For most of us, sound is a constant part of our lives. Some sounds inspire or uplift us, such as listening to a great symphony or a powerful gospel hymn.
Other sounds may create anxiety or discomfort, like the sound of someone yelling in anger, or the squeak of chalk on a blackboard.
Sound also stimulates memory. Hearing a significant song from our past can bring back events and experiences with clarity that verbal reminiscences cannot touch. Sound can also be used to change moods or foreshadow events.
For example, the musical score of a play or a film usually sets the tone for the story and lets the audience know whether something frightening or exciting is about to happen. Similarly, playing certain kinds of music can help motivate people or cheer them up.
So what is sound? Why does sound affect human beings so profoundly? In order to answer these questions, we must take a closer look at the characteristics of sound and its relationship to healing and the human body.
1. Sound is a Vibratory Wave or Pattern of Energy
Physics tells us that everything is made up of energy.
Humans (as well as all mater on this planet) are composed of atoms. Atoms collect to form molecules which agglomerate into cells which coalesce into organ systems and body parts. — Trieschmann, 2001:29
This energy is what binds galaxies, stars, planets, plants, animals, and humans together. Physical matter is simply energy taking form.
This new perspective of human physiology is based on an understanding that the atomic structure of the body, at the quantum level is actually made up of particles of frozen light… Thus, rethinking the body in terms of interactive energy structures as opposed to moving cogs in a machine holds the beginnings of Einsteinian Medicine. — Gerber, 1996:xx
It is in this context, that Ruiz’s observer is perfectly correct when he says:
I am made of light; I am made of stars.
2. Sound has a Rhythm of Cyclical Beat
Much of the power of sound lies in its rhythm or cyclical beat. The sound of one rhythm may invoke feelings of euphoria; the sound of another may provoke fear. By altering rhythms or beats, sound can effectively create or alter emotions. The physical body also seems to be sensitive to cyclical rhythms. For example, there is evidence that some neurons in the brain:
fire repetitively at a constant frequency, that is, they beat… Such neurons are also sometimes called pacing neurons. Although external stimulation can change the firing rate of the cell, or inhibit it altogether, the mechanisms that drive repetitive firing are often intrinsic to the neuron itself and do not require stimuli or external synaptic activation. — Levitan and Kaczmark, 1997:59-60
Other neurons—called bursting neurons—fire in sustained rhythmic pulses that occur without any external stimulation. These are the neurons in the brain that are responsible for regulating automatic physiological processes like heartbeats. When this natural rhythm is disrupted, then the physiological and energetic imbalances occur which lead to disease. Heart arrhythmia is a good example.
3. Sound can Create, Integrate, Regulate, or Transform an Existing Energy Pattern
Sound has been used effectively by many of the world’s spiritual traditions to alter consciousness or heal the body. Mantras, prayers, and chants all generate a pattern of energy that calms the mind and rebalances the body. Studies show that repetitive sound transforms the alpha and beta wave patterns in the brain into theta. The theta brain wave pattern is conducive to relaxation and has been linked to a sense of heightened creativity.
Sound has also been used as an effective tool for opening the body’s various energy meridians and chakras. As Margo Anand observes
Just as the resonance of one high, operatic note can break a crystal glass, and the right words can open a mind or heart, the right sound can open your chakras. The word chakra means “vortex, center, or resonance”. If we direct a sound that resonates into the center of a chakra, it can open like a flower. Every mystery school from ancient times to the present uses sound for these purposes. — 1998:237
The understanding that every process in the body has a distinct bioelectrical rhythm or beat, leads to the perception that when everything is working well—i.e. the physiological energy of the body is in balance and able to flow freely—then health and well-being exist. Conversely, when the bioelectrical rhythm of the body is disrupted or the natural frequencies altered, then energetic blocks and imbalances start to occur, and disease is often the result. Restoring health means changing a disease producing energy pattern and replacing it with a health enhancing one.
As Trieschmann suggests:
Every cell in our body has a characteristic vibration. When these cells vibrate at a certain rate and in a certain pattern, the body functions well and the person feels good. When they vibrate at a different rate and pattern, the body functions less well and the person feels not so good. It is highly probable that assessment of the differential vibratory patterns associated with health and sickness will be a core feature of the research of the 21st century. 2001:29-30
As these brief illustrations show, sound has a profound effect upon the physiology and emotions. Other articles available explore how traditional tribal groups use repetitive sound—such as drumming—to heal the mind and body.
1998 The Art Of Everyday Ecstasy. Broadway Books
1996 “Introduction” From The Liquid Light Of Sex. Bear and Company
Levitan, I. And Kaczmark, L.
1997 The Neuron. Oxford University Press.
1997 The Four Agreements Trieschmann, R “Spirituality and Energy Medicine”, In Journal of Rehabilitation. 2001:26-32