I’m back to the somewhat New Agey Year of Fun experiences this week, this time with a Sound Bath.
OK for those of you unfamiliar with this sound-bathing thing, like I was until very recently, I’m going to read what’s on the website of the place I visited, The Tree of Life, Hove.
"Lay back and relax as the beautiful sounds and tones of Gongs, Himalayan Singing Bowls, Crystal Singing Bowls, rainsticks and other therapeutic percussion instruments wash over you whilst you rest on a comfortable yoga mat with cushions and blankets. Therapuetic Sound Baths are proven to relax on a deeper level than other relaxation methods.
Bringing calm to the body and mind, and helping brainwaves lower to levels that are similar to meditation or those experienced just before you fall asleep. The sound can induce a state of deep relaxation and allow you to rest there with the effect that cortisone (i.e. the stress hormone) reduces, blood pressure and heart rates are lowered, potassium & sodium levels in the body are rebalanced and cellular regeneration can take place which, in turn, helps our autonomic nervous system to restore.
After the session, you are invited to share your experience with the group if you wish.”
Sounds pretty harmless right? It’s actually got some science to back it up, too.
The theory goes: brain signals are transmitted through frequencies, kind of like music through a radio. Studies show that these signals, or “brain waves,” correlate to particular states of consciousness such as focus, relaxation, meditation, and sleep. Generally speaking, slower brain waves are associated with more relaxed meditative states, while faster ones correlate to alert and active states.
Scientists are now discovering that brain waves can be modified by externally produced sound frequencies through a process called entrainment—when the frequency of one object synchronizes with the frequency of another. This means sound can be used to tune brainwaves to specific frequencies and achieve desired states of mind.
This likely doesn’t come as a massive surprise, given that you’ve probably had the experience of listening to music and feeling calmer or listening to another piece and feeling pumped up and ready to dance, run or my favourite: mosh.
As for serious psychic healing or anything that mentions clearing space or raising energy or anything else that sounds vaguely woo, while I’m open to it, I’m not making any claims about that here.
But for an hour on a Sunday morning to lay down in a nice-smelling room with several other people and listen to some calming gongs, I thought it was worth a punt.
So I get to the Tree of Life Centre, somewhere I’d passed many times but had yet to venture into, and I was pleasantly surprised. It was nicer than I thought, cosier, less clinical, woo without the need to overdo it.
The lady at reception was lovely and welcoming,also turned out to be the Sound Bather - Ruth. I’d say she was responsible for 80% of my comfort - I really loved her balance of gentleness without any of that hippy guru, holier than thou bullshit. She explained a little about what to expect, and didn’t force any esoteric ideas onto us, just hinted at them, which was perfect.
Everyone was already lying down on their yoga mats when I entered, which was nice because I didn’t have to make eye contact with anyone, always a plus.
We were given a pillow, blanket and bolster so I was very comfy. And we were given a headsup: if any of us start to snore, then give permission to be woken up. The woman next to me said ‘Just wack me’ which instantly made me warm to her.
I said ‘me too’ but really I knew it was highly unlikely I’d be so mellow I’d fall asleep - and actually I doubted whether anyone could.
So the sound bath began. Ruth started with singing bowls, I think, and made her way to the gongs, which were… unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Truly.
After about half an hour, I realised I couldn’t feel my body. In a good way - I was so chilled I couldn’t imagine moving. Which wasn’t ideal, because the nice lady next to me DID fall asleep and DID start to snore. Quite loudly!
So the battle in my head began over whether or not to wake her, at least for the sake of the rest of the group, or to let her be, given that waking a stranger seems harsh unless you think they’ll miss their stop on the bus or train.
I gave her a 3 snore rule, so whenever she made 3 loud snores in a row, I’d gently tap her. Which required me to stir from my glorious stupor, but I learned a lesson: don’t take the place next to snorey mcGee again, no matter how nice she seems.
One more thing to report: visions. Yes, actual scenes happening in front of my closed eyes. OK - it wasn’t ayahuasca-like visions, these were just games our eyes play on us when we’re very relaxed and have nothing else to look at. You might have seen similar when you’re drifting off to sleep.
They’re basically geometric patterns, as well as a strange tunnel-like phenomenon that, depending on what you read, is either a result of awakening the third eye OR a well-known result of phosphenes, an effect that occurs through activation of retinal ganglion cells in a very similar way to how they activate as a response to light. Can also happen when you’ve had a blow to the head, have low blood pressure, stand up too fast or rub your eyes really hard.
But yeah, you could say it’s your third eye chakra opening too.
The bath ended with a rainmaker and rattle, which was less pleasant than the gongs, but I got used to them. It was a nice way to bring us back to the room, and reality I guess.
At the end, Ruth asked if we’d like to talk about our experience, and after a few silent beats (something I cannot STAND) I had to raise my hand. I mumbled something like ‘it was my first time and I’m really surprised by how great it was!’
Not so useful I’m sure, but it was something.
After that we made our way to our feet, slowly, and headed out.
This was the perfect balance of group activity, without any necessary interaction, and it left me in such a good mood all day long.