As America’s second city, Los Angeles has enough attractions, both manmade and natural, to keep you entertained for years. But sometimes its nice to get out of the city for a bit of a day trip. Earlier this year, I joined a few friends for an excursion out to the California desert to experience a sound bath at the Integratron. What is a sound bath? What is an Integratron?? Don’t be embarrassed if you have to ask…I had the exact same questions.
Depending on how you approach it, a sound bath can either be a cool, relaxing experience or it can be a transformative, spiritual encounter where waves of sound transport you to a whole other world. In a sound bath you lay (or sit) quietly in a room as a trained person plays a succession of crystal bowls by tapping on them or rubbing them with a felt covered wand. Depending on the space, the sounds emitted from the bowls being “played” can echo and reverberate within the room and within the body. Many people claim that the sound bath goes beyond just being relaxing and can, in fact, heal ailments within the mind and body. If you do not have time for a long day trip, there are places, usually yoga studios, within the city where you can experience a sound bath. However I feel comfortable in saying that it is no where near the experience you will get inside the domed facility at the Integratron in Landers, California.
Visiting the Integratron is a unique experience in and of itself. You have to have an open mind as you explore not only the sound bath but also the history of the whole area. If you’re at all like me, you might wince slightly as you listen to stories of alien visits and magical rocks, but know that you can fully enjoy yourself even if you cannot easily accept the story behind it. Or perhaps, give in to it a bit. Tell your inner skeptic to get lost and open your mind to the possibilities. Either way, your time there is something you won’t soon forget.
The Integratron building seems completely otherworldly as you approach it from the dirt parking lot after driving through the desert. The all white, two story dome building seems almost like a rudimentary alien space craft. This is the building where all the sound bath magic happens. Having purchased a ticket on line, you enter the building on the ground floor at your assigned time. It is a simple, open space with walls covered by signs, newspaper articles and artwork detailing how this space came into being and about its creator, George Van Tassel.
Then after leaving your shoes on a shelf, you climb a very steep wooden staircase to the second level where you will find mats and colorful woven blankets laid out in a circular pattern. Select one and make yourself comfortable. Before the sound bath begins, you have a little time to wander around the space, and check out the remarkable acoustics of the Integratron. People who are standing on the opposite side of the floor can be heard as if they were standing beside you. Stand in the center of the floor and you can be heard from all parts of the room.
Once you are settled, the Master of Ceremony (well, that’s what I called him) will give you a brief description of what you are about to experience and some basic rules to follow during the sound bath. For example, if your neighbor falls asleep and begins to snore, gently tap them as this may disturb the other participants who are there to hear the crystal bowls (and not someone’s heavy breathing).
Once the sound bath starts in earnest, the sound emanating from the bowls can be heard and more intensely felt throughout your body. Although I cannot explain the science behind the sound bath, I do believe that these vibrations could have healing powers for the body. Close your eyes and let yourself be enveloped in the sound bath. Try not to think of too much, but rather just experience what is happening all around you.
Of the 1-hour session, the crystal bowls are played for only about 25 minutes. The remainder of the time you continue lying on your mat listening to ambient music. At no time does any one say “Ok, that’s it. Thank you but your time is up.” Instead you are able to relax listening to the music and can stand up and exit whenever you feel like it. You start to hear other visitors stirring around you and eventually find yourself making your way back down the staircase where you can collect your shoes and glide back out into the yard surrounding the Integratron.
So did I come out a changed woman, more in touch with my chakras and feeling at one with the earth? Well, not exactly. But I did feel incredibly relaxed and better for the experience. I’d happily take the trip out there to do it again. But almost as important as the sound bath, I enjoyed just being on the property surrounding the Integratron. I definitely recommend arriving an hour or so ahead of your sound bath appointment to hang out in the desert yard. On a sunny day you can choose one of many hammocks to swing in and listen to the birds and music coming from the speakers. Check out the random sculptures and artwork hidden among the trees and bushes and of course snap a few pictures of the Integratron against the blue desert sky.
Although a visit to the Integratron can be done in one day from Los Angeles as the drive takes 2 – 3 hours depending on traffic and your starting point, we decided to make a weekend of it. There are Air BnB properties in the area and you are not far from Joshua Tree National Park and Palm Springs so there are plenty of things to do to fill up a weekend. The Integratron experience is quiet popular so make sure to secure a reservation ahead of time on their website where you can find out about opening times, group and private reservations and rules for visiting the facility. At the time of writing, tickets cost $30 or $35 (week day vs. weekend/holiday) and can be booked directly on the Integratron website.
Have you ever experienced a sound bath where you live? Or have you ever visited the Integratron? If you find yourself visiting Los Angeles for more than a long weekend, definitely consider a day or weekend trip out of town to see this truly unique Southern California desert experience!