What did you do in California, Meghan?
Oh, I lay on my back in an acoustically perfect dome built by a retired aircraft mechanic on the directions of visitors from the planet Venus and blissed out to the sounds of quartz singing bowls.
The Integratron is a thing. High atop a hill (a very muddy hill, on the day we went), it is a small humble white dome. I’m no stranger to kitschy domes in Southern California (we stayed in one last year!), but this one has the added quirk of having been essentially designed by aliens.
George van Tassel claims that visitors from our neighbor to the left — that would be Venus, y’all — came to him when he was meditating out at nearby Giant Rock, which was apparently a sacred place to the local indigenous dwellers of the Mojave Desert. Yeah, this gets a little messy. So apparently, the Venusians contacted him telepathically and in person back in 1953, and informed him that they had the means to regenerate human cell tissue. George was all, “sweet!,” and began constructing this dome in the hopes of capturing the secret to eternal life – or at least, to extend human lives by up to 30 years.
IRONY TIME! George van Tassel died suddenly in 1978, which means I guess he never finished his dome, which means I guess we’ll never know the secret to eternal life, which means I guess there’s a bunch of disappointed Venusians up there on Venus, grumbling to each other telepathically that you can’t trust an Earth human to do a Venusian’s job.
So it’s 1978 and we’ve got a freaky dome out in the desert, what do we do with it? Perhaps you’ll be quite unsurprised that there were plans to turn the dome into a disco. A DISCO DOME. HOLY SHIT. But I guess that never materialized, and nowadays the dome hosts “Sound Baths.”
Dig if you will, the Integratron claims to be the only all-wood, acoustically perfect sound chamber in the continental United States. Throw in some of that intergalactic mythos and a dash of Native American lore, and it’s the obvious place for woo woo hippy doo Freaks Like Me to congregate and Get Weird. I say this with all love and respect. The staff at the Integratron were warm, welcoming, funny and kind. We had a small child in our midst, and the gift shop staffer gifted him a small quartz crystal which absolutely made this kid’s day!
Make sure to book in advance, as each session on the rainy Saturday of our visit was booked solid. The dome is roped off until the time of your appointment, when a guide will permit you into the area and usher you through the small door, urging you to take off your shoes. Tickets are taken, then it’s one at a time up the creaky ladder to the upstairs where the magic happens — if you believe in that sort of thing.
And “that sort of thing” is kind of a muddy conglomeration of different concepts. Native American mythology, UFOs, chakras, meditation, time travel – pretty much the Everything Bagel of New Age spirituality. Our sound bath conductor (?) – our quartz bowl musician (?) – our guide through the experience was charming and had a soothing voice, which he used to explain to us that the water underneath the locale was magically enhanced (?) and the singing bowls would resonate with our various chakras as he played specific notes (?) and warned us against snoring too loudly (!) on our foam cushions.
What is a sound bath actually like? Well, for me, it was a mixed bag of experiences. I struggle with meditation, partly because leaving me alone with my own thoughts will either lead to a barrage of creative ideas that I must write down or I’ll forget it immediately (see also: the subway, while washing dishes, walking down the street, taking a bath) OR I will fixate on the fact that I have to pee. That’s how I started out the experience. Locked in a second-story loft of an alien dome with a bunch of hippies, and all I could think about was oh shit I have to pee oh shit I have to pee… until the stranger to my left started snoring. We were warned this would happen! I was too shy to nudge him awake, so instead, I transferred my thoughts onto his snoring. Until he woke up. Rats.
Then, something kind of weird started happening. My arms felt jiggly and itchy, like my muscles inside were carbonated…bubbling and fizzing. I tried stretching them out, I tried relaxing them, nothing worked. I put my hands behind my back and lay on top of them to keep them from flinging out to the sides like Kermit. Arms safely tucked beneath me, my eyes started to…swim? I’ve never had the feeling before. It felt like they were vibrating diagonally very fast as I stared up at the wooden, curved ceiling of the dome and out the window in front of me. Up and to the right, down and to the left. My vision started getting blurry. Not gonna lie, I panicked a little at this point. Am I going to pass out? Am I falling asleep? Are my chakras vibrating? Is this meditation? Have I entered some semi-conscious state of existence between sleep and wakefulness? GASP! Am I becoming a woo woo hippy??? I blinked a lot, closed my eyes, and tried to calm down, and eventually, that stopped also.
Maybe it was the bowls. Maybe it was the foam cushion. Maybe it was the long hours of travel both on airplanes the day before and in the car on the way there. I know that when I lay down at the start, my body was very tense and tight, but as we rounded the corner to the end of our sound bath, I was aware of my muscles slowly relaxing and loosening up. Yes, even my fidgety arms! I felt compelled to stretch my spine and my legs, and noticed others around me doing so as well. I felt like a snowman, tightly packed, melting into a warm puddle onto my cushion. I imagined the cells of my body sighing and spreading out. It was luxurious. My boyfriend started gently snoring next to me, and I felt so happy to be where I was, relaxing next to my snoring sweetie. Re-emerging into “real life” was gentle and serene. While we’d filed in nervously and joking, the crowd slid out the door silently and with grins of pure pleasure on our faces.
And I made a beeline for the bathroom because, hi, hello, I still had to pee like a motherfucker.
I think I’m pretty skeptical (?) about these things, but you know what? I did leave feeling pretty relaxed and refreshed – kind of like how I feel after taking a water bath, except way more mellow. As we stepped out of the dome, we may not have travelled in time, but we did notice that the rain had stopped and the sun had come out! We even saw a freakin’ RAINBOW!
I would definitely make a point to visit the Integratron again, and if you’re planning a trip out to Joshua Tree, I recommend you swing by. Hey, maybe all this time travel and alien stuff is real? Maybe it’s not. But it can’t hurt to cover all your bases, even if the only thing you get out of it is a lovely nap to the tune of singing bowls.