THE ART & SCIENCE OF SOUND THERAPY

John Stuart Reid and Annaliese Reid discuss the healing modality of sound. Below are excepts from their article, Rediscovering the Art and Science of Sound Therapy. 

Several ancient cultures used the seemingly magical power of sound to heal, but sound therapy had almost disappeared in the West until 1927 when Professor R. Wood and his assistant, Loomis, discovered ultrasound—high frequency sound—and its medical properties.1 With this discovery, research burgeoned and it is now established fact that ultrasound has powerful medical properties including its use in breaking up kidney stones and even shrinking tumours.2,3,4,5 In hospitals and sports injury clinics, in all parts of the world, therapeutic ultrasound is used to support or accelerate the healing of soft tissues and broken bones. In the 1980s, infrasound—very low frequency sound—and audible sound were also discovered to have healing properties and in recent years several commercial organizations have developed audible sound devices to support a wide range of physical ailments.6, 7, 8 The companies have documented many cases in which their sonic therapies benefited individuals. Audible sound is intrinsically safe and cannot be “overdosed,” while ultrasound, if not properly applied, can cause severe internal burning.

The Aboriginal people of Australia are reported to have used their “yidaki” (modern name, didgeridoo) as a healing tool for thousands of years and one tradition holds that its primordial sound created the world and everything in it. Stories passed down through many generations of their culture tell of healing broken bones, muscle tears and many kinds of illnesses using their enigmatic musical instrument. To our knowledge no medical studies have been conducted in which the yidaki’s healing power has been tested, although its acoustic output is in alignment with some modern audible sound therapy devices so it is not surprising that it has healing properties. Studies of the benefits of playing the yidaki instrument have been conducted and a paper in the Journal of Rural Health concluded that yidaki playing alleviated the symptoms of asthma in school children.9 Another study, reported in the British Medical Journal, concluded that it helped sleep apnea.10

Therapeutic sound principles

If sound was the trigger for life it should not be surprising that sound has the ability to support and heal life. Put simply, sound has the almost magical power to restore order to organisms that are malfunctioning–magical in the sense that we don’t yet fully understand the mechanisms at work. For example, studies have shown that audible sound in the form of music has significant healing properties in both humans and animals, inferring that music therapy is potentially healing on two levels: first as a result of the stimulation of the brain’s pleasure centres, leading to hormonal secretions and “feel good” effects, and second, due to the physical effects of sound at the cellular level. 17, 18, 19

Regarding the physical effects of sound at the cellular level, two main categories exist: Destructive and Constructive sound therapies. Lithotripsy is a well-known medical technique that employs high intensity ultrasound to shatter kidney stones and gallstones and employs a destructive sonic principle. 20 However, therapeutic ultrasound can employ either a constructive or a destructive sonic effect, depending on how it is deployed. For example, ultrasound can accelerate cellular division in soft tissues and accelerate bone growth (a constructive principle) while high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) can be used to shrink tumours (a destructive principle)21.

Therapeutic audible sound generally employs a constructive sonic principle, but an intriguing possibility exists to use audible sound destructively in order to shrink tumours22, 23. Dr. James Gimzewski, of UCLA California, has taken a novel approach to studying cellular function. He uses an atomic force microscope to ‘listen’ to the sounds emitted by cells. The focus of this new science, which he has named “sonocytology,” is mapping the pulsations of a cell’s outer membrane, thus identifying the “song” of the cell. Gimzewski’s work suggests that every cell in our bodies has a unique sonic signature and “sings” to its neighbours. Sonocytology could be developed into a potentially powerful diagnostic tool for identifying the sounds of healthy cells versus those of injurious ones. It also offers an even more exciting prospect: the ability to play the destructive sounds of rogue cells back to themselves greatly amplified so that, by the simple law of resonance, the hostile cells implode and are destroyed. In this scenario there would be no collateral damage to surrounding cells since healthy cells would not be resonant* with these frequencies.

The mechanism(s) by which constructive sound therapies trigger the body’s healing response are unknown but one possibility concerns the fact that when a system of cells is traumatized, for example due to physical trauma or by invasion of a pathogen, they go into a form of hibernation known as the G0 phase, or quiescent phase, in which they are effectively asleep and not replicating.24 To rejoin the normal cell cycle leading to normal replication and healing, the cell requires either good nutrition or rest or both, but, hypothetically, exposing quiescent cells to audible sounds of the correct frequencies acts as a catalyst that stimulates the cell to move to the G1 phase in which cells prepare for replication.25 We monitored a healthy yeast cell’s “song” spectrographically and compared it with the spectrograph of the same cell after it had been traumatized by acid. (The sound files were from Dr. Gimzewski’s lab). It was clear that the traumatized cell emitted far higher frequencies, as if the cell was screaming. Applying sounds to a system of traumatized cells may stimulate the cell’s Integral Membrane Proteins and imprint a cymatic pattern upon the cell that provides a form of energetic sonic nourishment, causing its frequencies to return to normal. 

