What do you hear, right now? Pause for a minute. Breathe slowly and feel your ears open up, just a little. What can you hear?
I can hear the rolling sounds of cars driving by under my window—every few seconds, the sound of tires on gravel rolling close then away. I can hear a few voices float from somewhere below. I can hear the hum of my washing machine. I can hear the rustle of my clothes as I move my limbs a little. If I listen very closely, I can hear the whisper of the leaves on the trees across the way. And I can hear my own breath, and notice that it is slightly louder than usual.
There is so much sound around us, all the time. So much, particularly if—like us—you live in a city as astoundingly, unceasingly loud as Cairo. In a city where the noise level is, on average, 85 decibels—a bit louder than standing five meters away from a freight train—it’s only natural that so many of us have lost the power to listen.
It’s only natural that so few of us understand the power of sound.
Sound healer and yoga teacher Loulli Megahed is one of those few. Her love affair with the sense, however, runs far longer than her practice.
“I play music, I’m a DJ,” are practically the first words out of her mouth when we speak. “I think people are sensitive to some senses more than others, and for me that’s sound. I truly, from the bottom of my heart, believe that music is healing.”
It’s something I think a lot of us can attest to. But what pushed Loulli over the edge was her experience in a healing circle where—to speak frankly—she just wasn’t feeling it. She saw people around her responding like they were ‘supposed’ to, they were resonating with the practice, and all she could think was: ‘I feel nothing’. Even wondering if the sadness and confusion that she had come in with were all in her head, that they weren’t a big deal.
“And then the practitioner brought out a singing bowl,” she says. Tibetan singing bowls are a type of bell, shaped like a bowl, that vibrate and produce rich tones when struck or stroked with a mallet. Historically, they were used primarily in Tibet and neighboring areas, by Buddhist monks. “He put it on my stomach, played it, and I felt the vibration. It wasn’t a long thing, just a short tin...tin…tin… And that was it.”
“I felt the sound vibration travel in my stomach, hit a point, and just released this energy,” she continues, miming the sense of something huge coming out of her stomach, through her throat. “I felt this energy come out and suddenly years of crying that had been pent up, all came out at once.”
From that point on, Loulli felt the need to discover the world of sound healing, to find out what had happened to her—as one does when brought to shaking, cathartic sobs by three taps on what appears to be just a metal bowl. She learned from a third-generation sound healer at Swayambhunath Stupa in Nepal, and from there began her journey as a practitioner.
I ask her, partly because I couldn’t help it, if she found out what it was exactly that had happened to her. Essentially, she says, it is the core of the theory and wisdom behind sound healing.
“If you put water inside of the bowl and you play it, it’s going to vibrate inside. It’ll jump and ripple and move around,” she explains. “That’s the same thing that happens inside your body. Water exists in more than 70% of you, in every cell, in every organ. And it vibrates, following the energy that’s always flowing through your body.”
To get a better handle on how it works, think of the singing bowls as a massager’s hands. Just like our physical and emotional stress creates knots in our neck and back—my own back, for instance, has been lovingly described as a wall of ropes—our unreleased stress and unfelt emotions create blockages inside our body.
“In my one-on-one sessions, I place singing bowls on the person’s body and I read them. The sound travels, vibrates, vibrates the water in your body. And when it hits a place where you have the blockage, I can read that. So I know to work on this specific part. I can see which part is most imbalanced and I can work to release as much as I can, and as much as this person is able to release at this stage.”
But, similar to what Sumaya had told us about the emotional work of massage, there’s more to getting better than showing up for the session. “It’s up to you to look at it,” says Loulli. “What is it that you’re resonating with? What is it that you need to do so you don’t fall into the same cycle and the same loop? Because if you go to someone for healing, but you don’t understand what is the core of it—what is the pattern that I’m holding onto—and you leave, then you’re just repeating the same pattern.”
A lot of this may seem difficult to understand as a theory—that someone could ring a bell and help you get better. But, when you think about it, it intersects with very common experiences. We’ve all felt it when a sound—a piece of music, a single note, an ASMR video—gave us an emotion we can’t explain.
For me, it’s the sound of an orchestra tuning before a symphony. More than just the anticipation of beautiful music, the disjointed noise really does massage my brain. It calms me down, it helps me regulate my breath, it brings me back. Think about it, there’s likely a sound in your life that does that for you, even if it’s your own voice letting out a gentle hum, feeling it vibrate your body.
We all have this relationship to our sense of sound that we might not always appreciate. The frequencies and vibrations around us resonate with what’s happening in our very bodies. We feel it, even if we don’t always understand it. But when we tune into it, when we take it and run with it and understand the ideas behind it, it has incredible potential for healing.
Learn more about Loulli Megahed and book a free 15-minute consultation here.