All day long, every day, we are inundated by sound, but it's random: from iPods, television, traffic, sound systems, chatter. What if it were balanced and focused, harmonized with intent to heal and relieve stress? What would it sound like? And would it promote health?
Meredith McFadden of Talent has built a counseling-healing practice around this exotic concept, using drums, rattles, bells, her own singing and chanting — and the haunting sound of large, crystal bowls that she sets to vibrating in seemingly magic ways.
"Everything has vibrations," says McFadden, "and sound waves have immense effects on overall health. Sound healing is proving to be one of the most direct, relevant modalities for de-stressing, raising immunity, improving functioning of organs and adjusting chemical imbalances that affect mood and cognitive skills."
While such claims from sound healers may not be scientifically established, the proof is in the pudding for client Austin Ferris.
"It had two components. One was spiritual, calling forth my deeper longings and recentering me at the soul level. The other was practical and physical. It felt as good or better than a good massage, but all through my body. I'm completely de-stressed," says Ferris.
It's easy to describe what happens in sound healing but hard to say why. It's kind of like a special present or delightful journey, like spoiling yourself at the spa or going on a picnic and having someone serenade you by the creek on the first nice day of spring. And although it's decidedly "spiritual," you don't have to believe anything. It works whether you believe in it or not.
It goes like this: You sit and talk with McFadden about what's going on lately in your life — the issues, frustrations, feelings and where you'd like to get to if you could live your best-case scenario. You pull a tarot card, sometimes three of them for your issue, action and outcome. This is optional. She lights incense and calls in your guiding spirits, angels or whatever you want to call them or it. You lie on her massage table and can cover your eyes with an eye pillow.
From then on, it's all about sound. As McFadden walks around you, intuiting what will work for you, she drums, chants, rings tiny Tibetan cymbals and rattles "to break up the fields and make your aura porous." Then one by one, she activates and harmonizes the seven chakras, or energy centers, located up and down the body by evoking amazing, ear-dazzling tones from her singing, crystal bowls.
Each bowl has a different tone that resonates with the natural vibration of each chakra, explains McFadden, noting, "When the brain and nervous system are agitated, the brain waves are uneven. The goal is to cue them, to entrain them in their stable rhythm, activated but steady, de-stressing the whole body."
The practice of sound-healing, says McFadden, is an ancient one, seen in a range of tribal, indigenous rituals, such as drumming, chanting, rhythmic dances around a fire, prayerful group-singing and shamanic journeying. It's been revived as a modern, Western practice since about the mid-1990s, with training available.
McFadden's wall sports several certificates from sound-healing seminars in Santa Fe, N.M., alongside her public school-teaching certificate and master's degree in psychology from Portland's Lewis & Clark College.
McFadden smiles as she acknowledges the "woo-woo" component of sound-healing, but the hard-headed, university-trained therapist says, "Hey, everything in the universe vibrates and has its optimal rate level, and if this reduces stress and ill health and improves mood, then I'm going to help people with it."
Ferris agrees, saying, "It opens me up. I'm more comfortable with all my emotions, at ease, confident. The surprising thing is that I thought it would be all ethereal, but I had a strong reaction to it.
"We're all familiar with how high-pitched sound can shatter a window. There's a lot of physical power in sound. It penetrates everything. It goes through blood, bones, every cell — and those crystal bowls, they have the strongest effect."
Ferris likens it to "a dream, a vision, a journey — and I definitely felt a lot of angels and spiritual animals visiting me. The second time, I was in a crystal cave, a healing cave."
As for the "healing" part of sound-healing, says McFadden, "Any disease comes out of a less than optimal rate of vibration. In sound-healing, it uses that vibration that brings the body back to its normal rate of vibration. It does it by entraining, coaxing or cueing it to the ideal rate. The proof is in how it feels."
In addition to one-on-one sessions, McFadden presents one-day "playshops" (workshops), posted on www.soundmoveswonder.com. She can be contacted at 503-750-6782.