Modern audible sound therapy devices are non-invasive and are essentially like playing music to the body; in fact many traditional sound therapy music-based instruments, such as the harp, the gong, Tibetan bowls and crystal bowls emit rich soundscapes that provide sonic nourishment for cells. The piano and harp, in particular, are important because all of their sounds are harmonically related to each other; each higher frequency created by a piano or harp string is mathematically related to the string’s fundamental frequency, regardless of the choice of concert pitch. (The fundamental frequency of a given piano or harp string is called its “1st harmonic”, and the same string’s 2nd harmonic is twice the fundamental frequency, and the string’s 3rd harmonic is three times the fundamental frequency and so on.) This natural order means that when cells receive harp or piano sounds they are better able to absorb the sonic energy.  In the case of gongs and Tibetan bowls although their harmonic output is jumbled they can provide sonic nourishment for cells provided they are played at low or moderate levels; if played loudly such sounds would be a stressor for cells. However, audible sound therapy devices employ carefully targeted frequencies, unlike the broad range of frequencies provided by music and music-based instruments. This targeted approach has been found to be highly efficacious and Cyma Technologies Inc, for example, is pioneering a new era in therapeutic sound therapy devices in which specific sets of frequencies are employed, depending on the nature of the malady to be supported. We can envisage a future in which diagnostic and therapeutic beds, resembling a scene from a Star Trek sick bay, may become commonplace and in which sound therapy forms part of the clinician’s armoury of healing modalities.

The role of intention in sound healing

Sound therapy is a highly effective tool for the support of a wide range of health challenges and fortunately an individual does not need to believe in it for it to work. However, there is another factor that can greatly amplify the effectiveness of healing: creative intention. While mainstream medicine does not yet recognize the importance of a patient’s intention, in contrast, most vibrational energy practitioners, including sound therapy practitioners, use a holistic approach that addresses both mind and body. When the power of intention is held, the chances of a successful outcome are intensified. Intention consists of using your focused thoughts, feelings and visualizations to attract whatever is desired, such as enhancing one’s health.

American sound therapist, Jonathan Goldman, created this simple formula: Sound + Intention = Healing

The power of intention involves consciously drawing on the universal field of energy. Utilizing this potent universal force along with healing sounds has been found to dramatically accelerate the healing process. Many people fall into the trap of fear, or negative intention, particularly in regard to health issues. It is all too easy to fixate upon the possible consequences of a health challenge rather than on the positive expectation of enjoying a healthy, vital life. The Universe, it seems, is neutral and will return in kind whatever we focus upon. Whether we are aware of it or not, we use the power of intention either positively or negatively every moment of every day. Our thoughts, feelings and imaginings are the templates for the results and experiences of our lives. In this context, like attracts like.

When using creative intention, there is the sense of being deeply inspired. (The word inspiration means inspirit.) We are motivated to respond to a deeper calling with a firm belief, an absolute knowing, that our desire has already been fulfilled. When we merge the mind’s energizing force with the universal field of energy for the purpose of healing and creation, our health and the quality of our lives can be transformed. One may ask how it is possible to have absolute certainty about a desired outcome before there is any apparent proof. People tend to believe things only when they see them. However, the art of creative intention calls for a new way of thinking: when you believe it, you will see it.

It is highly beneficial to the creative process when you act as if you already have what you want. See, feel, and think as if your body is currently vital and whole. When you act as if your desired outcome has already happened, the subconscious mind cannot differentiate between what is factual and what is imagined and believes your intention is actual reality. The mind holds immense healing and creative powers and will continue to work on your behalf as long as you maintain your conscious focus of intention. Perhaps the most important element in “acting as if” is to feel the experience of having already manifested your desire.

Some people have used these and similar tools of intention but have not experienced the successful outcome for which they had hoped. Generally it is not because they have applied it incorrectly or missed an important element in the process. Their lack of success usually stems from unresolved issues and detrimental beliefs that are harbored as internal fears in the subconscious mind; issues so old and ingrained that the person may not even be aware of them.

Buried fear-based issues and limiting beliefs tend to set up an internal conflict. The conscious mind may want to create a desired outcome, but the overpowering, conflicting influence of unresolved issues and beliefs block success. Nothing can become a part of your reality unless your feelings and your conscious mind are in alignment with the more powerful subconscious mind. The magnificent power of intention fully engages when all systems are in alliance, when the thinking-feeling self aligns with the underlying belief system. Intention powered by the healing energy of sound is a key to improved health and other improvements in one’s life.