In the latest episode of 'Cannabis & Main,' host Ricardo Baca is joined by Rachel Dugas — sound healer, dancer, musician, and cannabis educator. Ricardo and Rachel discussed how sound healing is a form of energy work, and how cannabis can be integrated into that practice.
This season 'Cannabis & Main' is brought to you in part by Fluent Cannabis.
Ricardo: Hello, hello, and welcome to Cannabis & Main, a Civilized podcast, where we extract one element from today's cannabis scape and go deep. I am your host, Ricardo Baca, and I'm founder of Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency. It's great to be back with you today. You can learn more about this podcast alongside the marijuana news and cannabis lifestyle coverage you crave and appreciate from Civilized found on the worldwide web at civilized.life.
Now, this week, we are going to dive deep into cannabis and sound healing — with a guest who incorporates marijuana into her experiential events that employ the healing power of music, sound, and movement, to connect to intuition and open up the world of spirit. Yes, those are her words, and I also am very excited about this episode.
I also want to give props to my friend Ellen Holland who edits Cannabis Now Magazine, because she introduced my guest and I very recently. And before we dig too deep, let's talk about what sound healing is. Because when the New York Times took on sound therapy in 2005, they wrote, "Also known as vibrational medicine, the practice employs the vibrations of the human voice as well as objects that resonate, tuning forks, gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, to go beyond relaxation and actually stimulate healing." While many people are only just discovering it, sound healing is actually a return to ancient cultural practices that used chants and singing bowls to restore health and relieve pain. One practitioner told the Times at the time, "It's like meditation was 20 years ago and yoga was 10-15 years ago." So imagine being helped and even healed by sound.
Nester Cornbluff: Once we acknowledge that we are beings that are actually made of vibration, then we realize that the quickest way to affect any kind of change or transformation in matter is through vibration.
Ricardo: And then imagine adding cannabis to the mix. I'm ready to learn a lot more about this. So cannabis and sound healing, let's talk about it right here on Cannabis & Main.
Ricardo: Rachel Dugas has multiple degrees and a certificate in sound, voice, and music in the healing arts from the California Institute of Integral Studies, where she studied under world-renowned masters in music and sound healing. Rachel, thank you for joining us.
Rachel: Ricardo, thank you for having me. My pleasure.
Ricardo: This has been so fun, getting to know you. And Rachel, before we even dive deep, I quoted that New York Times article from 2005. Is that an accurate description of sound healing and what it means to you, especially in 2019?
Rachel: I think it's a pretty good one. Sound healing is definitely a very broad term, so there are multiple ways to define it, but that's pretty good. I would say anytime you're using sound with intention. So mindfully and intentionally using sound and vibration in order to help people reach balance, relaxation, that's sound healing. There's an infinite, infinite number of ways to explore that.
Ricardo: Fascinating. Sound healing. Is it interchangeable with sound therapy and vibrational medicine, or-
Rachel: So we definitely talked about therapy and the use of that term in my classes. So the benefits of sound healing are therapeutic. So I can't call myself a therapist. I wouldn't say that I'm a sound therapist, but I think sound therapy works. And yeah, vibrational medicine is a really cool term.
Ricardo: I like it.
Rachel: I love it.
Ricardo: I know. I mean, because it sounds like, of course, sound is essential, but it's also that physical manifestation of the sound, right? That is part of what is so meaningful in this process.
Rachel: Yeah, I mean so, sound, it reaches us on all the different levels. So our physical, we have a physical vibration, mental, mental vibration, and then spiritual. And so sound is really special, because we can reach all of those different aspects of ourself with sound. And so sound healing is really a form of energy work.
Ricardo: Oh, man. I am just on the precipice of getting into energy work, and already had my mind blown by Reiki a couple times, and I can't wait to dive deeper, because I'm a newbie to this world. But Rachel, why don't we just start by talking about ... is this, the New York Times was writing about this in 2005, and yet still what I'm finding as I'm telling my friends and colleagues about this specific show, a lot of people still have no idea that this exists or even what it is. Do you find that?
Rachel: It's interesting. I think there's both sides. They're either clueless, or they just are kind of turned off because they think it's some sort of woo-woo thing. And then for me, having lived in both the Bay Area and Los Angeles now for the past year-
Ricardo: There you go.
