Using sound for healing is an art thousands of years old. Sound, after all, is energy and it was discovered long before X-rays and sonograms and many other modern medical wonders.
And sound can heal.
A chance meeting brought a form of sound therapy into my life. In addition to the omnipresence of lymphoma always lurking in the background, I’ve been dealing with Dupuytren’s Contracture which is causing my fingers to curl and become severely crippled. I am quite concerned about loosing the use of my right index finger, and thus the use much of my right hand.
The medical options include needle aponeurotomy, steroid injections, and enzyme injections. These interventions tend to last only for a short period of time. Surgery does not offer any good statistics or guarantees either.
In short, these options address the symptoms, but not the underlying disease. Welcome to modern medicine.
So I’ve been on a lookout for options. That’s when travel serendipity struck yet again.
I was invited to give a talk about CancerRoadTrip. Afterwards a woman came over and introduced herself: Laurie McDonald.
Meeting Laurie is so Santa Fe. Here is a highly educated and accomplished woman with a resume that would kick butt anywhere. She has a BFA, from the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design; an MA, from the University of Houston; has studied sound therapy in New Delhi/Chennai, India with the Nada Centre for Sound Therapy (and earned a CNCMT); and is a Certified Acutonics Practitioner, in Santa Fe, New Mexico (www.soundtherapysantafe.com). And an author (Travel for STOICS). And a pioneer in working with sound therapy and vets for PTSD; and a film maker with clients such as the Whitney Museum of America Art in New York.
For me, the combination of acupuncture with the energy of sound made sense for a connective tissue issue. I’ve had superb results from acupuncture over the years. I’ve used it for tennis elbow; for general well being; to manage horrific chemo side effects.
As a result, acupuncture is among my first line choices for healing. Combined with the energy of sound, it made sense to me for a connective tissue problem. So I thought I’d give it a go.
Laurie warned me to keep my expectations low; she made no promises. But I’m a few weeks into this now and I’m seeing real improvement, particularly in my right hand. If I can just stay the progression, I’d be happy. But progress! Beyond my wildest dreams.
But it shouldn’t be. Over time, through travel and travail, I’ve come to look for healing disciplines that treat the cause, as well as the disease. It’s here that modern medicine bats .500. I’m on a quest for the other half of that equation. And sound for healing may be part of that equation for me.
To discuss sound for healing, let’s start with a look at acupuncture, because my current explorations are combining both.
The history of acupuncture goes back over 8,000 years, long before modern medicine even existed. Think about the centuries of practice and experience in this tradition. The Chinese use it for everything from healing to anesthesia during surgery.
The basic principle, derived from thousands of years of use, study and observation is based on Taoism which promotes a balance between yin and yang. Using over 2,000 acupuncture points that have been identified in the body, fine needles are used to adjust the flow of energy and restore health and balance. Acupuncture is also used in pain management, as one New York Times reporter learned from personal experience.
Richard Nixon’s opening of China opened the door for acupuncture to be introduced to the U.S. But is was when New York Times reporter James Reston successfully used it for surgical pain during an emergency appendectomy while in China, and his ensuing articles about his experience, that mainstream America started to notice.
Over the centuries, acupuncture has become a vital part of healing for many people. Given my experiences, the idea of accessing the acupuncture points using sound vibration made enormous sense. Particularly in dealing with the connective tissues issues in my hands.
Sound For Healing
Using sound for healing is part science, part art, and part ancient tradition.
Sound is simply the vibration of matter. And humans are systems of vibratory matter.
Matter tends towards harmony. The process is called entrainment. Entrainment explains why metronomes synchronize and why people can bond deeply over a conversation. Humans vibrate in resonance with their surroundings.
The ancient Tibetans and other cultures understood the importance of sound. The Tibetans used the deep rich song of singing bowls in their healing practices; the shamans of Peru use the repetitive beat of drums to bring on a deep meditative state. In our own culture Martin Luther King, knowingly or not, used the sound of his voice and the cadence of his speech to resonate with his audience.
Sound is energy. How do we use it? What impact can it potentially have on our lives and health?
From Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, MD
Sound can change our immune function. After either chanting or listening to certain forms of music, your Interluken-1 level, an index of your immune system, goes up between 12 and a half and 15 percent. Not only that, about 20 minutes after listening to this meditative type music, your immunoglobin levels in your blood are significantly increased. There’s no part of our body not effected. Even our heart rate and blood pressure are lowered with certain forms of music. So, it effects not only our soul and our spirit, but it effects us on literally a cellular and sub-cellular level.
Sound transcends time and traditions. It brings up memory and emotion.
And if both the ancients and the neuroscientists are to be believed, perhaps sound is a channel to the mind and the body’s memory of emotion.
Sound and Harmony
Researchers have discovered that cells resonate at particular harmonic frequencies. When these cells are healthy, they vibrate at “optimum balance,” like tuning forks. Obviously, disease is dissonant or disharmonic, having a negative effect on cells.
Cancer, like many other diseases, may reflect an imbalance in the body. Modern medicine often does an excellent job at fighting disease, but finding deeper personal, emotional and psycho-spiritual healing is what many cancer patients need.
I have come to believe that finding peace and harmony is a critical part of healing. Cancer fractures your life. Futures are gone; relationships may change; physical after effects may impact your ability to do things.
The need to heal, and to regroup, is a need for harmony.
To my mind, it’s about finding that energetic balance, whether it’s through the coherence of meditation and heart such as HeartMath; through acupuncture or yoga; through massage or sound.
