In a buddy cop movie, I root for the partner with a buzzcut, short-sleeved button down and pending retirement. Bob Newhart is my idea of an aspirational iconoclast. That is to say, I’m the type of square from the Midwest who uses words like square and is unlikely to participate in a sound bath celebrating the winter solstice.
But because I try to be as open-minded and searching as I am fundamentally skeptical, Friday evening I participated in the solstice sound bath led by Lindsay Foreman of Spirit Path at The Yoga Path — after calling ahead and asking yoga instructor Jodee Dixon what correct attire is for a sound bath, of course.
So, in comfortable, not-quite gym attire I was one of dozens of people perched on a cushion and ready to celebrate the rebirth of the sun while Foreman guided us through chants, worked her singing bowls with a felt wand and played a drum.
Beforehand Foreman told me the objective of the sound bath was “letting go of what no longer serves you and bringing in what does.” She said making sounds with sacred chants makes space in the body for the things that serve us.
Sound baths draw their name from the sense of immersion that comes with being surrounded by sounds. The practice dates back thousands of years and is intended to promote healing as well as mental health.
Even if I’m going to remain respectfully skeptical of the physical healing prowess of group chants, it was a nice mental balm and an experience I think most would enjoy.
For an hour, I was able to set down my phone, stop picking at my cuticles and shift some of my core anxieties to the back burner.
A quiet group meditation kicked off the event before Foreman struck singing bowls with a felt wand.
By circling the rim of the bowls, Foreman produced an ethereal hum similar to the resonance created by running a wet finger over good glassware.
Simple monosyllabic chants were introduced.
It sounded and felt as if the entire room was participating, and that was the highlight of the sound bath.
For seconds at a time, a room of strangers became a single vibrating string on the same instrument, and it sounded soothing in a way that I can only describe as an amalgam of other sounds.
Moments when the tones of the bowls and the voices of the group achieved harmony produced a satisfying drone that was some blend of Beatles harmony, didgeridoo hum and choral song.
Eventually things built toward more complex and intimidating chants, but I found myself absentmindedly mouthing the syllables and adding my voice to the group’s noise.
It was surprising when I noticed it, and a testament to the welcoming atmosphere that was cultivated.
A bout of silence wrapped up the sound bath.
Once the drum, chanting and bowls were quiet, and the event drew to a close, the sound of shuffling limbs, cracking joints and contended exhales filled the room.
I felt better than when I went in and ready for whatever came next, and it seemed like everyone else was, too.
“This is the first time I’ve shared this with the public,” Foreman said in an interview afterward.
But it was not her first time marking a solstice with a sound bath, and she said she has hopes it could become an annual event. Afterward, delighted sound bathers stayed to ask if sound baths might become a more regular occurrence.
Foreman said she offers private instruction, and there are tentative plans to make sound baths more frequent in 2019.