On a Friday evening in Kensington, a group of people gather in a candlelit room at Haven Wellness. They’re ready to unwind from a long workweek — not at the bar with a drink in hand, but splayed out on yoga mats with blankets draped over their bodies. They’re preparing for sound meditation.

Lying on their backs, the group close their eyes and turn their palms skyward. For the next hour, they’ll experience a private concert of sorts, delivered by sound artist and meditation guide Luna Maye, who makes soothing music using a suede mallet and quartz-crystal bowls.

An essential oil diffuser perfumes the air in the whitewashed-brick room with a woodsy scent. Maye sits cross-legged in front of a Buddha statue, wearing her signature wide-brimmed hat. She asks participants to deepen their breaths and focus.

“Fill your cup up with self-love,” she says, “from the bottom to the top.”

Then Maye starts playing three “singing bowls,” tracing their rims or striking them gently with the mallet. They emit reverberating hums in different keys. Maye sings along with them. What results is a harmony of tones and a pleasant, continuous noise with an immersive quality. That’s why this practice is sometimes called a “sound bath."

While a relatively new trend in the U.S., sound meditation is an ancient Eastern practice. Research studies have linked it to decreased stress and blood pressure, and improvements in mood. Scientists are also researching ways to integrate it in cancer treatment.

“I probably thought it was a little woo-woo myself," Maye says of her first sound baths. "But this practice has changed my life. When I heard the bowls played for the first time, it was just an indescribable feeling — the frequencies disarm our nervous system ... and allow us to really let go.”

“You can feel it on a visceral level,” says Liz Harris, who participates in Maye’s meditations weekly. “I have a very busy life — four kids, a husband, two different businesses — and so my mind is often racing. The vibration of the bowls instantly brings me to [the] present."

Maye leads regular sound bath sessions, like the monthly series at Haven. The gatherings take place at local yoga studios, wellness centers, and at Maye’s own loft space in Fishtown. A typical session costs around $30. She also performs regularly at Daybreaker, the early-morning dance party series, and is in talks with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to host sessions there.

“All you have to do is show up with a curious and open mind, and just lay down and receive,” Maye says. “And whether you’re new to meditation or have a longtime practice, this is one of the most accessible ways to drop into it.”

Using suede mallets, Luna Maye creates friction on the bowls, which generates deep, resonant sounds that "bathe" the body in sound.
Grace Dickinson / STAFF
Using suede mallets, Luna Maye creates friction on the bowls, which generates deep, resonant sounds that "bathe" the body in sound.

Maye grew up singing, taking vocal lessons throughout high school, and eventually became the vocalist for a jazz ensemble. During an emotionally abusive relationship, however, she suffered from anxiety and depression, and stopped singing for seven years.

After leaving the relationship, Maye connected with a yoga teacher in New York who introduced her to sound healing. It helped her rediscover her voice, figuratively and literally.

Now, that gift plays a huge part in her life. Less than two years after learning about sound meditation, she left her job as a catering director for Starr Events to pursue the practice professionally. At each session, she engages in vocal toning, singing soothing vowel sounds (“ooh," "aah”) designed to complement the resonance of the quartz-crystal bowls.

“This is my medicine," Maye says. “I don’t suffer from debilitating anxiety and depression anymore and have now developed skills to process emotions in a safe and empowering way. Sound meditation has been a huge part of that.”

Maye's six singing bowls, crafted from quartz crystal, range from $400 to $1,200. They offer different qualities of sound and pitch, depending on their shape and size.
Grace Dickinson / STAFF
Maye's six singing bowls, crafted from quartz crystal, range from $400 to $1,200. They offer different qualities of sound and pitch, depending on their shape and size.

At the Haven session, harmonies echoed from three of Maye’s six singing bowls, which cost her from $400 to $1,200 each. She prefers quartz over bronze, which is traditional for Tibetan singing bowls. Depending on the size, each bowl sings in a different key.

That night, they hummed out in A sharp, D, and F — enveloping participants in a blanket of sound. Maye’s vocals added to the melodies, obscuring a bit of snoring from one of the deeply relaxed participants.

“I leave feeling as if I took a quick power nap,” Harris says. "Only better, because I’m not groggy but refreshed, ready to take on the day in a more purposeful way.”

Want to try sound bath meditation? Luna Maye hosts two sessions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Chinese Temple in honor of this month’s celestial bodies-themed Final Fridays event. 5:45 and 6:30 p.m., Friday, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy., $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $14 for students and youth, 215-763-8100, philamuseum.org/fridaynights. Find a full calendar of Maye’s events at lunamaye.com.