Karen Seva Music Photograph by Martin Piers Dunkerton
Traveling at the Speed of Sound
Before there were eyes to see
when a vast darkness still permeated the void,
All rested beneath a firmament of Sound.”
– Jeff Volk
Everything makes music: the trees, the flowers, the birds, the stones, even human beings. Some music we can hear and some music we are just finding ways to translate into audible tones for our ears. Yet, all is part of the great symphony of creation. For all living beings, when our music is in tune, there is a state of health in the body and in our environment. When our music is out of tune, it results in dissonance or dis-ease. This is part of the essence of the practice of sound healing.
Sound healing is an ancient practice for bringing health to the body, aligning the mind, and accessing the unseen world. Science has been catching up to what mystics, shamans, and healers have been taught by secret esoteric lineages and by the earth and cosmos itself. Sound vibration has been used in tribes and cultures for healing, connecting community, and gathering in ceremony. In the lore of Atlantean and Lemurian civilizations, even Ancient Egyptian culture, it is said that there were those who had the capacity to create with the power of sound vibration—to materialize matter out of seemingly thin air. Druid and Celtic stories tell of high priests and priestesses who lived at one with the forest; knowing the songs of the nature devas and how to walk between worlds by singing to them.
The memory that has been stored in our bones is reawakening; which is perhaps why the appeal and popularity of these modalities is increasing at such a rapid rate.
Sound Bath at Red Mountain Resort
Why Sound Healing and Why Now?
Sound is one of our five senses. Yet, it is so much more. Sound is audible vibration. We receive these vibrations as music, language, or as information, such as an indicator that there’s a storm outside. Sound vibration is the music that life makes. When dusting off our physics textbooks, we remember that everything is vibration. Sound is the vibration that we hear. Those vibrations are constant: heard and unheard. Everything on the planet and in the universe is characterized by different gradient changes in vibration. Our thoughts, feelings, words, and moods are all vibrational states.
Scientists and mystics agree on the power of sound vibration. Pioneers in the field of sound, including Dr. Masaru Emoto, Fabien Maman
, and Dr. Hans Jenny
have studied the effects of sound and intention on physical matter. They have demonstrated the impact of sound down to the most elemental building blocks. The results are conclusive: Sound affects our bodies, minds, emotions, and energy.
Sound Healing is based on the principle that particular sound frequencies have the capacity to bring the body into its natural state of harmony and balance; into its natural state of health, wellness and perception. Hazrat Inayat Khan, a 19th century Sufi mystic, speaks about vibration as a sea, in which man lives, and out of which his successes, failures, health, affairs, and all conditions of life are formed. Our thoughts, feelings, and experiences all exist along a vibrational bandwidth.
We look around the world and see increasing reports of global unrest: economic decline, political dissension, and environmental devastation. We are experiencing a time unprecedented in human history, in which the global community is united on a mass scale through accelerated rates of technological advancements. Yet, this same technological upwelling is creating a void in the quality of human connection and belonging unlike ever before in history. We see this in increasing rates of mass shootings, and the rise in depression and anxiety-related disorders.
At this time, ancient and modern technologies are emerging to assist us in harmonizing our bodies, minds, and emotions with the earth and the cosmos.
Here we stand, in this time and space looking for answers of how to be better humans. How to be healthier. How to be happier. How to be more successful. Sound brings us back to harmony, connection, inspiration, and to dreaming again of what is possible. Isn’t this what we are all longing for?
Sound Healer Karen Seva photographed by Martin Piers Dunkerton
Sound Healing: 5 Hints for Selecting the Experience
With so many groups and practitioners offering a wide variety of sound healing modalities, how do we know which is the right one for us? What are some underlying principles of the practice? How can we follow best practices for sound healing? Here are some of my suggestions for using discernment when choosing a sound healing experience.
Look for Love.
Sound is a transmitter of intention. Sound is a carrier of love. Love is the fabric that weaves all life together in a harmonious tapestry. We are each energy transmitting stations: giving and receiving energy at a constant rate. When we are held in a field of love, our nervous system is able to relax and our natural self healing mechanism is activated. Love opens the heart. When the heart is open, life works. It is truly love that heals, not a person. A true healer is simply a conduit of divine love. Look for practitioners who radiate love, beauty, kindness, peace and calm. High on humility, low on ego. The truest master is the servant of the universe.
Trust yourself. Pay attention to what you feel.
