A few weeks ago I talked with Vicy Wilkinson, who is a life coach and business consultant and has created a show on blog talk radio. Her company is http://www.completelifecoaching.com We talked a bit about sound therapy. Click the play button below to listen to the full interview..(the transcript below starts at 8 minutes into the show.)
Interviewer (Vicy Wilkinson): So I'm here this evening with Jonathan Adams who is a professional musician and travels all over the country playing music. And we're talking to him tonight for the Health and Wellness Series because Jonathan's alter ego I guess you could it is, Sonic Yogi. And I met him through his sister who is a rowing instructor at Greenville Indoor Rowing and I think that Jonathan's story and his talents are amazing. And I got to experience some things just this past weekend that helped me understand a little bit more about what he does and I wanted to share that with all of you. So, Jonathan can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what your background is and your story that sort of led you to sound therapy?
Jonathan: Sure. Well as you mentioned I'm a musician and I do that for my living. And I play guitar in the group (Montana Skies) that I play with and I've been doing that for around 15 years I guess now. And so I've been involved in music for a long time, but in 2011 I had an experience with really intense anxiety, and I had had experiences before this with panic attacks and mild anxieties here and there but this was an overwhelming, all encompassing experience and as difficult as that was to get through, it was actually a wonderful thing because I feel that I've learned a lot about my mind and my body and how they work together and how that even influences my spirit and how I could learn to basically help myself stay balanced and learn to relax. And through that process I also discovered sound therapy, which was cool for me as a musician. I discovered that sound itself can actually help us relax and help us both physiologically relax and also mentally to relax.
So I've been exploring that path for the past two years since then and using it for myself and then as I talked about this experience in our concerts as I'm traveling around I'm also realized that you know, this spirit of anxiety and stress, depression these kind of things are not isolated at all. But it seems as I travel that I'm finding there are a lot of people that are effected by this, and so I've also been enjoying the opportunity to share the music that I make and then also work with people one on one.
Interviewer (Vicy Wilkinson): Absolutely. So I would definitely concur that the experience of stress of anxiety, I am not sure if it's more pervasive than it's ever been but it just may be we're more willing to admit it, I know that among my clients both one one one coaching clients as well as business clients that learning how to manage stress in ways that are doable and practices that can bring you to a place of calm on a daily basis is something that's really crucial to do more than just survive. So what do you think has helped you the most Jonathan?
Jonathan: Well that's a good question. I think I've learned a lot from a lot of different areas. I was already doing yoga before this experience and then started meditating more after the experience and then doing sound therapy. And I've really searched for the common link between all of those things because I noticed, like for instance after a yoga practice or session, I would kinda have this feeling of deep relaxation and almost euphoria. And in talking to other people I've learned that they had this similar thing and I kind of came to dub that the "Yoga High".
And I got similar feelings from meditation and sound therapy and these things, so I feel the common link between all of those things was just helping me to relax and to let go of the stresses and I've realized since that those stresses weren't only in my mind but they were also in my body and my body was reacting to the perceptions of my mind and so I kinda had to work on it from both angles, both my mind and my body. And so I had to learn to relax my body but at the same time I had to learn to change my perceptions, change my behavior patterns, and change my physical responses to those patterns too.
So that's easy to say, right here right now.... it actually took me quite a while to learn all of these things and it was little lessons here, little lessons there.. but it helps me to come to a place of more balance and over time I've certainly learned more about my own personal inner world and how that works with my body. If I find myself sort of burning the candle at both ends or getting stressed out mentally or something, then I can feel that stress building up at least now I have the awareness to break that cycle before it turns into full blown stress or anxiety.
Interviewer (Vicy Wilkinson): I think you said a key word there that I know is a word that I use with myself a lot and I also use it with clients a lot is, creating an inner awareness. Recognizing what you're own responses are to stress, right? And beginning to identify them early so that you can kinda put up a road block to that so it doesn't go any further. And instead you start moving back in the other direction toward feeling relaxed, and feeling at peace, and feeling calm in your body and in your state of being. Can you sort of explain to people what sound therapy or at least what it is in how you interpret it and how you use it?
Jonathan: Sure. Well I see sound therapy as really kind of an enhancement to meditation so when I do sound therapy I do sound therapy with Tibetan bowls, which are they look like bowls and they sound like bells and they have a lot of overtones to then and so what I end up doing when I'm doing this type of therapy is putting the bowls the around a person and they're all sort of tuned at a similar scale. And so when I play these bowls it creates a wash of sounds that's very soothing and what sound therapy does, I discovered, it actually interacts with our own brain waves so our brain waves create frequency waves and most frequency waves are measured in hertz. And, so sound waves, which I use all the time as a musician, are also measured in hertz and so when I first learned about this I wondered if there were some kind of interaction between the two and I later learned that sound waves can in fact have some effect on our brain waves and so--
Interviewer (Vicy Wilkinson): Absolutely.