Rachel: ... for the past six years, and working in the cannabis world, there's a lot of people who are now very familiar, and then there's a lot of people who I think think that they know what it is, or they have an idea but they don't really know. It's more expansive than I think a lot of those people realize.
Rachel: Yeah, but yeah, I think it's definitely coming back into the mainstream, or popping up into the mainstream consciousness. When I first got into ... I think it was 2013 when I started trying to look into ways to study it, and at that time I was Google searching music therapy, because I didn't think to Google search sound healing yet, and I wasn't finding what I wanted. And then over the course of the next few years, sound healing was just kind of popping up, and I Google searched that and I found that amazing program in San Francisco.
Ricardo: Where you eventually studied and received a certificate?
Ricardo: Give me an idea, because I haven't gone through it yet. What does this look like, what does it feel like? Give us an idea of what this setup generally looks and feels like from that perspective of somebody who's attending one of your events.
Rachel: So for my events specifically?
Ricardo: Yeah, sure.
Rachel: Yeah, so a little over a year, maybe a year and a half now, I've been doing these specific events that I started calling CannaCosmic.
Ricardo: CannaCosmic, okay.
Rachel: So basically what you can expect is we have a very small group of people, I've been keeping these very intimate on purpose. And I usually do it in a private space, partially for legal reasons, but also partially because the setting is really important. So you really want to create a setting for people to be able to fully relax, and so I enjoy private homes for that reason, because it just feels really safe and cozy.
Rachel: So I always leave time, at least 45 minutes to an hour, for people to show up in a very relaxed way and kind of mingle a little bit. We usually serve a medicated tea, and then have the option for people to also either smoke or vape. But I usually provide a tea, which I like because it's ceremonial. The tea is ceremonial.
Ricardo: And it's a cannabis-infused tea, right?
Rachel: Yes. So I've done a few different forms of cannabis, the actual tea is cannabis-infused, or I've used also a medicated honey. So I always invite people, as they are served their tea, to set an intention for the session, for the evening, because intention is a big part... our thoughts are vibrations, so that's kind of the beginning of the journey. When we begin, I always begin with vocal meditation, breath work and vocal meditation, because I specialize with my sound healing that I do outside of the cannabis world, I do a lot of vocal meditation and work with singing and the voice. So we will start with a listening meditation. So generally, I like everybody seated, in a circle if we can so we can see each other, and even just that can be scary for some people who aren't used to it. But if you go to yoga, it's not really that different.
Rachel: So we'll close our eyes, we'll do a guided meditation, I'll lead the group in some long tones. So very simple, I try to keep it... I stay away often from chanting, because I'm trying to stay open to people who are new to sound healing. And so we just do very abstract, kind of long tones, long "Ahs." And then after about half an hour, I will release you from being active in the process. Everybody will be able to lie down, and then for the next 45 minutes to an hour, basically you will lie down and go within while I play a bunch of different instruments, sound healing instruments, regular instruments, and also singing. This is partially... part of it's planned, and a lot of it is improvised in the moment. And so by the end, we'll slowly come back, come back into our bodies, back from outer space or wherever you journeyed-
Ricardo: I love that.
Rachel: ... and then I always leave time at the end for re-grounding, because as you may imagine, the effects of the sound healing along with the cannabis can really get you a lot further out there than with either one alone, and I experience it as well, being the facilitator.
Ricardo: Hold that thought. We're going to take a very quick break, but in the meantime, hit that subscribe button, and if you'd be so kind to leave us a review, we'd really appreciate it. Thanks.
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Ricardo: Hey, thanks Derek. If you missed something earlier or you want to dive deeper into any of these episodes, we post full transcripts from every single episode of Cannabis & Main at civilized.life. Now, back to our conversation. So you perform sound healings. Can you tell me what the cannabis contributes to this experience for the participant?
