The Healing Power of Experiences
Music was always a part of Gen Cleary’s life. From attending live concerts with her family to her immersion in dance and choreography at an early age, Gen could feel the power of rhythm and music. But it wasn’t until later — after a successful career as a producer and creative lead — that Gen began to pursue music as a path to healing. After her own experience with sound therapy, she created a new sonic venture.
The Hum, which debuted at SXSW in 2022, will be unveiled to the public in spring 2024.
Inside The Hum, guests enter into an enclosed chamber that isolates their sense of hearing as they embark on a soundscape journey with curated vibrations, rhythms and 360-degree audio meant to induce a transformative state of relaxation.
“The Hum is, above all, a musical entertainment experience positioned at the intersection of the science of sound and wellness,” she says. “It bridges audio tech and haptics, ancestral wisdom and techniques, and draws upon medical practices and research with the mission of helping our guests relax, reset, and recharge in as little time as possible. Our primary focus is on assisting people in reconnecting with themselves, delving into the multifaceted dimensions of sound beyond mere hearing.”
Yoga classes and sunrise meditations on the beach might traditionally come to mind when we think of “wellness experiences.” The truth is, that live experiences of all kinds have the potential to heal, whether it’s through immersive art, a sporting event, live music or even local community theater.
But an experience like The Hum takes the healing power of experiences one step further – and with more intention. For experiential professionals looking to infuse wellness into XP and be part of the estimated $5.6 trillion global wellness economy, what follows are three ways to get the healing started – through convening community, engaging the senses, and experimenting with new mediums.
HEALING THROUGH COMMUNITY
“We need to help people see that the body isn’t the only way we should evaluate our wellness,” says Chip Conley, the founder of Modern Elder Academy, He defines wellness as “not just a matter of maintaining the external physical form, although that’s important. But, also how to help people see that their wellness relates to a variety of other playing fields: emotionally, spiritually, relationally, intellectually, culturally.”
Modern Elder Academy, a program with online workshops and physical retreats in Mexico and New Mexico, is dedicated to redefining how we approach aging, particularly the transition into middle age, and finding wellness through community.
“We focus on all eight of the most globally-cited ways people experience awe, but especially the top three: Using nature as a teacher; Collective effervescence, helping people shed their constricting ego separation/restriction and feel a sense of communal joy — through a variety of vulnerable and playful exercises,” says Chip.
“Collective effervescence doesn’t exist without community. To be an ‘enlightened witness’ of each other’s transformation creates the kind of bonding that people feel for a lifetime.“
The beauty in Chip’s work lies in its acknowledgment and encouragement of the innate physiological link between wellness and community as we exist as social creatures. As science begins to delve deeper into the biology of wellness and tech further advances our ability to tap into those processes, experiential leaders are coming up with new ways to engage those senses.
A FOCUS ON THE SENSES
Gen Cleary’s vibroacoustic immersive experience The Hum is founded on recent scientific research that suggests listening to certain vibrational frequencies can change your brainwaves. Gen says, “Rhythmic patterns and frequencies in certain types of music have been shown to synchronize with brainwaves, influencing mental states such as focus or relaxation,” says Gen.
Leigh Sachwitz, founder of creative studio flora&faunavisions, also targets the senses in her work, favoring overload with floor-to-ceiling imagery, stereo sound and even smells wafting through immersive installations. In Utopian Garden, a traveling immersive exhibit, participants play through Science, Nature and Art chapters as responsive sound design and AI-generated visuals stimulate the senses.
In an interview with Theatre Art Life, Sachwitz explains the empowering and joyful nature of heightening the senses: “For a moment you are absorbed by this space. You are transported into the picture and ride with it. You forget about all else for a short moment. If all of your senses get triggered and you can play in the space, then you interact and create your environment. It gives you the feeling of being a superhero.”
EMBRACING THE POWER OF NEW MEDIUMS
Brands – wellness brands in particular – looking to align their products and mission with meeting new and existing audiences might find opportunities beyond retail pop-ups. The metaverse, for one, is ripe for experimentation. Although the digital world has contributed greatly to our sense of isolation and loneliness, the metaverse is a social environment that can positively impact mental health. It’s estimated that by 2026, 25% of people across the globe will spend an hour a day in the metaverse.
Alo Yoga, the yoga clothing brand, embarked on a metaverse wellness experience within the Roblox platform called the Alo Yoga Sanctuary. The experience, shepherded by XLISTER Annie Zhang on the Roblox side, includes an invitation for players to dress their avatars in Alo clothing and join guided meditations and yoga video sessions. With Roblox’s users largely 16 and under, this immersive experience is a unique way to introduce yoga, meditation – and Alo, of course – to the next generation.
As more attention is paid to our epidemics of burnout and loneliness, a turn toward experiential of all kinds — particularly wellness-focused experiences — will only rise.
When asked by The New York Times Magazine what she thinks the cultural trends will be in 2024, XLISTER Es Devlin responded, “An escalating resistance to structures that impose loneliness.” In a world full of restrictions and easy escapes into reclusion, experiential creators will continue to innovate, expand, and respond.
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