By Dr Bruce Copley
Article reprinted from the South African Journal of Natural Medicine,
Issue 9, March 2003, pgs 14 – 16.
In attempting to solve the many health, wellness and fitness challenges of modern living the common approach has been to look for something new and innovative. To this end an almost endless array of approaches, techniques and machines ranging from liposuction to visualisation have and continue to make their appearance. Modern health and fitness practices have undoubtedly added great value to both our longevity and quality of life. In general however the focus has been very specialised and has failed to incorporate a truly integrated and holistic approach.
There is much we can learn about holistic wellness and balance from our ancestors, indigenous people and pre-industrialised societies. Many popular and highly effective practices such as acupuncture, herbalism, Tai Chi, massage, vision quests, movement therapy and sound healing to name but a few, are based on simple and timeless holistic principles that our forefathers discovered and practised.
Dr Angeles Arrien, a world-renowned social anthropologist has, after exhaustive research identified 4 cross cultural and universally accepted "healing salves" or practices which are necessary for holistic wellness. These are dancing, singing, storytelling and silence. In our modern society these activities are rarely combined and integrated and are mostly restricted to a very small minority of professionals who perform while the large majority passively observe.
It is not surprising that 2 of these healing salves involve music and sound. There is evidence that the first humans used sounds and music in sacred and ritualistic ways to aid birth, accept death, promote fertility, prepare for a hunt, treat disease and for many other occasions. Over centuries the Ancient Mystery Schools began to develop and refine the true power of sound to bring about healing and transformation. The major instrument used for this purpose was the human voice.
In the myths of many cultures including our own (in the beginning was the word), sound is regarded as the primary creative force in the universe or the heart-mother of all being. We live in a vibrating universe with everything in a perpetual state of resonance from the planets to the electrons in this paper. Everything has a resonant frequency whether or not we can audibly perceive it. The human body is significantly influenced by sound and vibration because it is comprised largely of water and sound travels almost 5 times faster through water than it does through air.
Every organ, bone and tissue in your body has its own unique resonate frequency. Together they make up a composite frequency or harmonic that is your own personal vibrating rate. Through resonance a vibrating body/source can reach out and set another body into motion. The effects can be destructive such as the breaking of glass with a high frequency sound or therapeutic through the restoration of an organ’s natural vibrating frequency.
In Cymatics which is the science of the effect of sound on matter, a special instrument is used to restore the natural vibratory frequency of organs which are vibrating out of tune or in a “diseased” state. Jonathan Goldman the famous American sound therapist, provides a delightful metaphor for this phenomenon. In a healthy state the human body is like a wonderful orchestra playing the most beautiful symphony. When disease sets in it is like a player such as the lead violinist losing his sheet music and then playing in the wrong key and at the incorrect rhythm. This begins to effect the rest of the string section and ultimately causes the entire orchestra to sound poorly. Traditional allopathic medicine has a number of approaches to the problem. One is to drug the violinist, sometimes to death, hoping to get him to stop playing. Another is to surgically remove or cut out the offending player. One other approach would be to advise the orchestra to have their cholesterol levels checked! What Cymatics does using the principle of resonance, is to give the suffering violinist back his sheet music so that the whole orchestra can return to normal.
The different rhythms of the body can also be changed through the principle of “entrainment”. This involves the ability of more powerful rhythmic vibrations from one object to influence, change and synchronise the rhythms of another object. Sound can change the rhythms of our brainwaves (levels of consciousness), our heartbeats and our respiration. The principles of resonance and entrainment are fundamental to all processes of sonic healing and are integrated into every practice that utilises sound therapy regardless of the tradition, belief system or culture.
According to Jonathan Goldman healing through sound is not just dependent on frequency, resonance, entrainment, harmonics and the type of sound but also on the INTENTION of the therapist. This is because sound is a “carrier wave of consciousness”. What this means in practice is that the sound therapist’s awareness and intention while creating a certain sound will be added to and carried within the sound which the patient receives. Goldman believes that the human voice is the most powerful sonic healing instrument. Not only is the trained human voice capable of creating nearly every frequency within the bandwidth of audible hearing, but it is also the most natural and effective source for focusing, channelling and carrying intention. It is both exciting and reassuring to know that the therapeutic power of sound is inherent in each of us. Many people have discovered that sound therapy can be very effective when they learn how to use their own voices to treat and heal themselves of both mental and physical ailments and disorders.