Jonathan:Yeah, and so when I play a certain sound wave or an oscillation that can effect the brain waves and help a person come down into a lower state of brain waves and relax. Our brain waves, and our heartbeat, and our breathing, are all connected (via the parasympathetic nervous system) and so by relaxing the brain waves patterns it helps us to release stress in our entire nervous system and so that's one aspect of it. The other aspect is stress, you know a lot of times the thinking mind is engaged throughout the day, and so that's just what I call it is the "thinking mind" and it's the part of us that always going and that mental chatter is kinda going and I think of that as being more of the left brain trait. Our left brain focuses on these patterns and we're always looking out for own survival so it's in our best interest to notice these patterns. To notice that we need to eat food in order to live and notice that we need to avoid touching hot water or, whatever it is.
So we notice these patterns but there's another side of our brain, the right brain, which takes in more of the whole picture and disengages from that constant pattern calculation. And calculating those patterns all the time I think can actually lead to stress, especially if it's unnecessary. And so sound therapy, because the sounds are kinda random and flowing, there's not really a pattern to them. And so it, in my opinion, launches the person into that right brain space much more quickly. Whereas with music (in general) we're hearing the patterns and we hear the chord progressions and the scales and they can all be very beautiful and there's nothing wrong with that, but with sound therapy itself it's bypassing that whole part of the brain so I think that those two things are key in how the sound therapy works. So, number one, it's just altering the brain waves and then number two, it's getting outside of that "thinking mind" and getting outside of those patterns to experience the present moment.
Interviewer (Vicy Wilkinson): Absolutely. So the last time that I heard you speak you mentioned the brain wave patterns, which is something that I am very familiar with, and we use a lot of different techniques to help people after we move from high beta state which is essentially a panic attack when you're in very high frequency beta and then start bringing that down and learning to induce alpha state and even theta state with a lot of experience. And I've noticed that last weekend when you were doing the sound therapy that it was very obvious to me that I was very deep in theta state because I was very aware of what was happening but at the same time had no real interaction with it. And it's interesting for me to hear you theory on sort of bypassing most of the left brain because one of the things that really resonated was my awareness of my internal state of being, which neuroscience calls, interoception, and it was really acute not only during the experience, but also afterwards for several hours.
I was very super aware of the internal workings of my body like even once I was sort of, back, functioning in the world, and driving my car, and going to the grocery store and that kind of thing. And so now that you told me this other part of your theory I think that makes a lot of sense because the right brain, one of it's jobs, is to give us sort of a Gestalt view of ourselves and give us really deep access to the energy and information flow from our body into our minds into our brains. So, thank you for sharing that. That was sort of new to me in talking to you... so I'll have to do some thinking on that. Anyway very cool stuff!
Jonathan: I have noticed that myself and part of it, I think, is becoming more aware of that inner heart. I think just the way the world works and the way that we're educated and you know the jobs we might do, etcetera it's all outside of us. And so we're always looking outside for information and that's where our work happens but as a result of this experience I just, echo what you said, I can go inwards and do internal monitoring of my systems and think about how I feel and learn to react or at least just be aware of those things in real time.
Interviewer (Vicy Wilkinson): Definitely. Which, and as you say, that helps you stay in the moment which is really important. So, Jonathan I would love to talk to you more so maybe we can do this again and a have a Part Two on sound therapy and what you do because I really think it's fascinating. And it's something that's really accessible it's really easy to help people get still. And I think that's one of the things. I know I get a lot of resistance from my clients when we kinda get to a point in coaching where they recognize they need to do something to get still. Have some being time, not just do time, all of the time. And the sound seem to make it a little more approachable, I think, for a lot of people. So if someone was interested in what you do, how might they find you or something about what you do.
Jonathan: Sure. Well I started a website called SonicYogi.com and so up on that website I have music that I've created. And the downloads are actually free so people can go there and listen and stream the music there or download it. And, then I also have a link out to a blog where I have been exploring some of these ideas that we've talked about for myself if anybody's interested in reading more too.
For sound downloads click here.
Just a personal note: There is nothing new under the sun. I am just attempting to present info. here that has helped me. I hope to present it in a clear way based on my experience with anxiety which was a spiritual, psychological and emotional awakening for me. In retrospect of this experience I have been reading as much as I could to come to a deeper and more grounded understanding of this seemingly mystical thing that happened to me (so that I could share it with you). I'm not a doctor or a scientist. Please know this is only my experience. Yours will obviously be different, but since my experience was so similar to others I've talked to, I am hoping this may be helpful or useful to you in some way. It's also a way that I hope to share the love with you. That is my purpose here.