Do you feel a resonance? Does the sound offering or practitioner resonate with you? Does this feel like something you’d like to do and will benefit from? Trusting your instincts is an essential part of the process as you will be putting yourself in the hands of the energetic container that the practitioner has established. Working with sound has the capacity to activate the teacher within your own heart. The pathway of this inner teacher is one of self-love and self-trust. So, trust yourself. Put yourself in places that are right for you. The experience will be maximized when you feel comfortable and aligned with what is happening.
Understand the practitioners’ connection.
What is the practitioners’ background? Are they connected with a particular lineage? Do they channel? Is the person aligned with something greater than the self? What is the practitioner’s goal for the sound healing work? Understanding why someone does what they do can ultimately inform you as to whether this is something that would further you on your own path.
Select sacred space.
There are a variety of ways to set sacred space for sound healing. You may want to choose a sound healer or experience whose methods resonate with your personal spiritual practice. For example, some practitioners use aromatherapy or clearing herbs such as sage, palo santo, or essential oils. You may enjoy smoke or aromatherapy or you may be sensitive to it, so choose well. Other people chant or use light frequencies, ring chimes, do Chi Gong, or call in the directions (the energy of north, south, east, and west). Sound healing set in energetic power spots, in a ceremony or festival, or at a healing spa or retreat center can amplify the feeling of sacred space.
Tools and instruments of sound healing.
Some of the many tools of modern-day sound healing include (but are not limited to) gongs, crystal singing bowls, Tibetan bowls, digeridoos, monochord, chimes, bells, rattles, drums, guitar, bass, voice, tuning forks, rain sticks, Native American flutes, hang drum, and more. Each instrument is expertly tuned to align the body, mind, and spirit. Sometimes the sounds can feel uncomfortable. Crystal singing bowls sometimes resonate with a loud drone. Gongs are metal beings. Each instrument has a different purpose, such as clearing, attuning, sweetening, et cetera. Also, the flow of a sound healing experience is like a symphonic composition with a beginning, middle, and end. One of the tools of sound healing is the composition itself. In a sound healing, pay attention how you feel once the experience is complete.
Drum Circle Photo Courtesy of Red Mountain Resort
4 Categories of Sound Healing
Chanting and Singing
In a field full of magical tools and instruments tuned to the Earth, the Sun, and every chakra in between, the most powerful tool for sound healing happens to be the human voice. Mantra Meditation is one of the oldest forms of sound healing. Languages such as Sanskrit, Gurmukhi, Hebrew, and other ancient or indigenous languages are structured so that each syllable activates the energy meridians of the body, both on the upper palette of the mouth, as well as through the navel center. Singing and chanting is self-generated sound healing. As one intones these sacred sounds, the vibrations reverberate throughout the sinuses, muscles, organs, nervous system, brain, and even the bones. We can literally alter our DNA through the power of chanting. Some global healing and balancing practices include Native chanting, Gregorian chanting, Tibetan throat singing, and overtone singing.
A sound bath is a modern and eclectic offering. It is potentially composed of “all of the above” when it comes to voices and instruments. A sound bath combines different instruments and styles for the purpose of removing blockages, harmonizing the chakras, recalibrating the brain and nervous system, and encouraging visioning and self-reflection. Sound baths can induce an intuitive guided altered state, immersing the participant in a sea of vibration, much like a deep theta state concert for the six senses.
Sound healing can be a part of many shamanic journeying or experiences with a shaman, shamanic practitioner, or shamanic healer. The purpose of a shamanic journey is to connect with the spirits of the natural world and the unseen world. The word shaman actually refers to a psychoactive mushroom carrying healer from Siberia. However, in most “Shamanic Journeys” you do find neither mushrooms nor Siberians. So then, we apply a more loose definition of the term, to mean “walking between worlds.” In many traditional cultures, it was the songs, the drums, and the sounds that were the portal to the “otherworld.”
There are many specific sound healing techniques, including: Tama-Do, Vibroacoustic Sound Therapy, Biofield Tuning, Nordoff-Robbins, and Neurological Music Therapy.
Karen Seva MDiv, MSW, CPC is a best-selling author of The Awakening World, healer, life coach, musician, sound healer, activist, and mom. She has performed music concerts, sound healings, taught yoga classes and workshops, and has coached and consulted with individuals, couples, families, and groups. Karen is the founder of the nonprofit “Sing the World Awake” combining music, yoga, indigenous practices, and environmental education for children. She teaches “Breathwork + Sound” classes at Bhakti Yoga Shala and at Naam Yoga in Los Angeles. Through her work, she assists people in opening their voice and remembering their true nature: karenseva.com.