May is Mental Health Month, and a timely topic it is. For the first time in a century, our life expectancy in the US is now declining over the last three years, as opposed to continuing what many saw as an inexorable rise. The culprit is not the usual suspects of heart disease, cancer, and stroke, but instead this alarming dip in longevity is due to the opioid crisis (which killed 72,000 Americans in 2017) and a sharp rise in suicides across broad categories of age and gender (increasing overall 26% in the US between 1999 and 2015).
This tsunami of misery is related to the relative spiritual vacuum in our culture – a secular society that maintains only the material world exists and any other phenomena are illusions to be ignored. Our predominantly physical approach to mental health (in the form of pharmaceuticals) has failed to reverse this alarming trend, but striking alternatives exist. I will be co-presenting a course in Fall 2019 to health practitioners on one such modality. The solutions lie in developing a facile relationship with our more capable “higher souls” through a practice of going within. Only then can we address the emptiness inside that leads people towards depression, anxiety, addiction and suicide. Quieting the mind is challenging for most in our modern world, especially for those struggling with mental health issues.
As many of my fellow physicians are discovering, any true physical, mental and emotional health depends fundamentally on spiritual health. Spiritual, in this sense, is not necessarily religious, but simply an admission of the connectedness we all share (with other sentient life as well as with the universe at large), as well as a sense of meaning and purpose of our existence. Personally, I have maintained an ongoing sense of connection since my coma journey from listening to Sacred Acoustics audio recordings on a regular basis. Such a process helps me to connect with the neutral observer within in order to gain a broader perspective over life’s challenges and to find inner peace.
The sense of hearing represents one of our most primordial connections with the world around us. Various manipulations of sound have been used for tens of thousands of years to help engender transcendental states of conscious awareness, in the form of chants, anthems and hymns. The very resonant acoustical properties of ancient burial chambers, as well as of soaring cathedrals, all indicate how experiences and memories of sound, or especially of “music,” play an integral role in our connecting with the various phases of human existence, especially those beyond the material world.
Most of these sound modalities involve neural processing in the recently-evolved acoustic neocortex of the temporal lobes. I believe that one of the primary reasons that the binaural beat brainwave entrainment of Sacred Acoustics is so powerful in allowing transcendental levels of consciousness is that its presumptive effect in a far more primitive region of the brain, the superior olivary nucleus (SON) complex in the lower brainstem, greatly amplifies its impact on levels of consciousness.
In evolutionary biology, one can examine the origins of a function such as consciousness by assessing the role of more primitive anatomic structures descending through the tree of evolution. Thus most sounds humans process mainly in the recently evolved neocortex (evolved ~ few millions of years ago) are not as intimately involved with the origins of consciousness-allowing structures in the lower brainstem (the SON and related reticular activating system evolved over 300 million years ago, before mammals, at a time when reptiles and amphibians were just crawling out of the muck).
To date, most of our observations about the utility of Sacred Acoustics tones have been anecdotal, but recent clinical pilot studies are leading towards a more objective scientific assessment of the relevant tools and techniques. The pilot study for this work, in which 26% of study patients had a significant reduction in anxiety as measured by the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory, vs only 7% of controls, certainly suggests a major role for Sacred Acoustics tones in treating anxiety. The study has been accepted by the prestigious Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, for publication soon. (Anna Yusim, MD, Justinas Grigaitis. Efficacy of binaural beat meditation technology for treating anxiety symptoms: a pilot study. J Nervous Mental Dis, 2019)
Based on this clinical study (and the myriad associated clinical observations), my life partner and co-founder of Sacred Acoustics, Karen Newell, and psychiatrist Anna Yusim, will join me in teaching a series of healing practitioner workshops this fall aimed at educating health care workers of all stripes (physicians, psychologists, nurses, social workers, addiction specialists, reiki workers, massage therapists, etc.) in the potential for applying such Sacred Acoustics tones towards healing in cases of anxiety, depression, insomnia, and lack of focus.
During this course, we will discuss various theories and non-conventional relationships of brain and consciousness and demonstrate the scientific evidence for filter theory and mind over matter as it relates to health. We will review the various causes of mental health disorders and gain a broader perspective on mental health treatment modalities. You will participate in direct practice using audio brainwave entrainment technology, breath techniques, heart awareness and additional practices. Ultimately, you will realize the importance of personal experience in meditation for daily life and how to apply the use of sound meditation in the process of becoming more whole.
Other pilot projects in the works include the use of Sacred Acoustics tones in a hospice and palliative care setting, especially assessing their use in alleviating agitation, engendering terminal lucidity and potentially even shared-crossing experiences (similar in quality to near-death experiences, shared crossings generally occur in health workers or family at the bedside of a dying patient).
As the focus for the treatment of such conditions falls away from pharmaceuticals and more towards powerful modalities like Sacred Acoustics tones, we are uncovering more of our innate abilities to heal ourselves through expanding power of “placebo effect,” a decades-long admission from the medical community that our beliefs do indeed provide much of our true ability to heal — we truly live in a universe where mind has tremendous power over matter, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the use of sound to heal our mental selves.