The Anxious Angeleno’s Guide to the Sound Bath Experience

One Los Angeles resident decides to take stress into her own hands with a trip to The Five Sense Collective in Malibu.

Courtesy of the Five Sense Collective

While it might sound frivolous to tout wellness treatments while the world suffers so much strife, there’s no denying people are dealing with high levels of anxiety and stress right now. It’s utterly devastating to watch Russian attacks upon Ukraine unfold—and has it even been five minutes since we were able to catch our breath from the effects of a global pandemic?

It bears repeating that to reach optimal health, your mind and your body—both of which are sacred—should be equally cared for. You might find yourself in the best shape of your life, but if you’re constantly a nervous wreck, the emotional turmoil you experience will manifest on your body at some point. It’s no wonder hordes of Los Angeles residents are seeking alternative pathways to calm their minds and bodies—especially as every alert that pops up on your phone, laptop, iPad or television screen increasingly becomes a trigger for anxiety.

I was recently invited to experience the much-lauded Five Sense Collective sound bath experience in Malibu, California, to address my stress. For the last year and a half, the Collective has played host to many health-minded locals, as well as famed high-caliber personalities who are seeking internal wellness and resolve. It’s worth noting that this holistic group’s version of a sound bath is not some gentrified hotel spa’s treatment; it’s much more of a healing experience specifically aimed toward bridging the gap between science and spirituality. It’s important to give sound baths their due in terms of efficacy, too. Sound healing has been a revered modality for decades; in the 1940s, sound therapy treatment was used to help soldiers returning home from World War II who struggled with PTSD and depression. In the 1950s, beta frequencies treated children and young adults struggling with learning disabilities. Sound therapy uses a combination of two frequencies, harmonious and dissonant, to trigger a brain and body connection. One frequency creates a soothing response for the body, while others create some discord, or tension, within the body. The latter is meant to help with healing trauma and processing tough memories in an ultra-safe environment.

I’m not by any means a newcomer to the sound bath experience—I’ve done them before, alongside a very popular guru. Although I thought it was soothing, I never felt the need to repeat the treatment. It wasn’t by any means mediocre, but it seemed an unnecessary luxury. Perhaps it’s because I am the child of immigrants, and I am an immigrant through and through—but there’s something inside me that automatically imagines my mom telling me I’m wasting my time, my money, or my brain. Still, with all that being said, I have to admit that the Five Sense experience was a complete 180 in terms of experience and effect.

The geodesic dome at the sound bath area. Courtesy of the Five Sense Collective.
Courtesy of the Five Sense Collective

The environment in which the sound bath takes place is truly breathtaking: a picturesque Malibu hilltop with a breathtaking view of the Pacific Ocean. My guide, a woman with a sunny disposition named Suheila, guided me to the sound bath area, which is located under an open-air geodesic dome overlooking the sea. Before entering the space, though, Suheila waved my whole body with smoked sage to clear out any unnecessary negative energy that I am certain my teenage children gave me that very morning. (Coming from an Iranian background where women burn Esfand seeds for every and any little thing, I instantly felt at home). She took a fork tuner to the crown of my head, then moved it across my forehead to clear out and balance my energy. After sitting down, we partook in a copal ceremony involving tree resin, which holds ancient roots in Mayan culture. We pinched and burned the tree resin while setting some peaceful intentions before the main event. (I asked for my pre-children cup size circa 2004 to return.)

Feeling sufficiently calm already, I laid down for about 35 minutes, feeling the breeze of the ocean play lightly across my face as Suheila, sitting a few feet away from me, rubbed an instrument around the rim of a series of differently shaped bowls, creating a low, melodic, humming sound. Minutes later, I felt as though I was suddenly in a different dimension, somewhere ethereal. Even with my eyes closed, I saw vivid colors and patterns. I have attention issues—usually, at this point, I’m thinking about what to have for lunch or who I need to call back. Instead, beautiful memories of the past popped up in my mind—things I had never considered before, like what I wore on Halloween in the third grade. I was at peace. Despite the outside world going berserk, I was convinced that everything was going to be all right. Thirty-five minutes later, when the chimes rang softly to signal the experience was over, I came out feeling a profound difference in my energy field. I felt lighter and clear-minded.

Inside the geodesic dome. Courtesy of the Five Sense Collective.

I learned in talking to Suheila afterwards that there were three main activations involved in my experience: the physical, in which sound waves activated the hippocampus gland in the brain, responsible for organizing memories; the neuronal, which uses specific sound combinations to activate various parts of the brain, causing it to be more creative or inspired; and lastly, the chemical. And certainly, something chemical was going on—I felt physically uplifted. I was emotionally floating.

I wanted so badly to doubt this experience, to call these practitioners a bunch of quacks. But I can’t deny that it was otherworldly. It was absolutely worth it, and I would do it again. If you decide to schedule a sound bath at The Five Sense Collective, take note that it does cost a pretty penny at $600 a session. But you can do one with a partner, and there are group sessions that are more reasonably priced. These days, a high-end massage is about $450 before you tip, anyway. And truth be told, this experience was much more esoteric.