Many healers and spiritual seekers seem to instinctively use sound for ceremonies and healing work. When I facilitate ecstatic rituals, singing and chanting work together fantastically to get an entire group into a state of trance where each person can do healing work and connect to the divine/spirit. Sound and rhythm such as drumming, singing bowls, gong bath, or just toning together, centers and focuses a group.
However, why does sound work? And, how can we more effectively use sound for healing? Let’s explore why, and then how.
Apparently singing a song/chant together very quickly synchs up the heartbeats of the entire group, and the very act of singing can have other health benefits.
Sarah Rainey, writer with the Daily Telegraph in the U.K., shares her experience: “Even the odd off-key note or wrong lyric can’t detract from how good singing makes me feel. I leave every session uplifted, buoyed by a flurry of endorphins flooding through my body.” This article is a fantastic overview of many of the health benefits of singing and it references several scientific studies.
There’s certainly more science behind the power of sound than this article alone, and there’s more science yet to be discovered. One of my operational definitions of the word “magic” is: “Science we don’t yet understand.” For me, knowing that there’s science behind magical and metaphysical techniques is empowering. It allows me to try new techniques as more science is discovered.
In fact, it turns out we’re only rediscovering some of the technology our megalith-building ancestors used thousands of years ago. I’ve read of various accounts of Mayan pyramid acoustics, where you speak quietly at the top of a pyramid and can be heard clearly at the bottom. There are documented acoustic phenomena in Maltese and many other megaliths, as well as at Stonehenge’s bluestones. A documentary, The Pyramid Code, contains some fringe archaeology and references to acoustic chambers that are part of some of the pyramid complexes and allegedly were used for sound healing.
While you don’t need to build an acoustic megalithic chamber to use the power of sound, it’s true that some sound healing work can be difficult to facilitate, particularly if you’re trying to get a group to sing a chant together. Largely this is because most people are not trained musicians. There’s also a cultural stigma that only professional musicians “should” sing.
I lead people in rituals that feature a lot of singing and chanting, and every time I have to help a shy, reticent group of people get comfortable enough to sing that they are willing to make a sound. Yet, sound, movement and rhythm bring the magic. Dances of Ecstasy is a fantastic documentary illustrating a number of effective techniques.
I start most groups off with toning, usually OM. I have several other sung chants that are fairly simple. I help the group get comfortable by singing easier chants first. I don’t have a great voice for performance, but I do have a strong voice to anchor a sung chant. If I’m working with a group of people, we can each anchor different parts or add in harmonies, adding to the potency of the sound.
Adding in drums can be potent; some types of drumming can raise up the energy of the group. Other drums can be used to drop people down into a resting trance state. My mentors used techniques of Middle-Eastern frame drumming they learned from the late Layne Redmond.
If singing isn’t your strong suit, there are instruments like singing bowls, didgeridoo, shruti box or gongs that are fairly easy to learn. In my work, I tend to get people singing because I have the skill to get people chanting, and, it’s an inclusive activity that every participant there can engage in.
I see it over and over: Sound enchants a group and allows them to do deeper work. Anyone of us can work to gain more skill in simple chanting or instruments like singing bowls. You don’t need to be a musician to make sound and engage the group in singing a tone or simply chant together.