Sound Bathing is Nothing like Bathing
Yes, the website is called eclectic heart. Yes I feel like I have an eclectic sensibility, but I think sometimes you need a unification point, a spine.
Today in Joshua Tree, I went to a sound bath. I didn’t know what it would be, but the point here is to do things I’ve never done. So, bring it on. The Integratron is famous for these, but I went somewhere else in this little town. I have nothing to compare it to, so please don’t take this as wisdom. Like with all travel, the things I see in front of me are merely a projection of my internal landscape.
I’ve been in J-Tree now for six hours, the stars are up, and I’m happy to be done with the 107-degree heat. Hoopla is busy hunting for scraps from prior visitors on my Airbnb porch. But I can’t help but wonder how this sound bath thing is a thing. I heard such glowing reviews.
I love music, but music has melody, harmony. Even a quality soundtrack has a suite of movements. That’s not a sound bath. The stuff of a sound bath is bowls, bells and gongs each rung in different tones in different lengths of time. Cool, right?
I entered the toasty room for this auditory adventure, and followed all instructions. I lay flat on my yoga mat, eyes closed, easing into the process. In my woo-woo nerdy way, I wondered how the tones aligned to the chakras. I still kindof wonder about that. In the half hour I heard some of the other sound bathers begin to snore, but the greatest relaxation happened for me when it was finally done.
The first note was a low long ring, and in listening I felt a blue-green color in my throat and chest. It went on and on, and my ease leaned into impatience. I began to wonder when it would be done. It was an opening tone, but I felt like after a couple minutes I was good and open.
And then – the abrupt change from that to the next tone, a space-age horror film kind of sound, was jarring. Imagine a wow-wow timber rising and falling. I thought, okay, I guess I’m only supposed to relax for so long. It’s like a night hike through the desert with partial cloud cover. Maybe the relaxation is amped up by the tension?
Then I thought, relax into your visualizations. For me, that’s easy. My overactive mind is always screening new images made of hybrids of the past. So, when the haunting sounds of the last wow-wow tone switched to a suite of new bells, I let my mind go. I think the gong played heavily into this movement. So, naturally, I visualized a Fantasia-like scene. Flowers bloomed, bubbling up in strange psychedelic ooze, and out of one, a Pegasus Unicorn appeared; it was a beauty, a majestic thing. I knew my seven-year-old self would be happy for me. But I kept trying to figure out the name for this kind of animal - does it have a name? I imagined riding the mythical creature over land and water, but then wondered, where is the harness? Do I need one? The Greek god Belleraphon used Athena’s golden bridle to tame Pegasus, and then kill the monster Chimera in the barren scorched earth nearby. Should I reread the myth, I wondered?
Here’s where the snoring of my compatriots began to rise. Another bowl had been added to the mix, and the tone combination was complimentary. I then began to plan dinner, and berate myself for indulging the monkey mind. In a sound bath, I should stop thinking about anything. I should pay attention to my breathing, breathe in, and out. Inhale, exhale. Be here now. Practice gratitude. For a while, it worked.
And then, the minute I felt in the zone, the bells turned. All of a sudden, I heard Nana’s doorbell sound from the house on 38th Street in Sacramento. I knew it wasn’t the doorbell, but the mallets hitting instead of rimming the bowls sounded too similar. I had the visceral urge to get up and let someone in.
And then my tailbone began to throb. And I thought holy hell, I’m a nut-job. Last May, when I broke it again, I had to get an MRI. The horrible sounds of that tube felt like a cocoon of war bombs. Each beat felt far more dangerous than it was. But there I was, in a sound bath, thinking about the power of sound. The point was to relax. Either I’m crazy, or this is just not for me. The sounds rang in eclectic, and I thought, well, sometimes you can go too far.