I’ve listened to a lot of music, but I didn’t know there could be so many sounds at once.
This was my immediate takeaway after a sound-massage session with Chris Zimonick, creator of the High Heart Project, named after the 13th chakra: what connects us to the divine. The project is a collection of her various practices with yin and kundalini yoga, sound massage, meditation and gong and sound concerts.
Sound massage has a range of benefits that come from massaging and harmonizing cellular tissue through sound and vibration, including releasing tension, instilling deep relaxation, releasing toxins from the body and assisting with chronic stress and anxiety, among others.
This is done by placing bowls on or near the (clothed) body and hitting the bowls with a felt mallet, which sends vibrations into bones, organs, muscles and tissue.
That’s what happened when Zimonick invited me to experience it for myself at her Sturgeon Bay studio.
I lay down on an extremely comfortable massage table. She covered me with a blanket and lulled me into a state of relaxation through her guiding words, urging me to let every muscle in my body relax, one by one.
Soon, I couldn’t tell where my body ended and the table began. The sensation was heightened when she started placing bowls on my body and began gently tapping them with a mallet.
Zimonick’s process is fluid and depends on what the client needs. She hit one bowl for a few minutes and then switched to hitting multiple bowls back and forth. Her speed changed, but her rhythm remained smooth.
“A lot of my work is just intuitive,” she said. “I’m just a channel.”
Before I knew it, sound filled the room, traveling in a way I hadn’t heard before: bouncing off the walls and ebbing back and forth from ear to ear. It felt as though some sounds were ringing distantly up in the corners, and some seemed to swim in the air around my head. Vibrations seemed to continuously flow in and out of my body as well.
The combination of sound and vibration allowed me to enter a trancelike state, and I realized in the middle of the session that I had been asleep. I could have been floating, for all I knew.
Before the session began, Zimonick explained that it’s common to enter a sleeplike state in which the body is asleep but the consciousness remains aware. Often, memories that have been buried in muscle memory resurface. I found myself thinking about harmless things that I hadn’t thought about in years, but it can be an emotional process for some, especially if the memories come from a place of trauma. We tend to hold dramas and issues in our bodies. Some clients have cried.
Zimonick said twitching is another common physical reaction, which comes from the “stuck” energy that lies dormant in the muscle.
“You should feel more spacious,” she said after we’d finished. “It’s very grounding; it brings you back to center.”
The bowls tend to be aligned with the chakras, and Zimonick said my root chakra, which sits at the base of the spine, was the most responsive. They all mean different things, and that one is responsible for the feeling of safety and being grounded.
The experience can be spiritual: Zimonick said all people are born with their own vibration and soul essence, and even things that aren’t alive have a vibration.
“Our energy is all one; we’re all made up of the same,” she explained. “You merge into what is. It’s like going home; it feels familiar.”
According to Zimonick’s website, “The Universal Law of Vibration states that everything in the world moves and vibrates. Everything is vibrating at one speed or another … Everything has its own vibrational frequency: the bed, your bike, the bathroom mirror, the tree; even our thoughts and feelings.”
Science and sound are beginning to be in conversation with each other, too. There’s proof in medicine, she said. People heal faster when they listen to certain music because it increases endorphins in the brain.
Though Zimonick is providing a service, she also receives when she gives, she said – she’s meditating the whole time.
“I get to play every day,” she said. “I love to see what sound massage does for people. I can’t believe how it has transformed some of my clients.”