Healing Through Sound with Brooke Smokelin
By Sven Hosford
(Summer Solstice, June 1998) North Shore, Pittsburgh: On the carpet of grass along the Allegheny River between the Roberto Clemente and Andy Warhol Bridges, a crowd gathered to watch a group of musicians, all dressed in white, preparing to perform on a small stage. Brooke Smokelin had brought us all together for a River Alchemy event, a musical celebration and ceremony to heal bodies of water with sound. Smokelin's main instruments were crystal bowls containing some river water.
In her blog, Smokelin says of the ceremony, “Participants are invited to partake of this energetic elixir, as this 'sweet water' harmonizes everyone there to the same vibration, the same intention, and at the very end of the event, this 'charged' water is ceremonially offered to the river or body of water we are honoring. This aspect of a River Alchemy experience literally and energetically 'raises the vibration' of all the bodies of water that are there.”
As the Publisher of “Point of Light,” a magazine covering the New Age scene in the area, I knew Smokelin well, and eagerly anticipated the performance. We watched as the musicians disappeared down to a dock below the river wall, out of sight of the crowd, to pray together, put their feet in the river, and gather water for the event.
As the group held hands, prayed and chanted, a woman floated by. A despondent, intoxicated, homeless woman had thrown herself into the river just upstream. They grabbed her and pulled her up onto the dock. She gazed at their white outfits in wonder. “Are you angels?” she asked.
Bodies of Water
In the two decades since, Smokelin has performed River Alchemy ceremonies on the solstice and equinox for external bodies of water across the country. As our bodies are over 75 percent water, Smokelin also applies many of the same principles to heal human bodies of water. We talked recently about exactly how this works.
“We turn to music to inspire certain emotions. Music is such an emotional vehicle — it allows us to amplify certain feelings,” says Smokelin. As a musician and sound healing practitioner, she has witnessed healing of all kinds, not just river rescues. “There’s no scientific instrument that can measure that, but most people carry that understanding.” She is discussing how sound heals and starts with basic aspects about music and vibrations.
“Taking it a step further, there are sounds that can induce or support a sense of relaxation. That is the most natural portal to the realm of sound healing,” she says. “Whether you are working with an oncologist at UPMC Cancer Center or just had a stressful day, sound can come in there and foster a sense of healing.” Smokelin is, in fact, now providing sound healing to patients of Dr. Lanie Francis and the Integrated Oncology Center at the Hillman Cancer Center in Shadyside. This is evidence, according to Smokelin, that traditional medicine has validated her work and the healing power of sound.
She touches on the science. “Different vibrations, different frequencies actually stimulate different parts of the brain to create beta states, alpha states, and theta states that have been documented scientifically to enhance certain physiological, certain biological functions.”
Smokelin does “sound baths," using crystal bowls, monthly at Green Heiress Holistic Health and regularly around town. “People come to sound healings or sound baths for a variety of reasons. In a sound bath, I’m asking people to lay down, be still, and be quiet. In our fast-paced world, that's not as common as you think. Most people, when they lay down, are out; they’re sleeping. A lot of people say, ‘Thank you for opportunity to just be still.’”
Brooke understands the value of relaxation and how it is supportive of every other healing modality. “It doesn’t cancel anything out, it’s supportive. If somebody gives you bad news, but you have a tool that you can go to to help you relax, that’s going to make a big difference.”
“People after a sound bath are completely different. You see it in their physiology, in their facial structure. They’re not holding onto their tension.”
She describes how this happens. “When you’re working with something like the crystal bowls or the gongs, it’s a visceral sonic experience. The bowls are powerful. So it’s not just a mental state that changes. You’ve got the water inside your body vibrating to these harmonized, specifically tuned frequencies. You get the sense of vibrational wholeness.”
Becoming the Instrument
Vibrational wholeness is at the core of every aspect of what Smokelin does. That wholeness can be felt most clearly when making sounds with your own body. In the yogic tradition, the call and response group chant is known as kirtan. “In the kirtan, you are actively participating and generating a vibration, a rhythmic vibration, a tonal vibration. The chants we are singing are positive, high-vibe healing chants; they’re prayer chants from different cultures. It takes you out of the pedestrian and into the sacred, and you go into that realm collectively.”
She says it's entrainment. “When the rhythm's on, and the chants are back and forth, not only your whole body, but the whole collective body of people are vibrating at that same pulse. It’s incredibly powerful. That has physiological effects. It also has cultural, social, and emotional effects. All of a sudden, you feel part of something bigger than yourself. And it’s positive, and it’s alive, and you're both contributing to it and receiving from it.”
In her private practice, she has another tool. “When I see people one-on-one, I use tuning forks and do a chakra assessment to see where the vibrational field is actually deficient in particular frequencies. Then, we boost that frequency so an individual can feel vibrationally complete.”
Being vibrationally complete is the ultimate goal. Smokelin's work — whether it’s crystal bowls, kirtan, tuning forks, or literally pulling someone from a river — all ultimately leads towards that goal.