If you have ever listened to music for the purposes of relaxation, you have the beginnings of what the Sound Healing experience is like.
A friend and I set out for a session from two different sets of experiences. I'm a fan of soundscape music and an experienced meditator. My friend has never meditated and was not familiar with the full variety of sounds we would experience.
We both agreed it was a wonderful time.
Very old sounds
For that matter, I wasn't entirely familiar with the incredible range of instruments that Andrea Lisette Villiere uses in her Sound Healing practice.
I have my own, small, singing bowl, and so I recognized the lovely collection Andrea uses in her practice.
They look like bowls, but they are actually bells - "standing bells" - to be precise. They can be struck on the rim or by rubbing a mallet around the rim. That is when they sing.
Another instrument rarely seen in most music venues is this cross between an accordion and a pipe organ. Though originally a 19th century import, it was adopted by the Indian subcontinent and adapted to their music with drone reeds.
This version, without a keyboard, is known as a surpeti, and used to create the "drone" which is an integral part of Indian music.
For Andrea, it all started with the beautiful bowls seen below. She had been browsing in a local thrift store, left with her finds, and then something made her turn back. While she had been inside, someone had left this very expensive set at the entrance to the store. She immediately bought them.
She decided getting such rare items for a tiny fraction of their value was a clear sign she needed to investigate this further. Now, she is a Certified Sound Healing Practitioner. She was prepared for such a calling from her school years playing the flute.
Music has meaning for her.
What to expect
The studio where we experienced our session is a beautiful old room with wooden paneling and drawn shades. Because of the dimness, Andrea has strung lightcords around the pathways so guests can find their way around. Between the salt lamps, warm golden wood, and the subtle sunshine of the lightcords, the whole room has a welcoming glow.
Andrea discusses our goal -- which is relaxation -- and what we can expect. We drink some water to prepare for the session, since thirst will not only be distracting, but dehydration is not conducive to relaxation.
Sound healing works as a form of physical massage and an influence on our brain waves. This is all done with sound waves, which lets us keep our clothes on throughout. This unique approach means Andrea can let any group enjoy the same session.
Relaxing into it
It's as simple as lying down. We stretch out on massage tables. A bolster is situated under our knees so there's no strain on our backs, and a pillow is placed under our heads. It is very comfortable.
I am the first one to try her new amethyst Biomat. This is a crystal-enhanced heating pad with infrared. My friend, knowing my love of purple, declared that I should get that table.
While we are relaxing on the tables, Andrea creates a unique, improvised, piece of music for us to experience. She has a wide selection of instruments to choose from, and will move around the room as she composes the music on the fly.
My friend was intrigued by the different sounds and would occasionally open his eyes to see what she was playing. I was so relaxed, and so into the music, that I moved into a deep meditative state, and let the music happen around me while I enjoyed my thoughts wherever they wandered.
The sound of the instruments are familiar from most mediation music, because they encourage the brain to use Alpha (the deep relaxation wave) and Theta (the light meditation and sleeping wave) frequencies.
Since our bodies contain so much water, with the average adult human body being 50-65% water, we can actually "feel" the ripples in our bodies from the sound waves.
No experience needed
The atmosphere immediately put me in a meditation mood. The gentle lighting, the comfortable positioning, and the delightful, soothing, sounds were exactly right for me to let go of intrusive thoughts, and settle quickly into a relaxed state.
My friend enjoyed the music, the calm, and the comfort so much he was able to fully relax. So no matter what experience you might have with meditation or mindfulness practice, you can experience relaxation and well-being with no real effort.
The sessions are particularly popular with couples and groups who want to share this delightful feeling. Andrea can handle up to four people in her studio, or can travel to where your group is located.
Andrea uses a prearranged sound signal to let us know the session is nearing its end. This allows us to regain our focus and concentration and stretch out our relaxed muscles.
We emerge from the room back into the same garden where we first entered, but I feel like I am seeing it with refreshed senses. The colors are brighter, the birdsong is sweeter, and I have a lovely relaxed feeling that lasts the whole rest of the day.
Andrea has her studio in the lodging property at The Doctor's Inn, an Adirondack guest home mere minutes from downtown Saranac Lake. Yet the property is very secluded and can make ordinary life seem very far away.
Sometimes, that is exactly what we are looking for.