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What is sound?

There are many definitions for sound. Wikipedia defines sound scientifically as “a mechanical wave that is an oscillation of pressure transmitted through some medium (like air or water), composed of frequencies which are within the range of hearing,” and in Greek mythology “Ekho (Greek: Ἠχώ, Ēkhō, “echo” from ἦχος (ēchos), “sound”) was an Oread (a mountain nymph) who loved her own voice. Zeus loved consorting with beautiful nymphs and visited them on Earth often. Eventually, Zeus’s wife, Hera, became suspicious, and came from Mt. Olympus in an attempt to catch Zeus with the nymphs.”

Music is sound, but sound is not always music. One could say that music is organized and/or intentional sound.

Different ways to use sound in healing

The use of sound and particularly sound healing, has roots that go back tens of thousands of years and it still has a significant role in every culture in our planet. Every religion uses sound and voice as a significant part of its ceremonies, but sound itself is still universal. The early chants of Tibetan Bon tradition are still sung today, as well as Sanskrit chants in India, Icaros healing songs in Peru and Joiks by the Sami people in Lapland. Many westerners have adapted these old traditions and sound healing methods as well, mixing and expanding both the cultural and healing aspects of these sounds.

We use sound in a variety of ways. In most religious or spiritual settings, sound is used for evoking, honoring or connecting with the spirits. We listen to or perform sounds to express variety of emotions from sadness to joy, anger to calm. We also energize ourselves or others with sound. We sing to babies or at the bedside of elders in the hospice. Even astronomers use sound waves to ignite solar ring of fire in space. We use ultrasound in a variety of ways in the hospitals. If you spend time in anechoic chamber (room without echo), you can hear your nervous system and the liquids moving in your body. There simply is no place to hide from sound.

Links to my community, friends and collaborators

Some great talks about sound, meditation and wellbeing

Julian Treasure: The 4 ways sound affects us

Evelyn Glennie: How to truly listen

Yoav Medan: Ultrasound surgery – healing without cuts

Anthony Holland: Scattering cancer with resonant frequencies

David Perez-Martinez: Use of sound in psycho therapy practice

TedEd: How stress affects our brain

Richard Reed Parry: Music for heart and breath

Peter Gabriel: Life lessons from a rock star

Richard Davidson: Wellbeing is a skill

Research and studies on health benefits of meditation

Meditation is nothing new. It has been practiced all over the world in different formats for thousands of years. In the recent years, there has also been more and more scientific studies conducted concentrating on the health benefits.

Reduces Blood Pressure and stress

Researchers say, that high-risk patients who meditated cut their risk of heart attacks and strokes roughly by half compared with a group of similar patients who were given more conventional education. Other benefits of meditation follow from stress reduction, which could cause changes in the brain that cut stress hormones like cortisol and dampen the inflammatory processes associated with atherosclerosis. (Study by Dr Schneider 2009, Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, New York Times November 20, 2009) (link).

Stress release, memory and learning

Researchers reported that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for 8 weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in part of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. (Study by Britta Hölzel, a psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Jan. 30, 2011 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging) (link).

Allocating attention

Researchers have found neuroscience evidence that the ability to release thoughts that pop into mind frees the brain to attend to more rapidly changing things and events in the world at large. (Study by Richard Davidson, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin) (link).

Research on music and sound healing

Sound therapy induces relaxation

The use of music as a means of inducing positive emotions and subsequent relaxation has been studied extensively by researchers. A great deal of this research has centered on the use of music as a means of reducing feelings of anxiety and stress as well as aiding in the relief of numerous pathologies. (Study by Elliot Salamon, Minsun Kim, John Beaulieu and George B. Stefano at Neuroscience Research Institute, State University of New York)

Music gives us an oxytocin boost

Oxytocin is a neuropeptide affiliated with breast-feeding and sexual contact, and is known to play an important role in increasing bonding and trust between people. Now researchers are discovering that music may affect oxytocin levels in the body.

