In 1954, a flight inspector named George Van Tassel began building a large, wooden dome structure in the desert near Joshua Tree in California. He claimed to have received the building instructions from Venusian aliens who abducted him at Giant Rock in the Mojave Desert. The dome took him nearly 20 years to complete. He called it the Integratron.
The Integratron's purpose, per its website, is "rejuvenation of the human body, similar to recharging a battery." (It was also intended for eventual time travel, though it has yet to fulfill that particular function.) It was believed that its design and its location — at the intersection of "powerful geomagnetic forces" — made it uniquely energizing to those who spent time meditating inside it.
In the nearly 40 years since Van Tassel's death, the Integratron has acquired new owners and gone semi-public. Visitors now flock to the site to partake in its signature service, the "sound bath," described as 60 minutes of "sonic healing" done with the aid of quartz crystal singing bowls.
As someone who experiences on-again, off-again anxiety and who definitely does not want to walk around with a disgusting, un-rejuvenated body, I wanted to experience a sound bath for myself. Unfortunately, I do not live in the Mojave Desert. The next best option was the sound bath offered at Manhattan's Lush Spa.
The Treatment: Sound Bath at the Lush Spa
Cost: $140 before tax/tip
Length of time: 1 hour
I get off on the wrong subway stop, so I'm five minutes late for my Monday afternoon appointment. My spa therapist, Patty, who has the tranquil wide eyes and relaxed, wavy hair of a highly rejuvenated person, does not seem to mind. She leads me upstairs to the spa, which is located on the upper floor of Lush's Midtown store. The waiting room is decorated in the style of an English cottage kitchen, if its owner were also into witchcraft: Shelves of rainbow colored bottles and jars labeled with words like "Achieve" and "Uninhibited" on them line the room.
Patty motions for me to sit across from her at the table while she explains the treatment to me and has me fill out a health form. On the table between us is a long, thin paper tube, which she explains is an ear candle: one end will be inserted gently into my ear, and the other will be set on fire. "It's one of the safest on the market," she says, which I don't think is as reassuring as it is meant to be.
Patty then presents me with a small, wooden crate that is oozing dry ice. It's very exciting — I feel like a plucky protagonist in the beginning of a video game. Inside the box are a piece of raw cacao (vegan, she assures me) and a tiny vial of apple infusion. The cacao is meant to make me receptive, and the apple infusion, representative of the feminine aspect, is meant to open my heart.
Like a normal spa treatment, I am instructed to get comfortable on a narrow bed while Patty steps into the hall. Unlike a normal spa treatment, I keep my clothes on, and I'm told to summon her back into the room with a bell, as if I were a sickly dowager.
My sound bath begins with a facial massage, accompanied by a soundtrack meant to evoke goats mingling on a hillside. Sometimes, a particularly loud bee flies by. There are times when the goats' bells become so frantic I fear they are being chased by a predator. Otherwise, it's a generally calming auditory experience. At various points during the massage, Patty pauses to hit tuning forks against her palm, then hold them to my ears. These, she'd explained beforehand, play the notes C and G, which when played together create a sound called "the perfect fifth," an especially healing sound. My eyes are closed but I'm aware whenever they're near my face, and I find myself doing what I sometimes do in yoga, which is straining to attain spiritual transformation by clenching every muscle in my face. It is very relaxing.
The soundtrack switches over from countryside to monastic chanting, and then to a genre of music I'd describe as "sad women with poor lung capacity." Patty presses the vibrating tips of the tuning forks to pressure points on my body: my hairline, the space between my eyebrows, and my sternum. Whoaa-oh-a-oh-aohhh, sings the woman, and I wonder if it is possible to trigger a heart attack by holding a vibrating object to one's chest. I will look it up online when I get home.
At the end of what is truly a very pleasant hour, Patty tells me to take a minute to collect myself and then meet her back in the kitchen. Once there she presents me with a glass of delicious lemon chamomile tea. This, she says, represents the masculine aspect, meant to bring me back down to Earth. (Typical, I think.) She goes on to say that my hearing may be sensitive over the next few days, and says that I should be cautious about listening to music at too high a volume. More surprisingly, she also warns that my emotions may be extremely delicate for a few days as well. This I'm inclined to dismiss as a self-indulgent New Age-ism; it was a nice experience, I think, and one I'd recommend to anyone, but surely I am and will be fine.
Less than 48 hours after my sound bath, Zayn quits One Direction and I cry like a baby. This might have happened either way, but there is no way to know for sure.