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Sound bathing to clear your mind

I am one of those people who can’t shut off her brain very easily. Something is always going on up there and it’s never blank.

Which means, among other things, I have trouble sleeping and sometimes concentrating on only one thing at a time.

While some dietary changes helped (weaning off dairy products and no coffee after noon every day), nothing quite does the trick of making me blank, headache free and thinking free the way sound bathing does.

What is a sound bath? It’s a therapeutic session where a person usually lies down on a floor or mat (sometimes in a chair) to relax. Eyes are closed, rooms are darkened; some use eye pillows. A guide will lead what feels like a meditation while usually another will provide sounds. The sounds can be from gongs, Tibetan bowls, didgeridoos or other such instruments.

It usually lasts for about an hour. Some practitioners incorporate aromatherapy. Some play the sounds from a set place in the room while others play near the bodies and heads of those receiving the treatment.

While there isn’t a regular sound bath therapy center in Plumas County, there are on occasion sound therapy offerings — usually on New Year’s Day or the solstices.

Notification of such offerings are usually on flyers around Quincy and on Facebook events. Throughout California, however there are an increasing number of sound bath offerings usually at meditative centers, yoga or reiki centers. I went to my first up here on New Year’s a couple of years ago in Quincy. The experience made me want to look deeper into the therapeutic aspect of it.

The sound baths around here typically take place in people’s homes, where the furniture is all pushed back in a living room and participants lay on the floor on top of sleeping bags or yoga mats. A practitioner and an assistant will serve as the guides for the experience — though it can also be just one person and they do not have to be communal experiences.

Someone will act as a guide — similar to meditation where a person will direct you to clear your mind and focus. In a sound bath however, the emptiness or white noise of daily living is replaced with the sound of various gongs or metal bowls being struck (much like in a Buddhist temple). As the sound grows and washes over the participant (the bath part), it becomes harder and harder for the participant to hold onto thoughts, worries, etc., because the sound itself is overpowering and thus washes clean and clears the mind.

The sessions typically last about an hour.

How often, and how expensive the practice gets is up to the participant. Sound bath sessions run from $30 to $100 across the state (the in-house sessions are  generally cheaper than the ones at business locations). Frequent sound bathers report doing once-a-week sessions to twice-a year-sessions.

One thing participants agree on, however, is that people always want to do it again.

“It’s an amazing experience and it has calmed me down more than anything I’ve ever tried. I leave feeling far less anxious and far more positive about life in general,” said one woman I interviewed who does frequent sound baths in southern California.

I probably do a session roughly four times a year now — that’s once every season — I wish I had time for more.

The elation and relaxation during and afterwards is indescribable. People often talk about finding emotional resolution to issues that have been bothering them or having a sense of assuredness at the end.

Also, forever after when you hear those sounds accidentally somewhere in your daily life, your mind seems to go back to the calm you had then. It can’t be explained more than that. It has to be experienced.

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