In one experiment involving a breed of “singing” mice, mice that had their oxytocin receptor sites artificially knocked out by researchers engaged in fewer vocalizations and showed marked social deficits when compared to normal mice, suggesting a link between singing, oxytocin, and socialization. In a study with humans, singing for 30 minutes was shown to significantly raise oxytocin levels in both amateur and professional singers, regardless of how happy or unhappy the experience made them. Perhaps this explains why new mothers often sing lullabies to their newborn babies: it may help encourage bonding through oxytocin release.

Researchers have also found that listening to music releases oxytocin. In one study, patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery were asked to listen to experimenter-selected ‘soothing’ music for 30 minutes one day after surgery. When tested later, those who’d listened to music had higher levels of serum oxytocin compared to those who were assigned to bed-rest alone. Though the study was more focused on the relaxation properties of music than on oxytocin specifically, it still suggests that music directly impacts oxytocin levels, which, in turn, affect our ability to trust and act generously toward others—factors that increase our social connection.

Music strengthens our ”theory of mind” and empathy

In one study (2009), Koelsch and a colleague hooked up participants to an fMRI machine and had them listen to a piece of music that they were told was either composed by a human or by a computer (even though it was actually the same piece of music). When participants listened to music they believed was composed by a human, their “theory of mind” cortical network lit up, while it didn’t under the computer condition. This suggests that our brain doesn’t just process sound when we hear music, but instead tries to understand the intent of the musician and what’s being communicated.

In a more recent study (2013), a group of primary-school-aged children were exposed to musical games with other children for one hour a week over the course of an academic year, while two control groups of same-aged children received either no games or games with the same purpose, but involving drama or storytelling instead of music. All of the children were given various empathy measures at the beginning and end of the year; but only the music group significantly increased their empathy scores, suggesting that music may have played a pivotal role in their empathy development.

Recommended books about sound healing:

  • John Beaulieu: Human tuning, sound healing with tuning forks – anything you need to know about use and effect of tuning forks and beyond
  • Mitchell L. Gaynor, MD: The healing power of sound, recovery from life-threatening illness using sound, voice and music – well written and easy reading book about sound healing including many powerful practices
  • Louise Montello: Essential musical intelligence – full of great exercises
  • Silvia Nakkach: Free your voice, awaken to life through singing – a must have book to rediscover the power of your voice. Full of excellent exercises
  • Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche: Seven guided practices to clear obstacles, cultivate positive qualities and uncover your inherent wisdom, Tibetan Sound Healing – this book explains in detail one of my favorite and very powerful sound meditation practice

Other interesting books:

  • Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. and Efrem Korngold, L.Ac., O.M.D: Between heaven and earth, a guide to Chinese medicine – well written book about Chinese medicine
  • Ann Marie Chiasson, M.D. and Andrew Weil M.D: Energy Healing: The Essentials of Self-Care
  • Stanislav Grof: Healing our deepest wounds, the holotropic paradigm shift – read the concept from the Master himself
  • Baird Hersey: The practice of nada yoga
  • Karla McLaren: The language of emotions, what your feelings are trying to tell you – a different approach how you can build a useful relationship with your emotions
  • John O’Donohue: Anam Cara, a book of celtic wisdom – no doubt the best book about love and friendship I have ever read
  • Swami Rama, Rudoph Ballentine, Alan Hymes: Science of breath
  • Reginald Ray: Touching enlightenment, finding realization in the body
  • David Whyte: Crossing the unknown sea, work as a pilgrimage of identity – excellent reading if you are planning for a big courier change

Articles in newspapers and magazines

Some great movies:

  • Music and Alzheimers – Alive Inside, dir Michael Rossato-Bennett
  • Music and autism – The Horse Boy, dir. Michel Orion Scott
  • Documentary on Tom Kenyon, Sound healer – Song of the new earth
  • Documentary on Tibetan folk music and its’ power over politics Tibet in Song, dir. Ngawang Choephel
  • Unconsciousness and health – The Edge of Dreaming, dir Amy Hardie
  • Incredible man made caves in New Mexico, documentary of Ra Paulette – The Cave digger, dir Jeffrey Karoff

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