A couple nights ago a friend invited me to a healing sound bath. What’s that? Yeah, that’s what I asked, too. I had no idea what to expect. But since I’ll try anything once, off to the city I went. Picture this:
A long line of people formed outside of a small church in the gritty and uber hipster Mission district of my favorite city (San Francisco for those not in the know). Men and women from all walks of life stood in line carrying some form of comfort: blankets, pillows, yoga mats, etc. Entering a church this way at 8pm on a weeknight is not really something you see every day. But this is San Francisco, so not a soul took a glance at any of us. We were warmly greeted, checked in and told to grab a blanket or an eye pillow, or whatever we needed to feel cozy and relaxed. I had been forewarned so I was prepared with my comfort accoutrements.
Entering the chapel was instantly soothing to all five senses. The soothing violet glow of lights were low and filled the chapel. The pews had been pushed aside so that there was just a big open inviting space. Smells of smudging sage and incense wafted through the air. The smoke whirling around the room made me feel like I could almost hold it in my hand. Soothing music played in the background while hushed greetings were exchanged between friends. I sauntered on over to the table with samples of organic chocolate nibs with their velvety lusciousness tasted like pure heaven in my mouth. Oh, yeah. I knew I’d made a good choice coming.
So we all staked out our little 2×6 foot yoga mat sized space in the room. My friend scored a great spot right in front of a humongous gong situated on what would normally be the minister’s altar. We were told to relax, lay back, breathe and just let the sound wash over us. But wait. What’s that smell? Yep. You guessed it. Someone should have refrained from eating burritos before lying side by side in such close proximity. Seriously? Not exactly how I wanted to start this experience, but whatever. I settled into the fact that I’d be smelling second hand dinner for the next 90 minutes. This awesome dude named Guy Douglas was going to bang some gongs and play some singing bowls. I was super excited to receive my first healing sound bath, farts and all.
Some of my friends tease my hippie-dippie yoga lovin’ mantra makin’ Tibetan bowl bangin self. I don’t care. I’m high strung. I choose alternatives to calm my always organizing and planning list making high flying speed of light mind. Instead of toxic pharmaceuticals, I try to choose alternative approaches. Chanting instead of Klonopin. Prayer instead of Paxil. Breathing instead of BuSpar. Visualizing instead of Valium. Eagle pose instead of Effexor. I pop organic dark chocolate cacao nibs instead of breaking off pieces of Xanax bars. Don’t get me wrong. Pharmaceuticals have their place and I will never judge those who use them. I’ve taken all of the aforementioned medicines with some measure of success. But I now choose to attempt to live with myself in all my varied states of anxiety, stress, euphoria and bipolardom without fogging my mind and clogging my system with manmade chemicals. I choose to feel my life rather than to numb it away.
But I digress. The sound bath.
As I lay there among 100+ souls squished yoga mat to yoga mat, comfy blanket covering me, I feel myself relax. Deeply relax. It started peacefully and then quickly crescendoed to a booming baritone gong that I seriously felt through my spine. Read that again. My spine felt the sound. Each gong slid into another sound…a crystal bowl, bells, rain sticks, and I think I heard a didgeridoo as I drifted between total awareness and a blissful meditative state. I’m truly not sure and I don’t care. It was lovely. As I reflect about it today, one thing strikes me that I just can’t seem to let go. I felt sound. Really felt it. I felt like I was riding waves of peacefulness. You know how an old song can conjure up a memory so vivid that you feel like you’re reliving it? Or how a smell can take you back in time to your first love? You’ve felt it, too. I’m sure of it. Feeling a sound, a scent or a memory.
Today it has me thinking about how I walk through this nutty thing called life. I can’t help but think about how I feel the loss of a friend who died from cancer too young. I feel the pain of the 14 families in San Bernardino who have lost loved ones. They were shot down by a nutjob couple whose marriage vows must have included snuffing out the lives of innocent people. I feel the fear that Parisians must feel when they go to their cafes and walk along their beautiful avenues. I feel a mother’s rage when she must bury her child. I don’t mean I feel for them. I feel it in my spine, coursing through my veins, weighing on my shoulders and making my heart heavy. I feel it just as you feel the bass in music when it’s turned up too high…but deeper. I feel it just as a mother feels love at the sight of her newborn child. Is this empathy? It’s not sympathy, that’s something totally different. I know many of you feel it. Sometimes it sucks. It can be heartbreaking, gut wrenching, unfair, icky crap! Sometimes it makes me want to scream and yell obscenities at the unfairness of it all. Sometimes it makes me want to curl up into a fetal position and cry a lifetime of tears. It makes me want to resort to the mind numbing comfort of those Xanax bars and pretty little Klonopin and Valium treats rather than feel all of this pain.
And then he bangs the gong. Wait. All of this pain, all of this suffering, all of this feeling…there is a good side, too. I feel the good things, too. I felt that gong. I watched my son give flowers to a girl tonight and could feel the sweet friendship they share. I look into my husband’s beautiful eyes and feel the love in them. He still gives me the shivers. I feel my mother’s love every day even though she passed twelve years ago. I feel my grandmother’s touch as I cooked dinner tonight. I feel the rays of sun warm me from the inside out. I feel the ocean waves when I’m standing far away from them on the beach. I feel the earth gobbling up every drop of this precious rain that falls tonight. And I thank the universe for being given the privilege to FEEL all of it. The good, the bad and the ugly.
And then he bangs the gong and the chimes tickle me one last time. It’s over. People start stretching with graceful movements. Some awake from their deep sleep. Some are gently crying. Many are smiling. Strangers exchange warm smiles with each other. I feel relaxed, moved, and simply fabulous. I’ve even lost the scent of burritos. I thank my friend for inviting me. I feel like I’m flying. I hope I can hold onto this feeling for a long time to come.