Sound Healing for Beginners: Using Vibration to Harmonize Your Health and Wellness, by Joshua Goldman and Alec W. Sims
Llewellyn Worldwide, 0738745367, 338 pp., 2015
The title Sound Healing for Beginners is a bit of a misnomer, as the authors cover the length and breadth of sound and how it pertains to mysticism, in a language that anyone can understand, but there is enough information, on a staggering variety of topics, for the most experienced sound experts to learn something new. Any interested in sonics, acoustics, music, neurology, or mysticism will find this book illuminating.
Take a moment and really listen, right where you are sitting, right at this very moment. What do you hear? Perhaps some music or TV, maybe a car alarm, a dog barking in the distance.
You might start to notice the hum of whirring appliances, the high-pitched whine of electricity, even the ever-present twin shadows of pulse and breath that accompany every moment of our lives with their syncopated symphony. If we were to listen long enough, or were tuned in enough, we might even begin to hear the hum of the Earth itself.
Perhaps the greatest lesson to be gleaned from soundwork is fluidity. We not not fixed state “things” or static objects. The essence of our being consists of fluid processes of continually shifting patterns of energy and vibration.
Sounds surround us — every second of every day — in a dense web of subtle energies and vibrations. The soundworld colours our perceptions of the world in too many ways to count and yet, too often, we are oblivious to sound’s influence, which then operates subconsciously, outside of our attention and control.
Hearing, as a sense, metaphorically brings the world inside of ourselves. It erases our boundaries, to truly take in the world around us. It’s as if we were eating every single squeal, thud, and tick. When we are really listening, we let the world in, and allow ourselves to be affected. Sound, hearing, listening, all place us inside of the world, as well as impacting the way we look at it.
For a second sonic illustration, think of a time if your life when you were really stressed. Perhaps your heart was hammering uncontrollably, with slight beads of chilled sweat dotting your hairline. Now imagine listening to the sound of a lazy mountain river, crystal water lapping and sliding over smooth stones in butter yellow sun. Did you notice a decrease in your heart rate, when imagining that relaxing burble?
We are constantly falling into and out of sync with the world around us, primarily via the principles of resonance and entrainment, both of which are discussed at great lengths throughout Sound Healing For Beginners.
Considering how powerful sound truly is, it’s not taken that seriously by western science and academia, forever playing second fiddle to that Golden Maiden of the western world: sight. Too often, bringing up the phrases “binaural beats” or “brainwave entrainment,” you can practically hear the eyes rolling like marbles, as you are pigeonholed as just another wingnut with a screw loose.1
Joshua Goldman and Alec Sim’s Sound Healing For Beginners deals in physics and neurology as much as, if not more, than shamanism, mantras, trance, or energy work. The authors are fluent in both tongues, speaking like Ph.D.s as well as mystics. As a result, Sound Healing For Beginners is an invaluable contribution towards bringing science and metaphysics back together, where they belong.
It is this common tongue that makes Sound Healing For Beginners such a remarkable book. The science is rigorous — as in the case of grandfather clocks together in a room falling into sync, as an example of entrainment — to illustrate the subtle effects our environment can have on our neurophysiology.
Investigating the sound sphere can lead to an interest, or at least an awareness of acoustic ecology, or the effects of noise pollution on our biology. The authors touch on the topic, as well as sonic transmutation: the art of turning noise into a kind of music. They even touch on silence, and its impossibility in this world.
You’ve got to love any book that has chapter titles like “What is Shamanism?” or “The Benefits of Brainwave Entrainment,” and “Sound and Magick,” all in the same volume. Goldman and Sims give legitimacy to each aspect of sound and mysticism, and are fluent in them all. It’s not often you find a scientist willing to discuss magick seriously, or find a magician left-brained enough to take such detailed notes. The authors have done a serious service for both communities, with Sound Healing For Beginners. We’re reminded of the motto of the A.’. A.’. “The method of Science and the aim of Religion.”
I legitimately love Sound Healing for Beginners. As a lifelong student of music and sound, I feel like I’ve waited years for this book. I love its thoroughness. I enjoyed the “Conscious Listening” section the most, as a dedicated noise freak who frequently uses sonic transmutation to keep calm and carry on. The “Shamanic Journeying” section is also quite fascinating, offering useful exercises to let listening guide you outside of yourself.
Working with sound can offer an untold peace. It offers the ability to notice your environment and interact to it, instead of being at the mercy of its whims. It lets the world in. It’s trance inducing. It’s emotional. It’s communicative. Working with sound also offers the tools to really learn how to listen and understand, which is something we desperately need to cultivate in this world.