Article: Light and Sound: The Medicines of the Spirit
By Isa Gucciardi, Ph.D.
Energy medicine is very basic to all experience, yet it is quite difficult to speak about. One of the reasons energy medicine is challenging to talk about is that it refers to phenomena beyond the purview of our everyday waking consciousness.
As children we have a wider perception of the subtle experience that underlies our thoughts, words and actions. When we question these perceptions, we may be met with unhelpful responses or inadequate answers because the adults around us have often lost contact with what we are experiencing. Part of “growing up” involves learning to view our reality primarily with our conscious mind’s value system. Our conscious mind values organization, goal-setting, and fitting into consensus reality in a way that does not stray too far from the socially accepted norms we learn to live by as we are growing up.
Our education system focuses on developing this problem-solving state of being, designed to block out anything disorganizing or disorienting. Seeing lights in the corner of the room or an energy wave coming off of a person expressing a strong emotion are the kinds of phenomena that get filtered out by the conscious mind’s priorities of organizing and categorizing our experience.
If we allow ourselves to return to this wider awareness we were born with, and which we engage with through dreaming, we can learn about the subtle energies that surround and inform us even when we are not conscious of them.
This is not just New Age mumbo-jumbo. Quantum physics discusses the different layers of subtle light and sound waves that interact with each other on a regular basis. The dictionary definition of physics is “the study of matter, energy, and the interaction between them.” This is exactly what energy medicine processes focus on. However, rather than use measuring devices and machines to chart the movement of sound and light, practitioners of energy medicine rely on deeper perceptual capacities that allow them to reach beyond the limitations of the conscious mind.
You may have noticed as you’re falling asleep or waking up in the morning that you have ideas and thoughts that come to you “out of the blue.” This is because the grip of the conscious mind is looser as we are falling asleep and waking up, and information that is generally blocked is more accessible to us. This is also true of the dream state.
Many people cannot recollect their dreams, but for those of us who can, the information we receive in dreams can be valuable in enhancing our everyday experience. Many famous artists, including John Lennon and Edgar Allan Poe, have drawn inspiration from dreams. Scientists, including Francis Crick and James Watson who discovered the structure of DNA, have also received information in dreams that has given purpose to their work.
We all have the capacity to expand our awareness and return to the natural openness we had when we were young. One way of developing this broader perception is by developing a meditation practice. There are many forms of meditation, but the one most likely to expand our perceptual capacity is Samatha meditation. Samatha involves focusing on a single point or object, with the traditional place of focus being the breath.
By focusing only on the breath and breaking our habit of following every thought that comes to us, we can cultivate the capacity to listen with all our senses to the subtle level of experience. This level of experience is usually blocked because of all the “noise” that is a function of the thoughts and ideas coming and going all the time in the conscious mind. In some ways you could say meditation is a way of getting the conscious mind to rest.
As we focus on the breath and the noise of our thoughts subsides, there is a subtle quiet that arises. Within this stillness, there is a spaciousness where previously unnoticed experience can become accessible. It is at this level that we begin to perceive the subtle expressions of light and sound that are the essence of energy medicine. Light and sound can simply arise and fade in the meditative state. However, if we understand that light and sound are actually medicines that can heal the body, mind and spirit, we can learn to direct them into places that are out of balance. This is energy medicine.
One of the most commonly known forms of energy medicine today is a practice called Reiki. This is a system of transmitting energy through particular symbols from one person to another or from one person to a general situation. A Japanese physician named Dr. Mikao Usui developed this form of energy medicine in the late 1800s. He created a system of transmission that has continued until the present day.
