I jacked my shoulder during Ashtanga practice, and my chiropractor was conveniently out of town. Clearly, the only logical choice was to drive to the desert for a sound bath at the Integratron.
Sure, a lot of us have been to the ol’ Integratron sound bath a dozen times over, after long weekends spent bouldering and tripping, alternately and simultaneously. The two-story wooden dome is known as an über-sound chamber, an interdimensional conduit for cellular regeneration, miraculous healings and deep relaxation. Plus, the architectural mystery is wrapped in lengthy, multihued yarns about visiting “ships” and beings and vague otherworldly occurrences.
I dragged along my friend Herwig Mauer, a frustratingly unflirty sound snob. The drive to Landers is a long one, and I was hoping the combination of harmonic frequencies, Joshua trees and alien conspiracy theories would (finally) get him to loosen up and make out with me.
Integratron custodian/devotee Joanne Kern, of the radiant glow, the sparkling energy and the bewitching combination of New York smarts and Mojave earthiness, greeted us with warm smiles and open arms. Composer and sound designer Alan Howarth and vibrational healer/innovator Don Estes and his sassy wife and girl-genius daughters were also hanging out in the dome, gearing up for the upcoming Global Sound Conference and soaking in the oogie-boogie.
Before our collective bath, Howarth, known for his Halloween movie scores, as well as a slew of big-screen sound effects, shared an impromptu demonstration of his latest discovery: RA music. Purporting that the music-industry standard that keeps Western musicians in tune with one another is flat-out wrong — it’s out of tune with the natural harmonics of the planet — Howarth played us RA samples in which he’d adjusted the pitch and the frequencies so that they resonated with Earth’s natural tones, rendering our listening adventure a visceral whole-body experience, instead of just ear candy. Granted, in the Integratron, every sound experience is visceral, but I did feel a difference between the RA samples and the “wrong” ones, as Enya’s dramatic vocals vibrated up the length of my spine.
Our sound bath was all that, and then some. Sprawled out on the wooden floor, padded mat beneath my back, woven cotton blanket covering my bare feet, I melted into the soothing sounds of the Tibetan bowls Kern lovingly played. My mind relaxed, my chakras tingled, my shoulder soaked in the various bits of sound stuff and relaxed its way into a pain-free state of alignment that trumped any chiropractic adjustment I’ve ever had.
Yay, mission accomplished. Well, half of it, at least. No saliva was swapped with Herwig, no germs exchanged, but my shoulder was as good as new. We drove back to Los Angeles under a blanket of electric stars, which grew dimmer, dimmer and dimmer still the farther west we got.
Days later, I found myself alongside the notorious nonflirt Herwig once more, this time in Estes’ tiny purple West L.A. office, a tidy enclave filled with computers and sound equipment and pictures of dolphins, deities and glyphs, as well as a complicated sea of spirals and symbols emblazoned on a poster Estes himself designed in an a-ha! state of divine inspiration, titled “Absolute Scale of Relative Cosmic Reality: Principles of Harmonic Law.” Straining to wrap my mind around the work he’s doing and the breadth of its repercussions, I followed Estes’ instructions to craft an intention. At first, I was torn between something altruistic and grand, like the swift healing of humanity, and something simple and selfish, like an end to the crushing insomnia that’s rendered me raccoon-eyed and woozy for weeks.
“Go for the insomnia,” barked Herwig, who may or may not know how much I love to be bossed around.
I spoke my intention into a microphone, while Estes recorded the sample, then input it in a computer program that, by way of algorithms, sacred geometry, quantum physics, trigonometry, vibrational technology and mystical Godstuff, was transformed into a colorful mandala, which Estes deconstructed into an astoundingly accurate reading of my personality. He told me how much of my potential I’m actualizing, as well as where my energy is distributed, which chakras are strained and why.
But wait, it got better. Estes led me into a dark room in which green laser-projected stars twinkled on the ceiling. I climbed onto a narrow waterbed beneath a flat-screen monitor angled just above my head, and put on a pair of headphones. While watching undulating pieces of the mandala that is the visual representation of my own potential/actualization, I listened to a feedback program (clicks and beats and tinkles and machinery and music and dolphin talk) which, Estes claimed, would adjust my own physical/psychological/spiritual/emotional makeup and rearrange it all into a more optimal configuration. The sounds were accompanied by a vibro-tactal component, which I experienced as a vibrating massage apparatus coming through the underside of the waterbed. Apparently, the kinesthetic aspect allows several gagillion more cells to absorb the vibrations, which makes a far more effective tool for transformation than if it were merely an audio experience or even an audio-visual experience.
Getting any of this?
Estes sent me home with a copy of my “real and imaginal” mandalas and my personalized feedback program, as well as a seriously sore left hemisphere and the unflirty Austrian sound snob.
We delighted in the ontological repercussions over dinner at the Hare Krishna temple, and parted ways with a peck and a hug. I collapsed moments after arriving home, and slept like a baby for the first time in weeks.