5 + LESSON: White Noise or Womb Noise

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Many folks find it easier to sleep, think, and relax in the presence of white noise.

White noise is essentially sound that contains all frequencies audible to humans in equal volume. It’s called white, because it’s like white light. When light appears white we know that it contains all wavelengths within the visible spectrum. (Which is why when white light passes through a prism and the wavelengths are separated we see a rainbow.)

So why is white noise soothing to some people? It’s about change-sensitivity. For some, sudden noises or changes in their sound environment are startling. Sometimes the startle is very subtle and doesn’t mean they jump out of their skin when a dog barks three blocks away, but they startle in the sense of subtle loss of concentration, or in the case of sleep, their sleep depth shifts slightly and could make for less restorative sleep.

It makes sense for human survival that we would be sensitive to change, and that we would maintain our sensitivity to sound or sudden changes in light when we’re sleeping. Safety first! That is often the body’s motto!

But there’s another kind of noise that can be comforting to us on a primal level, that isn’t smooth like white noise at all. And that’s: WOMB NOISE.

As our hearing develops in the womb, we experience the world in under-water surround sound. The heart is beating close by, a rhythmic drum constantly audible through the waters of the womb. Every stomach gurgle and squish is heard. Conversations, music, and sounds from the outside are heard mostly only in their lower registers, their cadence -- except mother’s voice, which comes from inside the body just above the heart.

In some ways we could say that white noise is a result of trance, our sensitivity to our surroundings decreases, our ability to sustain inner-involvement increases. Listening to white noise is an external approximation of one of the effects of trance.

Meanwhile, womb noise induces trance. The consistent drumming of the heart. The strange sounds and whispers. Swimming in the dark very close to the edge of our existence, soon to be pressing against that edge, filling our universe until it can contain us no longer and we are born into a bigger world.

Looking to be born into a bigger world? Try a womb-sound trance. Play a drum in a heartbeat rhythm. Place two fingers on your pulse and listen with your hands to the sound of your own heart beating.

Listen to this rhythm in a place that’s dark and warm and filled with a transformative love, a comforting love, a love that makes us stronger.