Classical ethnic musicians, Bollywood Bhangra leaders, ecstatic dance DJs, New Age shamans, music teachers, yogis, and Full Moon cacao ceremony facilitators, all refer to themselves in Bali as “sound healers” these days. Which makes me wonder what kind of solid credentials have they gained to earn that title? And should there be a minimum standard set by our community?
Having been professionally certified in sound therapy in 2011, I’ve noticed standards slip at holistic venues since I launched my career. These businesses hold regular sound healing sessions but seem to omit training qualifications or professional skills reviews of their “sound healers.”
Based on my years of experience and a quick look at professional bios from most sound presenters holding regular classes at yoga/holistic centers in Ubud, I noticed that there was no standard whatsoever to ensure a professionally validated presentation for sound healing guests.
First-time visitors may not tell the difference between a coherent sound healing presentation for peace and relaxation and a disjointed jam session. Right now, it is up to guests to give their feedback as the only means of quality control.
I launched Ubud’s first sound healing program, the Bali Sound Healers Collective, seven years ago this month to build community through sound healing. Few people in Ubud had heard of sound healing, but an uptick in interest in our events every year arguably helped make sound healing part of the holistic Bali buffet. It’s grown fast, which is why proper training or experience are overlooked. Dedicated practice, a deep understanding of certain scientific and spiritual principles and specializations apply to sound healing just as they would to any other holistic craft.
“People are in a very open place in Bali. There is a lot of potential to reach some high vibrations. But some sounds can do harm if administered without care and attention,” warns longtime professional sound healer, world-class multi-instrumentalist and trainer, Joseph “Pepe” Danza (Uruguay).
If retreat leaders and holistic/yoga businesses would set a high minimum standard, it would likely ensure better services which, in turn, means more returning visitors, more business opportunities, and greater respect.
Other important quality factors are also overlooked by most yoga centers and presenters as well, including venue acoustics, piercing traffic noises, squeaky floorboards, insects, mold odors, presenter attitudes, and unnecessarily loud volumes (often from amplification) during a sound meditation. Having done hundreds of sessions at virtually every major holistic venue in Bali, I have noticed that few to none of the business owners here give the appropriate attention to these considerations.
There may already be a lack of institutional interest in what makes an excellent sound healing experience, which is entirely different from a yoga experience. Faced with these challenges, even trained professionals would feel hampered in their ability to reach their guests.
High numbers of unqualified presenters doing sound therapy might not be a good thing for Bali’s holistic reputation and it would undoubtedly create mass outrage if the same poor standards were allowed among the yoga community.
So why not set the bar higher? And why don’t yoga studios instruct their sound healers to invest in themselves with quality training before they are employed?
Trained pro-musician Chris Edward (UK) believes such higher standards would increase respect for the entire field of music. “I believe that the power of sound healing is deeper than just a listening treat or entertainment,” says Edward, “In fact, it’s an essential, holistic, spiritual medicine.”
Until holistic businesses afford sound healing the same appreciation as yoga, meditation, and Reiki, we are allowing guests to gamble with their time and money and undermining the legitimacy of a professional field of work. It would be a great service to students and participants not to be up to them alone to research presenters and make sure they are qualified in their fields—venues and leaders could initiate a standard of excellence that would enable their patrons to have an amazing powerful experience in the art of sound healing.
Author, Shervin Boloorian, is a celebrated vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and recording artist, who graduated from the Tama-Do Academy of Sound, Color, and Movement in 2011. For info on pro-sound healing events and training opportunities for beginners and all levels, visit Soundhealingbali.com