Rachel: Yeah, I mean... I came into doing sound healing with cannabis for a few different reasons. I mean, one of the reasons was because so many people were coming, either returning to cannabis, or coming to cannabis new, and even old user, experienced users. I just wanted to create a space that was kind of a mindful space. Hold the space to have a mindful, inward experience with this plant medicine that you either are familiar with and you use it everyday, but maybe you're not really paying so much attention when you're used to using it all the time. We get used to just ... some people just smoke and do, go about your life, without actually paying attention to what it's doing to your mental state and your body. So I wanted to create that space. And then also for new people, creating a space that's comfortable.
So for sound healing, the setting I think I mentioned is really important. So to receive the effects of the vibrations, you need to relax. And so the sound helps you, the sound itself helps you relax, but it's funny, because in order to receive the benefits, you also kind of need to be relaxed. So if you're super stressed out and you go to a sound bath event, you might not have the best... if you don't give yourself time, if you're rushing in rush hour to show up to the sound bath, by the end of it you might start to be relaxed and then the benefits come in, but it's funny. It's like duration matters, the time matters. So using cannabis can kind of fast track that right, so we can help ourselves relax a little bit, get yourself kind of in the zone and ready for the sound.
Ricardo: That makes a lot of sense.
Rachel: And so then you're a little bit more prepared to receive the benefits of the vibration.
Ricardo: It relaxes you, it opens you up.
Rachel: Yeah, and then I would say there's another element that's a more shamanistic element as far as working with cannabis that I didn't plan on incorporating to my events, but it's kind of what it naturally evolved into. So when we talk about vibration, we all have a vibration, all living beings are vibrational beings. So when you get down to a quantum level, everything's made of vibration. I'm getting kind of out there, but-
Ricardo: Hey, this is what this show is about. Get out there, girl.
Rachel: This is the interesting stuff, right?
Rachel: So plants have a vibration, too. They have their own vibration, including cannabis of course. And I would say every different strain, it affects us differently, because that's the vibration of that. So you pick a strain based on smell. You smell a kind of a strain that smells really good to you, and they say that's what's best for you, or that'll feel better for you, because it smells better, because your vibration is resonating with the vibration of that strain of weed. So when we're inhaling cannabis or eating it, consuming it at all, we're kind of welcoming the consciousness of the plant into our body. So we're becoming one with the plant if you will. And you feel it, that's why we feel different. That's like, thanks weed, you made me feel great today, thank you.
So when we talk about listening, if we're inhaling the consciousness or consuming the consciousness of that plant, if you just sit, if you then just sit and are quiet with yourself, which can be really hard, but if you-
Ricardo: It can be.
Rachel: That's the sound helps, that's why the sounds help us then sit and be quiet... all of a sudden ideas come up, or something will... intuition happens, and you'll receive messages from the plant. I mean, a lot of people use weed for inspiration.
Ricardo: Of course.
Rachel: So that inspiration is from us, but it's also coming from the plant.
Ricardo: You brought some teaching aids.
Rachel: I did.
Ricardo: And of course, this is an audio only podcast, but go ahead and tell our listeners what's in front of us, and then let's hear what they sound like, what the differences are, and why these are meaningful tools in what you do.
Rachel: Yeah, so I brought with me a couple of tuning forks. These are bio-sonics tuning forks that were made by my teacher, John, who is a homeopathic doctor and sound healer based out of upstate New York. He teaches all over the world. So I brought the universal frequency, I brought a C and a G, which creates a perfect fifth, which basically is the universal frequency. So a perfect fifth, when you listen to it or introduce that vibration, that interval to your body, will bring a balance and homeostasis.
Ricardo: Oh really?
Rachel: I will also mention, these are not tuned to the musical scale. These are tuned... these are made to tune the human body. So they're tuned using the Fibonacci sequence. So there's a whole thing with people in music and sound. I'm going to tap these against my knees. I can use these in a few different ways, so normally I would tap these and hold them over somebody's ears or my own ears, but I'll just-
Ricardo: Or microphones.
Rachel: ... I'll just hold them up to the microphone and see what happens. I'll start with the C...
Ricardo: It's beautiful. Do it one more time, maybe.
Rachel: Mm-hmm (affirmative)...
Ricardo: These are about eight inches long. They're thicker than I would imagine a tuning fork being, but even just being four feet away from Rachel, who just hit them on her knee, held them up to the microphone, I can feel that in my face and in my chest.
