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9ways

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In many cases Ambient Mode sound therapy is conducted with the client laying down on a massage table, on the floor in Savasana (corpse pose), seven pointed meditation posture or sitting in a type of chair. In my practice I generally use a massage table for 'one on one' session work, which allows me to suspend the client within the sound field, where I can place instruments below and above the massage table. This manner affords me the opportunity to spatially place the instruments up and down, in and out, and arrays that can enhance a acousmatic experience. For group session work I have the participants layout or assume Savasana on mats, traditionally this pose was a symbolic method to die out to our old ways of thinking and doing, and the perceived boundaries of body image disappear, and we enter a state of neutrality. The great Vedic sage Abhinavagupta said about Savasana "Abandon nothing, take up nothing, rest, abide in yourself, just as you are." The seven pointed meditation posture is used to to keep the body straight so the subtle channels of the body will be straight, allowing the subtle energies within these channels to circulate freely. In Tibetan Buddhism it is said that the mind is like a horse riding the circulation of the subtle energies of the body. When it is riding this energy freely, it is relaxed and peaceful. For those that find it distressing to sit in the 7 point meditation posture a chair can be used, but the client should be instructed to sit away from the back of the chair, and to place the feet firmly on the floor, aligned with the hips and knees. Another method would be to use an anti-gravity lounger.

Ambient Mode sound therapy is a pleasant relief from the noise pollution of the modern world where the events of the 'sound story' are heard and only seen by the eyes of the mind, a type of aural photograph where the client is an earwitness to the events unfolding across the ambient soundscape. This form of sound therapy can encourage clairaudience, where the client receives messages from the soundscape itself, which makes it critically important that the session is designed or composed to stimulate pleasant and peaceful messages (story lines) that can relieve tension and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system allowing the cells of the body to release (puff) nitric oxide which influences our health and state of mind. Research shows that nitric oxide release enhances cell vitality, destroys bacteria and viruses, improves digestion, enhances the immune system, and can diminish states of depression. Because the release of nitric oxide follows a rhythmic puffing cycle, its imperative to fall into cadence with it, or as I mentioned in part one of this paper, flow and fluctuations become very important when using Ambient Mode. Many times in question and answer sessions with students I learn that most are focused on making the session-work peaceful and meditative, but this is a very shallow description of the actual process. When we take into account how dynamic a Ambient Mode session can be, why would we curtail the session to be a simple form of relaxation, when the possibility of true self discovery and deep healing can occur for the client? In my opinion these simple exercises by sound healers miss the whole point of therapy, which suggests that they feel that the instrument is doing all the work, that simply striking a gong is the methodology. This is very careless thinking to say the least. True healing begins within, this is the primary area that needs encouragement to succeed, allowing the fortifications of will to overwrite the program that is hindering the client. I instruct my students to not allow any separation to exist between themselves and the instrument they are using, whether its a singing bowl, drum, gong, whatever. No conception that they are separate from the sound source itself. No ego of having a big expensive gong to do all the work for you, and no conception that you are this great healer because you have an overwhelming collection of instruments. When the therapist is without conceptions, free of conditions, free of subject/object restrictions, no separation, they could simply snap their finger, and the sound would open the door to self awareness.

