The greatest thing about a sound bath is that it is perfectly acceptable to fall asleep during the procedure. Packed with forty or fifty people into a small, domed room in the California desert—a room supposedly blueprinted by aliens—listening to a middle-aged nurse play quartz singing bowls, a person might think they were supposed to stay awake. Not so. At the Integratron, falling asleep is a given.
I get to the Integratron by way of Ross’s old pickup truck. We drive the three and a half hours from Los Angeles to Joshua Tree, reading printed pages from the website as we go. George Van Tassel, the facility’s designer, said aliens gave him the instructions. The building was supposed to rejuvenate the body, adding decades to a visitor’s life. Tesla coils and other technology would give the Integratron its power. Unfortunately, Van Tassel died “mysteriously” before completing the job. Today, it stands—still powerful—but not as powerful as it could have been.
“Do you think it’s INtegratron, or InTEGratron?” I ask Ross.
“InTEGratron,” he says, pretty confidently, almost as if it were a word.
We pull into the parking lot around noon and are greeted by a smiling group of folks in organic cotton and cowboy hats. I see several Sanskrit tattoos. Everyone is chatting. Some are lying in “Hammock Village,” just south of the Integratron itself. A group of tourists are fanning themselves in the desert sun. We pay for our $20 sound bath tickets and head in.
The building is a huge boob. The nipple is open to the sunlight and fresh air. The structure has two levels. Artifacts and photos line the walls of the bottom floor. The docent tells us to remove our shoes and head upstairs. He warns us not to take pictures of anyone’s face, because “this is a Church of the Face.”
He hands us yoga mats and blankets, and we lie on the floor. I lie horizontally and am immediately corrected by the docent.
“You want your head to be toward the center to get the best effect,” he says. I realize I’m the only one who hasn’t done this automatically. My internal head placement compass is off. I adjust.
Everyone is breathing quietly now, staring up at the smooth, wooden ceiling. A lovely middle-aged woman takes her seat among the singing bowls. She will be our instrumentalist. The quartz bowls are huge, translucent, and soft pink. They take up a full twenty square feet of space, and are gleaming in the sunlight.
“I’m an old cardiac nurse and a huge skeptic. The guy who built this place says aliens gave him the design. Yeah, okay...” the woman says with a snicker, “but how could he know that the human energy field is exactly fifty-five feet across, just like this building?”
Yeah! How could he know? This seems like a good point, if the human energy field is a thing. Just to make sure, I check when I get home. It’s not a thing.
“The one problem here is snoring. Snoring is amplified, just like the sounds of the bowls. If someone snores, tell them to stop,” she says.
We’re all thinking about the farting situation, but no one says anything.
The nurse tells us that the vibrations of the bowls are powerful healing tools. She invites us to lie down and listen. The tones start out low and rhythmic and grow steadier and louder. Some of them sound like a dial tone, and my brain keeps misfiring: “Hang up the phone!” Some of the sounds are downright unpleasant, but most are lovely and comforting. It’s very easy to fall asleep. Within minutes, I’m completely out.
When I wake up, people are gathering their blankets and leaving. I’m startled into wakefulness, thinking I’ve failed. I’ve missed the whole thing! But Ross has been awake the whole time and tells me I’ve missed nothing; it was all music and the steady breathing of a room full of sleeping people. I don’t feel anything mystical or metaphysical, but I do feel peaceful and rested.
Outside, we meet Trevor, a staff person, who is dressed in a cowboy hat and has a friendly smile. We ask him about the building and where it gets its special powers. He explains that the building is built exactly over a spike in the earth’s magnetic field.
“What does that mean exactly?” I ask.
“Well, scientists have come here and confirmed it.”
He says the building has powerful forces that heal people by restoring our negative ions, which are lost primarily through standing in heavy wind. When I ask him what happens when you don’t have enough negative ions, he’s not sure. But it’s definitely bad.
“So what about people in a really windy place like Tibet? Do they just lose them all the time?” I ask.
“Yeah,” he says, “but scientists say a good way to combat it is to wear a scarf.”
It’s clear that “the scientists” are the ones providing the information here, but Trevor can’t give us any names. They come through a lot, to study the place, he says. They’ve verified that there’s something inexplicable going on, here. Something beyond science’s grasp. He seems pleased. The scientists have validated the Integratron, and that’s enough for him. In a sense, I can’t blame him. Scientists could say little to add to my most-beloved experiences. They are beloved, perhaps, because they are outside a need for explanations.
When we head out, Trevor shakes our hands and says it was great to meet us.
“This place attracts the coolest people, man,” he says. “Robert Downey Jr., Robert Plant, and people like you guys.”
We start the three and a half hour drive home. The sun is beating down, and Ross’s air conditioner is feeble. The truck rocks us slowly along the dirt path. I sleep the whole way home.