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Lauri Shainsky will offer a sound circle at Hidden Lake Retreat in Eagle Creek on Saturday, Jan. 27

ESTACADA NEWS PHOTO: EMILY LINDSTRAND - Lauri Shainsky smiles while she holds one of her singing bowls. Shainsky uses the bowls to conduct sound healing in her Eagle Creek studio.

Lauri Shainsky's understanding of shamanic practices increased significantly when she fell in love.

She had been introduced to the idea — which draws upon the belief of gods and ancestral spirits — several years prior through a friend.

"Shamanism is an energy that's very much heart-driven," Shainsky said. "In fact, the root of the word means seeing the heart within the dark. When my heart opened something happened to me, and I became even more open to the presence of these spirits."

Shainsky, who holds a doctorate degree in ecology, now practices shamanic sound healing at Hidden Lake Retreat in Eagle Creek. She will host a "sound circle" event from 1-5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27. The event is ideal for both newcomers and those experienced in sound healing.

"I started really wanting to provide things where people didn't have to make a big commitment of time or finances," she said. "Sound circles are an opportunity for people to experience community, connect with their spirituality, to experience a little bit of magic and be uplifted."

Shainsky recently sat down with the Estacada News to discuss sound healing, shamanism and the relationship between the two.

Sound with intention

When explaining sound healing, Shainsky thinks it's helpful to draw on people's prior experience with music.

"I think we're all pretty familiar with the effects that different music has on us. In our pop culture soundtracks, in movies, they're done very intentionally to evoke some kind of feeling while we're watching," she said. "Sound healing takes that idea that you can create an effect using sound, but in this case, the intention is to help some kind of healing process."

Sound healing sessions typically begin with a discussion of what the client hopes to achieve during the process.

"At the basic level, we hold some kind of intention in our hearts and then make sound to create the manifestation of that intention," Shainsky said. "It's removing things that don't belong in the system and then calling things that are needed."

During sessions, Shainsky works with toning chants, bowls, rattles and drums to help clients achieve their intentions. Depending on the client's needs, she will sometimes play a repeated and specific set of musical notes, but more often the sound ends up as more sprawling.

Sometimes, clients will sit in zero gravity chairs with their eyes covered to reduce distractions from the outside environment.

She noted that the patterns of sound are a valuable element of the process.

"The drum beat will take that part of the brain and feed it a pattern, and it has the effect of eliminating or reducing the outward focus on the environment," she said. "There's science that shows when a certain rhythm or note is emitted, it will create changes in your brainwaves. A lot of sound effects are working at the brain level to change or effect how the waves are going."

An added spiritual component

Shainsky is different from many other sound healers in that she adds an element of shamanism to her craft. She said she draws on spirits from higher realms while working with clients. Shainsky acknowledges that "it sounds kind of out there," but she thinks the spirits enhance the sound healing process.

"It creates a powerful, wise and knowledgeable set of forces that take sound and do something with it," she said. "I call the spirits in whenever I'm doing a healing session, class or event."

Shainsky said these spirits inspire her toward more refined healing work with clients. Specifically, she said, knowledge from the spirits guide her while working with instruments during the sound healing process.

"The spirits come through me mostly through sound," she said, comparing the experience to speaking in tongues. "I may open my mouth and start making sound, but it pretty quickly becomes a process of some spiritual being making sound through me."

In a recent session, Shainsky sat down at a bowl and "started playing with the idea that these waves of sound would help fill (the client) with ability to walk and find peace."

Shainsky added that these elements create an opportunity for deep reflection.

"These sounds — and the spirits that are orchestrating them — stir things up and create an opportunity for introspection. It creates a landscape that people can transform in," she said. "The other half of that is a filling — a receiving of new ideas, new power and understanding of something."

She noted that clients with religious backgrounds often experience elements of that during sessions.

"I have a lot of people who (are Christian), and Jesus will come in, because he was the shaman of all shamans in our western world. He walked on water and performed all of these miracles," she said.

When working with clients individually for sound healing, Shainsky typically sees them for three sessions.

"The first session is a cleaning session where we might do an extraction, or something called curse unraveling, which is undoing certain thought processes and other kinds of negative patterns," she said. "It might be an idea or belief they're holding that is preventing them from making progress, so we might help illuminate that and change that belief."

The second session often focuses on healing from traumatic experiences by focusing on these difficult moments during meditation, which is called a soul retrieval.

"Whenever we experience a trauma, a little piece of our soul kind of (leaves). My job is to engage the spirits to find these parts that need to come back," Shainsky explained.

Finally, the third session typically focuses on the client's relationship with other people. That process is called a cord cutting ceremony.

"A person receives soul essences caught up in the cords that run between them and other people," Shainsky said. "(The cord cutting ceremony) has a really neat ability to create more freedom for the person and re-aligns the energy of their relationships with people."

A path to wellness

Though they might seem unusual to some, Shainsky sees sound and spirits as valuable elements for allowing people to become their best selves. She noted that a variety of people benefit from sound healing, including those experiencing anxiety, physical ailments and an impending decision.

"The crux of my job is helping people find where they are thinking about the world in a way that is not supportive, and intervening and helping them write a new story," she said. "That's ultimately what I feel like my job is. And sound and the spirits help do that."

She acknowledges that many might be skeptical of the process.

"One might have even more skepticism (toward shamanic sound healing) because it's dealing with unseen helpers — the angels and power animals and gods and goddesses of Egypt and the Buddhist entourage of spirits and so forth," Shainsky said. "I think the most important thing is that if you experienced it, you would know and understand it."

She noted that her background in science has complemented her experiences with shamanic sound healing.

"People go, 'How can you be a scientist and a shamanic practitioner at the same time?'" she said. "In science, we gather data, we're good observers and we watch what happens and prove or disprove causality or at least correlation. I would say it's helped me refine my awareness of what happens in the room (during sound healing) and what happens to the people who've been in the room."

She encourages people, whether they are interested in sound healing or not, to keep an open mind during their day-to-day lives.

"What I'm noticing, when we fill our world with awareness and openness to compassionate spirituality . . . if we clear our resistances or our skepticism and really fill with optimism, we are unstoppable," she said.

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