Sound-Healing and Vibration: Where Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science
In two days, I will be heading out the door with my didgeridoos to participate in a "shamanic sound journey," along with another person on gongs and another on singing bowls.
About a dozen people will be lying on the floor as the three of us immerse the room in primal sound.
If this sounds novel to you, keep in mind that these practices are as old as the hills and that vibration comprises the very core of our beings. Whether you realize it or not, every time you hum a tune or respond to a song you are engaging in a form of music or sound therapy.
Although there an overlap, there are key differences. As Steve Sklar, who practices sound-healing with his wife Johnna Morrow in Minnesota, explains:
Singing bowls, didgeridoos and gongs have very different qualities than musical instruments such as pianos, violins or clarinets. The latter instruments produce sounds that have comparatively simple tonal characteristics, played in sequences and combinations to create melodies, harmonies, and rhythms. The attention of the listener is drawn to the macro, exterior perceptions, the musical performance.
Didgeridoos and bowls and gongs, on the other hand …
… produce complex tones and textures with shifting, swelling and receding and morphing harmonics. Sounds aren’t arranged in patterns; instead, a single or few tones focus the attention. This is micro listening, and has the effect of drawing the listener in, leading the listener to inner channels of perception and exploration.
I have always been fascinated by how sound and vibration seem to unite two worlds - inner and outer, conscious and unconscious, spiritual and material, quantum and physical. My taking up the didgeridoo has encouraged me to travel much further down this path and imagine a new unification of opposites - ancient wisdom and modern science.
I am certainly not the first one to have these ruminations. Thanks to the didge, I have gotten to know others on my same wave-length. This is how I met Steve and Johnna at a festival in Oregon a few years ago.
Early last year, I ran into Mara, a local (San Diego) shamanic practitioner who incorporates Native American drumming into her practice. Next thing, I was being invited to show up with my didgeridoo. Mostly, I’m simply part of a group of people drumming. This time, my role will be more prominent.
I do not make any claims into any purported benefits of sound therapy. Nor, do I regard myself as a sound-healer. When I play my didgeridoo on Friday, I will be doing it under the direction of Mara, who in turn will be looking after the needs of those in the group.
Each person there will be showing up for his or her own reasons and coming away with their own unique experiences. To me, it’s like opening up someone’s eyes to, say, the wonder of the Grand Canyon. It’s all about how the individual chooses to relate.
The day may come when some form of sound therapy is standard mental health practice. I certainly think there is a bipolar application. In the meantime, I urge you to do your own exploration. May the force be with you "
See also: Drumming, the Brain, and Mental Health
John is an author and advocate for Mental Health. He wrote for HealthCentral as a patient expert for Depression and Bipolar Disorder.