In this system of transmission, people are exposed to a particular symbol that represents a field of beneficial and healing energy. The fields of energy represented by the Reiki symbols are often perceived as light or sound by practitioners and recipients. Here is a report by a woman in her 40s who came for a Reiki healing session after a car accident left her with headaches that could not be explained on a physical level:
As I lay down on the table I felt the practitioner’s hands above me. I felt very relaxed as her hands moved from my head down to my feet. It felt like there were little pinpricks of light as her hands moved over different parts of my body, but she wasn’t touching me. I had told her that I had been having a lot of headaches, so she rested her hands just above my head. I felt a warm sense of relaxation flowing from her hands and penetrating into my sinuses and into my eyes— it was almost like a humming. The pinpricks and the warmth suffused throughout my head and I felt even more relaxed. As she continued, I felt the pain that had been moving from the front of my head to the back of my head since the accident beginning to calm down a bit. After the treatment I felt very relaxed.
When people are working with the energy contained in light or sound for the purpose of healing, they often speak about becoming a channel for that sound or light to come through them. They perceive the energy as arising outside of them and flowing through them, like water through a straw. In shamanic practice this is called “becoming a hollow bone.” As with all shamanic practices, the shaman understands that he or she is a conduit for this universal light or sound.
In many shamanic traditions, there is the practice of listening for healing songs that are designed to help correct the imbalance particular to the person who comes for help. The sound arises from the deep silence of inner focus. In the shamanic practices found in cultures in the Amazon of South America, these songs are called “icaros.” Wherever this type of healing with sound is practiced, it is understood that the sounds of the song hold the energy of healing the person needs to recover. The use of light and sound to create change on the subtlest levels of experience is at the heart of all shamanic practice.
Interestingly, it is also at the heart of Vajrayana Buddhist practice as well. In the practice of tantra, which is part of the tradition, there are many esoteric principles related to energy medicine. These practices focus on the movement and direction of the subtle energy flows found in sound and light.
One area of study revolves around understanding the qualities of phenomena called “the five pure lights.” These rays of light relate to the elements of fire, water, air, earth and space and are understood to be the subtler expressions of these elements. In tantric healing, practitioners work to focus these rays into physical imbalance to create change on the elemental level.
There are other schools of energy medicine that work with rays of light as well. One of the best known is Vedic science, out of which yoga arises. Many people in the west have now studied yoga and have been exposed to the study of the subtle bodies that underlie and infuse the physical body, a study that is fundamental to Vedic science and Ayurvedic medicine. These subtle bodies are composed of energetic phenomena called chakras and channels. The exchange of energy between the subtle bodies and the physical body is explored by Ayurvedic medicine.
The health of these subtle bodies affects the health of the physical body, and the health of the physical body affects the health of the subtle bodies. These energetic structures correspond to different parts of the physical body. For instance, the chakras are located near the endocrine glands, and a structure called the central channel lies along the spine.
When Vedic practitioners focus light or sound into the body, they focus them into these energetic structures. These structures can be perceived as the conscious mind relaxes and allows this subtle experience to make itself known through the practice of yoga or meditation.
In Depth Hypnosis, the spiritual counseling model I have been developing over the last 20 years, energy medicine contributes many important elements to the process of healing. At the heart of Depth Hypnosis is the understanding that all imbalance is a function of some disruption in a person’s relationship to their core self.
This core self is conceived of as Buddha Nature in Buddhist practice, or the Higher Self in shamanic practice. Buddha Nature is expressed in various ways, but all of them involve a recognition of a gentle, penetrating energy that infuses a person’s experience on an energetic level. The energy system of the physical body is the place where this experience is most commonly registered, but it affects people on a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level. This part of the self is considered to be wise, compassionate, non-judgmental and, importantly, connected to the subtle expression of light and sound referred to as “ground luminosity” in Buddhist practice.
The experience of ground luminosity is attained through deep meditative states but exists even when people are not aware of it. There are schools of meditative practice, most notably Dzogchen in Tibetan Buddhism, where the cultivation of the perception of ground luminosity is the primary practice. One focus of study is accessing awareness of ground luminosity at the heart of all physical expressions while being fully engaged in the material world. The channeling of light and sound as medicine on an energetic level creates a direct path between ground luminosity and the grosser levels of material experience.
