Exploring sound healing
Sound can startle us awake, energize us and even woo us back to sleep. It’s a constant sensory experience for most people and one that helps us navigate the world.
Sound also contains mystical connections to the human experience. Hinduism says that the whole world is contained in the sound Om (or Aum) and that Om was the source of creation itself. Certain Tibetan Buddhists use harmonic throat singing to express healing mantras. Sacred Gregorian chanting, with its particular melodic features, has been used in the Catholic Church for centuries. Shamans from many traditions are keepers of sacred songs, invoking them for particular ceremonies or healing.
Inventor Nikola Tesla connected this ancient wisdom to science when he said, “If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” Sound healing practitioners in Santa Fe agree. But, why?
Jonathan Goldman, a Colorado-based rock and roll musician turned sound therapy guru, believes there are a few principles in how sound works to bring balance. In his 1992 book, Healing
Sounds: The Power of Harmonics, he writes that resonance, entrainment and correspondence are key to explaining sound as a tool for transformation.
Resonance is the frequency at which something vibrates, and Goldman explains that, “… every bone, organ and tissue in the body has a separate resonant frequency.” Through resonance, it’s possible for one vibrating body to set another in motion (think of a high-pitched note breaking a glass). With entrainment, the rhythmic vibration of one object can cause a less powerful one to synch up (place clocks with pendulums in the same room and soon all of the pendulums will swing in the same direction at the same time). With correspondence, Goldman says, sounds can potentially
relate to any vibrating object. “The same principle applies to the frequencies of the human body which may be far removed from those sounds which we can hear but which can be affected by audible vibrations.”
Consuelo Luz, a local singer/songwriter famous internationally for her Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) music, studied with Goldman in the 1990s. It wasn’t until she later worked with Vickie Dodd in the Pacific Northwest, however, that she added “vocal alchemist” to her list of talents. “I use my voice to create transformation and change,” she notes, careful not to call herself a healer.
When Luz works on a client, she sings intuitively, sometimes adding instruments (such as Tibetan singing bowls) while the person is lying down, using chakras, which are believed to be centers of spiritual power in the human body, as a kind of map to guide the session’s progression. “I’m tuning in to what is going on in their body and spirit,” she says. “I make sounds that need to be expressed so that they can heal, move or activate the energy flow in places that have been blocked. I identify specific areas that are in need of attention and expression.”
In a more tactile approach, Santa Fe-based Laurie McDonald uses tuning forks on particular points on the body to move Qi (energy) in a style similar to acupuncture, but without needles. In simple terms, the tuning fork tines are struck to form a particular sound wave, and the human body becomes a living resonator when these are applied, making where they are applied key to transforming one’s energy.
Trained as an acutonics sound therapy practitioner by the Acutonics Institute of Integrative Medicine near Santa Fe, McDonald was extremely skeptical of this modality at first, taking several classes before she believed it was a powerful healing tool. Years later, she continues to see noteworthy results.
“I have a friend who had a frozen shoulder and had tried everything for two years — physical therapy, swimming pool therapy, acupuncture — and nothing worked for him,” she notes. “After I gave him one treatment, he could lift his arm.”
McDonald believes that “Vibrational sound healing has the potential to realign the body’s energy at the source; resonating and reinforcing, releasing blockages and nurturing; restoring the body to harmonious functioning one cell at a time.”
Elle MacLaren, another acutonics therapist in Santa Fe, also has witnessed what she believes are remarkable healing experiences with sound. “The most profound would involve my work with cancer patients,” she said. As a person who has had cancer herself, she has experienced first hand how these sessions support one’s whole being, complementing other cancer treatments.
While skeptics about sound healing abound, therapists agree the best way to decide whether it’s for you is to try it. As Luz said, “Saying you’re skeptical of sound being able to heal and transform is like saying you’re skeptical of music. It’s the fabric of the universe. Sound is the ultimate healing tool.”