A thought provoking cartoon of a bird chirping that it is not singing because it is happy but rather that it is happy because it sings, hints at the inherent truth that sound and self are inextricably linked. In a very real sense the sounds we make are who and what we are. Sound spins a web between matter and spirit and our voices, riding on the breath, can connect us to the source of life. Brian Knave puts it beautifully by saying : “ the voice not the eyes is the window of the soul…..it stands closer to eternity than flesh to dust……it speaks the centre of being……sound is first cause and the voice, sounds pre-eminent moment. “
Jill Purce the British sound therapist believes that if you can liberate the voice you can liberate the human being. My experience with communal music making and in particular drum circles consistently confirms that when people are able to sound or sing with the rhythms they are playing, they become noticeably energised, creative and confident. There are many examples of voice soundings such as the war cry, freedom songs and chants which enliven and focus attention. The teaching of sound has historically not been made readily available to the masses because of its potential to liberate and empower people. In fact singing, dancing and music making were often forbidden amongst slaves, convicts and conquered peoples for the same reason.
Resonance Therapy which incorporates speech sound, sung sound, soundless sound, story and spontaneous group sounding has been pioneered by Molly Scott an American psychologist, musician and educator. It provides valuable tools for human service and health care practitioners such as nurses, hospice workers, ministers, social workers, educators, psychologists and physical therapists. Accurate assessments of both mental and physical health can be made through an analysis of the sound of the voice. Just as the state of our health affects our sound, the sounds we make affect our health. Like the bird we can also change the way we feel by the way we use our voices. What makes this approach so effective is that the voice is freed to sound and express what cannot be said or even thought. This non-language sounding or “free speech” is especially relevant in cases of trauma and abuse and is in itself a training in trust, risk taking and journeying into the formless and chartless realms of creative repatterning and healing.
Dr Bruce Copley, a former Wits University Professor of Human Movement Studies and recipient of the prestigious British Association Medal for exceptional scientific research, has pioneered a revolutionary holistic method of education and learning known as Cogmotics. Described as a real-life version of the teacher played by Robin Williams in the award-winning film Dead Poet’s Society, Bruce’s unique ‘particitainment’ style has been internationally acclaimed. His fresh and simple approach to holism is grounded in his own awakened awareness and fuelled by a passion to rekindle in others the freedom and fullness that is their birthright. Bruce, who pioneered corporate drumming in South Africa, uses a remarkable array of skills and activities to create unforgettable learning experiences for people ranging from pre-schoolers to senior citizens. As a serious advocate of holistic benefits of sound, Bruce has developed didgeridoo playing skills that have enabled him to evolve this ancient 40 000-year old monotone drone tube into a versatile multi-octave musical instrument.
I am the most ancient of the arts. I am more than ancient; I am
eternal. Even before life began upon this earth, I was here in the
winds and the waves. When the first trees and flowers and grasses
appeared, I was among them. And when humanity came, I at once
became the most delicate, most subtle and most powerful medium for
the expression of emotions.
In all ages I have inspired people with hope, kindled their love, given a voice to their joys, cheered them on to valorous deeds, and soothed them in times of despair. I have played a great part in the drama of life, whose end and purpose is the complete perfection of human nature. Through my influence, humanity has been uplifted, sweetened and refined. With the aid of humanity, I have become a Fine Art. I have a myriad of voices and instruments.
I am in the hearts of all and on their tongues, in all lands among all peoples. The ignorant and unlettered know me, not less than the rich and the learned. For I speak to All, in a language that all can feel. Even the deaf hear me, if they but listen to the voices of their own souls. I am the food of love. I have taught people gentleness and peace; and I have led them onward to heroic deeds. I am comfort for the lonely, and I harmonise the discord of crowds. I am a necessary luxury to all.
I am MUSIC.
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