When Caroline Z. Hurley moved into her current home in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene neighborhood, she followed a regular practice to clear the energy in her new space. For two months, the textile designer accompanied her half-hour morning meditation sessions with tracks by Steven Halpern (he’s easy to find on Spotify; Hurley favors his theta recordings) played through her Sonos system. Just as sound can bring a person into a deeper, meditative state, often resulting in a boost of clarity, so too can it impact a physical space, for a similar clearing effect. “I claim no expertise, but I know that it made the space palpably different after I did it for a few months,” says Hurley. “It would just feel so good in my house afterward.”
Hurley might be onto something. Nate Martinez, a Brooklyn-based sound therapy practitioner and musician (and, full disclosure, this writer’s partner), explains that frequencies can be used to address energetic blockages (caused by such factors as stress, relationship to a trauma or grief, tension, or pain) by being applied directly to the body—using biosonic tuning forks—or by being played in a space, particularly on lower frequency–emitting instruments. “Sound waves will travel through any point of connection, and the vibrations have an effect on our whole body—muscles, tendons, fascia, and so on,” says Martinez.
Adding to that good vibes effect: Sound waves can also influence our brainwaves (the technical term is entrainment). “When our mind shifts into different states, moving from a more active state, like beta, into a more relaxed, meditative state, like alpha or a dreamlike theta, there is also a positive shift in the nervous system and a relaxing of the body that can encourage homeostasis,” Martinez explains.
Building on that idea, your whole environment can be impacted by cuing up the right soundscape. According to interior designer Catherine Brophy, who uses the ancient Chinese modality of feng shui as a lodestar for her work, “one of the most basic principles of the practice is that energy, or chi, is in everything, and that we are affected by the energy that surrounds us. Sound also has an energetic resonance, and we have a very deep connection to it within our bodies.” Brophy has found that her clients, particularly in urban homes and multifamily dwellings where people are living in close proximity to one another, have a dramatically positive response to incorporating nature sounds (often via a white noise–style machine).
Another challenge she’s been confronted with recently: reimagining more industrial-style spaces. “People like these modern glass-and-steel buildings, but they tend to be very echoey, which can make them feel cold and exposed,” she says, adding that the goal of feng shui is to harmonize people. Hurley’s design remedy has been to use fabric, like natural-fiber rugs and textured window treatments, to tamp down the jarring echoing quality of those kinds of rooms.
We all know that music can set the mood and, alternately, destroy it, but it can also, says Martinez, just be a lot of extra activity for our minds.
To really shift the energy in a space, he prefers ambient sounds (like rain, wind, the whir of a fan) or ambient music. “We’ve never had as much information intake on a daily basis, and sometimes the best thing you can do is introduce more sounds with less happening to help the mind untether and get a break from this constant activity,” he explains. “That, plus sound therapy meditations, will help declutter the mind and your environment.”
Clear the Air
See more ways to cleanse your space:
Why Is Decluttering So Hard? A New Study Explains
The Holidays Are the Best Time to Feng Shui Your Home—Here’s Why
This Desk Before and After Is the Only Decluttering Motivation You Need