February is Wellness Month: a practitioner spotlight on sound therapist Nicola Noelle Buffa

Nicola Buffa is passionate about sound healing, and she is equally passionate about sharing its benefits with others. 

The Bay Area sound therapist and vibrational healer will co-lead a Sound Bath + Reiki Healing Experience workshop this Sunday, February 11th at the gallery. The two-hour session is one of dozens of wellness workshops being offered at the gallery throughout February to mark Wellness Month.

The benefits of sound healing are broad and span the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual realms, according to Buffa.

“After a session, people can expect to feel overall upliftment, a lightness, and brightening. It’s possible to have a profound experience. It works physically. It works emotionally and spiritually,” she said.

Sound healing has been used across various cultures for thousands of years as a tool for healing. The practice involves a practitioner using instruments such as alchemy singing bowls, drums, rattle, chimes or a gong (to name a handful), to generate a tone that is received by a participant. The practice can help place an individual in a more relaxed and meditative state.

As she explains it, our bodies naturally respond to sounds and tones, and this is evident in how we respond to music.

“At the cellular level, physically, we receive sound waves,” she said, adding, “Just like music, we can hear sound and it can shift us emotionally and allow us to process thoughts and emotions. This is the same with music.”

Sound healing sessions (or sound baths) can be conducted individually or in a group. Group sessions, such as the session being held this weekend, involve participants lying in comfortable clothing on a yoga mat.

Participation can be passive and participatory. The session is passive, in that the individual lies quietly on the floor and by slows his or her breathing down to enter a more relaxed state. But it is in this state of stillness that the individual can also become an active participant by openly being aware of and taking in each sound.

(In Sunday’s session, Becca Davis, a Bay Area Reiki Master, will be simultaneously administering individual reiki sessions throughout the two-hour period. Reiki is a healing technique whereby a practitioner channels energy into an individual through touch. This practice is thought to activate the natural healing processes of an individual and helps restore physical and emotional well-being.)

Sound healing is also known to help ease a host of varying ailments. The modality has been used for depression, anxiety disorders, mood swings, and even PTSD.   

Buffa can attest to the potential physical impact this form of healing can have. She was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, which is a complex chronic pain disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain. She lived with that pain for a decade, and doctors were far from optimistic that she would be physically comfortable again.

“In a deeply meditative state, that was facilitated by sound, I was able to find myself in a pain-free body. This was the first time I’ve felt this in 10 years, “ she said. “I didn’t know that was even possible for me. Doctors told me I’d never feel that in life.”

In addition to bringing about greater relaxation, sound healing has also been used to address immune system functioning, sleep, concentration and memory issues.

Buffa, who is also an artist with an MFA (Master of Fine Arts), calls sound and vibrational healing a “beautiful blend of art and therapy” that has benefitted her creative life as well.

She recalled her first experience with sound healing and how she was struck by its impact. On one particular evening as she was sitting down to paint, she put on a sound recording given to her by a hypnotherapist.

When Buffa paused to reflect on what she’d just heard and painted, she was simultaneously intrigued and astonished. Referring to the sound recording Buffa said, “I remember thinking, ‘What is this’?” And then I looked at what I had just painted and said “What is this?!”

“My painting was brighter. I felt energy and I felt clearer when painting. [The sounds] had real and noticeable effects,” she said.

Buffa is extremely interested in the intersection between art and healing, and explained how sound healing is in many ways an extension of art.

“Sound healing is an artistic creation, an expression just like painting,” she said. “With sound baths, I am creating an immersive environment where people are allowed to have their own experience which is very similar to the principles of installation art.”

Buffa still regards herself very much as an artist, who has committed herself professionally to sound healing. She believes workshop participants will walk away from her session with a tool that can be integrated into their daily lives.

“From this workshop participants will be shown a physical, emotional state of peace harmony and alignment,” she said.

“That feeling is unmistakable, and once you’ve felt that, you can access it again and at any time,” she said, adding, “And for creative people attending this, maybe they can use that in their creative life. Being able to access our own alignment and harmony is crucial in the life we’re living in.”

The Sound Bath + Reiki Healing Experience workshop will be held on Sunday, February 11 from 11 a.m.- 1 p.m.

Registration is recommended at: A-Cgallery.com

Interview and writing by Stacy Lavilla. Stacy is a Bay Area-based freelance writer.