Some experiences have an unexplainable way of quieting the senses, like a gentle wave of calm, washing over you, detangling the nerves and smoothing out the rough edges. Sound therapy is one such experience, and the owner of Bayou Lotus Studiö in Jeanerette says that feeling is actually your body and mind becoming integrated.
Susan Buller is a certified practitioner in sound healing, who uses her lifelong passion and training as a musician and vocalist to enhance her clients’ therapy sessions. The experience begins inside her studio, which is awash in color– swags of jewel-toned fabrics, fresh flowers, mood lighting – and is filled with therapeutic instruments, which lie in anticipatory silence, waiting to be brought to life. A gong, Tibetin singing bowls, chimes, a bell tree, a harp. Some will be played today. Some, another time. All of her instruments, particularly the singing bowls, have personalities to Buller, and she relies on her own intuition to choose her instrument and how she will play it.
Perhaps Buller’s most reliable instrument is her own singing voice: one of the most pleasant sounds this writer has ever heard. She began singing and playing the piano when she was 6, and earned a degree in music education from LSU. She credits music with helping her work through her own anxieties and uncertainties through the years, and in setting her on the path to believing there was something else, something higher, at work inside all of us. Today she plays multiple instruments, and recently added the harp to her repertoire.
Healing through sound is one of the oldest and most sacred of the ancient arts. The practice is rooted in the notion that all things, including every organ and cell inside our bodies, and every person, place and thing surrounding us, are in a constant state of vibration. When our body’s vibrations become imbalanced, a sound therapist will help correct the frequencies. “The sounds you’re hearing from my vocal cords right now are pulsing through the air and hitting the membrane in your ear and transmitting to your brain,” she explains. “But they are also hitting all the cellular fluid of your body. So the words and sounds we hear – the commercials, the music, the chatter– are powerful and have a powerful effect directly on our cells. Sound is integrating into the sacred geometry of our body.”
Sounds, Buller says, can either be damaging or healing. “A mother that sings to her baby is literally healing the child. The vocal cords are connected to the vagus nerve. The same way you can hear when someone is upset by the timbre of their voice,” she explains. “We become a different animal when we’re stressed out,” she says. “Sound can help that or make it worse.”
Stressors can take many forms, from a traffic jam to a tragic loss, but the result is the same to your system, if not dealt with properly. Buller explains that when people lock their mind off during stress or trauma, that’s exactly the time “dis-ease” sets in and generates an ailment. “Integrating the body and mind with breathing and “good vibrations” before and during the stress will stave off the disease. “Most of us are completely disconnected from the neck down. Walking heads,” she says. “We can indirectly affect our endocrine system, our limbic system, our circulatory system just by vibrations. By intuition. By breathing. By coming into a different understanding of our body.”
Sound of Science
Although there is a large and growing gap in scientific inquiries conducted in the ancient healing arts versus traditional medicine, there is mounting interest in the study of sound and vibrations. For example in cymatics, the study of visual representations created by sound waves and vibrations, scientists have learned that sound creates specific patterns, depending on the intention, pitch or timbre of the noise.
In another example, Dr. Masaru Emoto’s work using high-speed photography captured crystals that form in frozen water and discovered the patterns changed depending on the concentrated thoughts of the person making the sound: the intention.
Buller is a believer in traditional medicine, but she hopes that individuals and their doctors will become more integrative in their approach so that our systems are supported before they become diseased. As it stands most people see the doctor after they’ve already become sick, and usually only concentrate on one part of the body. Sound therapists and other ancient arts practitioners believe our bodies have an innate ability to stave off the disease through more integrative approaches. “To be human is not just physical. It’s mental, emotional, spiritual, and social. It’s an integrativeness. A wholeness,” she says.
She is quick to point out, she does not “cure” her clients; rather she supports the individual’s own innate way of healing. “I read somewhere that healing is not the same as curing,” she recalls. “There is an element of being healed, even if you have stage-4 cancer. You may be healed in a sense of acceptance and wholeness; there’s a sense of serenity.”
In addition to the sound therapy sessions at her studio, Buller also incorporates elements of meditation and breathing and teaches traditional Hatha yoga at City Park in New Iberia, as well as line dancing (which she also considers therapeutic). She holds sound bath events periodically for groups, and the next one will be at The Gym in New Iberia on October 31. “It takes all types of modalities to heal humans individually. The ancient arts and the human body are so mysterious and so complex.”