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Why Sound Meditation and not Sound Healing?

The sound meditation technique employs the use of sound in a highly specific and specialized way, in a manner that can engender profound experiences of healing for the listeners engaged in the meditation.  One might fairly ask, therefore: isn’t this the same as sound healing?  Why call it sound meditation instead?  Indeed, these are fair questions, but there are important reasons why the term sound meditation has been chosen over sound healing, which are worth exploring here.

Many people are familiar with the term ‘sound healing’, as it has been around for several decades.  While this may seem, at first blush, to be an argument in favor of its use, a term’s familiarity does not necessarily correlate with its ability to convey something meaningful, and this is, in my opinion, particularly true where the term ‘sound healing’ is concerned.  Surprisingly, this is as much the case for those who identify themselves as sound healers as it is for the general public, for the simple reason that there is a considerable lack of clarity as to what ‘sound healing’ actually means, or how it does what it is supposed to do.  While its alternative, more scientific-sounding name, ‘vibrational medicine’, seems to imply that somehow the vibrations of sound are interacting with a person’s body to produce healing, much as a pharmaceutical might do, there is very little in the way of reliable scientific evidence to substantiate this claim.

Before going further, allow me to state that it is not my intention to disparage the practice of sound healing or the activities of well-intentioned sound healers, nor is it to deny that there are people who have derived tangible benefits from interventions designated as sound healing.  My objection to the term derives from both practical and philosophical considerations that will be discussed shortly, but it does not imply any objection to the practice of what is termed sound healing per se.

That said, from a practical standpoint, the sound meditation technique is substantially different from what a person is likely to experience when he or she meets with a sound healer seeking treatment for a particular ailment, so much so that to give the name ‘sound healing’ to the practice I have developed would be inaccurate and misleading.  And already we arrive at the philosophical basis for my objection, as the concept of seeking treatment for a disease from a recognized expert or ‘healer’ is very much steeped in the Western medical model, which divides people into healers and clients (participants or receivers), and locates the responsibility for the cure with the latter: people go to the doctor, the doctor does something or gives something to them, and when they get better, the doctor receives credit for the cure.

An extremely unfortunate and underappreciated side effect of this unstated and often unconscious arrangement is that it creates a completely lopsided power dynamic, which removes nearly all agency from the person being healed.  There is an expectation on both sides of the interaction that the client is a passive recipient of ‘healing’ from the practitioner, and the better the practitioner, the more likely he or she will be able to bestow this ‘healing’ on his or her clients.  Conversely, illness is something that happens to someone; it is an enemy to be identified and defeated— Western medicine, as its technology advances and its knowledge becomes more and more specialized, is increasingly in the business of treating isolated disease states, not whole human beings, as though the two could ever be sensibly extricated from one another.  And again, in this framework the client is given very little agency or responsibility for their illness, aside from being chastised, whenever appropriate, for making poor life choices such as smoking or eating unhealthy foods.  Arising as it has in Western societies, it is not surprising that sound healing is defined according to these precepts, where the healer uses sound to ‘fix’ the ailments of their clients.  Yet it is precisely to these precepts that I object.

I choose, instead, to place the locus of agency and responsibility on the person who is experiencing healing through the sound meditation process, because I feel very strongly that all healing, whether it occurs through conventional or unconventional means, refers to a process that exists innately within each of us.  Healing is the restoration of a state of balance and wholeness, and since it is a human being that is becoming balanced and whole whenever healing occurs, the healed state is a potential that already exists within us.  Any intervention, whether it employs sound, syringes or scalpels, is only ever successful to the extent that it can work with and elicit this innate capacity.  Or, as it were put by Hippocrates himself: “Natural forces within us are the true healers of disease.”

My role, then, is not to act as a ‘healer’ in the manner in which our culture has come to understand that role, but to help people unlock their own healing potential, by showing them how sound can be used as a powerful tool for self-exploration, even self-transcendence, and empowering them to do exactly that.  By naming the technique ‘sound meditation’, an emphasis is placed on the active participation that is necessary for anyone using the technique to achieve healing.  As such, I do not work with clients, but with collaborators.  By the same token, I refer to myself not as a sound healer but as a sound facilitator, since all I am doing is facilitating the realization of a potential that every human being possesses by virtue of being alive.