This sonic meditation practice is the newest way to get Zen.
Let me be clear: I am the least Zen person in the world. I don’t meditate (despite having multiple meditation apps on my phone). When I do find myself in a yoga class, I am never really fully in the moment. Deep breathing. Sitting quietly. Draining my brain of all thoughts. I. Just. can’t. My mind is in a constant state of frenzy—which is why I thought it might be worth trying the mindful meditation practice known as sound bath therapy.
Never heard of it? A sound bath involves letting sonic waves (or vibrations) produced by Tibetan singing bowls wash over you in an effort to activate your mind, body and spirit—and melt away pent-up stress. "[Sound baths] are the highway to entering a meditative state of consciousness," explains Abigail DeVine, a yoga instructor and massage therapist who is proficient in vibrational sound and energy work. "The sound acts like a beacon, calming the noise of our mind toward relaxation, peace, and tranquility."
Sound baths are also said to help improve sleep and relieve emotional pain—and who couldn't use those perks, right?
So, I headed over to Bode NYC for a session led by DeVine, who notes that this type of guided meditation is especially good for newbies because you are essentially letting another person do the driving for you. Dressed in white with gold body paint on her face and her hair wrapped up in a turban, DeVine sat at the front of the room with seven Tibetan singing bowls of varying sizes—each representing one of the seven Chakras—arranged in a semi-circle in front of her. “When you leave here you, will feel like Hakuna Matata,” she announced to the class, referencing the "no worries" Swahili catch phrase from the ever-popular Disney movie The Lion King.
Sitting crossed-legged on yoga mats, we began our mindful journey with breath work, inhaling deeply and chanting "om" on the exhale. We repeated this sequence three times, and then were instructed to lay down on our mats with our heads toward the center of the room, with small towels placed over our eyes.
DeVine began running a small mallet along one of the bowls. I later learned it was the bowl tied to the root Chakra, which is associated with feelings of safety, security, and being grounded.
A melodic pattern emerged. I breathed in and out deeply, trying to surrender to the sound. The tones changed throughout the session as DeVine manipulated the bowl; sometimes they were loud and bold, others times softer. There was even a moment when I felt DeVine standing over me striking the bowl. She had mentioned before class that sometimes energy will pull her towards certain people during a session. I guess my root Chakra was in need of some extra healing.
After about 45 minutes, I sat up slowly in a groggy state. I will admit that I dozed off briefly and caught myself snoring a couple of times. (I often do this during massages and have been told it is a compliment to the masseuse. So let’s just say I paid DeVine the highest compliment that night.) Oddly enough, though, I did feel extremely relaxed, more so than I had in a long time. I also felt “altered.” I am not sure how to explain it exactly, but something just felt changed within me. DeVine noted that when you're body and mind relax so quickly and deeply, it releases all sorts of invisible trapped energies and feelings. Also, it took a solid 10 or so minutes before my mind began racing again, so kudos for that.
After the sound bath, DeVine facilitated a 30-minute purification exercise focused on the second Chakra, which is all about creation, connection, and intimacy. "The purification exercise allows us to practice peace and forgiveness in the present moment, making room for us to be our best, highest self," she said. While the idea seems great, this is where things got a little woo-woo for me.
We were asked to think about five people who have caused us pain, then narrow that number to three and eventually one. DeVine instructed us to close our eyes and imagine that the crown of our head was open, and there was a white light shining into it. We were to focus on the white light until it turned blue. We were then to imagine that this person was sitting in front of us, and think about all of the bad things he or she had done, and then swallow all of that pain into a flower inside of us. Next, shower this person who hurt us with kind thoughts until they too turned blue—and then release everything, all of the pain, negative feelings, and anything else unpleasant associated with this person.
While I did focus and do the exercise, it was just way too intense for me. White light. Blue light. Swallow the pain in a flower inside. Huh? I don't think I was really ready to commit on that level to a meditative practice, especially on a Saturday evening. (Perhaps if I ever do, I'll be able to rid myself of some of the "stuff" from my past that is probably still plaguing me.)
All in all, though, the experience was quite soothing. And I would totally do the sound bath again, but maybe a solo journey next time, which DeVine says are "customized to your personal needs, allowing you to focus your energy to reveal your blocks according to the Chakras."
I'm thinking I'd like to see how my energy feels when it isn't co-mingling with others—if that's even a thing.