After many years of performing and producing my own music and feeling a little burnt out from navigating the rigors of the music business, I found the ‘Sound, Voice and Music Healing’ certificate program in San Francisco. I had already started to explore what sound healing was all about and thought it was time to do an intensive program. I didn’t anticipate how much I would love it and be transformed by everything I was learning. Even though I’ve continued to produce and perform my music afterwards, I feel everything I learned shifted my perspective on how sound works and how I view my own role in the making of my music. And, I’ve become motivated to start my own sound healing practice and work with other alternative healing practitioners to introduce sound into their practice through workshops and collaboration.The Sound Healing Arts covers everything from brainwave altering Binaural Beats to Cymatics to Medicinal Singing to ancient vibrational instruments like Tibetan Bowls and Gongs to Nada Yoga to Mantra and Chanting and everything in between. Some of the study is already rooted in science and deep research like the Tomatis Method or Brainwave Entertainment using specially designed music. While other practices are experiential or intuitive in nature. Whereas a board certified profession like Music Therapy has a solid framework and guidelines practitioners follow, Sound Healers are open to experiment with different tools and methods to bring about transformation in their patients.
While at CIIS, I started to collect instruments associated with various Sound Healing methods.
My sound healing and meditative music instruments now include Tibetan Bowls, Koshi Chimes, Tuning Forks, Flute, Bansuri, Tingsha, Frame Drum, Ocarina and a Shruti Box for creating drones for singing. I’m always on the lookout for unique instruments to add to my arsenal of acoustic sounds. Whenever there’s a piano or keyboard available in a space, I love to add that to the mix for yoga classes or other conscious music based events.
I’ve outlined some of the my practices below and will continue to update information as I learn from other teachers and practitioners.
Tibetan Singing Bowl Sound Healing Sessions
At the center of my sound meditation work is my set of 14 large and small Tibetan singing bowls. I studied with master teacher and practitioner Suren Shrestha in 2011, learning his methods for providing individual surround sound sessions with the bowls (or bells as some people call them). I obtained my large set of handmade, healing grade bowls from Suren, who travels back to Nepal often to collect bowls for his students and fellow practitioners back in the States. I enjoy the fact that bowls also have 7 distinct notes that are arranged in a certain way to bring about balance in the body and calm in the mind. People often report feeling more relaxed and able to drop into a meditative mind state easier while listening to the bowls being played. Others report being aware of the tension they are holding in certain areas of the body and how the sound vibrations felt through the floor and around the body begin to move the blockages. I am often able to tune into the person I am offering sound for and concentrate on a certain area of the body via bowl frequencies intuitively. The sound of the bowls in close proximity is powerful. They can induce a sense of relaxation as well as a clearer mind after about 10 – 20 minutes.
I also use the bowls in a musical way, providing background drones for my meditative music compositions. In 2014, I completed an album featuring the bowls called, Tibetan Bowl Meditations, that features 90 minutes of Tibetan Bowls as the feature sound with sprinklings of flute, bansuri, chimes and tuning forks layered throughout.
Tuning Forks, Chimes and More
I use a variety of other instruments to augment Tibetan Bowl healing sessions. My set of tuning forks, designed by John Beaulieu, is based on the Pythagorean intervals and the fundamental frequency of the Earth. These tones are specific frequencies from C thru B that are flatter than the Western equal tempered tuning of today’s instruments. John Beaulieu’s ground-breaking work combines a series of intervals with a certain ailment that is often connected to an imbalance of one or more Chinese elements: Earth, Fire, Water, Air or Ether. He is a master of identifying these imbalances within his patients and offering sound treatments to help ease the imbalance. I use the nervous system balancing 5th interval quite a bit in my sessions. My favorite supplemental tuning fork is the C128. I use this fork to induce vibrations onto pressure points on the body as well. His book, Human Tuning, is a must read about the methods he uses with his various tuning fork collections as well as a wonderful primer on the sound healing arts.
My set of four Koshi Chimes represents the four elements: Fire, Water, Air and Earth. I use the Chimes to open and close sessions, choosing the elements intuitively. The circular wood chambers of these unique chimes, create wonderful, pleasing overtones and often wind up being the favorite sound played during the session. I use my tingshas to clear energy around the body and especially the head after the bowls are resonating in the different configurations for a while. Tingshas are also used to open and close private or group sessions. Sometimes, I will sing with the shruti, play flute or lightly play the frame drum to bring in other sounds as I feel are needed either in the private sessions or in group music meditation and guided imagery sessions.
Toning and Singing for Wellness
During my Sound, Voice and Music Healing certificate program at CIIS in San Francisco, we spent a lot of time experiencing the power of the human voice, from the most fundamental perspective. The work of Silvia Nakkach is the centerpiece of the program and focuses on the most basic vowel toning or seed sounds to medicine melodies from different cultures including Sanskrit Mantras, the Art of Raga singing and a lot of call and response cultural music exploration. Her wonderful book, ‘Free Your Voice’ written with Valerie Carpenter is a primer on the study of finding freedom and appreciate for your own unique voice with easy to follow exercises for building vocal strength and confidence. I also study the work of sound healing pioneers Jonathan Goldman and Don Campbell, who work extensively with audible breathing, toning and movement to bring about shifts in energy and consciousness. I was honored to interview Jonathan Goldman in 2013 about his Chakra Tuner App for iOS. It’s a great companion for learning to how tone through the energy centers and to learn the vowel sounds that go with them. The more I study the effects of the singing on our overall health, the more I can see the connection to my own journey of finding my voice years ago through songwriting, production and performance.
Music Meditations and Music for Yoga
Group Sound Healing Meditations
Some of the most profound healing experiences happen in group sessions. I enjoy singing with and playing for a group of people. Group singing in particular brings about a collective consciousness that often provides exponential healing, especially when participants sing in harmony with each other. Group music meditations allow more sensitive individuals, who may be hesitant to reveal their stresses (or their voice) in a private session, to explore the world of sound healing within the container of a supportive group first.
In 2012, I worked with yoga instructor and therapist, Shauna DeGuire, on a yoga class combining sound healing and yoga postures with the different energy centers. The video below previews the combinations of postures and sound we designed for the class we offered in Oakland, CA. In this instance, I used the Tibetan Bowls heavily since they correspond to different energy centers or chakras. The introduction of live acoustic sound and music helps yogis to focus on their postures and focus on the present moment. I bring the essence of our work into other yoga classes that I provide accompaniment for. You can see a demo video in the sidebar.
Sacred Roots Holistic Healing in Long Beach, CA
In 2014, I joined a wonderful alternative healing collective in Long Beach called Sacred Roots Holistic Healing. I will be working with other practitioners and yoga instructors on combining sound healing with other modalities and offering music and sound healing during yoga classes and special events around the community. In addition, I will be available for private tibetan bowl sound healing and voice sessions at the center.