Light and sound, when focused and directed with this understanding, have a profound healing effect. This is especially true when combined with other types of interventions that are part of Depth Hypnosis. For instance, in Depth Hypnosis, we often begin by helping people gain a conceptual understanding of their dilemmas. As we are speaking to them, we can work to direct different forms of energy— light, for instance— into the areas of their bodies or minds that are affected by the imbalance. This enhances their ability to access information conceptually, and helps them process their emotional experience as the work of Depth Hypnosis expands into the altered state of hypnosis.
I would like to offer my own experience of subtle energies within a Depth Hypnosis session as a practitioner. I am reporting my perceptions on a kinesthetic level, which is the way I perceive subtle experience. Kinesthetic ways of knowing often register in the body rather than in the mind.
People often say, “I just knew that was going to happen,” or, “I just had a gut feeling about that guy” when they are perceiving things on a kinesthetic level. Although we are perceiving things on this level all the time, we often discount this information or overlook it. Among other reasons, this is because the conscious mind does not have a way of incorporating this information with the other five senses.
In this session, an older man came in for help trying to adapt to hearing loss and a long-standing sense of disconnection. He had been depressed, and said he had lost his way in life as a result of losing his hearing. He was a well-known and successful musician, but his loss of hearing was keeping him from performing. His identity was entirely based on his capacities as a musician, and this identity had helped him deal with the difficulty he had connecting to others whenever he was not playing music.
As he sat down across from me, I perceived that the chakras in the upper part of his body were all open and filled with light— and sound. I could almost hear the music moving through his energy system. Despite feeling disconnected from his heart’s desire— to be a musician— his heart chakra was surprisingly open. This opening was likely due to the music flowing through his energy system. The music was still running through his subtle bodies, even as he was losing his capacity to hear it.
However, his lower two chakras were darker and closed. As I asked him about his history, I started sending rays of light into the lower chakras. When you are working with energy medicine, there are many ways you can channel light or sound to change existing configurations. I teach these methods in the Integrated Energy Medicine classes offered through the Sacred Stream Center in Berkeley, CA, methods that are challenging to explain without the required transmission.
When I perceived this darkness in his lower chakras, I began channeling a light pink light into his first and second chakras that arose from the level of ground luminosity as I was internally inquiring as to what kind of light might be most helpful to this situation.
At first, he disregarded my questions about his intimate relationships. However, as I started bringing that light in, he circled back around and revealed a very traumatic first sexual encounter. He had been passed out when it happened and had mostly forgotten about it on a conceptual level. However, the experience registered in his energy system. As he was speaking, he paused and marveled that he had never said anything about this experience in any other therapy he had engaged in.
He said this traumatic encounter had never meant much to him, and he was not aware of its effect on his sexual expression. In fact, it had totally affected the way he connected with people on an energetic level because it had polluted his lower chakras. Each of the chakras mediates a different type of experience, and the experience mediated by these chakras has everything to do with connection and relationship.
The blockage on the energetic level was the basis of his loneliness and disconnection with others on an emotional and physical level, even before the hearing loss set in. His engagement with music— the medicine of sound— had been medicating this disconnection. When he lost the ability to connect to this medicine, the disconnection reasserted itself for a deeper healing.
When he started sharing about the event, there was a swirl where the blockages in the lower chakras were, and he became agitated. I stopped focusing the light as he was not ready to look at the way in which this encounter was affecting his larger experience. There was more work we had to do before he could unlock this particular pattern in his lower chakras on an energetic level, but now he was able to understand the impact of the encounter better on a conceptual level. He could now begin to understand his sense of disconnection over the course of his life that had been aggravated by his hearing loss.
There are other ways that energy medicine functions in Depth Hypnosis sessions as well. During sessions, practitioners are trained to establish strong connections with their own Buddha nature, as well as their client’s Buddha nature. Much of the training in Depth Hypnosis revolves around establishing stronger connections with the experience of ground luminosity that practitioners bring into sessions. All of this work is invisible to the client, yet they are aware the therapeutic process moves quickly and that they feel supported in a new way. This is because the work of energy medicine — the use of sound and light — supports the therapeutic process in subtle, yet profound ways.