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A few weeks ago, I went with a group of friends on an adventure to the desert. It all started because two very talented friends, Rufus Wainwright and his sister Lucy, were playing a show at Pappy and Harriets in Pioneertown, California.
One quality that really struck me while I was on the road with Rufus was his natural ability to create adventure wherever he goes. It's a beautiful gift which comes from his sense of wonder and openness to exploring the world.
Rufus had arranged a visit to a domed building called the Integratron. But first, we all hiked out to a gigantic boulder known (surprisingly) as Big Rock. This was the birthplace of the Integratron back in the 1950s.
According to the story, a guy named George Van Tassel was meditating under Big Rock one night when he was visited by aliens. George was an aeronautical engineer who said the aliens gave him instructions on how to create an age-defying machine. He worked on it for 17 years, never managing to complete it before he died suddenly in 1978. The instructions mysteriously vanished.
Eventually, the Integratron was turned into a chamber for sound healing. So, after our visit to Big Rock we went there for a session. If you’ve never participated in a sound healing session, crystal bowls of varying size are placed next to each other and played by circling the outside rim, which causes a sound vibration. Some say this sound vibration has special healing properties, and the environment of the Integratron is said to heighten the healing effect.
We all lay in a circular formation with our heads towards the center of the dome while the sound bounced off the walls in interesting and disorienting ways. The vibrations were as intense as sitting on top of a bass amp. You could feel it through your whole body! The session lasted about 45 minutes.
I can’t speak to the truth of any claims about the Integratron or even about sound healing. But, as a meditation trainer, I could immediately see the value in the experience. You may be familiar with the Buddhist term "impermanence." In the practice of meditation, the flow of impermanence is more than just an intellectual understanding that change happens in your life. It’s experiential, right now in this moment. We begin to discover ourselves and our world as being in a constant state of flux.
For many meditators, this is detectable in the body as a deeply pleasant tingly, wavy or bubbly flow of energy. This flow of energy is pointing us toward our true nature. When we know the flow of impermanence completely, we experience the absence of separation between ourselves and the world, even between being and non-being. We experience change as the only true constant. We recognize nothingness, pregnant with the possibility of all things, as being our true nature. This realization liberates us from the constricting, yet familiar, habit of having a limited identity. The meditative path is about recognizing our true nature over and over, with greater and greater awareness.
But for many of us, the path from our ordinary mindset to liberation can seem like a daunting journey. So, from my perspective, the true value of an experience like sound healing is its ability to heighten your awareness of impermanence. When your whole body vibrates in response to sound waves, you're sensitive to the flow of impermanence. You are experiencing yourself as porous and resonant.
A sound healing session is ceremonial, treating sound in a novel and sacred way. If your goal is liberation, the key is to use the sound waves as a path to greater insight. Rather than viewing the experience as conditional, or placing the experience outside yourself, you can treat sound healing as a unique opportunity to discover your true, formless nature. Then the sound is healing on the deepest level.