How a St. Louis sound healer fosters community and healing within the LGBTQ+ community
By offering a series of free, monthly sound healing and breathwork sessions for those who have experienced religious trauma, Aria Thome hopes to chip away at an epidemic of loneliness.
“I’m an introvert. I spent too much time alone, trying to heal my way out of trauma intellectually, but always, I come back to community,” she said.
The third session of Project Sanctuary, led by Thome and breathwork practitioner Mo Costello, will be held Saturday at Gethsemane Lutheran Church in St. Louis. The church received a yearlong grant from the Lutheran Foundation to host the sessions.
“People are brought to a space, exploring their inner child, amplified by the sound, where they feel free to express themselves,” she said, “where they feel free and safe to have these expressions of trauma release.”
As a sound healer, Thome uses instruments such as tuning forks, chimes and Tibetan singing bowls to bring peace to the body and the mind.
“You can really feel the vibration,” Thome said. “Through the breathwork and the sound, what we are doing is literally tuning the body and getting it ready to receive the suggestions and the sounds, [so people can] encounter their trauma and begin to unravel it.”
Thome was raised Roman Catholic and worked as a choir director in the Catholic Church for many years. When she came out as transgender, she lost her job, her community and the support of some family members.
“When I came out to my parents and experienced full-on rejection from them, based upon spiritual reasons, it occurred to me just how much trauma based upon faith that I have been through,” Thome said. “Hearing messages of, ‘If you're not cisgender, you are intrinsically disordered. You are somehow an abomination. You are flawed.’ … Even though I knew them to be false, there's something about hearing them over and over again that just kind of plays on your psyche.”
During her transition, Thome was not only able to better understand herself, but also the broader LGBTQ+ community.
“I realized that so many of the community grew up in Judeo-Christian traditions, other traditions as well. None of those traditions embrace fully the LGBT+ identity or really invite people to explore themselves on a personal level.”
When Thome discovered Gethsemane, a radically inclusive Evangelical Lutheran Church, she said it was a “breath of fresh air.”
“Many people belong to a faith tradition because they long for a community. They long for a place to be welcomed, and Gethsemane became that for me,” she said. “I still got to work with sacred music, which is what my doctorate is, and I got to be fully Aria.”
Thome now works as the church’s music director, and she offers sound healing sessions through her company, AriaSound108. She looks forward to expanding her work through Project Sanctuary.
“Lifting up one another can be so powerful, Thome said. “That's where true healing really happens.”
What: Project Sanctuary
When: 8-10 p.m. Nov. 11
Where: Gethsemane Lutheran Church (3600 Hampton Ave, St. Louis, MO 63109)
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