Primrose Haven Retreats

Background to Sound Healing - the power of sound and rhythm

The Ancient Healer

Virtually every culture has used sound for healing and transformation. The ancient Greeks had sound healing temples; the Egyptians and Mayans acoustically designed pyramids and buildings; shamans have used the voice, drums, rattles and didgeridoos for healing and travelling to spirit worlds to attain power. Holy people and monks of all denominations have chanted to aid meditation and raise spiritual and healing energies. Song and chant have been used globally to honour and connect at occasions such as seasonal festivals, births, adulthood, marriage and death. The ancient practice of Tonsingen involved chanting whilst stirring a potion, which was later distributed on the land to improve plant vigour and growth.

The Creator and Maintainer of our Existence

In many traditions, it is believed that sound was before everything. For the Aborigines, the creator-ancestors of the dreamtime sang the world into existence; for Christians - in the beginning was the Word. The beliefs of the Egyptians, Vedic Indians, Plato, Sumerians, Chinese and Babylonians consider that music was the master metaphor for creativity and life. Pythagoras discovered that harmonics and their mathematical relationships underlie the structure of all creation. Dr Hans Jenny has demonstrated that different sound frequencies beamed onto liquids and powders will each form a particular geometric design. This gives support to the Druidic and Native American beliefs that all objects in our world have a sound and that if the body and mind are sufficiently stilled, we can hear the sounds of rocks and trees and objects around us. Yogis believe that ‘Om’ is the combined sound of everything in the Universe singing to God.

The Magic Medicine

Sound is composed of vibrating particles of energy. When the open vowels are elongated in tone or chant, magical vibrations are produced and these are the harmonic overtones which spiral higher and higher. These magical forms of resonance have been held as sacred by many ancient cultures and those of the present day that have been less tainted by modern 'civilisation'. The overtones are powerful healers. Dr Billie Thompson says that 80% of the sounds that stimulate the brain and charge the nervous system are above 3000 hertz and these are the higher overtones.

Like everything in the universe, our organs and energy centres (chakras) are resonating at particular frequencies. When disease manifests, the frequencies change. The resonance of the correct frequency can encourage healing. This can occur in accordance with the principle of entrainment by which vibrations that are more powerful and more harmonious will affect less powerful and less harmonious vibrations of a nearby person or object.

Sound healing has been used with success to treat many disorders ranging from autistic children to older stroke victims and those with Alzheimer's disease. Don Campbell claims that harmonious music can:

  • Slow and equalise brain waves

  • Affect heartbeat, pulse rate, respiration and blood pressure

  • Reduce tension and improve body movements and co-ordination

  • Increase endorphin levels

  • Boost immune function

  • Regulate stress-related hormones

  • Change our perception of time

  • Strengthen memory and learning

  • Stimulate digestion

Much success is presently being achieved through 'sonic births' and the 'Muse in the Schools' project in New York.

The Rhythm of Life

Every cell in our bodies carries the awareness of perfect rhythm, since we are all nourished by the life-sustaining rhythms of breath and heartbeat. These rhythms are audible to us from our mothers when in the womb. It is believed that the music from virtually every culture has been created with the heartbeat rhythm as its source. This no doubt accounts for the beneficial effect that most music has on us. Our brains pulse electrically with rhythms that carry us from depths of sleep to peaks of excitement.

We are also influenced by external rhythms. The diurnal rhythm affects us at a cellular level and fluid and salt levels respond to this. If we sit by the seashore, we can connect with the ebb and flow of the waves and the rhythm of the tides. Since 90% of our bodies is water, we are open to influence by the moon; women's menstrual cycles are affected by the moon. Our lives can also be open to influence by longer-term rhythms such as seasonal, solar, astrological cycles and life and death. It is harder for people who live in cities to maintain that connection to the diurnal and seasonal rhythms.

Song & Rhythm Famine in our Culture

We need rhythm to nourish our souls. Babies are calmed into sleep with the rhythm of rocking. Many young children still have rhythm and can be seen playing chanting and skipping games.

Sadly in our culture, music has generally become trivialised into short-term entertainment or distraction that is controlled by a big industry. This is a far cry from the universal, ancient view of sound as magic and music as the creator energy of the cosmos. Many people believe that they are unable to sing and are unable to express rhythm.

A test used in schools assessed whether we could copy a note ‘in tune’. The few who passed (‘the singers’), have largely been constrained by the western Ionic scale. The ‘failures’ (myself included!) believed that we were tone deaf, unable to sing and forever after the beautiful, natural voices inside us receded further and further back into our hidden souls.

Conversely, in other cultures less tainted by modern civilisation, rhythm and song are totally integrated into their existence. When watching traditional peoples - for example in Africa - walk and dance, it is obvious that they carry a deep connection with rhythm. Also, they believe that to be able to sing is their birthright and they spontaneously vocalise during their daily lives - during work, rest, play and in ceremonies. The song ‘Rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham’, portrays an understanding of the nurturing power of rhythm.