As I welcome my 73rd year, I decided I wanted to experience new and different ways of healing. There is nothing very remarkable about 73, not like 21, 25, 50, 65 or even 70. Seventy-Three means 72 is gone, and 74 is approaching. In short, it’s like an old shoelace — it works well and is not quite ready to be thrown away.
I wanted to do something totally different and out of the ordinary this year. Something that might jar my senses, and allow me to breathe in a new way of seeing and experiencing the world. Leary of looking into my layered skin, I had heard in Landers, California there was a place called the Integratron that takes you on a sound bath tour. So my husband John, my daughter Shelby and her finance Johnnie, and two of our friends, Heidi and Rick, planned to go.
The day started off like an ice pick full of disconnect and angst. The tickets were all wrong. There were six of us and only 2 spots were reserved. My husband had a doctor’s appointment first, and he drove to the wrong office a mere 20 minutes in the wrong direction. Frost was in the air and this was not starting out to be a day of relaxation. Rather, it was one of contention — sort of like Sugar Ray meets Mohmand Ali. There would be a knockout for sure.
Then the clouds lifted, and off we went to Landers. It’s a space ship kind of place, so evocative that one wonders how did it ever get here? It’s a fusion of Art, Science and Magic. It’s creator, George Tassel, claimed that the “structure was based on the design of Moses tabernacle built on the intersection of a powerful geomagnetic force,” then when focused by the unique geometry of the building, the building concentrates and amplifies the earth’s magnetic field. Others have argued that extraterrestrials from Venus landed in Landers, and even the infamous Howard Hughes has a place in the history of Integratron.
Today the three Karl sisters (formerly from New York) are the owners of the Integratron, and they share its amazing acoustical properties with interested parties (properties which are showcased in the Integratron sound bath). On our tour with them, one of their sons, a former business man turned sound bath leader, led us in a journey of sound chakras.
Though many people have only recently heard of sound baths, the use of music for healing is nothing new. From Tibetan singing bowls to Aboriginal didgeridoos, music has been used for its therapeutic effects for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks used sound vibration to aid in digestion, treat mental disturbance, and induce sleep, and even Aristotle’s De Anima detailed how flute music could purify the soul.
But having a primer on the history of sound therapy still did not do justice to the experience. Essentially, a sound bath is a meditation class that aims to guide you into a deep meditative state while you’re enveloped in ambient sound played by instructors, or sound therapists. Sometimes participants stay in a seated position on comfortable cushions during sessions, though some instructors ask attendees to lie on yoga mats (we laid on yoga mats).
In general, we know (even the Center for Disease Control – CDC – agrees) that meditation is excellent for managing stress and improving your overall wellbeing. While it sounds easy enough, if you’ve ever tried to meditate, you know it can be quite difficult. It’s hard enough to quiet the distractions in your physical environment, let alone the distractions in your own brain. Sound baths, as I have come to learn, use repetitive notes at different frequencies to help bring your focus away from your thoughts. These sounds we experienced were created with traditional crystal bowls, gemstone bowls, cymbals, and gongs.
The goal is “by using particular combinations of rhythms and frequencies, it is possible to shift our normal beta state (alert, concentrating, reacting) to an alpha (creative, relaxed), and even theta (meditative state) and delta (deep sleep; where restoring and healing can occur).”
For a beginner like me, I left my normal beta state of being alert, concentrating, and reacting. I turned off my ever-ready phone and hypervigilant state. The idea was if I could calm these instincts, I just might leave feeling relaxed and recharged. Now I know that sounds like new age hippie or old age reverie, however my experience was nothing less than phantasmagoric!
Here’s what it was like to experience my first sound bath: After first being acquainted with the history of the structure, we were all invited to lie down on our mats and breathe deeply. The instructor set our minds at ease and guided us to float through the sounds. Maybe because my birthday was on the horizon, my life floated like a kaleidoscope before my eyes. My mother, father, first husband Alan, I saw them all smiling at me from a hot air balloon that cascaded across the sky.
Glimpses of my son Erik shot through like beams of life, and I saw my father Sidney with his arms outstretched to me. My daughters all appeared. Felicia came dancing through, her curls bobbing underneath a football helmet, Sydney was dressed in a Christmas jazzercise outfit, and Shelby smiled and joked in a powder blue “nuef nuef jump suit”. Our German short hair pointer, Shasta Kovitch, jumped across the desert sky, and my husband John appeared with a halo, while an old boyfriend’s mustache painted the sky.
Shortly before being awakened, I was simultaneously in two places at once. A young girl about to start seventh grade, watching our Great Dane, Baby, eat flower wallpaper, and a women seeing tigers fly into tigers eye in Bhutan while petting Max Cohen, our golden retriever. Even our Doodles, Teddy and Coco were sentries by the Tiger.
I awoke lighthearted, a bit dizzy and discombobulated with joy, refreshed and altered by the experience. Had I given myself permission to float, did the bowls give way to the inner of my soul? Who knows? What I do know is sometimes we have to take risks. Experience new ways of seeing the world.
I ask my clients all the time to take risks and share, and while in the sound bath I let myself go. What I know is I gave myself permission to explore and I’m so grateful I did. My hope is you choose to do so as well (with a guide that is trained and well meaning).
As we were leaving, refreshed and rejuvenated there was a sign posted that quoted Rumi.
“Out beyond the field of right doings
There is a field
And I will meet you there.
Louise Stanger is a speaker, educator, licensed clinician, social worker, certified daring way facilitator and interventionist who uses an invitational intervention approach to work with complicated mental health, substance abuse, chronic pain and process addiction clients.
To learn more about Louise Stanger and her interventions and other resources, visit her website, https://allaboutinterventions.com.