This story comes to us from the NPR Next Generation Radio Boot Camp held in Reno this summer. You can view the full project and other stories here.
Sound healer Cheryl Lynn Bowers prepared for a healing ceremony in the Ashtanga Yoga Studio in Reno, Nevada’s Midtown District. It was dusk, and the air in the studio was warm as Bowers unloaded a small beige suitcase full of percussion instruments, tuning forks, rain sticks and artifacts to place on an altar for an offering.
“There’s a connection between sound healing and yoga that is a really beautiful way to bring the healing modalities into our community,” she said.
Bowers identifies as a sound healer and is also student and practitioner of Acutonics.
“The Acutonics program is working with a few different aspects of healing modalities,” she said. “Chinese medicine, acupressure points, which are based on the meridians of the body. We have channels of energy through our body that release and open the energy channels that flow through, bringing those into balance and harmony.”
Finding Her Path
Bowers began as a massage therapist then practiced Thai Yoga Massage and Bhakti Yoga, She eventually found her calling during a powerful sound healing experience. Now, at age 31, she realizes this method of healing is what she is destined to do.
She knew that it was time to pick up the instruments herself, in pursuit of this new career.
“I started the program over a year ago and it’s a multilayer program that involves a basis of the [sound] studies,” she said. “It involves clinical hours, study and a thesis.”
Bowers added: “The reason why I do the sound healing and why I chose the alchemy as my career path — It is my choice and it has chosen me.”
Bowers offers private and group sound healing sessions. Her clients are primarily yogis and others who are interested in alternative forms of meditation.
“They don’t know what sound healing is but are in that space with an open mind and they will do something new, knowing that they need to open a healing space,” she said.
To diagnose clients, Bowers tries to understand where ailments may have started. Problems can start in the organs, she said, and over time that causes other areas of a client’s system to become out of alignment.
“When a client first contacts me,” she said, “we gather in a space where we can exchange information — what are they looking for, what are they feeling, how to go about making changes for what they’re looking to heal.”
In preparation for a ceremony, Bowers likes to meditate at one of her favorite overlooks in town. This evening she was at a trailhead at Peavine Mountain, called The Hoge. She explained how she spends anywhere from an hour to two hours to ground herself before a ceremony.
“It’s really significant when you are going into any kind of ceremony,” she said. “When you are working with other people’s journey and healing process it’s important to come in grounded, clear and unattached to your own personal stories and emotions. Because any energy I’m carrying, it will be carried through the work that I’m doing.”
Her preparation consists of breathing methods, chanting and giving thanks to the universe.
“The most important technique when learning to meditate or when you become more in tune with meditating is … to stay in the heart but stay out of the mind.”
The Sound Healing Ceremony
Later at the studio, Bowers sets up her altar, placing a cattle’s spine, rabbit fur, roses, lemon balm, crystals, Hindu beads (Malu Beads) and a statue of the Hindu deity Ganesha — each artifact representing a natural element that is significant to the sound healing ceremony. After reciting a prayer and placing tuning forks on her feet and chest to further ground her energy, Bowers is ready for her client, who lays on her back on a blanket, flanked by about a dozen quartz bowls and other instruments.
“I have a set of seven chakra bowls, each is a specific frequency to each individual chakra within our body,” Bowers said. “They are wheels of energy from the base of our pelvis to crown of head. Each one carries a different energy, a different way of connection to our body in this world.”
The room swells with resonating harmonies as Bowers plays the different instruments. She also plays a Native American drum and uses the sound of her own voice as part of the ceremony.
“From there it’s all channeling and allowing what needs to come through energetically and spiritually and physically,” she said, “for the alchemy of myself and the person receiving.”
She continued, “There is always an exchange between yourself and the people that you are working with. When you are healing other people, you are also healing yourself.”
The process for Bowers is a cohesive experience, and there’s a special sense of gratitude exchanged between her and her clients.
“We are all connected and we are all in this together.”
How Vibration Can Heal
Bowers explained that the tuning forks and other instruments used are aligned with the natural vibrations of the earth and during the ceremony, sounds resonate through the client’s body.
“We are [made of] energy and we are cells and when we work with vibration we get down to the deepest cellular level,” Bowers said. With exposure to intentional harmonious sound, “not only are we making a physical change in our energy’s vibration, it’s something you can feel. Within the sound ceremony you come in and your energy is one way, you leave and it’s completely changed. How that happens is sounds and vibrations. The more open you are to it the more beneficial, but even if you’re not, it’s still happening. So you can be a non-believer and still leave feeling different.”
Bowers is a ceremonial performing artist of this form of healing. She has branded herself through her business the Heart of Sound. Though Bowers practices in Reno, she also travels to perform group healings at festivals around the country.
“The pure essence of where I am in this journey is all a complete validation of this path that I’ve been walking so gracefully,” she said, “and continues to guide me to the places that I get to share this work, this medicine, and that to me is what the nature of humanity and living on this earth is about.”