Three of the core VIDLA team (Ria Keen, Cordelia Lewis, Melanie Winterflood) travelled to Swansea last weekend to attend Steve Balsamo’s workshop on healing via chant and toning, and it was worth the trip! The workshop was held at the Academy of Psychic and Spiritual Studies in Swansea, which is on the first floor of a charming, spacious building, hidden away in a courtyard, never to be found unless you actually know it’s there.
We weren’t too sure what to expect from the workshop, what type of people would be in attendance or indeed what would be expected of us. One thing was for sure, which was that we represented a broad spectrum of attitudes – a pagan, a sceptic and a neutral. Whatever happened, it was bound to affect each of quite differently!
Steve’s co-presenter was APSS tutor Jeff Rees Jones, a hypnotherapist and healer / trainer, and although we later found out that this was Jeff and Steve’s first time working together, it didn’t show – the workshop flowed beautifully and appeared to be the product of a great deal of preparation!
We were introduced to the concept of cymatics using this video, which gives a simple demonstration of how sound can affect matter. The question is of course, if sound can move sand into geometric shapes, is it also having an effect on our bodies, at some level? We all know that music can move us emotionally and is strongly linked to memory, but can there also be a physical effect? Well, we already know that ultrasound (soundwaves above human hearing frequencies) is used for the following
- breaking up scar tissue and adhesions
- reducing inflammation & swelling
- creating a deep heat to a localized area to ease muscle spasms
- facilitating healing at cellular level
- speeding metabolism and improving blood flow
Can lower (audible) frequencies be helpful in terms of healing? Steve and Jeff certainly did not set out to try to convince anyone that this was definitely the case, but approached the subject very gently, suggesting that maybe this was possible. This in itself was not done in a ‘brilliant cop out’ way, but was more with the mindset of ‘maybe’, as in “Once, men thought that maybe they could get a plane to fly. They thought that maybe man could walk on the moon, maybe organ transplants were possible, maybe, maybe…” For me, it is not reasonable to discount something just because science either cannot prove or disprove its efficacy yet, or there has not been sufficient research into a particular area.
The very first exercise that we did as a group was for me, the most telling. As a vocal coach, I often deal with peoples’ insecurities, lack of confidence, fear of “putting the voice out there”, because the voice is so very personal, so very connected to the individual on a deep, deep level. Singing is like exposing your soul and asking the world to like it – a terrifying prospect, to many! We were asked to do something very simple – ring the tingsha bells (see above), then speak our names into the ‘silence’ after the bells’ ring had decayed. (With the understanding that we had already been told that there is never and can never be absolute silence – something which I had never considered before). We were asked to do this one at a time, working around the room. What was interesting was that the anxiety levels in the room rose palpably when the exercise was explained to us. Why was everyone so uneasy about simply saying their name? I will not attempt to answer that here or we’ll be into a thesis (!) – but I ask you to ponder the question nonetheless…
Once the exercise began, the most obvious thing was that most people were not waiting for the bells’ ring to decay – it was as if they couldn’t wait to get the moment over and done with, and metaphorically pass the baton to the next person. Some people waited… but not many. My anxiety response was (ridiculously) related to the ringing of the bells – something that I have done before on many occasions. But could I get a clean connection with them on this day? Could I ‘eck! This gave me something to ponder 🙂 I didn’t have any trouble with the name bit, but then I own my name so I wasn’t expecting to. It was intriguing to see (hear) how many people didn’t, though. One elderly lady even changed her name by the end of the day, when we repeated the exercise!
We were taken through another exercise which connected specific musical notes and vowel sounds to the chakras, and invited to chant these sounds as a group. The physical effects, if any, may not be provable, but there is no question that it was a very calming experience. We were also treated to a short demonstration of overtone singing by Steve – it was a highlight of the day to watch this very charming, softly spoken and unassuming man who nonetheless has enormous charisma and an “otherness” about him, sitting very quietly with his eyes closed, somehow producing what sounded like an entire orchestra with his voice. Do I want to learn how to do this? You bet I do!
Steve and Jeff took us through so much in three hours, far too much to record here. It left me hungry to learn more about the technique of overtoning (which is my ‘thing to start learning’ for 2012 anyway), and glad of the experience overall. And the reactions of the pagan, sceptic and the neutral?: the pagan had a positive response to the work, a shift in emotions and a reinforcement of existing beliefs; the sceptic wanted to know more about the science behind the words; the neutral had a significant and possibly life-changing experience. I’ll leave you to guess which was which 🙂
Steve’s meditation CD “Harmonic Healer” can be purchased via his website: http://stevebalsamo.co.uk