Before the client enters the Ambient Mode, they come from a congested environment generally. This soundscape of the modern world is a mix of everything from microwave radiation, noise pollution from industry, congested traffic patterns, the buzz of the electrical grid to name but a few. These sounds we have tended to ignore or filter out, but nonetheless we are still impacted by them, even though we wish to filter them out of our daily experience. For example, people who live in large metropolitan areas, can actually filter out police and fire sirens. This conditioning or "noise abatement" [6] has actually pushed us further away from the acoustical environment. As early as the Babylonians, there were warnings about the tuning of the world, a strong case has been presented from academics in Great Britain, America, and the Mid East, regarding musical instrument tuning. This is a topic I hope to present in a future paper, but what is fascinating about this research, is that there appears to be 'secret codes' hidden in the world's great religious books warning us of an inharmonic future. Theories are being explored that even Plato's 'Republic' is a music book in disguise, sounding the same warning. What is also fascinating, is that the ancients believed that the musician was the guardian who held the sacred oath of spiritual harmonic knowledge that could save humanity from this impending doom of disharmony; that is why music was a sacred art in antiquity. Our current research on this subject suggests that 440Hz as a tuning reference should not be obeyed by members of the Sound Therapy community, and that 432Hz is also not the best alternative. Our field recordings of the natural environment of birds and trees, and moving grasses etc. shows that nature is tuned to a different reference point altogether. Sound Therapists engaging Ambient Mode, should be in phase with the natural organic environment, rather than man's 'false' reference point of 440Hz. But the fact that some 'feel' that a reference is 'needed', are also on a false trail. Tuning references are simply a guideline and only a 'law' when it comes to orchestras. Polyphonic instruments like Singing Bowls or Gongs are microtonal, and these microtones are additional nutriments in the ambient soundscape. When a sound is rich in harmonics, there is more energy in this sound, and this added energy can push through resistance and reach a area in the brain, that's specific role is to process harmonic sound. Humans and just a small group of mammals have this added feature in the auditory cortex of the brain. What I find absolutely amazing, is that so many who teach Sound Therapy ('experts'), are NOT aware that there is a part of the auditory cortex waiting to decode harmonic sound, especially those who teach Gongs and Singing Bowls. This is also important awareness for those working with dementia for example.

Important considerations for the Ambient Mode dictate protocols that allow the soundscape to be a fertile organic ground that steer the client, or return them to the organic acoustical environment that they are missing from. This will simply be a shift in consciousness in it's own right. Please consider that the role of the Sound Therapist involved in Ambient Mode is a shifter of consciousness. In order for the client to engage their own personal healing journey, their consciousness needs to shift. Does not the shifting of consciousness require great responsibility? Shouldn't Sound Therapists require the necessary educational standards to understand consciousness in the first place? Borrowing a message from my friend Alexandre Tannous, it's not Sound Therapy as instrument priority, but consciousness itself that the Sound Therapist is engaged in; and I couldn’t agree more.

References:
[6] Schafer, R. M. (1977/1994). The Soundscape: our sonic environment and the tuning of the world. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books

©2015 Mitch Nur, PhD
http://www.9ways.org
email: 9waysacademia@gmail.com

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RichG

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Reply with quote  #2 

Thanks Mitch. Lots of good points in this article.

Just a couple of things I wish to repeat for emphasis:
Yes, absolutely, it's consciousness itself that the Sound Therapist is engaged in. The "get a bowl or a gong and learn to hit it and now I'm a sound healer" approach is doing this field a significant disservice, IMO. Understanding consciousness, not just by reading a few good books but also through years if not decades of years of meditation, qigong, yoga and other spiritual practices where one immerses in an exploration and revealing of the layers of their own consciousness is essential, I believe, to being a truly effective Sound Therapist/Healer. As practitioners it is our own attunement that is the greatest gift that we can bring to another through this work - not a room filled with $10,000 worth of gongs.

And also "No ego of having a big expensive gong to do all the work for you, and no conception that you are this great healer because you have an overwhelming collection of instruments."  Agreed.
I do have a rather large collection of instruments (and I'm a musician that spends my lifetime learning how to play them!), and I thoroughly enjoy having many of them at my disposal when doing a Sound Therapy session, but I can also do an equally effective session with just a rattle, simple hand drum, one bowl and my voice. Or for that matter, any single one of those instruments and my voice... or just my voice if that's all I have with me! In fact, I welcome the opportunities that arise when I don't have many instruments at hand - it leaves me nothing to hide behind and requires my full presence, unadorned, naked, real, requires that I tune in to the deeper essence of the moment.

Thanks for contributing your well-considered thoughts here.

(I'd love to see this page gain a good group of members that actively engage the discussions and explorations here.)


