I Took a Sound Bath, It Was Loud and Then I Cried

But in a good way.

ByABC News
June 26, 2015, 11:27 AM
The Integratron is a sound bath destination located in Landers, California.
The Integratron is a sound bath destination located in Landers, California.
Kai MacMahon

— -- “I think I want to get a sound bath while we’re on the West Coast,” I told my husband as we booked an Airbnb for our planned babymoon.

“What’s that?” came his inevitable follow-up question. In truth, I wasn’t entirely sure.

I had noticed the phrase appearing in an increasing number of lifestyle publications, recommended at spas everywhere from Berkeley to Brooklyn. Many descriptions referred to the practice as a “deep listening experience” that could involve quartz singing bowls, gongs, drums or tuning forks to relieve tension and recalibrate one’s energy systems.

At 7 months pregnant and as wide as a wine barrel, I liked the idea of a spa treatment that didn’t involve getting undressed or anyone touching me. But to my skeptical mind, a sound bath also sounded a bit vague and new age-y. Did one clap at the end? Bow ceremoniously? Leave a tip?

Still, I was intrigued that such a thing existed and hoped it might shake off some third-trimester nerves. So I let my curiosity lead me over the spiritual fence and into the Mojave Desert.

The Integratron is a 55-foot-diameter white domed structure located off a desolate strip of highway in Landers, California -- a roughly 45-minute drive from Palm Springs. For those of us who remember such things, the setting combined with the cupola vaguely evokes Luke Skywalker’s childhood home on Tattooine.

But that’s not the Integratron’s only connection to the stars.

The building was erected in 1959 by ufologist and self-proclaimed contactee George Van Tassel, who claimed that visitors from Venus had instructed him to do so. Funded primarily by UFO conventions and private donations -- some which notably came from reclusive industrialist Howard Hughes -- the intended use for the structure was to facilitate time travel.

Van Tassel died unexpectedly, however, before the Integratron’s official completion in 1978. So instead of bridging time and space, the building was left fallow until 2000, when it was purchased by three sisters -- Joanne, Nancy and Patty Karl -- who found a new purpose for its unique architectural characteristics: sound baths.

“The building is built entirely out of wood, no nails,” said our bath facilitator, Drayton, while giving me and my husband a tour before our appointment. “So it’s basically like sitting inside of a giant guitar.”

The combination of a curvilinear dome and reverberating Douglas fir creates an acoustic amplifier, he said, which guests can test out by standing above a carved hole the size of a tennis ball positioned directly below a circular skylight in the center of the space. There, even the most gentle voice thunders like Thor. Move five inches in any direction and you’re back to normal.

PHOTO: Quartz singing bowls are played to help promote relaxation during sound bath sessions at the Integratron.
Quartz singing bowls are played to help promote relaxation during sound bath sessions at the Integratron.

As we settled onto individual blankets set up across the floor, Drayton described how he would be playing a series of quartz singing bowls, each keyed to a different chakra to release blocked energies and promote inner harmony during our 60-minute session.

Some guests had even been known to have out-of-body experiences, he told us. Others connected with deceased relatives.

Um, I’m not looking to have an out-of-body experience, I thought. I’m pregnant. I want to remain right here with my son and husband. I just wanted to chill out a little bit.

As if reading my mind, Drayton then said the elevated awareness also could help foster a bond between mother and child.

“If you’ve already connected with your baby, which I am sure that you have,” he went on, “This will be like rocket fuel.”

I was suddenly very excited.