About seven or eight years ago, a couple of people in upstate New York decided to host a sound bath – generally, an event where attendees lay on the ground as instrumentalists play soothing tones that “wash” over and relax them – with some gongs they had bought online, though they were untrained in the techniques of sound healing and/or gong work. It just so happened that two luminaries of this approach, the zither wizard and New Age sage Laraaji and sound healer and reiki practitioner Arji Oceananda, had attended the session at the invitation of the owners of the yoga studio where it was held. And after 20 minutes the pair left, nerves jangled by their hosts’ untrained playing.
After the class had emptied out into a nearby tea shop, Laraaji and Oceananda overheard some fellow attendees talking about how they were “still buzzing,” Oceananda recalls. It sounded like they were using the description as a positive, but such an active sensation was the opposite of the blissed-out calm they were supposed to feel, and that could have had deleterious effects on people’s nervous systems. “Of course, anyone has the right to own any of those instruments, and it’s a wonderful thing to have your own bowls, tuning forks, drums and gongs,” says Oceananda. “But to then call oneself a ‘sound healer’ just because you own these instruments can really undermine the integrity of the legitimate practice of sound healing.”