fore­front of your mind. Is it to let go of the stress of the week or ex­pe­ri­ence a clar­ity on maybe some­thing that has been nag­ging you? Re­mem­ber to bring your­self back to that in­ten­tion if you feel your mind start­ing to stray. Q: What if I fall asleep? A: (Hansen) It’s our in­ten­tion that you stay present be­cause these fre­quen­cies you are be­ing ex­posed to can be take-away tools. For ex­am­ple, if you hear a sound that res­onates pos­i­tively with you, you can re­mem­ber it or take it with you, even hum it at your desk the next time you’re stressed out.

That be­ing said, very few peo­ple com­pletely conk out. There is some­thing about it that keeps them right on the edge of the veil — that lu­cid, dream­like state right be­fore you fall asleep.

Q: What are the most com­mon re­ac­tions from stu­dents?

A: (Lee) Most of­ten I’ll get “My mind is fi­nally still, quiet and empty.”

(Hansen) We like to joke that there’s mind­ful med­i­ta­tion and mind-emp­ty­ing med­i­ta­tion; ours is the lat­ter. You see, your brain is like a hu­man com­puter. You have all these tabs open and, over time, your sys­tem will re­mind you that it’s time to re­boot. When you fi­nally al­low your sys­tem to re­cal­i­brate, what hap­pens? It comes back faster, fresher and clearer.

Q: What are some po­ten­tial ben­e­fits of sound baths?

A: (Lee) There are thou­sands of sci­en­tific stud­ies that prove the health ben­e­fits of med­i­ta­tion. It is re­ally undis­putable at this point.

In terms of sound baths, re­searchers have found that sound waves af­fect the hu­man ner­vous sys­tem and de­crease blood pres­sure more than tra­di­tional med­i­ta­tion.

There is also new re­search on the ben­e­fits of bin­au­ral beats, which is when two tones at slightly dif­fer­ent fre­quen­cies are played in uni­son. These sounds have been found to re­duce anx­i­ety lev­els, as well as en­hance mood states. Q: What do you say to naysay­ers? A: (Hansen) I’ll drop a few quotes from re­searchers, like in­ven­tor Nikola Tesla and sci­en­tist Mar­cel Vo­gel. Tesla said, “If you want to find the secrets of the uni­verse, think in terms of en­ergy, fre­quency and vi­bra­tion.”

But I never start with that. I’ll just say, “Hey, we made a beau­ti­ful art in­stal­la­tion for you to en­joy.” The last thing I want is for peo­ple to shut down and judge what we do as some weird, cultish ac­tiv­ity or a re­li­gious prac­tice — it’s ab­so­lutely not. We do not in any way em­u­late, re­fer to or prac­tice any­thing that is re­li­gious. There is no dogma, guru, rit­ual, noth­ing.


Once found only at New Age re­treats, sound baths use the vi­bra­tions from sound­waves to help pro­mote re­lax­ation and heal­ing, pro­po­nents say.

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