Rachel: I can tap it, too. This is going to be... well, we'll experiment...
Ricardo: It's kind of intoxicating.
Rachel: Exactly... I mean, I can already feel a difference in the room even, just from those little taps, right?
Rachel: What happens is the silence becomes more present.
Ricardo: By creating sound and volume, the silence becomes more present.
Rachel: We're using sound to find a point of stillness. So stillness is where changes can happen, so if we're going, going, going all the time, if you really want to make an impactful change, usually you have to start first before you change directions. So if you want to make a change physically or mentally, change some sort of habit, finding a point of stillness is where you can... you have to come back to that place. So part of the idea of using sound is to create silence, or help us become more aware of silence, which is actually always there. It's kind of like... this is where we're also getting back into the un-struck sound, which is basically what connects all of us, all living beings and all matter. So it's like the sound is helping us find the stillness behind everything.
Also what's happening is that, well, it really activates your parasympathetic nervous system, so that's basically the fastest track to being relaxed. Also, it's releasing nitric oxide, which is another naturally occurring molecule in our bodies that helps regulate our heart health. It's kind of a regulatory molecule. Good for maintaining all of organ health really, so yeah. There's a lot of very hard physiological benefits along with the more woo-woo spiritual and emotional benefits from sound.
Ricardo: Well, and maybe that's a good place to close up, is so much of holistic alternative medicine, wellness, you use the phrase woo-woo. A lot of people are like, "I don't believe in it, that eastern garbage." I think... but we're getting to a point where we recognize that some of this has legitimate medical efficacy. So with sound healing, are we at a place where we know this is helpful for our wellness and our health, or is it a little bit more esoteric, and we're just waiting for the research to come in?
Rachel: I think it's both. There has been some research done, and there are some great books by medical doctors, people who have done basically their own research, and so all of the research that has been done, one of the books I read was by an oncologist as well. So there's been some research that's starting to show the scientific benefits, but there definitely needs to be more. And then some of the benefits, like happiness and joy for example, which is another benefit of cannabis, aren't necessarily something that can be measured. So it's something that western medicine doesn't take into account, but it's also super important for our overall health and wellbeing. That's never going to be scientifically proven, or maybe it will, but really the benefits ... it's both, it's both. But we do need more research, and I think there is a place in Petaluma called IONS, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, that's doing a lot of alternative kind of research, so it's probably going to start somewhere in the Bay Area.
Ricardo: Well I think being open to it helps, but I can honestly say the first time I tried Reiki, I didn't really have any expectation, and was overwhelmed at how compelling it was and how beneficial it felt. And already, just in very, very brief experimentation with this here, I can tell that this is something that I can very much get into and benefit from. So thanks for teaching us. And if our listeners want to learn more about you and your services, where can they find you?
Rachel: So I have a website, it's dugassounds.com, so it's my last name with one S, dugassounds. So you can sign up for my email list. I'll be doing events mostly in the Bay Area and Los Angeles at this point, but hopefully soon in Colorado, and I have a lot of friends in Oregon, so Portland too. I love travel, I'm more than happy to travel. So yeah, just come to my website. Oh, and I have an Instagram as well. It's @RachelDugas, R-A-C-H-E-L D-U-G-A-S.
Ricardo: Well Rachel, thanks for coming on Cannabis & Main today and sharing this with us. It's wonderful, and I can't wait to experience it.
Rachel: Thank you for having me. I also look forward to sharing.
Ricardo: All right everybody, that is Cannabis & Main for the week. You know we will be back next week with some more out there, weird-ass conversation. Of course, high-level as well, but you know what to expect from us by now. Thanks again for joining us, and we will see you next week.
Thank you for listening to Cannabis & Main. Please rate, review, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and your app of choice. For transcripts, show notes, and more of the cannabis lifestyle coverage you crave, go to civilized.life. The voice you heard at the beginning of the podcast was Nester Cornbluff, director and co-founder of both the Spanish and international associations of sound therapy. This episode was edited and produced by Jeremiah Tittle of Native Creative Podcasts. Executive producers are Derek Riedle and Katie LaBrie. Your host is Ricardo Baca.