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Throatsinger

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Reply with quote  #3 

Good points from Mitch and Rich.  You know, it strikes me that there is a real lazy streak in many sound healers/sonic therapists, newbies and veterans. And I suspect that is one of the main reasons why so many folks just want to get some bowls and or gongs, and whack 'em. There are other tools and instruments that offer as many benefits, and even different benefits, but often they also require a much greater apparent investment in time and effort to develop even basic technique and fluency. It's just easier to spend more $$ on more bowls or yet another gong, than to learn to use one's voice, breath, fingers... and then there are all those pesky notes and rhythms and stuff to master, UGH! (a startling exception is the widespread inclusion of very poor overtone singing, often presented as throat-singing, for really interesting reasons) [tounge2]

I encourage folks to learn to play other instruments, and their voices, and find the many different and interesting rewards awaiting...

Question for Mitch. You said: "When a sound is rich in harmonics, there is more energy in this sound..." Please define this richness. Sometimes, as in the case of throat-singing, what people hear/think of as "more harmonic content" actually has less, as in khoomei or sygyt vs normal voice where the attenuation of "undesired" harmonics makes the other harmonics more apparent, but the total amplitude may be decreased.


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9ways

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Reply with quote  #4 
I think your talking about this sentence, "When a sound is rich in harmonics, there is more energy in this sound, and this added energy can push through resistance and reach a area in the brain, that's specific role is to process harmonic sound."

A university study pointed out that within the Auditory Cortex of the brain, there is a 'circuit' whose sole responsibility is to detect and distribute harmonic information throughout the brain. Only humans, and a very small group of other mammals have this 'circuit,' in their Auditory Cortex. I was implying through the word 'rich', that when a sound is primarily harmonic in nature, it will reach a part of the brain whose sole function is to process harmonic information.

My article was focused on 'ambient mode', and I think that instruments that are generally used for melody and rhythm offer challenges to people to make them ambient. Some people are better than others at doing this. But I was addressing the creation of a soundscape ambient in nature. A tonal composition so to speak. I agree that people consistently take the path of less resistance, and in reference to things like singing bowls, gongs, voice, they just go for it. Plus, it requires no formal training whatsoever in their mind, so just whack it. Trained musicians do this to one another all the time. Who practices more, and who their teacher was, who can improvise and who cannot, who should solo, it goes on and on. Just a different version. And consumers have their own version in this regard, whose the better drummer, whose the best guitar player, I collect vinyl, I only sit in the front row, I saw Larry Coryell before you, etc. So it is $, the easy way etc. I agree, people should consider many options, and if they don't know, then study.

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Throatsinger

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Reply with quote  #5 
Can you define "primarily harmonic in nature?" There's a good reason for my interest . Regarding the playing of other instruments, I didn't really mean in the melodic (in the usual sense), or like the lovely and talented Mr. Coryell, but stuff like didg, throat-singing, igil, other more "ambient/harmonic" wind instruments... Things that require a different kind of thinking, listening, and finesse that develop one's sensitivity and expression in very different ways. Different than the usual "whacked and rubbed" suspects.
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9ways

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Reply with quote  #6 
Some of those instruments you referred to, I did mention in Part One of the article, but I did not feel it was necessary to mention every type and that a sample of instruments would suffice. Obviously the instruments mentioned fit the description offered quite well, and do take more direct involvement than just winging it. I would like to point out that Singing Bowls and Gongs also need to be played judiciously as well (the whacked instruments in this discussion thread), and many people playing them, don't go beyond just whacking them. "Things that require a different kind of thinking, listening, and finesse that develop one's sensitivity and expression in very different ways." applies to all instruments used in Sound Therapy. But your point is very valid, because I have seen many people just 'whacking' things, and many people in the 'sound healing' arena are not musicians in the classical sense at all. Not that this is a hard set rule by any means, but I think we need to honestly mention that this is the case. But I also feel that when working with sound in a way to shift consciousness, skill set goes beyond just mastering an instrument. Many things are involved, and many things are overlooked in the sound healing community at large. Which is one of the purposes of this forum, to open dialog, offer insight, that goes beyond Schumann Waves, Cymatics, Solfeggio frequencies, Chakras, etc.
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