Everyone is different and everyone resonates (no pun intended) with different modalities. The key is finding something that suits you.
So it is I’m on an exploration of sound for healing, at least for my hands.
Laurie McDonald uses a system called Acutonics, which uses vibrational sound on acupuncture points. This system was developed by Ellen Franklin, PhD and Donna Carey LAc in Taos, New Mexico.
Acutonics brings together the wisdom and efficacy of Oriental medicine, psychology, science and the arts, with the energy of sound. Precision engineered tuning forks are chosen for their specific vibrational frequency and are placed on the various points in the body. The harmonic combinations and the use of acupuncture points are used to manage, move and rebalance energy.
The idea behind using sound for healing is simple, while the execution is more complex.
Practitioners may study for years to develop the fine sensibilities of providing vibrational sound healing. The tuning forks provide feedback. Is the sound moving smoothly, or encountering resistance? Is the harmonic frequency the right one? Are the acupuncture points chosen wisely?
Is sound healing?
Synergy in Sound for Healing
Sound does more than simply resonate within the body. It has the ability to touch deep into one’s psyche and emotion and it is here, science is coming to believe, that healing occurs. Neuroscience is catching up to age old wisdom, recognizing that mind and body are one.
Candace Pert was a scientific leader in this quest. Her book “Molecules of Emotion” chronicled her successful quest to show that neuropeptides linked the mind and the immune system. Her research showed that your thoughts impact your biology.
The mind and body, she argued, are one.
If thoughts are energy that release neuropeptides, what of sound that touches an emotional chord within?
From Dr. Gaynor’s book, The Healing Power of Sound:
“According to Beverly Rubik, a leading expert on energy medicine, energy fields form inside and outside the body carry information that changes and perhaps even regulates cells throughout our bodies. …Sound waves are yet another form of energy that can conceivably influence neuropeptides and their cellular receptors. And if we recognize that our own biological healing systems are influenced by energy fields, we can begin to understand why sound and vibration are important new tools for healing.”
Gaynor relays a story of one patient, who finds peace with his cancer by delving into the pain of his adoption. Using sound for healing, he connects with his pain, and in connecting with it, he is able to release it. Years later, he is living with cancer, but otherwise healthy.
Anecdotally, I hear many, many stories of how deep healing impacts biology. What helps us to reach deep? Is sound perhaps one modality?
If mind and body are one, is the resonance of energy through sound part of the neuroscience of healing?
Can sound help us by-pass our social conditioning to find a deeper internal resonance for health?
What are the sounds in your life?
CancerRoadTrip is a trip of curiosity, soul and deliverance.
Curiosity because I can’t help myself; soul because it’s what gives life substance; and deliverance from the constraints of my culture. I sense a deep need to see more, to experience more and to know more than the superficial tumult of the waves on the modern surface of our society.
My life has, and continues to be, a journey. Starting with the existential threat of cancer with all it’s emotional ups and downs; to discovering the transformative effects of meditation; to acupuncture; to sound; to other cultural perspectives of health.
Independent of cultures, certain healing traditions seem to emerge in my travels.
From the stories of the Tewe people, to the shamans of Peru, there is a story of soul, connection and harmony that is missing in our mass produced, consumeristic, judgmental society. The connection is deep, it is of the earth and it is spiritual in nature. The Ka Ta See talk of finding one’s song. Here the idea of sound becomes a metaphor for soulful exploration and harmony.
Barbara Culbertson (shaman, friend, and wise woman) said to me that our lives today are 180 degrees from the wisdom of the ancients. I agreed when she said that, but as time goes on, I wonder just how far we’ve veered from our connection to the earth and our place in the universe.
What is it that opens the doors to deep connection?
What timeless modalities unite us with the wisdom of the past, to find the truth of the soul?
And what impact does this synchronistic way of life have on our health, our families and our communities?
More Reading on Sound For Healing
Mitch Gaynor, integrative oncologist and author of The Healing Power of Sound, sadly died recently. His insightful, out of the box approach to complimentary healing has much to teach all of us.
In this book, he explores the cultural traditions and techniques of using sound for healing and for soulful exploration. This is an amazing book. If the idea of using sound for healing intrigues you at all, this is a must read. And, as always, your purchases through this website are greatly appreciated.
Bernie Siegel, M.D., author of Love, Medicine, and Miracles, and the ground breaking Yale oncologist says of this book:
“This book is about healing your life through rhythm and harmony. Read it and learn how to orchestrate your life.”
As an aside, I’ve had the pleasure of having Dr. Seigel enter my life twice. The first time was in the eighties, at Yale. He gave a talk about the emotional and psychological aspects of healing. Needless to say, the neanderthal mindset of the surgeons in the room dismissed him (actually, they weren’t even that polite).
Some years later, I spoke to Bernie again. We talked about Anti-Cancer Club. He told me you can’t heal or effect change by being against something. It took me some time to see the wisdom in his comment.
He quoted Mother Teresa:
“I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”
It’s only now, many years later, that I truly understand the profound wisdom of this philosophy in life, in one’s soul and in cancer.
More Reading on Healing and Travel
Peruvian Healing Traditions: Ka Ta See
Puye Cliff Dwellings: Earth Spirit, Fire and Art
Labyrinth Walking in Santa Fe
Serendipity: Life Lessons from the Road
The Mayan Ruins of Chichen Itza and Chaccoben
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