Sound Can Heal

It Can Restore Your Balance and Energy

Sound as Healing

We’ve all had the experience of listening to music or the sounds of nature and finding them deeply moving and relaxing. It is not surprising to think about sound as having the possibility to heal or help us to restore our sense of balance and energy. Sound healing is one of the oldest-known healing forms. The first person credited with using music to promote healing was Pythagoras, the Greek philosoper (ca. 500 B.C.). Mitchell Gaynor, M.D., in his book “The Healing Power of Sound: Recovery from Life Threatening Illness Using Sound, Voice, and Music,” quotes Pythagoras as saying that “each and every atom produces a particular sound on account of its movement, rhythm, or vibration.” 

Physics tells us that the whole universe is in a state of vibration. All of our cells, our organs, are vibrating, as are all other beings around us. Gaynor (an oncolgist affiliated with Cornell University and New York Hospital) explains that when the more powerful vibrations of one object are projected upon a second object with a similar frequency, the second object begins to vibrate in resonance with the first object. That is called entrainment. Entrainment was discovered in 1665 by a Dutch scientist who observed that two pendulum clocks hung side by side would of their own accord begin to swing to the same rhythm. 

Physicists have duplicated this discovery and have also learned that entrainment occurs in a multitude of ways. Gaynor cites examples of how the human body responds to sound through the process of entrainment. For example, research has demonstrated that babies who fall asleep to the sound of lullabies begin to breathe in rhythm with the music. Again, in a series of studies on how music affects the autonomic nervous system, participants’ heart rates were found to respond to both the volume and the rhythm of the music, and in some cases the heart rate or respiratory rhythm synchronized with the beat. Research has also shown that women have lowered responses to pain while in childbirth during periods when music is played.

Gaynor posits that, through the process of entrainment, sound can transform us on an emotional and spiritual level as well as a physiological level. We know from our own experience that music can relax us, excite us, or move us to emotional states such as joy or sadness. Other kinds of sounds, such as toning (using vowel sounds to alter vibrations in the body), singing very simple chants, and listening to the vibrations of Tibetian or crystal singing bowls have also been found to create a sense of calm centeredness that resonates thoughout the body. Achieving a state of calmness and deep relaxation is also highly conducive to healing.

In today’s busy world we are often subjected to sounds like honking horns, ringing phones, television programs, and radio broadcasts that can create stress, but we do not often seek out sounds that are healing or centering. Consider deliberately listening to sounds that are soothing and promote a reflective, meditative state – even if for just a few moments – as a way of calming and focusing your mind. 

Notice how sounds that are relaxing or centering affect your level of energy. Experiment by listening to different kinds of sounds: nature sounds, classical music, and other kinds of uplifting music. Try making sounds like humming, sighing, singing, or chanting and notice their effect on your body and mind.

Sound can produce a powerful meditative state. Simply by listening to certain sounds we are able to alter our consciousness quickly and effortlessly. Certain sounds stimulate the theta waves in our brains, much as traditional sitting meditation does. When theta waves are present our bodies move into a deeply relaxed and healing state, allowing us to rest, rejuvenate, and center. In this state we have the opportunity to receive insight that is difficult to access when we are rushing around in our busy lives.  

When you find yourself tense, anxious, or under stress, try taking a few minutes to calm and center yourself before continuing. Consider music and other sounds as a resource to help return you to a positive, productive state. We live in a sea of sound. It’s up to us to choose when to surf the exhilerating deep water waves and when to rest in the gentle shallows.  

Ronda Bresnick Hauss is a licensed clinical social worker and the founder of the Quiet Waters Center for Trauma, Stress and Resilience, on Capitol Hill. She uses an integrative and holistic approach to psychotherapy, addressing the connection between the mind, body, and spirit through the use of traditional talk therapy, hypnosis, meditation, visualization, and creative nonverbal techniques. She can be reached at 202-544-5050 or at www.quietwaterscenter.com.


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