Standing on the shore of the ocean so many possibilities come to mind: swimming, fishing, shell collecting, boating. But there is a body even more vast and accessible than the sea: an ocean of air. The healing properties of sound were the focus of Sound Immersion, an interactive event at the Tibetan Center in Kingston on Saturday, January 20.
Facilitated by Paul Campbell, participants experienced how sound produces physical, spiritual, mental and emotional healing effects. With a gong as his primary instrument Paul performed with tuning forks, chimes, a shaman drum, Tibetan and crystal singing bowls, and other devices. The two big gongs are from China and one is over 100 years old. “The large one is from Wuhan, China, it’s well-seasoned and we are best friends, we collaborate,” said Paul. “The other is a Wind gong that has a more compact sustain and swifter sizzling crash. To add other sound variations we have a selection of mallets each inviting a different sound.” Also used was a Rav Vast, a metal hand drum from Russia which evolved from the Hang Drum that generates a sound that was popular in sci-fi movie soundtracks. “I seek unusual clear sounds and go through entire selections to find the unique instrument in each one out of the lot,” said Paul, whose career is a fusion of Percussion, CranialSacral Balancing, Polarity Therapy, Tibetan Buddhism and Product Design.
At the beginning of the session Paul told participants they’ll likely experience sounds they’ve never heard before and instructed them to avoid trying to identify or make an association with them. The sound immersion isn’t a musical experience. There is no fixed rhythm for the brain to search for and follow, forcing it to relax. Instead of seeking entertainment, we instead allow for “entrainment,” or the changing of brainwave frequencies. The session took place in the Tibetan Center’s colorful art-filled community space and Paul pointed out a wall hanging depicting a central Om, the symbol for the familiar sound forged by the gong. Small “fractals” markings that are always moving in a spiral surround the symbol and emanate outwards.
Periods of intentional silence were included and participants were encouraged to embrace those the same as the more prominent sounds. Paul sounded bells to signal the start and end of the 1-1/2 hour period, similar to how a sound can be used to define a meditation session. The experience included a 10-minute silent break in the middle.
“The unique beautiful benefits of Sound are that everyone’s experience, during and after the session, feels totally unique to them. So real, so deep, so profound they cannot imagine anyone else’s experiences matching theirs,” said Paul. “Quieting the left brain is essential for an amazing sound trip. It can be challenging to let our left brains go. Its history fights the effort, they struggle, think harder, keep fixing until there is nothing for them to do like with immersion of sound that is not music or rhythm or has no beats to count and then Leftie says OK nothing here for me I'll veg out and Righty says Ahh now I am free to fly.....back to my youth, memories, good stuff.”
The fractals depicted in the room’s wall hanging radiate outwards in all directions without end, representing how the sound we experienced isn’t intended to end upon leaving the room at the end of the session, but it instead ripples out into the rest of life.
Tibetan Center: www.tibetancenter.orgMore on sound gong baths: www.sound-gong-bath.co.uk/gong-bath-nut-shell