People consistently described their experiences in similar terms—they said they felt mesmerized, like they were floating, in a timeless state, transported to other realms. Some had visions of coloUrs and light. Most said they became deeply relaxed, almost asleep, but still conscious. They said their experiences of profound peace and joy couldn’t really be described in words. This piqued my curiosity. Was there any research about sound-induced altered states of consciousness? As it turns out, yes!
Lyz Cooper MA, MSc, FICNM, Founder of the British Academy of Sound Therapy, conducted experiments and reported her results in Sound Affects: Sound Therapy, Altered States of Consciousness and Improved Health and Wellbeing. Her subjects' experiences mirrored the effects that my participants described. Especially strong and statistically significant effects included transcendence of time and space, feelings of joy, muscle relaxation, slow steady breathing, a feeling of floating, visual imagery, and heightened insights. She compared the effects of live acoustic sound with recordings of the same. The live music seemed to be more emotionally moving, while the recorded music evoked deeper introspection. The sample size was very small, so further investigation is needed.
WHAT IS MEANT BY "ALTERED STATES OF CONSCIOUSNESS"?
Consciousness is the awareness people have of themselves and the environment around them. Different states of consciousness include alert wakefulness, relaxed, sleeping, dreams, meditation, trance, hypnosis and unconsciousness. Altered States of Consciousness (ASCs) are temporary changes associated with different brainwave frequencies. Everyone cycles through various brainwave frequencies continuously, so various states of consciousness happen naturally. ASCs may also be induced by illness, drugs, meditation, sound, and hypnosis.
Sound therapists make use of various sound frequencies to entrain clients to specific brainwave states. These brainwave states create specific effects (see chart). They help clients relax, reduce anxiety, get better sleep, increase mental clarity, and increase energy. There are biofeedback tools that show what brainwaves are being emitted. And there are simple tools that measure coherence between brainwaves and heart rate. This coherence greatly enhances health. More on that next time!
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